The discussions in IAJS sometimes seem to contain elements of grandiosity

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your note, which I found helpful and useful to think with.

Your suggestion that we “privilege difference and celebrate our separateness in the name of individuation” raises some intriguing issues. For example, I’ve been associated with a number of different academic societies and their list-serves, and it’s hard not to notice the emotion (and sometimes animosity) on the IAJS exchanges. I have found it ironic that the communications in other societies have often been characterized by a sense of intellectual humility and psychological balance, while the discussions in IAJS sometimes seem to contain elements of grandiosity, with each side delivering a sermon from a mountaintop, preferring oracular pronouncements to the give and take of dialogue.

I would be tempted to take your argument a step further: the celebration of separateness (which one finds increasingly everywhere) might be seen to contain some additional difficulties, some traps. Perhaps our fascination with separateness comes from the impulse to dive “inwards” in order to find the Self, but this very turn inward locates us in a Western split in which we are already divided from the world (and from the sacred). When we locate the daimon and the genius as “inside”, we are dangerously close to thinking of these powers as “belonging to me,” which might be the ultimate ego trip, as well as a defense against experiencing the depths.

I am perhaps more skeptical than you about any psychological community becoming “the people needed by our time,” as you put it. Perhaps my skepticism is related to an obscure Suffi paradox: the seeker who covets too greatly the Divine has already failed in his search, since his desire comes from the need to demonstrate success. My experience is that Depth Psychology, like other paths,  is only occasionally successful in pointing towards transformation. There are an endless number of traps. I suspect individuals in psychology fall into them at least as often — perhaps even much more often (as a matter of professional hazard) — than those from other professions.

Best Wishes,

David Barton
Associate Professor
Northern New Mexico College

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