Reply To: What’s In a Name?” with Stephen Gerringer”
Robert – thanks for sharing the review; I recall the controversy when Bair’s biography was published.
I’m a firm proponent of multiple sources, and find myself returning to a number of favorite accounts – starting with Jung’s own words (Memories, Dreams, Reflections strikes me as a rare personal reflection – less detail-oriented, but including some acknowledgement of shadows that tend to be whitewashed in a traditional memoir – absolutely unique in conveying a sense of the man’s rich inner life).
One of the best (and earliest) accounts in English is Joseph Campbell’s succinct 25 page synopsis of Jung’s life in his editor’s introduction to The Portable Jung, published exactly ten years after Jung’s passing. I also appreciate the piercing look at Jung’s troubling relationship with patient-turned-psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein, in clinical psychologist John Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method (a rich, informative biography that became a trippy 2011 David Cronenberg film, with Keira Knightly, Viggo Mortenson, and Michael Fassbinder, that debuted to critical acclaim).
But I really appreciate Deirdre Bair’s bio, in large part because she’s neither psychologist nor mythologist, and has no dog in the fight. Bair, a professor of comparative literature, as well as a Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellow, penned award-winning biographies of Anaïs Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, and Samuel Beckett. Her text stretches to just under 650 pages, followed by 200 pages of detailed footnotes (in a smaller font).
As to where psychology and mythology are headed in the future, that depends. The psyche is with us always, as is mythos (mythologizing remains an ongoing process, in terms of the imaginal, unconscious narratives that drive individual and collective human behavior, as evidenced most recently by reactions to the pandemic regardless of science, not to mention the slippery, shadowy realm of U.S. politics).
As for the fields of psychology and mythology, any prediction I might make would be about as accurate as a scientist in 1904 describing the direction he expected physics to take (just before Einstein’s special and general Theories of Relativity and the emergence of quantum mechanics broke the field wide open). I expect on the broad scale the depth psychologies of Freud and Jung will remain important (evolving in new directions, as with Roberto Assagioli’s psychosynthesis, Hillman’s archetypal/imaginal psychology, and the transpersonal psychologies espoused by Maslow, Piaget, Anthony Sutich, and Stanislav Grof), while behavioralism continues to recede.
But I see outcome-based therapies in the ascendent, from medication to techniques such as the dialectical-based therapy (DBT) that has proven relatively successful in treating borderline personality disorder. Though most therapists I know might embrace the sweeping theories of a Freud or Jung or Maslow, in actual practice there is less dreamwork and more focus on what treatments produce the best results in the shortest time (a function of the cost-benefit, insurance-driven medical field).
As for mythology, there is far more to the field than just Joseph Campbell (Jack Zipes, Alan Dundes, and even Robert Segal come to mind as among the many scholars who tend to reject archetypal interpretation), but even among those drawn to Campbell’s work, JCF is doing its best to expand beyond exclusive reliance on Joe as the Authority and highlight a wide array of voices (indeed, the multiple contributors to our MythBlast essay series include individuals with a focus ranging from magic realism to marxism, and everything in between).
Mythology shows every promise of expanding beyond academic tomes on dusty library shelves, relevance to creativity, pop culture, and social narratives.
But only time will tell how vibrant that will be . . .