Alchemy of the Blues:
Lecture & Musical Performance
Stephen Diggs, Ph.D.
December 7th, 2001
The Blues. In the last 100 years no force has had greater impact on the music of the West. But that’s only the beginning of the story of the blues. When we use Jung’s psychology to look below the surface, we find that the blues is transforming not only our music but also our core collective cultural soul.
The European obsession with science and objectivity is based on an imagined split between the mind and the body, As the cultural force of this image progressed through the years, the soul of the West became very ill. The obvious conscious reason that Europeans stole Africans was to obtain free labor. Their unconscious motivation was probably quite different.
A careful look suggests that Africans were stolen into the unimaginable cruelty of slavery in order to provide an antidote for the severe split in our cultural soul. Jung’s theory of alchemy predicts that when the archetypal realities of white and black are brought together for the purpose of transformation, the color blue will arise to join them together on their way to resolution in psychological sophistication. Blues music may very well be the cultural force that is bringing the white mind back down to earth.
Dr. Diggs will describe psychologically the history of colonial America, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Jazz Age, the Rock-n-Roll revolution, and the current Rap phenomenon. The stories of Dionysius and Huckleberry Finn will also be used
to illuminate this fascinating and horrific "alchemical tale."
Dr. Stephen Diggs received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and specialty training in Jungian psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is the founder and director of the Nysa Institute www.nysainstitute.com which provides training and talks on psychology and psychotherapy. He first presented this lecture at the Delta Blues Symposium at the University of Arkansas in 1995. A later version appeared in Spring Journal 61. James Hillman said this journal article "is written with devotion and sustained deep feeling." Stephen plays blues guitar (poorly, he says) and often brings it along when speaking.