Sunday, January 28, 2024

A Review

Rapture Encaged: The Suppression of the Feminine in Western Culture by Ruth Anthony El Saffar, Routledge, 1994.

I read Rapture Encaged, The Suppression of the Feminine in Western Culture when it was first published in the spring of 1994. Impressed with the author's ability to articulate questions that had lived wordlessly in me for some time, I reread the book at that time more carefully. My third reading, done for this review, reinforced my initial opinion that this is an important work, a work that synthesizes psychological theories about women, modern feminist theory, and historical perspective on the place of women in Western culture. Rapture Encaged is one of those rare and wonderful finds--a "living" text that engages the reader in such a way that both text and reader are changed and in-formed in the engagement.

In this slender volume, Ruth Anthony El Saffar explores key questions about women's psychology: (1) Is there "an authentic female vision that patriarchal cultures, from the Greeks to the present day, have systematically sought to deny and expunge?" (2) "Can we say that there is a feminine essence that is not the result of cultural conditions, or conversely, can we say that cultural conditioning is not an expression of essential human nature?" (3) Are there "available models for living out a full feminine identity" in patriarchal culture? In everyday parlance men might echo Freud's oft-asked question, "What do women want?" Or women, "Why can't I have the kind of relationship I have with my women friends with my husband, lover, co-worker, etc.?" And all of us must ask why, in a country overflowing with bounty, we cannot access the nurturing capacities of mother and father for care of children who live in poverty. Clearly we have much to gain from a deeper understanding of the role of cultural conditioning in defining who we are, how we live, and how we relate.

El Saffar asks and explores her questions in a scholarly, intellectual fashion. Her use of the autobiography of an illiterate seventeen-century Spanish nun, Isabel de la Cruz (coupled with the historical context she provides) as a highly-polished mirror to reflect twentieth-century life, is nothing short of brilliant. She gives us an Archimedean Point sufficiently grounded in historical perspective and distant enough that we can use it for an exploration of "the feminine" and "the masculine" today. Most clearly she explains how power imbalances continue to cripple men and women as we seek to live in life frames defined too narrowly by our patriarchal culture.

The author shows us the inadequacies of psychological theories that stress autonomy and independence when she states: "It is not enough for women simply to be in 'right relations' with the masculine. For the masculine, as it has been layered into the psyche over generations of patriarchal power, has a deadening effect on the expression of feminine power that allows neither men nor women to cultivate soul, or connection with the female aspects of the godhead."

She also shows us the ways in which women, if they adopt men's theories about human development, find themselves in a double bind. "The woman who functions in culture is inevitably one separated from the mother, and therefore split off from her source of power. What power she does acquire comes from her role as relational to a man, on whom she depends for her name, her success, her money, her well-being?"

Indeed, a woman's experiential reality may be quite different from that of a a man, but as long as she submits to a man's frame of reference for her experience, she will never trust her own process. Her understanding of self, her very being, then depends upon reflection from a man. His is "solar" consciousness; hers "lunar" consciousness. His life is defined by activity; hers by passivity. Anyone who has reflected sufficiently upon his/her own reality, recognizes how narrow and limiting, how patently untrue, such notions are. Yet they persist. My conjecture is that a lot of women's perceived passivity is simply a defensive maneuver to avoid pejorative and inadequate labels.

If language is the house of being, the language of a man's experience, if essentially different from a woman's, can never touch her where she lives, let alone help her come home to herself. To be labeled "animus-possessed" or "fused with the mother" for disagreeing with a frame that doesn't fit is a further negation of her selfhood. These terms may express something of a man's experience of woman, but what do they tell a woman about herself?

How different, for example, are the experiences of Isabel and Jung. ". . . unlike the Jung of the confrontation with the unconscious, Isabel did not experience God's power as terrifying, because her encounter with the unconscious was not precipitated by the sudden irruption of loss into an otherwise extraordinarily successful life . . . Rather she sought in the unconscious a place of refuge from her unremitting experience of failure in the world."

One way I have found for engaging this book (the way that convinced me it is a living text) is to select one of the author's finely-tuned sentences and reflect on it. For example, "It took me many years to realize that Jung's 'feminine' was yet another captivated and diminished expression of women, one that is nothing more than a reflection of the male psyche."

I don't believe it is helpful to women's cause to blame Jung for what he was unable to do precisely because of his male psyche. Rather it is time that we women expxress for ourselves out of the female psyche the essence of the feminine. Further, we must do so with the intellectual rigor that El Saffar demonstrates. A Jungian analyst herself, she obviously values Jung's work highly but is unabashedly frank in challenging his ideas when she finds him wide of the mark, misogynistic, or simply out-dated.

What better definition of a Jungian analysis can we find than the words this author uses to describe the process of Isabel's telling her life story: ". . . Isabel, who through the dictating of her autobiography had an opportunity to experience herself mirrored, for the first time ever, in the outer world. Through the process of co-creating her autobiography, Isabel was able to see herself take shape as a whole being, with a history, a purpose, and value."

El Saffar's book is brilliantly written, quietly but firmly persuasive, and enormously engaging. However, it ends abruptly. She does not adequately answer the questions she raises. The reader is left with a feeling of incompleteness. The book needs a final concluding chapter. I feel frustration at what is left unsaid, unasked, unanswered. I found myself asking questions like: And so, where to from here? What is the current state of theorizing about women's psychology? Who is doing it? Why, as women, do we shrink from the task? Do we women use the power imbalance, real and crippling as it is, partially as an excuse for not accepting full responsibility for the development of our own uniquely feminine psychology? Why can't we more fully reflect goddess energy and values in our culture?

The book is cut too short. Tragically, so was the life of the author. Ruth Anthony El Saffar died of cancer at age 52 on March 28, 1994, one week before Rapture Encaged was released.

[This review was first published in The Round Table Review, September/October 1998, V. 6, No. 1.]

Sunday, November 12, 2023


[My Introduction to a course offered through the C.G. Jung Society of St. Louis in 2007.]

In our class last semester, we read and discussed The Odyssey. It quickly became apparent that Odysseus' struggle to return home may be a quintessential masculine psychological and developmental story, but it didn’t resonate with the women in the class. And neither did Penelope’s passive role as the long-suffering, take-a-backseat perennial wife.


I want us to entertain in this course, “Empowerment of Feminine Values,” this question: Is it the case that ego consciousness for both women and men has been overlaid with patriarchal, hierarchical structures to such an extent that feminine values are rarely recognized or lived our in modern culture?

Another way to ask the question is with an image. Imagine our emerging consciousness as a very large ever-expanding balloon.[1]  Now imagine that balloon being inflated inside some kind of structure--large, small, rectangular, circular, but a definite bounded structure. That balloon will take on the shape, volume, size, and atmosphere of its limited environment. Now imagine yourself confined inside that balloon. What will its interior feel like? Is it possible to imagine anything outside the balloon? What happens when you hear things emanating from beyond the balloon skin?


Now step outside the balloon and look. Imagine there are many structures with many inflated balloons in your sight. Imagine there are even connections between the balloons so that travel through them and outside them is possible. Imagine getting stuck in one balloon temporarily, that you are unable to find the door to escape.

When ego consciousness is confined to one ‘balloon,’ as it were, we say that it is an ego identified with its consciousness. With the ability to step outside and examine several or many ‘balloons,’ we are talking about an ego that has disidentified, an ego that is free to travel, more or less, between and through various states of consciousness. The ‘one-balloon’ state can lead to an ego consciousness that finds life boring and sterile: There is nothing new under the sun. I am the way I am, and the world is the way it is. I can’t do anything about it.


On the other hand, an ego that can entertain various states of consciousness is much freer. Such an ego may be capable of changing itself and the world it finds itself in. 

However, like Chinese boxes, there may be balloons around balloons around balloons. Let’s remember that in our analogy, balloons not only limit, but they also protect. Sometimes that protection is a very necessary thing for our budding ego. We might translate them psychologically to  protective psychological defense mechanisms,.   There are, however, healthy defense mechanisms and not-so-healthy ones.

Our slender text, Descent to the Goddess,[2] is a challenge to a common psychological state. Let’s call it the good-mother complex. The angry, devouring, haggish, and powerful but unconscious side of the mother figure is a frightening reality for many of us, and we will go to great lengths to keep her out of our awareness, even so far as to deny her very existence. Women and men are acculturated to demur to the negative mother but not to respect her. The energies bound up in this very real but largely unconscious archetypal figure can emerge in insidious and often damaging ways. Perhaps they emerge in men as flight over fight and in women as self-destructive tendencies. Men simply will not engage with angry women. And women have few healthy outlets for justifiable outrage, and hence tend to internalize it. 

If our primary symbol for this dual-natured mother archetype is Mother Earth, we can readily understand the outrage she is expressing at the ways she has been treated. Fortunately, our species is starting to listen up.[3]

As we read and discuss this text and our topic over the next several weeks, let's pay attention to our dreams, to synchronistic experiences, to the 'balloons' of our lives. Perhaps in doing so we can enter the realm of the Great Mother--loving and powerful, rageful and vengeful.  Recognizing the flow of her energies within us can help us humanize some, apply others in a more constructive way, and escape some that are stifling to our being. 

[1]This image emerged from a long-ago story  A friend of mine, as a practical joke, inflated a weather balloon in a co-worker’s office while the co-worker was away.  Upon his return, he opened the door to discover his space had been co-opted.

[2]Sylvia Brinton Perera, Descent to the Goddess, Toronto:  Inner City Books, 1981. 

[3]I wrote this introduction in 2007.  My optimism has waned considerably since then.

Monday, October 30, 2023

 Reflections on Jung's "Answer to Job"

There is an account in fiction that might help us understand what Jung is getting at in his "Answer to Job." In considering this topic, we would do well to remember that when we talk about "God" that we are really talking about our images and ideas about God. GOD is precisely what we do not know because whatever the entity God is, that entity is far beyond our human understanding.

In our course [St. Louis Jung Society "Jung Readings"], we are grappling with our images of God, trying to make them conscious and, in doing so, trying to see if they fit our reality. Most of us received our personal God-image while we were very young. And for most of us, that God-image is like our eyeglasses, that is to say, simply something which we see the world through but of which we are usually unaware. That said, let me return to the fictional account that will serve as an example.

The example is from Robertson Davies’ THE MANTICORE, the second book in his DEPTFORD TRILOGY. David Staunton, a successful but very neurotic barrister from Toronto has suffered a mid-life crisis. His symptoms are so severe that he takes himself to Zurich where he enters analysis with Dr. Johanna von Haller. David suffers from a father-complex. He has been shaped, formed, and dominated by his father; and in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary, can only see his father in a positive light.

After about a year of analysis, working with dreams and gathering together the threads of his life story, David has developed a fuller and more complete picture of his father. He has a dream, biblical in style, which he reports to Dr. Von Haller.

"‘I dreamed I was standing on a plain, talking with my father. I was aware it was Father, though his face was turned away. He was very affectionate and simple in his manner, as I don’t think I ever knew him to be in his life. The odd thing was that I couldn’t really see his face. He wore an ordinary business suit. Then suddenly he turned from me and flew up into the air, and the astonishing thing was that as he rose, his trousers came down, and I saw his naked backside.’

‘And what are your associations?’

‘Well, obviously it’s the passage in Exodus where God promises Moses that he shall see Him, but must not see His face; and what Moses sees is God’s back parts. As a child I always thought it funny for God to show his rump. Funny, but also terribly real and true. Like those extraordinary people in the Bible who swore a solemn oath clutching one another’s testicles. But does it mean that I have seen the weakness, the shameful part of my father’s nature because . . . . .? I’ve done what I can with it, but nothing rings true.’

‘Of course not, because you have neglected one of the chief principles of what I have been able to tell you about the significance of dreams. That again is understandable, for when the dream is important and has something new to tell us, we often forget temporarily what we know to be true. But we have always agreed, haven’t we, that figures in dreams, whoever or whatever they may look like, are aspects of the dreamer? So who is this father with the obscured face and the naked buttocks?’

‘I suppose he is my idea of a father–of my own father?’

‘He is something we would have to talk about if you decided to go on to a deeper stage in the investigation of yourself. Because your real father, your historical father, the man whom you last saw lying so pitiably on the dock with his face obscured in filth, and then so dishevelled in his coffin with his face destroyed by your stepmother’s ambitious meddling, is by no means the same thing as the archetype of fatherhood you carry in the depths of your being, and which comes from–well, for the present we won’t attempt to say where.’" 

In this dialogue, Davies may have had in mind an interesting and controversial statement Jung makes: 

"I look upon the receiving of the Holy Spirit as a highly revolutionary fact which cannot take place until the ambivalent nature of the Father is recognized." [COLLECTED WORKS, Vol. 18, Para. 1551]

All of Davies’ DEPTFORD TRILOGY is an interesting read and in many ways a fine introduction to some basic concepts of Jungian Psychology. I selected this particular passage to help illuminate Jung’s "Answer." The character David is not a religious man but he has an unconscious and very masculine God-image that has been mediated to him through his personal father and through other significant men in his life. The same is true also of his feminine God-image which was mediated to him through his personal mother and through other significant women, including his stepmother. For "God" in both these instances, you could simply substitute "Power" because it is these masculine and feminine power-images that have formed and shaped David’s worldview, that is to say, shaped how he sees the world and how he seems himself and his role in that world.

As long as his vision is truncated by a one-sided development, David necessarily holds a narrow and rather naive conscious view of himself and his world. His complexes around mother and father make him sensitive and prone to black moods and fits of anger. What he has repressed about both figures, the good and the bad, lies unconscious in his psyche and rises up to bite him in ways that eventually are debilitating. He cannot deal with his father’s cruel and controlling ways because he literally cannot see them. He cannot deal with his birth mother’s influence and power over him because he simply does not recognize them.

In his analysis, he is able to uncover aspects of his unconscious personality (also mediated to him through mother and father) that have bedeviled him for decades and to gain a certain degree of freedom from behaviors and compulsions that previously controlled him.

Of course, each of us is in some ways a "David Staunton." We each have had our worldview and our personality shaped and influenced by significant people in our history. We each are blind to certain influences and forces that are very real but fall outside our field of vision. The more completely we think we see, the more vast our blind spots.

The prevailing and unquestioned image of God that has been mediated for us is that of a loving, kind, benevolent, omniscient, all-powerful deity. No matter our personal experiences to the contrary, most of us cling to the prevailing God-image. Jung, in the essay we are studying, calls all these God-image assumptions into question. He does so in a way that was upsetting when he published this work in 1952 and is upsetting when we read this work still. We might do well to reflect on the question of WHY calling these God-images into question and examining them are so disturbing. After all, if Jung’s notions about the God-image are only ideas and theories, why do they upset?


February 3, 2005

In this course, we are going to take up one of Jung’s most controversial works, his Answer to Job. First, some background. Jung wrote Answer in 1951. On May 29, 1951, Jung wrote to Aniela Jaffe’: "So it goes all the time: memories rise up and disappear again, as it suits them. In this way I have landed the great whale; I mean "Answer to Job." I can’t say I have fully digested this tour de force of the unconscious. It still goes on rumbling a bit, rather like an earthquake. I notice it when I am chiselling away at my inscription (which has made good progress). Then thoughts come to me, as for instance that consciousness is only an organ for perceiving the fourth dimension, i.e., the all-pervasive meaning, and itself produces no real ideas." [Letters, Vol. 2, pp 17-18.]

Again, on July 18, 1951, he wrote to Aniela Jaffe’: "I am especially pleased that you could get into such close relationship with the second part of my book (Answer). So far most people have remained stuck in the first. I personally have the second more at heart because it is bound up with the present and future. If there is anything like the spirit seizing one by the scruff of the neck, it was the way this book came into being." [Letters, Vol. 2, p. 20]

Clearly, Jung felt more that his "Answer to Job" wrote him not vice versa. And he valued the second part of the work more than the first part. Let’s keep that in mind as we read and discuss the book. Which parts hold meaning for us?

In a letter to "Dr. H," dated August 30, 1951, Jung wrote: "You must pardon my long silence. In the spring I was plagued by my liver and had often to stay in bed and in the midst of this misere wrote a little essay (c.a. 100 typed pages) whose publication is causing me some trouble." [Letters, Vol. 2, p. 21]

Even before his "Answer" was published (in 1952), it provoked a firestorm of controversy, criticism, and rebuke. What was the firestorm all about? Jung’s biographer, Vincent Brome, writes:

"If one understands Jung’s thesis correctly, Job reveals a hubris which involves a higher form of justice than God himself and the challenge is met by the incarnation of Christ. In this interpretation Christ appears as a deliberate attempt to set right the balance between good and evil, to redeem the injustice God has committed toward Man. This perfection of God is achieved by union with Divine Wisdom or Sophia, the feminine counterpart of the Holy Spirit which reappears under the image of the Virgin Mary." [Jung, Man and Myth, p. 254]

Only two years earlier, the Catholic Church had issued a papal pronouncement on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, an event Jung saw as an expression of the collective unconscious that was a sorely-need feminine compensation for the patriarchal one-sidedness of Christianity. As we shall see, Jung thought it was God’s estrangement with, or ‘forgetting’ of, Sophia that allowed him to treat Job so harshly.

Again, I quote from Brome’s biography:

"There were those who felt that Answer to Job simultaneously committed the sins of blasphemy and arrogance: blasphemy that he should attempt to unravel the metamorphoses of the Holy Spirit in the manner of a neo-Gnostic and arrogance in making it conform to his own theories. Fierce controversy followed, with one school reading the book simply as a psychological explanation of Man’s conception of God, while others recoiled from the notion that any imperfection had ever appeared in the Holy Spirit. Ellenberger believed that the book could also be understood ‘as a cry of existential anguish from a man desperately seeking for a solution of the greatest of all philosophical riddles, the problem of evil’

"There remained a hostile handful who claimed that Jung had now appointed himself psychiatrist to God, diagnosed a divine sickness and successfully cured the Patient by applying his own theories. Eric Neumann, his old friend in Israel, wrote on 5 December 1951, "[Answer to Job] is a book that grips me profoundly. I find it the most beautiful and deepest of your books. In a certain sense it is a dispute with God similar to Abraham’s when he pleaded with God on account of the destruction of Sodom. In particular it is for me–for me personally–also a book against God who let 6 million of his people be killed, for Job is really Israel too.’" [Brome, p 254]

Jung’s reply to Neumann (January 5, 1952) clearly shows that he recognizes just what his "little essay" displays: ". . . the arrogance I had to summon up in order to be able to insult God? This gave me a bigger bellyache than if I had the whole world against me." [Letters, p. 32]

There were many reactions to Jung’s Answer. Victor White, a Dominican priest and close collaborator/friend of Jung’s, wrote a scathing review of the book. His views were so counter to Jung’s that the difference eventually ended their relationship. "As one critic put it succinctly if inelegantly, the two scholars (Jung and White) were able to maintain a respectful and cordial tone to their disagreement until Jung ‘cornered God the Father, pinned him to the nearest couch and promptly set about psychoanalysing him.’ Jung found God ‘guilty of being unconscious, having projected his shadow upon humanity, and of perpetuating a considerable amount of injustice and evil.’ When Jung concluded that Christian theology deprived God of the possibility of having a shadow, White was bound by the tenets of his faith to declare him wrong." [Bair, Jung, A Biography, p. 546]

For anyone interested in God, or in the nature of God, or in one’s relations with God, Jung’s ‘little essay’ raises disturbing questions. How does one reconcile the sometimes warring, vengeful, dangerous God/Yahweh of the Old Testament with the loving, compassionate, merciful Son of God of the New Testament? How is it that God could forget the covenant he made with God’s People and turn against them with such wrath at times?

In our readings course we will be revisiting one of the early issues of Christianity, the Marcion heresy. Marcion lived in the second century CE and held beliefs that were counter to those prevailing in Christian circles at the time. He believed there was no way to reconcile the Gods of the Old and New Testaments; their differences were just too great. He also believed that Jesus had revealed certain ‘truths’ that were available only to a select few (Gnosticism). And he believed that Christ’s nature was divine without the human element that the early church insisted upon. All three of these beliefs were eventually declared heretical.

As we study Jung’s Answer, we will be revisiting these ancient heresies and examining them for ourselves. Did the early Church Fathers settle these issues once and for all? Why are they important today? What do they have to do with us? Why should we care? What is the true nature of this entity we call God, the nature of the Christ/Man? Can we know?
I think exploring these kinds of questions and considering possible answers for ourselves is important because such exploration can be of help in our uncovering, i.e., making conscious, and possibly reformulating a living myth for our own lives.

If our myth is of a kind, loving, compassionate Father God, how do we reconcile a world in which evil runs rampant? If we are made in the image and likeness of this God, from whence evil? What about this God who allowed six million of his chosen people to die in the Holocaust? Elie Weisel has said the holocaust should make us revisit everything we ever thought about God. And what of the recent Tsunami?

If, as Jung suggests, the role of the conscious human being is to stand with God against God, what does that mean for us? Of course, a kind, loving, compassionate, all-knowing, all-powerful God had no need for such a posture on our part.

One way of looking at our Judeo-Christian scriptures is to see them as the ‘story’ of an individual and collective and unfolding/development of consciousness. It begins with the evictions from the idyllic garden of Eden, that state of not-knowing and innocence of childhood. There is the Moses kind of consciousness that unifies the personality/culture with law and order, leads it out of bondage, through difficult and dangerous passages. What about the God that strikes Moses down for a simple act of disobedience after decades of faithful service? That Moses consciousness cannot enter the ‘promised land.’

We will be examining the Job-type consciousness that keeps insisting God remember his better nature and the covenant God has made. Job does indeed stand with God against God. But what kind of God is it that needs a human reflection to remember his nature? What is the level of consciousness of the human person who does not question, does not reflect, does not accept any mirroring that would crack his/her belief system? Such a one is in dire need of a ‘Job’ to expand the controlling myth of his/her life.

And there is the Jesus-type consciousness that stands all prior understanding of the nature of God on its head. Where Yahweh would flatten the enemy, destroy it totally, this new God-Man shows and lives out a totally different kind of victory. As Jack Miles’ explains, ". . . Christians who have bound themselves to Christ sacramentally in his death will find themselves bound to him as well in his glorious resurrection. Their victory and God’s will be over death itself rather than over any one death-dealing human enemy. God will have achieved this victory for them not by defeating his human enemies but by allowing himself to be defeated by them and then triumphing impersonally over the defeat itself rather than personally over he enemies who inflicted the defeat." [Miles, "The Disarmament of God," p. 3, ]

Or, put more succinctly by Anthony de Mello in his little story, "The Coconut":

"A monkey on a tree hurled a coconut
at the head of a Sufi.
The man picked it up, drank the milk,
ate the flesh, and made a bowl from the shell.

Thank you for your criticism of me." [The Song of the Bird, p. 163]

If we view our actions, both personally and collectively, in the light of a scriptural mythology of developing consciousness, those actions tell us a great deal about the state of our consciousness. Do we focus on defeating our enemy and raining fire and shame on their heads or do we focus on defeating the defeat our enemy has visited upon us?

I started this introduction with background and will return to background here. Jung wrote Answer in 1951 when he was 76 years old. He spent three months of intense effort revising it. Deidre Bair in her recent biography writes about the last two decades of Jung’s life. (He died in 1961.)

"In the last two decades of Jung’s life, coinciding with the isolation and introspection imposed by the war, those who were close to him noticed changes in his attitude toward the world at large. In one of her succinct pronouncements, Jolande Jacobi described the major one: ‘He really wasn’t interested in anyone’s private life anymore. He was only interested in the ‘Big Dreams,’ in the collective archetypal world.’ Using his two infarcts as his excuse, he curtailed public appearances and refused to meet most new people. He . . . cut his analytic calendar drastically, seldom seeing more than four persons in any given day and then mostly for fifteen-minute conversations . . ."

His behavior created concerns for those around him. Jacobi put it this way: "‘When journalists came we were trembling and hoping that Muller the gardener gives the interviews because he is closer to reality. Jung lived now in another world.’

There were more visible extremes in his behavior as well. During the three months he took to revise the original text of Answer to Job, he closeted himself away for long hours each day, writing to the point of exhaustion. Jacobi described him as ‘moody in a rude and crude way, like a peasant . . . furious all the time.’ The usually fastidious Jung sometimes went several days without shaving or (as some of his intimates inferred) bathing, but Emma was always there to see that he wore clean clothing." [Jung, A Biography, p. 528]

Sunday, October 15, 2023


Jung's magnum opusMysterium Coniunctionis, is a very difficult read.  Jung uses many Latin and Greek phrases and borrows heavily from alchemy, itself a mystery that unfolded into modern chemistry.  Jung is attempting to translate his understanding of individuation, the process by which a person becomes whole, undivided.  The book is a mighty challenge, but occasionally the fog clears and an astonishing statement jumps out.  Here is one: 

"The state of imperfect transformation, merely hoped for and waited for, does not seem to be one of torment only, but of positive, if hidden, happiness.  It is the state of someone who, in his (sic) wanderings among the mazes of her psychic transformation, comes upon a secret happiness which reconciles her to her apparent loneliness.  In communing with herself she finds not deadly boredom and melancholy but an inner partner; more than that, a relationship that seems like the happiness of a secret love, or like a hidden springtime, when the green seed sprouts from the barren earth, holding out the promise of future harvests."  (P. 432, Vol. 14, Jung's Collected Works)

For me Jung's greatest contribution is his outlining a path toward an "imperfect transformation," at one time the purview of the great religions.  In our increasingly secular society the religious path seems to be closed for many.  For these people a Jungian approach holds great promise.

Note:  I have corrected Jung's use of sexist language for two reasons:  One, it is wrong, the bias implicit. Two, my experience in analytic practice is that more women than men have adopted Jung's method so the change in language applies more appropriately to them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023


     Peoples throughout history have been fascinated by their dreams, have sought to understand them, and have used them for guidance.  It is only we moderns who have somewhat lost touch with the dreamworld and with how to understand or work with it.  The language of dreams is symbolic.
     We can largely credit Sigmund Freud with giving dreams their due.  Freud understood the unconscious as a sort of “trash heap” of consciousness, the repository for all things discarded by consciousness because unpleasant, not fitting with the conscious attitude, or interfering with the fulfillment of the ego desires.  Dreams were a product of the trash heap; any value they might hold came only from their shaping by consciousness.
     To Freud, dreams were a facade behind which the individual repressed painful memories, censored unacceptable thoughts, and hid unpleasant realities.  The function of psychoanalysis was to lay bare these hidden memories, thoughts, and realities so the individual could grow up, form a superego strong enough to deal with the unconscious id desires and energies.  A nifty arrangement if you were the analyst; not so great for the patient trying to make his/her psychic energies fit into a someone else’s psychological and theoretical frame.
     C. G. Jung read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams shortly after its publication in 1900, and became a follower of and collaborator with Freud for about a decade.  The two men kept up a voluminous correspondence, met many times, and traveled together.  Jung had a father transference to Freud, who was older by 19 years.  Freud insisted on the father-son dynamic, and Jung began to chafe under it.  You probably know that all Jung’s major life decisions grew out of his dreams and his active imaginations.  The break with Freud was presaged by dreams Jung had during a seven-week-long trip the two men took together to the United States in 1909.  During the trip they were together every day and analyzed each other’s dreams. 
     I am going to dwell on one of Jung’s dreams during that trip because it so well illustrates his general way of working with and understanding dreams.  This particular dream was one of several experiences that led Jung to develop the concept of the collective unconscious, which I’ll talk more about later on.  Jung recounts this dream in his autobiographical work, Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
I was in a house I did not know, which had two stories.  It was “my house.”  I found myself in the upper story, where there was a kind of salon furnished with fine old pieces in rococo style.  On the walls hung a number of precious old paintings.  I wondered that this should be my house, and thought, “Not bad”  But then it occurred to me that I did not know what the lower floor looked like.  Descending the stairs, I reached the ground floor.  There everything was much older, and I realized that this part of the house must date from about the fifteenth or sixteenth century.  The furnishings were medieval; the floors were of red brick.  Everywhere it was rather dark.  I went from one room to another, thinking, “Now I really must explore the whole house.”  I came upon a heavy door, and opened it.  Beyond it, I discovered a stone stairway that led down into the cellar.  Descending again, I found myself in a beautifully vaulted room which looked exceedingly ancient.  Examining the walls, I discovered layers of brick among the ordinary stone blocks and chips of brick in the mortar.  As soon as I saw this I knew that the walls dated from Roman times.  My interest by now was intense.  I looked more closely at the floor.  It was of stone slabs, and in one of these I discovered a ring.  When I pulled it, the stone slab lifted, and again I saw a stairway of narrow stone steps leading down into the depths.  These, too, I descended, and entered a low cave cut into the rock.  Thick dust lay on the floor, and in the dust were scattered bones and broken pottery, like remains of a primitive culture.  I discovered two human skulls, obviously very old and half disintegrated.  [p. 158-59]
     When Jung recounted the dream to Freud, Freud focussed on the two skulls and urged Jung to find the wish connected with them, the death-wish having a prominent place in Freud’s theory.  A man has to “kill” the father to grow up.  Rather than explore the dream for what it might have to reveal, Freud insisted on taking refuge in his theory.  Jung, 34 years old at the time, didn’t have sufficient foundation within himself to challenge the famous authority Dr. Freud, so kept his thoughts to himself.
     His own reflections on the dream, no doubt developed over decades since he is recounting it in MDR at age 85, hold some gems of understanding for us in working with our own dreams.

     THE HOUSE - An image of the psyche with hitherto unconscious additions.  The house is a frequent image in dreams.  People often bring dreams of new spaces, parts of their house they didn’t know existed.  These are important dreams.  One in particular I will relate.  [And in every case, I use only client material for which I have the permission of the client to cite.]  The dreamer, (I’ll call her Alice), was a young woman who had suffered a traumatic childhood.  She believed her mother hated herself and hated her.  Her parents’ marriage was turbulent, marked by violent fights, separations and reconciliations.  At around age 12, Alice was turned over to her maternal grandmother permanently, a woman far more kind and loving.  Alice’s early dreams revealed a psychic house that reflected her childhood home—chaotic, disturbing, terrifying at times.  About some two years into our work together, she dreamed she was in that early home and discovered underground tunnels that connected to the houses on either side, houses in which two of her childhood friends lived.   Her associations with those friends and the kinds of houses they lived in were revealing.  The friends were cherished by their parents; their homes were a refuge for Alice when things grew unbearable at home.  The tunnels represented for Alice the possibility of escape from a psychic space dominated by crushing parental complexes.  As you can imagine, Alice’s self-identity and her world view began to change.  Rather than experiencing mostly painful situations and people she saw as hostile, she began to venture out more, make friends, find supportive figures at the university she had attended sporadically before.  As indicated by the dream, she made new connections to friendlier places.
       In general, our parents (and other authorities) are the architects and builders of our psychological and emotional houses.  When these authorities are adequate and sufficiently strong, yet flexible and adaptive to the developing individual and a changing world, all goes well.  Such an individual will have in place parental imagos, i.e., unconscious parental guides, that provide guidance and wisdom for life’s journey.  Institutions, like these individuals, encode and preserve collective guidance and wisdom.  The problem as well as the blessing, of course, is that both a predetermined ego consciousness in the individual and in the institution is highly-resistant to change.  An individual sufficiently contained in such structures is never forced to venture beyond the part of his/her “house” that exists above ground.  It is from this type rigid structure that we hear arguments like “Well, we’ve always done it this way before.”  As well, as, “We can’t go there, do that; there are disasters ahead, “giants loose in the land.”
     Often times a dream will show figures who go ahead of the dream ego, who enter unknown places.  These are the “scouts” of the psyche who help allay anxiety and fear.  [And by dream ego, I simply mean the individual having the dream who plays a role in it.  The dream ego is some facet or part of the entire personality.]
     When the parents are not good enough, missing, abusive, alcoholic, etc., the individual can grow up ill-equipped to handle the vicissitudes of life.  These people may follow the pattern their parent or parents set.  They may become neurotic, even psychotic.  Jung argued that these are the individuals—the misfits, the ill-adapted, the miserable, the broken—who, lacking the unconscious mechanisms that guide ego consciousness more or less successfully—who can become creative, can provide the leadership to move the culture beyond established norms.  Of course, these people can also become extremely problematic and destructive, passing their own sins “down to the fourth generation.”
     Jung’s “house” dream, which he noted as an extremely important one, marked the beginning of an understanding that much lay below the domain of ego consciousness.  He determined to discover as much as possible about that other domain.
     From earlier experiences and from this dream and its architecture, he came to see that human consciousness, civilization, and culture rests on historic layers of an ordered history that gives shape and structure.  One of Jung’s Red Book paintings is of his conception of the ordering he perceived.
     Another way he found to express his lifetime of understanding was in his Bollingen retreat house which he built over several decades.  He wrote that Bollingen was, “a representation in stone of my innermost thoughts and of the knowledge I had acquired and a concretization of the individuation process.”
     Jung eventually postulated the existence of archetypes, patterns of human behavior that inform the personal but that lie below the surface.  When individuals like Alice connect with different patterns, ones that are healthier and more life-giving, they are drawing upon archetypal dimensions of the psyche, patterns that exist at a level below (or above and around) personal consciousness. These patterns serve to broaden one’s self identity and one’s conscious awareness.  An individual may express this increased sense of self and personal history as “Oh, so there is much more to me than I ever knew.”
     Of course, it was Freud who paved the way for the exploration of the unconscious and the patterns it contains.  You might say Freud was caught in one archetypal pattern that much informed his theoretical frame, the pattern of Oedipus.  Remember, according to the Greek myth, Oedipus unwittingly murders his father and marries his mother.  [And, of course, Jung added later the parallel figure of Electra who competes with the mother for the father’s affections.]   The Oedipus and Electra dramas depict one archetypal pattern, that of conflict between child and parent, but consider two others—those of Odysseus and Demeter.
. . . “Odysseus had been warned by an oracle:  ‘If you go to Troy, you will not return until the twentieth year, and then alone and destitute.’  He, therefore feigned madness, and Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Palamedes found him wearing a peasant’s felt cap shaped like a half-egg, and plowing with an ass and an ox yoked together, and flinging salt over his shoulder as he went.  When he pretended not to recognize his distinguished guests Palamedes snatched the infant Telemachus from Penelope’s arms and set him on the ground before the advancing team.  Odysseus hastily reigned them in to avoid killing his only son and his sanity having thus been established, was obliged to join the expedition.”  
     An early attempt at draft dodging.
     Not even threat of a 20 year servitude in war could sever the love between this parent and child. Many, if not most parents do go into long servitude to raise a beloved child to adulthood.  They put their personal wishes and ambitions aside to assure the welfare of their children.
     And remember when Persephone is swept into the underworld, Demeter, her mother, is inconsolable.  All four of these ancient tales speak of patterns of relationship between parent and child, archetypal patterns that get replayed endlessly in actual relationships, mostly unconsciously.  These patterns and many others are encoded in story, mythology, scripture, and fairy tales.  Often an individual will remember a favorite fairy tale from childhood that expresses his/her fundamental pattern. Television shows and movies can also serve to mirror and echo one’s personal story, and they serve to expand one’s possibilities for story.
     These stories and many like them are our stories.  They can help us understand and explain our behaviors, our relationships, and our ways of being in the world.  Dreams are always working to reunite us with the deeper stories that are ours and that shape our psychic structures.  Presumably, understanding the psychic patterns in play within us empowers us to affect them consciously rather than to be only affected by them.
     No one knows quite how or why it happens, but the individual who connects with the archetypal dimensions that undergird his/her personal consciousness experiences healing and a renewed sense of life and value.  There is a reconciliation with an unfathomable “other,” which traditionally has been expressed in religious terms.  Jung defined this other as the Self which is the organizing principle within the psyche, the archetype that organizes archetypes.
     Of course, we do not know what or who this other is, only that there is something like ancient wisdom gathered in the collective unconscious that has fashioned and preserved life-giving  elements and patterns of existence, a sort of museum of natural history.  Darwin explained the evolution of species.  Jung explains the evolution of consciousness in a parallel way.  Keys and doors to this museum appear all the time in dreams, in everyday experiences, in relationships, in startling thoughts, in the imagination.  Art, painting, and literature hold keys to this domain.  Mostly we moderns are far too busy and involved in our 24/7 lives to care about visiting this inner museum, but the reality of sleep forces us into it daily.  Sometimes we emerge with a lasting dream that tells us something about that underlying reality and our place and role in it.
     My guess is that everyone here has recall of a dream from long ago that lingers in the memory.  It is as if the dream clings to us, stays alive in us through no intentionality of our own.  Those are important dreams. 
     We all make assumptions about dreams.  They were caused by the snack I had at midnight.  They are frivolous and lack meaning.  They may mean something, but who knows what?
     I want to offer a few hypotheses for understanding the dream and its function.
*There is something like an “eye” of a camera or a “watcher” that captures the dream and presents it as a memory to waking consciousness.
*Every dream is an attempt to help us heal and move us toward wholeness.
*Every dream is a comment on our life situation.
*Threads from any dream can and do lead into many, many areas of our lives.
*Through patient attention to our dreams, we can make contact with and enter into a meaningful dialogue with the unconscious. [By unconscious, I simply mean the source of those factors that influence and impact our lives in unknown ways.]
*The unconscious turns to us the face we turn to it.  We ignore it; it ignores us.
*Every dream is given to us for the purpose of healing past hurts, enlarging our perspective, and/or integrating portions of our personality.
*The dream brings new information to compensate or complement our waking attitudes.
*Our life energy, or libido, is personified in dreams, as if the psyche or the unconscious wants to draw us into a living relationship.
*Relationships with inner figures can be as important, enriching, and rewarding as relationships with people in our outer lives.   [SLIDE 9]
*Our inner and outer lives are in some way mirrors of each other. Dream work can provide for a more harmonious balance between the two.
*The psyche has a teleological aspect, i.e., it is working towards a goal or purpose. Further, it seeks our participation and cooperation.
*The unconscious both conceals and reveals itself. It both yearns to be seen, yet is reluctant.
*In analysis, a secured-symbolizing field is certainly necessary for the individual. Such a field is also necessary for the unconscious. [Therapeutic containers are the “safe and secured spheres or circles in which ‘heavy’ things can safely happen.” This is the sense in which I use the phrase, “secured-symbolizing field.”]  The element of trust is of utmost importance in any depth work with another person.  In Jungian circles the expression “sacred temenos” is often used to describe the field that needs to be established for analysis.
*The dream can speak with more authority than any human voice.
     These are the assumptions, the working hypotheses that I’ve settled on over decades of working with dreams, my own and those of many others.
      I am fond of this quote from Jung:  “If you pay attention to your dreams long enough, you will develop an opinion about the unconscious.  More importantly, the unconscious will develop an opinion about you.”
     Another way of saying much the same thing is that over time you will understand the nature of the relationship that your conscious self has with its unconscious backdrop.  Dreams will inform you about that relationship.
     Is something (the Self, the “Other”) in the unconscious critical of me, pleased with me, helping me, wanting something from me, giving me a warning?  The dream storyline and characters present a drama in which the dream ego usually plays a role.  (The dream ego is the part of the dreamer’s personality depicted in the dream.)  Is the role cooperative, adversarial, passive, etc? Does the dream depict me as a responsible, worthy adult or as a petulant child, angry, obdurate, difficult?  The dream seems to hold an opinion about our ego, and will tell us that opinion in no uncertain terms.  That is precisely the reason so many people ignore and/or dismiss their dreams. Who likes criticism?
     If you pay attention to your dreams, jot down notes and reflections about them, you will, over time see that the dreams begin to respond to your attention.  That is when it gets really interesting.
     There is solid empirical evidence for all this, so don’t take it as an article of faith but as a possible working hypothesis for personality development. I do assume you are here because of an interest in dreams and their function.
     That is a lot about dreams and assumptions about dreams, what about specific guides for approaching the dream?  The best approach is a simple one that Jung himself describes in MDR:
“After the parting of the ways with Freud, a period of inner uncertainty began for me. … I felt it necessary to develop a new attitude toward my patients. I resolved for the present not to bring any theoretical premises to bear upon them, but to wait and see what they would tell of their own accord. My aim became to leave things to chance. The result was that the patients would spontaneously report their dreams and fantasies to me, and I would merely ask, ‘What occurs to you in connection with that?’ or, ‘How do you mean that, where does that come from, what do you think about it?’ The interpretations seemed to follow of their own accord from the patients’ replies and associations. I avoided all theoretical points of view and simply helped the patients to understand the dream-images by themselves, without application of rules and theories. Soon I realized that it was right to take the dreams in this way as the basis of interpretation, for that is how dreams are intended. They are the facts from which we must proceed.” [Pp. 170-71]
     Let’s move on now to discuss some specific dreams, dreams that proved helpful to the individual.  After all, what good is any understanding if it doesn’t in some way enhance our day-to-day living?  What I most like about Jungian Psychology is that it has practical and helpful application, nowhere more than in its use of dream interpretation
     The very first dream an individual brings into analysis is often extremely important and sets the trajectory for the entire work.  This was such a presenting dream:
     I was running along a ridge, following behind a group of runners.  We came to a deep chasm, and they all just leapt across.  I stopped, knowing there was no way I could jump across.  It was too wide.  Then, a man and woman appeared on my side of the chasm and went up to a switch that turned off the current of the electric fence at the bottom.  They then walked arm and arm down the hill and up the other side.  I realized that I could just keep practicing jumping and maybe eventually be able to jump over.
     The dreamer’s (I will call her Marion) answers to the questions about her associations all centered about a personal dilemma she was feeling very strongly.  Revisiting the dream a few years later, she wrote the following:
“I had been deeply upset, saddened and depressed over (a personal matter).  It was a death of sorts, and I couldn’t get over it.  The chasm certainly symbolized that to me.  The couple knew how to “disconnect” the current to get across.  After much discussion, I realized that I needed to disconnect from feelings that were holding me back.  Often, it seemed disloyal or unfeeling to move on, but the dream showed me how to disconnect from feelings that kept me blocked from going where I wanted to go.”
     There is a lot packed into this first dream, symbols of the chasm, a strong current that stops the dreamer; another connection of a man and a woman, a coupling, who represent helpful elements in the unconscious; and the hope and promise of change.  Figures in the dream show Marion the way through her dilemma.  The dream had a profound and lasting effect.  And, of course, the “watcher” provided the dreamer a broader perspective on her situation.
     This dream illustrates something more about the way dreams work.  Dreams seem not to operate under the rules of our three-dimensional world, rules about time, cause and effect, spacial relationships.  Rather than cause and effect, the dream uses more of a “when-then” logic.  In this dream, when the coupling happens, i.e., the joining of some masculine and some feminine energies, then something else can be disconnected, that is, the restricting current, which Marion believed was her strong feelings about certain troubling situations.  There are hints in this dream about restructuring of defense systems when they no longer serve.
     This one dream had far-reaching consequences for Marion in how she lived, and it immediately convinced her of the value of working with her dreams.  Her conscious view of her situation was limited.  The dream greatly expanded that view.
     Now I want to share a sequence of dreams where the personal and the archetypal are so intertwined that no interpretation on my part was necessary.
     Sara was a woman in her mid-30’s who had gone through a painful divorce, and after several years alone, had remarried. She was eager to have a child as she felt her biological clock might run out on her. She had this dream:
     I discovered that my mother and her two sisters had been secretly keeping my grandmother (their mother) alive for years. However, when I was face to face with my grandmother, I saw that her eyes were brown instead of the vivid blue they were when was alive. I said, “No, this is not Grandma. Her eyes were blue.” At that moment I touched her arm. Her eyes turned blue, and I knew it was she.
     Shortly after this dream, Sara discovered she was pregnant. The night before the child was born, she dreamed that her grandmother came through the front door of her house. Later she told me that when she awoke she knew the dream was announcing the birth. Sure enough, on that day she went into labor.
     Some four months went by, and Sara brought a new and puzzling dream:
          My grandmother comes to my house. She tells me she is bored and needs a new craft.
     I asked her what she made of this Grand Mother dream. She looked very startled. Later she told me that on the way home she bought a pregnancy test. She discovered, much to her surprise, that she was again pregnant.
     On the day Sara’s second child was born, her sister called to tell her that she had had a dream about their grandmother in which the grandmother had assured her that Sara and her little family would be just fine. As Sara told me later, she (Sara) immediately wondered if the sister were herself pregnant. The sister was but didn’t yet know it.   By this time, as you can guess,  the whole family is on the alert for appearances of this grandmother.     Some years go by. Sara brings this dream, which she had the night before she was to have a hysterectomy:
     My grandmother comes to tell me her work is done. The scene shifts. There is to be an elaborate funeral for her in a huge theater. All my grandmother’s progeny are ushered into the place. The funeral service is more beautiful and moving than I can possibly describe. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. 
     These dreams were all deeply moving and held great meaning for Sara. She felt very much supported and loved by this grandmother who, when she was a young child, had been so loving and gracious to her. The dreams helped her realize that this loving and supportive Great Mother continued her presence in Sara’s life.  No earthly person could have reassured and supported Sara in the ways these dreams did.
     Here is a dream of someone (I’ll call her Joanne) who has done her life’s homework.  She is a woman in her 70’s, is married, has raised a family, is a talented artist, and has enjoyed a successful career.  She still works part time.  The dream:
     President Obama is on the deck behind our house.  He is bowing reverently before my madonna statue.
     For Joann this was a profound, even numinous, dream.  She experienced it as a gift. In her associations she talked about her admiration for the president, how she felt he had his values in the right place, and was able to press on in spite of extremely trying circumstances.  A cradle Catholic, for Joann the madonna is a symbol of great import though she left the Catholic church a long time ago.  Joann always made her role as mother a priority and is now playing a formative role in the lives of her grandchildren. She spoke at length about all that her maternal dedication still requires of her.
     From an archetypal and symbolic perspective, this dream says a great deal.  The “president” presides over the “united states.”  Psychologically the united states speaks to consciousness with its amalgamation of various complexes and feeling states, integrated sufficiently that the states remain in a fixed position, no state going rogue or acting entirely independently of the others.  The borders between the states are porous and make for easy access.  Each has it own governing organization, yet all allow and bow to a higher authority.
      The madonna, Mary, the “mother of god,” is another archetypal image.  She is the goddess incarnate.  Tradition has it that Mary was conceived without “sin,” i.e., she represents an uncontaminated consciousness that can bring forth something of a “saving nature” without sullying it with preconceived ideas or assumptions
     I think most creative people would say their work involves, even requires, a kind of “divine spark,” as well as the willingness to persevere under extremely difficult circumstances.  Another archetypal image, not imaged in this dream is that of the annunciation, the moment the angel Gabriel whispers the inspiration to Mary.
     We can infer something about the state of Joann’s consciousness from these archetypal associations.  I especially appreciate dreams of this sort because they give us a fine idea of the psychological relevance of scriptural stories.  It is one thing to believe the stories relate to events millennia ago.  It is quite another to realize the stories describe developments possible and occurring in the personality of an individual today.
     I have dwelt on the Great Mother for good reason.  Ultimately, she is the unconscious itself.  She is the source; she gives birth to consciousness.  Dreams reconnect us with her.  We all come from the goddess-mother, and to her we shall return.

Friday, September 15, 2023


Our unique personality is a curious thing and is part and parcel of our identity.  We don’t create either our identity or our personality though many people have the illusion that they do.  Rather, our real experience of self is more one of discovering who we are through life events, relationships, victories and defeats, losses, etc., and our reactions to them.  Much of what we come to know about ourselves has much more the nature of uncovering and unfolding rather than creating.  Of course, we have some influence over who we are and are becoming, but to a limited degree.  Consciousness can become the critical factor, particularly for our behaviors and values.


 The usual condition of the alienated ego is suffering, the natural consequence of the individual encountering a situation for which the coping mechanisms of the ego are inadequate. Such a situation brings enormous dissonance and disillusionment with it—anguish, disorientation, suffering, and depression--sometimes accompanied by physical illness. Common expressions for this experience are “midlife crisis” and “nervous breakdown.” There are myriad symptoms that accompany this condition. Common treatments are prescription drugs, alcohol, busyness, exercise, shopping, etc; all serving the purpose of distraction, repression, and reduced suffering.

If the individual has a religious orientation with beliefs, dogma, and images sufficient to connect the ego with the deeper strata of human existence, that is, with the healing balm of unconscious processes, all will eventually go well. Through scriptural stories, ritual, sacramental acts, and community, he/she will receive the blessings humankind has long relied upon religion to facilitate and will weather the crisis. The individual is graced. Blessings and grace are old-fashioned words that fit well a certain psychological state that is experienced as the end of alienation.

However, if the individual has a remote connection with religion or none at all, the window to the healing effects of the unconscious is not only closed, it cannot even be imagined. Blessings and grace are foreign concepts. For these people Jung’s approach to psychology can be life saving.

Jung discovered that there are very important “nuclear processes” in the unconscious—actual images of the goal (the goal being the union of the ego with these unconscious processes), which can appear in dreams or fantasies. These images appear when there is a certain condition of ego need, a sort of hunger. Of course, the ego seeks familiar and favorite dishes, unable to imagine some outlandish food unknown to it. What the individual experiences is a longing but a longing for which there is no object. Nothing satisfies. An old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?” well describes this experience

Jung writes about this occurrence: “The goal which beckons to this psychic need, the image which promises to heal, to make whole, is at first strange beyond all measure to the conscious mind, so that it can find entry only with the very greatest difficulty.” Entry and servings of “outlandish food,” come through the numinous. The ego is confronted with numinous experience that is awe-inspiring and naturally demanding of attention.


Sunday, August 27, 2023


Fundamentals of Jungian Psychology Course

Fall 2023  Virtual Lecture Series 


The Jung Society of St. Louis will offer an on-line “Fundamentals of Jungian Psychology” course in September and October of 2023.  The course will consist of eight lectures on basic concepts taught by a variety of analysts. Each lecture will be 90 minutes with lecture and ample time for discussion and Q & A.


Format:  online, eight sessions, 90-minute Lecture and discussion


Time and Dates:  Tuesdays, 12:00 – 1:30 pm, September 5, 12, 19, 26; October 3, 10, 17, 24.


Fee:  $160       CEU’s:  12 (with an additional fee and attendance at all eight sessions.)


Registration:  Jung Society of St. Louis 



  September 5:            Jung – a brief biography; Therapy vs. Analysis – Rose Holt, MA

  September 12:          The Complex – Sheldon Culver, D. Min.

  September 19:          Shadow/Persona – Mary Dougherty, MFA, ATR, NCPsyA

  September 26:          Personality Types – John Beebe, M.D.  

  October 3:                 Dream Analysis – Ken James, Ph.D.

  October 10:               The Transcendent Function – Sara Sage, MS, LMHC

  October 17:               Anatomy of the Psyche – Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW, 

  October 24:               Individuation – Ken James, Ph.D.


Sheldon Culver, M. Div., D. Div. is a Jungian Analyst with an active, soul-healing practice in Columbia, IL.  She is a graduate of Washington University and Eden Theological Seminary, both in St. Louis.  She is a Diplomate with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts (IRSJA), graduating from this North American training program in 1996. Sheldon is the director of the Heartland Association of Jungian Analysts (HAJA) Training Seminar, a weekend program for individuals interesting in furthering their understanding of Jungian Psychology and/or training to become a Jungian Analyst.


Mary Dougherty, MFA, ATR, NCPsyA is a Jungian psychoanalyst and art psychotherapist in private practice in Chicago.  She is former President, Director of Training, and chair of the Program Committee of the Jung Institute of Chicago, former President of the Chicago Society of Jungian Analysts, and served eight years on the Executive Committee of the Council of North American Societies of Jungian Analysts.  She is contributing editor to the “Journal of Jungian theory and Practice” and has numerous publications in Analytical Psychology.  She lectures on the clinical implications of gender, the use of active imagination, and on the impact of Jung’s thought upon creative development and artistic production.


John Beebe, M.D. is the creator of the eight-function, eight-archetype model of psychological types. A Jungian analyst and past president of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, he is the author of Energies and Patterns in Psychological Type: The Reservoir of Consciousness and co-editor, with Ernst Falzeder, of The Question of Psychological Types: The Correspondence of C. G. Jung and Hans Schmid-Guisan. John has spearheaded a Jungian typological approach to the analysis of film and has written the preface to the Routledge Classics edition of Jung's 1921 book, Psychological Types. 


Rose Holt, MA began her career in science and business, areas in which she worked for over 20 years. At mid-life, she changed over to counseling and psychology after discovering Jungian Psychology. Her thesis paper for Analytical Training is “Alchemy of the Small Group.” It describes the journey of a core group of women who worked weekly with their dreams over a ten-year period. Many alchemical themes that Jung ascribed to the individuation process appeared in group members’ dreams, convincing Rose that work in small, intimate groups is an effective way to facilitate individuation.  Rose holds degrees in physics and counseling and graduated from the training program of the Chicago Jung Institute in 2001.


Ken James, PhD maintains a private practice in Chicago, Illinois. His areas of expertise include dream work and psychoanalysis, archetypal dimensions of analytic practice, divination and synchronicity, and ways to sustain the vital relationship between body, mind, and spirit. He has done post-doctoral work in music therapy, the Kabbalah, spirituality, and theology, and uses these disciplines to inform his work as a Jungian analyst.


Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW, NCPsyA graduated from the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago, and maintains a practice of analytical psychology in the Milwaukee and Madison, WI, areas. He is particularly interested in working with persons who recognize a need to develop a balanced adaptation to the “outside” and to the “inside” worlds, work that involves awareness of the individual’s psychological typology. Dreams, active imagination, and spiritual concerns are integral elements in the analytic work, the ultimate goal of which is to develop a functioning dialog with the non-ego center, the Self. He has served as Director of Training for the Chicago Jung Institute and lectures nationally and internationally.


Sara Sage, MS, LMHC is a therapist in private practice in South Bend, Indiana, and a senior candidate in the Analyst Training Program at the C.G. Jung Institute in Chicago. Sara’s practice focuses on depth work for mind, body and spirit and specializes in LGBTQ+ clients. A former teacher and professor, Sara has a lifelong interest in Jungian work that centers around psychological type and gender and otherness in ways that expand the concepts for working with transgender, nonbinary, and all queer people. Sara recently presented in Zurich at a conference celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Jung Institute.  



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Value and Meaning of Jungian Psychology Today

Some years ago I gave a presentation for the C.G. Jung Society of St. Louis on the value and meaning of Jungian Psychology today (aka Analytical Psychology).  This is a link to a clip from that presentation:  The video of the entire presentation is available from the St. Louis Society website at

Friday, August 18, 2023


In his autobiographical work, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes about his relationship with Sigmund Freud in some detail--their discussions, their travels together, their working with each other’s dreams, and his view of Freud as a father figure.  Jung writes: “. . . . Freud, who had always made much of his irreligiosity, had now constructed a dogma; or rather, in the place of a jealous God whom he had lost, he had substituted another compelling image, that of sexuality.  It was no less insistent, exacting, domineering, threatening, and morally ambivalent that the original one.  Just as the psychically stronger agency is given ‘divine’ or ‘daemonic’ attributes, so the ‘sexual libido’ took over the role of the deus absconditus, a hidden or concealed god.” 

Freud, according to Jung, had assigned to “sexuality” all the attributes historically assigned to Yahweh.  Only the name had changed.  Jung makes this important assertion: “If psychology did not exist, but only concrete objects, the one would actually have been destroyed and replaced by the other.  But in reality, that is to say, in psychological experience, there is not one whit the less of urgency, anxiety, compulsiveness, etc.  The problem still remains:  how to overcome or escape our anxiety, bad conscience, guilt, compulsion, unconsciousness and instinctuality.”


Applying Jung’s comment about “concrete objects” to the interpretation of dreams can be extremely helpful.  To illustrate the point, I will use some specific dreams:


I discovered a secret tunnel in my parents’ basement that led to the world outside.  This dream marked a significant turning point for the dreamer.  Hithertofore, she had lived in a too-small psychic space (psychic but as real as the parental basement in her waking experience and just as limiting).  The unconscious structure of that basement served as a filter of her experiences in her grown-up word.  Her childhood home was an unhappy one.  She "lived " in it into adulthood.  


I was sitting in a waiting room when Bill came in, loud and boisterous, upsetting everyone in the room.  The analyst asked, “So, what happens when you get into a “waiting room?”  The dreamer remembered that on the day before the dream she had her car serviced at a dealership.  The dealership computer system went down so there was a long delay. She became very angry and complained loudly.  

"And what about Bill?" the analyst inquired, introducing a bit of humor into a delicate situation as they both smiled, silently remembering the film, "What about Bob."  "Bill is a man I work with.  He makes mountains out of molehills."   

Bingo!  The “waiting room” in her psyche was very real and very troubling.  When she got into such a place in her real life, her unconscious "Bill," a very real factor in her psychic economy, was her trigger for anger as he grossly exaggerated small issues.  The dreamer had suffered an unconscious complex that had caused her much trouble in her life.  Information delivered by the dream freed her from that complex.


In both dreams, it was obvious to the analyst (and probably to others) what the dreamers’ problems were, but she knew a direct approach to them would raise up great resistances and would serve no purpose.  The analyst was also well aware that people will accept a lesson from a dream that not even a saint could deliver with mere words.  

Both these examples illustrate another, sometimes extremely subtle fact:  What is real is that which has real effects in the world.  They also point to the ways dreams can help us to, "overcome or escape our anxiety, bad conscience, guilt, compulsion, unconsciousness and instinctuality.”   

Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The Spirit of Our Times

In our country we are living through a frantic time in which there is an urgency to do something yet an ignorance of just what to do.  As ordinary citizens all we can do is vote, and a single vote seems inadequate to the challenges we face.  


The spirit of our times may come from a deeper place, from the spirit of the depths seeking expression.  At the end of his long life, C.G. Jung wrote that he merely sits at the stream and dips from it from time to time.  Something about study of Jungian Psychology helps put us in touch with and dip from the spirits of the depths.


The very thing that the depths seem to want to express and give voice to may be the "crippledness of the world."  No small wonder that many of us would rather seek a stream with only consummate beauty to offer, a nice desire but an idealism sure to alienate us from the depths.


In Jung's Redbook, he describes a fantasy of encountering the anchorite in the desert.  The anchorite is symbolic of his desire for a removed and remote contemplation of the world rather than intense encounter of his real self with the real world.  Jung found he could live out his real anchorite impulses at Bollingen, his retreat home, but had an obligation to live out other parts of himself by plunging into and encountering the real world.  


If Jung left us with an enduring message it is:  Be real, live an intensely felt life in a real but crippled world.  It is our human obligation, the payment we owe our ancestors.  How?  By meeting every moment with all the integrity, we can muster even though we fall short.  Of course, we cannot know how well we have succeeded or how it will turn out.  But then, neither did the Son of Man.