Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Important note on Edinger's Ego and Archetype

I've just bought Ego and Archetype, which uses primarily Biblical references and symbols to explain Jung's concept of Individuation. In browsing the customer comments I found this little gem and wanted to put it here as a reminder to myself for when I read the book:

Good start but loses focus
The first two parts of this book are a great condensation of the individuation process which seems somewhat dispersed in Jung's writings. I particularly thought his discussion of the inflation and alienation cycle was very good. He goes into detail of potential blocks in the cycle and where those blocks later lead to difficulties in the process.
Where I thought he lost his way was in his gradual shift from using biblical reference to support his discussion of individuation to what seemed, at the end of Part II, to become primarily biblical exegesis. The quotes slowly start dominating the text and the relation of the symbols, e.g. the blood of Christ, to individuation seem tenuous. He also goes over some material, e.g. Job, alchemy, the Philosopher's Stone, etc., that Jung has elsewhere discussed at length and I didn't think Edinger's take added much new here. If you haven't read these topics in Jung already or only have a casual interest it might be a good summary but for me it was repetitive.
One chapter I found curiously flawed was "The Trinity Archetype and the Dialectic of Development". Edinger starts the chapter by taking Jung to task for being to too focused on finding the "missing fourth" when interpreting trinity symbols, in particular the Holy Trinity. He goes on to make a useful distinction between the quaternity, representing essentially the components of the Self, and the trinity, representing the process of individuation. In his view, the Holy Trinity relates to the process of individuation, i.e. the ages of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not the actors/archetypes for which they're named. The Holy Trinity being a symbol of developmental process then is in no need of a fourth as Jung proposed.
Yet, I think he misunderstood Jung here and his interpretation is at odds even with his own earlier discussion. The "age of the Son," being the dialectic antithesis of that of Father -- totality, unity, identification of ego with Self -- is an age of *duality*, not the one-sided view promulgated by the Church of the Son looking back to the lost age of the Father. The reconciliation of opposites during the age of the Son is precisely what brings about the new, higher-level unity in that of the Holy Spirit. What is missing in the psychological interpretation of the age of the Son is that very opposite with which to reconcile, e.g. the devil, Satan, the unconscious forces. Even though Edinger quotes Jung as characterizing this age as "a sharpening of opposites," he seems to overlook the import: the "age of the Son" is really a misnomer and might better be named the "age of Two Sons." This is what I believe Jung was alluding to and is supported by many passages in which he discusses the disavowal and externalization of the dark side in Western monotheism.
If Edinger had brought more Eastern religion to bear on the discussion, with its heavy emphasis on the duality of existence and three-phase process of unity-duality-unity, he may have come to an different conclusion on this particular symbol. But his supporting examples are skewed to the West, mostly biblical, and his few forays into the East not very profound.

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