Through a Jungian Lens

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Permeability – James Hillman and Margot McLean

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Illustration by Margot McLean

I was fortunate to receive an email this morning via a Jungian discussion group called Jung-Fire, an email sent by Carol Spicuzza, an American artist and Jungian. The email contained a link to a relatively recent work of James Hillman and artist, Margot McLean called Permeability. The work was published at ARAS (Art and Psyche Online Journal). The image to the left is the first of many images in the article that flow with the words of Hillman as presented in this essay.

“Fantasy thinking.” Of course almost all of my work here, especially in relation to the images I present here, is grounded in active imagination. It is a hard concept to hold, that of active imagination being any kind of foundation, any kind of grounding. Fantasy thinking is a sharp contrast, perhaps a polar contrast to directed thinking, ego consciousness. Hillman suggests that contrary to generally accepted thought, “directed thinking’s ego is not the center of consciousness.” Hillman paraphrases Jung: “The Psyche is not in you; you are in the psyche.”

Powerful words on both Jung’s part and Hillman’s part. In thinking a bit more of this, it seems to fit with the idea that one’s shadow is grounded in the larger collective shadow which is grounded in the universal shadow. Consciousness, too, must follow or reflect this same truth if there is to be balance – a personal consciousness grounded in a collective consciousness which is in turn grounded in a universal consciousness.

Two kinds of thinking, directed and dereistic, frame our psychological cosmology. They belong to our creation myth, and they are given testimonial witness by Jung in his autobiography as Personality Number One and Number Two. How does fantasy thinking proceed, what is it like? William James – upon whom Jung here relies (CW5: para 18) – describes it as “trains of images,” spontaneous,” “irresponsible,” “accidental,” and composed of “empirical concretes.”

Trains of images that are empirical concretes. The train crosses over into the terrain of Bachelard’s material imagination. The stuff of things; the sensate, the tactile, the colored, noise and smell, and strings of words. The stuff of the arts: “empirical concretes.” (Hillman and McLean, “Permeability”)

A few years ago, as part of an explanation of permeable relationships that educational administrators needed to consider, I produced a graphic similar to the image I have crudely reproduced here. Though we have separations between self and other, there is a porousness that goes two ways where the whole influences the self and the self influences the whole. This is an imaginal rendering of the concept which places the self at the center. And if Hillman and Jung are correct then it allows one to imagine, allow the dereistic form of thinking, that one is indeed touched by gods, one is a god.

This is a powerful concept. If we take the gods within then we are forced to assume our own authority as gods. We are forced to take our responsibility for the planet and for others into ourselves. We cease to be victims. We are required to lead ourselves and our fellow humans from the wasteland that we are currently creating on our planet and in our societies. We are not allowed to defer responsibility to some church, some creed, some philosophy, to others with self-proclaimed answers. No gods will come riding out of the sunset to save us. We must save ourselves as humans and as we do this, we save others around us and the home within which we live.



3 Responses

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  1. “fantasy thinking” That is a good concept. I think I’ll try that on my next project. Thanks


    October 30, 2011 at 10:15 am

  2. Permeability – the flow of the universe through the self is magic. The connections with all do create a responsibility, understanding adn power.

    But for me, permeability can also mean a loss of self. The ‘others’ in life can move in an take over, thereby creating a loss of individuation.

    Lotus Eater

    October 30, 2011 at 10:30 am

    • Others can and do take over because of permeability when one has a weak ego and is unconscious of the inter-relatedness. Awareness is the key – that is the point of the individuation process, moving one from victim to conscious participation in life. Thanks as always, Lotus for your thoughtful responses.


      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm

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