O That Esoteric Windiness

And another treat, this review of a long biography of Jung. It’s full of good jokes and pertinent observations. For instance –

I picked it up with some words that Macaulay wrote in a review of a two-volume biography of Lord Burleigh echoing through my mind like the insistent snatch of a tune (I quote from memory): Compared with the labour of reading these volumes, all other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, the labour of children in the mines, the labour of slaves on the plantation, is but a pleasant recreation.

And then –

Jung was decidedly not born a charlatan—or at least, he was not one throughout the whole of his career. True, he grew up in a family with a more than average number of table-rappers, which no doubt inclined him later to the study of the esoteric (for it certainly never occurred to him to wonder why the esoteric was, in fact, esoteric), and was subjected in his youth to that Teutonic windiness which comes so easily, though no means inevitably, to those who think and write in the German language. There is nothing quite like esoteric windiness for creating a penumbra of profundity, to which bored society ladies are drawn like flies to dung: and this no doubt explains how he became the Madame Blavatsky of psychotherapy.

I particularly like that, because it’s so relevant to the Bad Writing topic we’ve been gnawing on lately. ‘There is nothing quite like esoteric windiness for creating a penumbra of profundity…’ Exactly so, and that’s why people do it. That, plus the way it makes it so much harder for critics to pin down their mistakes.

Jung was a preternaturally unclear writer and thinker: he would never say anything clearly when obfuscation would do. Whether this was from lack of talent or an unconscious appreciation that clarity led to the possibility of contradiction and even refutation…

Precisely. Dangerous stuff, clarity. It can make it clear that we’re talking nonsense.

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