A Review of Carl Jung’s Black Books

Monday, suddenly confronted with an involuntary day off, I took it upon myself to read Carl Jung’s seven Black Books in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On finishing the third I realized I’d made a mistake, but at that point had gone too far and committed to completing the series.

The following is a short collection of my most concise thoughts on the works and, by necessity due to the Books’ intimate nature, on Jung himself. Following this publication, I will purge the subject and the man from my mind and never spare them another thought.

One word immediately came hurtling from the ether when I looked to describe Jung’s Black Books: diarrheal. For nearly 48 hours now, innumerably inflected variations of this word have echoed in my mind. And yet, while diarrheal is a succinct and near-perfect descriptor for these works, it is of course insufficient. Though the Black Books are diarrheal by their very nature and apparent valuelessness, their creation and existence exceeds mere diarrheality— for the victim of diarrhea has the shame to relegate their outpouring to behind closed doors, and to flush it down into the hidden depths of the earth where it belongs.

Jung on the other hand, despite (or perhaps, I shudder to think, out of spite) fully understanding that he’d commanded an audience based on his seemingly reasonable and thought-provoking theories, deliberately— proudly— expelled the vulgar contents of his mind onto these thousands of page as if to jeer hatefully at his devoted followers. One can only hope for Jung’s sake (and for the sake of their own spiritual comfort) that the man at least found some twisted humor in the absurd spectacularity of such conspicuous, prolonged excretion.

Investigating his own mind is Jung’s stated goal of the Black Books, and the results of this nearly two-decade experiment are astonishing and revelatory in that they ultimately amount to an oblique negation of his entire body of work and thought. To consider oneself a Jungian despite knowing via these Black Books the disorder and madness that constituted the man’s unconscious is self-deprecatory in a way comparable to only the most depraved coprophage— the coprophage of coprophages, who listlessly roves the dumping grounds of more powerful coprophages in search of any and all scattered morsels that might sustain their inconceivably low existence. 

Yet, eventually, after I finished the seventh and final book— as my rage finally subsided into exhausted reflection on Tuesday night— I felt a bizarre compulsion to thank Jung. 

Indeed, we must thank Jung for making it indisputably clear to all future generations that to engage with any component of his thought is not just futile, but actively and aggressively harmful to the mind and soul. We must thank Jung for committing this transcendental suicide of his legacy. We must thank Jung for his excretion. 

But perhaps we can, through Herculean effort and Christlike grace, extend Jung the benefit of the doubt and view these Books as his own frantic recognition of his life’s failure. Perhaps, as whatever negligible lucidity he once had waned into incoherence, Jung took it upon himself to issue this one final, cryptic and protracted warning in the form of the Black Books: stay away, for I am mad, and I have always been mad.

Jung’s Black Books then are ultimately a boon: a comprehensive discrediting of his own oeuvre and consequently a service to posterity. With the Black Books’ obscene warning, all those who might have otherwise been led intellectually astray by the specious “thoughts” of a deeply upset and profoundly incorrect man are made irreversibly and excruciatingly aware of Jung’s value: none. Thus, paradoxically, the Black Books’ derive a legitimate positive value through their staggering capacity to signal the utter and absolute lack of the man who wrote them. For this reason I award the Black Books a rating of 9.5 out of 10.

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