Re: Jung and Symbolism

Sat, 17 Sep 1994 10:35:19 +0000

>Dear Colleagues:
> Does anyone know of a critical work dealing with Carl Jung's *Man
>and His Symbols*? I'm interested in critical studies based on empirical
>evidence of his conceptions of "collective consciousness" and notions of
>universal symbology. I know that Victor Turner was influenced by Jungian
>notions in his early work on the Ndembu. However, I have never seen a
>good critical review of Jung by an anthropologist (or possibly someone in
>the field of religious studies).

Well, actually, a number of religion scholars *have* used Jung's work -
admittedly not critically - mostly to deal with some of the same
religio-mystical phenomena he wrote about: Gnosticism, alchemy, and the
Hellenistic Mysteries.
And while there are anthropologists (and anthropology students, such
as myself) who do cite Jung, I've never seen a critical review of his
conception of the collective unconscious. On the other hand, many people in
the physical sciences have attacked the article he co-wrote with physicist
Wolfgang Pauli on synchronicity, "the acausal connecting principle." (As
for me, I happen to like it, and might even argue the validity of the

> I have a number of students who read Joseph Campbell or Jung in
>literature and mythology courses and become enthused by some of these
>collective consciousness notions. I would like to assign some critical
>work that carefully evaluates these Jungian concepts.

I guess I'm one of those kinda students. I happen to like Campbell's
writings, although I could take or leave some of the interviews with Bill
Moyers. I do happen to think that the notion of archetypes does explain the
universality of certain myths - for example, the reason why the hero-quest
is similar in so many cultures is due to the fact that it's connected to
the universal human psychic need for individuation. For some people the
notion of a collective unconscious is too mystical. (Not for me. I think
it's based on morphogenetic fields. Make of that what you will.) As to
*empirical* evidence for it, I don't think you'll ever be able to point to
a structure in the brain and say, "Aha! There's the anima archetype!"
Sigmund Freud actually thought you could physically locate the id, ego,
etc. in the physical brain: misplaced concreteness, if you ask me.

> I would appreciate any assistance on this matter.
>Thank you
>Ray Scupin
>Sociology/Anthropology Dept.
>Lindenwood College
>209 S. Kingshighway
>St. Charles, MO 63301
>314-949-4730 (Office)
>314-949-9244 (Home)
>314-949-4910 (Fax)
>Not chaos-like, together crushed and bruised,
>But, as the world harmoniously confused:
>Where order in variety we see,
>And where, though all things differ, all agree
>Alexander Pope

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