45 Years In and Out of Jung’s Psychology by David Holt

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Jung is reported to have said, sometime in the 1930’s, when he was beginning to be famous, something like this: “The trouble is that I have built myself a boat with which to ride the flood, and now people are trying to climb into my boat rather than build their own”.

I heard that from Barbara Hannah, an Englishwoman who had lived and worked in Zürich from I think about 1930. She told it us in a seminar in 1965. At the time I was beginning to wonder where I stood in relation to Jung’s psychology as a profession, as an institution. I found it a reassuring anecdote, and though it may be no more than anecdotal I want to take it as my text this morning. I want to talk about my 45 years in and out of Jung’s psychology in terms of the help I have had from him in building the rather leaky boat to which I have come to trust myself.

So though what I have to say is autobiographical and may appear rather self centred, I am trying to address others, and perhaps in particular younger people, who may be asking themselves how to approach Jung’s work. And the conclusion to which I am reaching out is that there is much to be learned from Jung’s psychology, much more indeed than we have yet recognised or understood. But that it is a mistake to try and make Jung’s psychology a profession or vocation. I want to encourage you to read Jung, and to warn you against a Jungian profession.


I want to start in the summer and autumn of 1947, when I first made the acquaintance of Jung’s work. I am going to spend more time on it than any subsequent period, because I believe that the way you first approach Jung’s work will probably have a decisive influence on what you make of it in the years to come.

I was reading history at Oxford. My mind, after lying fallow for two and a half years in the navy, was being given shape and direction through the study of history. And I had just started to read, with great excitement, the books of R.G.Collingwood.

Collingwood was a philosopher and an historian who had died in the early 1940’s. Many of my generation were deeply influenced by his thought. My tutor recommended him to me as an antidote to my tendency to look for, and find, patterns in history. What I got from Collingwood has marked the workings of my mind ever since.

I would summarise what he taught me under three headings.

Firstly, that the logic by which our minds work is one of question and answer. To understand what we do and say and how we think, we have to be reaching out towards the questions we are trying to answer.

Secondly, that our idea of nature is secondary to our idea of history. What we mean by nature and what nature means to us, our understanding of our place in nature, our distinction between what is natural and what is unnatural, these all have a history. The study of nature is embedded in the study of history.

And thirdly, and very much related to the first two, that metaphysics really matters. Oxford philosophy at the time of Collingwood was dominated by a thorough going distaste for metaphysics. It was a bad word, as by and large I think it is today. It was usually a bad word for Jung. But Collingwood taught otherwise. He taught that metaphysics mattered a great deal because it is about the assumptions, largely unconscious and social rather than individual, on which science relies for its subject matter, its sense of direction, and its human investment. We ignore metaphysics at our peril, Collingwood taught. Because to do so is to deny the presence of beliefs which inform, energise and direct the workings of science.

I was very excited by Collingwood. But I must begin to focus on my approach to Jung.

One of the examples which Collingwood brought in arguing the relevance of metaphysics was the development of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in the first five hundred years of what we now refer to as our ‘common era’. I had been brought up to take theology very seriously indeed. Creeds mattered. But on both sides my family of origin were Unitarians, with their roots in four hundred years of a tradition that rejected Trinitarian theology, not as something that didn’t matter, but as something which was very wrong, and whose wrongness mattered very much. Collingwood’s argument that the historical development of the doctrine of the Trinity marked a fundamental shift and realignment in metaphysical possibilities, enabling the human mind to operate in ways that had not previously been conceivable, made a momentous impression on me. I decided it was something that I had to follow up, and to do so I chose as my special subject, in the Oxford Modern History curriculum, the study of St Augustine.

Which is another long story, and one which I must omit. All I need to say now is this. One of the set books was of course Augustine’s Confessions. I read them, and felt as a result that I must find out what modern psychologists thought about experiences such as Augustine described. I went along to Blackwells, the booksellers, and picked out a slim volume called Psychology and Religion. I still have it. It was the three Terry lectures which Jung had given at Yale in 1937. I see that my marginal notes refer frequently to Collingwood.

Well, I read that book, and then I think Jung’s Psychological Types. I was started on reading Jung. The start was both intellectual and passionate. (For me, the word intellect is full of passion.) I was intensely excited. Then, within the next six months, I suffered a mini breakdown, following a love affair that ran into the sands, and found myself sitting in a doctor’s consulting room and hearing the suggestion that I should have (or did he say ‘do’?) some Jungian analysis. And, as I remember it now, I thought something like this: “Yes, I’d like to do that. I already know something about Jung, don’t I?”.

Now the point of that little chunk of autobiography is to emphasise that my first encounter with Jung came into and out of a situation which was already in a state of excitement and intellectual discovery, as well as of breakdown, and in particular to emphasise that within that excitement there were ideas and directions with an active life of their own. In speaking to you now that is the point I want to make. If you are interested in Jung, ask yourselves how you came to that interest, and bear that ‘how’ in mind. The prehistory of your interest in Jung will influence what you learn from him, and how you apply his psychology to your own lives.

The first thirteen years

Now I want to try and summarise the years between 1948 and 196l, when I went to study at the Jung Institute in Zürich, just after Jung died. I’ll divide this into four sections, and will keep them brief.

First, the initial impact of Jung. What was it in particular that seized me? Looking back I think it was his theory of the anima, his typology, and his approach to dreams.

The idea of the anima, of myself as having, and also being had by, a girl, a woman: it was so apt, it was exactly right, and it was magical. It fitted the situation that had brought me into analysis, and it gave me freedom and assurance in exploring the play of sexuality between personality, heart, fancy, and the drivenness of compulsion.

Then there was Jung’s typology: extraversion and introversion, and the four functions of sensation and intuition, feeling and thinking. The typology made so much room. It made room for the observation of difference. It allowed for difference. It encouraged the recognition of difference. More. It allowed for otherness, otherness that is more than difference, otherness that is alien, that will always be incompatible with what I am. Jung’s typology allowed the alien its right to be just so. Words like character and temperament were given back their original power to describe just how alien we can be to each other, and to ground such absolute otherness in the constitution of the universe.

And then there was dreaming. Jung’s idea that my dreams were about both myself and the world caught me at once. The notion that in our dreaming we have immediate access to the play between self and world, to exchanges between what is possible and what is actual, took hold of me and has never let go. I have today between twenty and thirty thick notebooks of recorded dreams, a personal store of absurdity, revelation, banality, nightmare, oblique commentary on the day’s events, and joking at my own expense.

Such was the initial impact of Jung.

Secondly, there was what I now think of as the breaking of the Jungian egg into a larger mixing bowl. This was a gradual process, but one particular occasion can serve as typical. I was working for a book publisher at the time. Once on a visit to Manchester I was talking to John Cohen, the professor of psychology, about a book he was working on. He had recently reviewed the English translation of Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy, so it must have been in the early 1950’s. We got to talking about Jung, and he said something to this effect: that the last Englishman who could have understood Jung was Coleridge. It can’t have been just like that, but that is how I remember it. Cohen’s reference sent me to read Coleridge’s prose works for the first time, and contributed to a process of opening my interest in Jung into a wider, very much wider, study of the workings of imagination in the world and on the world.

Thirdly, there was the sense of something which others felt to be wrong, or dangerous, or nasty, or what was it?, about Jung. People I respected didn’t like him. I remember a party given by my boss Frederic Warburg, for the visiting American writer Lionel Trilling. Trilling’s books on The Liberal Imagination and The Opposing Self impressed me, and I was a young man in some awe of the distinguished visitor, standing on the edge of the small group gathered round him. There was some talk about the American publisher who had taken on Jung’s Collected Works, and the tone in which Trilling expressed his regret at this has stayed with ever since. It was a tone of distaste, of dislike that was almost physical, as if here was a source of contamination, something with which he did not want to be associated. I have met the same tone many times since.

If we are to understand why it is that Jung’s work is simply not referred to in so many books that appear to be about the same things he was writing about, we need to be aware of that current of disapproval that is often disgust. What are we to make of it? Perhaps we can say something more about this in discussion, after I have finished.

Fourthly, there was the brain as contrasted with the psyche. In 1958, when I was 32, my wife suffered a stroke, leaving her partially paralysed, and with a marked adjustment to her speech. In a sense that I do not want to exaggerate, this has been a determining influence on my life since. In relation to Jung’s psychology, it introduced me to the importance of the brain in the make up both of ourselves and of our world. There have been various times when I have found a Jungian emphasis on psyche acting as a denial of the reality to which brain damage has introduced me.

Between them I hope those four themes give some taste of the first fourteen years of my acquaintance with Jung’s psychology. I’ll just repeat them. A broad stream of engagement and application, covering sexual exploration, an interest in the sometimes incompatible varieties of character and temperament, and the life of dreams. Then, the breaking of the Jungian egg into a larger mixing bowl. Then, beginning to come to terms with the wrinkling-nose, the recoil of distaste, at the mention of Jung’s name. And, fourthly, a lasting obligation to bear in mind the workings of the brain, and not to expect too much of psyche.


I pass now to the years between 1961 and 1966, when I studied at the Jung Institute in Zürich (that is, from the age of 35 to 40).

Thinking about these years recently it seems that there was one influence above all others by which they were stamped. They were the years immediately after Jung’s death, and the group of colleagues and pupils who had gathered round him in the 1940’s and 1950’s was beginning to break up. Shortly after I left, the analysts with whom my own training had been most closely associated all resigned from the governing body of the Institute. As students we were aware at the time that there were differences and antagonisms, but I do not think I appreciated then how much the climate of the place was conditioned by them. Looking back now, it seems obvious that my future attitude to Jung’s psychology was conceived and articulated within that climate. It was within the anxiety and excitement generated by that atmosphere that I heard Barbara Hannah tell the story with which I opened this talk. I graduated within an institutional body of exceptional talent, skill and experience, which had lost its founding authority, and in which Jung’s psychology was being tested between very different personalities.

That is all I want to say about those years now, and it concludes the first half of my talk.

In speaking now about the twenty six years of my practice as a Zürich trained psychologist I want to refer you to these collected papers of mine, which are dated from 1968 to 1991 (for reference, see end of paper). In the introduction I identify five themes round which my practice as a psychologist has developed. These are theatre, time, what I like to call ‘the social body’, metaphysics, and sexuality. I shall say something briefly about each of these, with special reference to the reading of Jung, and that will conclude my talk.


My Jungian interest in theatre dates from the thesis I wrote for my diploma at the Zürich Institute. I took as my theme Jung’s concept of the Persona, and compared it with the stage actor, in the drama of classical Greece, and in Shakespeare’s two plays on Henry IV.

Working on this thesis introduced me to questions to do with character and plot, and how they are related, which were first formulated by Aristotle and have continued for two and a half thousand years to interest anyone working in the theatre. Which ‘carries’ which? Plot needs characters for its development. Characters need plot for their development. How do the two needs hang together?

It also introduced me to questions about the mask. Does the mask conceal what is behind it, or does it reveal more than the face can ever express?

Together, questions such as these launched me on powerful streams of thought which are not well represented in Jung’s work, though his recognition of the dramatic structure of dreams has certainly contributed much to the draw which theatre exercises on me.`I think in particular of the work of the American writer and critic, Kenneth Burke, with his emphasis on the five categories of Act, Scene, Agent, Agency and Purpose as necessary for an understanding of how we behave as we do. The words Act and Enactment became central in my thought and usage, and influenced directly my management of the crucial clinical problem and opportunity, the transference.

Over ten years or so work of this kind took me well outside Jung’s frame of reference. There was no way I could talk about it in his language. It seemed to me that psychoanalysis in all its schools was built on the collapse of Act into Word. Perhaps the contrast between performance and insight best highlights what was happening. I came to see performance rather than insight as often the more effective carrier of interpretation. In subsequent years this has led me to my present emphasis on our one paramount need within the organisation of psychotherapy today: the need for more exchange and experiment between the behavioural and the analytic approaches.

I do not see this development in my work as a rejection of Jung. It returns me to read Jung looking for answers to new questions. In particular, my interest in performance takes me (a) to what he has to say on the metaphysical energies of extraversion and introversion, and (b) to his understanding of projection.

I shall say more about metaphysical energies later. But in connection with theatre I would like to emphasise the as yet unrealised importance of ‘projection’ in Jung’s writings. Jung’s use of the term needs more study. It embraces a dramatic experience of environment, of the setting by which we are conditioned and on which we act, which could help in developing exchange and experiment between cognitive and behavioural therapies and the various psychoanalytic ‘mixes’ of interpretation and transference.


I took questions about time as the theme of a paper I read at the 1971 Congress of the Jungian International. They were at the time urgent, political and economic, questions. I had after all been told at the 1962 Congress in Zürich, by a leading London practitioner of Jung’s psychology, that my Zürich training would not be recognised in England. I had to be asking how analysis conducted on the basis of once or twice a week, as in Zürich, compared with a requirement of four or five times weekly as insisted upon in London. The question is still with us, still urgent, still political, still economic. It is not answered by a specious distinction between something called analysis and something called therapy. Nor can it be treated as a professional problem to be decided by psychotherapists among themselves. It carries with it doubts about our whole profession. The time to be taken up by therapy must surely bear some relation to how we ‘cost’ time in everyday living. How do the various psychotherapeutic schools cost time in the lives of their clients as between cause and chance, the programmed and the random, continuity and discontinuity, risk taking and playing it safe, what is present, past and future? We don’t know, and we don’t like to talk about it.

There is much in my book on this theme, and I am not going to try and summarise it. What I want to emphasise is that there is a lot about time and its costliness in Jung’s writings which will repay further study from outside a specifically Jungian frame of reference. For instance, his understanding of how ‘cause’ operates both in and on time. This is not easy to pin down. But for that very reason it repays study. Because in being elusive it remains close to familiar experience of how birth, death and marriage generate story, of the place of accident in the fabrication of plot, of how past and future work across each other in the making of the present.

Familiar experience: I would emphasise the word familiar. What is both important and difficult about Jung on time is this very familiarity of the experiences to which he directs our attention. Our trouble is that the deceptive simplicity of clock time leads us to overlook the familiar complexity, variety, and unevenness of the times we live by, alternating as they do between active and passive tenses. To read Jung on time we need to allow that an experience such as ‘cause’ may carry in its familiarity, in its obviousness – Oh, of course I know what I mean by ‘cause’! – questions of the greatest possible significance, questions which are never going to be easy: questions about the contradictions between our presence in time and our responsibility for time, about time as blessing and time as curse, about time as gift and time as a reckoning which is always going to be outstanding.

I am not satisfied with what I have managed to do with my interest in time. By and large it seems to me that I have failed to get a hearing for the questions I have been trying to raise for twenty years and more. No doubt it is partly my fault. But there is also a refusal within the profession to let questions about how time is constituted ‘arise’. And the refusal is not just in our profession. There is something in our culture, in what I was taught at school to think of as ‘the climate of opinion’, which smothers questions about time. What I now have to say about my other three themes is in a sense all about that smothering.

The social body

I have serious reservations about Jung’s work round ‘the social’: the extent to which human beings are essentially social, are social before and after we are individual. Here my dreams contradict my political inclination. For fifteen years my dreams of dying have shown my home as occupied by strangers who successfully claim a right to be there. Thinking about the matrix of association within which such dreams are embedded I do not know how to reconcile them with Jung’s emphasis on the individual.

I know that Jung was well aware of the needs of society. He saw the development of the individual as necessarily including the fulfilment of social responsibility and obligation. What he means by individuation is not something to be achieved at the expense of the social. The social must be fully taken into account. And yet, and yet, – it is the individual which really matters.

I’m not so sure. I agree that the individual matters, a lot. But I know now that there is an approach to ‘the mattering of the individual’ whose whole thrust, direction and perspective is different to Jung’s, and that I am more at home with that approach than I am with Jung’s. To appreciate just why the individual matters so much we have to begin and to end with a body that is social. The social body, ‘We’, is what makes ‘I’ both possible and worth while. There is an ‘itness’ to my body which only the social can make personal. In dying ‘I’ finds it-self joined with strangers, and comes to realise that ‘body’ never has been mine to own.

Perhaps it goes back to reading history during those formative years when my adult mind was getting its ‘set’. There are essays in my book on Jung and Marx. I read Marx’s Capital in 1948, under the influence of one of my tutors. There are pages there which helped me locate my father in history, in the history of society, in the social body. Coming soon after my experiences in the navy, reading Marx was both a homecoming and a sending out into the world. Marx gave me that. Not Jung. Not Freud.

But again, this does not lead me to lose interest in Jung. It sends me back to read him with fresh questions in mind. For instance, take the word ‘collective’. Jung has a lot to say about ‘the collective’. When you read him, observe how the word is used.

When referring to consciousness, ‘the collective’ in Jung usually has a pejorative ring to it. It is not something to be proud of. It crushes or erases or imprisons individuality. But when the reference is to ‘the unconscious’, the collective has a different sound to it. It empowers the individual. It enlarges horizons and deepens foundations. Access to the collective unconscious is something Jungians tend to pride themselves on. What is common to us all can be a resource for me to draw on. It is also an average in which what makes me different gets lost.

It is worth reading Jung carefully and closely to see what he has to say about the collective. Living in Switzerland during the rise of totalitarian governments in Italy and Germany he has much to say about psychological process and social organisation. But do compare with your own experience, and be prepared not to agree. It may be right for some to claim that the individual is prior to the social. But the other order of priority is also to be spoken for, and that is where my voice is.


This can be difficult, because if you are like any other audience I have spoken with, you don’t like the word. It may make it easier if I call this section of my talk, rather impudently, Jung and God.

Jung uses the term ‘the unconscious’ to mean many things. It refers to experiences of my own which are unconscious, either because I have more or less deliberately forgotten them, or because I was never aware of having had them, or because they have not yet happened. But it also (especially when described as collective) refers to all that is ‘out there’ of which I, or we, are not aware. At times this ‘out thereness’ of the unconscious is nothing more nor less than the world, the world in its unknownness, or in its unknowableness.

That gives to ‘the unconscious’ a very wide range of reference. Jung calls it all psychology. I think he is wrong to do so.

What Jung writes about as the unconscious is more than psychology. It is metaphysics, or, to use the word I prefer in my book, ontology. Which probably needs some introduction.

The word ontology comes from the Greek verb ‘to be’. Ontology is the logos, which is somewhere between wisdom and science, of Being, Being spelt with a capital B. That is, Being when we allow ourselves to be surprised by beings with a small b. Which are everything. Surprised by things, by the world, by ourselves. Really surprised. Surprised at finding ourselves here, in the world. Surprised at finding the world there, ready for us. Surprised that there is anything atall.

When surprise of that kind catches us, then we are into ontology or metaphysics. And that is where Jung’s psychology of the unconscious takes us.

To be into ontology is to be surprised by a kind of ‘call’. Open the word surprise in two directions, towards wonder, and towards fear. To be into ontology is to be aware of a ‘call’ to fear and to wonder. But it is a ‘logical’ call. It is a call to be both wise and scientific about the fearfulness of wonder. That is the kind of surprise ontology invokes. We allow ourselves to be seized by wonder that is willing to own a fear proper to itself. What we are wondering about is fearful. Not just fearful. It is also wonderful. But the wonder does not forget its fear. Nor does the fear deny its wonder.

And it is not about something remote, specialised, detached from this world. It is about us, it is about things. It is about the interdependence of subjects and objects, about the fact that there is a world out there which is here , ready for us. Seizure of this kind does not rely for its justification on great systems of thought (the reason Jung disliked the idea of metaphysics). It is constantly surprising – I repeat, constantly surprising – and ensures that all our thinking about ourselves and the world concludes in a question.

This is what Jung’s writings on the unconscious are about. The discussion of the relation between subject and object, extraversion and introversion, in Psychological Types is full of references to metaphysics. His concept of projection, crucial both to his theory and practice, is always sustained by surprise and wonder and fear of a kind that is ontological.

But he says not. He calls it psychology. I think he is wrong to do so.

I believe that in calling it psychology he does two things. He makes it accessible to us all, simply. Ontological surprise and wonder and fear are accessible to us in dreams, in our symptoms, in moods, complexes, human relationships, in the goings on of family life. They are not reserved to the specialist, to the exceptional. Which I am glad of.

But he also collapses necessary difficulties. (And this links with his failure to give ‘the social’ its proper authority.) What I have described as the call of ontology is familiar to us in worship and prayer. Much has been written about Jung and religion in the last sixty years. Ontology recognises difficulties in religion which Jung prefers to elide. There are difficulties about how knowing, believing, and making, are related. In his umbrella use of the language of consciousness and unconsciousness Jung gathers too much to the ‘knowing’. He collapses important distinctions between knowing and believing, and seems willing to overlook the possibility that what is known may have to be made before it can be known. Or, to put that another way round, that what is knowable may be so because it has been made.

These are difficult ideas. What I want to make clear now is the feeling with which they leave me.

I am grateful to Jung for affirming the accessibility of ontological surprise and wonder and fear. And I am engaged on his side against those guardians of our metaphysical tradition who find it disreputable to suggest that dreams, moods and the vulgarities of family life can be taken as evidence of metaphysical reality.

But for his insistence that all this is psychology, for his elision of the shared, social, difficulties of metaphysics, I feel regret. The promise of Psychological Types has gone missing. And I feel confined, almost a bit smothered. The elision of the ontological in Jung’s work forecloses on questions that are active, insistent, real. I cannot make such a psychology my profession.

But then I think Jung would say that he is not asking me to.


By the time I’d reached my middle fifties I thought I had arrived at a reasonable understanding of sexuality. In the last ten years that has broken up and broken down. I have had to recognise something more psychotic, or to use a less technical sounding word, something more insane, in my experience of sexuality than I had been willing previously to admit.

This recognition has been assisted by changes in what has been going on ‘out there’ in the social body. The twenty six years of my practice have coincided with the advent of a publicly gay, homosexual culture, with the growth and spread of feminism, and with AIDS. This has led both to a new explicitness in talk about sex, and to sharper, more exact (and more exacting) awareness of sexual differences. These differences can be extreme. Sometimes it seems that we can only do justice to them by allowing that they may be evidence of an ‘otherness’ that threatens the existence of the world as we know it. Here sexuality touches us in ways that are, speaking strictly, metaphysical.

Out there in the world round me there is today a sexual sounding board of a kind that was not there in my twenties and thirties. We are more explicit, and more argumentative. There is a sense that things which were previously unshareable (and so perhaps better ignored) are now being listened for. They are being listened for by a ‘we’ with which, or with whom, I belong. To ignore them today would be anti-social in a way that was not obvious in the 1950’s.

But there is a problem. What we are listening for doesn’t make sense. Not yet, anyway. If it is to be heard, which means if something isolated, autistic, forbidden, in us which is also out there, is to be heard, we must start by allowing that sexuality may tap into something madder in us and in the world than we can yet give a name to.

The implications of this for my interest in Jung are varied. I’ll mention just two.

His distinction of anima (a man’s femaleness) and animus (a woman’s maleness), which meant so much to me in the 1940’s and 1950’s, is now often unusable. Because to apply what Jung says about it to most people’s experience today requires an effort of historical imagination and reconstruction which few are willing to make. I hope some of us will continue to make that effort, and that a new generation can be brought to read Jung on gender differences historically. We must be working together to create a culture in which the Jungian phenomenology of anima and animus can be read and digested alongside, for instance, the work of feminist psychoanalysts such as Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva.

Then there is an area of sexuality which we experience in terms of victim, sanctity and innocence. For instance, the sexual abuse of children. The adult attitude to this is changing. But what is really going on here? Between the generations questions are being raised about sexual innocence and violation. Do you know what they are? I don’t. I know only that they are urgent and that I am implicated in them both as adult and as child.

Or consider pornography. There is more pornography about than when Freud and Jung were alive. The erotics of hate, it has been called. Certainly there is plenty of hate there, perhaps sometimes of the same kind as we meet in psychosis. It can be a fearful world. Maybe the fear is going to prove too much for us. But maybe something more hopeful is happening. Maybe we are learning to reflect on hate. A new sexual culture may be in the making, in which fear and amazement, disgust and curiosity, mockery and craving, play across each other, challenging response. The excitement of guilt is being shared more widely than thirty years ago. What used to be alien, isolated, autistic, a breeding ground for madness, can now be compared with the experience of others. I have recently been reading a collection of essays by feminists against censorship in pornography. What they have to say speaks into some trapped nerve of my sexuality. Hate, like love, is something we can only learn about from each other.

Where does a recognition of the psychotic or insane in sexuality take us in our reading of Jung? It takes us to his books on alchemy. I believe we have hardly even made a beginning in reading what is in those extraordinary volumes, in which human sexuality is presented as caught up in a metaphysical drama by which matter may, or may not, be saved.

But can we accept Jung’s own understanding of what he found in alchemy? I think not. There are various essays here in my book which argue the need for more history, more of the social body, in our reading of alchemy. On this occasion I just want to say this.

There is more in sexuality than Jung’s writings allow for. There is something coming ‘into play’ between the sexes, and between the generations, which was not so explicit in Jung’s day. It’s not new. Let’s be clear about that. It has always been there. But it is coming ‘into play’ as never before.

If our sexuality is to help in understanding our intercourse with matter we have to allow for both violation and sanctity within a context that is historical as well as social. Many people have commented on the links between alchemy and our modern ecological concerns. If what we may call the sexual ecology of our planet is to adapt to what is now coming into play between the sexes and generations, I am sure that Jung’s volumes on alchemy will be one source on which the future will draw. But we must begin to read them for ourselves, aware of sexuality as always being remade by society and history. It is possible to talk about sex today in ways which were not possible for Jung. If alchemy is to prove relevant to the politics of sex in our global village, we will need to be more explicit and more argumentative than Jung was in our response to the questionable couplings by which the alchemical work is carried forward. For instance, women are opening the politics of reproduction into a metaphysics of time unlike any that we have previously had in words. Jung the alchemist knew about that metaphysics. He may have understood it better than the feminists who seem never to read him will admit. But there is a language coming into being with which to talk about it now which was not current in his day, and that is a language I want to learn.


I said at the start that the conclusion to which I was reaching out was that there is much to be learned from Jung’s psychology, much more than we have yet recognised or understood. But that it is a mistake to try and make Jung’s psychology a profession or a vocation.

I hope that these bits, these fragments, of autobiography, in giving you some idea of how I have arrived at my present position will also encourage you to consider your own story. Read Jung for yourselves. There is more, much more, in what he has written than we have yet understood. But read him with your own experience constantly and critically in mind. Reading Jung in small groups can be a good way in to his work. It lets what I have called ‘the social body’ express itself. And in reading him, remember the story about the boat building. There will be a lot in your life that does not agree with Jung. You will get much more out of his books if you start from a position which allows for that disagreement. And if you read him carefully, I think you will find that Jung is expecting it.

(The Collected Papers referred to are published by the Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, USA, 1992, under the title The Psychology of Carl Jung: essays in application and deconstruction, ISBN 0-7734-9481-2. Copies are obtainable in the UK from H. Karnac, Booksellers, in London, price £29.95.)