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The longed-for source of the soul’s knowing

The journey to the underworld is a metaphor for an individual’s turn inwards, and their corresponding withdrawal from the external world with its social and interpersonal relationships; the point of making that journey is to learn something spiritual: for spirit can appear personified in the realm of pure soul (i.e., in Hades) as Wise Old Man — so that the individual can learn from him. But what...

The underworld connections of spirit

Spirit, according to Jung, is the archetype of a hidden meaning in the chaos of life. When it appears personified, it will typically be the Wise Old Man (but it might be a helpful animal, a child, and so on); when it gets projected (and is not personified), it shows up as synchronistic effects in the external world. This is more than a trivial observation. As we have learned from Hillman...

A puzzle for the three theories of the “why”

I have started exploring the question of “why”: the question, that is, why gaining more soul has to proceed by a gradual distancing from the external world, from social relations and daytime consciousness. I have pointed out three theoretical approaches that can be found in the (broadly) Jungian tradition, each of which answers the question in a different way. 3. But there is a certain difficulty...

The “why” of the journey

I have written that talk about the underworld (and underworld journeys) in authors such as Jung and Hillman is metaphorical and refers, in its figurative meaning, to something we might as well describe psychologically — keeping in mind, however, that such “translation” between mythical metaphor and psychological description itself depends on more specific theoretical views, which can vary from...

More on resolving the “journey to the underworld” metaphor

So when we talk about the journey to the underworld, the metaphor indicates not a literal change of place: the individual remains in the same life they have been living already. Rather, it means a transformation in the way that individual lives, in the sense that their perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and behavior change. And although the details can vary greatly, the general direction is one...

A cautionary note on resolving metaphorical talk

When we discuss the journey to the underworld, we’re on a metaphorical level of speaking. “Metaphorical”, of course, can mean different things to different people. At the very least, however, it means that we should not take metaphorical talk “literally”: in our case, the underworld is not “below” the world in the sense that it would be a place, located in spatiotemporal terms somewhere “below...

Campbell on the return from the underwold

Joseph Campbell dedicates a whole chapter of The Hero with a Thousand Faces to “The Return” — so he has to say quite a bit about the return leg of the journey there.  1. In Campbell’s universe, living beings undergo transformation all the time, and all transformation follows the same general pattern. That pattern, universal as it is, has traditionally been expressed in countless variations:...

Hillman on the return from the underworld (contd.)

Having tracked how Jung amalgamates the nekyia and the Nachtmeerfahrt, we are now in a better position to continue and understand the distinctions Hillman wants to make. The descent to the underworld can be distinguished from the night sea-journey of the hero in many ways. […] the main distinction: the hero returns from the night sea-journey in better shape for the tasks of life, whereas the...

Are the descent to the underworld and the night sea journey the same thing?

I’m looking at a variety of possible answers to the guiding question (whether a descent to the underworld requires a compensating return trip — and if so, why) in the Jungian tradition. There is a particular difficulty with this question, however, and we might as well face it head-on. The difficulty is that in the older strata of the tradition the style of exploring the question seems to be...

Hillman on the return from the underworld

I have asked whether a descent to the underworld would necessarily require a compensating return trip. The occidental tradition frequently sets it up this way (just think of Plato’s cave in the Politeia or Dante’s Inferno/Paradiso layout; although there is also at least one major mythical form, namely that of Orpheus, which presents the return trip it as desired, but failing). In contrast, the...

Leif Frenzel is a writer and independent researcher. He has a background in philosophy, literature, music, and information technology. His recent interest is Jungian psychology, especially synchronicities and the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious.

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