lecture c g jung: ego, shadow. anima/animus

These lectures are part of the first year study course. They are also open to the public.

AION: C G Jung on Ego, Shadow and Anima/Animus

During the 1950s, when he was already over seventy years old, C.G.Jung published some of the most complex and least accessible of his writings. These were writings about the nature of Nature, about God and Man, reality and consciousness and other ‘big’ topics. The works included  Mysterium Coniunctionis and other Alchemic matters, which Jung had worked on during the 1940s and 50s. That time also produced works on theological psychology, such as Answer to Job and Aion. 

After recovering from an illness in the mid/late 1940s, Jung declared that he would now write in the way that he wanted to for himself and that his readers would have to ‘meet him where he was, rather than him trying to meet them.’ Some of the subsequent material is consequently difficult to read and needs to be assimilated slowly.

Part of this profound body of Jung’s later work is the volume Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self. It aims at nothing less than unlocking the mystery of our relationship to God. Or as Jung might put it, demonstrating how the Archetype of the God-image has evolved and what this revelation implies. This work, and that of other scholars such as Eliade, Hillman, Campbell and others, laid the foundation during the 1950s and 1960s, for the present breakthroughs in understanding and working with consciousness. This body of knowledge has a direct impact on Western culture’s ‘search for meaning’, now trivialised in the plethora of ‘new age’ movements and what is effectively spiritual materialism.

Said simply, Jung proposes that, as part of a natural evolution, the last 2000 years of human experience has been one aeon, one stage of the development of consciousness, best represented for Western people by the Christian era. This era is now over and as we move into the next stage, our experience of spirituality will change. For Jung, we are invited to find the ‘enlightenment’ that follows ‘making the darkness conscious’. We are becoming our own god-Self. The moral implications and ecological responsibilities that this entails are tremendous.

However, before we can enter the ‘inner sanctum’ of finding and working with the Diamond Body and become conscious of the True Self, whatever these might be, we need first to pass through the ‘outer chambers’ of the Shadow and the Anima/Animus complexes. Jung is firm on this point. If we do not deal with these two aspects of our inner selves first, we don’t even get onto the playing field of genuine consciousness, let alone play the game or have a chance of success.

In the book Aion, almost by way of introducing the ‘real’ work that follows, Jung begins with a compact summary of all of his previous understanding, as a psychologist, on those aspects of the Self that need attention before the greater undertaking can begin. The Ego is discussed in five pages, the Shadow is dealt with in a mere three pages and the enormously complex material of Anima/Animus is engaged with in twelve pages. After that, almost 300 pages deal with transformation and the evolution of the God-realised Self.

It is worth emphasising that for Jung, and for us in Archetypal studies, these matters are only the necessary starting point for a much more profound dialogue. In the practice of clinical psychology (and sadly, for most Jungians these days as well) almost everything in conventional psychotherapy in the world today addresses only these initial three areas and stops there (if it even gets this far). Regardless of the spiritual overtones of Jung’s work, or whether you agree with his vision or not, it still remains true that dealing with the issues of Ego, Shadow and Anima/Animus is essential to and is the cornerstone of psychological well-being and relationship health.

As part of the start of the first year of the Advanced Course studies, these lectures introduce the psychology and philosophy of Carl Gustav Jung. The lectures focus specifically on Jung’s writings and discussions of the Ego, the personal Shadow, and the ‘soul’, or the Anima and Animus, as they are found in the book Aion.

The format is to work directly from the original material. Everyone will be given their own photocopy of these pages, to follow directly Jung’s writing. Each talk will be about an hour, followed by a half-hour of group discussion and questions.

The material is continuous, so you need to join from the beginning. To avoid disruption, please plan to arrive 20 minutes before the scheduled lecture time. This is a public lecture, so anyone interested in depth psychology and consciousness in the 21st century, is welcome. No previous work or familiarity with Jung’s work is necessary.