Jung vs. Tanizaki

Light and dark possess powerful connotations for the figures of psychologist Carl Jung and novelist Jun’ichiro Tanizaki. Jung wrote that “the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being;” Tanizaki that “were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” The views of these two may not conflict to such an extent as they first seem, however.

Tanizaki

“[W]e orientals [ ] tend to seek our satisfactions in whatever surroundings we happen to find ourselves, to content ourselves with things as they are; and so darkness causes us no discontent, we resign ourselves to it as inevitable. If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty. But the progressive westerner is determined always to better his lot. From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light – his quest for a brighter light never ceases, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow.”

– Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

Alila Diwa Resort, Goa (Photographer: Ali Rangoonwala)

Alila Diwa Resort, Goa (Photographer: Ali Rangoonwala)

With his seminal essay In Praise of Shadows (In’ei Raisan), Jun’ichiro Tanizaki pleaded on behalf of the virtues of natural, soft light as opposed to the bright, all-illuminating electrical lighting that he associated with a western capitalist aesthetic. Light is not, to Tanizaki, simply bright or dim. It contains also aspects of gleam or glitter, various kinds of illumination of which we ought to be mindful. Even when light can be said to be defective, as a patina on silver or a knot in an otherwise straight grain of a piece of wood is “defective,” the appreciation of that defect becomes of greater importance than its rectification or obscuration. This view relates closely to another distinctly Japanese aesthetic: “wabi-sabi,” an emanation of Buddhist philosophy that values impermanence and asymmetry as aspects of “the inherent beauty of imperfection.”

Jung

“Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. In spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.”
– Carl Jung

Blue Frog Mumbai (Photographer: Fram Petit)

Blue Frog Mumbai (Photographer: Fram Petit)

In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. Jung may have been hastily interpreted, however, if he is taken as abhorring darkness. Jung in fact implied that light begets dark—the two are inseparable and interdependent. “Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” he argued in The Philosophical Tree, “but by making the darkness conscious.” The suggestion herein is that symbolic “light” is of value; however, it cannot be engendered without darkness, and sometimes darkness can be even more revealing than light.

Darkness & Light in Design

These aesthetic principles proclaiming the equal importance of the dark and the light are readily applicable to architecture, as two AWA projects exemplify. In the BlueFROG Club, the focus is on music and sound, and the shadowy environment accentuates it—while also creating a cool, mysterious ambiance to suit the space’s intended audience.

In the Alila Diwa Resort in Goa, India, shadow dramatizes a romantic, exclusive atmosphere. Vernacular architecture incorporated into the resort is lent an aura of mysticism by the dark, as in the upper reaches of a high ceiling or in the regular bays along a colonnade. Often, less really is more, as darkness adds to the poetry and soul of a project.

Blue Frog Mumbai (Photographer: Fram Petit)

Blue Frog Mumbai (Photographer: Fram Petit)

In the Alila Diwa Resort in Goa, India, shadow dramatizes a romantic, exclusive atmosphere. Vernacular architecture incorporated into the resort is lent an aura of mysticism by the dark, as in the upper reaches of a high ceiling or in the regular bays along a colonnade. Often, less really is more, as darkness adds to the poetry and soul of a project.

Alila Diwa Resort Goa (Photographer: Ali Rangoonwala)

Alila Diwa Resort Goa (Photographer: Ali Rangoonwala)