The Jungians

Excerpt from The Jungians: A Comparative & Historical Perspective by Thomas B. Kirsch, Ph.D., Jungian analyst. Published by Routledge in 2000.

JUNGIANS TODAY, pp. 251-252

As has been mentioned several times in this book, Jung was not interested in developing a sectarian psychological ‘school.’ His interests lay in studying the unconscious as it manifested itself in comparative religion, mythology, anthropology, ethnology, psychiatry, and modern atomic physics. Although his books were widely read in England and the United States, and many words which he coined such as complex, archetype, introvert, extravert, became a part of everyday language, Freudian psychoanalysis was the predominant depth psychology during his lifetime. The lasting effects of the feud between himself and Freud, compounded by his deep interest in the non-rational aspects of the psyche, were at variance with the culture of the times. At the end of his life he had grave doubts whether he had truly been understood.

In the four decades since his death, Jung and Jungians have gained a degree of general acceptance which did not exist during his lifetime. Many of Jung’s ideas have become a part of the general culture of the world, sometimes with acknowledgement and many times not. In addition, the books of many Jungian analysts have garnered wide readership, and other writers have been openly influenced by Jung. …

Jungians have struck a chord; the culture recognizes the importance of the unconscious and desires information that does not immediately point to pathology. Professionally, to be a Jungian analyst is a legitimate occupation and, therefore, is apt to receive approbation like that earned by other schools of psychoanalysis, which means it will also have to weather similar forms of condemnation.



As mentioned previously, Jung used alchemical symbolism in “The Psychology of the Transference” to describe the process and stages of analysis. The medieval symbolism of alchemy provides an arcane template for the intensely personal experience of analysis. Using the language of the alchemists, Jung described the various processes which take place in the analytic vessel and emphasized the need to keep the alchemical vessel hermetically sealed during certain phases of the work. As we have noted, Jungians have variably kept the container properly sealed; more often in the past than in the present the vessel badly leaked. And what is meant by “alchemical container” also has had myriad interpretations. Jung and the first generation of Jungians kept much looser boundaries than succeeding generations, often mixing social and professional relationships. Succeeding generations have been much stricter in delineating boundaries between professional and personal relationships. Self-disclosure is another issue which has undergone a shift in emphasis. While self-disclosure can be done in a conscious way that can be therapeutic, and in such a way that the container will hold, some Jungian analysts have given too literal an interpretation to Jung’s belief that the analyst must be as much “in the work” as the analysand.

~Thomas B. Kirsch, Ph.D., Jungian analyst, The Jungians: A Comparative and Historical Perspective

Puer Aeternus

Excerpt from the book, Puer Aeternus: A Psychological Study of the Adult Struggle with the Paradise of Childhood, by Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz, Ph.D.

Again, there was an enantiodromia. Von Spät had won out again by taking Melchior in the boat; a hundred years later, Melchior is in the lunatic asylum, because as soon as you are in the kingdom of intellectual reason, anything experienced at the opposite end – in Fo’s realm – seems to be sheer madness. Melchior escapes from the asylum. On the stage, when they stab von Spät, Fo wins again, this time in this world. Fo remains victorious: he finds the kingdom at last, but he leaves his body behind; von Spät gets the body. He himself is a dead old man, which means that the problem is not solved but is again postponed, because if a solution is described as taking place after death, it means that conscious means for realization have not yet been found in this reality. That is why, in Christianity, victory over evil and the union of the opposites are projected into the time after the Day of Judgment. Paradise comes after death. In Faust, Faust finds redemption after death, and in The Kingdom Without Space, the solution is again projected into after death. Here it is clear that the bridge to realization has not been found because the reality of the psyche is not realized in this fight. It is all fought in the projection – intellect against the archaic reality of the unconscious – but having no name for it and not seeing its reality, the author mixes psychic reality with concrete reality. This is also the ominous background of our present-day problem, in connection with which I would like to quote a saying of Rabelais to which Dr. Jung drew my attention: La verite dans sa forme brute est plus fausse que la faux. (Truth in its prima materia, in its first appearance, is falser than falseness itself.) And that is very true for what we have just experienced. In spite of it all, these are attempts to bring forth a new creative, religious attitude and a renewal of cultural creativeness – which can only be a psychological and individual form – but it comes up with such a disgustingly false, political twist that it is falser than wrong itself. In spite of this, however, we must turn towards it and discriminate the seeds in it. Otherwise, we are stuck and are forever building light, ‘rose-colored’ buildings upon burnt-out ruins.

In his life and art, Bruno Goetz himself has gone beyond this unsolved problem. In a poem called The Fool and the Snake, he describes the divine puer as a symbol which first overcomes, then purifies, and finally unites with, the great snake (Saint Exupéry's boa). The destructive aspect is overcome and the opposites unite in a sacred marriage; let us hope that in the collective development this, too, will follow.

If we compare the two puer figures – the little prince and Fo – you see that they have the romantic outlook on life in common, and both are opposed to senex (old man) figures such as the king, the vain man, etc. (in Saint Exupéry) or to von Spät (in Goetz). In both cases, they represent a possibility of an inner creative renewal, of a first realization of the Self, but because of a certain weakness of the ego and an insufficient or lacking differentiation of the anima, these puer figures become a lure into death or madness, or both.

An American version giving form to the puer image would be Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. But Bach’s book has a positive end: it is the love for his fellow birds which induces Jonathan to return to his flock to teach them to fly. Also, Jonathan is a bird, not a human being, so it is right for him to remain in the air. But there is a dangerous lure for a puer to identify with Jonathan and become a ‘misunderstood genius’ – but it can be also rightly understood and then bring a healing message of love, freedom, and devotion to one’s task.

In the German version of the novel by Bruno Goetz, it becomes very clear that the puer-aeternus problem is not only a personal one, but a problem of our times. The senex, the old man, is characterized as a worn-out image of God and world order, and the puer, Fo, is a new God image, which, in the novel, does not succeed to incarnate in man (in Melchior). If the new God image cannot be born in the soul of man, it remains an archetypal unconscious figure, which has dissolving and destructive effects. We are moving towards a ‘father-less society’ and the ‘son’ is not yet born, i.e., realized consciously in our psyches. This inner birth could only take place with the help of the feminine principle. That is why the collective attention has turned now to the latter. If the bitter and intriguing Sophie could become again what she was – Sophia, Divine Wisdom – this could be achieved. Then the puer could become what he was meant to be: a symbol of renewal and of the total inner man for whom the neurotic pueri aeterni of our days are unknowingly searching.

~Marie-Louise von Franz, Ph.D., Jungian analyst, Puer Aeternus: A Psychological Study of the Adult Struggle with the Paradise of Childhood, pp. 290-292

Inner City Books version: The Problem of the Puer Aeternus


Bruno Goetz, Der Gott und die Schlange (Zürich: Balladen, Bellerive, 1949).

Alexander Mitscherlich, Society Without the Father: A Contribution to Social Psychology, trans. Eric Mosbacher (New York: Schucken Book, Inc., n.d.).

C.G. Jung, Psychology and Religion, “Answer to Job,” pars. 609ff.

Trickster, Shaman, Healer

An excerpt from the book, Mercury Rising: Women, Evil, and the Trickster Gods, by Jungian analyst Deldon Anne McNeely, Ph.D.

Dr. McNeely was our guest in Episode 13.

Some maintain that Hermes is the god of shamanistic medicine, although one authority on shamanism, Mircea Eliade, attributes the role to Apollo and says that the figure of Hermes Psychopompos ‘is far too complex to be reduced to a ‘shamanic’ guide to the underworld.’ [Shamanism, p. 392] In African mythologies the Trickster mimics and satirizes even the seriousness of the shaman. He does so, not to overthrow the priesthood, but to show the underbelly of everything, including himself. Even though a shaman may serve the high god rather than the trickster god, both gods are intimately involved in healing, and both carry responsibility for disease, according to the story of Ananse above. In the case of Greek mythology, both Trickster-Hermes and High God-Apollo carry the caduceus. Homer tells us that Hermes’s caduceus, the golden wand, was acquired by Hermes from Apollo in exchange for the tortoise-lyre; later the caduceus changed hands again from Hermes to Apollo’s son, Asclepius. Ginette Paris notes that the passing of the wand from Hermes to Asclepius signified the bridging between the ancient ways of healing through magic, represented by Hermes, to the new scientific attitude and consequently the secularization of medicine, represented by Asclepius.

For both healers the caduceus, with entwined serpents around the staff of life, symbolized the union of opposites, the creation of order out of chaos. Apollo and Hermes share those symbols, Apollo underlying order and Hermes underlying chaos. But for a journey which has no clear destination – the journey of life, the journey to death, and the journey of psychotherapy, for example – Hermes, the non-authoritarian god who enjoys equally the company of the good and the wicked, is our guide.

In the healing arts, the worlds of Hermes, Apollo, Dionysus, and Poseidon overlap and merge at times, bringing common elements to what first seemed to be distinct entities. Magical, shamanic, and healing aspects endow all these shape-shifting gods, and though, strictly speaking, magicians are not shamans are not healers are not psychopomps are not visionaries, the terms are not mutually exclusive, but nebulous. Misty boundaries in these areas do lead to confusion, especially if we try to categorize, pin them down logically, or analyze the efficacy of any one archetype in the matter of healing.

Consider, for example, how suggestion, placebo, transference phenomena, and psychic healing blend medicine and shamanism. How often it happens that we can’t say what agent was crucial in a recovery from illness! An example of ambiguity in medicine is the field of body therapy today; therapists whose focus is on identifying unconscious complexes in the body posture and muscle tension, and those who consider themselves psychic healers, manipulating energy fields which may or may not be tangible, both call themselves body therapists. For the former, the patient actively participates in the therapy in an effort to alter aspects of her physiological expressions of psyche; for the latter the patient is passive, in fact, need not even be physically present, as the healer exercises power over the patient’s energy distribution. No clear identities have been defined by the profession – and what a task it would be to attempt to create such definition when body therapists may combine both methods, and many other methods that fall somewhere between the two I have described.

Most psychotherapists would agree that their work falls under the influence of different archetypes at different times, but, as Jung proposed, the Trickster guides the total process, for the reasons we have been examining here. He is the guide of the therapist who considers therapy an adventure. An experienced therapist once told me that he was burnt out from seeing people hour after hour, day after day. He said he could place every patient into one of six categories and could predict what would happen in each case on the basis of previous experience with the categories. No wonder he was bored! He was not welcoming Mercurius into his office, much less amplifying the mercurial energy when he saw it in patients’ lives. He was missing the spirit of adventure that gives each patient’s story its meaning and uniqueness.

For bored therapists, [Rafael] López-Pedraza’s writing should be required reading. He calls Hermes the therapist’s inner companion in the solitude of his daily practice; through Hermes, therapy is turned into a psychic creative work, where the therapist can begin to love his practice in the same way an artist loves his art [Hermes and His Children, p. 9].

~Deldon Anne McNeely, Mercury Rising: Women, Evil, and the Trickster Gods, pp. 85-87