Centro Italiano di Psicologia Analitica
This paper presents a reflection on the reasons for which we have chosen to adopt the thought of C. G. Jung as the central cognitive paradigm that guides and inspires a publishing program with a humanistic orientation, in a range from psychology, to philosophy, to art and to literature.
One of the commonplace assumptions of the present day sites psychic suffering entirely in the mind, and in turn sees the mind, by way of the functions of the brain, to exercise control over the whole of the human being’s psychophysical reality. In addition to positing a radical separation of the cognitive and emotional functions, such points of view entirely disregard the ethico-symbolic dimension of thought and regard it as a kind of metaphysical leftover that no longer has reason to exist. With respect to the dominant trends, the decision to shape a publishing program that meshes with the bases of Jungian psychology implies the pursuit, from the very start, of transversal and marginal forms of knowledge. We’re involved with what might be called an “hermetic” form of knowledge, as symbolized moreover by our logo, Hermes’ caduceus. And that’s to speak of a mode of knowledge which in shaping and applying itself is never forgetful of the deeper levels of memory – of the psyche’s foundations in the archetypes – and which is always mindful of grasping their relation to both the present and the future, or the world in becoming. A psychology in which the theory and clinical practice underrate the influence of deep memory, with its images and emotions, throws up a barrier that separates the “reasons of the heart” from those of the mind; and it ends up by rendering unconscious the very matrix from which the mind has always tapped the energies needed for its own becoming. Consciousness thus finds itself blocked off from pursuit of the soul’s deepest territory, which in fact is the only territory where the transformation of symptoms into symbols can come about. And that transformation, in turn, is what constitutes the essence of the psyche’s creative and spiritual processes, and what truly opens the mind to the other, to culture, and to history. The psychopathological and existential consequences of such a schism belong to the field that Jung most exhaustively explored, and his basic intuitions and methodological indications seem to us today to be ever more fertile and correctly focused. In an epoch when scientific and technological research come to be ever more vastly involved in pursuing the chimera of limitless progress – t nding as well to promote a massified (and uncritical) adaptation of the mind to such ideas – the Jungian concept of individuation, with its hermeneutic queries and clinico-existential implications remains more than highly interesting, and indeed grows essential. In an essay entitled “Individuation in an Epoch of Uncertainty,” Rosemary Gordon1 likewise reflects on the need for the process of individuation in an epoch like our own, in which an overwhelming measure of psycho-social change causes the collapse of the individual and collective psyche, thus leading to its loss of all possible centering, and as well of all hope of affective and emotional containment. The result is a state of radical uncertainty and existential confusion.
These factors of psycho-social destabilization, in conjunction with the loss of the memory of cultural roots, produce a kind of pneumatic void in the human soul: a void from which consciousness tends to flee, racing towards the pseudo-certainties that the modern world materializes in the conquests of science and technology. So, on the one hand, our depths are emptied of reference points, and, on the other, we witness the construction of ever more sophisticated and specialized technico-scientific models that attempt to offer reassurance. But it lies within the very nature of the technico-scientific approach to impede the vision and interior elaboration of our problems, with the paradoxical result that things intended to be reassuring end up by ever more thoroughly emptying life of its pathos and of resonance within its depths: so, there’s finally an increase of precisely the confusion and uncertainty that one wanted to “leave behind.” One thus creates the sort of “vicious circle” in which the psyche is entrapped in the double dilemma of the shattered polarities which Jung led us to reflect upon, and which many contemporary authors (not only and not primarily psychologists), inheriting as it were his spirit, continue to study, posing questions both to themselves and to us by way of their reflections.
So, in the attempt to direct our gaze toward the “intermediate space” that in all its ambiguity spans between the reasons of the heart and those of the mind – that space of the Soul which the modern world tends to exile into a no-man’s land – we have consciously chosen to commit ourselves to the not particularly comfortable tradition of “the doctrine of double belonging,” which is to speak of that mode of thought which in order to heal splits in consciousness invokes the mediation of Hermes, the god who transits back and forth between near and distant places, the past and the present, the individual and the group. As Carlo Ginzburg holds: “The rediscovery of antiquity, and in particular of the forms of classical antiquity, implies a precise awareness of the cultural distance between the present and the past, or, in short, the grounds of modern historical consciousness.”2 Our authors thus move between the psychology of the ego and the psychology of the self, image and concept, deep memory (the archetypes) and present-day life, opposition and reconciliation. We feel that the cultural dimension – which is always charged with deep memory, even in the cases in which such memory is repressed by the ego – is far from extraneous to clinical practice, and, quite to the contrary, is an integral part of it. We feel indeed that culture – as expressed in the forms of both the past and the present – can fecundate psychology and enlarge the horizons of its understanding, endowing it as well with indications that can help with the development of new syntheses of meaning and praxis that will allow it to advance into its future. It remains, however, clear, as Eugenio Borgna writes, that “in order for culture to organize itself within a semantic dimension (useful to psychology and not pure abstraction) our interior life as well must be called into play.”3
Jung’s thinking, in addition to passionate, was also highly rigorous, albeit in its own particular way. Jung’s rigor was thematic and existential (ethical) rather than formal. Indeed, the anti-systematic character of his thinking, and his readiness to exceed the measure of the “normal” progressions of logical thought – allowing himself an intuitive penetration into distant times and spaces – have often been experienced as a difficulty, and even as a source of irritation, on the part of no small number of less mercurial scholars. But Jung’s contribution to psychoanalysis – and more in general to culture and the history of thought, and essentially to the ethical groundwork of human life – is not to be separated from a certain “hermetic factor.” This ability to step beyond confines typified his vision and cognitive style and allowed him a sudden grasp of the constants of human feeling, of behavior, of thoughts and figurative representations that continue beneath the surface to influence modern consciousness, in all its leaning toward progress.
The brilliant amplifications that Jung was able to construe, starting out from clinical case studies, and to propose though his writing to our own attention were in fact made possible by the constant dialog between, on the one hand, the psyche’s “hermetic factor,” which allows us to “see through” the ordinary barriers of logic and the confines of time and space, and, on the other, the actions of “surveil lance” and elaboration performed by the rational mind. Jung could thus perceive “sameness within difference,” the spiritual within the material, and he intuited the power of the “hermetic factor” precisely as a tool for interpreting the present and foreseeing the future, in connection no less with the clinical situation of the individual patient than with the reality of the collective psyche. In an essay that appeared in I fili dell’Anima,4 Hillman reflects on Jung’s propensity throughout his life to address the unusual and the marginal, and he underlines that this inclination allowed him to illuminate ever new phenomena, such, for example, as “Tibetan mysticism long before the Dharma bums; Zen long before Alan Watts; Native American wisdom of the Trickster before Castaneda and Rothenberg; alchemy, parapsychology and astrology before they were absorbed by the trippers of the New Age; the psyche of theoretical physics long before Capra... the resurrection of the feminine before the feminists....” Jung had an extraordinary talent for “seeing through things,” and for intuiting the seeds of things in a state of becoming; and that talent was rooted, quite precisely, in the peculiar hermetic propensity that characterized him. It was also thanks to that inclination that he was able to create a dialog among the three moments of the human soul, which are also the three moments of history: deep memory, the perception of the present, and the intuition of the future.
One must never pay too slight attention to Jung’s idea that the origins of psychic suffering and the reasons for which it grows acute are first of all to be sought in the “current conflict.” This makes it clear that interest in the past is never an end in itself, and must always be drawn into relationship with the psychic suffering that appears in the clinical record and the current situation. Jung’s thinking here is fed by two underlying allegiances: on the one hand, to the deep memory that finds its manifestation in humanistic culture and in the metaphors through which human consciousness has represented itself throughout the ages; and, on the other, to the need on the part of consciousness to stretch out towards the future. We attempt to keep faith with this duplex allegiance, since memory and becoming are inescapable necessities and intrinsically inter-connected: like powerful demons, they play out their game on the checkerboard of the human soul, and it’s by way of their game that individual and collective identity assume a form.
The archetypal image of the pair of mutual, contrary opposites – which is amply represented in the history of culture, in art, and in the development of thought – presents itself as one of the principal paradigms from which Jungian experience, methods, and contents descend.
The exquisitely “hermetic” technique of amplification permitted Jung to develop a clinical and cognitive method which is strongly anchored to an ethical vision of existence. It likewise allowed him to lead us to a place inside our game of mirrors and mirroring images, showing us that every psychic dimension and every phenomenic reality implies its contrary opposite: an equal but opposite twin. Erasmus too remarked that “All human things have two faces, entirely different from one another, so that what appears at first sight to be death when more attentively investigated presents itself as life; just as life, contrarily, reveals itself as death, beauty as ugliness, opulence as absolute indigence, just as infamy turns into glory…”5 But my principal suggestion, here, is that the relationship between traditional and modern forms is still another game that unrolls on this chiaroscuro checkerboard, where the dark squares are understood as the obscurity of the unconscious, and the bright ones as everything grasped by consciousness. The ineludible double – even though repressed (in darkness) – of the demon of History always running forward in pursuit of the modern myth of progress is precisely his mirroring twin: the demon of Memory that’s always faithful to the past, always digging down through stratifications which have lain in the soul for centuries, always searching out images, suggestions and contents that can thus be subtracted from forgetfulness and brought back into play with newly provocative implications. It’s only when vision is split (already the sign of a profoundly damaged identity and a faulty capacity for representation) that these two dimensions appear to belong to irreconcilable territories. In fact, however, their dialog in an intermediate territory is precisely what enables the mind to effect the symbolic negotiations that allow it to pursue its cognitive voyage.
The considerable space that Jung devoted to traditional forms was a part of his attempt to recuperate the dynamism of the lost pole of the psyche; and this allowed him throughout his life always to circumambulate the same cognitive paradigms, but at levels of depth and from angles of thought and clinico-existential intuition which were always changing and forever in movement. He wrote in 1939, “Just as the human body is a museum, so to speak, of its phylogenetic history, so too is the psyche. We have no reason to suppose that the specific structure of the psyche is the only thing in the world that has no history outside its individual manifestations. Even the conscious mind cannot be denied a history reaching back at least five thousand years. It is only our ego-consciousness that has forever a new beginning and an early end. The unconscious psyche is not only immensely old, it is also capable of growing into an equally remote future.”6
Those most interested in the cultural foundations of identity seem, however, less to be psychologists than students and thinkers in other humanistic disciplines. A look at the university curriculums of “mental health” professionals (doctors, psychologists, counselors, teachers) might lead one to think that the spirit of the times has done away with the very notion of any possible connection between states of “mental health” and cultural depth, which is to speak of the soul’s ability to register life on interior and emotional terms and to give it expression by way of the various forms of the humanistic traditions. Anyone who lends attention to the history of human thought and of human consciousness, and who raises the question as to why the human soul has always sought to see itself in relationship with the “ailment of life,” creating for itself a mental picture of it, and elaborating symbols and modes of behavior that are adequate to it… any such person stands apart from the “average” psychotherapist who, yes, in the best of cases addresses the past, but not any further back than Mommy and Daddy, since…’Well, you have to be careful: culture is one thing, and clinical practice is something else!’. Raising questions about the ways in which the ancestral Fathers and Mothers who were still in touch with “the gods” – which is to say with the sacred dimension of the psyche – elaborated and put into action their responses to psychic suffering is a risky undertaking. One easily runs the risk of arousing suspicions (condemnations) of being involved in sterile anachronisms, or in aesthetic and literary attitudes (and therefore, by tautology, clinically inappropriate). Archetypes are out of fashion in psychology: from various quarters they are underrated and looked upon as suspect, and end up by being allowed to exist in only a marginal space. So, the basic assumption of Jungian clinical practice – the notion that psychopathological symptoms can also be manifestations of archetypes to which consciousness has paid insufficient attention – holds no interest for the great majority of practitioners. The psychologists and medical doctors who issue from the universities haven’t so much as an inkling concerning such things. And even when personal inclinations lead students towards this field of interpretation, they’re likely, first of all, to find little possibility of exploring it, since Jungian thought and clinical practice form no part of university curriculums; and, as well, they’ll often be subject to the weight of slights and criticisms which are no less radical and insidious than widely spread among the majority.
Many psychologists and doctors come by chance to a Jungian psychoanalyst or to the Jungian training institutes, and sometimes here as well there is the danger of their not being able fully to make acquaintance with the method that works with the archetypes, since it’s viewed as based on the parts of Jungian theory which are weak and anachronistic. The dominant (fashionable) idea today is the notion of the confrontation with diversity, of the integration of points of view, of interdisciplinary studies, of openness to the new and the multiple, of the need to adjust to the new techniques and languages of the modern world. And there are certain ways in which this spirit would seem to find its inspiration in the epistemology of complex.
There can be no doubt that the results of the study of complexity are largely to be approved of, and as well that Jung himself encouraged such thinking long before its theorization on the part of modern epistemology. On closer analysis, the theory of complexity and its guiding systematic attitude derive from the evolution of very same corpus of ideas that finds expression in analytical psychology, to which both Toni Wolf and C. G. Jung in fact referred as “complex psychology.” Jung always took his distance from all forms of interpretive reductivism, and precisely because he held the psyche to be of a complex nature. The reference here, moreover, is not only to the psychology of the complexes, but to the complexity of the object of investigation in its very own right. The technique of amplification (the exploration of the psyche’s hermetic factor) is equivalent, at the epistemological level, to those modern studies of the epistemology of complexity that develop and clarify a mode of thought that finds its sustenance in symbols and analogies, while also “making use of a logic of conjunctions and implications,” as remarked by Edgar Morin.
There can be no doubt, moreover, that Jung was the first psychologist to insist on the need for a variety of approaches to psychic suffering. Openness to a multiplicity of interpretive models and the notion of a confrontation of multiple points of view are truly to be hoped for, and solidly rest on a “Jungian foundation,” but perhaps it’s worth our while to insist on a “detail” that isn’t, however, to be thought of as non-essential: the very idea of a confrontation necessarily implies the presence of discrete and separate terms that place themselves in dialectic relationship with one another. This is to say that there can be no confrontation without the existence of distinct identities, each aware of its own specific qualities. Otherwise – which is to say in the lack of a conscious distinction held in place by the critical faculties of the subjectivities that face one another – confrontation is highly likely to cede its place to confusion, undiscerning aggregation, and conformity with dominant models. We feel it possible to set up a dialog with diversity without confusing oneself – and without allowing oneself to be colonized by the power of the majority voice – only on condition of remaining aware of the specific forces that the dialog calls into play, and only if the meanings for which they opt are clear. And isn’t this, moreover, a fundamental aspect of the individuation process? And one must not underestimate the fact that every theory and every technique refer back to a universe of philosophical and existential presuppositions, and to a vision of the world and of life. The clinical practitioner who truly desires to site himself in a perspective of dialog and openness with respect to the diversity of other subjectivities can never ignore the relativism of his own “individual equation,” if not at the cost of the mystification and banalization of the dialog itself, and as well of the whole attempt to effect an approach to psychic suffering: an approach to another’s psychic suffering must finally involve the problem of a mirroring of the other’s identity, in addition to an affectionate appreciation of differences. Dialog, in short, is impossible in the lack of recognition and affectionate respect for oneself and the other. It’s easy to agree abstractly with this idea, but here again we discover questions which are not to be ignored: is the mirror that psychology offers to suffering individuals sufficiently broad and deep? And is it capable of reflecting the psyche’s fundamental polarity, which is to speak of the polarity that plays itself out between deep memory, on the one hand, with its high charge of images and affects that belong to what has always been humanity’s collective destiny, and, on the other, the current state of things? Or again, if the mirror is smaller and narrower than the person peering into it in search of a reflection that might be capable of recomposing his or her shattered identity, how can recognition take place? How can becoming find its starting point?
There is no small number of contemporary authors who raise the question of the ethical and philosophical implications of the now hegemonous development of the neurosciences. Each in his or her own way is inclined to think that psychology is risking its own annihilation in an “eliminative theory” that exerts a negative influence on the ethical foundations of life. Here, moreover, I restrict myself to making mention of thinkers who are not psychoanalysts, since my purpose is to widen the spectrum of reflection by drawing attention to a series of transversal convergences in our field of knowledge. For example, the philosopher Sergio Moravia raises the question as to what’s implied at the empirical and operative levels by a psychiatry that too highly finds its orientation in biologistic and finalistic directions. He replies: “What’s implied is the systematic cancellation of the psychic and ethico-symbolic-cultural dimension of the human being, or at least its systematic derivation from the material dimension of the human body.”7 Eugenio Borgna, a phenomenological psychiatrist and one of the most sensitive and passionately critical voices of the modern world, stresses that “the area of the biologistic and finalistic orientation has seen the emergence of radical theses that propose to eliminate such words as ‘conscience,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘responsibility,’ since they see them as antiquated residues of a metaphysical heritage from the past.” It strikes me that there’s little need to underline the extent to which precisely these concepts are fundamental to the Jungian concept of individuation.
But in this case, what sort of dialog can come about between a Jungian psychologist who pays little heed to the need for a cultural and ethical (archetypal) grounding of his own thought, for precisely clinical purposes, and psychologists from other theoretical schools. What sense can it make to praise or censure the new techniques of psychotherapy while remaining unacquainted with the method of the archetypes and the technique of amplification that forms an integral part of it, or in the lack of an appreciation of its theoretical and clinical implications?
Jung himself was indeed the first to insist on the inseparability of the age-old stratifications which are present in the deep memory and the articulation of the clinical symptoms that present themselves in the here and now, and he discovered one of the principal causes of suffering to lie in the split that separates the soul from thought. How can psychologists make a significant contribution to the current debate on the plight of modern consciousness in the wake of its loss of its certainties if they lack terms of comparison with ancient forms of consciousness and with the various traditional functions from which modern consciousness derives? And, first of all, can psychologists truly help the individual who’s oppressed by psychological disturbance (can they offer clinical treatment) if they’re unable to see that psychic ailments, or disturbances in behavior and thought, aren’t linked exclusively to the saga of the family, or to disturbances of the central nervous system, but sometimes spring from roots which are so profound as to demand exposure to another and different gaze, and to another and different form of understanding?
If psychology “forgets memory” – which is image that comes from the depths, which is myth, which is cultural history – it betrays its own function and ends up by again proposing, perhaps by way of highly refined techniques, precisely that lacerating split between body and mind, reason and feeling, which in fact it ought to treat.
Jung was fully aware that every specific form of knowledge reaches a point from it can proceed no further on the basis its own peculiar approach: in this sense too he intuited the value of complexity much before other thinkers supplied it with a theoretical outline. Psychology (the logos of the psyche) is in need of the other disciplines by virtue of its structural complexity.
Many of the throbbing nuclei which characterize the workings of Jungian thought can in fact to be found (even if not explicitly so) in the intonations of some of the present day’s most authoritative and “complex” voices. There is no small number of contemporary personalities who posit the question of the relationship between memory and history, the sacred and profane dimensions of life, factual judgment and value judgment, image and thought, spirit and matter, philosophy and science. Each in his or her own way speaks out against the fragmentation of knowledge and the accumulation of techniques and notions that also by reason of the speed with which they proliferate, allow no interiorization, and thus no deeper sense of direction.
If we lend such voices attention – whether by reading books reviewed in the press, or following radio and television programs, or staying abreast of art events, cinema, and theater – one can trace out a marginal train of thought – marginal but highly alive, and endowed with an interior coherence of its own – that expresses a kind of countertendency with respect to the “dominant spirit” of the present day. Listing all such voices is beyond the scope of our current concerns, and I have to be content to call attention to only a few personalities, such as Paul Ricoeur, Zygmunt Bauman, René Girard, Walter Burkert, and Raimund Pannikar, or, among the women, Maria Zambrano, Simone Weil and Cristina Campo.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, for example – narrator, essayist and poet, and a critical voice of German society in his book Die Elixiere der Wissenschaft, links the figure of l’idiot savant with that of its mirroring double, l’idiot lettré, and unleashes a vibrant criticism against commonplaces, inclusive of the notion of the interdisciplinary, which most of the time, in Enzensberger’s words, presents itself as an “aggregation of stupidities.” He then underlines that philosophy, poetry and science initially moved forward in one another’s company, holding each other by the hand, and that all of them find their common roots in myth. Everything leads us to believe, according to Enzensberger, that the great schism between the natural sciences on the one hand, and the humanistic disciplines on the other was a typical invention of the nineteenth century. The progressive specialization of knowledge and its confinement within the universities, as well as the growth of scientific jargon and the victory of positivism, are both causes and symptoms of this course of evolution. The tendency to reductionism on the part of many students of the natural sciences, often in conjunction with a certain presumption, may also have contributed to the manifestation of allergic reactions within the field of the humanistic disciplines…. But “the idiot savant and the idiot lettré resemble one another more than they suspect.”8
For Italy, one might mention writers and thinkers such as Claudio Magris, Remo Bodei, Massimo Cacciari, Roberto Calasso, Eugenio Borgna, or Umberto Eco, who has dedicated his most recent work,9 to “the necessity of memory.” These voices, yes, come mainly from an older generation, but the thoughts they express are shared and sought out by younger persons as well, and when they speak in public they fill the auditoriums. Apparently they catalyze a strong though subterranean need to recuperate that thinking of the soul which pronounces life’s basic questions, and which ever more greatly is going lost. So, can psychological therapy ignore this need?
Salvatore Settis, one of Italy’s major classicists, maintains in a recent work that “even in our own times, it’s possible to choose between two contrasting uses of antiquity: one that makes it an icon and a system of immobile values, and another that searches within it for the variety and complexity of historical experience.”10 Antiquity, he continues, “can very well continue to be an object of attention and study not as an immobile and privileged jargon of an elite, but as an effective key of access to the variety of the cultures of the contemporary world. The important thing is to regard the ancient world as a stimulus for a serious confrontation between the ancients and the moderns, between our cultures and others. Antiquity must be seen not as a lifeless inheritance, but as something profoundly surprising and unfamiliar, to be newly conquered every day, and as a powerful stimulus toward the understanding of diversity.”
In the keynote speech for the inauguration in spring 2004 of a course of study for a doctoral degree in Anthropology and Epistemology of the Religions at the Department of Sociology of the University of Urbino, the Islamic scholar Kholad Fouad Allan addressed the discomfort that results from the divorce between academic culture and religion, and maintained that “We have to promote an understanding of the continuity of memory and history. It’s absolutely necessary to rediscover that relationship, since we otherwise run the risk of uprooting ourselves, which leads as well to the various forms of fundamentalism. When history is unable to turn itself into a shared history, we feel ourselves to stand outside the world. The terrorist is the very image of the shattered relationship between history and memory. Just as in Dostoyevsky’s The Demons, a terrorist’s murderous career frequently expresses the rejection of a culture which already has rejected him.” Jung, however, remarked that the individual and collective psyche are marked by a substantial identity of form and content, which means that reflections of a sociological and cultural nature are fundamental for an understanding of the sufferings of the individual psyche as we encounter them in therapy. The soul of the individual mirrors the soul of the world, and vice versa. For example, Allan’s reflections as a Moslem on fundamentalism lead me to recall how frequently in clinical practice one encounters dream images of terrorists who in various ways are representations of destructive and fundamentalist demands of the psyche; and indeed this charge of destructiveness not infrequently appears to be connected with problems of psychic marginalization, with a sense of being excluded, and with feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Those who feel themselves to be different and unrecognized carry within themselves a charge of destructive energy that can explode in various ways. It explodes inside when it takes the form of an individual psychopathology; outside, when it directs itself against others and the collective community.
Jung’s thought was always open to the wide range of stimuli that come from various cultures, and even while having been born and forged in clinical experience and direct contact with pain, it seems to have exerted a greater influence on humanistic culture than on psychology. Yet the heritage that Jung has left us includes an indication of methods and perspectives that pass precisely along the route that connects the psyche’s matrix in the archetypes with the transcendent function. The focus where transformation occurs takes fire when the ego becomes aware of its founding myth, and in some way manages to live it out in the present. The dialog between the ego and the self throws open the other stretch of the path: the one, Deo concedente, that leads to the “third dimension,” to the healing valences of symbol and imagination.
This relationship is mediated primarily by images. Jung has given us a fundamental frame of reference for the elaboration of an image-based psychology that understands how to lend attention to the pathologies of the psyche which finds itself expropriated of precisely the healing gifts of the imagination and symbol, and he thereby opened the road to the elaboration of techniques of imagination which can be put to use in clinical practice: techniques which are based on precisely the image’s ability directly to furnish a recapitulation of affective and emotional memories. Jung tells us, “The psyche is image.” We have to recover its logos and pathos. Psychology – with the complicity of Freud himself – has concentrated too highly on the fortification of the ego and in doing so has abetted “the loss of the soul.” The need for reintegration – especially of the feminine, and of the imaginative forms of knowledge which are all too hastily pathologized and branded as irrational – is another of the vital nuclei of the thought of C. G. Jung. Jung set up an enormous effort to re-endow the world of images with a gnoseological and ontological status, thus inserting himself into a wide and complex cultural current which also involves such thinkers as Durand, Eliade, Corbin and Bachelard. The image is the route through which consciousness recovers both the emotional memory which is linked to personal history, and the superpersonal “memory” which finds its foundations in the archetypes: these foundations hold the deepest principle of the organization of egoic intentionality, no less than the potential of the transformation of ego-consciousness into symbolic consciousness.
We can see the extent to which Jung’s intuitions on the world of images continue to be pertinent still today simply by reflecting on the quantities and forms in which images irrupt into our daily lives. Like everything else which is denied or incorrectly understood, images make their invasive reappearance in the form of their own dark contrary opposite: no longer as traces of the depths or as a gaze at things which are shrouded in invisibility; but as merchandize emptied of psychic substance, as simple “gadgets.” As products of a kind of inverted alchemy, where gold (symbolic density) is transformed into lead (the laws of market economy).
Here too, however, we suffer no lack today of creative authors who attempt to recover a relationship with memory through the mediation of images. For example, there are movie directors who oppose the colonial expansion of “special effect” cinema, and who cast a more interior look at life and history, exercising a gaze that’s able to penetrate through time. The same holds true for certain types of theater, literature, and music, and, generally speaking, for all those forms of expression and imagination that even while availing themselves of highly modern technical mediations substantially aim for symbolic negotiations that cast their nets into the depths of myth.
Our publishing program finds support for its central paradigm in the work of authors – mainly but not exclusively psychoanalysts – who have chosen to direct their thinking to such areas of meaning and investigation, and who from various different angulations, as well as in various different languages, trace out the thread that links clinical praxis to the cultural sub-strata of the soul, always attentive to the way it expresses and represents itself through the mediation of images and imagination. Jungian thought and epistemology can themselves, after all, be seen to have found their organization around Jung’s successive encounters with the ancient arts, the oriental traditions, western alchemy, the Christian arts, and the contemporary arts.
The fact that clinical praxis has ended up by finding its nourishment in words alone, and by closing itself up in the studios of the psychoanalysts – thus risking forgetfulness not only of deep memory, but as well of the external world – is a sad development in the history of analytic thought and merits further study. Clearly enough, this is something for which we pay a price at any number of levels, and we ought to remember that it was not Jung who taught us to move in this direction, since even while being a great introvert – and as such inhabited by intuitions and interior visions – he was nonetheless a man who traveled throughout the world, and he succeeded in transforming his personal experiences into an existential psychological model that in spite being non-systematic has become and remained a guide for an “authoritative and fecund” minority.
So today we find it particularly interesting to turn our attention to authors who consider the ways in which the ancient and eternal find a declination in the modern and ephemeral – at times irrupting up into them; authors who investigate the forms they assume in the soul, in the mind, and in present-day behavior, both collective and individual. We’re interested in the studies now being directed to the ontogenetic and phylogenetic wounds of the human soul, those wounds which finally “turn the ancient gods into illnesses,” forcing them to conceal themselves in the garb of their own dark twins, denied or misunderstood, as expressed through clinical symptoms no less than in the soul of the world. We as well take interest in the studies and reflections that attempt to discover the paths that allow an exit from the post-modern labyrinth of scattered and pulverized forms of knowledge, so as then – by way of that descent into the soul which symptoms and psychic suffering imply – to rediscover the path that leads back to the gods, which is to speak of that path of knowledge and human experience that can reconnect ego-consciousness (so much emphasized by modern psychology) with the depths of instinct, and with the heights of the spirit. We also look with interest at the development of techniques that find their inspiration in that spirit. None of this, moreover, has anything to do with looking for certainties or setting up fixed models, since nothing could be more alien to the Jungian spirit in which we find our guide: a spirit which is always mercurial and anti-academic, serpentine and open to doubt. Certainly, however, it has much to do with pursuing a path (a vision of the psyche) traced out by a great master, from whom – as he himself advised, insisting on the value of individuation – one has to learn to take one’s distance, but only after having traveled it and understood its meaning.
On the subject of authors who while finding their point of departure in Jungian thought have differentiated themselves in significant ways, broadening their reflections towards the outside word and influencing the thought of many other authors, exciting both agreement and dissent, it’s impossible not to mention the contribution which James Hillman has made and continues to make. Whereas Jungian thought is dominated by tensions between polar opposites – where the “double” or “twin” is both a concept and a special image in its own right – and so much so as to make one say that dualism is a constant and fundamental aspect of the whole of Jung’s cognitive development, Hillman, his “heretical” heir – and driven as such by a critical vis that’s always on the lookout for problems – makes radical use of Jung’s own formulation of “the third dimension,” and pursues it to its utmost consequences.
The intermediate space between the two modes of thinking – the logical and the fantastic – finds its figure and explication in the notion of the Soul, where the meaning of the term is not dissimilar from what one finds in Renaissance neo-Platonism. The Soul presents itself as a universe of symbols that opens out to a place that lies beyond the dualism of intellect and imagination, transcending them by way of a poetic synthesis that gives voice to the vast array of pagan gods, each of which is a metaphor of a corresponding aspect of the human psyche. For Hillman, the transcendent function coincides with imaginative thought, which as an essential function of the soul has to take on primacy in the interpretation of phenomena. Imaginative thinking coincides with symbolic vision, the highest goal of the human faculty of interpretation. Hillman turns towards the ancient tradition of “the art of memory” and resurrects the Renaissance sense of the word “mnemosine”: by way of the deep memory which weaves its webs with the help of mythic mediators, it is possible to find that organizing principle of the collective imagination which assumes a form only when rational thought, abandoning the illusion of its own primacy, “abdicates” in favor of “the poetic foundations of the mind.” The discourse is therefore guided by the logos of the soul, with its ability to “see through” things, and is marked as well by a substantially erotic exuberance that while spilling beyond the specific concerns of psychoanalysis gives the language and its argumentations an unmistakable style and perspective: the register of rationality gives way to the poetic-narrative one, which itself is an intuitive synthesis that expresses the acquired ability while voicing its stories to lend them a mode of attention which at one and the very same time is both therapeutic and poetic. Objective reality and irrational reality coexist. Historical truth is intertwined with the truths of the world of images. Rather than opposed to one another, ethics and aesthetics collaborate in giving life to a vision and a language of expression that hold within themselves an indication of this “third dimension.” Hillman thus gives birth to books which are open to the soul of the world, and constructed of words and images that directly resound in the soul of those who read them (“the poetic foundations of the mind”) thus helping us to “heal” the split between memory and history, feeling and reason, which at various levels and in various ways is the substance of psychic suffering.
As it moves amidst memory and history, clinical practice and cultural amplification, psychology and other forms of knowledge, traditional languages and modern languages, image and concept, passions of the soul and transcendence on the part of the spirit, psychology of the ego and psychology of the self, our publishing program directs its interest toward that fleeting god who, while always shifting the cards on the table, connects what’s close to what lies in the distance, what’s known and familiar with what we find disquieting since it penetrates far beneath or rises far above the surface of the things with which we’re acquainted, thus offering us suggestions, images and thoughts that, while reminding us as well that human consciousness is always suspended between the freedom of self-determination and the need to avoid betrayal of the myth impressed in our genetic code, are meanwhile able to help us achieve that focus of the soul which alone can give direction and meaning to our uncertain and zigzag route of becoming.