Carl G. Jung on The Intuition As Psychic Alertness

The idea, today, is to meditate on our psyche’s intuition. As understood/elucidated by Carl Jung in his collected works, Psychological Types.

“Intuition means to look at or into. I regard intuition as a basic psychological function. It is the function that mediates perceptions in an unconscious way. Everything, whether outer or inner objects or their relationships, can be the focus of this perception. The peculiarity of intuition is that it is neither sense perception, nor feeling, nor intellectual inference, although it may also appear in these forms. In intuition, a content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence. Intuitive knowledge possesses an intrinsic certainty and conviction…. The certainty of intuition rests equally on a definite state of psychic alertness of whose origin the subject is unconscious.”

The origin of intuition in an individual’s psyche paves the way for creative freedom and the cultivation of one’s character. 

When it comes to determining what shapes personality and drives a person to do the things one does or says, we automatically rely on intelligence and reasoning. Perhaps even on our emotional tendencies. 

Our sense perception, owing to the outside world, relies on these facets of human psychology. The reason for this is that we see it everywhere. Intuition is perceived as a spiritual need. Not a concrete one. It’s a function of the unconscious for which there is no place in society.

But what if I told you that intuition exists beyond what we perceive as real or unreal? 

It is what associates the self with objects, with people, and with ourselves. It’s a portal through which we can view ourselves a bit more transparently and non-judgmentally.

So that we don’t put on false disguises only to exist.

We create our own happiness on our own terms rather than the terms set by the world.

Our intuition claims our individuality and uplifts us from the parade of puppets.

The sooner we understand this fact, the sooner we can begin to unveil our true selves.

Ernest Hemingway: An Ode to Books I’ve Read

One of the things books gave me, back when I had started to read, was the ability to surrender myself to the openness of experience. The kind of experiences that did not include me in them… experiences that were never supposed to.

Reading Ernest Hemingway became synonymous with rediscovering myself, as if for the first time, out of the hibernation and dullness that was reality. From it, I took a flight out of the false identity that stranded me and found, renewed and roused, a kind of nostalgia and melancholy for the selves that I would be.

This marks the beginning of my love for literature. Everybody has a story that precedes their love for books.

My story is like any other.

A Moveable Feast is the epitome of my life as it was when I had first read it. It’s the lens through which I viewed fiction and reality side-by-side. It exists as a memory that one always evokes, not to relive it but to feel.

I can tell you why you should read Ernest Hemingway. I can also tell you why you shouldn’t.

Some people I know revere his writing, his unfiltered creativity, his world through themes that you would now perceive as outrageously cliched. Some people I know think of Hemingway as the hackneyed American with his highbrow, brawny, and grandiose literary style.

My advice to you would be to not make a fuss about it. Reading Hemingway is no different than learning a new word. You can live and experience the language without it,  undeterred by its luxury and appeal.

But if you do read Hemingway, read it not to be “well-read” but to experience and feel.

There’s joy in remembering where you started from. It’s oftentimes necessary to do so. Perhaps, for me, reading about the ordinariness of life in Hemingway’s books kindled the ordinariness of my life. His short and incisive sentences intensified the fleeting sensations of my existence. And that is why all the books I will read will always retain all the books I’ve read.

How Reading Is A Form of Meditation

“It’s when you set down the book and stare ahead and repeat the sentence in your mind again and again, apply it to every little thing you twist to make applicable.
You answer questions you didn’t know you were asking,
tie ends you left off years ago.”
– 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Wiest

You might read hundreds of books in your lifetime. But who’s to say that you will have understood every one of them in the way that they are written?

Some books are translucently vivid; they capture, provoke, and release us in the same breath. Some are not. So we create literary images of them to store as memories. We change them even though we don’t intend to change them. We may even change them deliberately when they don’t fit into the mold of our imagination and past memories.

This means it’s easier to think of reading as a technique that fulfills our inner world. This would also infer that we’re inherently wired to read anything that’s written (and that we can understand) as naturally as we depend on shapes and relativity to survive.

Our allegiance to the physical world clashes with the inaccuracy and abstractness of existence and consciousness. But in the heart of hearts, it’s never enough to just believe in the materiality of life. All these are evident facts but they are incomplete truths. Likewise, the knowledge that reading is the means of achieving or coming closer to a goal is also an incomplete truth.

So much is lost when we hasten to read what we have already begun to read. Do we breathe faster only so that we can move on to the next breath?

This got me thinking about how, over the years, my ideal way of reading books (the method itself) has changed. This is where the paths of reading and meditating meet. It may be because of my subjective experiences, but, somehow, I no longer see them as creative mindful practices. The fixation that one must read and one must meditate as “healthy habits.” They’re as inseparable to me as eating is to quench my hunger.

Gustave Flaubert wrote in of one his letters, “What a scholar one might be if one knew well only some half a dozen books.”

I like to believe that who Flaubert considers as a “scholar” is someone who is privy to even his own literary inclinations. So much so that his reading becomes a sentient and passionate act. And to isolate it from the person himself would seem futile.

Having said that, I want to write about how reading is but a form of meditation.

1. It’s okay to forget

I’ve cursed my forgetful memory more times than I can even remember. Ironic, right? But we’re all guilty of this flaw. The constant reading and re-reading of a sentence or a passage that moved you only so that you can commit it to memory. As a result, the hidden meaning of the words is lost.

This is where I realized the trap of my ego. It’s when I manufacture my own inferred meaning from the words on the page. So I want to remember them, jog them, and flaunt them as if they submit to my will.

This is not true.

It’s possible to expect fulfillment by denying it. The act itself is fulfilling.

In the same way, I realized that the fruits of literature are as unpredictable and ambiguous as my memory. So what if I stop trying to forcefully remember stuff in order to be moved by it?

2. Stop proving to yourself (and to others) that you’re a reader

How does one possible to prove to others that one breathes?

There lies an effortless and fluent pace of meditating.

When you lose the rhythm of focusing on your breath, how do you bring yourself back to it? It’s not by resisting the force of another thought, you simply acknowledge it and bring yourself back.

To learn how to read, you do not need a revelatory passage of time. Perhaps you don’t even need to be swept off your feet. Reading can have a self-controlled pace. It’s a contrast between desperation and tranquility. The moment you accept this approach to reading, the more satisfyingly meaningful will be your reading experience. Even if, on any busy day, it lasts for 30 minutes or so.

The boundaries that dictate the length of time (between short and long) are nullified. Rather the only constant that matters is the volume of time. What it contains, the observations, even the silent, contemplative explorations.

When you’re consumed by such comforts, finding the time to keep assuring yourself that you’re a reader seems pointless. Opening a new book only so that you can finish it is just a futile effort. A complete waste of time, on your part, and a waste of knowledge if we entertain the possibility that there is more than one way to read a book.

3. Books neither add nor subtract from your life

Is it possible to assume that the human mind is infinite? That a person can understand and act as one understands.

We always fall into what I call the “entitlement trap.” It’s when you read a new book, say about human archetypes, and at the end of it, you assume that it’s giving you new information about the workings of the mind. And as you familiarize yourself with these concepts, you find in them certain idiosyncrasies that match yours.

This, over time, builds an unhealthy pattern. Where you expect the book to provide you with something new, that you didn’t already know or understand before, and only then would the book be a “fruitful” read.

The space between choosing a new book to read and what you think you’re capable of reading gets narrower and narrower.

But the truth is that what books do is unwrap one of the many possibilities in your mind. So the acquired information may feel brand new and ground-breaking. But what’s actually happening is that you’re discovering new lands within yourself rather than building them.

What’s left to build, however, is how you connect those aspects of yourself you’ve so eloquently and unexpectedly discovered.

4. Sometimes reading encourages detachment

The science of continued meditation shows that feelings of detachment or the “unsticking of the self” are natural responses. How we’re less likely to attach ourselves to certain narratives as we strengthen (and calm) the brain especially when at ease.

So it’s not muscle memory but the complete stillness of mind that leads to this realization.

This got me thinking about all the books I’ve read in all the moods I’ve read. These so-called “narratives” are simply our life stories. It’s one thing to recognize it but it’s a whole other thing to be driven by it.

And reading, at least for me, has led me to distance myself from myself. Perhaps not always when some degree of detachment is required. But this network between a microscopic and telescopic way of viewing life has only intensified because of it.

I am more aware of but not attached to my emotions and thoughts that are but the products of my own mind, my surroundings, and of the relationship between the two.

This also brings up the aforementioned aspect of reading, which is entitlement. When you’re less likely to attach yourself to a fixed narrative, you are less possessive of it. As a result, understanding yourself becomes less rigid and more transitory; capable of possessing new forms and extending to familiar and unfamiliar relationships.

Ways of Reading

I got the inspiration for this article after reading John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (read my review). It’s a remarkable read for many reasons and that’s precisely what inspired me to think of this topic.

This article dives deeper into how the perspective from viewing painting as art can also translate to reading books as fuel for the imagination.

Reading deserves to be considered as a category, on its own. Not many people realize reading for what it is and they just see it as something one does when they have a book in front of them. But I believe that reading can have many layers and we, as readers, should be able to read better, and not just effectively.

This brings me to another very recent revelation. Which is that the nature of reading for every individual person is very subjective. You can’t expect to quantify your reading skills as being more or less superior than anybody else. Let go of the idea of finalizing your reading habits as something that will always be the same and that it’s bound by fixed rules.

This upgrades and elevates the act of reading into a multi-layered and unique dimension. A dimension where you also have to entertain the possibility that you can be a good reader, a bad reader, and a little bit of both.

I think what reading does to a reader must be synonymous with what a book does to a reader. And I strongly believe that as your reading habits evolve with effort and awareness your experience of reading a book changes.

To make more sense of this concept of reading about reading, I recommend you to read an important book on the subject; it is The Second Common Reader by Virginia Woolf.

The Second Common Reader by Virginia Woolf is a collection of essays. They’re essays about Literature, about decoding their forms, the value of reading, and so on. Her writing connects the dots between a book and the mind of a reader. How, and I quote, “the mind, the brain, the top of the tingling spine, is, or should be, the only instrument used upon a book.”

Virginia Woolf begins and ends on the same philosophical and meditative note. That reading is a reward in itself but loving the act of reading can be a profound reward also. This is where the path to reading separates a bit. As a reader, I’m not only dependent on the book to provide a keen and intricate source of knowledge. But I’m also counting on my reading skills, my instincts, my thoughts to guide me upon what I read.

The essays are straightforward and very well-written. It is a bit intimidating to read about reading. The reason why this is true is that it taps into unknown territory. It’s not at all common to deconstruct reading by itself as much as it is common to read about books that change your perspective on life.

Here Virginia Woolf wants you to understand literature through the very same lens but the common denominator is the act of reading and not books.

To be able to exercise this idea into fruition, here’s one of my favorite passages from the book:

“The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess.”

This passage is from one of her essays, “How Should One Read a Book?” and from it, it’s obvious how and why reading a book is itself worth the effort of contemplation. This is one of the best books on literary criticism that I’ve read recently. A genre that is specific to reading books about books, if you will.

I haven’t read many literary criticism books. Italo Calvino’s Why Read the Classics? comes to mind. In it, Italo Calvino states a few obvious but often overlooked facts of reading books. He talks about the extraordinary pleasure of reading a book in youth and then in maturity. And at every stage, how we gain something new, something different, something that mirrors what we think and how we are. Perhaps even what we aspire to be at a particular age or state of mind.

Another necessary takeaway from this book would be to ask ourselves how and why we use the term “classics” for books that most of us have either read or heard of. Rather, Calvino shifts the perspective a bit.

Very similar to what Virginia Woolf reminds us in The Second Common Reader, Calvino wants us to meditate and draw from the infinite possibilities of literature. Deriving meaning and purpose and intention from books not because they’re great works of literature but because we’re, in fact, reading them.

I would also like to mention Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (read my review), Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, and Toni Morrison’s The Origin of Others as some of the best books on literary criticism.

Getting to the point of this article, I want to explore the different ways of reading. Taking inspiration from The Second Common Reader by Virginia Woolf… perhaps even Ways of Seeing by John Berger, here are my two cents on the ways of reading.

1. Reading like a writer

Sometimes I feel I’m a much better reader because I write. And in moments I feel I’m a much better writer, for myself, because I read.

I think we’re more conditioned to rely on the latter. It stems from the need to constantly attach usefulness and value to whatever we do. But only the kind of value that brings returns.

If I do a particular thing, what am I going to get out of it? But in case I don’t get anything from it, I make myself believe that it was a total waste of my time.

I recently shared this thought with a friend of mine and had a similar response. It’s very common to think that if you read you’ll automatically be able to write well. That may or may not be true. But what about being able to read better because you write?

That’s the genius that gets left behind.

2. Reading without expectations

Virginia Woolf questions this very sentiment by asking and I quote, “what laws can be laid down about books? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for oneself.”

That’s not to say that reading without expectations is the easiest thing to do.

It’s ironic, I know, but the lighter the burden of reading, the better the reward.

But to get there is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to unlearn and learn as a reader. That’s the beauty though, letting go of expectations, I started to realize there is no goal. No life-altering or ground-breaking revelation.

I couldn’t keep waiting for books to do something for me. That sense of attachment or dependency that we harbor deep inside us… it will eventually turn toxic. If what’s true for human relationships, I think it just as well translates to the world of literature.

3. Reading without bias

This is a tough one to learn.

Reading with any preconceptions about what you read and are going to read. From the first sentence to the last you have to deny delusions.

What H.P. Lovecraft calls, and I quote, “judicious reading,” I think also extends to reading without harboring any kind of assumption about what you think you know about literature.
And we do this even with books we know nothing about. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why nobody ever reads books they don’t know anything about. It’s the personal bias that pulls you back from exploring more complex and challenging books.

I feel the weight of this kind of reading all the time. As a reader, I’m so sensitive and protective of my instincts, that if anything stands against it, my first reaction is always to protect my own feelings rather than accept the ones that are brutal but at the same time sincere.

I felt this recently when I read On The Heights of Despair (read my review). Though the book is radically existential. It was the metaphorical ax to the frozen sea of despair within me.

When Kafka said that we ought to read books that wound or stab us. Or that if we read books that don’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? I strongly believe this is what he meant by it.

4. Reading like a sponge

James Baldwin wrote that “your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world until you read.” So the feelings that torment us the most are the feelings that have already been written down. Only it takes the whole of us to be able to recognize that fact and draw breath from it.

When I say reading like a sponge, I mean empathy. But also I mean acceptance, awareness, and mindfulness.

I might be reiterating, but I did say something similar in my previous “How Do I Pick Books?” episode. That if you continue to keep what you already know, you’ll never get anywhere. Much in the same manner, if you read only what you relate to, you’re never getting anywhere either.

Difficult books put you in a difficult position. But that only means you can begin to learn and unlearn the driving force behind all the noise. Every page is as filled with words as you want them to be. And vice versa.

Good reading depends much on the reader as good writing does on the writer.

This for me makes more sense only when I allow myself to open up in the presence of a book unlike anything else is when I can receive what the book is literally or figuratively aiming at giving me.

On that note, I bring this thought, and this episode to an end, with another one of Virginia Woolf’s quotes:

“If you hang back, and reserve and criticize at first, you are preventing yourself from getting the fullest possible value from what you read. But if you open your mind as widely as possible, then signs and hints of almost imperceptible fineness, from the twist and turn of the first sentences, will bring you into the presence of a human being unlike any other. Steep yourself in this, acquaint yourself with this, and soon you will find that your author is giving you, or attempting to give you, something far more definite.”

My Favorite Books – The Fiction Edition

Full disclosure:

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom” However, “I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.”

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace & Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Todays’ article is going to be about some of my favorite fiction books. None of these books are ranked in order of preference.

I am anchored to each entirely.

That’s not to say that this is a fixed “top 10” whatever book listing. These books will always be a part of an unfinished list. So it’s not too excessive of me to map this article out to be the first of many similar articles to come

1. Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre

Nausea is truly a one-of-a-kind book. The story revolves around a French writer too acutely aware of his own existence. And his actions that stem from such a realization that, in nauseated twists and turns, he grows hysterically more attached to.

It’s odd that that last sentence just reminded me of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The unsettled feeling of the book. The questionable and dark, too transparently existential and absurd relevancy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s protagonist in Nausea that asserts its philosophy on that of Kafka’s most notable work, Metamorphosis. 

I’m not saying that the two books are similar in their making. But the fabric seems to fit both roles.

At the core of it, the problems faced by both characters, when put under a philosophical telescope, have an existential sensibility to them. I may be wrong but the more I talk about Nausea, my understanding of Metamorphosis seems clearer than ever.

Anyway, must you read Nausea?

Well, if you want to get acquainted with life’s most underestimated facts. The kind that you won’t find in any other book. Be it religious, political, or philosophical, or historical. Or that you pursue something abstractly concrete, so brutal, that it forces you to fall into the deep end of the pool. With zero guarantees of you ever recovering from that dive, read it. 

I think I’m scaring you away from the book, rather than sweet-talking it, but some truths go down like bitter pills, and Nausea, in no way, is a smooth-talker. It’s honest, unpredictable, grim, and 100% mind-expanding. 

2. The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

The next is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. An astounding and perfectly sculpted writer, whose poetic imagination of her characters sweep you off your feet.

The story is a tug of war between the soul and the laws of Love. A stray boat drifting into the unknown with no anchor but only the wind to carry it forward (or backward, sideways, in no discernible direction). The wind of a world’s political, cultural, and social biases. As you read the story, you find out what world Arundhati Roy’s characters live in. 

She has a unique way of describing the soil of this world. And from it, the lives that sprout, the colors they inhabit, the shells that they once used to fit into, and now they have grown out of. 

Arundhati saw in her characters what the world would rather forget. It’s a shade of light that even sorrow may turn its head away from. And in expressing such sensitivity, the book embodies such strength and resilience.

Truly, it’s a beautiful sketch of the shadows that come into play around the essence of things.

3. Kafka On The Shore – Haruki Murakami

My third favorite read is Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami.

I mean, not mentioning a Murakami book in this article is as nonsensical as not talking about Murakami in any conversation ever!

I was torn between Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Sputnik Sweetheart, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and practically all of his other books. I wish I could end this article here itself. They’re so unconventionally romantic and resonant. 

Kafka On The Shore, a true pioneer in magical realism, revolves around Kafka Tamura. His prophecy, his strong attachment to a likeness that’s so out of the confined boundaries of this world that as soon as you finish reading it, you feel so empty in your reality. 

This is the epitome of an unforgettable reading experience. Almost cinematic, unerringly poetic, Haruki Murakami’s novel takes unexpected turns of love, fate, metaphors, and afflictions.

One minute you are acquainted with the deep sentiments of a crow, and in the other, you sense the frightening existence of a cat. One minute you think you’re standing under an invisible cloud of raining fish, and in the other, you’re sharing the dream of chance encounters.

As absurd as this description sounds, the book is just as absorbing. I can’t wait to re-read it for the rest of my life!

4. Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse

This brings me to another book that I’m sure I will re-read hundreds of times, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse.

Part of my fascination is due to mere circumstance. I had first read this book during a difficult stage in my life. And the thoughts expressed in this book did more to encourage my thoughts to surface out of that slump than I anticipated. The book helped me ascend to new heights of introspection, specifically having a more intrinsic and psychologically-charged nature. 

The book is again a solitary voyager into the world of literature. It stands to reason one’s humanity, misanthropy which is cynical uprooting of one’s responsibilities as a person in society, and of course, the debasement of culture.

Again, the book conveys a harsh side of reality and so my description might seem a bit severe to some of you who may have perceived this book under a more positive light.

I, for one, found this book inexcusably eye-opening. The book exists not so much on the external side of things; the strings of civilization that often thread a person together. But rather it’s alone and wildly inherent.

The protagonist’s half-human and the half-wolf narrative is intelligent. After reading most of Herman Hesse’s books, I don’t see how else Steppenwolf could have been concocted, still so relevant and chilling even today. 

5. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler – Italo Calvino

Speaking of books that shatter your discernible reality, my next recommendation is If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino.

I swear if the world’s falling apart, and in a world of books if there’s one author whose book I’d give up everything else for, just to be able to read for one more day till I, too, obliterate into nothingness, it would be this one.

I would gladly die with the substance of this book still lingering in my mind. It’s the perfect last thought to be privileged enough to possess. 

What is this book about?

Well, it’s a continuous kind of living. I’m sure the story, despite my having read it weeks ago, still persists. The reading of it is an experiment. The story is its conclusion. And the reader is the interpretation of that conclusion.

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler should not have been written. But it’s not even written yet. It’s lost somewhere taking the reader on a whimsical adventure. So memorable that even after you finish the book, it starts all over again. 

Again, a book that breathes magical realism, the book is time-bending and space-confining. But of course, in Italo Calvino’s world, one can, no doubt, bend time and confine space.

6. Lifting the Veil – Ismat Chughtai 

A book to remember female sexuality by is Lifting the Veil by Ismat Chughtai.

If you were to divide the universe into tiny fragments, each fragment will contain within it, like phosphorescent droplets of rainwater, a soaring heart, an eager mind, a melody of nature, a strand of despair, and a morsel of profanity.

The book opens unopened doors, barred doors, doors that walk you into a sentient world. It’s impulsive, full of life, and extraordinary. It erases every ounce of doubt, of regret, of guilt, or suffering.

You don’t just read the book, you feel it especially if you’ve been brought up in a tightly-wound and deeply-biased society. There’s no other reason to read this book than for resurrection.

Twenty-One Stories of political and social and cultural confrontations, so real and historical that you want to feel the deep connection that binds the world together. That knits the path of a lonely road to a forgotten one. And the dusty and scorched footsteps of women who often possess a mosaic of personalities but are painted only in one. 

7. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This is one that most of you must have already read, it’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

A melody of characters, of possessing an insomniac quality, so puzzling, so acute, the story completes itself in its imperfection.

One Hundred Years of Solitude presents itself to us but in fragments – some tightened like the strings of a shoe – some hidden for centuries like buried copper coins stamped in time and mythology – and some circling the cells of our inner beliefs and habits, those environments that run faster than the wind and that shine brighter than the sun. 

I still think of my memory of reading this book as a blanket of mystery and converging sentiments. I am often taunted by the book’s consciousness – the events that transpire in the book still swirling in my head as alive and intense as the dawn. Maybe that’s the effect books like One Hundred Years of Solitude can have on us. 

To breathe as is, is enough. 

But to breathe as if you are able to separate yourself from the act of breathing only to achieve perfection so that you can live in that dream a bit longer. Well, Gabriel Garcia Marquez urges you, through his writing, to cease to breathe completely. 

On an ending note, I’d like to add a few more quick suggestions to this list. They are:

Notes from Underground and The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Midnight’s Children, and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, To The Lighthouse by Virginia Wolf, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, and lastly, The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe