What about the ways in which organizations may shelter and foster the trickster, the poet, and the introvert?

Dear Leslie,

Thank you for your comments. I’m glad you found my paper not only fluent but “homely.” (In India, when a young lady is described as homely, this means not that she is plain or unattractive, but that she is home-loving! – so I take it in that sense.)

I am puzzled by your objections, though. You seem to be objecting to something I have not actually proposed. The point of my paper was actually not to propose solutions but to describe modes of organization that have been effective in other circumstances and to note that our situation in IAJS calls for different strategies. I do, however, assume the need for some form of organizational structure and for the cultivation of human skills specific to the type of group involved. It’s not clear to me how you jump from that to the notion that I might “want the trickster to sleep” in a way that would be “dangerous for creativity.”

Your remarks grow out of your current reading of Helena Bassil-Morozow’s new book ‘The Trickster and the System’, which I hadn’t seen, so I looked at the preview on Amazon.com. In the introductory paragraphs the author traces her interest in the trickster to her early years in a Soviet nursery, where the “system” involved complete conformity and homogeneity, differentness was punished, and spontaneous play was suppressed. This is almost the polar opposite of the experience of my forebears on the North American frontier, and of the more recent generations in my family. Many of these people were restless, highly original personalities (some perhaps with quite a streak of the trickster), venturing further and further westward in search of challenge and opportunity. Wherever they settled, they had to create not only physical infrastructure but social and cultural organizations to meet their basic needs for safety, comfort, sustenance, companionship, family life, education, artistic expression, and spiritual support. Voluntary associations (clubs, lodges, religious and charitable groups, music societies, volunteer fire or ambulance brigades) were extremely important in the development of these communities. Some of these were highly disciplined or structured, but the point is that they remained voluntary.

While I was growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s, this was still the case. My parents were active in service and recreational clubs and churches and volunteered with the Girl Scouts, the parent-teacher association, and other community organizations. Their individual gifts and their passion for the well-being of the community found outlets through all these associations. At school we children were expected to join clubs, of which there were so many that even the most quirky or divergent personality could usually find something of interest. This was a vital part of our education, as it allowed us to practice pursuing individual interests in a group context while also learning how to run an organization (how to conduct or participate in a business meeting, keep minutes and accounts, etc.).

I recall an anecdote from many years ago which may be telling here. Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, a small group of U.S. citizens who were frustrated by the lack of progress toward peace wanted to foster understanding through direct contact between Soviet and U.S. families, so they set up an exchange program in which a couple or family from each country would trade home visits with one from the other. When the first Soviet family came to stay with a family I knew in Dallas, the visit went well, a good time was had by all, but the Soviet couple seemed worried. Finally one day they expressed their anxiety: “Who gave you permission to set up this program?” they asked their hosts. The U.S. couple were flabbergasted. “Nobody,” they replied. “We just did it.” The Soviet citizens assumed that any project would have had to be not just approved but initiated by the government. It was inconceivable to them that ordinary citizens could just think up an international peace scheme and carry it out on their own initiative. They were worried that their hosts were going to get in trouble with the government!

This vignette suggests to me that the relation between the trickster (as change-agent) and group or institutional order looks very different in different cultural settings. I’m sure that Helena has a lot of insight into the contemporary problem of making room for the trickster in huge systems; my point here is just to notice what her starting point was, and how radically different it is from my own in writing about American frontier organizations, where people were trying to reconfigure their lives in the wake of drastic changes, and to do it in a way that protected individual initiative and supported further innovation.

I’m at a loss to understand what you mean by the following:
“Do we have pretensions to be a sort of mini-capitalist organisation where the individual is subsumed to a way of behaving that is accountable?”

Accountability (in the sense that I used it in my paper) is not something suppressive of the individual but rather something individuals are capable of. They can assume responsibilities and carry them out; make promises and keep them. You can trust them with the valuables or the record books. It is impossible to run an organization without such capabilities on the part of members and especially of officers.

You write,

“We have to be careful that by complying with what Helena calls a kind of ‘instrumental reassurance’, we sweep through and turn not only inward but also to a kind of goal for the organisation that is limiting. This disquiets me.”

You don’t define the term “instrumental reassurance” so I can’t make head or tail of this.

Your view of IAJS’s goal is that “we are about putting out sometimes upending and sometimes innovating notions that stem from the theoretics Jungian studies can articulate or at least stir up;. . . .” I suggest that we are simply here to support Jungian studies, whatever that might mean to the variety of scholars pursuing them. You are, I gather, advocating for the trickster here, but we can’t program the trickster or make it our hallmark or goal. Individual scholars are going to follow where their research leads them, and sometimes that will get tricky (producing “upending and innovating” results), and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes good scholarship does not turn things upside-down in the field; it just puts firmer ground under what was already known or believed. Either way this vehicle, IAJS, will be there to help the results of that work get into circulation.

I don’t see how IAJS members are “at loggerheads. . .about the nature of our studies” as reflected in the delightful range of publications you list. They are wonderfully different in their aims and outlook and style, but to what extent are these authors in conflict with each other regarding the nature of Jungian studies? Aren’t they each just hoeing their own row?

You write that you “feel very strongly about the nature of organizations and how and what they may do to stamp on the trickster and the poets and introverts too among us”. But what about the ways in which organizations may shelter and foster the trickster, the poet, and the introvert?

Best wishes,
Jean Lall

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