Monday, October 11, 2004


St. Louis Jung Society, Fall 2004 September 23, 2004


First, you must accept some underlying assumptions—or at least entertain certain hypotheses.

1. The Unconscious is real. It exists. It influences and affects everyone's everyday life. It is a living phenomenon—the teeming, ever-creative source of life.

2. The ego does not create or give rise to the Unconscious. Rather, the Unconscious gives rise to and supports the ego.

3. Establishing a relationship with the Unconscious is worthwhile and beneficial to everyday life.

4. Just as in other relationships, the more we know, understand, and accept the other, the richer, deeper, and more satisfying the relationship.

5. The unconscious wants to be seen and understood.

6. Ego consciousness plays a vital role in the process of relationship. It seems that nothing changes or emerges from the Unconscious without an ego to serve as its agency. The ego serves—wittingly or not.

7. The Unconscious is capricious in nature.

In our work together we will make a sort of Pascal’s Wager. Remember his wager? "It makes more sense to believe in God than to not believe. If you believe, and God exists, you will be rewarded in the afterlife. If you do not believe, and He exists, you will be punished for your disbelief. If He does not exist, you have lost nothing either way. "

Substitute our word, “Unconscious”, for “God” in this paragraph, and you will better understand the approach we will take for our time together. I’m certainly not advocating anything of a religious nature with this approach. Rather, to me, the whole matter comes down to practicality and a simple question: What approach will benefit us the most?

With that behind us, let’s return to our question: Why study this difficult work? Edinger tells us that Jung’s Mysterium is like the Unconscious itself. It is oceanic. Just like work with our own psyche or unconscious, it is difficult to get a foothold, to understand, to sort out the myriad of images and storylines. Understanding and relating to our own psyche or Unconscious is a daunting task. However, for those of you who make the effort, you already know the effort is well worthwhile.

And just what does this effort consist of? Paying attention to dreams and dream images; observing synchronicities that occur in our life; watching for repeating patterns in our own behavior; being mindful of the unintentional effects we have on others and on events; mapping our own psyche for the complexes (which act like mine fields) that exist in our unconsciousness and that explode or erupt occasionally; being more or less aware of the triggers that set off our complexes; paying attention to our emotional state and its many variations and swings; entertaining fantasies that can provide information to our ego state; and above all, having an awareness that ego consciousness is embedded in something larger than itself that exerts pressures, that influences attitudes and behaviors, and that has real affects.

In this course, we are making an additional effort. By relating to Jung’s ideas and the images he explores, by developing a relationship with them, we are in effect establishing a better relationship with the Unconscious. The psyche, or the Unconscious, consists of images and patterns that picture vital activities which are full of meaning and purpose. These images and patterns are not random. They are uniform and recurring patterns or archetypes. Our western way of explaining physical phenomenon is largely by the mechanism of cause and effect. I am uptight and anxious because my early formation occurred during the great second World War is an example of cause and effect thinking. An equally valid way of ‘explaining’ physical phenomenon is to ask, “To what end or goal is this event, behavior, occurrence aimed?” A third way of explanation is to explore the possible patterns that make the event, behavior, occurrence necessary for the pattern to complete itself. It is this third way that Jung explores in his great work.

The value of knowing and recognizing these archetypal patterns is that when they manifest themselves in our personal experiences, we can see them. Why is that important? It is the case that healing in analysis occurs when the individual recognizes the connection between the personal and the archetypal. It is as if a connection gets made from one’s small personal existence and experience to some underlying source of all existence and experience, and the individual has an ‘ah-ha’ realization that is satisfying and helpful. And, it would seem to be case, the Unconscious also gets something of an ‘ah-ha’ when those moments occur.

Let’s take some examples. The word psyche is a Greek word that also means “butterfly” so that in the word itself is an understanding of the experience of transformation or metamorphosis. If the ego is an epiphenomenona of the psyche, that is to say, the ego is formed on the substratum of the psyche and takes on its patterning, then the ego, too, will be subject to psychic transformations. However, without an awareness of the underlying nature of the psyche and its pattern of regular, somewhat predictable transformations, the ego will simply be dragged through the transformations and will experience primarily the suffering. Or the ego may simply try to numb itself to all experience, in which case the baby has definitely been thrown out with the bath water. With memory, knowledge, imagination, patience, and perserverence, the ego can better weather the suffering and storms that are part and parcel of transformation. Simply remembering one’s own adolescence and knowing that it is a major transformation in everyone’s life can be of enormous help to any parent with teen-age offspring.

Knowing, too, that parenting itself is one of those universal, archetypal human experiences can help adults to understand and, if desired, modify their own personal ways of expressing this pattern in a very important and personal way. In other words, we don’t necessarily have to live out a particular pattern we discover in ourselves. But if we don’t know about the pattern, we will live it out unconsciously—often with effects that we would avoid if we knew how to avoid them. Imagine that you are a bulb plant about to give rise to a spring bloom. Whether you identify with the bulb or with the bloom can make a considerable difference in how you experience that period of painful splitting and pushing upward to the light. Better still if we can realize we are both bulb and bloom!


I have chosen Edinger’s lectures on Jung’s book, Mysterium Coniunctionis, (Volume 14 in Jung’s Collected Works) because Edinger is able to make Jung’s work more accessible. Even though we will be using Edinger as our portal, we will run into much that we do not understand, and we will be frustrated. It is as if we enter a mental state like the California goldminers of old. We will stand patiently in the stream, sifting through a lot of silt and ore, looking for that occasional flash that will make our effort worthwhile. Keep in mind that Jung and Edinger have already done a huge presort so that what we are presented with is mostly gold—although we won’t often recognize it. Edinger argues that the content of Jung’s Mysterium is the content of the collective unconscious, the objective psyche, transmitted through Jung’s highly-developed consciousness.

Jung’s great work is also his last. He spent his 70’s working on it and considered it the culmination and synthesis of all his earlier researches. As with all the important issues and directions in his life, Jung’s move into alchemy was presaged by a dream. This is his statement about the dream, one in a series he discusses at greater length in Memories, Dreams and Reflections:

"Before I discovered alchemy, I had a series of dreams which repeatedly dealt with the same theme. Beside my house stood another, that is to say, another wing or annex, which was strange to me. Each time I would wonder in my dream why I did not know this house, although it had apparently always been there. Finally came a dream in which I reached the other wing. I discovered there a wonderful library, dating largely from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Large, fat folio volumes, bound in pigskin, stood along the walls. Among them were a number of books embellished with copper engravings of a strange character, and illustrations containing curious symbols such as I had never seen before. At the time I did not know to what they referred; only much later did I recognize them as alchemical symbols. In the dream I was conscious only of the fascination exerted by them and by the entire library. It was a collection of medieval incunabula and sixteenth-century prints. The unknown wing of the house was a part of my personality, an aspect of myself; it represented something that belonged to me but of which I was not yet conscious. It, and especially the library, referred to alchemy, of which I was ignorant, but which I was soon to study. Some fifteen years later I had assembled a library very like the one in the dream." [MDR, p. 202]

In alchemical texts, Jung found processes described which paralleled the processes he observed in the dreams of his modern patients. The alchemist observed and practiced his art in his his/her laboratory, an art that consisted of “separation and analysis on the one hand and synthesis and consolidation on the other. For him there was first of all an initial state in which opposite tendencies or forces were in conflict; secondly there was the great question of a procedure which would be capable of bringing the hostile elements and qualities, once they were separated, back to unity again. " [Vol. 14, p. xiv] The beginning of the work was not self-evident, and the end-state even less self-evident. Generally, the alchemists found common elements or ideas in the end-state: “. . . the ideas of its permanence (prolongation of life, immortality, incorruptibility), its androgyny, its spirituality and corporeality, its human qualities and resemblance to man (homunculus), and its divinity.” [Vol. 14, p. xiv]

From his researches, Jung concluded that there is in the Unconscious, or the psyche, an ancient and ongoing process that tends toward an endgoal—wholeness or realization of the Self. He called this development “individuation,” the process in which opposing tendencies in the personality can be separated, analyzed, understood to some degree, and synthesized in such a way that a lasting connection and dialogue between ego and Self is established. The alchemists term for the process of separation and analysis was solve et coagula, dissolve and coagulate. Their term for the endstate was lapis Philosophorum, or the “Philosopher’s Stone,” which they equated with Christ. (In his work, Jung considers Christ as one symbol for the Self.)

Using Edinger’s lectures as an aid to understanding alchemical language, we will explore the images and processes of alchemy which, as Jung so carefully and methodically demonstrates, are parallel to those that take place in our own psyches if we but can recognize them. Recognition is critically important for the reason I cited earlier: It is the case that healing in analysis occurs when the individual recognizes the connection between the personal and the archetypal.

Edinger gave these lectures at the Jung Institute in Los Angeles in 1986-87. The lectures were audiotaped, and the book we are using is one compiled and edited by Joan Dexter Blackmer. This is the first paragraph of her “Foreword:”

Mysterium Coniunctionis has been an object of fascination for me from the very start of my acquaintance with Jung’s work almost twenty-five years ago. For many years I read at it and struggled unsuccessfully to grasp its heavily veiled meaning. Its images and phrases kept coming back to me as apt symbols of my experience, but always clothed in the riddles that symbols present—riddles that defied solution.” [p. 14]

Add to that quote, this one from Edinger: “This book can’t be read the way one reads an ordinary book—it has to be worked on the way one works on a dream. Initially, almost every sentence will present you with something that is more or less unfamiliar, and that adds up to a whole series of defeats for the ego. But if you can disidentify from the ego sufficiently, then that may enable you to keep going.” [p. 18]

What to Expect

The student of this work will:

1. discover fresh insights into the development of his/her own consciousness,

2. develop an understanding of the structures of the ego and the Self, as well an understanding of the relationship between the ego and the Self,

3. probe the mechanisms of projection,

4. learn to appreciate the role of fantasy and active imagination in personality development.