Back in the early 90s, I was visiting my parents in Toronto while taking my Ph.D. in Ottawa. Talking with my dad, a very practical man, I said I wanted to write about psychiatric diagnoses from the perspective of postmodern theology. I didn’t put it quite that way, of course. Dad was a great business teacher and a very smart, open-minded man. But he didn’t necessarily know all the latest academic buzzwords – like “postmodern” or “deconstruction.”
However, the ideas behind the buzzwords are pretty simple, and when I put them into the vernacular, Dad instantly got what I was talking about.
I’ll never forget his reply.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Somebody might like or have a friend in psychiatry and make things difficult for you and your academic career.”
Young and naive, I replied, “Oh no Dad. This is academia. This is where you are supposed to think critically about the world around you, not just mindlessly repeat and reinforce everyday assumptions.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Dad said. “I would think very carefully about that.”
“Dad, this is Ph.D. level,” I persisted. “The people at the U are smart and very reasonable. It’s not junior school.”
And so ended our conversation.
I believed I had found a new “family” of sorts. A family comprised of intelligent, honest scholars who would understand and actively encourage my study plan.
So I didn’t listen to my dad and chose to pursue the matter. After all, my interest in psychology and religion was the basis for my admission into the doctoral program, as the following link makes clear:
Projected Thesis Outline for the University of Ottawa, Department of Religious Studies (pdf copy of original document)
Some of my readers will already know what happened. The professor I wrote for gave me an A in their course but after initially agreeing, changed their mind about providing postdoc letters of recommendation before scholarship deadlines.
I was screwed and I knew it.
Talking to the professor on the phone – that is, pleading with them – they became angry and authoritarian and snapped out a ‘reason’ for changing their mind that made no sense. After that, my attempts to gain employment in academia were initially met with enthusiasm but then it always seemed like some dark mysterious curtain fell over my opportunities as I was repeatedly ghosted.
I felt blackballed. And my only ‘sin’ was to propose something innovative and smart.
As for Jung himself, after going through his Collected Works I felt that his take on so-called schizophrenia was a bit unclear. At times Jung seemed to use the word uncritically and others times he appeared to unpack it, providing a deeper more mystical explanation.
I should add that my evolving view is not the same as Jung’s. But I felt it interesting that Jung at least sometimes was willing to think out of the box.
And speaking of thinking out of the box, I should also say, “Dad… if you can hear me in the afterlife… YOU WERE RIGHT!”
People can be imbeciles, even ‘educated’ ones. So now I know what the term “educated fool” really means.