By Christopher Dixon,2014-08-11 11:48
24 views 0


     High on a mountain top, overlooking the rocky terrain, stands the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, a tribute to the glory of Greek civilization. Carved on the stone pillars, in letters large enough for all to see, are two commands, “Know thyself” and “Nothing in excess.” Some time in the fourth century B.C., a young man named Chaerephon, a friend of Socrates, asked the oracle whether there was anyone wiser than Socrates. The oracle answered that there was no one wiser. To try and understand the oracle‟s meaning, Socrates walked through the streets of

    Athens, questioning people about what they knew and did not know. Socrates believed his actions were a response to a divine calling because he believed “to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others is really the very best thing that a man can without this sort of

    1examination is not worth living...” (38a)

     C. G. Jung, a 20th century Swiss psychologist, also recognized the difficulty of self-knowledge, “To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and

    2suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.” Jung

    engaged in his own version of self-examination and the examination of others through the interpretation of dreams and what they implied for living an examined life.

     At first, glance, Socrates and Jung seem to have very different views of the nature of self-knowledge and the process by which one attains it. For Jung, “...the most decisive qualities in a person are often unconscious and can be perceived only by others or have to be laboriously

    3discovered with outside help.” For Jung, “...the personality as a total phenomenon does not

    coincide with the ego, that is, with the conscious personality, but forms an entity that has to be

    4distinguished from the ego...” By contrast, Socrates‟ process of self-examination and the

    examination of others, as it is described in the Apology, seems to be entirely conscious and ego-

    driven. Socrates asks a fellow Athenian what the man thinks he knows. Through a process of


    question-and-answer, Socrates finds out if the man really knows what he claims to know. There does not seem to be anything mysterious or unconscious about the process. No dream analysis is needed to recognize what one knows and does not know.

     This paper will argue that, in spite of appearances, there are many common themes in Jung‟s writings and Plato‟s dialogues. Although this will only be an outline, it will attempt to show that Jung‟s claims about the human soul, the collective unconscious, and the place of myth and philosophy in forming a collective unconscious can be applied to Plato in many meaningful ways. What Jung calls “the collective unconscious” in Westerners has been deeply affected by Plato‟s theory of forms and the image of Socrates. Plato‟s choice of dialogue as the literary form for his philosophy has implications for how the soul can assimilate what is said. Finally, a closer examination of sections of two dialogues, the Phaedrus and the Symposium, will be

    discussed in the light of Jung‟s view of the journey of the soul from adolescence to adulthood and then to full self-knowledge. Many other references from Plato‟s dialogues could be used to

    support the points made here, but it will be left to the reader to find further support.



     Jung‟s view of the soul is complicated. According to Jung, everyone has both conscious and unconscious aspects of their personalities. The conscious part is called ego. The union of both conscious and unconscious is called the Self. “I have suggested calling the total personality which, though present, cannot be fully known, the self. The ego is, by definition,

    5subordinate to the self and is related to it like a part to the whole.” The goal of adult life is to

    integrate as much as possible of what is unconscious into consciousness.

     The unconscious is the source of human instincts. Instinct alone cannot be brought to consciousness but is first translated into an image. In our dreams, our instinctual life is


    expressed through symbolic images. The same images recur in different cultures and at different times in human history. These recurring images Jung calls archetypes, “What we properly call instincts are physiological urges, and are perceived by the senses. But at the same time, they also manifest themselves in fantasies and often reveal their presence only by symbolic images. These manifestations are what I call archetypes. They are without known origin; and

    6they reproduce themselves in any time or in any part of the world...”

     The first layer of the unconscious which needs to be brought to consciousness and recognized by the ego is what Jung calls the “shadow.” The shadow is the archetype, or symbolic image representing one aspect of instinctual life. “...the realization of the personal

    7unconscious, marks the first stage in the analytic process.” At first, the shadow seems to

    include all sorts of “dark” and irrational desires and emotions that the ego wants to deny. Jung, however, believes that recognition of the shadow is critical for self-knowledge, “The shadow is a

    moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for one cannot become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance. Indeed, self-knowledge as a psychotherapeutic measure frequently requires much painstaking work

    8extending over a long period.”

     Recognition of the shadow is extremely important because without such a process of self-examination, people will not only deny the “dark” desires within themselves but also project their own unacknowledged desires onto others. They will blame other people for the very faults which exist within themselves, “...there are certain features [of the shadow] which offer the most obstinate resistance to moral control and prove almost impossible to influence. These resistances are usually bound up with projections, which are not recognized as such...because the

    cause of the emotion appears to lie, beyond all possibility of doubt, in the other person...The


    effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one. Projections change the world into a replica of one‟s own

    9unknown face.” Some examples of projection are when an individual considers himself

    morally pure and everyone else impure, rather than everyone as some mix of the two or when a spouse consciously or unconsciously desires extramarital sex and then accuses his spouse of infidelity.

     Once the shadow is recognized, it is seen to consist of both positive and negative instincts. Once it is no longer repressed or denied, it can be understood for what it is and incorporated into the ego, it can become a part of one‟s conscious mental life, “...the shadow cast by the conscious mind of the individual contains the hidden, repressed, and unfavorable (or nefarious) aspects of the personality. But this darkness is not just the simple converse of the conscious ego. Just as the ego contains unfavorable and destructive attitudes, so the shadow has good qualities--normal instincts and creative impulses. Ego and shadow, indeed, although separate, are inextricably

    10linked together in much the same way that thought and feeling are related to each other.”

     It is not psychologically healthy to deny and repress the instinctual side of human nature. Rather, this side is the source of all creativity and all emotion. To repress and deny is to cut part of oneself off from another part of oneself; self-knowledge becomes impossible. Instead, the shadow should be recognized for what it is, like a good friend, “Whether the shadow

    becomes our friend or enemy depends largely on ourselves...the shadow is not necessarily always an opponent. In fact, he is exactly like any other human being with whom one has to get along, sometimes by giving in, sometimes by resisting, sometimes by giving love--whatever the

    11situation requires. The shadow becomes hostile only when he is ignored or misunderstood.”

     Myths are stories which arise in every culture at every time because they explain how the ego is to get in touch with the unconscious. The myth of the hero is the story of how a young man first becomes conscious of the shadow, “The hero...must realize that the shadow exists and


    that he can draw strength from it. He must come to terms with its destructive power...before the

    12ego can triumph, it must master and assimilate the shadow.” This is a very difficult process,

    because the adolescent wants to remain in a state of unconscious bliss, where he is attached to his mother and unaware of the negative impulses in himself or in others, “The in conflict

    with the shadow...In the developing consciousness of the individual the hero figure is the symbolic means by which the emerging ego overcomes the inertia of the unconscious mind, and liberates the mature man from a regressive longing to return to the blissful state of infancy in a

    13world dominated by his mother...”

     In the struggle between ego and shadow, the hero is aided by older men or gods who act as guardians and tutors, “...the early weakness of the hero is balanced by the appearance of strong

    „tutelary‟ figures--or guardians--who enable him to perform the superhuman tasks that he cannot accomplish unaided...These godlike figures are in fact symbolic representatives of the whole psyche, that larger and more comprehensive identity that supplies the strength that the personal ego lacks. Their special role suggests that the essential function of the heroic myth is the development of the individual‟s ego-consciousness--his awareness of his own strengths and

    weaknesses--in a manner that will equip him for the arduous tasks with which life confronts

    14him.” Everyone who desires to bring the unconscious to consciousness needs a guardian who will aid him in the process, “the shadow can be realized only through a relation to a

    15partner...because only in such a relation do their projections become operative.”


     The next stage in the development of consciousness is the recognition of two more archetypes, the anima and the animus. Instinctual life, as Jung has said, is expressed in dream life through symbolic images. These images are archetypes which take the same forms in every culture. The shadow is the first image that can be brought to consciousness. The shadow is


    always the same sex as the dreamer. After the shadow, however, the archetypes of anima and animus can be found embedded deep within the unconscious. In a woman, the archetype is male and called “animus.” In a man, the archetype is female and is called, “anima.” When these images are not brought to consciousness, projection occurs. “One might assume that projections...would belong to the realm of the shadow--that is, to the negative side of the personality. This assumption becomes untenable after a certain point, because the symbols that then appear no longer refer to the same but to the opposite sex, in a man‟s case to a woman and vice versa. The source of projections is no longer the shadow--which is always of the same sex as the subject--but as a contrasexual figure. Here we meet the animus of a woman and the anima of a man, two corresponding archetypes whose autonomy and unconsciousness explain the stubbornness of their projections...whereas the shadow can be seen through and recognized fairly easily, the anima and animus are much farther from consciousness and in normal circumstances

    16 are seldom if ever realized.”

     These projections create problems in social relationships in a way similar to the projection of the shadow. A male will experience his anima, or the female instinct within. If he can become conscious of this, he will balance this with his own male sexuality and will not project it onto a woman. If he does not becomes conscious of his own anima, he will project it onto a woman and assume that she is the cause of his emotions. He might accuse a woman of trying to seduce him, when he only wanted to be seduced and projected that desire onto the woman. The reverse is also true: a woman might be trying to allure him and he does not notice, because he does not recognize the anima within himself. Once again, self-knowledge, in the sense of bringing the unconscious into consciousness, is the way to avoid projections and to live a balanced life.

     When the anima is brought to consciousness in dreams, the archetype takes on the symbolic image of a woman. “The anima is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies in


    a man‟s psyche, such as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature, and--last but not least--his relation to the unconscious. It is no mere chance that in olden times priestesses (like the Greek Sibyl) were

    17used to fathom the divine will and to make connections with the gods.” “[The anima] is not

    18an invention of the conscious, but a spontaneous product of the unconscious.”

     If a man desires to stay in touch with his inner drives, he pays attention to his dreams and tries to follow the signals being sent by the unconscious. He usually expresses his anima through artistic creation, “the anima take on the role of guide, or mediator, to the world within

    19and to the Self.” “This positive function occurs when a man takes seriously the feelings, moods, expectations, and fantasies sent by his anima and when he fixes them in some form--for example, in writing, painting, sculpture, musical composition, or dancing...If this is practiced with devotion over a long period, the process of individuation gradually becomes the single

    20reality and can unfold in its true form.”

     Jung recognized that a man‟s anima goes through a developmental process, from less mature to more mature. He divided this process into four stages, “The first stage is best symbolized by the figure of Eve, which represents purely instinctual and biological relations. The second can be seen in Faust‟s Helen: she personifies a romantic and aesthetic level that is, however, still characterized by sexual elements. The third is represented, for instance, by the Virgin Mary--a figure who raises love (Eros) to the heights of spiritual devotion. The fourth is

    21symbolized by Sapientia, wisdom transcending even the most holy and the most pure.”


     If a human being can bring the contents of the unconscious to consciousness, he or she can achieve a sense of personal integrity and wholeness. No aspect of life is repressed or denied, and all activities work together to reinforce the whole person, “In the case of an adult, a sense of


    completeness is achieved through a union of the consciousness with the unconscious contents of the mind. Out of this union arises what Jung called „the transcendent function of the psyche,‟ by which a man can achieve his highest goal; the full realization of the potential of his individual

    22Self.” Jung distinguished between four functions of consciousness: thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. Each individual has a tendency to be driven by one of the four. The highest level of integration would enable a person to exercise all four functions to their maximum capacity, “„Individuation‟ is Jung‟s term for the process of achieving such command of all four functions... that one might open one‟s eyes at the center, to see, think, feel and intuit transcendence, and to act out of such knowledge. the final good, the Summum Bonum,

    23of all [Jung‟s] thought and work.”

     This is a very difficult goal to achieve, since “...every personification of the unconscious--

    24the shadow, the anima, the animus, and the Self--has both a dark and a light aspect.” But there

    are certain dream symbols which indicate that a person is moving toward that goal, “...what we call „symbols of transcendence‟ are the symbols that represent man‟s striving to attain this goal. They provide the means by which the contents of the unconscious can enter into the conscious mind, and they also are themselves an active expression of those contents...One of the commonest dream symbols for this type of transcendence is the theme of the long journey or pilgrimage, which somehow seems to be a spiritual pilgrimage on which the initiate becomes acquainted with the nature of death...This spirit is more often represented by a „mistress‟ rather

    25than a „master‟ of initiation, a supreme feminine (i.e. anima) figure...”

     Ultimately, at the highest levels of individuation and integration of the whole Self, the dream images of a man are again male. Instead of a shadow image, however, the symbolic images of an individuated person take the form of the Cosmic Man, “If an individual has

    wrestled seriously enough and long enough with the anima (or animus) problems so that he, or she, is no longer partially identified with it, the unconscious again changes its dominant character


    and appears in a new symbolic form, representing the Self, the innermost nucleus of the

    26psyche...In the case of a man, it manifests itself as a masculine initiator and guardian...” “This

    inner Great Man redeems the individual by leading him out of creation and its sufferings, back into the original eternal sphere...The whole inner psychic reality of each individual is ultimately

    27oriented toward this archetypal symbol of the Self.”

     Another symbol of psychic wholeness is the philosopher‟s stone, “The alchemical stone (the lapis) symbolizes something that can never be lost or dissolved, something eternal that some alchemists compared to the mystical experience of God within one‟s own soul. It usually takes prolonged suffering to burn away all the superfluous psychic elements concealing the stone. But some profound inner experience of the Self does occur to most people at least once in a lifetime. From the psychological standpoint, a genuinely religious attitude consists of an effort to discover this unique experience, and gradually to keep in tune with it (it is relevant that a stone is itself something permanent), so that the Self becomes an inner partner toward whom one‟s

    28attention is continually turned.”


     Jung formulated the concept of the “collective unconscious” as the name for those aspects of our psychic lives which are individual cases of patterns which recur throughout history, “In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become

    29conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.”


     The myths of all cultures contain recurring patterns, “the whole of mythology could be

    30taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious.” In the case of primitive man, his

    31unconscious seems like an opposing power, and it is addressed through the use of magic. “On

    higher levels of civilization, religion and philosophy fulfill the same purpose. Whenever such a system of adaptation breaks down a general unrest begins to appear, and attempts are made to

    32find a suitable new form of relationship to the unconscious.” When this need occurs, Jung

    says, “A man is a philosopher of genius only when he succeeds in transmuting the primitive and

    33merely natural vision into an abstract idea belonging to the common stock of consciousness.”

     Such a philosopher will not use scientific language to describe the activity of the unconscious, because the unconscious does not respond to such language, “It is possible to describe this content [of the unconscious] in rational, scientific language, but in this way one entirely fails to express its living character. Therefore, in describing the living processes of the psyche, I deliberately and consciously give preference to a dramatic, mythological way of thinking and speaking, because this is not only more expressive but also more exact than an

    34abstract scientific terminology...” “It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in

    harmony with these symbols, wisdom is a return to them. It is a question neither of belief nor of knowledge, but of the agreement of our thinking with the primordial images of the unconscious. They are the unthinkable matrices of our thoughts, no matter what our conscious mind may

    35cogitate. One of these primordial thoughts is the idea of life after death.” Jung himself

    recognized one respect in which Plato‟s theory of forms was a kind of archetype, “In

    extraordinarily high value is set on the archetypes as metaphysical ideas, as „paradigms‟ or

    36models, while real things are held to be only the copies of these models.” The remainder of

    this paper will suggest many more ways Plato‟ dialogues can be seen to correspond to Jung‟s



Report this document

For any questions or suggestions please email