Volume 13

Guests on Volume 13: Richard Noll, on the influence of paganism in the life and thought of C. G. Jung; Armand Nicholi, on Sigmund Freud's religious longings; Jackson Lears, on how advertising detaches us from the world; Alan Jacobs, on Anne Rice and the popularity of her vampire novels; Ken Myers, on reporting about religion; Rand & Robyn Miller, on MYST, the bestselling computer game; Sven Birkerts, on how the act of reading assists in building self-understanding; Stephen G. Smith, on his magazine Civilization, produced in cooperation with the Library of Congress; and Deal Hudson, on the return of melody in modern music.

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Part 1

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    Richard Noll on the influence of paganism in the life and thought of C. G. Jung

    The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement (Princeton University Press, 1994)

    Richard Noll's The Jung Cult: The Quest for the Historical Jung explores the biographical, cultural, and historical context in which German psychotherapist Carl Jung developed his influential therapeutic theories. Noll, who is a clinical psychologist and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, argues that the revival of pagan ritual religions in late nineteenth-century Germany profoundly influenced Jung's thought. During this period, many German cultural authorities sought national renewal through a return to a pre-Christian spirituality which involved nature worship, Gnostic mystery initiations, and self-deification experiences. Carl Jung was intensely interested in these religious practices. While many contemporary psychotherapists appreciate Jung's openness to religion and spirituality, Noll warns that Jung's religious vision contrasts starkly with Christian ideas.

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    Armand Nicholi on Sigmund Freud's religious longings

    Despite his lifelong claim to atheism, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) expressed a spiritual yearning in his writing, which, as Armand Nicholi argues through C. S. Lewis's work, points to the existence of God.

    Every year, Harvard clinical psychiatry professor Armand Nicholi teaches an undergraduate seminar that explores Sigmund Freud's assumptions about reality. By assigning several of Freud's works, Nicholi intends to reveal how the psychologist's answers to questions about life, meaning, happiness, and death have deeply influenced twentieth-century culture at a number of levels. Despite his forceful rejection of religion, Freud could not stop writing about the very phenomenon he supposedly found so absurd. Nicholi points out that Freud often spoke of prayer and providence and expressed a spiritual yearning. As a foil to Freud, Nicholi has students read Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, who argues that religious longings suggest the existence of God.

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    Jackson Lears on how advertising detaches us from the world

    Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising (Basic Books, 1995)

    Jackson Lears discusses the power of advertising to reinforce and shape cultural attitudes about material goods. In Fables of Abundance, Lears examines the history of American advertising and highlights the connections advertisers make between identity and acquisition. Contrary to the popular notion that advertising promotes materialism, Lears argues that it actually prohibits people from enjoying their possessions by focusing them on the pursuit of ever more disposable goods. The advertisers exist to ensure that people will never be satisfied.

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    Alan Jacobs on Anne Rice and the popularity of her vampire novels

    Anne Rice (b. 1941)

    Literary critic Alan Jacobs discusses the commercial success of Anne Rice's vampire novels. Vampires are appealing to readers, Jacobs explains, because they are completely unfettered by moral, financial, or physical constraints. They are immortal, rich, strong, and seductive. Because they dominate and control others, they fulfill human fantasies of freedom and power. Jacobs suggests that traditional vampire stories are a kind of political allegory: vampires, like aristocrats, are predatory parasites with too much time on their hands. Unlike these earlier accounts, which incite terror and disgust, Anne Rice uncritically celebrates the power, freedom, and immortality of the vampire life, according to Jacobs.

Part 2

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    Ken Myers on reporting about religion

    Host Ken Myers comments on the media's growing interest in religion. He talks with Voice of America spokesperson Joseph O'Connell about the weekly radio program Perspectives, which explores what Americans believe. This openness to spiritual things may confirm the death of secularism, but it also presents new challenges for Christians engaged in presenting the Gospel.

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    Rand & Robyn Miller on MYST, the bestselling computer game

    By taking up a quest in a "secondary world," players of the computer game MYST are exposed to the importance of having a purpose.

    MYST is a popular and unconventional CD-ROM computer game that gives the player a natural, realistic environment to explore, rather than enemies to obliterate. Inspired by imaginative fiction of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, Rand and Robyn Miller, the creators of MYST, designed a "secondary world" where the each player becomes a character on a quest. Rand and Robyn Miller explain how their ideas about the importance of having a purpose shaped their design of the game.

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    Sven Birkerts on how the act of reading assists in building self-understanding

    The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (Faber and Faber, 1994)

    Cultural critic Sven Birkerts laments the contemporary love affair with technology that reduces reading to an anachronistic art. In his book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Birkerts examines how human understanding of the world and the self is shaped by the process of reading. He asserts that reading cultivates empathy for the lives of others, develops sympathy for the past and teaches the value of inwardness. A generation raised on television lacks imagination, preferring to be passively entertained. Birkerts worries that the instantaneous access to information flattens our understanding of how facts fit together over time. In our fascination with data, we are losing dimensionality.

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    Stephen G. Smith on his magazine Civilization, produced in cooperation with the Library of Congress

    Civilization Magazine

    Civilization is a magazine that focuses on ideas and events which have stood the test of time. While most magazines chase similar stories about celebrities, popular culture, and politics, Civilization explores the vast cultural resources of the Library of Congress, aiming to make the Library's collections come alive to the reader. Editor-in-chief Stephen G. Smith strives to produce educational articles which challenge people to think deeply about the world and contemporary events.

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    Deal Hudson on the return of melody in modern music

    Image Journal

    In his recent article "A Revival of Melody" (Image, Summer '94), Deal Hudson hails the revival of melody among contemporary composers. Throughout the twentieth century, academic composers have created music that Hudson calls "actively ugly." While this music may be intellectually interesting, it lacks the power and beauty necessary to refresh the soul. Hudson asserts that melody makes us vulnerable: whenever we want to express grief or love we do it through simple melody. According to Hudson, melody inspires us to lead better lives, helps us make sense of anguish and put aside grief, and leads listeners to glorify God.