Monday, July 20, 2020

Essays and Archetypes

Two Essays on Analytical Psychology 

Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (Collected Works 7)

“To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.”   ― C.G. Jung

I was surprised to find much of the first part of this book, "On the Psychology of the Unconscious", to be a critique of Freud as much as an outline of Jung's position on the topic. Written and revised during World War I and subsequently revised, it is somewhat fragmented, yet still a good introduction to the topic. Part two is a further discussion of the relation of the ego to the unconscious including an introduction to individuation. The wealth of concepts is such that it is easy to lose track of the overall subject matter. My appreciation for the text was primarily concerned with the literary allusions and references to thinkers from Heraclitus to Nietzsche and beyond.

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious 

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works 9i)

“there is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, that they are patterns of instinctual behaviour.”   ― C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

What kind of a book is this? I considered several categories from spiritual to supernatural, but decided that it was a sort of mythology of human archetypes and the psyche. My difficulties with the text came close to my experience reading the Tao of Lao-tse, while in its categorical nature it resembled The Varieties of Religious Experience. My own approach to reading it centered on the literary connections with which I found resonance in the text. These ranged widely from Shakespeare to Stevenson and Hesse with a special emphasis on the importance of Jung for Moby-Dick.

In this work Jung propounds many of his theories regarding the nature of human consciousness, both personal and collective. While portrayed as scientific they seemed to lack the evidence normally associated with the scientific method. Jung was great at making his assumptions sound like settled truth, when outside of his coterie there was little that was settled. For example, he compares his discoveries to the discovery of the atom, commenting that "we speak of "atoms" today because we have heard, directly or indirectly, of the atomic theory of Democritus. But where did Democritus, or whoever first spoke of minimal constitutive elements, hear of atoms? This notion had its origin in archetypal ideas, that is , in primordial images which were never reflections of physical events but are spontaneous products of the psychic factor." (p 57)  This gives you a flavor of the sort of arguments presented. There are also examples of many of the concepts based on observation of patients. For me, it was these stories that hearkened back to the approach of William James. 

The book is poetic at times and has a wealth of interpretations of psychic events. His examinations of the personal or collective unconscious is fascinating and provides a great introduction to the psychological world of Carl Jung.


mudpuddle said...

otoh, there's a growing sense that "consciousness" is an illusion...

Brian Joseph said...

I read these a very long time ago. I think that I would classify it as philosophy. I do not think that he was exactly on target with the idea of collective unconscious but it is a fascinating idea and it seems to have been very influential.

James said...

Thanks for your reaction.

James said...

I agree that his ideas have been influential. Some of the great twentieth century literature I have read shows that influence.