Craig E Stephenson

I’m inclined by temperament or personal equation to describe the practice of analytical psychology as more art than science. So I’ve turned to Walter Benjamin’s famous essay on what happens to “the work of art” in an age of technology, to see if Benjamin’s vocabulary might be useful. Can Benjamin’s argument help to formulate better questions about what is happening to the art of analytical psychology in this technological age?


Craig E Stephenson

To Austin Clarkson, musicologist, Jungian thinker, explorer of creativity in depth, with thanks for the loan of the tuning fork.


The English poet, W. H. Auden, having taken up American citizenship in 1946, lived a good portion of the second half of his life in New York. In addition to writing poetry, Auden wrote hundreds of essays, reviews, introductions, and lectures. He also composed opera libretti. In an essay entitled “Some Reflections on Music and Opera”, published in the Partisan Review in January-February 1952, Auden asks:

What is music about? What, as Plato would say, does it ‘imitate’? Choice. A succession of two musical notes is an act of choice, the first causes the second not in the scientific sense of making it occur necessarily, but in the historical sense of provoking it, of providing it with a motive for occurring. A successful melody is a self-determined history; it is freely what it intends to be, yet is a meaningful whole, not an arbitrary succession of notes.

At the same time that Auden was writing these reflections, and not far from Auden’s flat in Greenwich Village, John Cage was composing Music of Changes. On January 1, 1952 at Judith Malina and Julian Beck’s Cherry Lane Theater, pianist David Tudor performed this new work for the first time.

If we group Auden and Cage together not only in time and space (New York City, 1952, although I can find no evidence that they ever met) but also in aesthetics (both working their post-war ways out of Romanticism and Modernism), and if we take up Auden’s hypothesis that music imitates choice, then we’ll see just how provocative it was for Cage to hand the choices to chance. Cage might rewrite Auden’s last sentence to read: ‘My composition, Music of Changes, is a chance-determined history; it is freely what it intends to be (rather than merely what I as composer intend it to be), yet it is a meaningful whole, not an arbitrary succession of notes.’

Whether or not a particular succession of notes becomes ‘successful’ depends very much on its listeners. Cage worked very hard to highlight the role of listeners. As much as he composed, he educated and provoked, preaching a radicalized receptivity to sound.

Historically, Jung’s psychology plays a small part in Cage’s oeuvre because Jung’s books and forewords to two books on Eastern religions influenced Cage’s artistic process. And so perhaps we can employ a Jungian perspective as one way to understand and evaluate Cage’s aesthetic stance, as one way to approach listening to what Auden would call the ‘meaningful whole’ of Cage’s work as he explores sound, silence and synchronicity.


Craig E Stephenson

How does reading change us? How does our reading change? Do we understand that we have been changed by a certain reading? I first read William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell when I was sixteen, and it turned my world upside down. In it, Blake acknowledges how one can read Milton’s Paradise Lost as a conventional Christian allegory of good and evil, but he demonstrates how to read it archetypally, so the reader can see the angels are actually promoting death; the devils are defending the life principle; and Milton, as poet, is of Satan’s party without knowing it (inasmuch as he intends to justify God’s ways to man, but privileges poetically all the energy and delight and fire banished to an infernal netherworld). With his archetypal reading, Blake tore the roof off my adolescence. It was one of my first experiences of the numinous evoked by a text, and it was liberating and terrifying at the same time. There was much to learn from reading how a great reader such as Blake reads Milton.

Northrop Frye, an important literary critic and cultural commentator, was one of the penultimate readers of Blake in the twentieth century. With the recent publication of his diaries and notebooks, we now have the opportunity to track his personal reading responses as he read Blake and as he read Carl Gustav Jung. In his notebooks, Frye tested the utility of Jung’s concepts for his own theorizing, and in his diaries, he recorded more subjective responses, even interpreting his dreams and feelings during the time he read Jung. Together, these documents establish that in the 1940s and 1950s Frye was carefully familiarizing himself with Jung’s work. By 1949, he had read Psychology of the Unconscious, Psychological Types, and The Integration of the Personality, as well as Jung’s commentaries on Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the Chinese alchemical text, The Secret of the Golden Flower and on the Walter Evans-Wentz edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. And, in 1954, he reviewed Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (in its revised form as a Bollingen Foundation publication) and Psychology and Alchemy for an important academic journal, The Hudson Review. But then he stopped reading Jung. What can we learn by following a great reader like Frye as he makes his way through Jung’s works, sometimes enthralled by a text, other times vowing angrily never again to open the volume?


Craig E Stephenson


Jung had originally trained as a psychiatrist, so the image of psychiatry straddling a gulf between medicine and psychoanalysis in service of a patient was personal as well as paradigmatic. Jung regarded neither his medical training nor his studies in psychology as sufficient background for the methods he eventually devised as a psychotherapist. Whereas medicine in his day limited its borrowings to the natural sciences, Freud’s psychoanalysis and Jung’s analytical psychology turned for insight to the human sciences – anthropology, sociology, politics, comparative religion – as well as to literature, art and philosophy. So, at the same time that Jung defended the practice of psychotherapy to an audience of doctors, he also challenged them to reconsider the parameters of the medical field:

It is extremely important, in his own interests, that the psychotherapist should not in any circumstances lose the position he originally held in medicine, and this precisely because the peculiar nature of his experience forces upon him a certain mode of thought, and certain interests, which no longer have – or perhaps I should say, do not yet have – a rightful domicile in the medicine of today. (italics mine) (Jung, 1945)

Half a century later, medical psychiatry remains preoccupied with the physiology of mental disease, and contemporary psychiatrists still find themselves forced to wrestle with both sides of Jung’s equation. Nowhere is this struggle more evident than in the fields of transcultural and comparative psychiatry and ethnopsychiatry. In order to under- stand and treat the sick in a multicultural society and in societies for which psychiatry is a foreign practice, psychiatrists are confronting the gulf and considering issues which they formerly dismissed as ‘meta- psychological.’


Craig E Stephenson

In his essay on ‘The Father in the Destiny of the Individual’, C. G. Jung wrote: ‘Behind the father stands the archetype of the father, and in this pre-existent archetype lies the secret of the father’s power, just as the power which forces the bird to migrate is not produced by the bird itself but derives from its ancestors’ (Jung, 1949, par.739). He describes the parental influence on a child as ‘invisible threads’ that ‘direct the apparently individual workings of the maturing mind’. And he warns: ‘The more a father identifies with the archetype, the more unconscious and irresponsible, indeed psychotic, both he and his child will be… [even to the point of a] ‘folie à deux’ (Jung, 1949, par.729).


Craig E Stephenson

The tradition of hagiography has fallen into disrepute. It is practised these days most often only in an idealizing parody of its origins, by biographers of celebrity princesses and ghost-writers of memoirs of self-serving politicians, so much so that the word has acquired a derogatory connotation. But I’d like to take back the conventions of this tradition, and place them in the service of a more worthy subject: in praise of Jane Jacobs, patron saint of cities.

Certified Jungian Analyst