Jung and the Third Person (1981) No 205

(Paper read to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology, 1981)

I see from the announcement of this lecture that it is billed as the last of three examining the relationship between religion and analytical psychology. My recollection of your chairman’s invitation, a year or so ago, to talk on “Jung and the Spirit” is rather more specific: that the three lectures were to be thought of as related to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and that I should represent as it were the third Person of that Trinity, and try to speak of Jung’s work from that position.

That at any rate was the idea which lodged itself in my mind, whether it was my own wish or yours, and has seeded my broodiness over the last few months. With what result we shall now hear.

In my understanding, the Third Person of the Trinity moves between the Father and the Son in ways which are controversial to humans. I also understand it to be prophetic, prophetic of what is to come as fulfilment of what has been done.

So I want to speak of Jung’s work from a position which allows for movement between father and son, and for prophecy.

I shall speak to two themes. The first is Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion. I shall try to give some idea of how this distinction moves me, in my work and in my life. I shall try to sound chords which are personal, mystical, social.

My second theme is Jung’s attitude to time. I shall propose that Jung’s psychology assumes two views of time, and that there is need for work in bringing them together. I shall speak of that work as a “remembering of the createdness of time”, and in doing so I will allow a certain, hesitant, note of prophecy to sound in my voice.

Together, I hope these two themes will leave us with a lively sense of unfinished business with the number three. For that, or something like it, would be what I would want to call this talk, if I were to have the choosing of my own title.

Extraversion, Introversion

Jung’s book on Psychological Types was one of the first of his which I read while a student at the university. I remember how excited I was with the historical chapters, how much the extravert-introvert distinction seemed able to explain in the history of thought. But it remained outside me, a concept I could pick up and put down as I wished, not a reality in which I dwelt.

During the last ten years or so, perhaps longer, it has taken me over in a new way. I think of various moments when I have become seized of the extravert-introvert distinction in ways which I cannot now renounce. I want to mention some of them, in an attempt to strengthen understanding of what is at stake between extrovert and introvert.

The first was in conjunction with the word honour, or rather its negation, dishonour. Someone was talking in desperation of an acquaintance who seemed to undermine and undo her, every time they met, in ways which seemed so slight as to be ridiculous, unworthy of attention: the choice of words, a gesture, the manner of listening. Ridiculous to make such a fuss over. “I know she means well, I know it is of my doing as well as hers, and yet” – in desperation – “it’s as if she dishonours me”.

We were both familiar with Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion, and over months we found ourselves using it in our attempts to explore what was at stake in this experience of being dishonoured. It helped. It served as a compass, reminding us that we were not wholly lost even at times when we could see no way ahead. Yet, for me, something was missing. The word dishonour hung in the air, witness to some sense of violation which I could not yet associate with the ugly, latinate, words extraversion and introversion.

At that time I had come to imagine the movement and alternation between extraversion and introversion in terms of the centre and circumference of a circle. It seemed to me that, within the extrovert mode of being, we feared introversion as if it could lead to the draining away of everything through a sort of plug hole at the centre of the world; while for the introvert, extraversion was feared as if it could lead to the loss of meaning through a sort of centrifugal evacuation or desolation of the world, everything being lost and scattered over the borders of the circumference. What did such an alternation between centre and circumference have to do with honour and dishonour?

The answer came in the language of mysticism. The moment in which I came to recognise how this alternation could represent something beyond itself, something which might account for the desperation and dishonour sometimes experienced in the personal encounter of extrovert and introvert, was in reading Gershom Scholem’s book on Jewish Mysticism.

I don’t know if I can even begin to convey how this happened. The particular moment was carried within the reading of the whole book, the slow and gradual becoming acquainted with a mystical tradition of which I knew nothing. It is that which I need to remember, to evoke.

For those of you who have the book, it was in the reading of pages 260 to 262, in the seventh lecture, the lecture on Isaac Luria and his school of Kabbala. Scholem is describing how Luria speaks of God’s act of creation, and is contrasting it with the old Kabbalists who saw that act as God’s projection of His creative power out of His own Self. Every new act following on that origin is a further stage in the process of externalisation, which unfolds in a straight line from above downwards, a process which is strictly one way and correspondingly simple. Luria’s teaching, on the other hand, has nothing of this “inoffensive simplicity”. He begins, and here I think I had better quote Scholem directly,

by putting a question which gives the appearance of being naturalistic, and, if you like, somewhat crude. How can there be a world if God is everywhere? If God is ‘all in all’, how can there be things which are not God? How can God create the world out of nothing if there is no nothing? … The solution became, in spite of the crude form which he gave it, of the highest importance in the history of later Kabbalistic thought. According to Luria, God was compelled to make room for the world by, as it were, abandoning a region within Himself, a kind of mystical primordial space from which He withdrew in order to return to it in the act of creation and revelation … (so) the first act of all is not an act of revelation but one of limitation … More than that, every new act of emanation and manifestation is preceded by one of concentration and retraction. Every stage in the cosmic process involves a double strain, i.e., the light which streams back into God and that which flows out from Him, and but for this perpetual tension, this ever repeated effort with which God holds Himself back, nothing in the world would exist.Quote close

Those are extracts from the pages which transfigured my understanding of why the difference between extravert and introvert can matter so much. If the talk of inside and outside, of subject and object, which we use in expressing that difference refers not only to the relation between persons and bodies in space, but also to the act which creates space itself, then that experience of dishonour, of having the ground pulled from under one’s feet, of being threatened by something almost like metaphysical annihilation, which characterises some of our close encounters between introvert and extravert, was suddenly seen in a new light. For what was at stake was no longer a difference in psychological type, but a difference in how we attend to the presence of God.

Once given, this conviction has not left me: that the psychology of extraversion and introversion is grounded in ontology, in how we attend to Being, in how we worship God. And if you say that the word ontology is not to be found in Jung’s Psychological Types, read again the historical chapters in that book. They are integral to it, and essential to an understanding of the tenth chapter in which the types are described.

But what I miss in Jung, and in the kind of mystical tradition out of which Scholem writes, is any sustained interest in exploring the social implications and expressions of extraverted-introverted encounter and antagonism. Jung draws extensively on traditions which see the human body as microcosm to the macrocosm of the universe. I am interested in a middle world between the two, in analysing the ways in which society, the social body, mediates between individual and cosmos, cosmos and individual. This, for me, is one place where the spirit moves in power.

For instance, in relation to symbols. The theme of man and his symbols is a leitmotif of Jung’s work. How do we relate his archetypal understanding of symbols to the structural analyses of symbolic form and action which the social anthropologists are giving us?

There is a whole world to be explored here, a world which reveals itself to discovery from many directions. The metaphor of inside and outside features prominently in the language of various schools. I would like to see Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion open into wider engagement between individual and social experience of the symbolic life.

A book which has influenced me deeply over the last ten years, and inspired me to reflect in new ways on man and his symbols, has been Mary Douglas’s Natural Symbols. Her chapter on the Two Bodies, the personal and the social, is full of new, interior, perspectives on why the difference between inside and outside can matter so very much. It moves my spirit to hazard new translations between psychoanalytic and anthropological understanding of incarnation, of what it is like to be in a body.

The last sentences of the chapter have become for me a sort of text to be chanted, almost as a kind of creed, and though it is unfair both on you and Mary Douglas to quote them out of context, I shall do so.

The physical body can have universal meaning – and that is what is claimed in the microcosm-macrocosm teachings to which Jung refers us so often – only as a system which responds to the social system, expressing it as a system. What it symbolises naturally is the relation of parts of an organism to the whole. Natural symbols can express the relation of an individual to his society at that general systemic level. The two bodies are the self and society: sometimes they are so near as to be almost merged; sometimes they are far apart. The tension between them allows the elaboration of meanings.Quote close

I have known someone to be held together in a field of seemingly intolerable conflict by the comfort of that last sentence: “the tension between them allows the elaboration of meanings”. Between self and society the fields of symbolisation are richer and more varied than we can imagine, because what is at stake is not just representation, but creation, the creation of cosmos.

But the symbols which move us between microcosm and macrocosm are always, and essentially, social. There will always be more at stake in the encounter between extravert and introvert than we are prepared for, because what is being hazarded in that encounter is creation, creation that is personal, mystical, social.

Jung and Time

Let me move now to my second theme.

In Jung’s work two different philosophies of time exist side by side. He does not seem to have been uncomfortable with their co-existence. But I think it is left to others to find how they do co-exist in his work. One of the main arguments I want to advance this evening is that the difference between these two views of time is one of Jung’s most valuable legacies to us. But if we are to inherit it, we must first recognize it for what it is: a legacy of unfinished business.

On the one hand, Jung seems to have subscribed to what we can call a Darwinian belief in evolutionary time. Such time is absolutely disproportionate to the lifetime of a human being. Compared to a person’s lifetime, it is without beginning and without end, a wholly impersonal continuum in which the present is all but lost between the vastness of before and after. On the other hand, we have all those insights which he gathered together round the concept of synchronicity. I believe that one of the more urgent tasks facing students of Jung is to recognise how radically different these two philosophies of time are, to admit it among ourselves, to proclaim it, and to research into it. If we can do that, then the spirit of Jung’s psychology, and the spirit of our times, will co-operate in new ways.

I am not going to develop this argument through a study of Jung’s work this evening. That needs doing, but this is not the occasion. Instead, I feel that I am allowed by your gift of title to speak with a certain, hesitant, note of prophecy. I want to speak therefore of the createdness of time. I believe the spirit is calling us today, now, to remember the createdness of time. The call is heard in many places. One is from within Jung’s work, in the dissonance between his varying assumptions as to the nature of time. But it is also heard in many other places. What I want to do now is to sound that call in a way which will move us between our interest in Jung’s work and some of those other places where the createdness of time is demanding and receiving attention.

How do we imagine that time is created? I shall take as my way into this question a myth which Jung might well have included in his amplification of pre-christian Trinitarian motifs in his essay on the Trinity: the Greek myth of Cronus and Zeus.

I expect this story is familiar to some of you, not to others. I want to present it within the context of social anthropology, by referring to a short, remarkable essay by Edmund Leach on The Symbolic Representation of Time.

In this essay, called “Cronus and Chronos” Leach considers “one of the most puzzling characters in classical Greek mythology, that of Cronus, father of Zeus”. He asks: why was Cronus taken as a symbolical representative of Chronos, Eternal Time? Etymologically, there is no close connection between the two words. Yet, from the very early days of Greek philosophical reflection on the nature of Time, the play between the two words was taken to both express and conceal a major issue of theology. Why?

Leach’s answer is both simple and very odd. When I first came across it, I found it strangely familiar, as if I’d known it all along. Yet it was also surprising, almost shocking. It is that human interest in sexuality and death, and in how they may be related, creates time.

His argument is so concise, so dense, that it ought to be read in its entirety. I will not try to condense it. All I can hope to do is give you a taste of what Leach believes to be at stake in the story which tells of the procession from Father Cronus to Son Zeus.

Here is his summary of the myth.

Cronus, King of the Titans, was the son of Uranus (sky) and Ge (earth). As the children of Uranus were born, Uranus pushed them back again into the body of Ge. Ge, to escape the prolonged pregnancy, armed Cronus with a sickle with which he castrated his father. The blood from the bleeding phallus fell into the sea and from the foam was born Aphrodite (universal fecundity).

Cronus begat children by his sister Rhea. As they were born he swallowed them. When the youngest, Zeus, was born, Rhea deceived Cronus by giving him a (phallic) stone wrapped in a cloth instead of the new born infant. Cronus swallowed the stone instead of the child. Zeus thus grew up. When Zeus was adult, Cronus vomited up his swallowed children: namely Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Demeter, and also the stone phallus, which last became a cult object at Delphi. Zeus now rebelled against King Cronus and overthrew him; according to one version he castrated him. Placed in restraint, Cronus became nevertheless the beneficent ruler of the Elysian fields, home of the blessed dead.Quote close

It is a gruesome story. What can these bloody images of childbirth and castration have to say about how time is created? What does this confusion, this polymorphous confusion, of mouth and vagina, womb and stomach, strangely disturbing our sense of what passes between the inside and outside of bodies, have to say about the beginning and ending of time?

Leach’s answer draws on an enviably wide field of anthropological research. He is interested in the structure of the myth, and in particular in the image of oscillation: the out-in, out-in, out-in oscillation as the children of Uranus are born and shoved back in again, the similar out-in, out-in, as the children of Cronus are born and then swallowed, and the reversal to in-out as the swallowed children of Cronus are vomited up again. Leach bids us attend to this oscillation, and to the function of the intervening third which breaks the beat (the castrating sickle, the swallowed stone), for an understanding of how/why the myth tells of the creation of Time.

He reminds us of societies existing today in which time is not experienced as a going on and on in the same direction, or round and round the same wheel, but as “something discontinuous, a repetition of repeated reversal, a sequence of oscillations between polar opposites: night and day, winter and summer, drought and flood, age and youth, life and death”.

That is the first point to grasp. Instead of thinking of time as flow, whether in a line or circle or spiral, imagine it as oscillation, rhythm, beat. Let me repeat the crucial phrase: “something discontinuous, a repetition of repeated reversal”. Musicians usually know what is being said here. Think of it musically, especially if you can imagine having the composing, conducting, rehearsing and performing of your own set piece!

Leach then goes on to show how

the notion that the time process is an oscillation between opposites -between day and night or between life and death – implies the existence of a third entity: the ‘thing’ that oscillates, the ‘I’ that is at the one moment in the daylight and at another in the dark, the ‘soul’ that is at one moment in the living body and at another in the tomb.Quote close

It is at this stage in the argument that the relation between sexuality and death emerges as crucial for how we understand the createdness of time. Something is being said which, when I am in the right mood, I find extraordinarily exciting in relation to what we used to think of as the Freud/Jung split in the history of psychoanalysis, and also in relation to the wider encounter between psychoanalytic and biological understanding of sexuality and death. It is this: that what makes time both go on and also repeat reversal is human owning of an analogy between sexuality and death.

When the Greeks conceived the oscillations of time by analogy with the oscillations of the soul, they were using a concrete metaphor. Basically it is the metaphor of sexual coitus, of the ebb and flow of the sexual essence between sky and earth (with the rain as semen), between this world and the underworld (with marrow-fat and vegetable seeds as semen), between man and woman. In short, it is the sexual act itself which provides the primary image of time.Quote close

But this is necessarily related to dying:

In the act of copulation the male imparts a bit of his life soul to the female; in giving birth she yields it forth again. Coitus is here seen as a kind of dying for the male; giving birth as a kind of dying for the female.Quote close

The third which has to be if there is to be oscillation between opposites: when humanity owns this third, then time both goes on and repeats reversal. And by “own” I mean an activity which both claims and confesses.

Now if we are to take Leach’s point, we must realise that what he is saying is incomprehensible from within a view of time as given in nature. What is at stake in any attempt to remember that time is created is a break with nature. An assumption is being made which is not, and can never be, reasonable, if by reasonable we mean natural. But it is reasonable if we are willing to invoke an authority which is over nature. And this is what we do when we take it on ourselves both to claim and to confess an analogy between sexuality and death in order that time may go on and repeat reversal.

I will try to illustrate what I mean by taking two themes out of my own practice, themes which will, I believe, be familiar to most of us. The first is our interest in family trees, in genealogy, in what passes, or happens, between the generations. The second is our nightmares of doomsday. Can these help us imagine what it is like both to claim and to confess an analogy between sexuality and death in order that time may go on and repeat reversal?

Look please at these figures on the blackboard.

son – 1

parents – 2

grandparents- 4

1900 – 8

1800 – 64

1700 – 512

1600 – 4,096

1500 – 32,768

1400 – 262,144

1300 – 2,097,152

1200 – 16,777,216

1100 – 134,217,728

1000 – 1,073,741,824

If I have worked them out accurately, these figures represent the biological ancestry of my sons, giving the approximate numbers at the turn of each century between now and the Norman Conquest, and assuming three generations to the century.

I first saw figures like these some years ago when Alistair Hardy was talking about what (I think) he called the gene pool, the pool of genetic inheritance which we all share and on which we all draw. Since then, I have found myself returning to them again and again, in a sort of wondering meditation. What is it that they are saying to me?

This figure here, of over 1000 million, certainly doesn’t refer to actual men and women. The entire population of the world was probably about a quarter of that figure. Many hundreds of thousands of them were the same people (a reminder of the complex structure of cross-cousin marriage by which our seemingly exogamous choices of husband and wife are carried). So we have to ask ourselves, as my younger son reminded me when he loaned me his calculator to work out the figures: how many ancestors did I really have at the Norman Conquest, Dad?

Because what these figures are saying is that there is a difference between the sort of time assumed in the search for biological ancestry, and the time of history. The time of family tree, and the time of history, are not real in the same sense. They cannot be measured by the same scale.

So where does the break between the two ways of measuring occur? Back here, in the 18th century, where most of us find that our lines of ancestry cease to be traceable? Or earlier, in the middle ages, at the time of the Black Death or Magna Carta, say, when the ancestral numbers are becoming, frankly, unimaginable?

I don’t think so. I think the break between the two ways of measuring time occurs right here, at the beginning (or is it the end?) between the last (or is it the first?) child and the last (or are they the first?) parents. The time of biology and the time of history intersect, and separate, in family, between the generations and between the sexes, when an exchange, an oscillation, between two requires the presence of a third.

Whether you accept that or not, I do earnestly recommend these figures for reflective meditation. You will find that they move the imagination in unexpected ways. What Freud has taught us to call the Oedipus complex begins to sound rather different when we allow that the time of biology and the time of history may not be the same. To me, the Oedipus complex begins to sound like a reminder that time is not given in nature, but assumes an authority over nature.

Or consider Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious, and the entirely unresolved problem of how to relate it on the one hand to evolutionary genetics, and on the other to social environment. Does it help us if we question not only Jung’s assumptions about time, but also those of evolutionary theory? Listen to this passage about the ‘inventiveness’ of sexuality and death, from François Jacob’s book The Logic of Living Systems.

The notion that evolution results exclusively from a succession of micro-events, from mutations, each occurring at random, is denied both by time and arithmetic. For the wheel of chance to come up step by step, sub unit after sub unit with each of the several ten thousand protein chains needed to compose the body of the mammal would require far more time than the span generally attributed to the solar system …. Evolution has become possible only because genetic systems have themselves evolved. As organisms become more complicated, their reproduction also becomes more complicated. A whole series of mechanisms appears … (and he goes on to list them, concluding) … but the most important inventions are sex and death … death not from without, as the result of some accident, but death imposed from within, as a necessity prescribed from the egg onward by the genetic programme itself.

Invention? Sexuality and death as inventions? What is this power to invent which moves between chance and necessity in this neo-Darwinian vision of how time and life are related? What kind of resourcefulness is being assumed by the theorists of evolution? Could it be in any way connected with the imaginal resourcefulness assumed in our dreaming, that resourcefulness which appears to be both original, for the first time, and also very old? If it were, then I think the call to remember time created may be sounding more insistently than we have yet realised.

But this call does not come only from our interest in the past, in beginnings, in family trees, genealogy, and evolution. It comes also, as it always has, from our interest in the future, in endings, in the last things. Today this means for many the fear of nuclear apocalypse, a fascination with prophecies of technological doomsday. Many are deeply troubled by such visions, and there are times when I have counted myself among them.

Yet I have come to believe that much of this anxiety is not so much about the future, as about the nature of time itself. I am constantly reminded in my work of the psychoanalytic warning that in the fear there may be hidden the unacknowledged wish, and I ask myself: what conceivable wish could be hidden in our fears of nuclear holocaust? The only answer that makes any sense to me is that we could be getting desperate in our wish to remember, for ourselves, how time is created.

So let me conclude with three different responses to the fear of Doomsday, each of which is, I believe, evidence of a call to remember the createdness of time. I will leave them to speak for themselves, asking only that you allow them their hesitant, faltering note of prophecy.

The first is a dream which I had in 1957, when the great powers were still testing their nuclear weapons by explosion in the earth’s atmosphere.

I and others are waiting in London for a possible end of the world air raid, just before dawn. We are very afraid – it is fear not so much of death as of change of state. The terror that somewhere They, the Lords who control our fate, may already have dispatched the weapon that will alter us completely, making us something else.

I ask others how it will feel to live with our senses in Einstein’s space-time. How shall we ever be able to understand the normal, necessary, space-time of our prewar world? I am told that chosen people are being trained for this.

Then I find myself at the heart of our country’s defence, like the War Cabinet in the first world war, with the Welshman Lloyd George as Prime Minister. A feeling of being at the centre of whatever plans are being made to restore continuity after the possible devastation. It is announced in awed secrecy that of 800 volunteers who have been given the ‘disease’ (like radiation) with which we are all threatened, only 730 odd ‘took’.

This means that some of us will not change state. There is statistical certainty of biological continuity for mankind, although the individual remains almost wholly at risk. It is said (in the dream) that this is an evolutionary development of a kind comparable with forgotten mutations in the limbo of archaeological and geological time.

The second is from a book called The Conquest of Nature. It was written some twenty years ago, in the early years of the world wide political debate about technology and its consequences. The author takes as his theme words of the then Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant, that “it is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is the decision that makes the resources. This is the fundamental revolutionary change – perhaps the most revolutionary mankind has ever known” and argues over a wide field against the prophets of Doomsday. But it is the surprising last four words of the book which I want to quote, with their quiet suggestion that what is feared as still to come has already been done, if only we can remember. To put these four words in their context, here are the closing paragraphs of the book.

The Indians on the West Coast of South America tell a folk tale which must be very old, since the scene it describes is depicted on a pre-Chimu pottery vase some 1400 years old. The story runs as follows: This has happened and it will happen again. Long, long ago the sun disappeared and the world was shrouded in complete darkness for five long days. This was the signal for the things to mobilise. The stones began to grind, the mortars and pestles marched against their masters, and even the llamas attacked their keepers in the stables.

In our time there is a tendency to catch sight of that same frightening vision – to blame our tools for showing malice because our world has gone wrong in so many ways. It is tempting to sit in the midst of the strange and wonderful array tour modern technology and cry out with the sorcerer’s apprentice: ‘How can I get rid of the spirits I have called up myself?’ The question is whether we, who have dominion over the earth, shall act like Sisyphus and trust to our cunning only, becoming more and more self-reliant and self-involved, self-imprisoned and self-centred. Sisyphus became his own God and his own Satan, at war with heaven, embittered with earth, and contemptuous of hell. But this author, after contemplating three-quarters of a century of technology’s marvels and horrors, has no doubt that Sisyphus has already been saved from himself. This happened at Easter.

My third example is from a recent Quaker meeting in the United States. I have it only at second hand, and it may be that the event has been altered in the telling.

The meeting was being held in the shadow of a particular expression of fear and anger and resolution in the face of nuclear technology. There had been a long silence, over an hour by the clock, when an old woman spoke. She said that she was over 80 years old, and that for the last 50 years she had been active in the peace movement. Looking around her, she saw the world now as a worse place than when she had begun, and that she sometimes asked herself if it had all been worth while. And then she remembered a poem, by the Irish poet James Stephens, or rather, she didn’t remember it very well, so perhaps she had got it wrong, but it told of God standing at the edge of the Universe, the wind of space moving his beard as he contemplates our particular little world. He says: This has always been a troublesome star. I shall destroy it. And a voice speaks from the world: Father, I am still here. God replies: My son, I thought you were dead.


I have tried to speak of Jung’s work in a way which allows for movement between father and son, and for prophecy: prophecy of what is to come as fulfilment of what has already been done. And I have said that I hope to leave us with a lively sense of unfinished business with the number three.

I expect many of you have noticed that I have said nothing of the missing fourth, or of the missing feminine, ideas which are central to Jung’s essay on the Trinity. The omission has been deliberate. I have tried to speak across Jung’s argument about the quaternity, in order to sound a note of urgency about time, and about the need to bring together social and mystical experience of the body.

Because what matters is that there be movement between Creation and Incarnation, Incarnation and Creation. To be with that movement, we need first to shiver those naturalistic assumptions which make it appear to the uncircumcised as if the Trinity were a masculine preserve. I have tried to speak of such a ‘shivering’, an excluding which is also an including, confessing which is also a claiming.

I hope that I leave you with a lively sense of unfinished business with the number three. If I do, then I am satisfied that I have spoken, in part, to the title you offered me.