uselessscience.com
19Sep/090

(IAJS) I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member . . .

Last week I faxed in my application to the IAJS.  The International Association for Jungian Studies.  Their website is http://www.jungianstudies.org/.  I don't know very much about the IAJS, but their About Us page and Constitution intrigued me.  The gist of what intrigued me:

About the IAJS

The IAJS exists to promote and develop Jungian and post-Jungian studies and scholarship on an international basis. The IAJS is a multidisciplinary association dedicated to the exploration and exchange of views about all aspects of the broader cultural legacy of Jung's work and the history of analytical psychology. Through the development of Jungian and post-Jungian studies, the IAJS aims to aid the understanding of contemporary cultural trends and the history of psychological and cultural tendencies. For example, the association promotes:

  • Scholarship relating analytical psychology to the arts and humanities, social sciences and philosophy as well as clinical, methodological and theoretical research
  • The application of the concepts of Jungian and post-Jungian analytical psychology to literature, theatre, film and media studies, religious studies
  • Applications in medicine, physics, and the philosophy and history of science
  • Practice-based research in education, culture, therapy and the arts

and . . .

Membership is open to those from any discipline, artistic or cultural practice, including analysts and psychotherapists, with an interest in Jungian and post-Jungian studies at a scholarly level.

All members shall have equal voting rights.

I should also mention that the application is merely a monetary payment to join and requires no other qualifications.  The membership includes (I think) access to the IAJS Journal and a members-only web forum that sounded interesting.

I had read about the IAJS in some book or article discussing the history of Jungian groups and factions (I don't remember precisely where anymore) . . . but I get all my acronyms muddled.  My interest in the history and development of Jungian sub-tribes is tangential.  I am definitely fascinated by what might be called an analysis of the Jungian psyche or the psyche of Jungianism.  Jungian history is one of the best sources for relevant "case studies" . . . but it seems to me less fecund than a thorough study of the literature.  In other words, I don't feel capable of "diagnosing" or adequately understanding the Jungian psyche based solely on its tribal splintering and migrations.  Reading, for instance, the works of Marie Louise von Franz next to the works of Michael Fordham will give a much deeper impression of the difference between their two ideological schools . . . or reading the articles published in Spring next to those in the JAP.

What most fascinates me about the macro perspective of the Jungian psyche and tribe is that it is like a large "dysfunctional" family.  The in-fighting and splintering is mostly irrational on the surface, but the core ideological differences among Jungian schools speak, I feel, to the complexes constellated in many members that belong to those schools.  I even suspect that the draw of a particular Jungian to a particular school (or ideology) is due to an innate magnetism between the complex of the individual and the complex of the school.  Yes, this doesn't seem to give Jungians much credit.  But it is a very Jungian (classically Jungian, at least) notion to see behavior as significantly governed by complexes or unconscious, somewhat unintentioned forces.  All the Jungian splinter tribes have one thing in common, though . . . a very complex and somewhat problematic relationship to the lingering specter of the Father, Jung the man (and Jung the ideological founder).

This issue of the personal Jung (as each of us variously defines that figure) is still enormous and potent in the Jungian psyche.  I know I have grappled a great deal with what my personal Jung has meant to me.  It has been the object of significant reflection for me ever since I first started reading Jung's writing.  I don't think most Jungians would deny that this personal Jung is extremely significant to Jungianism . . . but I still feel the personal Jung (as it exists for each of us and in each of the Jungian splinter tribes) has been inadequately dealt with from an analytical (as well as a patient's) persepctive.  That is, a lack of adequate understanding and coming to terms with the relationship we and our schools have to the personal Jung of our fantasy continues to plague Jungianism and reinforce its splintering (and perhaps its stumble toward extinction).  Part of this issue is the implication it has for the Jungian individual's definition of his or her individualism vs. his or her tribal identity.  I would even argue that a failure to come to terms with the personal Jung is one if not the greatest obstacle of individuation in a Jungian.

And when I use that vague expression "come to terms with", I would, for instance, see the near-worship and deification of the personal Jung of some classical Jungians as an inadequate solution . . . and also the too proud disregard and "post-Jungian" separatism of developmental/psychoanalytic Jungians for their personal Jung.  In the latter case, that separatism looks to me like an unresolved and repressed shame at the flaws and eccentricities of the Father.  This is especially telling as it is typically coupled with a return to the First Father, Freud (or to post-Freudian ideologies and analysts).  In that I see the same old Freud(ian) vs. Jung(ian) psychological battle that drove the initial split between these two thinkers.  There is, in my opinion, nothing progressive about the psychoanalytic turning of many Jungians.  Not because psychoanalysis is "regressive" (which it may or may not be, depending on your perspective) . . . but because the particular fascination that developmental Jungians have with psychoanalytic ideologies, preoccupations, and theories seems to me more driven by a kind of unresolved "father complex" than by scientific rationality and integrity.  In other words, I don't feel that developmental Jungians are evaluating psychoanalytic ideas with anything like a neutral lens.  Their complex is tainting the data . . . and there is too much desire to escape from Jung's imperfections and challenges into the seemingly welcoming arms of Freud (the arch-excommunicator and chastener of Jung).  If that complex could be resolved first, then (and only then) could psychoanalytic idea be truly and scientifically evaluated by Jungian analysts and scholars.

Perhaps most odd and disturbing in all of the tribal splintering of Jungianism is that some essential (and in my opinion extremely valuable) quality of Jung's thinking (and perhaps also of his person) is lost to all the splinter tribes.  I can't say exactly what this is.  I won't pretend to have the answer . . . and in fact, I think the answer is not a matter of fundamentalist mining of the Word of Jung, but somehow in a new and creative reinvention and reanimation of the spirit of investigation and valuation that drove Jung.  I am in favor of exploring this and trying to contribute to this creative act.  But it is very arbitrary.  I merely sense, intuitively, that something of the "soul" of Jung and his ideas has been lost to contemporary Jungianism.  I doubt Jungians ever really "got it".  We Jungians, in my interpretation at least, have come of age with a deep-seated failure complex we do not understand and can barely even recognize (it pains us so much to look in its direction).  There is a sense in which we have "failed the father" . . . and from this sense of failure, two major trends or constructions of personality have arisen: on one side, a devotional worship of a whitewashed Father Jung to whom we can be Good Sons and Daughters through starry-eyed obedience . . . and on the other side, a tendency to blame the father for failing us, for not providing enough sustenance or by setting an improper, even an immoral, example.

The spirit of Jung that seems to have little to no influence on how the Jungian splinter tribes construct their identities is that of Jung the struggling individual/individuant, half rationalist, half mystic, mired in self conflict.  This is the Jungian spirit that clawed its way through innovation and defiance of tradition and totem.  Along that road, Jung himself made many friends and many enemies.  Along such roads, many things are broken . . . and other broken things are found and repaired.  One thing we can know for certain about such an individuating road is that it is never ending.  It is always moving on, turning, getting turned around, finding its way out of the woods and back into the woods, evolving in a spiraling fashion, gradually, toward an unknown destination that will probably never be found.  Circumambulating, as Jung himself might have said (albeit with the Latin spelling, no doubt).

This is a path, an alchemical path, of toil and uncertainty, error and perseverance.  But we shouldn't mistake this for some kind of "mystical journey" . . . not only that.  It is also the steady path of the scientist who continues to study, observe, collect data, propose theories based on those data, and revise those theories as more data are collected and analyzed.  To never assert absolute truths, to never stop searching, to never be satisfied with concretizing as-ifs, falling into "metaphysics" (as Jung always asserted he did not . . . with inconsistent honesty, perhaps).  As this mystical/scientific spirit of Jung is the most noticeably absent in the Jungian tribes (yet appeared so evidently in the founder's work and attitude), it seems to me that this absence should be a major focus of our investigation and treatment of the Jungian collective psyche.

I don't know (nor does anyone) what the contents of this path would entail if Jungians could find it today.  I do feel, though, that it is not these contents, not a specific ideology or truth that defines such a path.  It is something much more like a spirit or attitude, a way of being or orienting.

I'm not sure if the IAJS is capable of moving toward such an attitude . . . and I hold out no hope or expectation on that account.  But their constitution denotes a step in the right direction.  Specifically, marrying academics to analysts in the development of Jungianism . . . or interbreeding analysts with non-analysts.  I don't think there is any particular school of academic thought that is ripe for rejuvenating Jungian progressivism and innovation . . . but I have been concerned that a relatively holed-up analytic community has driven Jungian thinking toward an inbred and cloistered orientation to both the larger world and the psyche.  Part of that world and psyche is the individual who lives in it.  The modern individual . . . with whom Jungianism is not adequately acquainted (occupying itself, as it does, primarily with those individuals drawn to the quasi-cultic, neo-tribal retreats of Jungian thinking).

There has been a lot of talk (bluster perhaps) among Jungians in the last couple decades especially regarding the need for Jungians to address the larger modern world, the social world.  Maybe this is as necessary as it is made out to be.  But I see a serious flaw in this mountaintop yodeling.  Namely, the Jungian personality is not and has never been a true part of modernity.  When I read Jungians championing "social" concerns or griping about the overemphasis on the individual in classical Jungianism, I can't help but see this as evidence of a kind of adolescent naivete.  That is, it seems to me like the right wing pundit or vegan environmentalist or born-again Christian that rears up to "collectivize" the personalities of so many adolescents.  Ideology eclipses wisdom.  It is all about tribal identity . . . not philosophical comprehension of the complexity of living.  Jungians are not really fit yet to be good social critics or philosophers.  We do not have a sufficiently developed or modern philosophy or language with which to understand sociality in the modern, global world.  We cannot speak of this world without having lived enough in it . . . and Jungianism has always been significantly devoted to not living in the world modernity has given to us.  We have sought the world of meaning and soul.  The "symbolic life".  We know the ins and outs of the psyche pretty well, but the intricacies and vastness of sociality are things we moved away from in our development as Jungians.

And I am not criticizing this movement inward or "other-ward".  We have tried to move (with varying success) toward an essential wellspring . . . and it is a wellspring I have also sought and which I also value greatly.  My criticism of Jungian "sociology" is that it is premature and poorly devised.  We have not finished our quests inward yet . . . and to turn outward now is merely an escape from the dire challenges within we have not yet devised any solution for.  We are not "expanding" our Jungianism, but turning tail from the Self and from our deeper shadow.  It is, specifically, the shadow of our tribalism, of our own family, our cult, our religion that we have turned away from.  It is no coincidence that the turning toward "worldly concerns" has coincided with a turning away from the psychology of our own tribal shadow.  Of course, we haven't completely or irrevocably turned away from our tribal shadow.  There have been a number of books and articles addressing the superficial history of our tribe and its splintering.  What we have not yet found the courage to face is the psychology of our tribalism, our complex.  We have not analyzed this aspect of ourselves enough, nor have we made any peace with our appetites and demons and fears within the Jungian shadow.

Our turning "outward" is, therefore, a puer maneuver of avoidance and false transcendence.  We are still susceptible to such puerisms because we have never come to terms with our puer-ness, never accepted it.  Jungians are still puers running away from their haunting reflections . . . and most recently, we have run into "the world", were there are innumerable hiding places and distractions.  I am not recommending that those of us who identify to some degree as Jungians forsake the world and ignore social issues.  I am suggesting that in our concern with and addressing of social issues, we cannot move forward as JungiansAs Jungians, we are not yet ready.  We are not "mature" enough, not yet "initiated".  There are other much wiser and more experience social perspectives than ours.  As human individuals, we might be able to utilize these as tools.  As Jungians, the best we can hope for now is to learn something about ourselves by the contact we have with these other social perspectives.

New interest in "the world" does, though, offer us Jungians a wonderful possibility.  It allows us to recognize ourselves as children, lost, confused, curious, overwhelmed.  There is a magnificent possibility here to learn something about ourselves.  But we can't bring our faux-senex fantasy of "elder wisdom" and "individuatedness" to this enterprise.  Rather, we are left with an opportunity to unlearn . . . and to reexamine and reconstruct what "individuatedness" even is in the modern world.  We Jungians are not Alexander the Great's army, conquering, colonizing, and acculturating the modern world.  We are somewhat dazed monks who have just crawled out of the monastery where time has had no meaning.  Our eyes haven't even adjusted to the sunlight.  We are starting over, trying to adapt and survive.  We are not bringing the Holy Gospel.

I don't fully share the notion of the IAJS and many other Jungians that this is an "exciting time for Jungians".  This is a time of great trial and transformation . . . and the odds that Jungianism will be snuffed out at this threshold are far greater than those of our triumphant return to the world or to intellectual prominence.  I appreciate the enthusiasm . . . but I am very leery of the lack of humility and self-comprehension.  It is not so much that we are stepping out of the dark catacombs into the light.  This period would be better seen as stepping out of the catacombs into the Colosseum and all its terrifying gladiatorial chaos, psychopathic Caesars, and bloodthirsty fans.  One thing that worries me, something we have never really learned to do or succeeded at . . . is knowing how to survive.  I sympathize with my fellow Jungians on this account.  It has never been one of my strong points, either.  But I recognize its tremendous importance, and I do not underestimate the challenge it presents.

My hope is that the IAJS has enabled itself to come to see the mirror the modern world holds up to Jungianism by opening the door to cross-pollination of analysts and non-analysts.  Getting to better know others can help us better know ourselves as we learn to see through the others' eyes.  The diversity that an open door policy like the IAJS has toward its membership could be "democratically troubling" . . . but I also see such a move as an essential first step for Jungian adaptation and survivability.  And I hope this will be a fertile path.  Should I have the same concern as Groucho Marx, that any club that would have me as a member is not worth belonging to?  Certainly I have crawled out of even more "democratic" dens.  But in those old haunts as well as in the IAJS, I am bringing the attitude that every club, group, family, or tribe is what its individual members make of it.  Every part goes into the sum, and every individual should have a consciousness about their role as a participant.  I have been kicked out of other clubs in the past, mostly for having this attitude that a member of any tribe should not only be individually self-concerned but also concerned for the whole . . . or, in more Jungian terms, for the soul of the tribe.

I could equally echo President Kennedy in saying we should "ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."  I am fairly suspicious of nationalisms . . . but when it comes to belonging to a tribe, I believe we should not see that tribe as a Mother-Protector that can enable our egoic desires and successes in the world.  The tribe to me is more of a child or ailing elder who must be nurtured and cherished by the able individuals who compose the tribe.  Consciousness is not collective.  It can only come from individuals.  In my opinion, it is the greatest contribution to a group than anyone can make . . . problematic as it may also be.

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