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I engage critically with C. G. Jung’s late work on the idea of synchronicities, and related work from other authors at the time. My focus is on methodology, argument analysis and conceptual inquiry (rather than empirical or historical research).

The wide alley of dreams and the narrow, winding trail of synchronicities

Dreams may be the via regia to the unconscious: Freud said so, and Jung, too, insisted that the analysis of dreams would allow both analyst and analysand to observe what went on with the unconscious psyche (cf. e.g. GW VII §§209-210). Writing forth the metaphor, we might say that, if dreams are the via regia, then synchronicities are a small, winding mountain path which may or may not lead...

On the movements of the collective unconscious

Robert Musil was one of the great masters of imaginative metaphor, and he captured very well the notion that much of what drives our psychology is both collective and unconscious — difficult to be aware of from the point of view of individual consciousness: The train of time is a train which rolls out its own tracks ahead of itself. The flow of time is a river which carries its own banks along...

Something breaking into something else

Jung discusses from time to time how unconscious processes can “break in” (einbrechen) and disrupt consciousness. The term captures the experience from the point of consciousness: the workings of the ego complex are interrupted from something “outside”, and that means: something outside consciousness. In other words, what “breaks in” is simply something else, something not under conscious...

Spirit as a generator and transformer of images

In the spirit essay, Jung claims that spirit existed as a separate being prior and independent of human consciousness, and was integrated, over the course of evolution, into the latter. As separate form of being, according to Jung it had three major characteristics: […] first a spontaneous principle of movement and activity, secondly the property of free image creation independent of sense...

Dreams of the soul, visions of the spirit

In one of the most fascinating passages of "The Dream and the Underworld", Hillman considers dream characters: “In dreams we are visited by the daimones, nymphs, heroes, and Gods, shaped like our friends of last evening.” But the next question is obvious: “why don’t the shades and Gods come in their own shapes?" And once again Hillman’s answer has to do with the difference between soul and spirit.

The spirit of Jung, and the spirit of Hillman

In recent posts, I have discussed Hillman’s distinction between soul-work and spirit-work (doing psychology vs. spiritual development). Hillman claims Jung’s ancestry here, but there are also grave differences in how they understood these notions.

The Mana Personality vs. the Self

I have criticized Hillman for saying that Jung’s archetypes of the Self and the Wise Old Man are the same — mostly for the reason that Jung in many passages clearly speaks as if these are not just not the same, but even widely separated notions. There is, however, one very central passage in Jung’s work where he explicitly discusses the difference between the Wise Old Man and the Self archetypes.

Spiritual practice and its distractors

To add some more detail to the distinction we’re exploring, between spirit-work and soul-work, according to Hillman’s “Peaks and Vales” essay, let’s look at a common experience: distractions we suffer when we attempt some typical spirit work. These may fall under either of Hillman’s first two criteria (pathologizing of the soul and anima confusions), or perhaps even remain in a grey area in...

The Old Man and the Self

In several places, Hillman practically identifies two well-known Jungian archetypal figures: “the Self, which is another name for the archetype of meaning,  or the Old Wise Man”. This is an astonishingly implausible claim.

Is the way of the soul riskier than the way of the spirit?

We have now looked into two of the three marks that distinguish soul-work (psychology) from spirit-work: pathologizing and anima confusions are regarded as inherent activities of the soul, and therefore in soul-work we must attend to them and engage them on their own terms, rather than trying to get rid of them.

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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