Insights from Jung’s Dream Seminar Part II: Methods and Techniques

Sue Mehrtens is the author of this and all the other blog essays on this site. The opinions expressed in these essays are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Jungian Center faculty or Board members.  Honesty, as well as professional courtesy, require that you give proper attribution to the author if you post this essay elsewhere.



Insights from Jung’s Dream Seminar on Dream Analysis

Part II: Methods and Techniques



“People must see the effects to know what their persona really is.  And if you want to know what the anima is, that is the way:  get at the contents of a mood, see the pictures that come back from the unconscious. Some moods are real and necessary. But if they are unaccountable and too strong and irrational… it means that certain unconscious contents have been constellated; and if you go into that mood with fantasy, the collective unconscious will produce a series of peculiar pictures or images which explain the state you are in….”[1]


“If life does not contain the pairs of opposites, it is just a straight line, it is just as if you did not breathe, it is just as though you did not live.  When life is lived as rhythm, diastole and systole, then it is whole, it is approaching completion….”[2]


“The idea that God is necessarily good and spiritual is simply a prejudice made by man.  We wish it were so, we wish that the good and spiritual might be supreme, but it is not.  … man must return to a condition where that functioning [the religious functioning] is absolutely unprejudiced, where one cannot say that it is good or that it is evil, where one has to give up all bias as to the nature of religion; for as long as there is any kind of bias, there is no submission.”[3]


“So all the tools are really living because they help our living….”[4]



In Part I of this series, I focused on “raisins” from the 700+ pages of the Seminar on Dream Analysis that dealt with growth and progress in the context of analysis. In this part, I consider methods and techniques Jung found useful from his personal experience. Because Jung knew he had future analysts in his audience,[5] he often gave tips or techniques for how to handle problems, as well as more general suggestions for how we “laymen” might become more conscious. As I did in Part I, I present Jung’s words in bold type, followed by my commentary.


Jung: “People must see the effects to know what their persona really is.  And if you want to know what the anima is, that is the way:  get at the contents of a mood, see the pictures that come back from the unconscious. Some moods are real and necessary. But if they are unaccountable and too strong and irrational… it means that certain unconscious contents have been constellated; and if you go into that mood with fantasy, the collective unconscious will produce a series of peculiar pictures or images which explain the state you are in….”[6]

Commentary: Jung is giving us tips for how to discover the residents of our “inner city.”[7] The persona is the “mask” we wear, the image we (mostly unconsciously) present in social situations.[8] The anima and animus are images of our “contrasexual” side, our inner man (for women), the inner woman (for men).[9] Jung found it helpful, when we are trying to get a bead on these figures, to observe their moods, to note the “pictures that come back from the unconscious.” In my experience these pictures come in my dreams rather than in daytime fantasies.[10] However they come, we can use them to become more aware of the inner energies that inhabit our “inner city.” In his reference to strong, irrational moods, Jung is tipping us off about how to spot a complex: Complexes contain unconscious contents that have lots of energy, and a variety of life events can “hit” a complex, eliciting a very strong reaction. This is what is meant by the complex or unconscious contents being “constellated.”[11] While this is never a pleasant experience, it can be very helpful in pointing out to us what we need to work on in our analysis, and, since the timing is under the control of the Self (our inner wisdom), the Self may be indicating that we are meant to take up this task now.

Jung: “Because he has refused the parts of his personality, the parts are now standing up against him.  Then one of the specters comes up and shows him the way of enlightenment….”[12]

Commentary: Rarely do any of us grow up aware that we hold multitudes within us. The notion of an “inner city” strikes most people as odd, if not repugnant, suggesting that we don’t know ourselves. Jung was quite clear that we don’t know ourselves, and the better part of wisdom is to acknowledge this and get to work discovering at least some of our inner energies. In the case Jung brings up in this passage, a man was resistant to doing this work. Such a refusal does not mean the “specters” go away: quite the reverse! They become stronger, obstructive, and more problematic–all toward getting him to recognize them and accept the gift they bring. This “gift” can be more self-awareness, a wider horizon in his view of life, or, as in this case, “the way of enlightenment.” Quite early in my analysis I encountered a frightened little girl in my dreams. Multiple times she showed up, clearly wanting to be recognized. My analyst took notice and encouraged me to do active imagination with this inner figure. “Active imagination” is a very valuable technique Jung taught his students, as a way to “dream the dream forward.”[13] To do this with my inner little girl I was to recall one of the dreams where she appeared, and, holding her image in my mind, to dialog with it/her. I asked her questions and waited for an answer, and she spoke to me. As you might imagine, the first time I did this, I pooh-poohed this whole business as “just my imagination,” but my analyst saw things very differently, telling me that imagination is one of our greatest abilities as human beings.[14] She urged me to change my attitude and become more open to and valuing of my imagination. So I went back and did the technique again, and again, and in time came to see the value of it. I gave the figure a name, “Little Anima Girl,” and she became a valuable inner energy helping me to grow, become more nurturing of myself, more motherly to both myself and others, and more playful, spontaneous and creative. She is now one of the most cherished aspects of my personality.

Jung: “[to say that one must completely submit]…leaving all his prejudices and accepting that whenever and wherever that voice speaks he has to submit.  Of course, that scares people out of their wits—the idea of a fact outside of them, or inside if you like, that could suddenly come up and say, ‘not what you want but what I want!’  In the Church they are very careful to judge the case first and see whether such a command is convenient, whether it is in accordance with the rules of good behavior, or respectability, etc.  If it is all that, then you obey.  But if the voice says something that is against all your cherished prejudices, against your illusions, against your wishes, then it is a different consideration.  So you had better assume that there is no such voice!  But that is not submission, and where is the superior guidance?  Our ambition is to be masters of our fate….it would be most desirable if we could arrange our lives to correspond to our desires and ambitions, but it does not work….our consciousness is naturally limited, we are only conscious of a little section of the world.  Our sight only reaches to a certain distance, our memory is insufficient, our perceptions are insufficient, and many things happen which we are too blind to see…”[15]

Commentary: Jung lived by an inner authority which often defied his conscious choices. One definition Jung gave for “God” is the inner force which “overpowers”[16] us, thwarting our will and leading us in paths our ego mind would never anticipate. I can attest to the fact, as Jung says here, that this experience is scary! Before I finally got used to the directive voice of the Self telling me what was going to happen and what I was to do, I did think I was losing “my wits.” As Jung notes here, religious authorities have no use for people living by an inner authority, nor do the police, law courts, teachers or parents. On all sides we are encouraged by our society to externalize a locus of authority. But Jung was clear (here and in other passages)[17] that we must come to know, wrestle with and eventually submit to the guidance of the Self, our inner divinity.Yes, it would be nice to be “masters of our fate,” but Jung reminds us here that we are not in charge of our lives, because our consciousness is “limited,” with a range of awareness that is too narrow and sightlines that fall short of what we really need. To live fully, richly and to our full potential we must submit to our inner wisdom.

Jung: “If life does not contain the pairs of opposites, it is just a straight line, it is just as if you did not breathe, it is just as though you did not live.  When life is lived as rhythm, diastole and systole, then it is whole, it is approaching completion….”[18]

Commentary: One of the frequent themes in Jung’s work is the concept of “holding the tension of opposites.”[19] Jung recognized that our human nature is bipolar, i.e. we are both good and bad, possessing both male and female energies, capacities for thinking and feeling, extraversion and introversion, consciousness and unconsciousness–a whole host of opposites that exist within us in a dynamic tension. These pairs need to be recognized and balanced if we are to live in any sort of rhythmic wholeness. As several essays[20] archived on this blog site note, Jung’s goal for life never was to be “perfect,” because he knew perfection is impossible and striving for it only begets feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Jung saw the operation of the heart as a good model: dilation and contraction, two rhythmic movements paralleling the growth and consolidation phases of our lives. Another important aspect to holding the tension of opposites is the dynamism this makes possible. “Life lived as rhythm” has movement, an energetic flow that makes things happen. We are much more likely to thrive, grow and “approach completion” if we can tolerate the tension that the opposites contain.[21] Jung put so much stress on the principle of holding the tension of opposites that, when his students asked him how we might avoid World War III, he said that we might do so if enough people could hold consciously the tension of opposites.[22]

Jung: “…Only when he can deal with his inferior part and unite his two sides can he come to the whole man, and take that place that this dream hints at.”[23]

Commentary: All through the dream seminar Jung would relate a dream of one of his patients and then discuss it. A common theme in dreams is the shadow (often pictured as a person different from us, or someone in our lives who we don’t like, or someone of another race),[24] and, in this session of the seminar Jung raised the subject of handling the shadow and the inferior function (since the shadow often carries the least developed of the functions).[25] The “two sides” are our conscious identity and way of living, and our shadow side. Wrestling with the shadow and developing our inferior function are ways to achieve wholeness, and dreams very often present us with situations and images that strive for that goal. Sometimes these dreams are subtle or vague, and we don’t get the message, but the psyche is patient: If the message is important, we can be sure we will get other dreams repeating the point. In my own case, since I was such a blockhead, with a very firm grasp of the obvious, I needed explicit messages, hence the “voice-over” dreams I get which give me explicit information and direction.[26]

Jung: “the most disparate objects can be brought together if they are compared from a certain subjective angle, such as their worth or value, for instance….”[27]

Commentary: Here we are given a helpful technique for how we can integrate seemingly impossible things. From the perspective of our logical, rational minds, there seems to be no way we welcome negative events or attributes or shadow personalities. Jung reminds us to shift the angle from the objective, logical view to a subjective, more intuitive view. Ever the empiricist, Jung habitually asked “Why? What did the psyche intend by this dream, this situation, this physical or mental condition?” because he recognized that the psyche is teleological, i.e. it has an aim, end or intention for what happens to us.[28] An example from my own life can illustrate this. One summer I was foolishly walking in the woods of my backyard in the dark. I could not see where I put my foot and it got stuck. When I wrenched it out, my foot was hanging off the end of my leg: I had a trimalleolar fracture. I could have had a pity party, lamenting “Why me?” etc., but I took a page out of Jung’s book, and asked myself instead: “What is the purpose of this experience? What am I to learn from this (aside from the obvious lesson not to walk in the woods in the dark)?” The answer was not long in coming: When the students showed up two days later for a class, they spontaneously passed around a “Help Sue” sheet and 35 people provided rides, meals, and help around the house for 11 weeks. I learned how kind people are and how much the students cared about me. If we are prepared to shift our thinking, to ask the right questions when faced with life events, we can always see the larger picture or integrate the lessons these situations offer us.

Jung: “The rotating movement has the particular significance of the completion of life; if one covers the whole ground one cannot fail to complete oneself. …This is our psychological situation; we are a one-sided product with an unknown shadow side, which may cast a cloud over us at any time….The Platonic idea of the first man was …hermaphroditic, because the idea was that one must pass through the lives of women as well as men to grow into the perfect man….The idea of rotation really means an evolutionary movement, a rounding out, a consciousness of the whole extension of one’s life.”[29]

Commentary: “Rotating movement” is the circumambulatio mentioned in Part I. The soul journey is not linear: we go in circles, and we have to go in circles in order to “cover the whole ground.” A single-minded focus on a goal, using the linear straight-line model would miss so much of life, and would assure failure to complete ourselves. Because we are “a one-sided product,” i.e. unfamiliar with our shadow side, uninterested in developing our inferior function, we can find ourselves “cast in a cloud at any time.” To avoid this, we need to appreciate “rotation,” as a way to “round out” our personality, fill out our identity, and help us to become more conscious of the wholeness that we really are. Those of us who prize efficiency (like me) find this hard: How many times did I lament to my analyst that I was back again at the beginning! Just so. I found that the more I belly-ached about this “rotation” schema, the slower the process of healing was. Better to recognize the journey is one of going around and around the mountain, each time at a slightly higher elevation.

Jung: “…no concept is ever quite by itself, all are connected.  Otherwise we would not be able to think.  It is only by those bridges which overlap that we can think; if we have to do with irreconcilable concepts which nowhere touch, it is impossible.  So that overlapping and intermingling is indispensable for the thinking process, and probably that peculiarity is in the unconscious itself.  The more we approach unconsciousness, the more indistinct things become, till finally they are only dimly visible and everything means everything else….”[30]

Commentary: When I first read this passage I thought of the Buddhist notion of dependent origination:[31] Nothing and no one is isolated. We are all connected, but it is a feature of the mind to make distinctions, to see differences and to regard some things as irreconcilable. Jungians often liken the mind to a knife, as our Thinking is the function that makes distinctions and separates this from that.[32] When we differentiate and separate, we are operating in consciousness. Things are quite different in the unconscious, as we can easily see when we work with our dreams: All sorts of things, people, and situations can be jumbled together, even to the point of being incomprehensible. How often I have thrown up my hands when faced with a weird dream that defied interpretation! Such dreams likely come from the deep layers of the unconscious, leaving my logical mind feeling frustrated in the “cloud of unknowing.”[33] This is not a comfortable state of being, but I have come to understand that it is useful for the rational mind occasionally to be shown its limitations.

Jung: “…The aim of the exercise [concentrating on making and/or contemplating a mandala] is to shift the guiding factor away from the ego to a non-ego center in the unconscious, and this is also the general aim of analytical procedure.  I did not invent it but found it to be so….”[34]

Commentary: Jung discovered the value of working with mandalas not only from his patients’ experience, but from his own: After his break with Freud, he spent many hours in his study crafting mandalas (now available to us, thanks to the publication of his Red Book), and found the exercise helpful.[35] In this Jung was not being original: Mandalas have been a central feature of meditative work in Eastern religions for millennia.[36] Jung encouraged his patients to make mandalas,[37] for the reason he states here: The process of crafting the image fosters a shift from conscious ego-driven thought to something else. I find this “something else” hard to explain, perhaps because it is not logical or objective. My analyst encouraged me to approach this process with the intent to allow whatever came to flow out the end of the pen or brush. For a practical plodder like me, this initially was difficult. I had to consciously let go of any concern about product (I was not to think of this activity as “making art”) and simply be OK with whatever turned up on the paper. In a similar way, we have to operate in “allow mode”[38] in analysis, being OK with whatever a dream throws up to us. As Jung notes, the value in the exercise of making mandalas was not his. He didn’t invent it; like so much else of his psychology, it was empirical, based on his personal experience.

Jung: “Since the human mind in the beginning was unconscious, and the origin of languages betrays the way in which things were, you can still in a way feel it.  In the dimly lit mind you see something black which almost gives you the feeling of white…..”[39]

Commentary: Jung was multi-lingual[40] and his writings are full of etymologies, asides that explain the roots of a word. For example, knowing that the roots of “ecstasy” (Greek ek + stasis) literally describe a state of “standing outside” oneself can provide a very different way of looking at a situation.[41] Jung used the origin of the word “religion” to explain his view of this important aspect of human life (“religion” from religio, religere, “to reflect” or “think back”).[42] By tracing the history and formation of a word, we can “still in a way feel” how the ancient creators of the word lived closer to the unconscious, and this can help link us to the unconscious. We can sense the tension of opposites, putting us more in touch with the roots of our being.

Jung: “…what to do when put into a complete impasse.  Then the dream says, in the cauldron things are cooked together, and out of things strange to each other, irreconcilable. Something new comes forth.  This is obviously the answer to the paradox, the impossible impasse.”[43]

Commentary: Work for a length of time with your dreams and it becomes very clear that the psyche (the source of dreams) is much wiser than our ego minds. Nowhere is this more obvious than when we hit the wall, up against a “complete impasse.” The ego mind is at a loss; nothing makes sense; we feel acute frustration. What to do? Better to ask “How to be?” Doing would be just going through wasted motion. Being patient is more appropriate at such times. Attentive too: We need to watch for guidance from our dreams, intuitions, synchronicities and other phenomena in outer and inner life. In my experience, such times are when things are “cooking” in the unconscious–images of cauldrons, kitchens, ovens, etc. often show up in this interval. Sometimes we get scenes of weird objects melding together, things that would never be blended or even thought of as being appropriate for mixing. The psyche has no such limited range of possibilities. In this incubation phase (which is never short enough) we need to trust that the psyche is at work, even though we can’t put our finger on just what is going on or what the result will be. As Jung notes here, invariably it is “something new.” In my experience it is not only new but something quite different from what my ego mind was expecting. And, as Jung says, it resolves the problem, transcends the paradox, reconciles the “impossible impasse,” and shows me just how limited my ego mind is.

Jung: “…those ideas of a wonderful and spiritual God become utterly insufficient because they give us no guidance. …it has no life of its own, it is man-made, and our actual psychology realizes that.  We need to find an orienting principle, a function besides our consciousness, which will give us warning…so that in case of deviation or danger we get some point of view which we would not have thought of consciously.”[44]

Commentary: Jung had little use for a God “out there,” in part because such an externalization is “utterly insufficient.” Why? Jung says such a conception “gives us no guidance,” but it is also insufficient because anything we externalize becomes vulnerable to loss. “Out there” means “it has no life of its own,” and it becomes “man-made,” i.e. part of the range of organized religions that serve up “dogma … the very thing that precludes immediate experience”[45] of the Divine. Jung put stress on knowing God. In the famous BBC interview with John Freeman,[46] when Jung was asked if he believed in God, he said no, because he knew God: He had developed over his lifetime such experience of the Self that it had become for him “an orienting principle” which helped him stay safe, by giving him warnings when he was deviating or getting into dangerous situations. I have come to appreciate Jung’s stress on knowing the Self and how this intimate relationship can be comforting (as well as discomfiting when it provokes growth when I want to stay in the comfort of the same old, same old). When various groups knock on my door to proselytize, I always ask them about their experience of God and I get blank stares and no reply: They can spout their particular sect’s dogma, but they have no personal experience of the Self. It is also clear that they are quite content to externalize both the locus of authority (taking the priest’s/pastor’s directives at face value) and the locus of security (as something–savings, good job, rich spouse etc.–out there).

Jung: “Through looking at a thing, concentrating or meditating on it, you make it grow or hatch it out….”[47]

Commentary: Jung spent many years beginning in his youth investigating esoteric wisdom, and this tip draws on that. Edgar Cayce said the same thing, in different words, in his dictum that “Mind is the builder; reality is the result.”[48] Another way to say this is “Reality grows where attention goes.” What we focus on we get more of, so, if you don’t like something, don’t dwell on it, but flip it to a positive and focus on that. For example, I had a student a while back who was having serious money problems. Her focus was on lack. I suggested she try the “abundance program” described by John Randolph Price:[49] For 40 continuous days (no breaks) she was to spend at least 15 minutes writing down all the things in her life she was grateful for. This exercise asked her to shift her focus from the negative (lack) to the positive (even obvious things like the ability to see, to hold the pen, to walk, to breathe). The forty days is not a random number: It has a long history of being significant for bringing about change, e.g. Jesus’ 40 days in the desert,[50] the Jews’ 40 years of wandering before reaching the promised land.[51] Jung here conveyed this wisdom to his students, and we can profit from it also.

Jung: “I always try to get at the exact amounts of time and money one has expended on a thing, then I know how important it has been for the patient….this is a very efficient means.  I learned it from women.  Three-fourths of analyses are made by women, and I learn from them.”[52]

Commentary: It is true at the Jungian Center too that most of our students are women, and many of Jung’s women students became analysts.[53] Here Jung gives us a good way to identify our values: On what do we spend our time and money? For most people time and money are parts of our lives in limited supply: We can’t create a 25th hour or an eighth day of the week, nor can money buy the most important things in life. So an assessment of where we choose to expend these limited resources will provide us with a picture of what we value in life. For most people in our modern society, inner work–mining dreams for guidance, active imaginations, analysis, work on taking back projections etc.–gets very little of our resources, revealing how little value we put on what Jung felt was so important.

Jung: “The planets will never protest at the names you give them. … You must interpret these facts psychologically but you must interpret them according to the best theories at your disposal…”[54]

Commentary: Jung studied astrology[55] and recognized that it is a powerful symbol system that can reveal a lot about a person. By names Jung meant more than the conventional labels (e.g. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus etc.): He recognized that we could equally well name the planets for the archetypal energies they represent within us,[56] e.g. the animus/athlete/warrior (Mars), the puer/father/optimist (Jupiter), the senex/lord of karma/pessimist (Saturn), the anima/peacemaker/lover (Venus). Each planet and the natal chart as a whole can be interpreted psychologically, and how we choose to do that won’t matter to the planets, but our choices will matter to the client, so, as Jung advises here, we must make our interpretation based on the “best theories.” Jung told this to his students in 1929. In the 90+ years since then a whole series of Jungian analysts-cum-astrologers[57] have studied thousands of charts, testing his theories, so that now we have a pretty solid basis for gleaning insights about personality, complexes and other elements of a person from his/her chart. As an aside, I should mention that, in my experience with multiple Jungian analysts, few are as open-minded as Jung was, and most of the current practitioners reflect our culture’s foolish denigration of this powerful symbol system.[58]

Jung: “Names have a sort of influence, words are apotropaic.  When you can name a thing the patient is already half liberated.  Hence we use the healthy effect of name-giving to help abolish a thing.  But the real essence of the thing is not touched by the name you give it.  It is not thereby destroyed.”[59]

Commentary: Jung recognized the reality of “charms.” “Apotropaic” words are words that people associate with the ability to ward off evil.[60] Jung was quite familiar with the influence of charm words from his trips to Africa; indigenous people had many taboos about certain words, and felt other words had curative powers.[61] Here Jung is reminding his students of the value of a diagnosis: When the situation can be explained in words and the problem can be given a label, it can have a very positive impact on the patient. I found this to be true repeatedly in my analysis when my analyst gave a name to something, e.g. that I had had to “turn type,” that I had a negative mother complex, that I was working through a transitio time, so of course I would feel confused, disoriented, or uncomfortable. By her ability to name my experiences, she gave me confidence that 1) I was not crazy, 2) that she had a bead on what was really going on, and 3) she understood the archetypes of change and so had a sense of the larger context within which my growth was occurring. All this was tremendously comforting to me. There are powerful “healthy effects” in a Jungian analyst’s ability in “name-giving.”

Jung: “When I have borderline cases I have to keep myself very quiet in order not to let an explosion happen.  If my patient keeps his head, he may be able to handle the situation. …”[62]

Commentary: Some of the people who came to Jung were not garden-variety neurotics but seriously ill psychotics. With such “borderline cases” Jung acted differently than with patients whose problems were less severe: He kept “very quiet” lest anything he said or did might constellate a complex and produce an “explosion.” This passage reflects Jung’s key theme in his clinical work that the analyst is not the authority, is not to dictate, nor think he/she runs the show.[63] For all his or her problems, the patient still has within the wisdom to handle the situation, so Jung would carefully observe body language, tone of voice, what was said and not said, the content of dreams etc.–all ways in which Jung took direction from the patient’s Self. These observations required a calm setting, i.e. not an “explosion,” and a patient with some measure of composure (i.e. “keeps his head.”).

Jung: “Neurotic sex trouble is Janus-faced.  There can be another problem, a spiritual problem not yet developed, but in an embryonic state, which is expressed in sex symbolism.  When man is completely evolved, then sex is a function.  Here you have a paradoxical and confusing innuendo of the unconscious, but only so long as you cannot think in paradoxical terms….”[64]

Commentary: Janus was the Roman god with a double face, so he could see both the past (looking back) and the future (as with a normal, front-facing face). Since we tend to think in either/or terms (which Jung felt was far too limiting),[65] we find it hard to imagine how both past and future can exist in a situation (i.e. “in an embryonic state”). Jung here was reminding his students that they had to develop an appreciation for paradox and learn to hold opposites in tension, to recognize that what might appear as “neurotic sex trouble” could also be “another problem,” a spiritual problem. Given our materialism and how our culture has debased sexuality, it is difficult for us to understand that Jung regarded sex and spirit as existing along a continuum, closely related as being powerful instinctual energies.[66] This understanding is just one of the ways Jung diverged from Freud in his psychology.

Jung: “Whenever one is unable to deal with a complicated psychological situation, then very often, on account of the lack of one function, one tries to deal with that situation using functions that are simply not applicable. There are certain predicaments in life which one cannot intelligently deal with by means of thinking….”[67]

Commentary: Jung is giving us a warning here, and, more pointedly, reminding his students that they had to develop the ability to adapt to the typology of their patients. Not all situations, nor all clients will be amendable to logical analyses: There are times when the Feeling, Intuition or Sensation function(s) will be required, and analysts have to train to be able to shift out of their usual type.[68] In my experience working (or trying to work) with different analysts, I found some were more adept at making this shift than others. A few really seemed able only to analyze, i.e. use their Thinking function, and this left me (as a Feeler) really cold. Jung is right: Thinking works only in some situations, not all. For all of us (not just analysts) it enriches life when we can draw on multiple functions in response to the demands of life, and this is one reason why conscious effort to develop our inferior function is desirable.

Jung: “So all the tools are really living because they help our living….”[69]

Commentary: Jung was a pragmatic empiricist.[70] He relied on his own experience and observations in determining what was true. Something was right if it worked, helped a patients, effected a cure. A tool was useful if it would “help our living.” Never one to get stuck on theories (which he regarded as “the very devil”)[71] Jung adapted his techniques and tools to the individual patient, and his students soon learned that he never treated any two patients the same way.[72] For us, in our laymen’s daily reality, we can take Jung’s cue here, and regard as true and valid what is useful. By this criterion it is obvious that anything divorced from reality (like “fake news” and “alternate reality”) is useless.

Jung: “…that one listens attentively and takes the words of the parson, and dismisses one’s own individual attempt, thereby hindering one’s own advance….”[73]

Commentary: Jung had little use for externalizing a locus of authority, so he urged his students not to listen to “the parson,” the authority figure, if this meant dismissing “one’s own individual attempt” to discern the truth, or to be guided in life. Such externalization hinders “one’s own advance” because it thwarts the individual’s developing reliance and trust in his/her inner wisdom. Instead of looking without, Jung urged his students (and us) to look within, to ask the Self (our inner divine core) for guidance, and then to watch dreams, intuitions, hunches, nudges, synchronicities and other ways our wisdom can show up. Doing this over time, in many aspects of life, is the only way we can come to internalize a locus of security, which is how Jung interpreted Jesus’ admonition to “lay up treasures in Heaven.”[74]

Jung: “I have had many discussions with theologians and they all accuse me of psychologism, of relativizing God as a psychological factor, assuming that I represent God as nothing but a psychological factor in people which they can take out of their pockets and put in again whenever they like.  They all assume that psychology is a rational sort of game in which metaphysical facts are handled as merely psychological combinations.  They do not know that I look at psychology as a field of facts….Psychology to me is an empirical science.  I observe but I do not invent….so I observe psychological movements, where one is dealing with autonomous factors of extraordinary power and where one simply studied the ways of those powers….The psyche is greater than myself; it is not in the hollow of my hand….”[75]

Commentary: This is a rich passage reflecting the years of incomprehending discussions Jung had with his father and uncles, many of whom were ministers and theologians.[76] The profession’s lack of understanding of Jung’s position grew much worse after he published his Answer to Job in 1952, in which he concluded that one of our spiritual tasks now is to help God become more conscious.[77] As this passage indicates, Jung came to this conclusion based on experience–his own and his patients’–because psychology was for him “an empirical science.” He gleaned his ideas from observations of what went on with his patients (as well as in himself). From these experiences dealing with powerful “autonomous factors” (i.e. phenomena over which neither Jung nor the patient has control) Jung drew up hypotheses which he then studied and tested, all the time aware that “the psyche is greater than myself.” It was not something Jung owned, controlled or mastered. As an aside, Jung had little use for the “nothing but” attitude, as he indicates here, for it denigrates, dismisses or reduces to insignificance what is important.

Jung: “The idea that God is necessarily good and spiritual is simply a prejudice made by man.  We wish it were so, we wish that the good and spiritual might be supreme, but it is not.  … man must return to a condition where that functioning [the religious functioning] is absolutely unprejudiced, where one cannot say that it is good or that it is evil, where one has to give up all bias as to the nature of religion; for as long as there is any kind of bias, there is no submission.”[78]

Commentary: As the son of a parson Jung grew up hearing about God all the time, and as a young boy he wrestled with the concept. His father was no help with this, as Jung could see his father had lost his faith.[79] Jung was 11 when he had his first experience of God,[80] and it was tormenting, leading Jung to realize that God is not all good, as orthodox Christian dogma states. Jung pointed to the illogic of such a stance: If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then God must contain all–the bad with the good. By urging us to “return to a condition” without bias, Jung is revealing his deep familiarity with Gnosticism, which understood that the Divine encompasses both good and bad.[81] This first- and second-century belief system (which the Church Fathers condemned as a heresy) resonated with Jung because the Gnostics recognize the divine spark within each person, and look to it for guidance in daily living.[82] The Gnostics, in other words, do not externalize a locus of authority. The Self is our authority, and the challenge of taking up spiritual living is to get our ego minds to submit to the wisdom of the Self. We cannot be “biased” in thinking the ego is wise enough to run the show. The ego might be smart, but smarts is not wisdom, and “unprejudiced” functioning means living attuned to wisdom, not cultural prejudices or dogmas.




Barnstone, Willis & Marvin Meyer (2009), The Gnostic Bible. Boston: Shambhala.

Barz, Ellynor (1991), Gods and Planets: The Archetypes of Astrology. Wilmette IL: Chiron Publications.

Cayce, Edgar (1982), Story of Attitudes and Emotions, ed. Jeffrey Furst. New York: Berkley Books.

Hall, James (1983), Jungian Dream Interpretation. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Hannah, Barbara (1976), Jung: His Life and Work. New York: G.P. Putnam.

Hillman, James (1985), Anima: An Anatomy of a Personified Notion. Dallas TX: Spring Publications.

Howell. Alice (1987), Jungian Symbolism in Astrology. Wheaton IL: Theosophical Publishing Co.


________ (1973), “Experimental Researches,” Collected Works, 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1961), “Freud and Psychoanalysis,” Collected Works, 4. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1956) “Symbols of Transformation,” Collected Works, 5, 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1971), “Psychological Types,” Collected Works, 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press

________ (1966), “Two Essays on Analytical Psychology,” CW 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1960), ”The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche,” CW 8. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1959), ”The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,” CW 9i. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1959), “Aion,” Collected Works, 9ii. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1970), “Civilization in Transition,” CW 10. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1969), “Psychology and Religion: West and East,” CW 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1953), “Psychology and Alchemy,” CW 12. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1967), “Alchemical Studies,” CW 13. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1954), “The Practice of Psychotherapy,” CW 16, 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1954), “The Development of Personality,” CW 17. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1976), ”The Symbolic Life,” CW 18. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1965), Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.

________ (1977), C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, ed. William McGuire & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1984), Seminar on Dream Analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (2009), The Red Book Liber Novus, ed. Sonu Shamdasani. New York: W.W. Norton.

Jung, Emma (1957), Animus and Anima. Dallas TX: Spring Publications.

Layton, Bentley (1987), The Gnostic Scriptures. Garden City NY: Doubleday.

Liddell & Scott (1978), A Greek-English Lexicon. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mattoon, Mary Ann (1984), Understanding Dreams. Dallas TX: Spring Publications.

Mizuno, Kogen (1987), Basic Buddhist Concepts. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co.

Price, John Randolph (1987), The Abundance Book. Boerne TX: Quartus Publishing.

Robinson, James (1978), The Nag Hammadi Library. San Francisco: Harper.

Rudolph, Kurt (1984), Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

von Franz, Marie-Louise (1997), Alchemical Active Imagination. Boston: Shambhala Books.

Wolters, Clifton, trans. (1961), The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works. New York: Penguin Books.



[1] Jung (1984), 81. Henceforth this volume will be abbreviated as DS.

[2] Ibid., 101.

[3] Ibid., 512-3.

[4] Ibid., 361.

[5] Sixteen of the c. 5 dozen participants became analysts. See Part I, note 5 for their names.

[6] DS, 81.

[7] This is Daryl Sharp’s term for what Jung called our “inner world;” CW 7 ¶s 317,325-7.

[8] Jung defines persona in CW 8 ¶s800-2.

[9] Jung defined anima/us in CW 6 ¶s797-811. Cf. Hillman (1985) and Jung (1957).

[10] Each of us is unique in how the psyche works in us.

[11] Jung defined the concept of constellation of a complex in CW 2 ¶733.

[12] DS, 294.

[13] Jung describes this in CW 4 ¶s415-8; cf. Hall (1983), Mattoon (1984) and von Franz (1997).

[14] Jung agrees; see CW 12 ¶123, quoting Lama Lingdam Gomchen.

[15] DS, 513-4.

[16] CW 6 ¶425.

[17] CW 11 ¶273n; CW 8 ¶s430-2; CW 7 ¶274; and CW 11 ¶s 391& 885.

[18] DS, 101.

[19] Cf. CW 5 ¶s460 581; CW 6 ¶s330,347,370; CW 7 ¶s34,78,115,119; CW 8 ¶767; CW 9i ¶s196,426,446, 483; CW 9ii ¶s59,390&n; CW 10 ¶s779,784; CW 11 ¶s180,291; CW 13 ¶s147,290; CW 16 ¶400; CW 17 ¶249.

[20] Cf. “Jung on Perfection and Completeness,” and “Psychological Entropy.”

[21] For an in-depth examination of the dynamic potential in the opposites, see the essay “Psychological Entropy or Why We Don’t Want to Have All Our Wishes Fulfilled,” archived on this blog site.

[22] Hannah (1976), 129.

[23] DS, 295.

[24] CW 7 ¶103n.

[25] Ibid. ¶78; cf. CW 5 ¶267; CW 9ii ¶s370, 422; CW 11 ¶292.

[26] I describe these dreams in depth in my book The Spiritual Adventure of Our Time.

[27] DS, 359.

[28] CW 8 ¶798.

[29] DS, 473.

[30] Ibid., 528.

[31] Mizuno (1987),70-76.

[32] Howell (1987), 132.

[33] This is the title of a 14th-centry account of mystical experiences; Wolters (1961).

[34] DS, 105.

[35] Jung (2009). Be sure to use the facsimile edition, which has all Jung’s mandalas in color.

[36] CW 12 ¶123.

[37] E.g. Christiana Morgan, several of whose mandalas appear in CW 9i, ¶s 526-626.

[38] This term is not Jung’s: I heard it from Barbara Brennan, when I took her energy healing course. It refers to a non-directive attitude, where, as healers, we don’t try to make anything happen, but act more as a conduit for the energies that the client needs.

[39] DS, 131.

[40] Jung was fluent in German, French, English and Latin.

[41] A useful experiment here is to put your thumb on your nose, then close one eye and note what you see of your hand; then close the other eye and note what you see now. The two views are very different, reflecting the different perspective we get from our two eyes–hence the value of binocular vision.

[42] CW 11 ¶8.

[43] DS, 329.

[44] Ibid., 515.

[45] CW 11 ¶81.

[46] The transcript of this interview was published in Jung (1977).

[47] DS, 109.

[48] Cayce (1982), 15, quoting reading 906-3.

[49] Price (1987).

[50] Matt. 4:2.

[51] Exodus 16:35. The interval of 40 years allowed the older generation which had grown up under slavery in Egypt to die off, and only the younger generation, which had not known slavery, would take possession of the land they were promised.

[52] DS, 122.

[53] E.g. Esther Harding, Eleanor Bertine, Toni Wolff, Linda Fierz-David, and Jane Wheelwright.

[54] DS, 183.

[55] CW 8 ¶s872-915 and CW 18 ¶s1174-92.

[56] Barz (1991) discusses this in depth.

[57] E.g. Liz Greene, Alice Howell and Ellynor Barz.

[58] It is amazing to me how many people claim to be open-minded, yet dismiss astrology as mumbo-gumbo without ever having examined it. I did too, until I was forcibly confronted with its power and insight in 1984, when, unwittingly I had my first chart reading (I had assumed that my student was taking me to yet another psychologist).

[59] DS, 263.

[60] From the Greek apotrepein, “to avert, turn away;” Liddell & Scott (1978), 109.

[61] Lest we feel smugly superior to “primitive” people, we should remember we too see special power in some words, e.g. “passwords” that can unlock a computer program.

[62] DS, 205.

[63] CW 16 ¶2. For more on this, see the essay “Components of Individuation, Part III,” archived on this blog site.

[64] DS, 261.

[65] “Limiting” because it forecloses the possibility of holding the tension of opposites, forcing the mind to go to one or the other perspective, rather than holding both as possibilities.

[66] For a more detailed discussion of the sex-spirit continuum, see the essay “Jung on the Enantiodromia: Part II,” archived on this blog site.

[67] DS, 499.

[68] CW 18 ¶321 & CW 10 ¶890. For more on this see the essay “What Makes a Good Analyst?” archived on this blog site.

[69] DS, 361.

[70] CW 18 ¶1502.

[71] CW 17, p. 7.

[72] Hannah (1976), 202.

[73] DS, 499.

[74] Matt. 6:20.

[75] DS, 511.

[76] Jung was born into a family with 9 ministers; in addition to his father, he had 6 uncles on his mother’s side who were ministers, and two on his father’s; Jung (1965), 42.

[77] CW 11 ¶747.

[78] DS, 512-3.

[79] Jung (1965), 92-3.

[80] Jung described this experience in his memoir; ibid., 34-40.

[81] CW 11 ¶249. For more on the Gnostics, see Barnstone & Meyer (2009), Layton (1987) and Robinson (1978).

[82] I use the present tense here because there are still groups practicing Gnosticism, despite the Church’s centuries of work (by the Inquisition) to stamp it out, e.g. the Mandeans in southern Iraq; Rudolph (1984), 9.

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