Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fundamentals of Jungian Psychology

Taught by Rose F. Holt and Boris Matthews

Online Course Class limit of 25

Friends, $110.00; All others, $120.00 (16 CEUs)

[Friends refers to members of the C.G. Jung Society of Saint Louis. See website link below.]

Readings: All required readings will be posted on line.

Class begins on January 21, 2008 Sign up now! Limited enrollment!

This will be an introductory course covering major theoretical elements of Jungian Psychology: (1) Introduction – History and Overview; (2) Typology and Adaptation; (3) Structural Elements of the Psyche: Conscious/ Unconscious; Ego Consciousness; Persona and Shadow; Self; (4) Complex Theory; (5) Collective Unconscious; (6) Archetypes; (7) Stages of Life; (8)Individuation.

Students will be able to understand (1) Jung’s primary contributions to psychology, (2) The Jungian concept of personality type and its value for understanding ourselves, our relationships and others, (3) Complex theory and its usefulness in changing problematic human behaviors, (4) Conflict within oneself and between self and others, (5) Archetypal motifs that underlie much of human behavior.

No prior knowledge of Jungian psychology is required. This course is open to people in the helping professions and to lay persons. It is structured to give newcomers to Jung a solid, basic understanding. It will also appeal to those who have some understanding of Jung's thinking but would like to gain a more thorough and comprehensive overview of the subject. Class limit of 25. The class requires 16 hours of reading and weekly online discussion to qualify for CEUs.

You may contact Rose Holt at (314) 726-2032 or e-mail her at, or Boris Matthews (608)217-5184 or e-mail him at

To register, go to the C.G. Jung Society of Saint Louis website and click on the appropriate link for (member or non-member) study groups.

Rose F. Holt, M.A., received her Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago in 2001. She is an analyst in private practice in St. Louis and Chicago and is active in the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago Analyst Training Program. She also serves as Advisory Analyst to the C.G. Jung Society of St. Louis. She has taught numerous courses in all facets of Jungian Psychology.

Boris Matthews, Ph.D., is a faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago where he received his Diploma in Analytical Psychology in 1987. He has been board certified (1989) by the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, and has practiced Analytical Psychology and Jungian Analysis since then in Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison. Dr. Matthews has translated numerous Jungian texts from German to English and is the co-author (with Ashok Bedi, M.D.) of Retire Your Family Karma.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sponsored by the C. G. Jung Society of St. Louis
Presented by Analysts Boris Matthews, Ph.D., and Rose F. Holt, M.A.

An on-line class in Fundamentals of Jungian (Analytical) Psychology with 16 CEU's for licensed counselors, psychologists, social workers, and chaplains will start in mid-January, 2007. This course will be appropriate for people who are new to Jung's work as well as people who wish to gain a solid, organized grounding in the basics of Jung's theories.

Details will soon be posted on this weblog, on Boris Matthews' website and on the Jung Society website: People who wish to enroll will be able to do so online at the Society website.

If you are interested in advance information, please e-mail either or

1. What was your process for determining this was the therapy you would use?

I once went to a five-day program at Notre Dame University where I heard a Jungian Analyst talk about dreams. That exposure led me to understand that there is a whole lot in the human psyche accessible only through image and symbol. This analyst was an extremely learned and interesting person, someone worth emulating. Now, of course these kinds of thoughts were hardly conscious to me at the time. I only knew that the experience gave me a glimpse of something worth pursuing.

A few months later I found a local Jungian Analyst and began working with him. That work lasted seven years and was, for me, essentially an introduction to parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. It led me to understand the complexity of the human person and also the delight and agony of all that complexity. In short, it was a journey TO MYSELF.

I had already had a fairly successful career in the business world but never found deep satisfaction in my work. It was a job but not the “calling” that I began to feel for the world of psychotherapy. During my subsequent education to become a counselor (at Lindenwood), I learned a whole lot about different approaches to helping people. However, I never found an approach that sufficiently explained either myself to me or other people to me--other than Jungian Psychology, that is.

After graduating and working for a time, I applied for admission to do advanced study in Jungian Psychology at the Jung Institute of Chicago. In the Analyst Training Program in Chicago, I truly began to fulfill the notion of my calling. It was an arduous journey, taking me six years to complete and requiring much study and a whole lot more personal analysis. The program also exposed me to even more theoretical approaches to psychotherapy, but always the Jungian approach seemed the most adequate for it offered psychodynamic theory that best explained the inner workings of the human person. I found that it works. It offers “actionable intelligence,” to borrow a phrase.

2. In a general sense, as opposed to the personal specific goal of the client, what has changed in the client that makes you believe that they are ready to terminate therapy?

I believe the client is ready to leave therapy when he/she does leave OR when he/she has a dream that announces the end of the work. Some people come long enough to solve a personal problem, get over a relationship, work out career issues, or work through grief or trauma. Some people continue on long after the initial reason for coming has been resolved. For these clients, personal growth and development seemingly have no end. Analysis becomes an avenue for increasing consciousness and accessing contents from the unconscious that feed their creative lives.

When people pay attention to their dreams long enough and develop an ability to understand them, they realize that there is an unconscious agency actively seeking participation from them. Jung calls this agency the Self. The Self may sound like a religious term, but he (and I) mean it in a strictly psychological sense. Whatever you may call it, it is a REALITY but only for some. Above all the Self requires patience. Its language, symbolic in form, is the dream. Learning that language is difficult.

3. Do you explain the process of Jungian analysis to your client?

No. Many people who enter analysis do so because they have some intellectual notion of the process. I answer questions when asked but try never to place theory ahead of personhood. For some the theory doesn’t fit at all. To try to use it would be a disservice. I rely instead upon input from the client—life experiences, memories, his/her story, dreams, meaningful events. Psyche seems to unfold in its own way and own time. I try to follow the meandering of the psyche and not interfere too much in that process. Much better that the client be the one to begin experimenting with his/her own self.

4. What techniques are your personal favorites that you use more often?

If listening is a technique, that is the one I rely most on. I frequently check in with the client to make sure I am hearing with minimal distortion.

5. Do you use other therapies with clients and if so, what do you use and what was your experience with the other therapies?

I think I must be very bad at adopting other people’s notions when they don’t fit. I find that for me Jungian theory and Object Relations are the two approaches most comfortable and effective. However, I do subscribe to the general notion that, in psychotherapy, it is the relationship between therapist and client that heals.

6. Do you work with the chemically dependent population and if so what kind of results do you see?

I haven’t worked much with chemically dependent clientele. Those I have worked with generally moved beyond dependence once they got the notion that their behavior and attitudes meant a great deal to that unconscious agency, the Self. [Just an aside here: Alcoholics Anonymous is a very effective approach to chemical dependency. Jung himself was the analyst for one of the founders of AA.]

Rose F. Holt
Jungian Analyst
October 31, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I don’t know which is more disappointing, the news about Senator Larry Craig or some of the reactions to that news. The shock wakes of scandal that have engulfed the GOP in recent years shouldn’t surprise us. It is a well known psychological fact that the repressed parts of our individual personality (our shadow) must be contained, projected, or acted out in some fashion. In one extreme the repression leads to fanaticism, i.e., to an overcompensation for doubt. In the other extreme, there are visits to brothels, gropings in men’s rooms, beatings of those unfortunate enough to carry a projection for us. An inability to hear and understand someone radically different from ourselves is an attempt to escape the radically different in ourselves.

What is true for the individual is also true for the Party.

Along with the implosion of the Republican Party in recent years, there is the oft-asked question of why our good intentions often lead to such disastrous and unintended consequences. Most of us believe George Bush decides and acts out of a fine intentionality. Unfortunately, we see what disastrous consequences lurk behind the high-flown rhetoric about democracy, God’s will, and honing to the philosophy of Jesus Christ. Whence the catastrophic disparity? We need look only to the psychological mechanism of shadow repression for an answer.

Containment of shadow elements of our personality can actually lead to considerable character development. Look at recent reports that Mother Theresa long entertained doubts about the existence of God. Her ability to admit to the doubts and her courage to go on in her work in spite of them, only enhance her reputation as someone fully human—like us.

Or President Clinton. It was his final and full confession, his profession of great sorrow, and his hard work of reconstructing all he had forfeited that won back the hearts and minds of his family, of the American People, indeed of the world. No one doubts the days and nights of anguish and sorrow Clinton suffered or the suffering he visited on others.

During this difficult period, others (Larry Craig and Newt Gingrich, Tim Hutchinson, to name just three) were calling for President Clinton’s head. To hear them tell it, Clinton was unfit to be president, a sinner beyond forgiveness or redemption, even “a naughty boy.” We now know what lay beneath their dark condemnations. We can understand their deep need for someone to carry their unbearable projections.

Clinton did the psychological work of integrating his shadow, and he emerged a better man, more fully human. The shadow sides of Craig, Gringrich, and Hutchinson have essentially destroyed their careers and wrested away their power. They erred on the side of an understandable desire to appear more fully divine, i.e., without fault, omnipotent, and righteous. Turns out, it is a most difficult task to be and appear more fully human.

What a different outcome we might have had over the past six-plus years were Bush able to entertain, contain, and even integrate his shadow side—his grab for absolute power, his demands to be the “Decider,” his inability to admit error, his imperial disregard for anyone who is not on his side, his inability to see that he is the maker of his own unintended consequences. Bush suffers from the human fallacy of the divine right of kings. He, and we, would fare much better if Bush were interested in being a really decent human being.

Bush had the opportunity to be a Lincoln. Instead, he will go down in history as a Hoover. The story is told that in the depths of the depression, Hoover thought the nation needed a song to “cheer it up.” He got his song: “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Bush’s song??? “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.”

Now, that most difficult question: What does Bush carry for me and for many Democrats?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


In our class last session, 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 Penelope’s passive role as the long-suffering and take-a-perennial-backseat wife didn’t resonate either.

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 neither recognized nor lived in modern cultures?

Another way to ask the question is with an image. Image our emerging consciousness as a very large balloon. 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, and size 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 take a 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 is 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 has the ability to 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, they protect. Sometimes that protection is a very necessary thing. We might label that protection psychological defense mechanisms, for example. There are, however, healthy defense mechanisms and not-so-healthy ones.

This little text, Descent to the Goddess, is a challenge to a common psychological state. Let’s call it the good-mother complex. The angry, devouring, haggish, and powerful mother figure is a frightening reality for many of us, and we will go to great lengths to avoid her, 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.

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 into the realm of the Great Mother and give her more authentic expression in our lives.

Here are some other texts that are relevant to our topic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The following extensive quotation is an excellent discussion of complexes, both from a theological and psychological perspective. In another section of this paper, Doran expresses significant disagreement with Jung over issues Jung raised in Answer to Job. The entire article, while difficult, is worth the effort. I selected this excerpt to add to our understanding of a basic Jungian concept—the autonomy and power of complexes.

From: J. Marvin Spiegelman (ed.), Catholicism and Jungian Psychology, Phoenix, AZ: Falcon Press, 1988.

“Jung and Catholic Theology,” by Robert M. Doran, pp. 55-59.

B. Complexes

The relation between the intentional spirit and the sensitive psyche, however, is a reciprocal one. If our intentional operations have a constitutive influence on the quality of our psychic life, it is also the case that the quality of our psychic life has a great deal to do with the ease and alacrity with which intentional operations are performed. There is, if you want, an affective self-transcendence that accompanies the spiritual self-transcendence of our operations of knowing, deciding, and loving, and that is strengthened by the authentic performance of these operations. But this affective self-transcendence is also a prerequisite if the sustained fidelity to the performance of these operations is to mark one’s entire way of life. And as we know all too well, the movement of sensitive consciousness can interfere with the performance of intentional operations. There can be felt resistance to insight, manifest in the repressive exercise of the censorship; there can be a flight from understanding, a desire not to judge, a resistance to decision, a habitual lovelessness. There can be other desires and fears that affect to a greater or lesser extent the integrity of our operations at the different levels of intentional consciousness. There may be required a healing of the psychic blockages to authentic operations before the sustained performance of intentional operations in their normative pattern of inquiry and understanding, reflection and judgment, deliberation and decision can characterize our lives. Intentionality analysis may very well provide the key to what constitute authentic psychotherapy; but it remains that such therapy may have to occur before one’s intentionality can be, not analyzed, but implemented in one’s own world and concomitant self-constitution.

Such therapy would be a matter of freeing the psychic energy bound up in what Jung called negative complexes, so that this energy is free to cooperate rather than interfere with the operations through which direction is to be found in the movement of life. Jung described a complex as “the image of a certain psychic situation which is strongly accentuated emotionally and is, moreover, incompatible with the habitual attitude of consciousness. This image has a powerful inner coherence, it has its own wholeness and, in addition, a relatively high degree of autonomy, so that it is subject to the control of the conscious mind to only a limited extent, and therefore behaves like an animated foreign body in the sphere of consciousness.”21 But in the same paper Jung distinguished a negative from a purposeful aspect of complexes. Complexes usually function as compositions of inferior sensibility, but their negative traits can be transformed if the ego assumes toward them the proper attitude. The key to the proper attitude is to regard the complex not only as a symptom but also as a symbol. The symptom points backward to causation, the symbol forward to the reorientation and balancing of conscious attitudes. Complexes are the structural units of the psyche as a whole. Each unit is constellated around a nuclear element, a focus of energy and content, value and meaning. These constitutive units of the psyche enjoy a relative independence from one another and from the conscious ego. Even the ego is a complex of energies and representations bearing on the familiar, everyday tasks, functions, and capacities of the individual. The healthy psyche is one in which the ego remains in contact with other complexes, preserving them from the dissociation from conscious awareness that grants them a second authority that thwarts the aims and objectives of the ego. And the key to this contact is to adopt a symbolic approach to the complex. As we have just emphasized, what Freud would explain causally in terms of dissociation or displacement Jung will retrieve by symbolic association. The retrieval is not a denial of the causal approach, but a sublation of it into a viewpoint that balances Freudian archeology with a teleological approach. And, we have argued, the finality of the psyche can be disengaged with greater precision if one views it as a tendency to participate in the ever higher organizations constituted by authentic intentional operations.

The structure of consciousness disengaged by Lonergan provides a helpful framework for the incorporation of the complex theory into a contemporary Catholic theology. The levels of intentional consciousness constitute what Lonergan calls a creative vector in consciousness. It moves, as it were, from below upwards. “there is development from below upwards, from experience to growing understanding, from growing understanding to balanced judgment, from balanced judgment to fruitful courses of action, and from fruitful courses of action to the new situations that call forth further understanding, profounder judgment, richer courses of action.”22 To the extent that one’s consciousness proceeds smoothly and uninterruptedly from experience to insight, from insight to judgment, from judgment to decision from decision to new experiences, insights, judgments, decisions, one is effecting a series of cumulative and progressive changes in the world and in oneself. Moreover, each successive level entails a further degree of self-transcendence. To move out of the stupor of the animal to the intelligence of the human being, one must transcend the merely sensitive desire for participation in the rhythms of the body, as well as the intricate subtleties of the flight from understanding. To move from insight to truth, from what might be so to what really is the case, one must move beyond the state of noncommittal supposition and hypothesis constituted by the second level of consciousness, to the verification of one’s suppositions and hypotheses constituting the third level. And to do the truth, either by bringing one’s actions into harmony with what one knows or by the creative praxis of constituting the new world that should be but is not, calls for yet a further degree of self-transcendence. But the psyche has to participate in the self-transcending capacities of the spirit if one is to be able to perform these operations. And for that participation there may be required a depth-psychological discovery and healing of the affective obstructions to creativity. This depth-psychological maieutic will be an understanding and overcoming of negative complexes. But the negativity of the complexes received specific meaning when the psyche is understood as the sensorium of the transcendence through which human beings constitute their world and, concomitantly, themselves.

What we have said is tantamount to a theological sublation of the complex theory into the theology of moral impotence and the need for grace. Autonomous psychic complexes that would prevent one from participating in the creative adventure of the human spirit are to be regarded always as victimized compositions of energy formed as a result of the violence done to one’s psychic whether by significant others, oppressive social structures, or the misuse of one’s own freedom and responsibility. Psychic spontaneity as such is never morally responsible for its own disorder. Disordered complexes are the victims of history. Victimization by others and self-victimization usually conspire with one another in the genesis of psychic disorder. The constitution and causation of psychic disorder will vary from person to person, so that no general, exhaustive, or exclusive mode of causation may be determined. But what counts is that the causation is always a matter of victimization.

The process of understanding and healing negative complexes will often take a person back to his or her earliest memories or beyond. But healing is conditioned by the adoption of a particular attitude on the part of the subject affected. We tend spontaneously to believe that we can adopt one of two postures to our own affective disorder. We can either repress it further, or entirely renounce moral responsibility in its regard. Repression constricts the emotional energy gathered in the complex, and eventually this energy will be explosive. Moral renunciation, though, is just a capitulation to the power of the energies constellated in the complex, and simply strengthens these energies, making it ever more difficult for one to move to a new position beyond the disorder. From a theological point of view, victimized complexes are the fruit of the sin of the world, a dimension of what the Scholastics referred to a peccalum originale originatum. To the extent that one has freely conspired in their formation, they are also the fruit of personal sin. And the redemption of the energies bound up in these complexes must be effected, not by repression, nor by moral renunciation, but by a healing love that meets one at the same depth as the disorder. The victimized dimensions of ourselves will not be healed by judgment and condemnation, but only by mercy and forgiveness. Redemptive love must reach to the wound and even deeper, and must touch it in a manner contrary to the action that was responsible for the victimization.

There is, then, an alternative to repression and moral renunciation. But that, too, has its difficulties. The alternative is to participate in the compassion of a redemptive love in regard to our disordered affections. This means, first, recognizing that the complex is a victim of oneself or of history or of some combination of these, and ceasing to hate oneself for what one cannot help but feel. It means, next, adopting an attitude of compassion in regard to our affective disorder. It means, finally, allowing there to emerge from this recognition and compassion a willingness to cooperate with whatever redemptive forces are at hand to heal the disorder and transform the contorted and fragmented energies, even to consolidate these energies into psychic participation in the self-transcendent quest for direction in the movement of life.

The difficulty with this alternative is that it is impossible to implement, unless there be some power from beyond ourselves to release us into the requisite posture. For to be compassionate toward the negative emotional forces that derail us from the direction to be found in the movement of life is to be intelligent, reasonable, and morally responsible in their regard, and this is precisely what we are rendered incapable of by reason of the force of these complexes. Again, adopting the alternative is a function of an affective self-transcendence that is not at our disposal precisely because of the power of the complexes. Although the solution is clear, one is unable to avail oneself of it because the requisite willingness is lacking. And there is nothing one can do to provide oneself with that willingness. We can acknowledge the reasonableness of a certain manner of proceeding, and still be unable to act in accord with it. We are doomed to adopt toward the victimized complex one of the attitudes that will further victimize it. We cannot emerge from the vicious circle of disordered affective development. Let me add that moral impotence due to affective disorder is especially acute with regard to complexes rooted in one’s earliest experiences, in experiences coincident with or preceding one’s earliest memory. For these are often impossible to objectify in a way that illuminates us as to what we are negotiating.

If we are to reach a freedom to treat our emotional darkness with compassionate objectivity, that freedom must be given to us. We will not find it in a creative vector that moves from below upwards in consciousness. It must come from beyond the creative vector. In the final analysis it can come only from the reception of an unconditional love that puts to rest our efforts to constitute ourselves with inadequate resources. The love that can sustain the movement of the healing vector from above downwards in consciousness, moreover, is itself beyond all human capacity. All human beings are incapable of sustaining their own healing from victimization by the sin of the world, let alone the healing of another. Human love will simply further victimize unless it is itself free of the distortions and derailments of affectivity that are inevitable under the reign of sin. No human love will heal, unless it is itself participation in divine love. No human being can be the source of another’s redemption from evil.

A human love, moreover, that would truly participate in divine love, and so that could mediate healing, must be able to be a victim of the darkness of the one to whom it mediates the gift of redemptive love. Then the healing will be mediated precisely in and through the suffering of the one who loves. And one knows oneself to be sufficiently healed to be an instrument of divine love, only when one can endure precisely the same kind of suffering as that which caused one’s own victimization, but without being destroyed by it again.

There is much more that could be written about the dynamics of healing. But this is not the place for such comments. My purpose is to emphasize aspects of Jungian psychology that can be employed in Catholic theology, and at this point I have tried only to show that the complex theory can provide help to the development in interiorly differentiated consciousness of a theology of moral impotence, sin, and the need for and gift of grace.



Monday, July 23, 2007

Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, in conjunction with the C.G. Jung Society of St. Louis, will offer a one-hour graduate-level course, "Fundamentals of Jungian Psychology," this Fall. The core of the course will be a Friday lecture and a Saturday workshop on "Shadow Work" October 5-7, 2007, in St. Louis led by James Hollis. I will facilitate a two week on-line discussion prior to the Hollis weekend and a two week on-line discussion following. Participants will submit a three-five page paper as part of the course requirements. Readings for the course will include: BOUNDARIES OF THE SOUL by June Singer; WHY GOOD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS by James Hollis; and an article from QUADRANT, "An Outline of Analytical Psychology," by Edward F. Edinger.

For more detailed information, please visit the Jung Society of St. Louis website or contact me at or (314) 726 2032. For information about enrollment, contact Jared Ainsworth-Bryson, Director of Admissions, Aquinas Institute of Theology, at

Wednesday, January 24, 2007



The word “Odyssey,” according to Webster, means: “a series of adventurous journeys usually marked by many changes of fortune.” In Jungian terms, the story can be understood as the ego’s individuation once a certain stage of development has been reached. We can liken it to the Biblical story of the Israelites. It took someone like Moses to lead the people out of bondage, through the wilderness, to the edge of the promised land. In this story, again looked at from a Jungian frame, a “Moses” kind of consciousness is necessary but only up to a point. Here Moses represents a gathering of psychic energetic forces, all leading toward a single goal–freedom for the personality. In other words, a degree of integration of the ego with an attendant increase in free will. A look at Biblical story as the code for the development of the personality would make for a fascinating study in itself. However, in this course we are going to read and discuss Homer’s ODYSSEY in hopes of finding relevance for us today.

Homer wrote down this epic poem some 2700-2800 years ago. The outline of the story, as summarized by Aristotle in the fourth century B.C., is this: “A certain man has been abroad many years; he is alone, and the god Poseidon keeps a hostile eye on him. At home the situation is that suitors for his wife’s hand are draining his resources and plotting to kill his son. Then, after suffering storm and shipwreck, he comes home, makes himself known, attacks the suitors: he survives and they are destroyed.”

So, how are we to look for relevance in a story almost 3,000 years old? THE ODYSSEY emerged at a time when ego consciousness and its unconscious substratum were more closely allied than they are today. Today our individual consciousness is so well developed that, for most people, the existence of the unconscious is not even a consideration. But just because we are unaware of something doesn’t mean that “something” does not exist.

As we read and discuss, keep in mind that (1) the unconscious often personifies its contents, (2) events and experiences we explain today with notions like “hunches” or intuitions or luck or neurosis, our Greek ancestors explained as actions or interferences of the gods, and (3) the boundary between a waking and sleeping state was most probably not so well defined 3,000 years ago.

If you accept the reality of the unconscious, or at least can entertain the hypothesis that the unconscious exists, (and I assume you do or can since you are interested in things Jungian), then you can readily see that the unconscious personifies its contents because that is the way we are presented unconscious contents in dreams.

As for my second premise, that we have new notions and words for explaining what are truly ancient and universal experiences, simply consider how very recently much of daily phenomena were explained away by superstition.

Perhaps the best way to explain what I am driving at here is to consider some of the contributions of Immanuel Kant. One of Kant’s basic ideas was that there are two world, the phenomenal and the numinal. He argued that there is a great deal about the phenomenal world that we can understand and agree upon, that indeed our minds are constructed in such a way that we experience this world in the same ways. We all can agree about time, distance (width and length and depth), and cause and effect. The numinal world, Kant argued, we should leave to religion; There is little we can agree upon about it and for that reason shouldn’t try.

After Kant, much superstition fell away. (As modern events prove, there is little about the numinal world that we can agree upon and much we can fight over. Fruitlessly, I believe.) Standardization took root. We all have light bulbs that fit, time definitions that work for us. There is universal agreement about the measurement of length. Before Kant a foot was the measure of the king’s foot. When the king changed, so did the length of the foot. And cause and effect is such an accepted fact that few moderns can accept any other explanation for events.

Jung was a student of Kantian Philosophy. However, he took Kant one step further. He believed that the numinal world gives rise to the phenomenal and continues to influence and provide energy to it. The conscious mind and its unconscious substrate are Jung’s parallel notions of the phenomenal and the numinal. If we were inclined to use theological language, we would talk about the continuing incarnation of the godhead.

If you think about all this a little, it makes some sense. We are hard pressed to give up ideas of space and time and cause and effect in our waking realities. However, in the world we experience while asleep, i.e., when the conscious mind is somewhat shut down, the rules of space and time and cause and effect simply do not apply. That is one reason it is so difficult to work with and understand dreams–they force us to think “outside the box,” as it were. If we bring our conscious mind and its constructs to the dream, we will simply make the dream fit into one of our preexistent categories of understanding. If, however, we allow the dream to break up those categories, then dreams may possibly bring something quite new and original into consciousness. In fact, the very word analysis helps explain the work: lysis means “loosening.” The task in analysis is “loosening” the rigid consciousness that we work so hard to acquire in our first decades. You can see then why dreams so often contribute to a more creative consciousness.

You can see, also, why the work of analysis can lead us straight into conflict. A well-bounded, adapted, and functioning consciousness is necessary for the world, and there are great worldly compensations for it. It is the task of consciousness to discriminate and exclude. The price to be paid is that too much exclusion ay leave consciousness in a desiccated existence. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Returning now to THE ODYSSEY. I urge you to read the story without giving it a whole lot of thought. Read it as you would read a novel. If something strikes you, note it for discussion. Let’s see together if in our reading and discussion we can feel our way into the world of Odysseus and his crew, into a consciousness somewhat emeshed with the unconscious background.

Homer’s great work is archetypal. By archetypal, I mean something very simple: an archetype is a pattern of human behavior. The two primary archetypes of THE ODYSSEY are “the journey” and “coming home.” Reading THE ODYSSEY may help us feel our way more deeply into our own archetypal patterns of journey and home.

Rose F. Holt
January 15, 2007