I have just finished reviewing and formatting the “Coniunctionis” column for my Website and I felt like I should have some conclusion to the series. “Coniunctionis” started out as a forum for me to explore interesting concepts that did not fit easily in clinical or academic publications. The column was published in Mental Contagion, which my sister, Karen Kopacz, started and edited for many years. It was a great place for me to explore concepts that intrigued me. It also was a place where I could move between more scholarly work and more personal self-exploration and understanding.
The title, “Coniunctionis,” was taken from Carl Jung’s alchemical writings and symbolizes the union of opposites that come together into a creative synthesis where opposites are united in a “unifying third” element. The coniunctio follows the nigredo stage of stagnation, death and destruction. It is part of a process whereby the old dies away and the new is born.
The title of the magazine, Mental Contagion, was also taken from a phrase by Jung. Whereas he generally spoke of “psychic infection” as a concept that applied when the ego over-identified with contents from the unconscious, he occasionally used the term “mental contagion” for similar situations, particularly when unconscious content was identified with by groups (for instance see “Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious”).
Re-reading these writings from 12 years ago, I am struck by several things. I am still interested in the concept and process of transformation, particularly in relation to trauma, identity crisis and general “bad times.” I am still interested in the interplay between individual crisis/transformation and cultural crisis/transformation. I still listen to music and read books in a search for greater inner and outer understanding. I still strive for a synthesis of various interests, disciplines and fields of study.
I have recently returned to reading Jung and this has been part of a return to my Self and to the early elementary interests I had when I was younger. Partly this is related to a physical return from New Zealand to the United States. Partly this is related to my entering the “mid-life” era in which I find myself wondering what is truly important to me and what I want to do in this second (or maybe third or fourth) era of my life. One of the things that I find myself focused on is consolidating some of my work from earlier eras of life. Culture, music, transformation, spirituality, personal growth, understanding, poetry, and creativity are a few of the elements that I return to - these themes that commonly surfaced in “Coniunctionis.” There is a purpose and reason why certain things fixate and fascinate us, I believe. While in earlier eras of my life I thought that I would “outgrow” certain things, I am now thinking that what was once very important to me in the past is a facet of an important part of my Self. I am very happy to be bringing forth the “Coniunctionis” column again and I realize that this is not just a historical undertaking, but that the essence of “Coniunctionis” will also infuse my current life and writing.
To not only live life, but to understand life - in all its vagaries, variations, disappointments and joys - that seems to be an underlying driving force for me. “Coniunctionis” is a place to explore how life, lives, art and ideas fall apart and fit together.
I have thought about picking up the thread of the “Coniunctionis” column again. There is still more to learn, explore and write about regarding biography, philosophy, psychology, anthropology and comparative religion. The work on Ian Curtis and Joy Division was actually meant to be part of a larger, book length project on Trauma and Creativity in authors. I still have drafts of chapters on Jerzy Kosinski, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and Samuel Shem. I am not sure when I will get a chance to return to this project, but I still feel the pull of it.
Some possible topics are not so “dark” as those from the “Trauma, Transformation and Punk Rock” series. For instance, I find the life and work of Juan Mascaró is quite fascinating. This man from Catalan lived in India and England and translated sacred texts from Sanskrit and Pali into English and not just translated, but sought to capture the fire and poetry of a universal spirituality.
Another story that cries out for exploration and excavation is the relationship between Gandhi and Jan Smuts and the pair of sandals Gandhi made and gave to Smuts, which then Smuts returned to Gandhi, considering himself unworthy of such a gift. This is even more interesting given that Smuts was a proponent of apartheid in South Africa and he and Gandhi were on opposite sides of the issue. Smuts later went on to coin the term “holism” on which he wrote a book. He was also one of the architects of the League of Nations.
I would love to write some columns on Science Fiction and Psychiatry which would fit with the theme of Coniunctionis. I have been doing some work on Philip K. Dick’s views on what a human being is and how technology and psychiatry can oppose or support true human being. (See the abstract under academic presentations on this Website, “What Does it Mean to Be Human? The Role of Psychiatrists in Philip K. Dick’s Life & Writing”). I have also been doing some preliminary writing on some of the similarities in Philip K. Dick’s and Carl Jung’s spiritual experiences and I would like to work on a book length project on this, but perhaps I can use the “Coniunctionis” column as a place to write up some short working concepts for this larger project. (See the abstract under academic presentations on this Website, “Every Thought Leads to Infinity: Perspectives on Personal Growth, Psychosis, and Spirituality in Carl Jung’s Red Book and Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis”).
I am grateful for the space for personal development that the “Coniunctionis” column in Mental Contagion allowed. This was some of my first public writing and first writing for the internet and it helped me to develop as a writer of short pieces for the Web, as I have continued in my blog. I am currently in the final phases of the writing of my book, Re-humanizing Medicine and I hope to continue writing both short pieces and more books in the future.