We are at the time of the Catafalque, which is an old Italian word that means the embroidered base supporting an important person’s tomb.
The tomb here is Western Civilization itself, which, Kingsley asserts, is dead, by which, following the North American native tradition, he means the energy that feeds it is no longer there.
He comes to this conclusion, supported by a vision Jung had in 1961 close to the time of his death, where he refers to the last fifty years of humanity, which takes us to 2011. Without knowing of Jung’s vision at the time, Kingsley, who was living with his wife in North Carolina in that very year, experienced what he refers to as the terror and stillness of the end of an age.
Subsequently, in the middle of March 2015, he had a dream, where the word, Catafalque, unknown to him consciously, was laid out in front of him. This book is the result, the purpose for which is to provide a Catafalque for the Western world.
I would like to begin my review by saying how much I appreciate Peter Kingsley’s book, Catafalque. He writes in depth, yet in an appealing and colloquial style that comes across as a kind of incantatory and judiciously repetitive dialogue directed to the reader.
I feel as if I am being wafted on a wind of new discovery about Jung and Western Civilization for which I am very grateful. Kingsley not only expresses his erudite viewpoint on the West’s severance from its origins, but he introduces counter-positions that appeal to any doubts one may have to his line of argument. I have been involved in studying Jung as well as Western history over many years. The author manages to tie together threads that, for the most part, I have long been aware of, but not in the comprehensive and meaningful way that he presents it here.
Catafalque is a profound book that deserves to be studied by anyone interested in Jung and his work and, for that matter, anybody interested in Western Civilization and its troubled status today. Most of the book is dedicated to Jung as a visionary prophet and magician, which, to Kingsley’s chagrin, has been suppressed by Jungians, including the most prominent amongst them, who take the position of presenting Jung as a reasonable individual, a scientist, who left the prophetic intensity of the Red Book and his early work behind him. Kingsley discusses the application of Jung’s number 1 and 2 personalities as his two ways of presenting himself and his work that makes sense and refutes any claim or evidence that Jung gave up his prophetic and magical depths for a life of a kind of normalcy.
The author presents his case in a refreshing way, which allows one to see Jung and his relevance to the contemporary world with fresh eyes. He also writes appealingly about Henry Corbin’s relevance and his own mission to complete Jung by studying the pre-Socratics, notably Parmenides and Empedocles.
In the process, Kingsley criticizes prominent Jungians and one post-Jungian, which may not agree with everyone’s taste. The effect is, however, to emphasize what has gone wrong with the contemporary understanding of Jung, who, like all prophets including the pre-Socratics, Parmenides and Empedocles, is misinterpreted and mistranslated.
When a culture meets its end, which is Kingsley’s thesis, there is a need to return to its origins for fresh insight. Whether or not one can follow Kingsley throughout – I recommend holding any quibbles in suspension, I highly recommend this book as highly relevant and a must-read.
I presently feel a need to give a synopsis of Cataflaque in order to solidify my understanding of Kingsley’s provocative opus, and in order to mitigate the possibility of writing a review full of hot air.
Kingsley begins his book with magic that opens to a new world, which, throughout most of the book, seems to be a fresh perspective on Jung, Kingsley’s inner relationship with Jung and Jung’s true ancestors that date back to the alchemists, the Gnostics, the Old Testament prophets to Abraham and the pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece, notably Parmenides, Empedocles and the Pythagoreans, as well as Joachim de Fiore, the twelfth century founder of a Christian monastic order, who is probably the most significant Christian prophet.
At one point, Jung famously confesses that his spiritual and psychological guide, Philemon, whom he refers to as the father of the prophets, was the same master that inspired Buddha, Christ, Mani and Mohammed and Zoroaster, all those who are said to have communed with God. As Kingsley points out, while the others identified with the master, Jung does not, showing an advance in consciousness that accords with the divine will, possible only today.
He recounts how Jung’s relationship with Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, is particularly relevant in that a dream that Jung had in Tunis in 1920 was about “his book” that he had written, a Manichaean text on how to master the powers of the unconscious.
This book turned out to be Jung’s own psychology. Jung’s personal lineage follows a line of prophets back to the dawn of Western culture. Jung, in other words, is the latest of a line of prophets that date to the origins of Western Civilization, where it is the prophet, often taken for a fool, who is the most complete example of individuation. But, since the time of Plato and Aristotle, the West has divorced itself from its sacred origins based on wisdom of the goddess, and followed a path based on reason and rationality, right up to the contemporary world of science-technology and consumerism and the death of Western Civilization.
The West’s disregard for its sacred origins is mirrored, observes Kingsley, by the disregard Jungian analysts and scholars have shown and continue to show toward Jung’s profound spiritual and prophetic nature.
Providing solid evidence, Kingsley argues that the Jungian analysts that have suppressed Jung’s magical and prophetic nature include those who are considered to be amongst the most important disciples of Jung, including Marie-Louise von Franz, Edward Edinger and Michael Fordham, while “Jimmy” Hillman is dismissed outright as having illegitimately appropriated the “imaginal” from the Sufi tradition, to the outrage of Jung’s friend Henry Corbin.
Misdirection Away from the Heart
This inventory is Kingsley’s repertoire of those who misdirect people from the heart of Jung’s truth, which he turns to Philemon to provide. In Jung’s Red Book, Philemon is reported to have said to Jung that, as father of the prophets, “you are my son,” where, esoterically, father and son are one. As son, Jung is another incarnation of Philemon, just like Buddha, Mani, Zoroaster, Mohammed and Christ, whom all identified with the master and started a new religion. while Jung did not.
Jung denies he is a Gnostic and makes light of the legend of Empedocles jumping into the volcano at Etna, which, he did, reports Jung, in order to escape his (10,000) followers. In a famous exchange between him and Buber, the Jewish theologian, Buber derisively accuses Jung of being a Gnostic, a notion, which Jung rejects outright. How can we explain these apparent deceptive mis-directions on Jung’s part?
In Jaffé’s biography of Jung, the latter is presented as writing that he had two distinct personalities, personality number 1, which was fully involved with the spirit of the times, and personality number 2, which relates him to his true spiritual ancestors, the darkness of distant times and the spirit of the depths.
The spirit of the times is superficial, glib and deceptive, although with metis, Greek for cunning awareness and wisdom, Jung navigates this illusory, conventional world of trickery and deceit with his own brand of deception. The spirit of the depths relates Jung to the archetypal psyche, eternity and the infinite.
Thus, argues Kingsley, from the point of view of personality number 1, Jung is not a Gnostic, while with personality number 2, he is a Gnostic. He is both.
Like his prophetic forbears, Jung speaks with both personalities and, argues Kingsley, the readers are well advised to discriminate Jung’s statements accordingly with their own metis, and sense of cunning awareness and intelligence. The same holds true with the question of empirical science, which Jung often insists is his modus operandi in building and formulating his psychology. In The Red Book, however, his soul told him to dispense with science and use it only as a language.
In fact, Jung writes that, although he was intent on achieving something scientifically, a stream of lava put everything in place and order perfectly naturally, not science. He had in him, he declares, a mystical fool, meaning prophetic intensity, that was stronger than his science. Even his post Red Book engagement with the experience of the alchemists, Kingsley points out, was a way of hiding his own experiences with “cloaking material.”
Jung was a Prophet… A Magician
Jung was a prophet, a unique spiritual personality, who wrote that he deliberately made himself miserable in order to release God from the suffering imposed on him by Western humanity’s intense engagement with reason and rationality. He is a Kleinrod, a precious jewel, who incarnates from time to time, when circumstances are difficult and confusion reigns.
Jung contends that he belongs to the generality, writes Kingsley, to both the living and the dead.
Discovering the Grail
We get it right when we realize that his psychology is sacred, a therapeia for serving the divine: not for the ego but the Self. Not Western individualism, which is inimical to individuation, but unveiling the Grail reveals the nature of individuation and the answer to healing the spiritual malaise of Western culture.
Discovering the Grail vessel, means to become the Grail, the servitor mundi, the savior of the world. This was Jung’s task, which was revealed to him in an intense dream he had in India, where he became aware of the West’s need for the healing vessel as “servitor mundi.”
It is not “individualism,” which brings on inflation, but individuation that requires consciously living the ordinary life of man, when it is understood that, as humans, we are, essentially, the archetype of humanity, the Anthropos, the incarnated God, the Christ within. Thus, Jung writes that he lived the “archetypal life of the “light bringer, whom he equated with Christ, as “servitor mundi,” the savior and preserver of the World. He consciously lived this archetypal life.
Jung, writes Kingsley, became the living kratȇr, the Gnostic symbol of his psychology, offering to humankind the fountain of youth and the medicine of immortality. In that, he connects the fountain of rebirth to Empedocles, according to Kingsley, he becomes not just a Gnostic mixing bowl, but the volcano itself, where Empedocles, who jumped into the volcano, is the root source of Jung’s psychology. Jung’s path took him to the Gnostic-alchemical tradition, which his task was to carry forward to the contemporary world.
Although he approvingly refers to Parmenides, Empedocles and the Pythagoreans, Jung did not have the divine task to unveil the darkness of the world of the pre-Socratics. Kingsley’s deeper association with Jung dates to December 23, 1985, when he found his way driving unconsciously, letting the road carry him, from England to Bollingen.
There, in the stillness, he encountered the spirit of Jung, who offered him guidance on his life and true home. Kingsley sees it as his mission to complete Jung’s work, by studying this pre-Socratic darkness. In fact, this walk back to the source, observes Kingsley, is the essence of his book, Cataflaque.
Western humanity and its Severance from its True Origins
Cataflaque is essentially about Western humanity and its severance from its true origins, initially thanks to Plato and Aristotle and their extolling reason and rationality. The actual beginning of Western Civilization began some 2500 years ago with the pre-Socratics, Parmenides and Empedocles, based on their visionary relationship with the Goddess.
Although Jung is a highly important mentor for Kingsley and a significant guiding figure for the West, there are other important personalities with special missions, including Kingsley himself, as well as the French Sufi mystic, Henry Corbin, another mentor for Kingsley. Jung and Corbin met in 1949, and both spoke glowingly of the joy of their dialogue, and Jung of being completely understood by the latter.
In his review of Jung’s “Answer to Job” Corbin refers to it as prophecy and Jung as the prophet of Sophia.
Both men, in Kingsley’s mind, have independently recovered “dawn consciousness;’ Jung through the Gnostic/alchemical tradition and Corbin through Persian Sufism, which preserved the secret of Western origin, while the Sufi mystic, Suhwrawardi, saw the East and West as one.
This book is the result of Jung’s vision of the last fifty years of humanity and Kingsley’s visions and experiences of the death of Western culture, as well as a dream where the word Cataflaque was laid out in front of him. The purpose of the book is to provide a Cataflaque for the Western world.
It is now the time for a ritual lament on the death of Western Civilization, not to build something new. It is the time of the Cataflaque.
David T. Johnston
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