A couple of weeks ago I attended a wonderful workshop put together by Depth Psychology Seminars, a group of Jungian therapists and artists. The weekend included both lectures and creative workshops – opportunities to move from theory to practice, in the form of what Jung called “active imagination,” and my Marxist colleagues might call “praxis.” I painted, acted, and wrote poetry for the first time in decades. It was a blast.

For the poetry workshop with Laura Hope-Gill, we were encouraged to write a poem inspired by the seven-stage process of alchemical transformation described in many  classical texts. Here’s what I came up with:


I pick up my book manuscript
my notes, my files,
my hard drives, my flash drives,
my Moleskine, my legal pads,
my audio files, my video files,
my DVDs, my CDs, my CD-ROMs,
my email, my snail mail,
my files in the cloud.
I pile them to the sky in my big backyard
and drench them.

I pour water, but they won’t dissolve
so I break out the alcohol.
Turpentine and witch hazel,
then vodka and scotch.
The pile saturates and wilts,
the papers grow translucent, like tissue, then melt.
The circuits short out,
zeroes becoming ones,
ones becoming zeroes,
or maybe some other numbers the motherboards don’t know about.
Book bindings melt.
Plastic labels peel off circular slices of metal.
And then I toss in the match.

The wood fibers burble.
The plastic curls.
The metal melts.
The smoke rises.
My eyes sting and tear.

I take a big shopvac and suck it all up:
the ashes,
the smoke,
the plastic shining like melted candy,
the metal glimmering like mercury,
the data pouring down from the cloud in a rain of bits.
The shopvac explodes.

My lawn in scorched.
My neighbors are alarmed.
My cats are nonplussed.

Then Noisy comes out to take a look.
The Dude follows.
I even let Pilot Squeaky out, though she hasn’t promised to be good.
They sniff around the edges.
They scratch at the rubble like kitty litter.

Steam rises from the cooling pile.
Particles congeal into a nubbly slab.
Soft like Silly Putty.
Slick like river rocks.
Mottled like fake vomit.

Then the Dude backs up
with a dreamy look in his eyes
and with a squirt
baptizes it all.

3 thoughts on “Renewal

  1. Brian Collinson

    Sounds like it was a very good experience, Ted. I enjoyed your poem: solutio, mortificatio and the whole thing. Active imagination can be an experience of tremendous power, particularly when it involves confrontation with all the dimensions of non-ego resident with us. As Walt Whitman once put it, “I am large; I contain worlds”. All the best! ~Brian

  2. terenceblake

    I have just listened to your two diet soap interviews and to your podcat, and I am eager for more. I certainly think that many recent thinkers and creators are either conscious Jungians (like Deleuze) or unconscious Jungians (like Zizek). I think Philip K. Dick in VALIS is a good example of the creative interference between theology, psychology, SF and fantasy that you describe. There has been some discussion of myth on the blogosphere recently, e.g.
    where the point of view is sort of “deleuzian” because of the emphasis on immanence, and the implicit identification of myth with ideology is quite clear. But I find the discussion a little one-sided. As your comparison of Barthes with Jung shows up, myth is Janus-faced, taking us in the direction of the formations of power (Barthes) or in the direction of the production of subjectivity and meaning (Deleuze). Jung is somehow able to juggle both points of view, but he needs serious updating, as Hillman began to do. I am looking forward to THE CENTAUR MANIFESTO to help me see clear in this mix. Thank you for all that you have made available.

  3. terenceblake

    Hello Professor Friedman,
    I hope you see this one day. I would just like to tell you that I found your work quite inspiring, and I would like to indicate here a few things I wrote under the influence of reading and listening to your ideas.
    I can only encourage you to continue your work. For my part, I was studying and working in an Althusserian-Lacanian philosophy department a little over 30 years ago when I discovered Deleuze and Guattari’s ANTI-OEDIPUS. This led me both to go and study in France (I attended Deleuze’s lectures for 7 years from 1980 to 1987, but also those of Foucault, Lyotard, and Michel Serres), and to begin a jungian analysis, which I pursued during the same period. I was blown over by the relation between the two, but found noone to discuss this with, and never expressed it on paper. Now over 20 years later I keep asking myself what remains for me now of that incredibly stimulating period of my life, so I was very glad indeed to discover your work and sincerely desire to see and hear more of it.


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