Thursday, March 24, 2011

Notes From The Editor

Dear Friends of The C.G. Jung Society of Vermont,

In this March edition of the e-journal, we publish Luanne Sberna's February presentation, Jung and Yoga. We hope that you will enjoy it as much as those who attended her lecture and demonstration did. Please note that there are a number of formatting problems in the essay due to the limitations of the blog tool, not to Ms. Sberna's submission.

Questions? Comments? Submissions? Let us know! You can contact the editor at: (802)860-4921 or at

With best regards,
Stephanie Buck, ed.
Jung in Vermont

Essays - Jung and Yoga


Mankind is at the beginning of a new era in regards to the possibilities of self-realization. This is greatly influenced not only by scientific advances in all fields, but also because of the gentle penetration of our perceptions by Eastern ways of looking at the universe, including individual development. Yoga, an Eastern system defined by author Jess Stearn (1965) as:

Union. From Sanskrit root yuj, meaning to join. A controlled effort toward self-integration so that the individual spirit may merge with the Universal Spirit in a spirit of oneness. (P. 343).

has a great deal to add to Western psychology. Carl Jung was one of the first theorists to attempt to understand the yoga way and bring it into awareness in our culture. Much of yoga can best be explained in Jungian terms, though parts of it differ from his theories. This paper looks at the two systems and their practices.

The first, Kundalini Yoga, encompasses an important aspect of Yoga’s symbolism and view of personality development: that of Kundalini energy. Kundalini energy is the energy that becomes available to an individual when, through meditation, the unconscious has been brought into awareness. The symbol for this is a coiled snake which is ready to spring. The circularity of the coiled snake represents completeness. Another way of looking at the snake is through its relation to the tree which corresponds to the masculine principle. The snake, representing the feminine, coils around the tree. This symbolizes entanglement and moral dualism. (Cirlot, 1971). Jung also notes the frequent use of snake imagery to denote a well-documented archetype. This is the archetype of transformation and renovation, of an ascending force rising up, related to “sublimation of the personality.” (Cirlot, 1971). This concept is in keeping with the yoga idea of kundalini energy.

It should be noted that there is an actual physical as well as psychic form of this energy. Kundalini is physical in that the energy is said to travel upwards along the spinal cord, passing through physical points as well as increasingly higher centers of consciousness called chakras. Jung said of the chakras:

The cakras are symbols. They symbolize highly complex psychic facts which at the present moment we could not possibly express in images...they represent a real effort to give a symbolic theory of the psyche. (Ajaya, 1983, p. 243).

Each chakra has its own archetype, a particular polarization within the personality. (Ajaya, 1983). According to Swami Ajaya (Allan Weinstock, PhD), one is usually psychologically engaged with a specific chakra or several chakras, and the character that unfolds from their archetypes. One may experience different “energies” at different times. However, there is usually a dominant role such as seductress, sullen child, etc. one plays in relation to the point of fixation or regression. (Ajaya, 1983). Often the level of one’s energy along this Kundalini pathway is manifested not only in psychological symptoms, but also physical ones corresponding to the chakra(s) of fixation. For the sake of brevity and clarity the tables on the following page outline the meaning of the chakras.



7-Sahasrara Unitary consciousness Advaita Vedanta

6-Ajna Insight, witnessing Yoga, Buddhist psychology

5-Vishuddha Devotion, receiving nurturance Jung

and unconditional love, surrender

Trust, creativity, grace, majesty,


4-Anahata Compassion, generosity, selfless Rogers, Fromm

loving, service

3-Manipura Mastery, domination, conquest, Adler, Ego Psychology

competition, inadequacy, inferi-

ority, pride

2-Svadhisthana Sensory pleasure Psychoanalysis, Reich, Bioenergetics

1-Muladhara Struggle for survival Primal scream therapy


Chakra Mode of Experience Ideal Representation Polarities Experienced Examples

7-Sahasrara Unitary Consciousness No representation; beyond none Shankara, Meister Eckhard,

forms Shiva in meditation

6-Ajna Insight, witnessing The Sage Sage/fool, objective observer Socrates, Lao-tsu, Kant, the

deluded participant Wizard of Oz, Delphic Oracle

5-Vishuddha Devotion, receiving The Child Object of devotion/devotee, Christ Child with Madonna, St.

Mother/child, found/lost, Teresa of Avila, Hanuman, Sri

Trust/mistrust Ramakrishna, Don Quixote

4-Anahata Compassion, generosity The Mother, The Savior Rescuer/rescued, liberator/ Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus, Mother

selfless loving, service liberated Teresa, Schweitzer, Gandhi, St. Francis

3-Manipura Mastery, domination The Hero Gain/loss, success/failure Alexander, Napoleon, Hamlet,

Conquest, competition Dominance/submission Prometheus, Superman, sports &

inadequacy, inferiority Blame/praise military heroes, corporate presidents,

pride political leaders

2-Svadhis- Sensory pleasure The Hedonists Pleasure/pain, male/female Bacchus, Eros, King Henry VIII,

thana Salome, Ravana

1-Muladhara Struggle for survival The Victim Predator/prey, life/death Movie monsters and their victims,

Hitler and the Jews, The Inquisition,

Hansel & Gretel & the Witch

From: Psychotherapy East and West (1983). Honesdale, PA: The Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science & Philosophy of the USA.

While the first two chakras are concerned with basic survival and pleasure, the third one represents ego (ahankara) and the potential for mastery or power of dominion. The fourth-heart-chakra completes a quaternium where egocentricity is transcended. (Ajaya, 1983). “In the first three chakras, the two sides of a polarity are experienced as being distinct from or in opposition to one another, but at the heart center one begins to understand the complementary relationship between the two sides of a polarity.” (Ajaya, 1973. P. 274).

One could also say that Jung’s personality functions of feeling and sensing have been experienced at the that level, and if the chakras complexes are successfully passed through, integrated into the personality. This is a little different than Jung’s theory of dominant and inferior functions. If one is fixated at a particular chakra, a yogi would probably agree that is it a dominant function at that time. However, Jung’s theory says that total synthesis of the four functions is impossible, because it is only possible when the Self is fully actualized, which is impossible in Jung’s view–it is only an ideal (Hall & Lindzey, 1975).

The next three chakras pass through integration of the thinking and finally intuitive functions. This represents an evolved buddhi, the higher mind of yoga philosophy. The seventh and final chakra represents unitary consciousness the symbolism of the three higher chakras “represent the solution of the conflict caused by dualism” (Cirlot, 1971). While three symbolizes the spiritual synthesis that occurs at this higher level of functioning, the totality of all chakras, seven is “symbolic of perfect order, a complete period or cycle. It comprises the unity of the ternary and the quaternary, and hence is endowed with exceptional value...and finally, it is the symbol of pain.” (Cirlot, 1971). This pain can be related to the pain felt at letting go of attachments which accompanies growth and change.

In addition to Kundalini as a way of looking at human development, Yoga has its own model for the psyche and the transcendental state called “samadhi” that is a goal of Yoga.

Hearing Ego

Touch (Ahankara)

Sight Lower Wisdom Self

Taste Mind (Atman)

Smell (Manas) Memory (Buddhi)


From: Yoga and Psychotherapy, 1976.

The senses are the scanning device that picks up information from the internal and external physical environment. Mana, or the lower mind, doesn’t carry a sense of self-awareness. It is the unconscious, sensorimotor mind. The senses project information onto the screen of mana, which responds by instinct or habit. (Ajaya, et al, 1976). The chitta is our memory bank and, like the senses, feeds data to the manas. It is part of the unconscious and though not indicated, appears to include the collective unconscious.

Since the shadow is the dominant of the personal unconscious (Singer, 1973), it resides in chitta. Yoga psychology would tend to see the shadow as a one side of a polarity strengthened in the unconscious when the individual identifies with the other side of the polarity and acts in an unbalanced manner (Ajaya, 1983). Singer (1973) says that the “repressed shadow will sooner or later find a way to collapse the out-of-balance persona.” (P. 220). Ajaya and Singer agree that the unconscious expresses the repressed shadow side so that it can be “known and integrated into the conscious mind.” (Ajaya, 1983, p. 52). While Jung explored the concept of a transcendent function, resulting in the union of opposites towards furthering individuation, he did not seem to believe in a constant balance of opposing forces in the personality. (Hall and Lindzey, 1978) Rather, if one adheres to Jung’s theory, there is a constant state of tension attempting to pull the polarities into balance. On this matter Ajaya (1983) says:

Yoga psychology, on the other hand, seeks to dissolve all polarities in the sense that they have no hold or determining influence on the individual. This does not mean that the polarity is necessarily destroyed; rather its domination over the person is ended as he achieves an equilibrium with respect to that polarity...Once this is accomplished, the individual may continue to function in the world of polarities, but he experiences polarities as illusory phenomenon..The polarities then take on a playful quality rather than being perceived as the compelling and inevitable divisions of reality...Conditions of existence are not of a mutually exclusive character; in essence things are not two but one (p. 56)

It is through meditation and physical practices such as breathing and postures that one achieves this point of unity according to yoga psychology. Relative to this, Jung mistakenly believed that the aim of meditation was absorption in the collective unconscious once the personal unconscious was freed from the stranglehold of repressed elements and their polarities. He encouraged westerners not to imitate yoga methods in a Christian Way -Imitatio Christi-but to try to discover an intraverted tendency similar to the guiding spiritual principal of yoga (Hall and Lindzey, 1978) His advice has merit, but is not in keeping with yoga philosophy. Western man should not ignore his nature when entering into yoga practice or he risks further repression of the contents of his psyche. The problem stems from Jung’s incorrectness in assuming that “samadhi,” yoga’s highest or nirvana state, is a sinking into the bliss of identification with the internal deity that is concretized by images which arise from the collective unconscious during meditation. To more deeply understand what the state of samadhi actually is, we can look more deeply into yoga’s model of personality.

Ahankara, ego or “I-ness” in yogic terms, is that part of the personality which allows one to “separate the self from the flow of events and to think of oneself as an individual entity.” (Ajaya, et. al., 1976, p.84) It is that which separates self from other: I and not-I. Yet, it is not an “active decision-making, thought-producing agent.” (Ajaya,, p. 87-88) I’ness is constantly in flux. All during our lives we experience the giving up and acquiring of attachments, which either through pain or pleasure serves to redesign the “I.” As attachments are relinquished growth occurs. “With time and the accumulation of more experience, each new “I” in its turn will be found to be lacking. Its limitations must be experiences and understood...relinquished for a more inclusive and less restricted identity...Each one [step in development] reorganizes and expands the identity to some degree as a result of changing the pattern of attachments. I’ness is no more than the sum of one’s attachments.” (Ajaya,, 1976, p. 182)

Thus in many ways, the yoga concept of ego is related to Jung’s ego. Another personality component in yoga that is related to this is the buddhi or higher mind. Buddhi is the power of decisiveness, discrimination, and understanding. (Ajaya, 1976) Buddhi evolves from “crude perceptive discrimination which simply reacts to the impressions coming onto the screen of the manas,” (Ajaya, et. al., 1976 p. 91) through “an intellectual framework which permits purposeful and rational organization of activities” (Ajaya,, 1976, p. 91), to “the stepping outside of cause and effect to disinterestedly pursue pure truth.” (Ajaya,, 1976, p.92)

Buddhi gradually shifts from a preoccupation with pleasure towards a concern with truth and understanding, and frees itself from the grip of attachments. (Ajaya,, 1976) Jung, too, recognized the importance of non-attachment. In Jungian terms, attachment can be equated with complexes and projection (because emotional ties - attachment - contain projections). According to the concept accepted by Jung and yoga that one may be fixed at a certain chakra/archetypal stage, then the chakra traits not consciously adopted are projected as contents of the unconscious out into the world. Jung indicates that the possibilities of individual reactions to these unconscious pieces, if they grow strong enough, are one of these three: 1) an overpowering by the unconscious resulting in a psychosis (Singer, 1973); 2) the individual is overpowered and obsessed by the unconscious content and becomes paranoid and isolated (Singer, 1973). 3)Regressive restoration of the persona occurs where one restores functioning, after a great loss of an attached object, at a level below his/her ability (Singer, 1973). According to Singer (1973), this last type most effectively projects the shadow. She suggests a continued search for evidence of the shadow so that it can be brought into consciousness and then to reflect on its meaning in relation to the individual’s lifestyle (Singer, 1973). Singer sees this as a lifelong process because the shadow is a devilish form, a quick change artist that does not disappear. It simply changes guise and comes forward in another form. The yoga way of dealing with the above situation is to discontinue identification with a particular chakra’s “character” and to become absorbed in a higher level chakra.

Transcendence and nonattachment are achieved through yoga practice. Pranayama and asanas (postures and exercises) first have the effect of reducing anxiety in the body and mind. Gradually, as one increases the ability to control anxiety, an observing ego develops. This is equivalent to a developing buddhi. According to yoga psychologists, images arise, as in dreams, that contain day residue and archetypal material. Traditionally, a yoga teacher would suggest images (yantras) or mantras of relevance to a particular student. The teacher, a therapist of sorts, was able, because of a highly developed intuition, to discern the pupil’s level of development and attachment. This process can be related to Jung’s use of active imagination in that “there is a sort of spatial logic that guides the use of picture thinking that transcends the narrow verbal reasoning of the ego” (Ajaya, 1976, p. 146); however, in a therapeutic modality, the image comes from the client not the therapist.

In yoga, there is symbolism related to the meditative images that are assigned. The setting sun, water, ice, lapis lazuli, etc. give rise to archetypal images that represent “the treasure hard to obtain...consist[ing] of two pairs of opposites which proclaim ...suffering and non-existence, impermanence and non-self, signifying that all existence is full of suffering, and that everything that clings to the ego is impermanent. Non-being and non-being-ego deliver us from these errors...”(Jung, 1969). The problem is that Jung interprets this symbolism as giving rise eventually, through meditation practices, to the realization that one’s mind produces the godlike image and that the psyche is producing that through the Self.(Jung, 1969) Again, I must stress that yoga psychology does not agree with this formulation since it recognizes a higher consciousness above even the integrated psyche.

Yoga advises one to allow thoughts to pass through consciousness without struggling to exclude them by using “ego-will” or “active volition” (Ajaya,, 19 , p. 149) to force relaxation. According to the authors of Yoga and Psychotherapy the mantra “provides a base from which...[to] observe [the flood on the manas from chitta] without becoming drawn into the drama of thoughts...” (Ajaya,, 1976, p. 150). This strengthens the objective buddhi, which leads to nonattachment. This practice also serves to fill the chitta with mantra, an expression of a more evolved consciousness, as the chitta is cleared of other elements. This assists one in achieving the calmness necessary for higher consciousness. During this process resistance to the flow of unconscious material can be pinpointed.

Jung was partly able to comprehend the value of yoga in assimilating the unconscious. He used yoga exercises to reduce anxiety when he felt himself undergoing psychic turmoil (Jung, 1965). However, he did not realize that through persistent practice, the unconscious could be revealed more clearly to him. Rather, his approach was:

I was frequently so wrought up that I had to do certain yoga exercises in order to hold my emotions in check. But since it was my purpose to know what was going on within myself, I would do these exercises only until I had calmed myself enough to resume my work with the unconscious. As soon as I had the feeling that I was myself again, I abandoned this restraint upon the emotions and allowed the images and inner voices to speak afresh. The Indian, on the other hand, does yoga exercises to obliterate completely the multitude of psychic contents and images (Jung, 1965, p. 177)

It is no wonder Jung doesn’t recommend to Westerners imitation of yoga techniques if that is his understanding of it. Just as a therapist aids a client in drawing material from the unconscious, so too does yoga. The highest state, samadhi, does not arise from the obliteration of psychic contents. It arises from the understanding integration and evolution of the conscious and unconscious into a complete individual who, like the analyzed individual, knows their complexes and can resolve them through bringing opposites into balance.

Samadhi is a state that is hard to define unless one has experienced it. I have not, but will try to explain what it is to the best of my understanding. Samadhi is not bliss or ecstasy as Jung thought (Jung, 1969). Bliss is the state that exists in yoga nidra (dreamless sleep). Samadhi is breaking of all attachments, including to bliss; it is pure consciousness. (Ajaya,, 1976) It is considered unity because as Franklin Merrell-Wolff points out in The Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object,

...the distinction between the subject of consciousness and the object of consciousness is destroyed. It is a state wherein self, identity and the field of consciousness are blended in an indissoluble whole. (Ajaya,, 1976, p. 269)

This is not the collective unconscious of Jung or deepest layer of the psyche. Instead it is the exact opposite, the highest form of consciousness.

It is my belief that yoga and Jungian therapy can be synthesized to produce a valuable therapeutic method, but it is not for all and not to be entered into lightly. Those therapists who are already attuned to the importance of the physical and creative aspects of the self in relation to the psyche will probably be the pioneers in this area. Of course, there is still the problem of Western v. Eastern modes of thinking, and translating Eastern into Western “dialect.” Also, unless a therapist truly feels some connection to and has an understanding of yoga philosophy and is practicing yoga themself, they will probably not succeed in imparting its benefits to others. And there are risks for all practitioners. Yoga can become regressive at times by providing a urobouric sort of protection for ignoring rather than detaching oneself from one’s processes. It can produce the flat affect of apathy instead of objectivity and non-attachment. As a pathway that one may follow on the heroic quest toward Selfhood, it is full of pitfalls. Each stage of development that is represented by the chakras must be explored and may pull one into extreme attachment and egoism, in extreme cases delusion or psychosis.

An example of how yoga has been used successfully therapeutically follows: One of the authors of Yoga and Psychotherapy, Swami Ajaya, worked in an prison treatment program. He led a yoga group and a verbal group with the same participants, though there were some in the verbal group who were not in the yoga group. A brief sketch of the process follows:

Body Work (Postures & Breath)

a. increased self esteem through feeling better physically

b. more interest in the problems of others

c. beginning of ability to control anxiety


a. increasing ability to control anxiety

b. growth of observing ego

c. mastery over impulses, obsessions, etc.

d. introspection rather than projection

Meditation in action

a. non-attachment

b. karma and responsibility

c. identity

(Ajaya,, 1976)

Other principles Ajaya worked with in the yoga group included: equanimity - we create our environment and each situation is a means to growth; levels of consciousness - awareness of chakras and one’s way of experiencing the world; replacement of habits - develop routines of meditation, thought patterns, and behaviors that would replace problem-causing ones (Ajaya,, 1976). In addition, Ajaya views transference similarly to the Jungian perspective that a client transfers an ideal onto the therapist (and others), that “the archetype comes to the foreground as the significant source of meaning and motivation. Using yoga philosophy and practices, a new perspective is achieved (here the similarity is to Jung’s transcendent function) that helps to correct one’s egocentric and inflated positions” (Ajaya, 1983, p. 83). In yoga therapy one would have the patient meditate not on the external object but on the archetype that has been uncovered. This synthesis of methods should enable the client to realize that he projects the archetype not only onto the manas, but also into the world; that what is outward is a manifestation of what is already within (Ajaya, 1983).

As evident, there are differences between yoga therapy as expounded by Ajaya and his colleagues, and most Western therapies. One key difference is the practice of silent retreat, where patients may spend time in solitude with their needs taken care of so that introspection and concentration is enhanced. This approach appears to differ from the “here and now” external orientation of some schools of Western therapy. Yet, the content of the inner world, from which one’s perceptions of the outer world springs, is dealt with in an extremely immediate manner. It provides a springboard to know oneself and learn to be more at ease in the internal as well as external world. Fortunately, since Ajaya’s pioneering work with yoga and therapy, cognitive and neo-cognitive therapy models have begun to embrace the benefits of mindfulness.

Some final yoga therapy concepts Ajaya discusses in Psychotherapy East and West that are not so foreign to us include: 1) surrender-related to heart chakra and the experience of humanism that transcends I-ness (egoism); 2) creativity - related to throat chakra and chanting, where the source for creativity transcends the ego; 3) unconditional love and acceptance - accepting a higher source of nurturance (nonreligious) and consciousness rather than projecting the ideal of nurturance onto others; 4) awareness of interaction among chakras. It is of interest here to note that Jung once said that Westerners should work on bringing kundalini back down from the upper, intellectual chakras to the lower chakras. On the one hand, many Westerners do identify themselves first of all with their head and rationality. Thus, they may feel more energy condensed in the upper two chakras. However, there are also higher functions associated with these chakras, as indicated previously, that may not have yet been integrated due to lack of resolution of complexes related to the lower chakras. So working with these is still an important part of the yoga process of growth.

Overall, there is a deep richness in both Jungian and Yoga psychology. Both go beyond reductive or ego-based models of the psyche to mine the depths of the unconscious. While they may not agree on processes or what is the ultimate possible outcome, they each acknowledge the depth of the human psyche and the interconnectedness of psyche and matter with reverence.

- Submitted by Luanne Sberna

Monday, February 7, 2011

Notes From The Editor

Dear Friends of The C.G. Jung Society of Vermont,

In this month’s issue of Jung in Vermont, we feature Sue Mehrtens’ essay, Loving the Mystery: Jung on our ‘De-psychized’ Modern Reality. In this essay Dr. Mehrtens draws the important distinction between the predominant scientific attitude which views the mysteries of life as “nothing but” and the religious attitude (meaning the awareness of something greater and ‘other’ than ego-consciousness) which accepts the reality of psyche and its mystery as “just so.” If you’re interested in reading more on this essential subject, Jung’s Tavistock Lectures is a great place to start. The Tavistock Lectures present Jung at his best – he is engaging and direct, and his approach to psyche is accessible even to those unfamiliar with his psychology. The Tavistock Lectures are included in CW 18, The Symbolic Life: Miscellanous Writings, and also are bound in their own volume entitled Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice.

There are two free events this month that we hope you’ll take advantage of, first, this coming Thursday, February 10th from 8:00-9:30 p.m., Michael Conforti is offering a complimentary teleseminar on Dream Patterning: Encounters with Psyche as Threshold Experience. For more information and to register, contact Andrew Bartlett at The Assisi Institute, or (802)254-6220. On February 13th at 2:00 p.m., Luanne Sberna will be presenting on Jung and Yoga in the Community Room at The Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT. This C.G. Jung Society of Vermont event includes both didactic and participatory experiential activities. It is free and open to the public. For more information contact Ms. Sberna at (802)863-9775 ext. 2 or .

We also would like to make you aware of the Jungian-related curriculum being offered by The Jungian Center for Spiritual Sciences this winter/spring. Based in Waterbury, Vermont, this educational non-profit organization founded and directed by Sue Mehrtens, a regular contributor to the e-journal, is offering an exciting mix of nominally priced courses beginning mid-February. Please check it out by clicking the tab News From The Jungian Center.

The society’s film series continues to attract newcomers to the society as well as draw back regular attendees. This past January the film, Thomas Berry: The Great Story, generated heart-felt discussion around the film’s core message of personal responsibility as we face overwhelming world-wide ecological problems. Fr. Berry recalls us to our human condition when he says at various points during his film narration, “We are a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects and until we accept this essential truth, nothing will change.” His understanding of a “communion of subjects” as distinct from a “collection of objects” – and the theme of Dr. Mehrtens’ February essay - has its corollary in Martin Buber’s conceptualization of the I-Thou relationship as distinct from the I-It relationship. For Jung, the subjective experience of the Divine is known through the encounter with the numinous. For Fr. Berry as for Carl Jung, the divine spark is contained in matter; when we treat the material world – nature - and all that it contains as divinely inspired and as a manifestation of the Divine, our relationship to the world must change. Ever more people seem to understand this, at least in part, as suggested by the growing interest in carbon footprint reduction, organic farming, and renewables. Many years ago in a world much different from today’s industrialized built up environment ruled by conglomerates, Chief Seattle expressed his concern for reverent stewardship of the natural world. He said:

"You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth... This we know, the earth does belong to man: man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected..."

Chief Seattle’s message that each succeeding generation is only the custodian caring for the inheritance of those who come after is well worth remembering and implementing in our individual lives.

The interconnectedness of life is fundamental to Jung’s psychology. In the 1950s when the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States were locked in an uneasy balance of power known as the Cold War, Jung received a despairing letter from an American wanting advice regarding “finding some spot where I could use my knowledge in helping the world.” As part of his response, Jung quoted a Hindu Holy man’s advice to an acolyte, “Help yourself and you help the world, for you are the world” (Letters, v. 2, 626, 627). Jung’s advice is central to the Jungian approach to psyche: deal with your darkness within, take responsibility for that which you project – displace – onto another, suffer it and own it. All of the problems in life from the most minor to the greatest have their roots in the projection of one’s own darkness (or collective darkness) onto the other(s). If you’re interested in learning more about working with the personal shadow, a great little book is Robert Johnson’s Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche (Harper). Another is Erich Neumann’s Depth Psychology and a New Ethic (Shambhala). To read what Jung has to say about the shadow, refer to CW 9ii, “The Shadow” in The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious.

Before closing, there is a new and free e-publication entitled Personality Type in Depth available at: . Vermont’s Mark Hunziker is co-editor – all the best, Mark!

With best regards,

Stephanie Buck, ed.

Jung in Vermont or (860)4921.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Essays - Loving the Mystery: Jung on Our "De-psychized" Modern Reality

“… I can leave a lot of things to the Unknown. They do not bother me. But they would begin to bother me, I am sure, if I felt that I ought to know about them.”[1] Jung, Psychological Reflections (1953)

“Only our intellectualized age could have been so deluded as to see in alchemy nothing but an abortive attempt at chemistry, and in the interpretative methods of modern psychology a mere ‘psychologizing,’ i.e. annihiliation, of the mystery. Just as the alchemists knew that the production of their stone was a miracle that could only happen ‘Deo concedente,’ so the modern psychologist is aware that he can produce no more than a description, couched in scientific symbols, of a psychic process whose real nature transcends consciousness just as much as does the mystery of life or of matter….”[2] Jung, “Transformation Symbolism in the Mass” (1954)

“It has yet to be understood that the mysterium magnum is not only an actuality but is first and foremost rooted in the human psyche.” Jung, “Psychology and Alchemy” (1953)[3]

“Much as the achievements of science deserve our admiration, the psychic consequences … are equally terrible. Unfortunately, there is in this world no good thing that does not have to be paid for by an evil at least equally great. People… still have no notion of what it means to live in a de-psychized world. They believe, on the contrary, that it is a tremendous advance, which can only be profitable, for man to have conquered Nature and seized the helm, in order to steer the ship according to his will….”[4] Jung, “Civilization in Transition” (1945)

A few weeks ago I experienced a synchronicity that led to the creation of this essay. At the same time that I was in the process of reading Jolande Jacobi’s collection of Jung’s “psychological reflections”[5] I attended a meeting of a local group I belong to. That day there was a special program with a presentation by Steve Taubman, who, among his many talents and careers, is a professional magician.[6] As our meeting drew to a close Steve entertained us with some magic tricks. We all enjoyed his feats of legerdemain—all but one person, who kept insisting that he show us how he did them. She didn’t like not knowing. The mystery of it she found unpleasant, and as I sat there I recalled Jung’s statement, noted above: We get bothered by what we can’t figure out, by what we cannot know or understand intellectually. We no longer love the mystery.

Jung was aware of how problematic—even dangerous—this attitude is. Why is this? Why is our current attitude to mystery so dangerous? And what would Jung want to see supplant it? This essay will consider these questions: why the current orientation of Western culture is dangerous, and what Jung called for to remedy or lessen the danger. I will conclude with a reference to one way into mystery that Jung felt was particularly powerful and useful. This way we will explore in depth in a subsequent essay.

Our Current Situation

There are many indicators of the dangers we face in our current situation. In this essay I will consider 11 that Jung identified. These are:

Our One-Sidedness.[7] Western culture lacks balance. We put far too much emphasis on logic, linear thinking, and the rationality of the left brain. We are one-sided in our development of our instinct for knowledge, seemingly oblivious of the need to nourish and develop other instincts, like that for spiritual meaning and a sense of purpose in life.[8] We also overvalue external objects, ignoring or denigrating the inner life and intangibles. This is due in part to the materialistic ethos of our culture, with its focus on “getting and spending,”[9] downplaying spirituality and the religious instinct[10] that Jung recognized as a core component of being human.

Our Orientation to the External World. Perhaps in reaction to the many centuries of the Middle Ages, during which Heaven and religion were so central to our culture, we have shifted to a focus on the here-and-now, the material plane, and “success” measured in economic terms.[11] We forget our inner life and fail to recognize or consider our “inner city.”[12] Many times in my dream courses, when I bring up Jung’s concept of the inner city, students look blank, so foreign is the notion that we have an inner life teeming with a wide array of different characters and energies.

Our Arrogance. As Jung’s quote above notes,[13] we believe we can control Nature. We want to believe we are in control of our lives, that we have control over the forces in our world that could impact our future, our safety and security. The ego mind lusts for control, and we don’t want to admit that our logical, left-brained methods of knowing have limits.[14] These ways of knowing form the knowledge base of our culture,[15] and in this we put our faith.

Our Faith in Science. As noted in a previous essay,[16] the knowledge base of our culture is science. When something has to be investigated in any formal (or legal, forensic) way—the way that will have the greatest credibility in our society—we turn to science. But science in its analytical methods fragments life,[17] and brings us “progress” with no sense of all the negatives that come along with it.[18] Science makes us feel we ought to know all things, i.e. there should be nothing unknown, and it encourages a “rootless intellectualism”[19] that has spread beyond the bounds of the sciences to infect the arts and humanities. Jung recognized that, in reality, science is a myth,[20] but it has become so powerful, combined with rationalism and materialism, that it now threatens us with “instant annihilation.”[21] In the realm of psychology it has given rise to an aridity that is woefully unable to address basic psychological truth, even going so far as to deny that the psyche can be a source of knowledge.[22]

Our Lack of Self-Knowledge. When the psyche is dismissed as a source of knowledge what results? Profound confusion and lack of knowledge of ourselves, our inner life, the depths of our being. With the focus of our culture so “out there,” on externals and other people, we have come to the point where we now know more about outer space than about our own selves.[23] We resist looking within and remain completely unaware of the reality and activity of our “inner city.”

Our Skewed Sense of the Meaning of Life. This absence of self-reflection has given us a faulty sense of what life is about.[24] Our culture is so focused on the “newest new thing,” on techniques and technologies and the accumulation of stuff. Materialism would have us believe that our lives will have meaning the more we buy.

Our Living Collective, not Individual Lives. We fall for the blandishments of consumerism because we live collectively, with a herd instinct, following fads and fashions, in an “other-directed” focus on what other people are doing and are into.[25] Jung observed this other-directedness and complained that the modern person now was “not even sure of his own ego.”[26]

The Atrophy of the Human Personality. The result of these collective pressures to conform, consume and “keep up with the Joneses” is that our individual uniqueness has atrophied.[27] We don’t give time or attention to developing the unique set of traits and talents with which we might serve the world. We ignore or forget who we are, why we are here, and what we are meant to do to live out our mission in life. Even discussion of concepts like “mission in life” are met with incomprehension and skepticism in some circles.

Our Fear of the Unknown. There is a generalized fear of the unknown (as I witnessed in the meeting where the magician presented us with magic) that runs through our culture. There are several reasons for this. First, confronting the unknown forces us to recognize that our science—the vaunted knowledge base of our culture—is in fact limited in what it can do, what it can figure out, and how much it can control. Second, facing the unknown makes us aware that we are not fully in control, of our lives or of Nature. Third, admitting that some things are unknown demands that we acknowledge there are aspects of reality that are larger, greater, wiser than we are. So we avoid recognizing unknowns, like our unconscious and the psyche.[28]

Our De-Psychized World. Failure to recognize the reality of the psyche can lead to “psychologizing.” Jung felt that “psychologizing”—using the interpretive methods of modern psychology—devalues the soul.[29] We no longer think much about our souls or our inner lives, and this makes it easy to dismiss and even deny that the psyche exists. We don’t take the time to care for the soul, much less pay attention to its wisdom and guidance.

Our Derision of the Numinous. As noted in Jung’s quote above, we have “stripped all things of their mystery and numinosity: nothing is holy any longer.”[30] In our arrogance, we want to play God. We avoid situations or experiences that might put us in contact with the numinous—with the Divine, with transporting or transcending events, with moments of ecstasy. We also avoid areas of life that force us to confront mystery. If we see a magic show, we want to know how it works; we want to rob it of its mystery. In doing so, we impoverish our lives in fundamental ways. Jung was aware that our derision of the numinous is a catastrophe.[31]

What Jung Hoped to See as Positive Change

Ever the doctor, hoping to heal the world as well as individuals, Jung offered some prescriptions for how we might remedy our perilous situation and forestall annihilation. These prescriptions relate to both individual and collective activities, although Jung always saw change as beginning first with the individual.[32] As more persons take up for themselves the challenges to change, Jung felt that the culture as a whole would improve. Some of the recommendations Jung made include:

Developing a More Balanced Culture. The Western world is too one-sided, too rational, intellectual, enamored of science and material progress. Jung felt we needed, as individuals, to begin to value our imagistic, intuitive right-brained wisdom as much as the verbal logic of the left brain. We need to put psychological truths on a par with the truths of science, and value internal realities and intangibles as much as objects and “stuff.” Alongside scientific ways of knowing we need to have and use the power in symbols. And we must put as high a premium on self-knowledge as we do on material wealth and success.[33]

Developing a More Accurate Sense of Progress. Currently, “progress” is defined only in material and technological terms—inventions, advances in labor-saving machines and methods, greater sophistication in our tools and gadgets. Jung recognized that much more important, for the survival of the human race, was our making progress in non-material terms: in soul growth, in differentiation of personalities (as people separated themselves from the mass), in “perfecting the human personality.”[34] Along with improvement in the material conditions of humanity we need equal concern for psychic development—the nurturance of our souls. Recognizing that the psyche is a valid source of knowledge as much as our intellect,[35] Jung hoped to see the evolution of a society that blended both forms of knowing. Such an integrated knowledge base would encourage ethical development at the same time as it fostered physical growth and improvement.

Restoring Intellectual Humility as a Societal Virtue. But such a shift in perception and values would require a shift of attitude, restoring some of the humility that characterized our world before we came to believe we could play God. We need to admit that we cannot know everything, that there are limits to scientific knowledge.[36] The Unknown is real and we have to face this and be okay with not knowing. Using a term mystics employ, we must appreciate the “cloud of unknowing”[37] and face the fact that we are not in control here, that Nature knows best and that our society would function far more efficiently and effectively if we followed Nature’s ways.[38]

A Reorientation toward the Inner Life. Jung felt that if we want the full picture of reality an outward-turning science is not going to provide it. We need to meld science, and its outer orientation, with inner awareness.

Everywhere one hears the cry for a Weltanschauung; everyone asks the meaning of life and the world…. higher than science or art as an end in itself stands man, the creator of his instruments. Nowhere are we closer to the sublime secret of all origination than in the recognition of our own selves, whom we always think we know already. Yet we know the immensities of space better than we know our own depths, where—even though we do not understand it—we can listen directly to the throb of creation itself.[39]

From his own experience Jung knew that we can discover many of the wonders of creation within our own being, if we resist the blandishments of materialist science (which would pull us out of ourselves) and look within.

More People Taking Up the Task of Individuating. Stepping out of the herd, tending to our souls, refusing to be defined merely as an “intellect” or a tool of science,[40] we can allow ourselves to be guided by our intuition and inner wisdom. We can partner with our “inner friend”[41] and dialogue with our dreams to gain self-awareness and self-knowledge. “Individuation” Jung defined as the process whereby we confront and integrate our shadow side, develop a relationship with our anima or animus and experience the Self (our inner Divine core) to such a degree that the ego comes to recognize its proper place as subordinate to the Self. Such a task requires independence of mind, as well as internalizing the loci of control, of authority, and of security.[42]

Retrieving a Sense of Rootedness. Individuation also involves retrieving our link with our forbears as well as with the wider heritage of our culture. We become aware of the “timelessness” of our psychic foundations and come to recognize that modern political movements, social trends, fads and fashions are (in Jung’s words) “fantastical nonsense,”[43] to which we need pay little heed. What matters is the “real man,”[44] with his two-million-year-old nature.

Loving the Mystery. Finally Jung asks us to appreciate the mystery of life,[45] to

recognize the reality and value of the mysteria tremenda—those experiences in life that are charged with numinosity, that take us out of ourselves and fill us with awe or trembling or a feeling of overwhelment. In the face of such experiences we feel small and acutely aware of our limits. The ego does not like being humbled. With 100+ years of scientism behind us, we must make an effort to refrain from trying to explain (or explain away) the mystery.

A Way into Mystery

Rather than explain away mysteries, Jung would have us reach out to those elements of our heritage that draw upon the power of mystery to nourish our inner life and soul. One of these elements has been a victim of our one-sided stress on logic, science and externals: the symbol. Jung lamented the fact that our time has little use for symbols and the “symbolic life.”[46] What the symbolic life means and why symbols are so valuable are the subjects of the next essay.


Harman, Willis (1988), Global Mind Change. Indianapolis: Knowledge Systems.

Jung, C.G. (1966), “Two Essays on Analytical Psychology,” CW 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1960), ”The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche,” CW 8. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1959), ”The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,” CW 9i. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1959), “Aion,” Collected Works, 9ii. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1970), “Civilization in Transition,” CW 10. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1969), “Psychology and Religion: West and East,” CW 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1953), “Psychology and Alchemy,” CW 12. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1967), “Alchemical Studies,” CW 13. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1954), “The Development of Personality,” CW 17. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1976), ”The Symbolic Life,” CW 18. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1970), Psychological Reflections, ed. Jolande Jacobi & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

McGaa, Ed (2004), Nature’s Way: Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth. San Francisco: Harper Collins.

Riesman, David, Nathan Glazer & Reuel Denney (1955), The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. Garden City NY: Doubleday & Co.

von Franz, Marie-Louise (1964), “The Process of Individuation,” Man and His Symbols, ed. Carl Jung. New York: Dell Publishing.

Wolters, Clifton trans. (1961), The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

n Submitted by Sue Mehrtens

[1] Jung, “Psychology and Religion,” Collected Works, 11, ¶79. As has been the convention in these blog essays, Collected Works will hereafter be abbreviated CW.

[2] CW 11, ¶498.

[3] CW 12, ¶13.

[4] CW 18, ¶1366.

[5] Jung (1970).

[6] Check out Steve’s Web site ( for a sense of the amazing breadth of his skills, interests, talents and careers.

[7] CW 8, ¶426.

[8] CW 8, ¶731.

[9] “The world is too much with us; late and soon/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:…” William Wordsworth, “The World Is Too Much With Us” (1806).

[10] CW 10, ¶659.

[11] CW 8, ¶426.

[12] Jung referred to the “inner world” (CW 7, ¶317, 325-327). The Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp has called this inner reality our “inner city” and he created a publishing house with this title that is devoted to publishing studies by Jungian analysts about Jung’s thought and its applications.

[13] CW 18, ¶1366.

[14] CW 11, ¶448.

[15] This is how Willis Harman defined science; Harman (1988), 101.

[16] “The Psyche is Real: Materialism, Scientism and Jung’s Empiricism,” posted to this blog site in September 2010.

[17] CW 12, ¶104.

[18] CW 18, ¶1367.

[19] CW 10, ¶701.

[20] CW 9i, ¶302

[21] CW 9i, ¶195.

[22] CW 9ii, ¶269.

[23] CW 8, ¶737.

[24] CW 8, ¶731.

[25] The concept of other-directedness is David Riesman’s; see Riesman, Glazer & Denney (1955), 34-38.

[26] CW 12, ¶104.

[27] CW 8, ¶737.

[28] CW 17, ¶146.

[29] CW 11, ¶448, and CW 18, ¶1366.

[30]Jung (1970), 264.

[31] CW 18, ¶1367.

[32] CW 10, ¶536, and CW 10, ¶719.

[33] CW 8, ¶426.

[34] CW 8, ¶731.

[35] CW 9ii, ¶269.

[36] CW 11, ¶79.

[37] This is the title of an anonymous 14th century essay by an English mystic; see Wolters (1960).

[38] In this regard native peoples have much to teach us, as they developed cultures that were aligned with and sensitive to the natural world; see McGaa (2004).

[39] CW 8, ¶737.

[40] CW 8, ¶731.

[41] This is my term for the source of my dreams. I got this idea when I read Marie-Louise von Franz’s essay “The Process of Individuation,” in which she speaks of the Naskapi Indians’ Mista’peo—“the friend”—that sends them dreams of guidance; see von Franz (1964), 162.

[42] For further definition and elaboration of individuation and its components, see the 4-part essay “Components of Individuation” on this blog site.

[43] CW 10, ¶701.

[44] Ibid.

[45] CW 13, ¶287.

[46] CW 9i, ¶28.