Psychologizing Spirit, or Spiritualizing Psychology?

8 02 2013

A reader of this blog wil surely notice that Carl Jung occupies a prominent place in my intellectual landscape. I discovered him in my youth and have returned to him again and again. It is a complicated relationship; every reading of him begins with pleasure and surprise but ends with frustration and disappointment. He was an astute observer, well-educated, a dedicated psychologist, a remarkably spiritual person. For all that, he is also deeply a man of his time, his writing caught between philology and scientism. Both of these are dessicative and, while that has its place in study, it leaves only traces of his subject matter’s vitality available to the reader. For an individual so caught up in spiritual matters, his accounts of spiritual life are startlingly abstract.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that so many who are actively engage in spiritual work disparage treating the spiritual world merely as a repository of archetypes. Psychologizing spirit is unsatisfying. However, in recoiling from it, we often overlook something quite important–spiritual matters are entangled with psychological matters. They aren’t identical with each other, but they aren’t disparate either. This is one reason why I keep coming back to Jung. While he didn’t get it quite right, he did get it. While I can’t simply rest intellectually within Jung’s work, I can wrest from it the means for getting at that entanglement more clearly.

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[Religious Types 18] Vision, Pattern, Archetype in Proper Relation?

3 08 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

I ended the last post looking to speculate about the proper relationship between visionary experience and more intellectual work. Looking at Jung in particular, I realize that is likely to look a little presumptive; Jung was no fool and he was surely doing what he thought best.

I don’t mean to imply either. Jung didn’t have the intellectual tools at his disposal to negotiate his experience, so he had to make them himself. I can be critical and think differently in part because I have Jung’s life and work to study. It is Jung that makes a critical assessment possible and I don’t undervalue the intellectual labor that entailed.

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[Religious Types 17] Overlapping Pattern and Archetype in Jung

18 07 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

The last post gestured toward the complexity that can develop as archetype- and pattern-based approaches share a common content even as they put that content to different use. It lies beyond the scope of this little series to elaborate the full range of this complexity, so I want to focus on the way in which these approached become tangled together in Jung’s discourse. We’ll be revisiting much of the ground already covered in this series, but with a better sense of it.

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[Religious Types 16] Pattern, Archetype, Psychological Type

4 07 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

I spent much of the last post critical of the way in which Jung’s concept of archetype has been applied. Much of that rests on a concern for how the concept elides differences between images, effectively short-circuiting genuine comparative work by positing their identity ahead of time. In place of the notion of archetype for comparative work, I suggested a concept of pattern, modeled on the way psychological types are used. Now, I want to examine the concepts of archetype and pattern from the perspective of Jung’s psychological type. An examination of them reveals the way in which each depends on the integration of  two different psychological functions. This enables us to talk about a couple of things.

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[Religious Types 15] Archetype vs. Pattern

17 06 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

I want to focus on the difference between Jung’s typological work and his archetypal work, contrasting the flexibility of the former against the rigidness of the latter. To understand that, we’ll need to focus on how they differ in their conceptions of human cognition. From there, we’ll be in a good position to think about whether or not we can salvage the archetypal work and, if so, how.

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