The idea of spirit (and its class of peers)

Life may seem chaotic on the surface, but there is a hidden meaning in it. This idea is not something we can find empirically — by intersubjectively verifiable observation of stable, repeatable phenomena —, nor can we deduct it inferentially from axiomatic principles or the totality of facts. It’s an idea that we arrive at psychologically: by experiencing it in a metaphorical way. The idea of a...

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...

Sense perception and sensous language

In various places, Hillman traces a development through Jung’s work away from “conceptal rationalism” towards an imagistic and metaphorical style of thinking; the former is associated with Psychological Types, the latter with Jung’s later writings on alchemy. Hillman, of course, thinks that this development is for the better.

Enigmatic playfulness and its depths

Salvador Dalí famously rejected symbolic interpretations of the dream-like imagery in his paintings. Surely there is a good measure of funny insolence (and self-mystification) about this attitude, but it also has a serious and important point behind it.

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.

Self-misunderstanding and the mirror of Narcissus

A while ago, I have posted some reflections on “the mirror of Narcissus”, a phrase that Tim Wu uses to characterize the Instagram culture of mass self-presentation in pictures. That phrase implies some kind of narcissism. But is that just a vague association with an old myth, or is there a deeper connection?

Understanding (Hillman’s notion of) pathologizing

I have quoted Hillman, from his “Peaks and Vales” essay on the difference between spirit and soul, as listing three distinctive features of soul-work, in contrast to spirit-work. The first of those three is that “pathologizing” is not “dismissed for growth”. But what does that even mean?

Psyche: Spirit and Soul

Is there a difference between spirit and soul? In his survey of what the term "spirit" means, Jung notes in passing that it is “common opinion that spirit and soul are essentially the same and therefore only arbitrarily separable”. And it is true that, in Jung’s work, the use of notions such as “psyche”, “spirit”, and “soul” seems at times arbitrary or at least vague...

Self-representing archetypes

According to Jung, the archetypes of the collective unconscious are psychological patterns. An archetype thus represents how we (human beings) typically live through and experience certain situations. What kind of situations?

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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