Understanding of psyche, shadow, and the transformative manner in which—we are learning

Dear Judith,

Thank you for your response. The good news is that it rained in California last night, rain we desperately need. More good news the gulf of understanding between us seems substantial; and, we continue to attempt to bridge it. Here we go.

You say that I said “the individual culture that we have all become.” I am at a loss to find where I said this. Spent the last 15 minutes checking out my original paper as well as the correspondence from the seminar and I can’t find it. I feel a little foolish, could you help me by drawing attention to where I said this? In the meantime your critique of this phrase seems sound. I agree with what you said about culture though I would add that there is a role to be played by individual agency in the transformation of culture. Jung was on to this, though I think it is an underdeveloped dimension of his work. I’m thinking of his story of Brother Klaus in the first essay in vol. 9i. Also, I appreciate your referencing John Beebe and Charles Taylor. I think they both have a lot to say in this territory. I am only part way into Taylor’s A secular age, but find it very enjoyable and helpful.

I also agree with your criticism of any over-generalizing statement like “we all,” but, when I search for that phrase in my paper or my responses I can’t find it, so I’m not sure what you are responding to. Maybe I am missing one of my posts in the file I’m searching. Now, you seem to be pointing to the risk of generalizing, which is a risk of the trade. For example I cited John Beebe who writes: “We have grown unaccustomed to an integrity that grounds itself in submission”(46). I find this statement of John’s very helpful. Of course there is a risk to making such statements, and I take that risk in order to achieve a level of abstraction that I think is necessary as a social scientist. The purpose of this is to focus collective attention for the sake of building a particular muscle that I call “generational attention” by which I simply mean the capacity of a ‘generation’ to focus its attention on the collective problems of its time. Jung is pointing to this on a grand scale when he writes about the possibility of personifying the unconscious. So, while taking the risk of saying something that does not fit everybody, I do make necessarily general statements. I agree wholeheartedly when you say “We vary enormously in our ability to say “Yes” or “No” to the pressures of the Collective, and our willingness to contribute to Community. And, while we vary, we are still moderns caught in much of its consciousness. In our communities (Jungian and most others, to varying degrees) this appears in the way we pick out and focus on differences rather than attempt to build shared consciousness and thus generational attention.

In response to what you have written I think you have misunderstood what I have said, or I am speaking without clarity. What to attribute this to I’m not sure, there is some difference between us that may defy our current efforts to communicate. It is not that I am attempting to only criticize the Jungian communities. Nor do I think that we are ‘alone’ with this state of consciousness rather that we have something unique to offer its treatment with our understanding of psyche, shadow, and the transformative manner in which—we are learning—the individual can engage culture, that is, via our religiosity guided by the psychological attitude.

Perhaps the questions point in this direction. Are there conditions shared by a people at a given time in history? Can we speak about these, examine their genesis, imagine their remediation? Is this something that could be done from a Jungian point of view and if so how would we go about it? Let me try to respond to these questions by making a few general statements, knowing the risk those hold, to see if I can get my thesis across more clearly.

  • There is a divide in our social and political experience between our public and private lives. This is recognized by multiple social sciences dating back at least to the work in sociology by Robert Bellah (Berkeley, Habits of the Heart 1985). This thinking can also be traced back to the 1840s in the research into American individualism by Alexis Tocqueville, which is not unique to American culture though some parts of it may be.
  • This divide is seen as a significant problem as it diminishes public participation making the maintenance and renewal of democracy more difficult (Michael Sandel, Harvard, Democracy discontent 1998; and Joan Tronto, University of humanistic studies, Caring democracy: an ethic of care 2013).
  • This phenomenon can also be the subject matter of psychology and there may be a distinctive contribution to understanding and transforming it that could be provided by the Jungian community.
  • However, attending to it would require some consolidated attention, which may be quite difficult due to the fractile nature of our own attention, which may be evidence of the very condition itself as shared concerns are submerged in the midst of our privileging, celebrating our differences.
  • Thus, it could be said that we have this condition in need of transformation within us and our community, to different degrees so as to not over-generalize (which is in part linked to our on issues with authority).
  • Were we to consider that this might be true we would be in a position to do unique research, that is, to bring our somewhat well-developed psychological attitude as well as our unique version of historical consciousness to bear on the existence of the public/private split as it exists within in our own individual and organizational identities.
  • Such an approach could then help us become a ‘homeopathic’ remedy, that is, we could develop the psychological language and practices that could support its remediation.

    Thank you for continuing to engage,

    Peter Dunlap

©2019 Integration and management by Bloom Factor Inc.

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