To the modern mind, schooled in Jung and Freud, ancient myth is once more alive and lancing, and able to stir the poetic imagination radically and polysemously. (The Classical Trivium, 157)

Anthropology and psychology together have also revindicated the traditional ‘magical’ view of language fusing the seemingly distinct activities of the brothers Grimm, on the one hand, as philologists, and on the other, as students of folk-lore, so that we are once more in a position to adopt a sympathetic view of the divine Logos of late antiquity. Quite incidental to the radical readjustments in awareness we can relax where Francis Bacon is concerned. We can take him in our stride, as it were, nodding at him as a useful landmark in a great literary tradition whose representatives today are Jung and Count Korzybski. (Medieval Grammar as the Basis of Bacon’s Novum Organum)1

Increasingly, I feel that Catholics must master C.G. Jung. The little self-conscious (unearned) area in which we live to-day has nothing to do with the problems of our faith. Modern anthropology and psychology are more important for the Church than St. Thomas to-day. (McLuhan to Walter Ong and Clement McNaspy, December 23, 1944, Letters 166)

But la trahison des clercs has been to subordinate detached critical intelligence to the servile functions of “political” evangelism. They are thus the inheritors of the sectarian enthusiasms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries presenting a scientific demonstration of Jung’s social principle: “No psychic value can disappear without being replaced by another of equivalent intensity.”  (Footprints in the Sands of Crime, citing Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 1933)

But it is clear enough to me that the abiding achievement of the past century has been in analytic psychology and as such the Catholic mind has yet to ingest let alone digest that achievement. (McLuhan to Walter Ong, December 1947, Letters 191)

My little book on “books to read” comes along simply and quickly without effort on my part. (..) Panofsky’s Studies in Iconology is on because it provides simultaneously an introduction to medieval allegory (Dante) and the French symbolists and Jung. Jung is on not for his own sake but as an approach to myth and Joyce.  (McLuhan to Felix Giovanelli, Aug 1948)

Immediately associated with this notion of speech is the sense of a collective human consciousness which is not merely psychological (Joyce and Eliot have always been sharply critical of Freud and Jung for this reason among others), but in the nature of a common drama of the race. (T S Eliot [review of 11 books])

As Father White wrote concerning “Jung and the Supernatural” (Commonweal, March 14, 1952, p. 561):  “A living symbol does something to us; it moves us, shifts our center of awareness, changes our values.  Whether it is just looked at, or heard, acted out, painted out, written out, or danced out, it arouses not only thought, but delight, fear, awe, horror, perhaps a deeper insight.”  In other words, the symbols of our environment, commercial and artistic, are not just signs whose reference has to be understood for them to be efficacious. That is Cartesian and Lockean theory of communication which never fitted the facts. But Catholics today still hold to that theory of communication, and it hands them over bound and helpless to the consciously manipulated pagan rituals of art, literature and commerce. (‘Heart of Darkness’, unpublished review of Thompson, Melville’s Quarrel With God)

As Father Victor White wrote concerning “Jung and the Supernatural”: “
A living symbol does something to us; it moves us, shifts our center of awareness, changes our values. Whether it is just looked at, or heard, acted out, painted out, written out, or danced out, it arouses not only thought, but delight, fear, awe, horror, perhaps a deeper insight.”  (…) Symbols are not just referential signs. They don’t just say something. They do something. And saying is also symbolic action. We are moving very rapidly today to a grasp of scriptural, poetic and social communication which promises to take up all the wealth of patristic insight and to go far beyond it. But we have no choice. We have either to surpass any previous age or to collapse into a new Babel. For our problems, like our means and opportunities, are of a scope beyond those of any previous age. (Symbolist Communication)

Any phonetic alphabet culture can easily slip into the habit of putting one thing under or in another, since there is constant pressure from the subliminal fact that the written code carries for the reader the experience of the “content” which is speech. But there is nothing subliminal in non-literate cultures. The reason we find myths difficult to grasp is just this fact, that they do not exclude any facet of experience as literate cultures do. All the levels of meaning are simultaneous. Thus natives, when asked Freudian questions about the symbolism of their thoughts or dreams, insist that all the meanings are right there in the verbal statement. The work of Jung and Freud is a laborious translation of non-literate awareness into literary terms… (Gutenberg Galaxy, 72)

Freud and Jung built their observations on the interpretation of the languages of both individual and collective postures and gestures with respect to dreams and to the ordinary acts of everyday life. The physical and psychic gestalts, or “still” shots, with which they worked were much owing to the posture world revealed by the photograph. The photograph is just as useful for collective, as for individual, postures and gestures, whereas written and printed language is biased toward the private and individual posture. Thus, the traditional figures of rhetoric were individual postures of mind of the private speaker in relation to an audience, whereas myth and Jungian archetypes are collective postures of the mind with which the written form could not cope, any more than it could command mime and gesture. (Understanding Media, 193-194) 

the logic of
the photograph is neither verbal nor syntactical, a condition which renders literary culture quite helpless to cope with the photograph. By the same token, the complete transformation of human sense-awareness by this form involves a development of self-consciousness that alters facial expression and cosmetic makeup as immediately as it does our bodily stance, in public or in private. This fact can be gleaned from any magazine or movie of fifteen years back. It is not too much to say, therefore, that if outer posture is affected by the photograph, so with our inner postures and the dialogue with ourselves. The age of Jung and Freud is, above all, the age of the photograph, the age of the full gamut of self-critical attitudes.  (Understanding Media, 197) 

The cliché (…) is incompatible with other clichés, but the archetype is extremely cohesive; other archetypes’ residues adhere to it
. When we consciously set out to retrieve one archetype, we unconsciously retrieve others; and this retrieval recurs in infinite regress. In fact, whenever we “quote” one consciousness, we also “quote” the archetypes we exclude; and this quotation of excluded archetypes has been called by Freud, Jung, and others “the archetypal unconscious.”
(From Cliché to Archetype, 21-22)

As we meditate upon the ancient cliches or sacro-breakthroughs, the literal man is inclined to consider them as “archetypes.” For example, Northrop Frye in
Anatomy of Criticism defines archetype as “a symbol, usually an image, which recurs often enough in literature to be recognizable as an element of one’s literary experi­ence as a whole.” Of course this particular definition is most un-­Jungian in suggesting that archetypes are human artifacts produced by much repetition — in other words, a form of cliche. For the literary archetypalist there is always a problem of whether Oedipus Rex or Tom Jones would have the same effect on an audience in the South Sea Islands as in Toronto. With the new means of plenary cultural retrieval, ancient cliches are taking their place as transcendental or archetypal forms.
(From Cliché to Archetype, 118)

The simple process by which the unconscious was pushed up into con­sciousness with the help of electricity, Freud and Jung is one of the big dramas of our time. And it’s true that the private identity, the private individual has been swept away by this huge surge of the unconscious up into consciousness. (Theatre and the Visual Arts)

The archetype, which depends on an overarching comprehension of the past (the mythic milieu), is retrieved awareness or consciousness. It is consequently a retrieved combination of clichés — an old cliché brought back by a new cliché. (The Global Village, 16)

Jung is careful to remind literary critics to consider the archetype as a primordial symbol: The archetypes are by no means useless archaic survivals or relics. They are living entities, (…) numinous ideas or dominant representations. (The Global Village, 17)



  1. Cited in Gordon, Escape into Understanding, 380n8. McLuhan retouched and retitled this Bacon essay at least 4 times between 1942 and 1944. It was originally announced as a lecture for a 1942 MLA meeting that was cancelled on account of the war and ultimately given as a lecture in a later meeting of the MLA in 1944. See, eg, ‘Francis Bacon’s Patristic  Inheritance’, McLuhan  Studies I (1991) and ‘Medieval Grammar as the Basis of Bacon’s Novum Organum‘, EME, 6:3,  2007. An abstract for the 1944 lecture was published in the MLA conference program: “The art of grammar in Greek and Roman times was, in its etymological and analogical functions,  inseparable from physics, cosmogony and the interpretation of phenomena, or the book of nature. Philo of Alexandria adapted the art with its four levels of interpretation, to scriptural exegesis. Patristic theology took over his methods and the encyclopedic tradition in education it implied. Until the time of Abelard grammatical theology and science were supreme. Its temporary eclipse did not effect a breach in continuity. St Bonaventure was its greatest exponent. Erasmus was the key figure for his contemporaries because he restored grammatical theology while struggling against decadent dialectical theology. Bacon’s significance is best understood in this tradition and against this background. His conception of the problem of interpreting of nature is primarily, though not finally, grammatical.”