Spirit and Psyche ~ Complementary Paradigms

Abstract: Depth psychology cannot compensate for the loss of spiritual tradition, nor can God make his abode in the psyche. Today, spiritual symbols are often misinterpreted in psychological terms. To remedy this, psychological theory must be developed to accommodate spiritual transcendence as complementary to psychology’s worldly perspective. The path of worldly withdrawal and spiritual contemplation is equally important as the psychological integration of the unconscious and cultural expression. The article discusses various spiritual traditions and takes a critical look at the Hermetic tradition. The nature of faith is discussed.

Keywords: religiosity, faith, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, metaphorical unconscious, mysticism, Wasteland, animism, synchronicity, Baining people, Pseudo-Dionysius, Kirpal Singh, Carl Jung.

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Mats Winther

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Back to that Terrence Deacon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incomplete_Nature) I've mentioned in the previous place: he mentions "three hierarchically nested levels of thermodynamic systems". Does that sound familiar?

Terence Deacon, it seems, has ventured far away from earth, into cerebral outer space. I'm not going to dig into this. It's too heavy stuff. /Mats

Obviously a lot of effort and creativity went into this essay.  I appreciate being given the opportunity to read it. I have read it at least 3 or 4 times and I will probably read it another three or four times before I am through. it definitely merits attention and a response. An opinionated response to be sure. My opinion, different as it may be, is not intended to diminish your effort and achievement. These are my own reactions to some selected elements of your thoughts. You have raised some issues in regard to the future of psychology here.

"psychological theory must be developed to accommodate spiritual transcendence” -mats winther Agreed.  
"as complementary to psychology’s worldly perspective -mats
I suspect the spiritual and the temporal/worldly elements of our nature are ultimately one/entwined/interconnected/interrelated. It will take prodigious amounts of empirical observation to decipher this complex interrelationship between the temporal and spiritual components of our reality. Reality would constitute what? Our passage through the human life cycle. Jung only brought us so far down the empirical trail and at least from my perspective the majority of Jungians have all but abandoned this most essential element of his creative dynamism. 
"The path of worldly withdrawal and spiritual contemplation is equally important as the psychological integration of the unconscious and cultural expression.” - mats
To repeat< I maintain these two tendencies are ultimately different aspects of one unified phenomenon. This path to worldly withdrawal and spiritual contemplation bring us to the Neoplatonists et al and the quest to reunite with the self. Well isn’t that the ultimate goal and unfolding of the human life cycle. We must learn to let go of our material existence in the second half of life. In that case what distinguishes the Neoplatonists for one from the rest of us is they were aware of the end game. That they theorized about the end game of existence. That they saw it as an opportunity to individually reintegrate with the self. So where are all of us others. Are we human seed that will never make the cut, except on maybe an unconscious level. Death happens and and maybe that is the point where we unconsciously reintegrate with the self and pass on. Only the rare exceptions amongst us may  reintegrate with the self before death has its way. The Individuated Individual can theoretically finds his way home by himself. A nobel enterprise if there ever was one. That would constitute the apex of human achievement. A completion.
I suspect the Homeric Greeks had a better grasp of the end game than the Neoplatonists did. I suspect the Homeric Greeks defined the route by which the individual reunited with the self. I suspect they mapped the route and transformations that the ego must pass through to get home. The real genius of our Grecian heritage lies in Homer. Well lets say in my opinion the retracing of Odysseus's journey home is exactly what the neoplatonists were seeking… well whatever huh/ lol So much for speculation. I suspect the most important element in this divertissement of mine is the Jungian communities  loss of contact with the empirical method. Too many gurus are spoiling the soup.


Thank you for taking my essay seriously. (However, I didn't realize it was that difficult.) In Jungian literature, the way in which the "inward path" of latter life is generally understood is that of a continued excavation of the unconscious for the purpose of conscious realization. The traditional spiritual path represents instead a surrender, an "abandonment to divine providence". This is more radical than how Jungians have understood the "letting go of our material existence in the second half of life".

In a metaphysical sense, they may indeed be "ultimately different aspects of one unified phenomenon", i.e., different aspects of God's plan. But how can they be entwined and interrelated when they are mutually exclusive? We cannot pursue the Jungian path of integration concurrently with the spiritual path of abandonment. So we have to reject the one for the other, i.e., there must be a conscious decision to change the path we are on.

Indeed, some have argued that the oldest texts of European literature belong to the greatest ever composed. Homer's Iliad was to the Greek what the bible is to us. Alexander always kept a copy of the Iliad, personally annotated by Aristotle, even sleeping with it under his pillow. I would like to strike a blow for Plato, however, as does Miles Burnyeat in this interview with Bryan Magee:

The ideal "end game" was for the heroic Greek to "become a spirit" in the manner of heroic demise. To achieve glory in death was the noblest of goals. Although it is an archaic notion, it is also an archetypal eternal truth. The Neoplatonists, however, had a different take on "becoming spirit". The Neoplatonic notion was continued in Christian mysticism, through the work of Christian Neoplatonist Dionysus the Areopagite. To die to the world became known as the 'mors voluntaria'. That's why a cloistered life is seen as ideal.

Yet, this spiritual passion is inexplicable from the vantage point of Jungian psychology, which has a Nietzschean background. For example, the documentary "The Nun" is the gripping story about a Swedish girl who joins the Carmelite order, the strictest order of all, where they are neither allowed to talk nor ever to leave the nunnery, except at special occasions. Her passion for her vocation is real and very strong. It's evident from this documentary. I argue that Jungian psychology can no longer turn a blind eye to this side of human nature and must abandon its Nietzschean foothold.

Mats Winther

"They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, 'No, no, no.'" - Amy Winehouse

There are all kinds of abandonment, but it seems to me that a psychological approach to individual and collective life isn't a totally bad idea. Maybe it doesn't provide all explanations, but there are far worse reasons to accept or abandon stuff.


Yes your writing is difficult to decipher sometimes mats. You deal with complex issues and concepts on a level with which most readers would not be generally familiar with. Fair enough. The onus is on the interested reader to bring himself up to speed. With that said I really enjoyed your polite reference to my difficulty with apprehension. You should have hit me harder, as  you have given me no reason to abandon the gist of my intuitional construct. 
Jung adamantly eschewed the guru’s path. He did so because he wanted to establish an empirically based psychology. So when i take up your statement I take it up with assumption that Jung was a psychological empiricist first and foremost.  Guru and Neoplatonic ‘ personas' did not find much of any representation in his collected writings. He endeavored  to build a psychology based on the foundation of empirical observation and synthesis. 
 "In Jungian literature, the way in which the "inward path" of latter life is generally understood is that of a continued excavation of the unconscious for the purpose of conscious realization.- mats
The excavation of the unconscious for the purpose of conscious realization is correct but incomplete general formulation isn’t it. You have omitted the mention of individuation. Conscious realization which leads to the individuation or development of the individual. Does this not presuppose ones excavation/encounter/dialogue with the unconscious in the second half of life engenders the development/blossoming of ones individuality.
AND AROUND THIS POINT THE EMPIRICAL IMPERATIVE BITES JUNG'S TONGUE. He is an empiricist after all. He has encountered and isolated the concept of individuation. Individuation as a purposive developmental process ongoing within the psyche. At this point I must concede that i have not assembled and collated all Jung’s thoughts on Individuation. I say this in the event I am not giving Jung full credit for
the phenomenology of individuation he created via his empirical approach.
So where Jung stops conjecture and theoretical speculation begins.  Hopefully this is all headed to creating bridge to the reconciliation between the traditional spiritual path of surrender to divine providence and the demonstrable tendency for individuality to unfold and blossom a la the Jungian opus.
 A simple definition of individuation within the second half of life would be the blossoming of the individual which emerged during the maturational struggle of the first half of our existence..  Could this blossoming of individuality be a universal phenomenon with roots in the archetypal sphere. Is there an archetype of Individuality.  One that sponsors the ego’s/our individualities transformation and growth along an as yet undefined but  definite and specifiable trajectory. I’ll put a hold on my Odysseusian paradigm for the moment. Is a potential candidate for the archetype of individuality Christ. Something to think about huh?   Well more importantly we have "concocted a theoretical" spiritual/archetypal potentiality and tied it to Jungian concept of individuation. Concocted is admittedly the appropriate word in this conjectural enterprise. So i have taken your original statement, as quoted above, and added individuation and a spiritual/archetypal dimension to it.  Was Jung also on the same traditional spiritual path. We’ll never resolve that question cause his commitment to empiricism outweighed his desire to be a guru whether neoplatonic or whatever. 
"The traditional spiritual path represents instead a surrender, an "abandonment to divine providence”- mats winther
So how does the blossoming/unfolding of our individuality or individualities developmental paradigm [theoretical]  “help us to let go of our material existence/material husk in the second half of life”. That is the mystery huh? I’ve already entered the heroic mythologem of Odysseus into the mix. For the archetype of individuality one definitely has to consider the dying and resurrecting Christ. A god who dies as we must  but is reborn. One who offers us salvation. Through individuation? He solves the problem of death that confronts us on the way home …in the second half of life…. I could introduce the concept of the manic aspect of nature here…. essentially the pleasures of material existence that keep us bound to our material nature/bodies. Isn’t life an interesting journey? We individuate…individuality blossoms... as Odysseus did in the struggle to overcome the hold our material nature has upon our piritual development.
So now lets turn to the traditional spiritual path and the neo platonists. 
Today, spiritual symbols are often misinterpreted in psychological terms. To remedy this, psychological theory must be developed to accommodate spiritual transcendence as complementary to psychology’s worldly perspective. - mats winter
'If an archetype of individuality can indeed be attached to Jung’s concept of individuation' then we may be able to begin to develop a psychological theory which accommodates spiritual transcendence. Individualities blossoming would end up at the same final destination that the neo platonists speak of…. I don’t believe Jung wanted to destroy his empirical construct with spiritual referents. Just by looking at the Jungian community today one can see too many gurus and not enough empiricists. Imagine the chaotic thunder and clap trap that would occur if all these gurus were empowered by their attachment to spirits/archetypes. Heaven forbid. it is better he laid the ground work as he waited for the empiricists to emerge and take up his work some time in the distant future. 
for the rest:
I attempted to create such a unified phenomenon in my book…. 
The greatest individuals in the history of humanity are sculpted in the Illiad.  Individuality triumphant is what fashioned the Greek character and the civilizational legacy we inherited from them. Alexander was a fervent believer in the heroic ideal…. of the heroic  individual  in the Homeric context. I just saw a documentary which attributed greek civilizations greatness to their peoples commitment to the heroic ideal.
I attempted to create such a unified phenomenon in my book….   
lastly the spiritual passion was eschewed by Jung because he wanted to erect a psychology based on empiricism

Klemens, I have gotten virtually no response from Jungian academics, although I have presented my ideas in an academic forum. (It's not that I expected it, but I would have benefitted from having my ideas challenged.) Your intellectual grasp is clearly better than the average Jungian's. In this interesting podcast (approx. 1 hour) at "Zurich lab" Sean McGrath is in conversation with David Tacey, who comments on the Jungian intellectual ineptitude. He discusses the "tremendously disappointing Jungian culture" and the inability of Jungian psychology to get recognition in academia. He also goes into Hillman and Giegerich: The Zurich Laboratory.

I reject the Jungian notion of unceasing individuation, because it is extravagant and out of proportion. After all, nobody seems to have lived through his programme of individuation: from the shadow, via the anima and the wise old man, to the Self. To my knowledge, nobody claims to have followed this path. It's now gone a hundred years since he introduced his concept of individuation. Why aren't any empirical results forthcoming?

According to Neoplatonism, the Self is One. Thus, it is simple--a 'coniunctio oppositorum' in which the opposites are cancelled out. In Jung's vision, however, the Self is a 'complexio oppositorum' where the opposites are held in tension, as if keeping each others in check. This means that the opposites are always ready to fly apart, and conscious personality must hold them on a tight leash. Thus, Jung's Self could easily become ambivalent. As I say in my article 'Ethical Complementarity':

"It is obvious that there is a limit to the amount of opposites that can be integrated in personality, because at some point consciousness cannot stand the tension anymore. We don't have the energy and time for such a project, anyway. I cannot become equally much extraverted as introverted, or equally much feeling as thinking, or equally much instinctual as rational. I can only better myself to a degree, and take away the worst inbalances in my psychology. Only by adopting a more modest ideal can one avoid becoming ambivalent. So at a point in time we cannot go further on the path of integration. It is then that the spiritual Self becomes the goal, at the point of reversion (the Neoplatonic concept of epistrophê). So Jung's Self is overbearing and exaggerated and needs to be downsized. There is no such thing as an overpowering, ambivalent, multifarious Self that incorporates all the opposites." (here)

Arguably, the Janusian complementarian Self, as I have defined it, appears in this dream of Jung's:

"In his autobiography, Jung accounts for the dream about Akbar and Uriah (Jung, MDR, pp.217-220). Jung associated the sultan Akbar with the "lord of this world". Uriah represents the vertical striving, because he lives far above the mandala in a solitary (hermit's) chamber; a place "which no longer corresponded to reality". He is "the highest presence" and Jung is compelled to bow before him. But he could not bring his forehead quite down to the floor. This means that it never clicked. The coin never dropped. In the dream he is portrayed as an "idiot" who cannot understand his father's brilliant biblical lecture. His father, the minister, is a representative of the vertical path. Thus, we get an entirely different picture than his conscious view." (here)

So here the two Self aspects have been downsized. It is not the Christ versus the devil. Rather, it is Uriah versus Akbar. These are two more modest Self-images. Akbar does not represent the worldly Self, who has integrated *all* the opposites, keeping them in suspension. He is merely Akbar, and he is whole to a sufficient degree.

The dream relates that Jung's view of Self is a misconception, and that's why he is portrayed as an "idiot" who cannot bow down properly to the transcendental Self. Jung's "empirical spirituality" is a failure. The "conglomerative Self", where spirit is coalesced with psyche, only promotes unconsciousness and a revival of paganism.

Don't you think that it is problematic that Jung leaves no room for the spiritual reclusive in Jung's model, that is, the personality who centers his life upon faith, ascetism, and simpleness? Spiritual tradition has had an enormous following throughout history. Still, Jung dismisses the contemplative life in an off-hand way. He also rejects the philosophy underlying spiritual practices of the East, such as Yoga (cf. Jung, CW11, p.484). It is implausible that such a central aspect of human nature and history should be the result of a mere miscomprehension in spiritual matters.

Mats Winther

Tell me about it. I noticed one of the new members wrote a book about anorexia nervosa only to discover nobody wants to know. The road to being an overnight success is a long and lonely one.  
I posted that Tacey audio on the depth alliance discussions way back when it first came out. In the very last paragraph at the bottom of page 2 of the replies i did reference your work.

As you know i wrote a book about the psychology of individuation. The goal of individuation in the first half of life being the birth of the individual.  it incorporates my effort to integrate the spiritual/archetypal/transcedental and psychological tendencies into a unified ego based developmental paradigm.  I also see the potential for writing a book about the psychology of individuality. How the blossoming of our individuality is the medium by which we learn to come to terms with letting go of our material husk/nature in the face of the end game of the second half of life; impending death. It would also incorporate a combination of the spiritual/archetypal/transcedental and psychological developmental process. 
I don’t see my admittedly intuitional and definitely theoretical construct being incompatible with the neoplatonic view of the end game of existence. 
"We cannot pursue the Jungian path of integration concurrently with the spiritual path of abandonment” mats winther
What is the ultimate goal involved in the  the neoplatonists effort to follow the spiritual path of abandonment. I suspect they were intent on preparing to isolate and separate the ego/spirit from its materially mortal husk, so the spirit/ego could return free and unencumbered to the self….Dealing with the loss of material form/husk/nature is the impending reality and end game of our mortal existence.The blossoming of individuality 'might' portend that the ego/spirit must follow its developmental destiny and evolve/grow in laborious step by step struggle against the manic aspect of our material nature so that we too can complete the end game of our existence. I would argue abandoning the world to pursue the spiritual path implicitly and by definition would involve enhancing the growth of the spirit/ego/consciousness in order to overcome materialities hold on the psyche/soul/spirit …. i think the growth in consciousness/spirit/ego could be exactly the same phenomenon in both neoplatonic and blossoming of individuality psychology…. the neoplatonists were not intent of abandoning consciousness/ego/spirit or whatever so that they could reintegrate with the self. They needed to synthesize a consciousness and that could theoretically allow them to merge with the self in the face of the impending loss of materiality….. i threw everything but heaven into the mix…. but it encapsulates my current perspective. 
jung lived through one of the most insane eras in human history. He witnessed the irruption of madness from the greater european unconscious in its full lethality. Over 100 million were mercilessly slaughtered in the great european holocaust from 1915 to 1945. How many more died from the great flu epidemic and starvation that followed/resulted from the impoverishment of war. In his personal life he was not sure he wouldn’t go mad or be possessed by an archetype such as zarathustra or wotan.  Thus I suspect he had more insight into the devastating impact of the unconscious than anyone else in the last century. Is this why someone whose psychology grew out of his  efforts to reconnect with his own soul/psych inner spiritual being ended up writing such bland logical phenomenological descriptions derived from his empirical observations…. Is this also why he eschewed the guru and did not support  spiritual quests/reclusives such as the neoplatonists.  You never know when a lone wolf nutter might come down from the hills and lead us all wherever bad… I have got so many miles out of concepts such as the shadow and individuation that i don’t really know how to respond to your rejection of many of the jungian notions… Did Jung write a psychological system. He provided the world with his empirical observations and a way to approach the study of the unconscious… the unknown… he provided a path through which modern man could reconnect with his own soul/psyche. And then he placed the onus on the analysand to make his own individual/personal accommodation with the unconscious… 
quick comments..
I t would take much time effort and reading for me to come up to speed in order to enter a credible comparative discussion of the concepts of self in the works of the Neoplatonists and Jung. Currently I don’t have time or inclination to pursue this particular avenue of interest at this moment. There are too many other avenues of interest.. Ones that speak to the unfolding of my own psychological equation. I do have an inborn faith in the underlying order of existence... maybe that was due to the tutelage of a very strong consistent father figure…at any rate, I haven’t felt compelled to  question the definition of the self…. I am confident there is an order whether it emanates from the Neoplatonic ONE or the emanation of God through our medium of aperture the jungian self. Jung himself had to deal with the disorder presented by a father who had lost his faith…. My initial thought on on the differing concepts of the self and the neoplatonic self/one revolves around around the neoplatonics envisaging the self/theONE as a static philosophical construct. Whereas Jung saw a dynamic self in action due to the unfolding of the human life cycle. I would be thinking along the lines that a psychologist would have a different perspective of the self than a philosopher would. I would be looking to reconcile these two concepts as I amassed all the requisite writings on this topic

as to the psychological typology I suspect it developed by Jung for understanding and orientational purposes. That some degree of integration of the inferior function happened during psychological growth was an important observation but was more an observable and secondary result of that growth…. chalk that up to my opinion...Introversion and extroversion are of decidedly more consequence.  I am tussling with these empirically observable phenomenon now… I suspect Jung was too restrictive when he empirically observed and defined them.

but the idiot is the way… He is a different kind of pathfinder than Hermes for sure. A spiritual pathfinder as opposed to the Hermetic pathfinder. Hermes helps negotiate our way through the more material and concrete viscitudes emanating from both within the external and internal/unconscious aspects of nature. The Fool/epimetheus is one who lacks foresight only to endow us with Prometheus/foresight as a result of his originally foolish/seemingly idiotic lead. The realm of the spiritual operates in a completely different dimension than the material realm. Epimethus/Prometheus' olympian successor hephaestus to the merriment of all the Gods and against all odds and in a total mismatch of power outwits and chains his mother hera and forces her to acquiesce to his demands. He idiotically marries aphrodite and expects her to be faithful. Of course that is an impossibility and she flaunts him by having an affair with Ares. He then embarasses her by chaining her up with her lover Ares and exposes them before all the Olympians…. And they laughed at aphrodite and ares caught in this embarrssing predicament until all of Olympus shook…. the idiot got his way as aphrodite made the required concession that allowed her THE IDIOT IS OUR TRANSCENDENTAL guide through the realm of the spirit. Jung was being given a humiliating insight into the nature of his individuality in that episodal outtake from his dream
Don't you think that it is problematic that Jung leaves no room for the spiritual reclusive in Jung's model—mats
jungs ultimate model aside from his effort to reconnect modern man with his own psyche/soul was to endow us with the empirical method and the results of his own empirical observations so that we could face the unconscious/unknown with the benefit of his empirical experience so that we can discover our own individual/individuational way through the labyrinthe of the mind…. The empiricists will eventually emerge and take up the gauntlet….
 the spiritual reclusive has found his own individuational path already…. Jung generously offered the empirical tools to assist all… the path home the blossoming of individuality the Odyssesian journey home is an individual experience… Jung did not intend to be the analysands guide but to allow them to discover their own self and their own individual route so they could take up the task at hand
that is my take for the moment… 

bonnie has amassed a great video collection.... Any of these videos she doesn't have would be great additions to her list...

I for one am going to immediately watch Jung Legacy and Influence... My off the cuff summation of my personal understanding of Jungs influence definitely needs to be extended and supplemented. Thanks so much... 

Mats and Klemens - If I may ask, what are your professions? If this comment receives any response, I'll write about why I ask that.

itinerant idealist 


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