Topologies of the Flesh


Overview of session co-facilitated by John Dotson  and Richard Sears for the Monterey Peninsula Friends of C. G. Jung, January 11, 2007, McGowan House, Monterey:


Number expresses deep truths of time and the journey. Number is linked with time, or, number is time, from our earliest awareness of being “one beside another” in time. However, as we understand more of our psychic relatedness and our relatedness in-psyche, we become aware that the basic 1 + 1 comes about in a field of consciousness, or a third area. In-psyche, we can speak that the field itself convenes our relationality. Thus, awareness of the unified field brings about a fourth. Such is a re-expression of the Axiom of Maria Prophetissa—“One becomes Two, Two becomes Three, and out of the Third comes the One as the Fourth”—as known in Alchemy for two millennia.


In his book Topologies of the Flesh: A Multidimensional Exploration of the Lifeworld (2006), Steven M. Rosen introduces the philosophical, mathematical—and alchemical—implications of topology, the study of “place,” and specifically the properties of surfaces, edges, and shapes as they change.


In this session, we will follow Steve’s contemplations of the Möbius strip, the familiar yet paradoxically continuous one-sided surface. Then, we will consider with Steve the greater dimensionality of the Klein bottle—a one-sided topological surface having no inside or outside. A Klein bottle may be depicted in ordinary space by inserting the small open end of a tapered tube through the side of the tube and making it contiguous with the larger open end, although a true Klein bottle would not intersect itself. The shape is evocative of the alchemical vessel, the “pelican.”


In our practical lives, these notions can help us gain awareness that there are no absolute boundaries between our “insides” and our “outsides,” nor are there real barriers between “subject” and “object.” Thus, these studies can help us in new ways to understand and to advance in the individuation process with new awareness of Unus Mundus, or the unbroken wholeness of life as we know it, whatever “holes” we are traveling through.

Numbers, as archetypal structural constants of the collective unconscious, possess a dynamic, active aspect which is essentially important to keep in mind. It is not what we can do with numbers but what they do to our consciousness that is essential.


Jung describes the nature of the spirit, when it becomes observable in a psychic manifestation, as that unknown element embodying a spontaneous principle of movement in the unconscious psyche which engenders, autonomously manipulates, and orders inner images. Number is, as it were, the most accessible primitive manifestation of this transcendental spontaneous principle of movement in the psyche.                      


—Marie-Louise von Franz, Number and Time



It appears that the work of science is reaching a point of culmination in which its preoccupation with an objectified physis observed from the detached viewpoint of an abstracted psyche may be ready to yield, in preparation for the concrete reunion of physis and psyche. This was Jung’s basic reading of contemporary physics. In what specific form appropriate to our modern context will the integration of psyche and physis become manifested? I suggest it will be expressed as a dimensional integration. That is, physis, the dimension associated with extensive, objectified three-dimensional space, will become integrated with a fourth dimension. The latter will not be a dimension that is simply extended before us in the manner of an externalized space, as in the standard mathematical approach. Rather, physis will merge with the intensive dimension, that which is folded within us, involving our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and intuitions—the whole of our subjectivity. It will be through this conjunction of outer and inner dimensionality that the new alchemy will consummate the marriage of physis and psyche.


—Steven M. Rosen, “Pouring Old Wine into a New Bottle,” The Interactive Field in Analysis

In making the (w)holeness of the second flesh a concrete reality, we are to read this text proprioceptively; read our own reading; read these words about passing beyond themselves (into their prereflective roots) in such a way that the passage actually takes place. Such a reading is mediated by fleshing out this text via the dimensional amplification provided by the Klein bottle. Now the body of our text does not consist merely of empty reflectors, intrinsically meaningless signifiers that can only point outside themselves to disembodied meaning; our text is the Klein bottle. It is in reading the (w)hole in this self-containing three-dimensional text that we should pass unbrokenly into its subtext. The Klein bottle’s incompleteness when read ontically is at once an incompleteness in our reflecting upon it. In accepting the invitation to proprioceive the Kleinian text, we complete our reflective symbolic activity by circling back into its prereflective origin.

But old habits do persist. Can we read our own reading? Can we read the hole in the Klein bottle in such a way that we relax the compulsion to regard it as merely a hole, a gap in an ordinary object simply contained in space? Can we read the hole in the Klein bottle as an opening to “another dimension” and read that dimension as the prereflective source of our very own reading? Can we enter that dimension through proprioception? Generally, it is a matter of proceeding in such a way that conceptual mediation and existential immediacy come together. The Kleinian concept brings us to the limit of the conceptual. Because the true boundary of our symbolic activity must be paradoxical, a boundary that is not a boundary (lest we continue in the boundary-making mode of symbolic reflection), it is precisely at this inner horizon that we should be able to bridge the gap between the conceptual and the existential, between what we know and what we are.


—Steven M. Rosen, Topologies of the Flesh

Notes on alchemical work in a Kleinian vessel


From early childhood, I intuited deep discontinuities midst the visible continuities in my family and community of origin. The first poem I ever wrote was in 1963 at age 12:

          The thunder rolls
          The strengthless stop to listen

That poem came when a magnificently ominous thunderhead roared in from the southwest and thunder shook the windows of my seventh grade history classroom in eastern Tennessee. That occurrence was the original condition of my poetic work in distinction from the logocentric rationalizations of my Southern Baptist background.


At a fairly young age, I intuited that some sort of hypertrophy of rationalization is an error of scale—and actually idolatrous in insisting that any constructed text (overt or covert) can be worshipped as an achieved or achievable absolute. And to this day, such a hypertrophy of mental function seems to me to subsist in narcissistic, monotheistic, patriarchal projections of the egoic power-complex as the localizing center of all reality.

The situation when someone or some group insists that a text has been fixed as an achieved or achievable absolute might be pondered as the nexus of a Klein’s bottle. Such a fixing of text is ultimately, it seems to me, a localizing of a dead letter like a prepared corpse preserved in a sealed tomb. In the alchemical process, however, the dead matter denied and camouflaged under layers of textual shrouds dissolves as the nexus passes through the wall of the vessel. 


At the psychic core, the Kleinian vessel is a differently sealed bottle of Paradox: contained non-containment and continuous discontinuity—subjectobject, livingdying, selfother—in “the flesh of the world” (Merleau-Ponty).


What is coming to me now, in Kleinian dimensions, is how very important it is for me to practice diligently the discerning of death-and-resurrection as flowing through rather than flowing-away.


If I do in fact experience my bodysoulspiritbeing as a singular “location” behind barriers, to-which energies are directed (sometimes in acutely painful projections) and from-which energies depart (in dissociative dissipations and never-ending recoils), then I am set up for continuous (discontinuities of) deflation and exhaustion.


The time is at hand for complete transformation and renewal.



John Dotson




sculpting Dawn as she rises

at my fingertips swirling

spectral dreams


whirlpools interplaying vortices

erupting volcanos

livingdying i do not control

the waves that flow through

continuously insinuating



river waves light waves

quantum waves

pulsing cataclysmic

far far exceeding sound waves

such as these


i am waving to you

a jet streams contrails from SFO
to LAX or Burbank or Orange County

a very lucky man i am i am

a motorcycle motor cycles

up the hill to Highway One

with all these periodic orders


circulating inside out

unfolding intervals  

at the psychic core

topo-dimensions co-evolving

a grosbeak pops out


for safflower seeds and millet

freshly scattered by me


both our tasks pink in plein air

and what more could i ask
of this January moon than

just so to be