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Paths to hidden meaning

The archetypal idea of a “hidden meaning behind chaotic events in life” appears when subjects find themselves in certain types of situation: when it seems that “there is no way out”. Jung says this both in the synchronicities essay and in the spirit essay. Yet there is a third line of thought in his work which arrives at the same point, but via an entirely different route.

Spirit and its origin myth

In the case of Spirit, Jung does not talk about an individual’s process of integrating archetypal contents as psychological functions: he claims that such a process happened as an overarching development in the history of the human species. That, of course, is a variation on an origin myth: a phantasy, projected backwards into history.

The ambiguous shadow

In everyday parlance, when we refer to a person’s “shadow”, we often simply mean some grim, dark streak of their personality, perhaps even a violent or evil element. But what Jung meant by the “shadow” is a little more complex than this habit of our everyday talk suggests.

The dead backwaters of life

There is a particular kind of life situation, in which a person may find themselves, and which fits the pattern I have discussed in my earlier post: it is one of those situations where archetypes are triggered. Let's call it the "dead backwater" type of life situations.

The hypocritical mirror-critic

Returning from his year-long stay on a Greek island, the protagonist of The Magus makes an intermediate stop in Rome. But he compares his impressions unfavorably with those he had in that other Mediterranean world: The sun shone as certainly, the people were far more elegant, the architecture and the art much richer, but it was as if the Italians, like their Roman ancestors, wore a great mask of...

The mirror and the mask

What we see, when looking into the symbolic mirror, are those parts of ourselves which we would normally avoid to look at, and which we carefully also hide from others. These are part of the personal unconscious and make up, in Jungian terminology, our “shadow”. The false face that we show ourselves and the outside worlds (as long as we ignore the shadow), is called the “persona” (in the ancient...

Mirrors: smoky ones

Mirrors — those of the symbolic flavor, i.e. mirrors of the soul — don’t necessarily have to be visual. In one of Neil Gaiman’s short stories, a narrative work of art (i.e. a story-in-a-story) does the same trick that Oscar Wilde’s painting of Dorian Gray performs. Thus Gaiman removes the symbolic mirror one step further from literal mirrors.

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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