Carl Jung’s Fascinating 1957 Letter on UFOs


Deities, con­spir­a­cies, pol­i­tics, space aliens: you don’t actu­al­ly have to believe in these to find them inter­est­ing. Just focus your atten­tion not on the things them­selves, but in how oth­er peo­ple regard them, what they say when they talk about them, and why they think about them the way they do. Psy­chother­a­pist and one­time Freud pro­tégé Carl Gus­tav Jung treat­ed UFOs this way when he wrote his book Fly­ing Saucers: A Mod­ern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, which exam­ines “not the real­i­ty or unre­al­i­ty” of the tit­u­lar phe­nom­e­na, but their “psy­chic aspect,” and “what it may sig­ni­fy that these phe­nom­e­na, whether real or imag­ined, are seen in such num­bers just at a time” — the Cold War — “when humankind is men­aced as nev­er before in his­to­ry.” As what Jung called a “mod­ern myth,” UFOs qual­i­fy as real indeed.

In 1957, with Fly­ing Saucers to appear the fol­low­ing year, New Repub­lic edi­tor Gilbert A. Har­ri­son want­ed to get this Jun­gian per­spec­tive on UFOs in his mag­a­zine. At the top of this post, you can see (via The Awl) a scan of Jung’s response to Har­rison’s query, the text of which fol­lows:

the prob­lem of the Ufos is, as you right­ly say, a very fas­ci­nat­ing one, but it is as puz­zling as it is fas­ci­nat­ing; since, in spite of all obser­va­tions I know of, there is no cer­tain­ty about their very nature. On the oth­er side, there is an over­whelm­ing mate­r­i­al point­ing to their leg­endary or mytho­log­i­cal aspect. As a mat­ter of fact the psy­cho­log­i­cal aspect is so impres­sive, that one almost must regret that the Ufos seem to be real after all. I have fol­lowed up the lit­er­a­ture as much as pos­si­ble and it looks to me as if some­thing were seen and even con­firmed by radar, but nobody knows exact­ly what is seen. In con­sid­er­a­tion of the psy­cho­log­i­cal aspect of the phe­nom­e­non I have writ­ten a book­let about it, which is soon to appear. It is also in the process of being trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish. Unfor­tu­nate­ly being occu­pied with oth­er tasks I am unable to meet your propo­si­tion. Being rather old, I have to econ­o­mize my ener­gies.

Jung, as you can see, dou­bled his own inter­est in the sub­ject by not only con­sid­er­ing fly­ing saucers a social phe­nom­e­non, but as a real phys­i­cal phe­nom­e­non as well. Seri­ous enthu­si­asts of both Jung and UFOs might con­sid­er bid­ding on the orig­i­nal let­ter, now up for auc­tion. Esti­mat­ed sale price: $2,000 to 3,000.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Face to Face with Carl Jung: ‘Man Can­not Stand a Mean­ing­less Life’

Carl Gus­tav Jung Explains His Ground­break­ing The­o­ries About Psy­chol­o­gy in Rare Inter­view (1957)

Carl Gus­tav Jung Pon­ders Death

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Watch Phish Play All of The Rolling Stones’ Classic Album, Exile on Main Street, Live in Concert

I’m rid­ing a mighty big band­wag­on when I tell you that Exile on Main Street is my favorite Stones record. It’s like cham­pi­oning the virtues of Sgt. Pepper’s or Dark Side of the Moon. Real­ly, those are great albums? Wow, who knew. But here’s the thing… my favorite Stones songs—“Street Fight­ing Man,” “No Expec­ta­tions,” “Get off of My Cloud” (hell, I even love “Shattered”)—do not appear on Exile. It is a per­fect (dou­ble) album with­out one per­fect sin­gle on all of its 18 tracks. Exile is a string of beau­ti­ful­ly flawed pearls—gospel sketch­es, coun­try weep­ers, bar­room stom­pers, bare-bones blues. And this is why I think that any band approach­ing the album with ideas about cov­er ver­sions should just go ahead and play the whole damn thing.

This is what Pussy Galore, one of my favorite New York scuzz-rock bands, did in 1986, with a cas­sette-only release that “sounds like it was record­ed in the tank of a Low­er East Side toi­let.” If that seems like hyper­bole, you have no idea how trashy, and thus, in a way, how per­fect­ly apt, their take on the 1972 clas­sic is (find out here). But now let’s take the case of Phish, who offer their own live ver­sion of Exile (above) from their 2009 “Fes­ti­val 8” tour. I’ve nev­er been much of a Phish fan, I’ll aver, but I must also cop to a grudg­ing respect for them. Part­ly that’s due to their respect for music not their own. Per a long­stand­ing tra­di­tion, Phish dons a dif­fer­ent musi­cal “cos­tume” every Hal­loween show, play­ing a full album from a band they admire. For exam­ple, we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured their 1996 live cov­er of the Talk­ing Heads’ clas­sic Remain in Light. Does it work? Not entire­ly, but their love for the mate­r­i­al shines through.

They seem much more at home with the Stones, and the almost note-for-note live set is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, I have to say. Phish is not by any stretch a hip band, and they avoid any kind of exper­i­men­ta­tion in this lov­ing trib­ute. But that’s kind of what makes it great. While the unpre­ten­tious enthu­si­asm, tight musi­cian­ship, and pro­fes­sion­al­ism might seem to mark this as the antithe­sis of what L.A. Times Ran­dall Roberts calls Pussy Galore’s “crim­i­nal­ly unprac­ticed rock and roll stunt,” what unites them both is that both groups “obvi­ous­ly loved the orig­i­nal album,” whether their take on it is man­gled par­o­dy or well-rehearsed, fun-lov­ing rock out.

The orig­i­nal Exile is, yes, a mas­ter­piece. It’s also a great con­ver­sa­tion piece. Ask any die-hard Stones fan about its record­ing and you’re sure to hear anec­dote after deca­dent anec­dote (as ful­ly doc­u­ment­ed in the 2010 film Stones in Exile). The band record­ed the album in 1971 at Kei­th Richards’ rent­ed vil­la, Nell­côte, in the South of France, where they’d relo­cat­ed to evade tax­es in Britain. Dur­ing months of all-night ses­sions, thou­sands of dol­lars of hero­in flowed through the house, along with vis­i­tors like William S. Bur­roughs, Ter­ry South­ern, and Stones’ coun­try-rock muse Gram Par­sons (who man­aged to get him­self thrown out). It’s a true tes­ta­ment to the band’s for­ti­tude and razor-sharp cre­ative focus that their extend­ed stay in a rock star play­ground pro­duced such a bril­liant­ly eco­nom­i­cal record, instead of the bloat­ed mess it could have been.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Phish Play the Entire­ty of the Talk­ing Heads’ Remain in Light (1996)

Jean-Luc Godard Films The Rolling Stones Record­ing “Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il” (1968)

Kei­th Richards Wax­es Philo­soph­i­cal, Plays Live with His Idol, the Great Mud­dy Waters

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Dexter Gordon’s Elegant Version of the Jazz Standard ‘What’s New,’ 1964

In 1964, when this per­for­mance was giv­en, the tenor sax­o­phon­ist Dex­ter Gor­don was in the sec­ond year of his Euro­pean exile.

Gor­don had risen to promi­nence in the ear­ly 1940s, after join­ing the Lionel Hamp­ton band at the age of 17. He was one of the pio­neer trans­la­tors of the bebop idiom to the tenor sax. And he was an ear­ly influ­ence on the play­ing of John Coltrane and Son­ny Rollins.

“Dex­ter made a great con­tri­bu­tion to the bebop lan­guage,” Rollins once said. “In fact, I think he defined it dur­ing a cer­tain peri­od. He tran­scribed a lot of the stuff that Bird was doing, and brought that approach to the tenor with­out being a copi­er. He was an impor­tant fig­ure in bring­ing peo­ple along. Coltrane at one time sound­ed like Dex­ter, and I still hear that lin­eage.”

But by the 1950s Gor­don was addict­ed to hero­in. He checked him­self into the hos­pi­tal sev­er­al times but always fell back. In 1960 he was arrest­ed in Los Ange­les on drug charges and spent three months in prison. When he got out he had trou­ble find­ing gigs. Even though he had com­plete­ly kicked his habit by 1962, New York police refused to issue him a cabaret card to play in the city’s night­clubs. An offer to play in Europe changed his life. “I  went for three months and stayed for 14 years,” Gor­don told Peo­ple mag­a­zine in 1986. “I came alive over there.”

Gor­don had clear­ly hit his stride again by July 29, 1964, when this scene was record­ed for Dutch tele­vi­sion in Amers­foort, Hol­land. Gor­don is play­ing the 1939 Bob Hag­gart and John­ny Burke stan­dard, “What’s New?” His Euro­pean quar­tet includes George Gruntz on piano, Guy Ped­er­sen on bass and Daniel Humair on drums. The per­for­mance is avail­able as part of the Jazz Icons DVD, Dex­ter Gor­don: Live in ’63 & ’64. In the lin­er notes, Gor­don’s for­mer pro­duc­er Michael Cus­cu­na describes him as being in peak form when this film was made: “His tone res­onates with pow­er and beau­ty, his chops enable him to exe­cute what­ev­er occurs to him and his ideas flow seam­less­ly.”

Gor­don learned from his idol Lester Young that it was a good idea to know the lyrics of a song if you want to under­stand its essence. One of Gor­don’s idio­syn­crasies was to recite a few lines from the lyrics before play­ing the song. In this scene, the six-foot, six-inch-tall sax­o­phon­ist steps up to the micro­phone and, in his deep bari­tone voice, recites the open­ing lines to “What’s New?” before launch­ing into a beau­ti­ful instru­men­tal ver­sion. Sum­ming up Gor­don’s dis­tinc­tive play­ing, a biog­ra­ph­er at the New Grove Dic­tio­nary of Jazz writes: “His rich, vibrant sound, har­mon­ic aware­ness, behind-the-beat phras­ing, and his predilec­tion for humor­ous quo­ta­tions com­bine to cre­ate a unique style.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Advice From the Mas­ter: Thelo­nious Monk Scrib­bles a List of Tips for Play­ing a Gig

The Nazis’ 10 Con­trol-Freak Rules for Jazz Per­form­ers: A Strange List from World War II

Watch 1959: The Year that Changed Jazz

Tilda Swinton Recites Poem by Rumi While Reeking of Vetiver, Heliotrope & Musk

If any­one should ask you how to pro­mote a celebri­ty fra­grance with­out los­ing face, click play and whis­per, “Like This.”

It helps if the celeb in ques­tion is gen­er­al­ly acknowl­edged to be a class act. Imag­ine a drunk­en star­let emerg­ing from her limo sans-draw­ers to stum­ble through her favorite poem by a 13th cen­tu­ry Sufi mys­tic. Which would you rather smell like?

(Per­son­al­ly, I’d go with Team Swin­ton! )

Some schol­ars quib­ble with the accu­ra­cy of this Til­da Swin­ton-approved trans­la­tion, but there’s no deny­ing that Cole­man Barks’ “per­fect sat­is­fac­tion of all our sex­u­al want­i­ng” stands to move a lot more scent than A.J. Arber­ry’s terse ref­er­ence to Houris, virig­i­nal and numer­ous though they may  be.

Speak­ing of com­par­isons, take a peek at how anoth­er celebri­ty pro­motes her fra­grance in a video of sim­i­lar length.

Team Swin­ton for the win. Def­i­nite­ly.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Moby Dick Big Read: Celebri­ties and Every­day Folk Read a Chap­ter a Day from the Great Amer­i­can Nov­el

Til­da Swin­ton and Bar­ry White Lead 1500 Peo­ple in Dance-Along to Hon­or Roger Ebert

Hear Sylvia Plath Read Fif­teen Poems From Her Final Col­lec­tion, Ariel, in 1962 Record­ing

Ayun Hal­l­i­day marks her ter­ri­to­ry @AyunHalliday

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #4, Visualized by the Great Music Animation Machine

Yes­ter­day we fea­tured videos visu­al­iz­ing Igor Stravin­sky’s now hun­dred-year-old The Rite of Spring. They came from acknowl­edged mas­ter of music visu­al­iza­tion Stephen Mali­nows­ki, inven­tor of the Music Ani­ma­tion Machine. Have a look at Mali­nowski’s Youtube page and you’ll find oth­er videos show­cas­ing how his soft­ware, by trans­lat­ing musi­cal sounds into instinc­tive­ly under­stand­able graph­ics, allows us to bet­ter grasp the intri­cate work­ings of famous pieces. Today, let’s go back not just one hun­dred but about three hun­dred years, to Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach’s Bran­den­burg Con­cer­tos, the inge­nious intri­ca­cy of which has, since the Baroque peri­od, only won more and more devo­tion from musi­cal schol­ars.

At the top, you can hear, and more impor­tant­ly see, the first move­ment of Bach’s fourth Bran­den­burg con­cer­to. Just above, you’ll find its sec­ond move­ment, below, its third. (This video presents the move­ment whole.) Watch as you lis­ten, and you can expe­ri­ence through shape and col­or (I can only imag­ine the kick synes­thetes get out of this sort of thing) the way that the con­cer­to’s var­i­ous voic­es, meant for vio­lins, vio­la, cel­lo, vio­lone, and bas­so con­tin­uo, trade off, over­lap, inter­act, giv­ing each move­ment, and the whole piece, its shape. Though Bach’s musi­cal accom­plish­ments can some­times seem impres­sive to the point of feel­ing for­bid­ding, Mali­nowski’s graph­i­cal scores offer a way into com­pre­hen­sion, espe­cial­ly for the visu­al­ly inclined.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stravin­sky’s The Ride of Spring, Visu­al­ized in a Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion for its 100th Anniver­sary

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

Visu­al­iz­ing Bach: Alexan­der Chen’s Impos­si­ble Harp

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, Extols Some Odd Virtues of Ronald Reagan in New Animated Video

“Sir,” says James Brown to a reporter who had just made the mis­take of call­ing him James, “I’m going to call you by your last name as long as you call me by mine. One thing I fought for was respect, Okay? I did­n’t have that all the time.”

So begins the lat­est ani­mat­ed fea­ture from Blank on Blank, a non­prof­it project that brings for­got­ten inter­views back to life. In this episode, ABC radio jour­nal­ist Roc­ci Fisch takes us back to a lit­tle inter­view he and a few oth­er reporters had with Brown before a con­cert in 1984. The loca­tion was Wash­ing­ton D.C., so per­haps it should come as no sur­prise when the brief inter­view veers into pol­i­tics. At one point Fisch asks Brown what he thinks of the man who was pres­i­dent then, Ronald Rea­gan.

“I think he’s the most intelligent…I think he’s the most well-coor­di­nat­ed pres­i­dent we’ve ever had in his­to­ry,” says Brown.

“You think he’s going to win again?” says Fisch.

“I’m not here to endorse. I just know he’s the most well-orga­nized pres­i­dent we’ve ever had in his­to­ry. His act­ing abil­i­ty taught him the whole struc­ture of the coun­try.”

“Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, you mean?”



“He knows what every­body wants. You see, every Amer­i­can, every Amer­i­can man is still a cow­boy. See you’ve got to remem­ber that.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

James Brown Brings Down the House at the Paris Olympia, 1971

Ani­ma­tions Revive Lost Inter­views with David Fos­ter Wal­lace, Jim Mor­ri­son & Dave Brubeck

Rediscovered: The First American Anti-Nazi Film, Banned by U.S. Censors and Forgotten for 80 Years

On March 5, 1933, Ger­many held its last demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tions until the end of WWII, and the Nation­al Social­ists gained a plu­ral­i­ty in the Reich­stag, with 43.9% of the vote and 288 seats. This event paved the way for the Enabling Act lat­er that month, which effec­tive­ly empow­ered Hitler as dic­ta­tor. It would seem in hind­sight that this turn—with all its atten­dant vio­lence, coer­cion, and hys­ter­i­cal nation­al­ist rhetoric—might have alarmed the West­ern pow­ers. And yet the oppo­site was true.

At least one news­man was alarmed, how­ev­er. And on the day of the 1933 elec­tions, he gained a brief audi­ence with the future Fuhrer. That man was Cor­nelius “Neil” Van­der­bilt IV, great-great-grand­son of the rail­road tycoon. Fed up with the malaise of his priv­i­leged peers, Van­der­bilt had moved to jour­nal­ism from his posi­tion as a dri­ver dur­ing the First World War. His name gave him access to Mus­soli­ni, Stal­in, and Hitler, whose impend­ing Reich became the sub­ject of Van­der­bilt’s doc­u­men­tary film, called Hitler’s Reign of Ter­ror, released on April 30, 1934, a short por­tion of which you can see above.

The New York­er obtained the clip from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Thomas Doher­ty, who redis­cov­ered the film in a Bel­gian archive while research­ing a recent book. Vanderbilt’s doc­u­men­tary might well be the first Amer­i­can anti-Nazi film, but its con­tem­po­rary recep­tion speaks vol­umes about how crit­i­cism of the new Nazi regime was sup­pressed in the mid-thir­ties; the film was cen­sored across the U.S., denied a license, and banned.

What Van­der­bilt saw first-hand and chron­i­cled in his film is mild in com­par­i­son to what was to come. Nev­er­the­less, his take was pre­scient. He describes his anx­ious but par­tial­ly suc­cess­ful endeav­or to smug­gle footage across the Ger­man bor­der, pref­ac­ing the sto­ry by say­ing “there isn’t mon­ey enough in Hol­ly­wood to get me to go through it again.” (The scene above is a reen­act­ment, as is, quite obvi­ous­ly, the scene of Van­der­bilt’s meet­ing with Hitler.) Asked about his impres­sions of Hitler, Van­der­bilt has this to say:

Unques­tion­ably he is a man of real abil­i­ty, of force. But the way I sized him up after inter­view­ing him is that he is a strange com­bi­na­tion of Huey Long, Bil­ly Sun­day, and Al Capone…. I had nev­er heard a man so able to sway peo­ple.… In the hour and a half that Hitler talked to that packed audi­ence that night, he was as effec­tive as a bark­er in a sideshow trav­el­ing with a cir­cus.

Van­der­bilt says above that the ris­ing Nazi tide, “demand­ed revenge” and would not rest until they had it, to which his inter­view­er responds, “It all seems a ghast­ly, incred­i­ble night­mare.” Van­der­bilt’s vision seemed like a sen­sa­tion­al­is­tic fever dream to his crit­ics as well.

Read the full sto­ry of the film over at The New Yorker’s Cul­ture Desk.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Lam­beth Walk—Nazi Style: The Ear­ly Pro­pa­gan­da Mash Up That Enraged Joseph Goebbels

The Nazis’ 10 Con­trol-Freak Rules for Jazz Per­form­ers: A Strange List from World War II

The Enig­ma Machine: How Alan Tur­ing Helped Break the Unbreak­able Nazi Code

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Punk Meets High Fashion in Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition PUNK: Chaos to Couture

What­ev­er else British punk rock gave pop cul­ture, it was always a rev­o­lu­tion in fash­ion, engi­neered by Sex Pis­tols sven­gali Mal­colm McLaren and his part­ner, design­er Vivi­enne West­wood. The two pio­neered punk’s S&M‑inspired look from their Chelsea bou­tique, SEX, a one­time record shop that mor­phed into the epi­cen­ter of Lon­don street fash­ion. McLaren passed away in 2010, but his for­mer part­ner West­wood is still designing—only now her work is haute cou­ture nos­tal­gia, its shock­ing sneer at uptight British cul­ture a muse­um piece. Her lat­est col­lec­tion, Chaos, revis­its many of the icon­ic designs of the mid-sev­en­ties made famous by the Sex Pis­tols, such as the “tits square” and “cow­boy square” t‑shirts and the ubiq­ui­tous safe­ty pin.

The name of Westwood’s retro lat­est work is reflect­ed in a cur­rent exhi­bi­tion at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art called PUNK: Chaos to Cou­ture, which began May 9th and runs until August 14th. In the video above, cura­tor Andrew Bolton dis­cuss­es the exhibition’s stag­ing of low and high cul­ture crossover. In the press mate­ri­als, Bolton is frank about the con­tra­dic­to­ry aims of punk and high fash­ion:

Since its ori­gins, punk has had an incen­di­ary influ­ence on fash­ion… Although punk’s democ­ra­cy stands in oppo­si­tion to fashion’s autoc­ra­cy, design­ers con­tin­ue to appro­pri­ate punk’s aes­thet­ic vocab­u­lary to cap­ture its youth­ful rebel­lious­ness and aggres­sive force­ful­ness.

This is not the first time Bolton has appro­pri­at­ed punk fash­ion for high art or worked with Vivi­enne West­wood. In 2006, Bolton curat­ed a Met exhib­it called Anglo­Ma­nia (cat­a­log here), which drew its name and inspi­ra­tion from anoth­er of Westwood’s col­lec­tions.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sex Pis­tols Front­man John­ny Rot­ten Weighs In On Lady Gaga, Paul McCart­ney, Madon­na & Katy Per­ry

Mal­colm McLaren: The Quest for Authen­tic Cre­ativ­i­ty

The His­to­ry of Punk Rock

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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