Maritha on Counseling: Jung
Maritha Pottenger and Tony Joseph
This issue’s column is dedicated to another psychological giant: Carl Gustav Jung. Because I am not personally very qualified to speak about Jung, I am tremendously pleased to have a guest columnist who is!
Tony Joseph is a nationally known astrologer and psychological counselor in private practice in San Francisco. He has a master’s degree in psychology from Sonoma State College where he designed a program integrating astrology with mythology, Jungian psychology, and counseling. He has worked in psychiatric clinical settings for over ten years and is currently working with a number of physicians and health practitioners in Marin County. He is Executive Director of the National Council for Geocosmic Research and has just published the Introduction to the Chiron Ephemeris.
He is also coordinating the N.C.G.R. Conference “Astrology and the Healing Arts” (October 4-8, 1979) in San Francisco which will draw doctors, psychologists, healers and many others besides astrologers from across the U.S. It should be the best conference of this kind ever and I urge those who can to join us. For information, write: National Council for Geocosmic Research, Inc.; P.O. Box 14338; San Francisco, CA 94114 (415 821-1253).
A Landscape of Jung’s Thought
Born in Kesswil, Switzerland, on July 26, 1875, Carl Jung was a visionary of the greatest magnitude. At the same time, he had an extraordinary comprehension of the past. His analytical powers provided him with a deep sense of the structure of the universe, particularly with respect to human psychology. This understanding of the complexities inherent in the essential nature of life and being motivated him to create an interdisciplinary bridge between psychology, philosophy, medicine, religion, anthropology, and the classics. His contributions were many. Jung’s examination of life from the symbolic perspective and his insistence on the human need for discovering meaning in the world further establish him as a pivotal figure in the evolution of consciousness. Yet, though he was recognized as perhaps the leading authority in his various fields during much of his lifetime, he chose to live a life of reverence preferring to see his conclusions as provisional. It is no wonder that the issues which were of burning value to Jung nearly three quarters of a century ago are only now becoming the concerns of great numbers of people. Jung disclosed the value of psychological analysis and psychotherapy not only for when we are emotionally disturbed or maladjusted, but also as a way to assist us along our paths of self-discovery.
The fundamental exploration of Self Jung called “individuation.” It is a lifelong quest for uncovering what is experienced at deeper levels, both personally and collectively. For it is known that portions of one’s true nature often lie dormant within an area the heroic ego cannot always successfully penetrate in the unconscious, or in mythic terms, in the Underworld. From his voluminous letters and early writings, it is clear the debt of gratitude Jung paid Freud for the elder’s recognition of the unconscious. Jung went further, however, in outlining the dimensions of the human psyche. For Jung, Oedipus and the Great Mother were not the only complexes. Jung’s refusal to reduce all human libido to sexuality and primal instincts, such as the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, enabled him to grasp the essentially multiple and polyvalent nature of consciousness. This philosophy inevitably led Jung to attack the one-dimensional, rational view held by his teacher, Freud, and other materialistic thinkers of their day.
Jung personified the various components of the psyche which he saw, much as did the pre-Socratics, as expressions of soul—the Persona, the Hero, the Shadow, the Anima, and others. Each emerges as an energy of its own, particularly when a person is unaware of its existence within the personality. While such forces may remain at a level which apparently have little effect for a period of time, a failure to integrate the unacceptable parts of the psyche often results in an eruption of the force into the conscious realm disrupting the normal functioning of the individual. Jung continually reminded us to be wary of the universal tendency to project these unwanted or unaware portions of our psyche onto others—partners, family, organizations, and nations. In forging the tenets of analytical psychology, a distinctly broader field of inquiry than that of Freudian psychoanalysis, Jung’s thinking and intuitive speculation ranged far and wide.
To identify and eventually own our psychic projections through the individuation process was the goal for Jung. It was precisely his analytical yet freely thinking mind that enabled Jung to propose various approaches to the problem of the complexes as expressed in the neurotic and psychotic personalities. Ranging from his Word Association test and his experiments into the occult in his early career, to his investigations of the personal and collective unconscious through ancient and modern myths, Jung sought ways to facilitate what he called, “the education to personality,” in other words the integration of the Self. Jung’s mercurial mind prevented him from attaching himself too strongly to a heroic, ego position, even though he had a strong ego. While the Ego complex itself was for Jung the central organizing principle of the psyche, and therefore the strongest, he was aware of its susceptibility to being “constantly interrupted by ideas with strong feeling-tones, or affects.” In Volume 3 of his Collected Works, the Psychogenesis of Mental Disease, Jung continues, “A situation of danger pushes aside the tranquil play of ideas and puts in their place a complex of other ideas with a very strong feeling-tone. The new complex then crowds everything else into the background.”
Jung’s attraction to anthropology, religion, and the natural sciences led him to the discovery of the great importance of myths as the structure upon which culture establishes itself. As H. A. Murray states, “... for, just as in the visible world of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, so also in the visionary world of the gods, there has been a history, an evolution, a series of mutations, governed by laws.... The myths of our several cultures work upon us whether consciously or unconsciously, as energy releasing, life-motivating, and directing agents.” (Myth and Mythmaking, 1960) Mythic thinking is a psychic process which transcends ordinary temporal-spatial relationships and events. It is a process by which images and familiar representations of life situations are recurrent across cultures in traditional tales, myths, legends, and religious allegories of the gods. They cross all boundaries within which growth of one’s personality progresses.
The rediscovery of myths along with his investigations of disturbances in word associations led Jung to postulate a reality of the psyche, which has as its building blocks the “archetypes of the collective unconscious.” Jung says, “I have chosen the term ‘collective’ because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals.” (CW: Volume 9. No. 1; para. 3)
The implications raised by Jung in his understanding of the psyche are provocative, in the very least, for they suggest that we are not nearly as much in conscious control of our lives as we believe we are.
The drama of human life is envisioned as a working out of transpersonal forces which we can never fully grasp. Here, Jung carries psychology back to the borders of religion and mysticism, territory that modern ego psychologists and behavioralists refuse to enter. Freud, in particular, failed to acknowledge such a broad understanding of the human psyche. In 1910, Freud urged his associate Jung, “Never give up the sexual theory!” A dogma was to be established by Freud’s insistence that his theory of psychosexual development was the supreme component of analytical psychology. In Freud’s own words, “...we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark.” In astonishment, Jung asked his respected mentor, “A bulwark against what?!” Freud retorted, “Against the black tide of mud of occultism!” (Joseph Campbell, The Portable Jung, 1971) Based on this and other differences in attitude and philosophy, Jung broke away from Freud’s monotheistic, patriarchal thinking, and their relationship was severed.
The necessary rift between the two giants of psychological thought was essentially one of a distinction between literal and symbolic language. In his monumental and fascinating work, The Symbols of Transformation (1911), Jung points out the importance of promoting symbolic thinking. Symbolic language uses words or phrases literally describing one kind of object or idea in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them. (Webster’s, 1963) The literal word or phrase becomes a symbol when a particular object or idea takes on a meaningful association, one that may operate simultaneously on multiple levels. So, the symbol serves as a container for carrying a great number of associations any one of which may be brought into play under varying life conditions. But Jung reminds us that symbols, therefore, have meanings that are a function of the perceiver and the particular situation in which someone is perceiving. It seems that Jung, in advancing the diversity and variability of the psyche, is postulating a kind of “psychological relativity.” Jung did for psychology what Einstein did for physics with the Theory of Relativity, and later, Heisenberg with his Principle of Indeterminacy.
Furthermore, symbols are not only useful but necessary as a way of integrating the non-rational (or irrational) contents of both the inner world of the psyche and the tangible, objective world. Symbols, Jung claimed, were to be seen as transformers of psychic energy, and while we may view typical patterns of human experience in these symbols, time, place and intentionality are variable ingredients which alter the power and effect of a particular symbol. Jung appeared to be aware of the difficulty that many have with the essentially paradoxical nature of being and strove to work with symbols that could convey this experience.
Jung felt compelled to address the nature of reality in a way that would allow him to reconcile this psychological relativity in which no absolute certainty exists with the generally held principle of causality. In what many consider to be one of his greatest contributions to modern thought, Jung’s theory of synchronicity proposed that connected and regularly occurring events are not entirely explained by cause and effect thinking. He explicitly states “if the connection between cause and effect turns out to be only statistically valid and only relatively true, then the causal principle is only of relative use for explaining natural processes and therefore presupposes the existence of one or more other factors which would be necessary for an explanation.” (CW: Volume 8, Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche; para. 819) Two events which seem to have no logical connection often appear to be integrated. This integration is what we have all felt at some time and to some degree—what we commonly call ‘coincidence’ or ‘chance’. However, such labels actually tell us very little about phenomena. In fact, it tells us the most characteristic feature is their infrequency and apparent meaninglessness.
It was largely through Jung’s observations of synchronistic phenomena, which disclose themselves through symbols and myths, that he was able to gain an even clearer perception of the structure of the psyche. Jung’s writings are gathered in twenty volumes of scholarly works. And while his works often make difficult reading because of the highly theoretical framework within which they appear, they originate from personal observations arising from his therapeutic work with individuals from all walks of life. But his work as a physician with his patients was only the starting point for his greater contributions to human psychology by expanding his scope to include the cultural and mytho-historical perspective. Throughout this early period of Jung’s career, which entailed his psychoanalytic training at the Burgholzli Clinic, he deepened his quest for recovering the ancient forms of knowledge which he felt sprang from the same roots as did his observations of the modern psyche. His investigations included mythology, parapsychology, astrology, and Gnosticism. Yet Jung remained intensely committed to the analytical exploration of psychological processes.
No doubt Jung’s involvement in bridging the past with a modern description of personality and temperament led him to formulate the two principle attitude types, introversion/extraversion. While a polarity is set up, the slash denotes the essential dialogue between the two: one attitude becomes the primary way a person orients himself, and this is done, according to Jung, on the conscious level, while the remaining attitude is subordinate and manifest at the unconscious levels. This continuum of attitudes does not simply reflect whether a person is primarily active or passive, a major misconception of Jung’s thinking on the matter of psychological types. The extravertive type pertains to the active principle only in so far as a person is oriented toward the external, objective world. Active here has more the connotation of outer-directed, while passive pertains more to inner-directed. The introvertive type is oriented toward the internal, subjective world.
With the publication of Jung’s Psychological Types, we arrive at another integrating level of his thinking for, despite its limitations, Jung’s theory of personality and temperament types once again creates a synthesis of ancient and modern thought. It is an achievement Jung later parallels with his studies of alchemy, bridging ancient Gnosticism with Christianity. Observations once again from his patient’s dreams and emotional distress permitted him to see empirically four fairly distinct modes of experiencing: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition, which in turn, were processed primarily through the introvertive or extravertive attitude type.
From classical antiquity Hippocrates and Galen are credited with establishing probably the first descriptions of temperament types. Although Hippocrates derived his typology of temperaments from the physical constitution in an attempt to show the origins of personality in biological heredity, Galen, his principle student, describes the four temperaments behaviorally in what appears to be the origins of academic psychology. These in turn are derived from Empedocles’ Theory of the Four Elements, a theory common ground to both psychology and astrology. They are: the “choleric” (fire); “phlegmatic” (earth); “sanguine” (air); and the “melancholic” (water). While this ancient typology was incorporated in more recent times by Rostan (1824), Viola (1909), Kretschmer (1921), and Sheldon (1940-42) in developing their theories of biological constitution, Kant, Wundt, and Jung’s personality typings were directed more toward describing the temperament types primarily from the psychological perspective. Jung always remained the psychologist. Yet, while Jung turned to Nature for his empirical observations, he always maintained that reality and the physical world are but manifestations of the basic building blocks of the psyche and consciousness, what he called the “archetypes”. The complexes were at the center of the archetypes and the archetypal forms gave rise to the myths, the stories of personal and cultural biography.
If one reads Jung carefully, it can be seen that he was aware that while one type or another might dominate the field of consciousness all four modes are to be found in everyone. It is also important to know that Jung held that these functions of consciousness were set up as pairs of opposites. When one end of the pair of opposites dominates, the unstable condition results in drawing its opposite type or complex to it. Again we are brought to Jung’s formulation of individuation which proceeds to the education to personality by a joining of the opposites.
The search for wisdom and truth have historically taken divergent paths. For many it has been a search for spiritual perfection; for others it has been a journey into the realms of Nature and the soul, Jung’s explorations into alchemy served once again to provide a synthesis of these two paths. In his Commentary to The Secret of the Golden Flower, Jung states that “grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed a bridge on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious.”
Alchemy enabled Jung to address the issue of the psyche’s multiplicity and its natural tendency to reveal itself in polarities. For the alchemist, as for the psychologist, the “opus” was not to turn base lead into gold, but rather, through a complex series of natural processes to reach a state in which the mysterium conjunctionis, in Jung’s classic terms, could take place. Modern depth psychology might speak of reconciling and integrating even the most incompatible parts of a person’s personality. In his Game of Wizards Charles Ponce likens the alchemical processes to the introspective disciplines of the East such as Yoga, and I might add as Taoism and Zen Buddhism, in which a harmony or balance of opposing forces is a central goal. Jung was keenly aware that alchemy, like various other symbolic systems in the West, provided the pre-modern person with a form of introspection and self-analysis, a way of “knowing the self”, much as meditation provided for the East.
Everywhere Jung directed his attention he saw the reality of the psyche and encouraged others to align themselves with the truth of their natures, the Socratic principle. Self-knowledge could be achieved, Jung asserted, by seeing nature as a reflection of consciousness, of psyche, the necessary psychological practice of the modern person. In the last words of Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961), he expresses his gratitude for taking that journey to Self-knowledge, “Yet there is so much that fills me: plants, animals, clouds, day and night, and the eternal in man. The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more there has grown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things. In fact it seems to me as if that alienation which so long separated me from the world has become transferred into my own inner world, and has revealed to me an unexpected unfamiliarity with myself.”
A Brief Afterword
With deepest gratitude, I thank Tony for his sensitive and illuminating (shedding the light of knowledge upon) discussion. I want to add just a few personal notes in the vein of application to astrology as in previous columns.
I find Jung’s use of archetypes an excellent analogy for astrology. We all have all twelve sides of life (as symbolized in the zodiac) , but in different mixtures and expressed more and less consciously. Similarly, Jung saw archetypes and his four functions (thinking, feeling, intuition, sensation) and two attitude types (introversion/extraversion) as universal, but handled uniquely by each individual human.
Some astrologers attempt to make an exact correlation between Jung’s functions and our elements. While similarities exist, I think the practice is misleading. As Jung emphasizes, a symbol has a variety of meanings, mostly depending on the perceiver and the situation. To say that sensation sums up earth or fire describes feeling deprives both the Jungian and the astrological terms of their full richness and complexity. Similarly planets do not sum up myths, nor myths planets. Ceres is more than all the Demeter myths (and vice versa). However, reading mythology can greatly enrich one’s view of possible astrological meanings and themes. And, knowing astrology allows a deeper comprehension of the myths. And it is Jung’s complexity that I value most—his recognition of the interweaving of psychic elements.
Philosophically, I think the concept of synchronicity is very valuable for any who seek to escape the causal explanations with which today’s “scientists” are so enamored. I stand very near Jung’s emphasis on relativity; coexisting polarities and individualism. I think all three concepts are important to astrology as psychology. An interpretation is always relative, based on many possibilities and likely to be more accurate if we know certain situational facts, e.g. sex, lifestyle, etc. of the individual whose chart we are examining. Astrology has six natural polarities and each evokes a little of the other, as if by reflection. Each horoscope; each psyche; each person is unique, though we share common historical/mythic archetypes; common human feelings and common astrological themes. But emphases, mixtures, combinations and how they are integrated will vary from person to person.