Deconstructing and Reconstructing Individuation


The following reflections constitute a preliminary dive (or cannonball) into an area of Jungian thinking that is in very dire straits: the construct of individuation.  Why is it in dire straits?  The reasons are many, and I don't intend to systematically delineate all of them in these essays.  To name a few . . . because the Jungian individuation construct is flawed and does not work.  Because the individuation construct is mired in very woolly language and thinking communicable only to "believers".  Because the developmental and archetypal schools of Jungian thought have already moved on to reject or ignore or degeneratively redefine the individuation construct the classical school has always cherished and locked safely in its trophy case to gather dust.

These are perhaps strong accusations, although not truly original ones.  Some of the previous critiques of the individuation construct are quite valid, in my opinion.  But they commonly lead to a debunking and rejection of individuation as a useful psychological or psychotherapeutic paradigm.  Individuation has often been (to its critics) a piece or archaic, useless clutter to be tossed out during any spring cleaning of the Jungian household.  My perspective is different.  What I think we have here is no trophy or tattered antique.  Rather, it is an exquisite, but broken, instrument.  It must be deconstructed, taken apart, carefully cleaned and repaired.  But it can then be reassembled in a functional form.

To recast that analogy, it is as if the instrument of individuation was incorrectly assembled (and perhaps designed) by Jung and his early and more classical followers.  When it was wound up with the hope of spinning into some kind of perpetual motion, it quickly sputtered to a halt.  Since then, the classical true believers in the original assembly of individuation have insisted that it is really a great instrument . . . but with numerous qualifications.  It is-but-is-not X, Y, Z.  It is endless and has only a symbolic/imaginal conclusion.  As a movement toward wholeness, it is always growing and growing asymptotically.  If you are becoming frustrated with its lack of payoff, you simply aren't doing it right . . . although only a qualified Jungian can subjectively assess whether or not you are doing it right (payment for this assessment is much appreciated, although buying the book of said Jungian is the next best alternative).

There is a great deal of mystification and fluff padding the abundant failures of individuation to prove itself equal to the classical Jungian propaganda about its transcendent sublimity and incalculable worth.  Like any god who does not show at the designated time and place, individuation has become mythic, fantastic, arcane, and much abstracted and rationalized.  It's failures are always failures of the believer or pursuer and never of the paradigm itself.

I envision a work of scholarship that systematically analyzes the history and construction of the individuation construct, pulls together various ideas, quotations, social and historical contexts . . . a kind of critical biography of this Jungian deity.  Such a work is, I think, necessary.  But I do not intend to attempt it, certainly not in these essays.  I don't intend to attempt it in part because it is a massive task involving a great deal of tedious scholarly research that would be of minimal interest to me.  But more importantly, I won't attempt it because I have absolutely no expectation that there would really be an audience interested in such a work, no matter how "necessary" I feel it is.  More accurately, I don't think the audience that would be interested in a critical history and analysis of individuation would be very interested in where it would lead.

Where I think it would lead is to the death of a beloved god.  That death would have to be defended against and denied all the more forcefully and delusionally, driving Jungian thinking deeper and deeper into dysfunction, hypocrisy, and ineffective isolation (or occultism).  I do not want to serve that destruction and decline of Jungian thought (although it will probably get there eventually on its own terms).  If an author were to write the kind of historical critique I am envisioning, it would only be embraced by critics of Jungianism, providing more fodder for the condemnation and dismissal of Jung and his ideas.  Jungians would, I feel quite sure, be utterly unable to make any use of it.

As precedent (among many smaller examples) I give the Jung-bashing books of Richard Noll.  Noll's books did indeed stir up the Jungian community and definitely contributed ammunition to opponents of Jungianism.  They even had a subtle but seriously destructive effect on Jungianism, contributing to (although, of course, not originating) the splintering of the Jungian tribe into at least three schools in conflict with one another in complex ways, all diverging from a center.  Noll gave more embodiment to a characterization of Jung that many Jungians want to get away from, to distance their own Jungianism from.  But fleeing from this shadowy Jung and from a point of central convergence in Jungian thought that functioned as a core value system and "origin myth" has led many Jungians into self-conflict with their own Jungian identity.

Noll's books fueled this explosion considerably despite the fact that they themselves were very weak and often misleading in their anti-Jungian arguments . . . despite the fact that, literally speaking, most of Noll's implications and accusations were untrue, and provably so (as Sonu Shamdasani demonstrated in his own debunking of Noll's scholarship, Cult Fictions, 1998).  But if fallacious and antagonistically partisan pseudo-scholarship could wound (or aggravate an old wound in) the Jungian "soul", imagine how much more damage a completely logical, valid, and abundantly evidenced critique of a Jungian "god" would do.

If Jungians could not take any valuable lessons (e.g., some serious shadow examination) from the Noll debacle, how would they recover from a more accurate and penetrating assault?  Richard Noll made a mistake that Jungians should count as a great and miraculous blessing: he imagined that Jung was the weak link in Jungianism.  And if Jung were attacked as a charlatan, those who worshiped him would be defeated.  But Jung, despite his well-advertised shadow, is by no means the weakest link in the Jungian chain.  He even remains as strong as ever, despite brushes with various kinds of "sinfulness", with sexism, colonialism, antisemitism, and inflation.  Jung, the man, weathers these storms, emerging a little more ragged yet all the more impressive for his survival.  The weakest links in the Jungian chain, although they can be said to stem to varying degrees and in complicated ways from Jung's own complexes and personal equation, are those linked on by many of his followers and the creative, intellectual, and social choices they have made.

The Jungians (even the self-declared "post-Jungians") have not convincingly managed to improve upon Jung's theories and attitudes, even as various splinter groups have adopted many means of differentiating themselves.  No splinter tribe has moved along its chosen road without leaving some very valuable ideas and understandings behind.

My own desire is not to destroy Jungianism and Jung's thinking, but to build anew from its center.  That is, a new revisioning.  In this revisioning, various critiques of Jung and Jungianism will be implied.  But my goal is not to merely substitute a new god for an old one, say, to reject Jung's supposed "monotheism" for an alternative "polytheism" as was one staple of James Hillman's revisionism.  I am not, like Hillman, a disenfranchised, prodigal son setting off on his estranged road away from the realm of the father . . . the direction largely defined by that puer escape and defiance.  My goal is to contribute to a (substantially linguistic) repair of Jungian theories, not to their rejection or defiance.  I am not driven by seeking "difference" to father Jung's thinking.  I want to get the old instruments working again.  And this is not in the service of "resurrecting the Father" (at least not directly and intentionally).  It is not the "Father", but the tribe and its utility that I would like to serve.  I would like to see the Jungian tribe become survivable.  I don't care if we are good sons and daughters or prodigals.  What matters to me is that we learn to adapt and not die out.

There is something that Jung started . . . not as much a set of ideas as a set of valuations.  The expression of these valuations is not, for me, the alpha and omega.  It does not need to be purified of its taint and raised up to glory.  It is an ancestor that contributed DNA to us Jungians, and we seek to adapt and mutate and find fitness within our environment.  Our environment is not Jung's environment, and so there are new and other pressures upon us to adapt.

What I want to address and help illuminate is an individuation construct that actually works and is non-delusional.  As ambitious as that sounds, I have to confess up front that reconstructing individuation in this functional way requires the sacrifice of many conventional Jungian sanctities and precious dogmas.  For instance, the idea that individuation is a good in itself, that it is universally to be desired and pursued, that it leads to enlightenment and transcendence, that it saves, that it heals, that it betters the individual.  It is that fantasy of individuation that makes it attractive to most people, and it is this desirability that allows individuation to be commodified for a lay-Jungian, self-help audience and market.

To hear Jungians talk about individuation is to hear an evangel, the Good News of potential salvation through faith.  But individuation (as I will go on to construct it) is more of a heresy, or even sin, than it is a salvation of the individual.  Individuation is a Mark of Cain, not the blessing of the house of Abel.  Individuation is not the transcendent movement of the individual toward wholeness.  It is the excommunication of the individual from the "whole" state of participation and its mystique.

As I reconstruct individuation, the question that a good and obedient Jungian would have to ask is: "Why would I want this cheap and shoddy thing instead of the resplendent numen of classical individuation?"  And the only answer, dissatisfying though it may be, is: "Because it is more real and genuine than the resplendent numen classical individuation imagines."  This genuine individuation will simply not be attractive to most people . . . and it is not prescribable universally for our various modern ills.  Yet it is only this unprescribable, less desirable, and much harder won individuation that can be historically and psychologically studied and validated.

The path of individuation is not a chosen path, and it is not a path for the believer.  It is a path of compulsion, perhaps a "Calling", a path of last resort, a surrender to something destructive.  It does not reward faith with solace and fulfillment.  It can be brutal . . . and there is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, no treasure mythically awaiting the seeker.  What treasures individuation holds are created by the individuant, not found or won.  There is no manna.  What is gained instead is responsibility, duty.

Jung remarked that the individuation journey never ends while we live.  Only in death can it be completed.  That is too mystical and grand for my tastes, but I will offer a similar aphoristic bone as aperitif:  Individuation's a bitch, and then you die.

Individuation Credentials?

On what basis do I offer a revised individuation construct that (supposedly) contradicts the prevailing (largely classical) Jungian model?  My revision has very similar origins to Jung's original construct.  That is, it derives largely and initially from personal experience.  Jung's individuation model, although he felt it was corroborated by his patients' experiences, derives almost entirely from his own "confrontation with the unconscious" beginning around 1913 after his split with Freud.  This becomes especially clear now that we have the publication of the Red Book, Jung's individuation opus.  The material, characters and narratives of the Red Book serve very neatly to demonstrate the theory of individuation Jung proposes in his scholarly publications.  The attitude Jung prescribes to the would-be individuant is very much the same attitude he adopts in his Red Book experiment.  His scholarly characterizations of the unconscious, the anima, the mana-personality, the persona, the hero, the wise old man, the shadow, and various other staples of his theory all have clear foundations in the Red Book.  For more on this subject, the reader can peruse my essays on the Red Book here at Useless Science.

I don't mean to jauntily claim credibility for my revisions based on some kind of divine revelation or specious spiritual enlightenment or attainment.  My intention is to demonstrate that experience, although extremely important, is only useful in such a revisionary venture to the degree that its artifacts can be logically explained and argued for.  I will attempt to argue that the revised individuation paradigm I will propose is also better supported by texts (many of which Jungians are quite familiar with and have also depended upon for corroboration of Jung's theories), is "more archetypal", and is more elegant and logical than the conventional Jungian paradigm.  Still, there is a very distinct sense in which both Jung's and my individuation paradigms are highly personalized creative works emerging in the specific clothing of our personal languages.  As I will explain later, individuation as a whole owes its shape immensely to a very arbitrary languaging process.

From roughly the age of 16, I began to devote the lion's share of my mental energy to pursuing and understanding individuation.  It was not a whim, a psychedelic trip, a spiritual or philosophical flirtation.  It was an absolute immersion in what I now recognize to be a "Calling".  Although I had a conscious desire to seek self-betterment, to overcome ignorance and "unconsciousness", and (at the very beginning) to "attain" higher states of mind or soul, it never felt like individuation was optional to me.  It was individuate or die (this dire imperative was recognized and validated in tribal cultures, as I will explain in later installments).  This threatened death was both spiritual and potentially literal (in the form of madness and/or suicide).  The feelings Jung describes at the onset of (and during) his confrontation with the unconscious were extremely familiar to me, and they served as one of the primary attractors that brought me to Jungianism.  In Jung I saw a person who had experienced what I was experiencing and who had survived, managing to transmute the dismemberment and dissolution of that confrontation/Calling into more golden stuff.  I sought to walk in his footsteps and orient myself with his field notes.  I wanted to survive and heal from the same disease Jung suffered.

I owe Jung my life for this assistance, as I would have had no idea how to proceed without the initial container of his language and example.  I was familiar with other religious and spiritual traditions (and sampled them), but none of these helped keep my path "true" in the least.  Instead, they fed the looming madness that seemed to trail and taunt (and sometimes control) me.  Jung's language was a panacea, enabling me to find brief but essential moments of clarity.  It is out of gratitude for this "medicine" that I continue to consider myself a Jungian today (despite many deviations and heresies) and work in my shadowy, agonistic fashion to serve the "treatment" of the Jungian tribe.

Another identification factor for me with Jung was his response to the same kind of confrontation/Calling.  Like Jung, I did not merely want to endure and pass through this experience.  I wanted to understand it as thoroughly and accurately as I could.  Not everyone is (and probably very few people are) so analytically inclined.  Certainly, even as Jungianism centers around an "analytic community", most Jungians seem contented with religious artifacts, dogmas, and totems and do not also ask what these things are in themselves, what they are objectively.  But Jungian psychology originated (and was practiced by Jung) as a analytical enterprise.  And it was this analytical orientation that differentiated Jungian psychology from a religion.  Jung was (again, as the Red Book amply demonstrates) an astute and powerfully driven researcher of the "soul".  As much as he championed "experience" with the unconscious, he seemed more motivated by (and more adept at) the desire to know, verifiably, what the nature and artifacts of the unconscious really were.  It is this analytical, objective, and often rationalistic Jung that, in my opinion, has all too often been lost as a guide in Jungian and post-Jungian psychology.  But it is this Jung that is most responsible for Jungian theory . . . and it is this Jung that is, I believe, most extraordinary and rare.  By contrast, Jung the guru and/or spiritual adventurer was merely of a type, a generic personage who did not especially set himself apart from others of his kind.

As I undertook my own self-experiments, even from the first years of my Jung-illuminated individuation event, I began to pencil practical revisions into the margins of Jung's guide book, to note what "worked" and what didn't in the field.  It would be nearly two decades later that these notes were reconstructed into a theory of individuation.  For most of the interim, it never occurred to me that a "theory of individuation" was of any use.  Individuation, like survival in the wild, was a practical art.  My eventual desire to recast my experimental "field notes" into an intellectualized theory came about only because I tried to talk to other Jungians about the stuff of these field notes and found they had no idea whatsoever I was talking about.  Understanding eventually that my practical Jungianism was heretical, I felt a need to better formulate it and describe it as logically and clearly as possible.  Only then did I find myself wearing the shoes of a "revisionist".  Before this, I simply felt that my "revisions" and "heresies" were logical applications of Jung's own ideas and principles.

The stuff of my revisions will be laid out and argued in the following essays, but there is one general difference that I will set down here.  Much of my early individuation work was focused (like Jung's Red Book dialogs) on interactions with anima figures.  I have transcribed and commented upon the highlights of this anima dream series at the Useless Science forum.  This served as the mystical bedrock of my individuation event.  In more recent years, especially as I tried to have discussions with other Jungians about the anima and animus, I came to see that what I had long felt was a very elegant and purely archetypal encounter was largely foreign to many Jungians.  I started calling this stage of individuation in which the animi figure is discovered, engaged with, valuated or redeemed from the shadow, and then eventually initiates the (heroic) ego, the "animi work".  The animi work is (as I experienced it and only very recently found corroborating evidence for) extremely archetypal and should (like all individuation motifs) be traced back to the mythos of shamanic initiation, where the shaman's marriage to a spiritual spouse is a common factor of his or her initiation into full-fledged shaman-hood.

The animi work is also what a great many fairytales describe (typically those that end in marriages that endure "happily ever after").  The shamanic and folk (and alchemical) precedents of the animi work are substantial, but (as I found out) the animi work is not well understood at all among Jungians.  The reasons for this are complex and require careful analysis to explicate (this analysis will follow).  For now, I will posit two potential reasons why the anima work is not adequately understood through the Jungian paradigm of individuation.  First, as much as Jung and Jungians have indulged in the adoration and analysis of fairytales, the archetypal constructions that Jung most used and Jungians inherited tend to derive more from the heroic epics of great patriarchal civilizations, especially ancient Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian cultures.  I believe that the renderings of archetypes like the hero and the animi portrayed in fairytales stems from an even more ancient and pre-civilized source.  Perhaps the origin of these heroic archetypal fairytale motifs is the narrativizing of prehistoric shamans who explained (in song, poetry, dance, and theater) just what their spirits were doing in the other world while their bodies remained in the material world of their audiences and patients.

In other words, heroic epics and cultural myths (especially of the patriarchal cultures on which Western civilization was founded) are archetypally degenerate.  Jung did not adequately recognize this, and Jungians are the heirs of this distorted archetypal theory.  It has lead us to (often subtly but importantly) misread the very texts we have used to corroborate Jungian theory.  And of course there are many, as all our texts were written or redesigned in the historical, modern era.  They have been culturally recontextualized, and wherever this cultural recontextualization also served the promotion of a modern, patriarchal ego-ideal (like Gilgamesh or Heracles or Siegfried), distortions of the prehistoric shamanic archetypal structures and dynamics arose.  Many fairytales (even those rewritten in the last few centuries) do not suffer from serious distortions like these because they have never served as vehicles of promoting a cultural ego-ideal.  This is also why fairytales have just as many female as male heroes, while cultural myths and epics depict the journeys of only male heroes.

The second reason that the animi work is not well understood among Jungians is that Jung was extremely ambivalent about his own anima experience.  On one hand, Jung sets a stellar example of the kind of psychic awakening and development that can come out of valuatively engaging with the animi (as personification of the unconscious Other).  Not only did he write the anima dialogues that went into the Red Book, he rewrote them in fancier language and elegant calligraphy and accompanied them with detailed oil paintings.  Not many people would give so much time and consideration to their animi.

On the other hand, Jung spent more time "fighting off", rejecting, chastising, denying, and demonizing his anima during these engagements than he did wooing, valuating, loving, and learning from it.  He ultimately and definitively refused to be initiated by the anima.  And he developed a rationalization of a theory holding that the anima was both essential soul and wicked temptress that had to be approached while maintaining one's stoic autonomy.  This in spite of all he knew about the historical symbols like the alchemical Coniunctio or the hieros gamos.  It appears to me that Jung felt any "unions with the god/goddess" had to be conducted only intellectually and rationally so the ego could maintain its separateness and sanity and not become a victim to the "dark side" of the god.

Here it is absolutely essential to recognize that this attitude of Jung's (right or wrong, we will not argue for the time being) is utterly in defiance of archetypal mysticism, in which the human and the divine Other do in fact unite.  The Jungian method of individuation deviates in this essential factor from conventional mysticisms.  I cannot even begin to express how massive a difference this makes, and how dramatically it snowballs as Jungian theory is spun around this core of "anti-mysticism".  And again, I reiterate what I wrote above regarding Jung as more of a rationalistic, objective, "soul researcher" than a mystic.  The dressing up of Jung postmortem as a mystic or spiritual adept while downplaying (and often even forgetting) his rationalistic proclivities is an act done in bad faith.  It turns out Jung the rationalist dominated Jung the mystic once all the tallies are taken.  Jung the mystic is not a figment of the Jungian imagination, but the predominance of Jung the mystic in Jungian constructions of the founder is simply an unfortunate and self-deceiving wish fulfillment fantasy.

The period of individuation I call the animi work encompasses all of Jungian individuation.  It is not the end of the archetypal process of individuation.  Or rather, whatever we would like to call the instinctually organized process of post-adolescent psychic growth, adaptation, and development . . . Jungian individuation only makes up a small (but very dramatic and important) portion of it.  Moreover, one of the reasons that Jungian individuation is said to have no end or to be cyclical is that the deviations of the conventional Jungian paradigm from the archetypal animi work prevent the process from reaching its completion.  That is, Jungian individuation is habitual or like a complex in the sense that it is destined to fail again and again.

This is also to say that the animi work (and therefore Jungian individuation also, should it revise itself adequately) is a finite episode in the individuation process.  The languaging and relanguaging of the animi work can continue throughout life and until death.  But the event of the animi work itself is not only finite, its duration (when properly facilitated) is often fairly short (often measurable in months rather than years and definitely not in decades).  This brief duration corresponds to the nature of the animi work as a rite of passage or initiation.  How we understand, live out of, and dynamically language that initiation is a massive undertaking that will take years (probably decades) to come to any kind of fruition and usefulness.  But the event of initiation itself is like a scarification, a ritual wound struck once and worn ever after.

There's no sugar coating it.  The implications of this critique and revision are massive.  They suggest that the Jungian house of individuation is built upon sand.  The bad news is that this is, I fear, very much the case.  But the good news (not nearly as dramatic as the bad news, regrettably) is that the phenomenal artifacts of the individuation process Jungians study are very much the right ones.  There is just a fly in the Jungian individuation ointment, a poisonous element (based largely in the two factors just mentioned above).  I believe this "taint" or parasite can be extracted and that the Jungian "waters of life" will then be able to clarify.

Rationally, this revision doesn't ask that much.  To a non-Jungian, it is probably six of one, half-dozen of another.  The real challenge in achieving this clarification of individuation for Jungians, though, is relinquishing the habitual death grip on some very sacred cows.  Cows like "all heroic figures are inherently inflated", or "the anima and animus are always morally equivocal and must be related to with great caution", and most of all "Jung was the Risen Christ and messiah of the modern soul whose gospel is the way, the truth, and the life".

That is, I am arguing that the main thing standing between the prevailing Jungian individuation paradigm and theory and more accurate, more archetypal/historical, and more functional ones is a quasi-deification of Jung.  So long as we believe (even if only unconsciously, as is the case with many "post-Jungians") that Jung was a great mystic who had more or less the last word on individuation, Jungian individuation will flounder, and its waters will remain dark and unsustaining.  Additionally, Jungian individuation theory will remain highly esoteric, arbitrary, cultic, and incompatible with more scientific psychological methods and ideas.

The completion of the animi work is not the "master work" of individuation.  It is an initiating threshold that must be passed through in order to begin the so called Great Work depicted in alchemical mysticism.  So, to put it into those alchemical terms, the animi work (which again, encompasses and transcends all of Jungian individuation) is like the derivation of the alchemist's prima materia.  The culmination of this first and essential process is indeed the Coniunctio, but Coniunctio in alchemy is not a hieros gamos, not some transcendent and elating union of the conscious and the unconscious or of man and God.  Coniunctio, unequivocally, is death . . . the product of dissolution or dismemberment.  And it is followed by Nigredo, blackening, decay, putrefaction.

The skewing of Jungian individuation feeds the perversion and misunderstanding of the alchemical process, where, classically, union (of Sulfur and Mercury, Sol and Luna, or the heroic ego and the animi) is equal to death and NOT some kind of transcendent rebirth.  There is enormous misuse of the alchemical terms Coniunctio and Nigredo in Jungian parlance, and this misuse compounds the dangerous misunderstanding of individuation.

I will argue that the alchemical model is more functional than the Jungian.  The alchemical opus corresponds, like shamanic initiation and fairytale heroism, to the true individuation archetype (which I will generally call, the mysticism).  Alchemy is in fact an inheritor, a true heir, of the shamanic tradition (and no doubt some of its symbolism), as Mircea Eliade makes quite clear in The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structure of Alchemy.  It makes for a difficult situation.  Alchemical allusions and terminology have become signature Jungian affectations, no doubt contributing (along with many other Jungianisms) to a disconnect with other academic and scientific fields.  And yet, despite extensive research on Jung's part (much of it quite thorough if not terribly well organized), Jungian psychologization of alchemical symbols and processes suffers some fatal flaws.  It would be easier for a progressive, revisionary Jungian if alchemy were just a bunch of gibberish and Jung's psychologization of it fundamentally pointless.  Then alchemy and its extreme convolutions and complexities could just be set aside.

But as it turns out, alchemical mysticism or Hermetic philosophy depicted a crucial turning point in the history of human mysticism.  Medieval alchemy (like Jungian psychology) attempted to depict the archetype of mysticism in proto-scientific, quasi-material terms.  Alchemy, which mostly died out with the advent of modern chemistry, recorded the last episode of practical "soul work" in human history before the languaging of the soul fell into ruin.  Jung's valuation of alchemy showed intuitive prowess, but he was still a "modern man in search of a soul".  In search of, not in relationship with.  Jung's ideas suffer from the problem he addressed: reinventing the wheel that had for millennia been mysticism.

The alchemists also carried the torch of the shamanic mystical tradition and symbolism through much of the Christian era, even elucidating the initiatory and shamanic elements resident (but dormant) in the Christian myth.  Alchemy carried and preserved the "material soul" during these centuries of anti-material, Platonic Christianity, until it was relinquished to modern science . . . which regrettably suffered from an overly reductive, positivistic rationalism more directly inherited from dogmatic Christian theology than from highly imaginative and complexity-tolerant alchemy.

Revisioning the psychology of alchemy is a book-length project in itself, so later parts of this essay will only touch briefly upon the relationships between alchemy and individuation.  Additionally, the alchemical opus depicts a much more extensive process than Jung's individuation paradigm does.  This essay will spend much more time reworking the stages of individuation Jung and Jungians have most concerned themselves with than it will on the more esoteric and subtle facets of later individuation.

One last thing to clarify is that I do not, in criticizing Jung's theories, mean to air some kind of general disrespect.  I can think of no higher form of respect to pay Jung than the devoted attempt to build on the foundation that he laid.  It is quite possible to marvel at the accomplishments of the man while also disagreeing on some of the finer points.  That should go without saying.

During most of my 20+ years as a Jungian, I adhered mostly to the letter or Jung's ideas.  I know what it is like to accept and not reflect upon the many Jungianisms Jungians take for granted and do not analyze or evaluate.  It was only gradually that I felt forced to question these assumptions . . . as they began to show their flaws in practice.  If one does not attempt to apply Jung's individuation theory as a kind of quasi-spiritual, psychotherapeutic discipline, I suspect one will not stumble upon the seams and frayed ends of the theory.  But to live and practice individuation is to need it to be a functional instrument and languaging tool.  To take individuation as a totem or object of belief and projection and identity construction, one doesn't need an individuation theory to be robust and highly accurate.  Just as a religious believer doesn't need God to be perfectly defined and beyond reproach.  That's what rationalization and imagination are for.

When using Jung's works as a foundation, we are faced with a great deal of complexity and seeming (as well as actual) self-contradiction.  As frustrating as this is for a reader of Jung. I am sympathetic to the condition and construction of Jung's writings.  He was trying to language a complex, dynamic object (the psyche) in a way that connected ancient religious ideas and terminologies to modern thinking.  Jung's project was a languaging project.  Specifically, it was a psychologizing project.  I believe it was more a languaging project than, for instance, a religious or mystical or even philosophical project.  Jung meant to bring older (often archetypal) ideas about the human soul into a suitable modern dialect.  He was not necessarily trying to tell the world things about the soul that had never been known before.  He was trying to treat a kind of Orwellian wound in modern language that prevented us from being able to talk functionally and with sophistication about the soul.  It is in this sense that Jung was part of the romantic tradition of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But that languaging project was a vast and complicated undertaking, and psychology itself, though modern, was (and remains) in its "pre-paradigmatic" infancy.  Jung's project served the religious and mythopoetic imagination more than it did the rationalistic, scientific, post-Enlightenment, positivistic trend of modern thought.  But his modern intellectual means, his inherited language and culturally constructed selfhood was distinctly rationalistic, scientific, and post-Enlightenment.  We could say (in Jung-speak) then that he was seeking the solution to a union of perceived Opposites.  How does one manage to get archaic mythic thinking and modern scientific rationalism to play nice together?

I don't think Jung solved this problem, but I do think he made some very noble and enterprising attempts to formulate a modern language of the soul.  Sometimes, he did not deconstruct the language of the day well enough to recognize its arbitrary cultural constructions, its prejudices and unfounded assumptions . . . and other times he did not deconstruct older religious and mythic languages well enough.  In Jung's finished product (not a completion of a task, but simply the state of things when he died), many cultural artifacts, both modern and ancient, remain and remain relatively unreflected upon.

With only a few exceptions, Jungians have not engaged in the conjunctive soul-languaging task that Jung devoted himself to.  Instead, they found in some of his attempts comfortable and idyllic grottoes tucked away from the modern world where they could sip a bit from the sacred font.  And this is where most Jungians set down their roots.  But I think that these anti-modern grottoes of thought and language were for Jung more like weigh stations where bits and pieces of his thoughts paused briefly while he figured out how to bring them together and into motion with other thoughts.  This dynamic and ongoing reassociation effort has never been an important (or remotely conscious) thrust in Jungian thinking post-Jung.

A vaguely parallel effort has moved forward in recent years to connect Jungian thinking with postmodern academic theory.  I suspect that the desire behind this is to pick up some of the scraps that fall off the academic table (rather than say, attempt to innovate in either the liberal arts or social sciences . . . occasional declarations of such intentions strike me as overblown and fantastic).  Misguided though this effort might be on some levels, it may inject some languaging awareness into Jungian thought.  The struggle then will be whether Jungians can maintain a sense of Jungian selfhood and not be totally assimilated into postmodern theory and study.  I would prefer to see Jungians glean some languaging awareness from these fields without begging from them or risking assimilation and loss of selfhood . . . but it is hard for Jungians to break out of the habitual complex of oscillating between grandiose puerism and shame-ridden (shadow-identified) dejection.  The relationship with the puer in Jungian culture is home to serious malignancy.

Regardless of whether Jungians will start to pursue a renewal and continuation of Jung's languaging project en masse, that project will be (and has been) my own chosen path.  And what I have found in picking through the Jungian corpus is that Jung has done most of the preliminary work for us.  That is, he has established the prima materia necessary to select and distill from.  Jung's great strength as an intuitive thinker enabled him to sniff out the psychic material one would need to construct a viable, contemporary psychological paradigm.  He had his fingers in all the right cookie jars: myth, fairytales, religion, pre-modern/tribal culture, mysticism, dreams, creativity, art, imagination, spiritual disciplines, psychological pathologies, evolutionary biology, and what is now called complexity theory.  Jung was drawn to these areas and driven to valuate the psychic phenomena or data these realms of human thought and experience produced.  And he not only valuated them separately, but recognized the value of their interrelation.

Jung was a great valuator of psychic phenomenon, and I think it is this pattern of valuation that serves as the thriving root system of Jungian identity.  It is what draws people to Jungian thinking and what sustains the compulsion and numinousness of Jungian ideas and objects of study and wonder.  It is my attraction to and valuation of this same root system that leads me to consider myself a Jungian (even as I have many languaging conflicts with other Jungians).  The problem we face (as a Jungian identity group or tribe) is that we do not have a very conscious appreciation or understanding of our relatedness.  We do not very well understand this root structure of psychic valuation or pay much attention to its survival and growth.  Despite the powerful emphasis on the "unconscious" and the "depth" of the psyche in Jungian dialect, our eyes remain fixed on the manifest, egoic, and superficial constructions of Jungianism.  That is, the terms, beliefs, compulsive identity constructions, totems, taboos, and trends.  We speak frequently of God and gods, of soul and spirit and numen and "anima mundi", but we relate to these things only superficially and to the degree that they forge for us a collective sense of identity.  That is, we respond to their value, but the response is unconscious.  We feel the value of these things, but we don't know what it is we are feeling or why.  Our experience of these valued things is totemic and static, and the things themselves are related to only as language-totems, husks, informational constructs, signifiers loosed from what they signify.  This is the superficial stuff of our tribal identity construction, and we feel only the unconscious drive to preserve these husks, having no insight into the dynamic, complex objects these husks were originally meant to represent.

We remain in a state of fundamentalism, where the text must be preserved vigorously and at all costs . . . a kind of defense of the Word of God.  But we relate to this God only through the defense of its Word, not intimately, not as a dynamic, complex, living entity or system.  We have clung to static informational signifiers at the expense of the very "soul" we so adamantly chant about.  This is what happens when languaging doesn't remain dynamic and responsive to the living and growing complexity of the thing it is designed to express and describe.  Jung spent his life trying to language the soul, and that process was one of continuous evolution and change as he responded to the shifting and many-faceted complexity of the object itself.  We Jungians have spent our decades since engaged in the worship of mere snapshots of the process that Jung himself engaged in.  We have mistaken the text for the object, for the god itself.  And so, we have lost the god, the source of living, dynamic complexity.

Jung, I contend, was a better valuator of psychic phenomena than he was a languager or psychologizer or interpreter.  On a valuative and intuitive level, Jung grasped the relatedness and importance of his object of fascination and study.  But his languaging intelligence trailed behind.  His collected works leave us field notes and piles of loosely organized but relatively unanalyzed data.  Yet it is this languaging Jung that has been deified by Jungians . . . even by those Jungians that struggle with and attempt to reject father Jung, the tribal founder and demigod.  Rejection of a deity (which is usually substitution of one deity for another) is a form of religious behavior, and that rejection or criticism is chosen instead of some kind of relationship to Jung the valuator.  Jung the valuator remains hidden in shadow, a kind of alien or invisible being.

I am essentially saying that we have erected false idols, idols that serve the defense of the Jungian ego and identity construction and do not serve the Jungian tribal Self.  We do not have a communal relationship with the Self.  Our Jungian endeavors are largely determined by the desire to satiate our egoic wants.  The study and valuation of the soul has been eclipsed by our need to have the soul languaged in such and such a way . . .  so that we can feel secure in our adopted sense of tribal identity.

The genuine process of individuation is a psychic movement that would dissolve and reconstruct this state of selfhood.  It would dismember the inflexible and inflated self-interest of prevailing Jungian egoism and reorient the intentional drive of Jungian identity to the facilitation of the Self-as-Other.  Therefore, my critique and revision of Jungian individuation theory is directed not merely at bettering the understanding of the individuation phenomenon, but also at the treatment of the Jungian soul (or Self), which I feel compelled to respond to due to my valuation of it.

Individuation is always directed at this manner of project, is always devoted to the valuation of the Self system and the relanguaging of the Self in highly aware egoic terms (as a Logos).  To individuate is to feel this instinctive compulsion and to follow its organizational thrust until it is no longer truly "optional" or chosen.  For the individuant, the egoic facilitation of the highly valuated Self system principle has become the new seat of identity.  Individuation itself is a finite process of establishing this condition of devotion and responsibility to the Self-as-Other.  It is ultimately an ethical movement.

Go to Individuation, Part 2, "Wholeness and Selfhood"