Heart of Darkness -- Joseph Conrad:as a journey of individuation, a meeting with the anima, an encounter with the shadow,and a descent into the mythic underworld.

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"Africa," wrote Graham Greene, "will always be the Africa in the Victorian atlas, the blank unexplored continent in the shape of the human heart." The African heart described by Greene "acquired a new layer of meaning when Conrad portrayed the Congo under King Leopold as the Heart of Darkness, a place where barbarism triumphs over humanity, nature over technology, biology over culture, id over super ego." (McLynn, ix).

The unknown and uncharted topography of the African continent first beckoned Conrad's narrator, Marlow, into its depths in his boyhood: "Now, when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration" (Conrad, 5). When Marlow was grown and Africa was no longer a blank space on the map, but rather "a place of darkness," there was still one river there that drew him especially, "a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land" (Conrad, 5-6). This same deep place that had seduced Conrad's ivory hunting Kurtz into the horrors of its savage embrace had, in 1890, lured Conrad himself into adventure that turned him from sailor to writer (Smith, 25) and severely effected his health for the rest of his life (Conrad,v). As the voyage up the Congo proved fateful for the development of Conrad's narrator, Marlow, it was equally fateful for Conrad's individuation, as he reflects in his letters "Before the Congo I was just a mere animal." (Jean-Aubrey, 141)

Hillman, in "Notes on White Supremacy" reminds us that, like Conrad, both Freud and Jung were called to venture into the shadowed continent and vestiges of their journeys still color our psychological language:

The convention informing geographical discoveries and the expansion of white consciousness over Africa continue to inform psychic geography. The topological language used by Freud for "the unconscious" as a place below, different, timeless, primordial, libidinal and separated from the conscious-ness recapitulates what white reporters centuries earlier said about West Africa. From Conrad's Heart of Darkness to van der Post's Venture to the Interior, Africa and the unconscious allegorize the other place.... "Just don't stay in the topical colonies too long; you must reign at home," writes Freud in 1911 to Jung, who himself made the African journey fourteen years later, describing the vast lands and dark peoples he encountered in language he applies as well to the immemorial unconscious psyche.... Part of psychology's myth is that the unconscious was "discovered" as its contents are "explored" (45).

Thus Africa has become a topology of the mind -- its location, its shape, its cultures, its textures, its rhythms, its foliage, its hues, its wildness -- all calling forth something lost in the psychology of the white European. It is with an understanding of our destiny to explore that symbolic lost continent within ourselves that we can begin to appreciate the prescience of Jungian psychology in Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

While the allegorizing of the African continent with the darkness of its instinctual, shadowed, primeval underworld establishes a revealing context for an examination of the Jungian concepts in the Heart of Darkness (the assignment which will be undertaken shortly), I am drawn first to explore an uncharted literary tributary, tracking the striking similarities between Jung's reflections on his trips to the dark continent (North Africa in 1920 and to Kenya and Uganda in 1925) and the tale told by Marlow in Heart of Darkness published in 1902. Jung himself in Memories, Dreams, Reflections concludes that his dreams while he was in Africa "seemed to say that they considered ... the African journey not as something real, but rather as a symptomatic or symbolic act" (272) and...
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