A Mid-life Perspective: Preface -- Part III

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  -- Genesis

This post concludes the main themes of A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious. Jung noted the above quote as a reference to the original bisexuality of the matrix of consciousness.

"Religious Images

Because it consists of a living history of our mental functioning, Jung wrote that any serious inquiry into the unconscious leads straight into the religious problem. This theme fully emerges in the second part of the book. As the poem proceeds, the intuitive side of religious ideas is explored. Job was the older anticipation of the individual who confronts the collective background to discover his or her own way; in so doing, a dialogue is entered into with the unconscious.

Job had achieved the material tasks of the first part of life. His faith, his connection to the Deity, was then tested through Jehovah's bargain with Satan. The bargain represents the interplay of opposites: the deeper unconscious process which precedes awareness. Job's sufferings comprised the circumstances which compelled him to reflect on, to make conscious, this inner exchange. According to the analogies of that time, Job's afflictions were depicted physically; today we would interpret them as projections of psychic conflicts. If we take the concrete qualities out of the figures and translate them into ideas, as we might attempt to do with our dreams, we can begin to see how they analogize psychic processes.            

When we reflect on these stories, we may grasp their symbolic meanings by relating them to our own emotional conditions. Christ, as the Son of Man, was a later anticipation of development; an ideal image of the individual which emerged from the spiritual darkness and brutality of antiquity for the purpose of further transforming our animal natures. His crucifixion is a powerful analogy of the tension of psychic opposites encountered by one who turns inward, away from the material world, and begins to discern his/her personal values apart from prevailing views.

As with Job, it is no coincidence that the myth of Christ revolved around his crucifixion at the mid-life point. Today, the spiritual changes reflected in the tasks of individuation stand, too, as a prototype of development in a new age. Just as these tasks make demands on those compelled to confront them, so they reverberate in the collective unconscious. Psychic reality is coming to bear on our times.


Jung’s devotion to the study of alchemy was an attempt to illustrate it as a connective stage between our historical religious outlook and the emerging scientific one. Alchemy was the intermediate form of the two views that later diverged. Like those of theology, alchemical ideas were psychic projections, though less collectively developed and therefore more expressive of natural tendencies.

As a science, alchemy paved the way to our modern conception of the world, but as a philosophy it expressed the very ideas missing in a one-sided Christianity: the problem of opposition between spirit and nature; the “evil” of the material world, of the repressed feminine and its dark urge toward a re-orientation to matter – to Mother Earth and the body and all that the patriarchal myth rejected. Alchemy connected to the inner counter-pole intended to balance and direct a distorted conscious view.

Jung's work parallels alchemical philosophy in that he sought a symbolic solution to the unconscious conflicts they represent today. The soul is a fact of emotional experience, a psychic reality. It can be seen as a natural function if we have some understanding of symbols. The symbolic view relies as much on feeling and intuition as thinking. For the intellectual standpoint, feeling is the opposed function designed to balance its orientation. The blinding of inner perception by an increasing outer-direction suggests the repression of confusion which occurs in any shift in perspective. Coming to terms with the soul means the development of emotions which would supplement the “masculine” rational viewpoint and relate it to the greater value of goals beyond its narrow focus.


The themes highlighted above are the core ideas of this book, and they carry something of the form of unconscious language with them. The analogies elaborating it are more circular than linear. Associations throng around the ideas to be explained as they compel attention, gradually becoming clearer with increased concentration. Images weave around and through one another to form deeper connections as they thread their opposing tendencies toward a uniform flow.

The compensating nature of the unconscious revolves around an objective organizing function which is presupposed, not only in dreams but in all natural processes. A subjective consciousness is filled out by its circular complexes of ideas; the urge to wholeness gives us a rounder and more complete picture of an inner reality which is just as objective as the outer one...."

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