Friday, January 15, 2010

News Flash: Jung's Red Book

Thanks to Jill, a colleague from the Boston Institute, we have this event news on Jung's Red Book

Concerning: The Red Book

What: A global web seminar with Murray Stein from Zurich on the making of the Red Book

When: Available to home internet users the evening of January 22 (hopefully) and then for the next two weeks.

Registration Required: The live webcast takes place 1/22 from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST, but home computers cannot be hooked in for the live webcast.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Notes From The Editor

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

Happy New Year 2010!

It's hard to believe that the new decade has begun and what a wonder-filled beginning it's been too with lots of snow at a time when the weather's been so erratic and unseasonable - recall the couple days of rain right before Christmas....

At a recent holiday gathering, friends and I were chatting about the years gone by and what lies ahead, and I had the remembrance of being ten years old (so many years ago) and having trouble getting the year correct on my class assignments for quite a few months into the new year. My grade school teacher, Sister Purification, (yes, that was her religious name) would grimace when I handed in my homework and would scold me about being slow-witted. She'd take her bright red pencil and with a flourish cross out 1965 and boldly write in 1966 at the top of the page. From this perspective so many years later I'd speculate that this younger self didn't want to let go of the year just past. Not so today as I reflect upon the tumultuous events of the decade just past. The hope of tomorrow lies in today and the extent to which each one of us takes responsibility for our own work of wrestling with shadow, integrating our dark side, and living as consciously as possible on this fragile earth, our home.

We begin this new year edition of the e-journal - our 1st anniversary - appropriately enough with Part III of Sue Mehrtens' essay, Components of Individuation: Internalizing a Locus of Authority.

Next we offer Part II of an essay by the editor entitled Analytical Psychology, Science and Religion: Archetypal Field Theory and the Confluence of Psyche and Matter which focuses on Michael Conforti's contributions to the continuing development of analytical psychology with his work on archetypal fields. Both of these essays can be accessed in the Essays section.

In the News From.... section, you'll find information on a four-part seminar entitled Meeting the Archetypes sponsored by our friends across the border, The C.G. Jung Society of Montreal. This seminar begins in February and requires advance registration.

For event happenings closer to home, go to the This Month section where you'll find information on a talk sponsored by The Southern Vermont Friends of Jung mid-month in Brattleboro as well as a Jung Society of Vermont presentation being given later this month in Burlington. For the current JSVT Calendar of Events Winter-Spring 2010, go to the section Calendar of Events for Winter-Spring 2010. This information also can be found on the JSVT website under Calendar of Events at

JSVT has upgraded our website with a Join our email portal added to the home page accessed at If you'd like news of society happenings, event reminders, and notification of the monthly publication of the society e-journal Jung in Vermont, just sign up at this email portal - it'll take only a few minutes of your time and will keep you current with society notices via automatic emails. It's a clever device that not only keeps subscribers in the know, but also allows subscribers to forward society email notices to interested friends. Subscribers can discontinue service at any time, though we hope that once you sign up you'll stay as a subscriber. Most importantly, there is no fee for this service, a service that furthers the society's mission of educating the public about C.G. Jung's life and work as well as the work of Jungians who have continued his explorations into the world of psyche.

JSVT is a non-profit, volunteer run organization. Our events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. Please consider supporting us through your membership - annual membership fees are low (individual $25; family $40; student $15; and 75+ free). For those who cannot afford the suggested membership fee, we accept what you can afford. Membership support helps pay for our web presence and for future programming such as bringing in outside speakers. Membership support is also crucial to our plans for converting our tape library, a valuable archive of lectures by prominent Jungian analyists, now deceased, to digital format accessed via the internet. One of the current perks of membership, besides supporting a great home-grown organization, is the potential of having your Jungian and Jungian-related work published in the e-journal. So why wait? For more information about The Jung Society of Vermont, membership information and a downloadable membership form, visit the society website at . If you'd like to speak with the Membership Coordinator, Luanne Sberna, she can be reached at (802) 863-9775 ext. 2 or at

Wishing you a Joyous New Year and With Best Regards,

Stephanie Buck, Editor or (802) 860-4921
THE E-JOURNAL: Jung in Vermont

Essays- Components of Individuation - Part III

Components of Individuation:

Part III—Internalizing a Locus of Authority

A few years ago my sister took to wearing a button on her shirt as she went through her days on the University of Vermont campus. The button said “Question Authority.” She didn’t wear the button for long, because she found people’s reaction to the button so dispiriting: Most people would see it, read it and then say, “What should I ask you?”

This sad story illustrates a fact about our culture: We are not encouraged to internalize a locus of authority. We grow up looking to our parents, our teachers, the clergy, the police, political leaders, doctors, lawyers, judges and others as authority figures, and we are taught to honor these authorities.[1] Jung would not be pleased. While he was no revolutionary, he never encouraged people to give over ultimate authority for their lives to any external figure. He felt that doing so was essentially an alienation of the self, a sign of spiritual immaturity[2] and an abdication of the personal task to search for the truth.

Not even analysts did Jung exempt on this point. Early in his essay “Principles of Practical Psychotherapy,” Jung admonished analysts:

When, as a psychotherapist, I set myself up as a medical authority over my patient and on that account claim to know something about his individuality, or to be able to make valid statements about it, I am only demonstrating my lack of criticism, for I am in no position to judge the whole of the personality before me.... If I wish to treat another individual psychologically at all, I must for better or worse give up all pretensions to superior knowledge, all authority and desire to influence.[3]

My analyst describes the relationship of Jungian analyst to client as one where both parties are “in the soup together.” That is, both analyst and analysand are affected by the process and both must defer to the wisdom of the psyche.

Jung reserves some of his most sarcastic comments for those who externalize their locus of authority by becoming disciples of a guru. When discussing negative attempts to free the individuality in “The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious,” Jung wrote:

... the joy of becoming a prophet’s disciple... for the vast majority of people, is an altogether ideal technique. Its advantages are: the odium dignitatis, the superhuman responsibility of the prophet, turns into the so much sweeter otium indignitatis. The disciple is unworthy; modestly he sits at the Master’s feet and guards against having ideas of his own. Mental laziness becomes a virtue; one can at least bask in the sun of a semidivine being. He can enjoy the archaism and infantilism of his unconscious fantasies without loss to himself, for all responsibility is laid at the Master’s door. Through his deification of the Master, the disciple, apparently without noticing it, waxes in stature; moreover, does he not possess the great truth—not his own discovery, of course, but received straight from the Master’s hands? Naturally the disciples always stick together, not out of love, but for the very understandable purpose of effortlessly confirming their own convictions by engendering an air of collective agreement.[4]

The result? Both master and disciples get inflated[5] (since both are identifying with an archetype). The disciple looses his/her spiritual freedom. His individuality is injured.[6] Life for both prophet and disciple is “full of sorrows, disappointments and privations,...”[7] Put on a pedestal by his followers, the master/prophet teeters precariously and almost inevitably eventually succumbs to the moral evils of power, lust and/or greed.[8] The disciple is infantilized and sorely disillusioned when his guru turns out to have feet of clay.

At the Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences, we got a first-hand look at this whole process this past Spring and Summer 2009, when one of our students got involved with the work of Dr. Zhi Gang Sha. Interested in his system of soul healing, she went to several of his workshops, came back and urged us to look into Sha’s work, because Sha is quite explicit in his belief that the soul is real, powerful and should be the “boss” of one’s life.[9]

Aware of Jung’s conviction that the psyche (soul) is real, we jumped at the chance to investigate the work of someone else (from a very different, Oriental, not Western background)[10] who recognizes the reality of the soul. So we offered to the public two workshops led by two students of Master Sha.[11] In these workshops it was clear that they had tremendous respect for their master, even to the point of venerating his books (which were not to be put on the floor). Some of us began to be skeptical—what one student called “spotting a red flag.”

Then we were told that the Master could remove karma from past lives, as long as you bought $1,000 worth of his books. Another red flag.

Then came the pitch to attend the Master’s enlightenment retreat, at which one’s level of “soul standing” would be raised—for the cost of attendance, of course. Another red flag.

Finally, a group of us went to a workshop led by the Master himself.[12] We saw people seeking to kiss his feet, to kiss the ground he walked on, to prostrate themselves, to wait on him hand and foot. More red flags.

But it was when Master Sha announced to the group that he had elevated Jesus, Mary and Buddha to a higher level of Heaven that we had incontrovertible proof of the inflation that Jung describes as one of the features of the guru syndrome.[13] Jung would have none of this. We left the workshop on the spot.

The Positive Authority Figure

Jung had no good words for those who set themselves up as authority figures and then take their followers’ authority from them. But he was not completely opposed to gurus: they just had to be inner gurus.[14] The medieval alchemists (especially Paracelsus) were Jung’s models here. The alchemical literature is full of references to “the stone,” “Christ,” “Khidri”[15]—all symbols of the inner authority that develops over the course of the alchemical opus. Paracelsus was particularly adept at attacking the old authorities—Galen, Avicenna, Rhazes and others—and putting in their place the authenticity of his own personal experience of nature.[16] Over the course of his experimentation Paracelsus developed an inner guru that he knew he could trust.

Jung did likewise in creating his body of psychological wisdom. He tried something and if it worked and helped his patients, it became part of his system, regardless of how the “authorities” in medicine, psychiatry, or psychology regarded it. Hence Jung’s open-mindedness about things like astrology and the I Ching. He worked with these ancient systems,[17] saw first-hand how useful they can be, and so incorporated them into his armamentarium of techniques.

The positive authority figure lies within. This inner energy often shows up in our dreams of an Old Wise Man or Woman.[18] Sometimes it can be the spirit of a long-dead figure, like the 8th-9th c. Hindu saint Shankaracharya.[19] When your inner wisdom figure shows up you’ll know it, because, like all archetypes, this figure carries numinosity.

Internalizing this inner guru, Jung felt, is part of the process of becoming an adult. It takes effort and time to do so and Jung was aware that it is not something most people would have the maturity to do:

... mankind is, in essentials, psychologically still in a state of childhood—a stage that cannot be skipped. The vast majority needs authority, guidance, law. This fact cannot be overlooked. The Pauline overcoming of the law falls only to the man who knows how to put his soul in the place of conscience. Very few are capable of this (“Many are called, but few are chosen”). And these few tread this path only from inner necessity, not to say suffering, for it is sharp as the edge of a razor.[20]

“Inner necessity” drives the mature person into this work, despite the suffering that is an inevitable part of it. Balancing the suffering are a wealth of benefits.

Benefits of Internalizing a Locus of Authority

Unlike disciples always looking to the master for direction, persons who “authorize their own lives”[21] are able to make their own decisions. Jung regards those who externalize their locus of authority as “spectators” at their own lives,[22] while those who live guided by an inner authority are active agents in the creation of reality.

A second benefit to authorizing one’s own life is that your guru is always present: you don’t have to go consult somebody else when you have to make a decision. No one else is running your life; no outside “other” is determining your fate. You have the opportunity (and the obligation) to decide for yourself.[23]

Most importantly, internalizing a locus of authority benefits our self-esteem.[24] We aren’t giving over the direction of our lives to someone else. We recognize our adult status and act like adults in the knowledge and awareness that we have an ever-present inner guidance system that we can trust.

Such an inner presence is of inestimable value in helping us feel safe in the world. This brings us to the final component of individuation: internalizing a locus of security, which is the subject of Part IV of this essay.


________ (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.

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

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

________ (1954), “The Practice of Psychotherapy,” CW 16. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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

Keen, Sam (1992), “Dying Gods and Borning Spirits,” Noetic Sciences Review.

Sha, Zhi Gang (2006), Soul Mind Body Medicine. Novato CA: New World Library.

________ (2008a), Soul Communication. New York: Atria Books.

________ (2008b), Soul Wisdom. New York: Atria Books.

________ (2009), The Power of Soul. New York: Atria Books.

- Submitted by Sue Mehrtens

[1] Jung, Collected Works 16, ¶227 and CW 7, ¶99. As has been the convention throughout these blog essays, CW will hereafter be the abbreviation for Jung’s Collected Works.

[2] CW 16, ¶227.

[3] CW 16, ¶2.

[4] CW 7, ¶263-264.

[5] CW 7, ¶264.

[6] Ibid.

[7] CW 7, ¶265.

[8] CW 18, ¶1398.

[9] Cf. Sha (2006), xv; Sha (2008a), 136; Sha (2008b), 5,74; and Sha (2009), xxxv,4,9.

[10] Dr. Sha is Chinese, trained in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine.

[11] In April and June 2009.

[12] At Omega Institute, July 19-24, 2009.

[13] This was revealed to us in Dr. Sha’s lecture on Thursday, July 23, 2009.

[14] CW 9i, ¶238.

[15] Ibid.

[16] CW 13, ¶149-150.

[17] He describes his experiences in this regard in CW 8, ¶872-915; and CW 11, ¶964-1018.

[18] CW 9i, ¶398 and note 11.

[19] Ibid.

[20] CW 7, ¶401.

[21] This phrase I took from Sam Keen (1992).

[22] CW 9ii, ¶48.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

Essays - Analytical Psychology, Science and Religion - Part II

Part II:

Analytical Psychology, Science and Religion:

Archetypal Field Theory and the Confluence of Psyche and Matter

This essay reviews the literature on cross-disciplinary influences on the genesis and development of Jung’s psychology, with particular emphasis on current researches by the Assisi Conferences into archetypal fields and field-directed phenomena. This multidisciplinary investigation into the dynamics of psychic-physical phenomena builds upon and expands Jung’s initial investigations into the interconnectedness of psyche and matter.

The methodology of archetypal field theory, focused as it is on pattern recognition, has great utility in the psychotherapeutic situation. Conforti (1999) has laid out a blueprint, if you will, for working with the patient’s psychic material based on research into the new sciences as they relate to the psycho-physical reality of psyche. Conforti builds upon Jung’s original conception of the archetype as an autonomous ordering principle underlying and supporting all phenomena; it is out of this larger and pre-existent archetypal field, which is itself not accessible to direct experience, that individual form emerges. Conforti (1999) extends Jung’s theory of archetypes by suggesting that individuals are embedded in specific archetypal fields, which become represented by and embodied in matter over time. What is manifested is highly consistent behavior structured by an archetypal pattern. The behavior is field-specific, with responses that are field-generated. In other words, we can infer the archetypal field (field meaning the energetic component of the archetype) through its effect on matter, i.e., the strength of its manifestation in behavior.

When applied to the psychotherapy relationship, archetypal field theory is used to understand the field that influences the therapy situation and effects the course of treatment. There are at least eight. They are as follows: 1) the morphogenic field out of which form emerges; 2) the archetypal field in which the patient is embedded; 3) that of the therapist; 4) the archetypal configuration of the therapist-patient coupling; 5) the therapy situation; 6) the field of the collective or larger world outside of therapy; 7) the field of the collective unconscious, and 8) the Self-field which envelops all of these.

An understanding of these interacting archetypal fields and their influence on the treatment process enlarges and deepens the therapy process by explicitly including the dimension of archetypal interactional dynamics operating in different spheres simultaneously. The archetypal configuration of the therapist-patient coupling is of particular importance, since the individual archetypally-charged psychic processes of each interact to a specific purpose that is manifested in the dyadic relationship. Within the stable environment of the bounded container of the therapy (Jung’s vas bene clausum or well-sealed vessel mentioned earlier) the therapist reads the pattern of the patient’s field - his or her manifest behaviors and latent communications - as well as the alignment of the patient to the archetype. All the information impacting the therapy field - the archetypal field of the patient; the archetypal field in which the therapist is situated; the coupling of these two archetypally energized fields; the field of the therapy itself, which is a manifestation of the archetype of Self; the archetype of the collective field, and lastly the autonomous and universal field of the objective unconscious - is sought. All of this must be taken into account, for it is the network of information that provides the material for an accurate interpretation of the patient’s drama. Because behavior is by its nature highly consistent, the patient’s archetypal pattern can be inferred from the life story or theme around which his or her behaviors cluster. In this way, archetypal patterning is analogous (up to a point) to the medical-model classification system, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - IV which organizes mental disorders based on the clustering of characteristics. Firmly based in the synthetic approach of analytical psychology, it is an integrative approach, not a causal one as has been discussed earlier in this document.

A central aspect of archetypal field theory is the evaluation of the correspondence between the archetypal dominant (essence) influencing the patient and his or her complexed associations to it. The interpretation, however, must be grounded in the reality of the objective unconscious, for this is the guiding psychic realm of “absolute knowledge.” When the therapist interprets presenting material in this manner, the interpretation becomes an “exquisite attunement” of the unconscious psyche with consciousness (Kaufmann, 1999), and represents the “just-so” message of psyche (Jung, 1968, p. 17). A dream motif will illustrate this point. A patient presents a dream image of sailing alone on the ocean. The archetypal dominant of sailing is individuation, potentially a positive image in therapy. However, before the therapist can confidently make this interpretation, he or she must seek the patient’s associations to this image. If the patient makes associations to this universal image of voyage across the ocean of psyche other than what is expressed by this symbol of movement toward Self, or if the mandates of this dream image are not fulfilled in reality (can the patient in fact sail, and is he or she confident on the water?) then, rather than being an affirmation of his or her present psychic situation, the dream image becomes a diagnostic and prognostic warning sign, indicating not only the archetypal field in which the patient is embedded, but his or her alignment to the archetype as well. The dream image also represents in hidden form the archetypal influence of the other fields, such as the therapist’s own psychic condition and its influence on both the patient and the work of the therapy, as well as the influence of the outer collective field.

The therapist’s ability to observe, understand, and interpret phenomena in the field - including the primary archetype around which the therapist and patient are coupled - is dependent on skill and training as well as a secure and stable frame; when all the conditions of therapy are met and managed, the archetypal configuration of the patient-therapist dyad is able to emerge and take identifiable shape. A secure frame of static ground rules and set limits provides the therapist with the necessary context for accurately identifying the dynamic interplay occurring between himself or herself and the patient. When the therapist is unable to hold the patient appropriately in this therapeutic container, manifested by the therapist’s deviations from the conditions of therapy, the frame remains open, thereby contaminating the therapist’s reading of the field as well as making the therapy situation unsafe for the unfolding of the patient’s intrapsychic material.

Within the interactional field of the therapist-patient dyad, that which has not been metabolized by each is manifested in the therapy, and the past is replicated in the present now of the relationship. Jung’s understanding of archetypes as the organizers of psychic energy which reveal themselves in ideas, affects, images, and behavior explains this highly specific phenomenon of the encapsulation of experience and time within the therapy situation. The therapist’s responsibility is to identify, understand, and interpret that which is being enacted. Fortunately, the therapist is not alone in this work. The psyche is a self-regulating system that is purposeful and directed toward increasing consciousness and individuation, a lifelong process of growth towards Self.

With his evolving theory of archetypal fields, Conforti advances Jung’s theory of archetypes in at least one striking way: archetypal field theory is a theory about archetypal interaction and archetypal influence. This means that boundaries between individuals, all the things that separate us from each other, are really only intangible barriers when it comes to the archetypal underpinnings, or patterns of acausal orderedness, that support our lives. What this means is that we can no longer think in terms of human behavior as being shaped in the end only by the individual but, rather, must take seriously the reality of archetypal interactive dynamics and influences.

Jung (1969b) was especially concerned with archetypal influence on the collective psyche and believed that psychic disturbances were far more dangerous than physical conditions. To understand the phenomena of mass archetypal possession today, we need only turn on the television news or read the newspaper for stories of political demonstrations morphing into mob violence, and of deadly actions such as the recent anthrax mailings being followed by innumerable hoaxes. What these incidents show is that it takes only one person under the possession of an archetype or in the grip of an autonomous complex to infect others, just as cancer destroys neighboring cells and virus spreads its contagion from one person to another (Jung, 1969b).

We lessen our chance of becoming infected by archetypal possession or gripped by an autonomous complex when we become more conscious of ourselves and our actions, or as Mindell (1971) puts it, through “the realization of our role in the larger drama taking place” (p. 129). Just as the initial ripple of a pebble tossed into a pond will replicate itself in ever-widening waves until finally integrated into the pattern of the larger body of water, our every thought, feeling, and behavior has an impact. In this way, who we are at the most fundamental level effects not only ourselves, but also the world as a whole. Jung expressed this wholistic truth when he replied to a query concerning how one could make things better in a dangerous world situation, when he stated “help yourself and you help the world” (cited, McLynn, 1996, p. 528). Jung knew that each person must take back his or her disowned projections and deal with them, rejecting the security that comes from disowning one’s own psychic contents and displacing them onto another. One must reassess this habitual behavior of displacement, and move consciously across the threshold of consciousness into the unfamiliar ground of full responsibility for working with one’s psychic contents (Hollis, 1995).

One way to understand the shift in consciousness that is required is to think of it in terms of the “degree of independence” between two things. Bohm (1988) explains it this way:

The boundaries of any two things can only be established where there is a loose connection. When the ego is identified with another system it loses objectivity and independence. The observer is not sufficiently independent from the observed so they are one rather than two systems. When this occurs and they are treated as one rather than two, there is confusion…which is the ordinary state of consciousness.

This is the paradox of unitary reality. Although all is one at the most fundamental level, the development of ever-greater consciousness demands the differentiation of consciousness from the unconscious, a process of growth which Jung called individuation. There is thus a moral dimension to making conscious that which was formerly unconscious and living life responsibly based on what is now known. We live our destiny when we do so; when we do not, we live our fate (Conforti, personal communication).

Conforti’s application of new science to the study of psychology takes up where Jung, and later Neumann (1989) and von Franz (1988), left off in the attempt to explain psyche using the discoveries of new physics as analogies for psychic phenomena. New physics’ theories about the dynamic processes at work in the subatomic realm, as well as other ideas about biophysics and replicative systems, form a unified whole (Marshall, & Zohar, 1997) and serve as correlates for archetypally-generated processes within the therapeutic relationship and beyond (Conforti, 1999; Mindell, 1971). We know that the “royal road to the unconscious” can be traveled not only by way of the dream or the complex, as Freud and Jung believed respectively, but also by way of matter. In other words, matter, at the subatomic level of elementary particles and the even more basic level of fields, has in common with psychic phenomena (archetypes and synchronistic events) similar “irrepresentable” features. Thus new science’s evolving understanding of matter sheds light on the study of consciousness and the still dark world of the objective psyche and its contents, the archetypes. All is connected. Within a unitary reality, psyche and matter are complementary aspects of the same fundamental wholeness and must be studied together to achieve a deeper understanding of consciousness and of psyche as a totality (Jung, 1969c; Peat, 1998).

Archetypal field theory, like all theories, is a metaphysic, a postulate of something which can never be actually known in its fullness, in this case the archetypes of the objective psyche, but which exists nonetheless as psychic reality because we can experience their influence and observe their configuration in matter. Nowhere is archetypal influence and its underlying pattern more evident than within the contained space of psychotherapy. Within the controlled psychotherapeutic relationship, the pattern of the stable morphology of the patient’s (and therapist’s) archetypal field can be discerned in the interactional field of the dyadic coupling “whose properties and dynamics stands as a recapitulation and new edition of this personal and archetypal constellation” (Conforti, 1999, p. 62). Conforti (1999) continues:

…the psyche tends to draw and entrain both the client and therapist into a synchronized pattern where their behavior reveals the nature of the activated archetype…one can read the field in reverse…the details of the relationship provide a picture of the constellated archetype…the stabilization of form within these archetypal configurations, and the fidelity with which the client-therapist dyad reenacts the tenets of both the personal past and the archetypal field within which each are embedded (p. 63).

The goal of therapy is to make conscious the patient’s unconscious processes. The therapist does this by reading the pattern of the patient’s constellated archetype, and then, through the interpretation, breaking the patient’s repetitive pattern by shifting the alignment to the dominant archetype in which he or she is embedded (Conforti, 1999). This pattern recognition and subsequent interpretation of the patient’s dream material and derivative communications demand a high degree of specificity akin to a “lock-and-key” fit; in order to change the archetypal alignment, the therapist must first “find the archetype from which the behavior originates” (Conforti, 2001). However, although the archetype shows the way to healing, the patient’s fate rests squarely in his or her hands, not the therapist’s (Jung, 1965). The therapist is responsible for bringing the patient to the bifurcation point, the threshold of change where a new perspective is made possible through the strength of the interpretation (perturbation) which gives meaning to the patient’s formerly “meaningless” behavior (Conforti, 2001). Always it is the patient alone who must make the crossing to change and transformation. The therapist is only the patient’s guide to the oftentimes long and torturous passage (Jung, 1968), not the worker of magic with special concoctions and elixirs to a quick fix (Conforti, 2001; Jung, 1954).

In this way, therapy as the threshold to transformation and growth is the patient’s entryway to communion with Self and active conscious participation in his or her healing process. The axis of every turning point in therapy rests on a threshold, the place of change where the patient is presented with a choice between continuing within the safety of the familiar or risking the discomfort of following the path that psyche presents. As the place of opportunity, threshold is the place where the potential for change occurs, and where the therapist’s well-tuned intervention enables the patient to step across his or her limiting behavior and over to a change in attitude. Threshold is thus a choice point where the reconciliation of unconscious behavior with conscious reflection is made possible. Threshold is the liminal point of therapy, the transitional moment of change and transformation when the patient is presented with the therapist’s meaning-making interpretation.

The symbol of “threshold” represents the metaphorical line that separates the conscious mind from the unconscious. The conscious mind, which Singer (1990) refers to as the “visible world,” is a finite and limited sphere. The unconscious mind or “invisible world,” on the other hand, is an infinite and unbounded realm. It is a “secret world” wherein “the darker powers… lie hidden in the deepest inner recesses of psyche beyond the range of discrimination and judgement” (Singer, 1990, xx). When we risk stepping over the threshold from what is known into the unknown, we push back ever further the limitless boundaries of the invisible world before us (Singer, 1997). In so doing, we widen our consciousness, and are changed in the process.

“Everything that is interesting in nature happens at the boundaries: the surface of the earth, the membrane of a cell, the moment of catastrophe, the start and finish of a life” (Humphrey, 1992, p. 23). And at every boundary is a threshold where the potential for change exists, a place of becoming, where the order and regularity of life is disrupted (Marshall & Zohar, 1997) so that something new can unfold and come into being. The threshold will be different for each organism and every system, but in both cases, it is the point of opportunity.


Bohm, D. (Speaker). (1988). Parts of a whole (Cassette Recording). Boulder, CO: New Dimensions Foundation.

Conforti, M. (1999). Field, form and fate. Woodstock, CT: Spring.

Conforti, M. (2001, April). Form, field, and fate: Patterns in mind, psyche and nature. Clinical presentation given at The Assisi Conference, Archetypes, Patterns, and Destiny: The Unfolding of Ordering Processes in the Psyche, Woodstock, VT

Hollis, J. (1995). Tracking the gods: The place of myth in modern life. Toronto: Inner City.

Humphrey, N. (1992). A history of the mind: Evolution and the birth of consciousness. New York: HarperCollins.

Kaufmann, Y. (1999, April). The way of the image: Further exploration of the orientational approach to imagery. Clinical presentation given at The Assisi Conference, The Confluence of Matter and Spirit: Archetypal Patterns in Psyche and Nature, Woodstock, VT.

Jung, C.G. (1954). The development of personality. In (R.F.C. Hull, Trans.) Collected works (Vol. 17, pp. 165-186). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C.G. (1965). Memories, dreams, reflections (A. Jaffe, Ed.; R. & C. Winston, Trans.). New York: Vintage.

Jung, C.G. (1968). Psychology and Alchemy. In (RFC Hull, Trans.), Collected works (Vol. 12). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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- Submitted by Stephanie Buck