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Reply To: The New Old Age” with Monica Martinez, Ph.D.”


Dear Stephen,

Thank you for the kind welcome, Stephen.

In fact, as time goes on, I am increasingly appreciating these works derived from interviews and lectures, as they make me feel immersed as if I were listening directly to these inspiring people.

I shared with very few people, but now in July 2022 I took advantage of my academic winter vacation to work on a book project on Jung’s active imagination method, reviewing the world literature on the subject and also conducting a self-experiment. And one of the ways to do that is to let yourself imagine having a conversation with a person, and to my total surprise – and skepticism at first – Jung presented himself to the conversation. Deep down, from a psychic point of view, we are talking to or about other parts of ourselves, levels of a higher order, if you will. In a sense, the experience turned out to be much like reading books like A Joseph Campbell Companion. A delightful and lively conversation, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not, with our  interlocutor, as when we do with a book that engages us.

What excites me about scholars like Campbell and Jung is that the word “experience” unites them. Both were extremely erudite, in a way we probably never will be, but both were on the road, so to speak, not limited to intellectual concepts.

So, for me, these conversations like the ones provided by Campbell’s book go beyond broad audiences, as they speak to all of us in a more intimate and personal way. As if these wonderful insights into life and death were being whispered into our ears. From soul to soul.

As for the Golden Years (lol), in fact (or hope) I may not have aged tremendously since we saw each other at the last Campbell Foundation meeting in Vegas in 2019 (of which I have fond memories of meeting Team Campbell), but I think the pandemic has provided an intense process of introspection that made some of us tap into the Wise Old Man / Old Woman archetype. There is a difference between this and the Old man / Old Woman archetype. The second in general tends to be grumpy, full of pain, resentments and bitterness. The first, on the other hand, is equally full of pain — because what really ages is the body, not the psychic part –, but also full of wisdom, respect and sweetness for life. I agree with you: “Campbell’s work (and Jung’s) have definitely helped me adapt to and embrace the inevitable.”

In a sense, talking about Jung’s individuation process touches, but is not limited to, the discussion of old age and death — which as Campbell said is the mystery that governs life, from birth to death, from womb to tomb.

The simplest way I think to synthesize Jung’s idea of ​​individuation is through the opening sentence of his book “Memories, Dreams and Reflections, compiled by Aniela Jaffé: “My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious”.

Meaning that he was brave enough to let down the ego’s guard and let the self do his job for him to become who he truly was. What is the ego? Campbell once explained it very simply: what I think I know, what I think I like and don’t like, and so on. They are constructions. And buildings can be undone, redone, renovated if we allow it. What is the self? Well, this totality of who we are also touches the mystery.

I think Campbell was deeply aligned with Jungian concepts, as he also says that “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are”. But Campbell also shows us the way, when he says that living evokes our character, that is, it cuts away our illusory rough edges and allows us to the possibility of developing our full potential as human beings.

The other day I was listening to a wonderful podcast by Michael Meade, who is also dedicated to mythology studies, and he said “life teaches us to be who we are”. At the end of the day, life is the remedy for our neuroses, if we can lower our resistances down and humbly listen to its lessons.

Well, as a good Italian-Brazilian, I don’t know if I managed to briefly explain what individuation is to someone who does not know Jung’s work. Tough question… (lol). But I strongly recommend the reading of “Portable Jung“, a lovely book edited by Campbell.

I’m sure we can build together in this chat room what we think this principle of individuation and other Jungian notions are for us today.

Bliss to all,

Monica Martinez