Joseph Henderson thought of Jung’s psychology as the first “psychology of the future

Dear David,

I think we already determined that there are many Jungs, that is, uses of Jung’s analytical psychology. Each needs to trace some lineage to his writing to legitimize any claim to his legacy/intention. My own is very much in alignment with Jung the scientist who is trying to use psychology to resolve human problems, which requires that we learn to work more effectively together. Now, divergence is quite powerful and I would not argue with its value. We could think of psychology’s complexity of thought and myriad of images and applications as a divergent phase of development, spreading into every nook and cranny of modern human experience. Jung tried to account for this divergence through his theory of type. On the one hand, such divergence is fine; but, it is also reasonably argued that this is a pre-paradigmatic state, which restricts what psychology can accomplish. Now, what are we to do with this difference?

This is where there is no one Jung or singular Jungian community. We don’t need to work any more closely with one another. But we could, if we wanted to. And, if we wanted to work more closely together what would we attempt? We could attempt to articulate the critical questions of our time, to link to other disciplines and to develop psychological approaches to the intractable problems they attempt to manage. Specifically, for example, we struggle with significant issues of authority that restricts our ability to cooperate with one another. Is there any doubt that this is a significant human problem that has a psychological dimension? So, simply by treating our communities as microcosms of this larger situation we could attend to the way we stay apart from one another, the way we do not work out differences but instead privilege differences and celebrate our separateness in the name of individuation. One of the ways of thinking about all of this separateness is as something of value and a limitation. As a limitation we can trace it to a way we have not realized the emergent potency of psychology, what it could do if it became more consolidated as an attitude within the species. Joseph Henderson thought of Jung’s psychology as the first “psychology of the future” because of how it invited us to work with the psychological attitude as an emergent capacity, which takes us to the issue of its preparadigmatic status.

Here is one perspective on what I’m calling our pre-paradigmatic state. Drawing from the likes of Jung and Henderson, I see the emergence of the “psychological attitude” as a distinct new consciousness in Western culture, if not human history. This attitude supports a depth encounter with the collective unconscious, which is transformative. However, due to many historical factors including the dividing in consciousness between public and private domains, this depth perspective is applied only, or primarily, to relatively well-to-do individuals about their private lives. Now, imagine that these individuals are fragments of an emerging human psyche. Also, imagine that due to their middle-incomed comforts they have little obligation to turn attention toward one another. However, the multiple crises of our time are forcing us toward the need to consolidate shared obligations (such as using less water in the American West), perspective, consensus, a shared scientific agenda focused on identifying and intervening in the critical questions of our time. However, unlike other fields, this is not simply a matter of cognitively discerning what those critical questions are. Unfortunately or fortunately we also have to learn how to coordinate our individuated identities as part of the effort to work out the authority issues that are intrinsic to our current fragmented identities. In other words, I think that it is psychology’s responsibility not only to be responsive to the critical questions of our time but to explore how we will become the people needed by our time. We, at least a few of us, need to model what it would mean to form new bonds of obligation well prior to the types of cultural and environmental catastrophes that may be ahead. Through such self-examination we would be in a position to understand more about what it takes to consolidate around and activate what I call “generational attention”(see my book Awakening our faith in the future Routledge 2008; See my paper Generational attention: Remembering how to be a people in the JSSS online journal at: And, there are many opportunities to engage in such research, such as in creative uses of the listserve or conference space.

In order to overcome our preparadigmatic status and form a distinct psychological paradigm, which Jung was attempting in multiple ways including through his theory of type and his vision of a personified unconscious, we would not only have to come together in our thinking but also in our being (and we could do this without giving up the value of psychic multiplicity nor psychosocial diversity). In this way what Henderson calls the epistemological significance of the psychological attitude would bring to culture new forms of shared consciousness. I don’t mean anything fancy by this, nor do I mean anything out of science-fiction (Though there is a lot of good science-fiction that tries to work on this issue of “group mind” or group consciousness). Rather, we might say that some of this is already taking place, though in good and problematic ways. In a prior post I mentioned the significant research into groups are taking place in the organization Systems-centered therapy and training (SCTRI). In that organization they are working with small, medium, and large groups to activate group consciousness. In my own research I explore and examine groups on the political Left to show how they are responsive, though problematically so, to the fragmentations of modern culture. The Left suffers from distinct “subtle prejudices” such as a prejudice against psychology, religion, process, and authority. And, I do not think they will be wholly effective until they work with these prejudices.

Imagine the way the Southern Baptists, with Martin Luther King, ect., combined with the liberal intellectual elite of the North to bring about the transformation of political culture in America. What could be accomplished if we integrated a Jungian perspective into such a political agenda? Arianna Huffington has tried to turn the attention of the Left toward Jung, we could help build that bridge. What could be accomplished if we learn to take the depth we realize in the dark of our private practices into the public sphere. Take depth public, is that possible or a contradiction? And, this is one of the places where Jung’s psychology has significant political implications, as it could be used to support the emergence of a new political consciousness.

Only those people in our communities who are curious about what we might contribute to consensual processes in our own organizations or more broadly in politics and culture need participate in this investigation. And, this is already happening and picking up a little momentum, whether temporary or emergent. For example, within the IAAP there is budding political energy around which dozens (maybe a couple of hundred) of people are beginning to gather. We gathered in London last December and we will gather again in Rome this next December. However, because we are moderns, we face multiple issues linked to the grave difficulty we face learning how to bind ourselves to one another. This is where we need cohering research about groups; and, despite his prejudice against groups, Jung’s holistic vision of human experience could contribute quite a lot. Jung’s work has significant implications for examining human experience from a depth perspective that extends simultaneously over human history and our future. He imagined what sort of consciousness we might be capable of when he wrote about the wisdom of a personified unconscious. I like to compare Jung’s vision of such an exalted and humane being to Yeats vision of the collective human. While Yeats thinks of a “Spiritus Mundi” as a being having “A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun… [which becomes a] rough beast, its hour come round at last, [that] Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born…” Jung imagines a “collective human being…having at its command a human experience of one or two million years… it would be a dreamer of age-old dreams and, owing to its limitless experience, an incomparable prognosticator. (Jung, 1931, p. 348). This is one image of what I mean by the activation of “generational attention.”

I hope this gives you a sense of what I see to be possible. Thanks for engaging.

Warm regards,
Peter Dunlap

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