#10 NIGREDO 2019 by Stephen J King
#10 NIGREDO 2019 by Stephen J King

#10 NIGREDO 2019

Stephen J King on  Confessions,  Tony Albert

NIGREDO 2019: “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” [1]
“Every genuine confession humbles the soul.”
– St. Maximus the Confessor
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung considered the Confessional “the most effective means of combating man’s insecurity.” [2]  Commenting on this, Elizabeth Todd wrote “connected to the idea of confession is the idea of forgiveness…without confession, man remains in moral isolation…Confession is located in that place where religion and psychology meet – guilt.” [3]
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned…”.
Freud focussed on that guilt aspect.  For him, confession was symptomatic of an infantile obsessive neurosis stemming from Oedipal conflict with the father.  The Confessional is a dark place where lurk the hidden sexual desires of the confessor to possess the mother; a place of guilt in killing the totemic Father, all the while exalting him so as to obsess all over again.  Jung, while ambivalent about the form (neurosis) was more interested in the content (numinous).  What gets brought up in the confessional exchange?  He saw it as a universal tendency towards spirituality, an archetype of the collective unconscious – of the Imago Dei – the storehouse of religious motifs and content.  The process of guilt and forgiveness was age old and universal, a process of equilibrating to the transpersonal Self – normal and healthy.  You could call that making the forgiving and balancing Unconscious, conscious.  A dark and conscious night – fear, melancholia, guilt – before a redemptive golden dawn.  “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;” Mal: 4:2.
Tony Albert’s Confessional evokes an encounter with the numinous: image and motif are brought up from the depths – a juxtapositioning enantiodromia between artist and confessor – non-verbally, the depersonalised transformed into the transpersonal.  Image arises from the collective Imago and equilibrates the confessor Ego with the Self, creating a hieroglyph of the past and a holograph of the future… “hallowed be thy name…” in the Kaleidoscopic present… “on earth as it is in heaven…”.
If the priest in a confessional acts in persona Christi, Albert serves in persona Imago Dei.  Jung taught that Christ too was a symbol of the Self.
Albert’s metal booth serves as the hermetically sealed alchemical vas in this Opus.  But here we encounter stage one of the Opus only, confession (or catharsis).  The confessor must work through the next three stages of the transformational journey on their own: illumination, education and transformation. [4] (The Catholic model is confession, contrition, penance and restitution).  The work doesn’t end at the Gallery.  It has only just begun – the created motif the Key.
Jung attributed this journey of transformation to the fourfold stages of alchemy: Nigredo (blackness) – the dark night of the soul, the journey into the unconscious or descent into hell, Albedo (whiteness) – the lunar or reflective consciousness, Citrinitas (yellowness) – the solar consciousness, and Rubedo (redness) – the union of sun and moon (or chemical wedding) giving birth to the hermaphroditic philosophical Mercury, the Philosopher’s Stone.  This transparent red stone was often portrayed as a Phoenix,  perfecting metals (the booth) and humans (the confessor).  It rises from the ashes of the Shadow.
What of the collective effect of this new confessional Opus?  Erich Neumann noted, “the predigestion of evil…which (the individual) carries out as part of the process of assimilating his shadow makes him, at the same time, an agent for the immunization of the collective. An individual’s shadow is invariably bound up with the collective shadow of his group, and as he digests his own evil, a fragment of the collective evil is invariably co-digested at the same time.” [5]  Add to that the Baldwin effect: “The Baldwin Effect shows us that over a long time (a few thousand years) certain aspects of a complex, aspects that have a selective advantage in a group’s environment, may be acquired by the archetype.  In effect, archetypes may evolve by elevating individually acquired characteristics to their own universal level.  In theological terms, although the gods engender the daemons, they are able to learn from those daemons who have been best at promoting the group’s welfare.” [6]
Image as story is necessarily “a trans-temporal, trans-generational and transpersonal approach to the past as an intersubjective web of ideas and concepts…”. [7] This “arcs backwards to the past with the intention to contribute to healing present and future.  This orientation equalizes meaning and fact and contains a redemptive and numinous dimension – numinous in the sense in which intimate interrelating, conditional for healing, invokes the presence of the holy.” [8]  “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” Eph: 5:8 KJV. And perhaps that sums up Albert’s confessional – ‘intimate interrelating.’

In the paradoxia of One and Many, it is poignant that the created motif is mediated by the collective dreaming of a Girramay/Kuka Yalanji artist.  You see ‘Confession’ is a lay term.  The Church more often refers to “Reconciliation.”  In this trans-temporal, trans-generational and transpersonal intersubjective web of ideas, our attempts at Reconciliation in this land have been back to front – morally isolated – dislocated from the numinous and redemptive whole.  Reconciliation with instead of reconciliation by…equilibrium and counterchange.  One soul at a time.  The Many and the One.  “And I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of Incarnation.  And I confess my life one, individual, and eternal that was, and is, and is to come.” [9]

  1. Cor 13:12 (KJV)
  2. C.G. Jung, Editorial to Zentralblatt, VIII:1 (1935, date not indicated).
  3. E.Todd, “The Value of Confession and Forgiveness according to Jung,” Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 24 No. 1 Spring 1985.
  4. ​Problems of Modern Psychotherapy’, Collected Works of C, G. Jung, Vol. 16. 2nd ed., Princeton University Press, 1966
  5. Erich Neumann, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic (Shambhala: Boston, 1990) p. 130.
  6. Bruce Maclennan, “Evolutionary Jungian Psychology,” https://www.academia.edu/637623/Evolutionary_Jungian_psychology (accessed June 10, 2019).
  7. Heur, Freud’s ‘Outstanding’ Colleague/ Jung’s ‘Twin Brother’: The suppressed psychoanalytic and political significance of Otto Gross (Routledge: New York, 2017) p.3.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Liber XV O.T.O. Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Canon Missa.
Tony Albert’s Confessions exhibited at Contemporary Art Tasmania 7 June – 14 July 2019 as part of Dark Mofo 2019.

Stephen J King is a leading authority on the British mystic, magician, poet and philosopher, Aleister Crowley.  He regularly lectures internationally on Crowley’s system of “Magick,” initiatic Orders, and the revealed religious and scriptural tradition of Thelema.  Stephen is presently editing Crowley’s last book, Magick Without Tears, for the Crowley estate.  Under his religious name “Shiva,” Stephen is the Australian National Grand Master General ad vitam of the co-fraternal Thelemic Order, Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), once led by Crowley, and Presiding Bishop of its Gnostic Catholic Church. Professionally, he is a leading thinker and operative in the emerging fields of human-centred and experience design.  He has interests in philosophy, transpersonal psychology, theology, liturgy, the history of ideas, comparative religion, apocalyptic literature, angelic magic and bio-energetics.

JOURNAL is edited by CAT Engagement Co-ordinator, Lisa Campbell-Smith.
The project commissions writers to create new text-based works that engage with the CAT exhibition program. The platform provides an opportunity for writers to develop work outside the structures of critique and criticism prevalent in art writing.

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