Posts Tagged ‘Jungian psychology’


“Everything now depends on man: immense power of destruction is given into his hands, and the question is whether he can resist the will to use it, and can temper his will with the spirit of love and wisdom. He will hardly be capable of doing so on his own unaided resources. He needs the help of an “advocate” in heaven …”

C.G. Jung (CW 11, par. 745)

“The only thing that really matters now is whether man can climb up to a higher moral level, to a higher plane of consciousness, in order to be equal to the superhuman powers which the fallen angels have placed into his hands. But he can make no progress with himself unless he becomes very much better acquainted with his own nature.”

C.G. Jung (CW 11, par. 746)

Within the last few weeks the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400ppm. What does this mean? First, ppm is a unit of measure used in atmospheric science to denote the fractional amount of a gas relative to the total amount of all gases in the atmosphere. The more important point is that prior to the Industrial Revolution this number was around 280ppm. So, through the burning of fossil fuels we have increased this potent greenhouse gas by 43%, which is causing the planet to warm up. Second, when was the last time carbon dioxide was at a level of 400ppm? It turns out that it was around 4 million years ago, when the planet was much warmer than today with accompanying higher sea levels. Back at this time very slow natural geologic processes led to higher carbon dioxide levels. Which brings us to the important point that the current rate of increase in carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels is unprecedented. In a matter of two hundred years humans have put Earth back to a point it has not been at for many millions of years. This is important because life on Earth is sensitive to the rate of change of climate.

We are in the midst of performing a very dangerous experiment on Earth. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, as we have in the recent past, then in a mere 80 years carbon dioxide will reach levels of 800 to 1000 ppm. These levels of carbon dioxide were last present around 40 million years ago when Earth was very, very warm. In Jung’s words we humans have an “immense power of destruction” in our hands. Often people will say if the planet was warm in the past and life existed, then what is the problem? Certainly Earth and many life forms on it will survive an increasingly warm world. But humans and many other species have never lived in such a world. Do we want to risk seeing what would happen to civilization by continuing this experiment? Arguments are also made that it will cost too much to do something about the problem, but what of the terrible costs if we do nothing? If a doctor finds you have a serious illness that can be successfully treated, do you do nothing?

Now to Jung’s comments … It has become clear to me that any solution to this problem must be rooted in a transformation of consciousness. We have fallen into this problem because of our ill-tempered will to control. This pure will-directed approach to living is no longer tenable on a planet with over 7 billion people. In the first quote, Jung notes that we need to temper “will with the spirit of love and wisdom.” Many may look upon this statement as unrealistic and perhaps even delusional. However, there is ample evidence that we are capable of finding and expressing love and wisdom to each other and in the way we live life. We are a species innately imbued with the potential to care. Our capability for compassion is boundless. We often forget this fact of life and believe that we are basically greedy beings. If this were so, then cooperation, an act essential for our survival, would not exist. Yet, we do care, love and find wisdom within ourselves. Jung notes that we need a heavenly “advocate” to accomplish this because it is beyond the ability of our ego alone. What does he mean by this? In today’s world, this means that we need to recognize and become acquainted with our “own nature,” in other words, the innate deep part of our psyches that holds the archetypal power of wisdom. In Buddhism this would be called Big Mind as compared to the small mind of the relative ego. Jung would call it the Self. Perhaps a neuroscientist would call it the power of empathy. Whatever one chooses to call this force within, empirically we know it exists.

The most important challenge now is whether we, “can climb… to a higher plane of consciousness…” in order to avoid falling prey to our own “superhuman powers.” The movement to this higher plane rests on our ability to wake up to the reality of our inner “love and wisdom” which  are necessary to create a sustainable future for all.

I would encourage each of you reading this to take one moment today and express your innate sense of love and wisdom towards another. This would be a very good start to creating a transformation of consciousness.

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“If every individual had a better relation to the animal within him, he would also set a higher value on life. Life would be the absolute, the supreme moral principle, and he would react instinctively against any institution or organization that had the power to destroy life on a large scale.”

C.G. Jung (CW 10, par. 32)

Humans have created many astounding accomplishments in the world. Listening to a great musical composition, gazing upon a work of art or standing amidst an architectural structure reminds us of what we can accomplish. We also witness many acts of kindness and compassion taking place daily in the world. Our capacity for creative compassionate acts seems boundless.

Yet, we also are aware of how destructive we can be. Witness the many wars, mistreatment of the poor and abuses of non-human beings in the world. Our sense of cruelty and destructiveness also seem to be boundless. Every moment of our lives we hold the potential to create or destroy. Every thought we entertain holds this potential of opposites and in those moments of destructive thought or action we lose our sense of what is most valuable.

Jung’s words remind us that we can choose to recognize the innate supreme moral principal of the value of Life. If we can reconnect with this moral principal then all of our actions will be instinctively rooted in compassion. Interestingly, Jung tells us a path back to valuing Life is to have a better relation with the animal within us. One way to recognize our inner animal is by connecting with animals in the outer world. If we extend compassion to these animals, then we will reconnect to our inner animal, which grounds us in the supreme moral principal of valuing Life. This one simple act of opening our selves to an animal out there can be the road to preventing the destruction of ‘life on a larger scale.’

Ultimately we are called to envision a world of interconnectedness extending beyond just us. I leave you with the words of the German philosopher Max Scheler written close to a century ago:

“We must learn anew to envisage the great, invisible solidarity of all living beings in universal life, of all minds in the eternal spirit – and at the same time the mutual solidarity of the world process and the destiny of its supreme principle, and we must not just accept this world unity as a mere doctrine, but practice and promote it in our inner and outer lives.”

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Queensboro Bridge Construction

“[The] symbol of the creative union of opposites … points … forward to a goal not yet reached. … the archetype, because of its power to unite opposites, mediates between the unconscious substratum and the conscious mind. It throws a bridge between present-day consciousness, always in danger of losing its roots, and the natural, unconscious, instinctive wholeness of primeval times.”

C.G. Jung (CW 9i, par. 293)

The union of opposites is a powerful archetype for individuals and the collective. Jung’s words state that the process of bringing opposing forces together lies in the future. Psychologically, the union that stretches out before us is the connection of our conscious directed life with our instinctual self. It is as if we need to be constantly reminded that we are animal that our being-in-the-world is deeply rooted in this earth. With our development into highly technological beings we seem to have lost this connection to our animal nature. Jung’s words also point out that the archetype builds a bridge between our present being and that of ‘primeval times.’ In the process of bringing together the opposites we reconnect to the un-dividedness of our primeval past. We are not talking about our historical past, which was written by us, but a past extending into the evolutionary depths of time.

The result of this reconnection is to find something that was lost within. Jung (CW 9i, par. 285) says that, “… all uniting symbols have a redemptive significance.” What is redeemed in reconnecting to our ‘primeval times?’ I would say a re-membering, a re-collection of our selves into wholeness. Our outer directed search for fulfillment turns inward to redeeming our lost other.

Jung uses the image of a bridge to describe the process of reconnection and redemption. This is an apt image for we speak of bridging differences, or building a bridge across our divides. Interestingly the word metaphor means to build a bridge. Finding metaphoric images in the world  builds bridges within us and in the world at large. These are powerful ideas. If ever we needed to be building bridges it is in today’s world. Everywhere we look we perceive gaps, abysses, canyons calling out for a bridge to mediate between the opposing sides.

When I consider the polarizing political bickering in our nation’s capitol, including division around the issues of national budgets, health care and climate change, I feel despair. Most troubling this week is our apparent inexorable movement towards building the Keystone pipeline, which will result in terrible regional and global destruction. We seem to have lost our ability to throw bridges across our ideological divides in order to avoid destruction. Our inability to build metaphoric bridges across our collective divides illustrates an inability to imagine. For imagination is a bridge building activity and we are sorely lacking in this creative construction process.

It is easy to fall into a sense of despair when so little is happening, so few bridges are being built. Perhaps we can take heart in the fact that this mediating process is essentially archetypal. It is not solely up to us to build these bridges for deep within our primeval unconscious exists the need for bridges to be built. Called or not, bridges will be built. I end with the words of a well-known bridge builder…

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Meet the Beatles


“Nobody can understand [soul] unless he has experienced [it] himself. I am much more interested in pointing out the possible ways to such experience than in devising intellectual formulae…”

C.G. Jung (CW 7, par. 340)

“[Woman] becomes [a man’s] companion… she produces an imago … that has to be kept associated with … Woman is and always has been a source of information about things for which a man has no eyes. She can be his inspiration…”

C.G. Jung (CW 7, par. 296)

I enjoy giving public talks on Jung’s ideas. One of my favorites is on ‘Jung Meets the Beatles.” In this talk I look at how the development of the Beatles music fits perfectly with Jung’s ideas on how the anima develops in us. Anima is Jung’s term for the feminine part within us, our soul. Anima connects us to the deeper parts of our selves. As such, the anima connects us to creativity. If we find our soul, then we are animated about life, we play. Artists are in touch with anima. They allow their soul to work through them to bring creation into the world. The Beatles were certainly a group who felt the presence of soul.

February 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles recording of Please, Please Me. They recorded ten songs in a single session to produce much of this album. The song Please, Please Me quickly reached the top of the charts in the UK. The album was released in March and became an instant hit. So began Beatlemania! Soon after this album the Beatles released the With the Beatles LP. I remember buying this album taking it home and listening to it over and over. Until the Beatles appeared popular music was dominated for the most part by American groups. The Beatles brought a new energy to music and their personalities brought a unique playfulness to the world of the early 60’s. Many of the songs on Please, Please Me are about falling in and out of love, similar to many songs of that time. This early stage of their music falls under the first anima stage of biological attraction. It’s all about the hormones. Their later music continues to parallel the developmental stages of the anima from biological attraction, through relational awareness, spiritual mediation to the transcendent. The development of the feminine within the Fab Four is mirrored in the songs they were writing and playing over the lifetime of the band.

I love giving my “Jung Meets the Beatles” talk just to see the reaction of the audience. The presentation is full of Beatles songs. To stand back and watch the power of their music on people brings wonderment to me. The audience becomes so animated. All ages love their music. A few years ago I was in a music store and a teenage girl had headphones on and was listening to their music. She was singing word for word one of their songs. Imagine someone who was not even around when the Beatles wrote those songs being so touched by their music. Fifty years after their music first appeared we still sing their songs. Think about this… in 1963 how many people were singing songs from 1913? Yet, the Beatles’ music is as exciting today as it was back in 1963. Our soul is eternally touched by their music.

Let us celebrate 50 years of Beatlemania… Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beatles



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“The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature… The creative urge lives and grows … like a tree in the earth… We could do well, therefore, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche.”

C.G. Jung (CW 15, par. 115)

I have been struggling to find a voice with which to write longer works. I realize that this struggle is deeply imbedded in my wanting to be open to the creative process and how this wanting gets in the way of creativity. I need to let the tree grow from the earth and not force the process. I also realize there is a struggle within me between the poet and the scientist. The poet wants to live in the mystery of life and be immersed in experience. The scientist wants to understand the meaning of life events. This dichotomy between heart and head often creates a roadblock within me. How do I hold these two parts of myself in a co-creative way? Jung was well aware of this dilemma both personally and professionally as a psychologist. Here is what he (CW 15, par. 121) says about this struggle between wanting to know and living in the mystery:

We must interpret, we must find meanings in things, otherwise we would be quite unable to think about them. We have to break down life and events, which are self-contained processes, into meanings, images, concepts, well-knowing that in doing so we are getting further away from the living mystery.

We feel compelled to understand what life presents us and for those of us inclined to science, this means ‘breaking down’ the experience. Yet in the moment of analyzing the thing, the mystery is lost. Jung goes on to say:

As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition. But for the purpose of cognitive understanding we must detach ourselves from the creative process and look at it from the outside; only then does it become an image that expresses what we are bound to call ‘meaning.’

So, we are caught between being in the midst of the creative process and wanting to understand it. Jung states that our cognitive approach is ‘injurious to the immediate experience’ of the creative process. It seems that he is suggesting that it is best to dwell in the experience, i.e. be a full participant in the experience, and only then look back with a cognitive gaze to find meaning. This way we give both heart and head their due.

Giving heart and head their due has become a challenging path for me. I hope to walk this path more often in the future.

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“It is … the incapacity to love which robs mankind of his possibilities.”

C.G. Jung (1912)

Jung is often described as Freud’s student, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even though Jung was much younger than Freud, from the start of their intense friendship, they were actually working colleagues, more than teacher and student. At the time Jung met Freud in 1907, he had published a number of papers on complexes and was established at a world-renowned psychiatric clinic in Zurich. In 1912, however, their relationship reached a breaking point. Jung had his own ideas about psyche that were very different from those of Freud’s. The catalyst for their falling out occurred one hundred years ago this Fall. For it is in 1912 that Jung published a work, which translated into English is known as The Psychology of the Unconscious. Freud could not accept Jung’s interpretation of the psyche put forth in that work.  It was the final chord in a growing dissonance between these two great thinkers.

To honor the centenary of this event, I have been reading the original 1912 work. It has been a joy to trace Jung’s thinking about psyche. The first part, published in 1911, is still very much in tune with Freud’s ideas, but as the book unfolds you see Jung becoming more independent about his interpretation of psyche, in which the key turning point is his view on libido. Jung felt libido was far more than just sexual instinct. He reframed libido in terms of the general concept of psychic energy. I like to think of this energy as where our interest lies, what excites us, or gives us a charge in life. Simply, to where does the love in our life flow? The quote above can be restated in the positive sense that our capacity to love gives us possibilities. What a wonderful way of looking at how to relate to the world around us. If we hold onto the capacity to love, then possibilities unfold before us. Jung further states that, “The resistance against loving produces the inability to love.” So, it is our own resistance to love that prevents us from being able to love. We may expect others to first extend their love to us, but this will be thwarted if we resist loving others. This resistance resides within us and it is our task to work with the resistance. If we cannot accomplish this, then Jung says we live with an “incapacity to lovingly include a thing outside of ourselves.” We live a life of isolation.

So, let us take Jung’s words to heart, words written a century ago, but still so relevant to living a life full of possibilities.

This week, discover your capacity to love.

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“The problem of synchronicity has puzzled me for a long time, ever since the middle twenties, when I was investigating the phenomena of the collective unconscious and kept on coming across connections which I simply could not explain …”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 843)

Based on a great number of personal experiences over many years, Jung came to the realization that events take place in the outer world that have a direct connection to the inner world of the psyche. Yet, these events have no direct causal connection. He called these meaningful events synchronicities. Synchronicity is archetypal and provides an ordering to lived phenomena.

Perhaps the most well known example from Jung’s work was the time he was meeting with a client who was stuck in her therapy process. She was very reluctant to move outside of her overly rigid views about things. One day she brought a dream in which the image of a scarab appeared. Just at the moment she was describing the scarab image in the dream there came a tapping sound. Jung went to the window and there was a scarab beetle tapping at the window. He opened the window, caught the beetle, carried it over to the women and said, “Here is your scarab!” She was so moved by the meaningful nature of this event that she was able to break out of her overly rigid views and her therapeutic process moved on.

There are events in our lives for which we have no logical explanation, yet they happen. These events place us in a space between psyche and matter. Who among you reading this has not experienced a synchronicity? You were thinking of someone whom you had not seen in a long time and your cell phone rang and that very person was calling you. You were in a foreign country walking down a street thinking of someone from home and there they were walking towards you. You had a dream about something and a few days later that very thing took place. All of these things are highly improbable, yet they happen and are meaningful to you.

I believe that synchronicities are taking place all the time, but our rigid conditioning creates a blind spot to such occurrences. Yet, if we become a little more attuned to their presence, we would see more of them in our lives. I do not speak of these things lightly. I was trained as a scientist and believe we should validate our suppositions. However, I am also aware that our scientific perspective can become too rigid. We can move into scientism, which is a blind adherence to rationality. Science can become a dogmatic creed. I feel we have to remain open to the fact that we are still searching to understand the universe.

Consider how people from times past viewed electricity and magnetism. No doubt these phenomenon appeared impossible, unreal, or even magical. Then later science came up with a way to explain these phenomena. Is it not possible that synchronicity is a similar phenomenon? Jung (CW 8, par. 967) states that, “Synchronicity is no more baffling or mysterious than the discontinuities of physics.”

Here Jung is referring to the very strange world of quantum physics. Jung had entertained Einstein at his house for dinners while Einstein was developing his special theory of relativity. He also had a long and productive collaboration with the world-renowned physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Thus, Jung had great respect for science and was only asking people to keep an open mind about the strange phenomena of synchronicity.

I encourage you for a moment to open yourself to the possibility that there are unknowns out in the world yet to be understood, wonders yet to be explained. Open yourself to seeing a synchronicity in your life this week.

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