"Post-Jungian"

A lot of Jungians find the term "Post-Jungian" good cause for the gnashing of teeth. That would seem on the surface to be an outrageously dogmatic reaction . . . but it isn't entirely without warrant.

For instance, anyone who has read the writings of both Jung and other Jungians extensively knows there is usually a distinct difference. Jung's style is expansive and digressive . . . and his thinking on "Jungian issues" remains, in most cases definitive and unsurpassed for depth and complexity. To compound the discrepancy between Jung and the Jungians, it (not surprisingly) is the case that most Jungian books are effectively applications of certain elements of Jung's ideas. That is, they are not theoretical expansions . . . and rarely constructive criticisms of analytical psychology's originator.

There are, no doubt, many reasons why Jungian psychology since Jung has occupied itself with application rather than evolution. For instance, Jung was certainly a genius, a very powerful thinker . . . and few could "out think" such a mind. It's intimidating to try to. Jung was usually very thorough . . . and although perhaps not very linear or easy to follow, it seems as though he sounded off (with impressive intelligence) on a great many subjects. I often think I have come up with something new to compliment Jungian theories only to later discover almost exactly the same idea (and sometimes even phrasing) in an essay of Jung's that is "supposed" to be on an entirely different subject.

Jung's digressiveness makes him a hard thinker to study.

There is also the problem of Jung's "guru" status among many of his followers. I would argue that much of the interest in Jungian ideas has come from those people looking for "reasons to believe" or for "better religion", one might say. Those who want to follow Jung "scientifically" are less common. The scientific community doesn't hold much stock in Jung and his theories. But it is the nature of science (and the principle of the scientific method) to revise and improve theories as more and more useful data is accumulated.

Belief-seekers tend to be less interested in seeking data . . . and less interested in revising ideas. They prefer discovering ideas that bring meaning to their lives. If Jung's achieve this for them, they will, needless to say, be hesitant to contradict or even question them. The ideas "work" after all, so why pick at them?

We all have some of this belief-seeking attitude in us. It is probably why we were drawn to Jung in the first place. So we are in a state of self-conflict if we also share an interest in Jungian theory as an evolving, scientific approach to the psyche. These two impulse will not always cooperate for us.

Still, the term "post-Jungian" . . . are we really ready for that? Have we grown enough to "leave the nest"? I've encountered a number of Jungians who think that "post-Jungian" is a term only used by arrogant fools who delude themselves into thinking they could possibly "know better" than Jung did.

Of course, this is a mess. We Jungians are in a rotten predicament here. Our desires to both know and believe through Jung are in conflict. But Jung himself seemed to prescribe the path of knowing. He was resistant to the dogmatization of his theories. He acknowledged that many of his theories were only beginnings and expressed the hope that others would build on to them, even correct them as needed.

That is the Jung I most admire. Not Jung the guru . . . who is, I think, the concoction of our own projection. Jung the guru is something we designed to serve our egoistic desires. And he may have been helpful, even revelatory . . . but as Jungians, how do we ultimately choose to define ourselves? Are we Jungian because we follow a guru named Jung, because we make an archetype of him? Or are we Jungians because we use Jung's ideas as a foundation for our own quest to know? Is it the theory or the man that defines us most?

I am equivocal about the term "post-Jungian", too. I share all the common concerns. But I think we Jungians have reached an impasse. We need to reconcile our desires on this issue. We need to decided whether we want Jung to work for us or whether we want to work for Jung (and Jungian psychology). Do we want to take or give?

I have taken and taken a great deal from Jung . . . and now I feel like I owe him a debt of gratitude. I can think of no better way to repay this than with the attempt to develop his ideas more. Even to improve upon them, if possible. I will accept the stigma of "post-Jungian arrogance". I will accept the likelihood that I will fail to achieve such improvement and development. The attempt is worth such failure and worth the stigma of arrogance and foolishness.

I simply believe it is time to press on, to leave the nest. If we arrogant fools don't make this leap, we will condemn Jungian psychology to oblivion. It will be remembered only as an occult religion. It will be a dead thing. And I think there is too much life left in it for this. I think the real failure, the moral failure (if you will) is in not trying to push Jungian thinking forward . . . simply because we fear we will make fools of ourselves or otherwise fear what we stand to lose.

We do not need to be or even think ourselves "smarter than Jung" to contribute to the body of Jungian thought. It is time we stop stroking our pet cowardice and fall from the Jungian Eden of belief. The Jungian fields need the toil of our labor. We can't go on relinquishing the vision of a developing field of Jungian thought.

In daring to be post-Jungian, we are not challenging Jung . . . we are thanking him. Jung will be just fine. It is ourselves that we must challenge.

So, I intend to try to be post-Jungian, to be progressively Jungian. I hope that this forum will not only tolerate such post-Jungian endeavors from its members, but resound with them. We do not need to set out to overthrow the Old King of Analytical Psychology. This post-Jungianism is not, cannot be, about the MAN HIMSELF . . . whether we indenture ourselves for or against. Jung is not a totem that must be felled or worshiped. That is the how we are deceiving ourselves, I think.

The totem that stands in our way is the one inside us, the one we and we alone are responsible for. This Old King is a creature of our own invention, is a totem of our own selfishness. Jungian psychology, this foundation that Jung gave us. It isn't the "mighty cedar" standing in front of Gilgamesh, It's the ax.

We have to use this ax on our own egoistic desires to be benefited by Jungian beliefs. The tool at hand is perfectly suited for this task . . . an irony that we have harbored in our shadows out of fear. The usefulness of this tool is not in how it can define us, but in how it can help us build and transform.

So, here's to the sharper edge of our Useless Science.

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