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Reply To: THERE and BACK AGAIN,” with MythBlast author Stephen Gerringer”



You write

[Jung] wrote ‘Individuation cuts one off from personal conformity and hence from collectivity. That is the guilt which the individuant leaves behind him for the world, that is the guilt he must endeavour to redeem.’ Jung saw guilt as relating the pair of opposites of community and individuation, and in order for the individuant to redeem his/her guilt, he/she must successfully bring back ‘values which are an equivalent substitute for his absence in the collective personal sphere.’ This is because ‘what society demands is imitation or conscious identification, a treading of accepted, authorized paths. Only by accomplishing an equivalent is one exempted from this.’ “

I am in awe of this congruence between Jung’s thought and Campbell’s understanding; of course their thinking is compatible (Joe had no problem crediting Jung as “providing the best clues”), but I had not made this connection before. Your summation (“Failure to successfully bring back equivalent values makes individuation immoral”) also answers the critics of both men who claim individuation and/or the individual hero’s journey are the epitome of self-indulgent navel-gazing. It takes a deeper and longer look to understand how these ultimately lead to re-integration with society  (and, I would argue, create a stronger, more vibrant community).

While I have your attention, maybe you’d be willing to share your reflections on the community within. Here is where James Hillman really speaks to me with his discussion of the polytheistic psyche (which I find perfectly compatible with my read of Jung). That struck such a chord when I first encountered his work. I’m a Gemini; in my experience, Geminis are more than just “twins” – from childhood on I’ve always had one heck of a huge committee within, and they’re not always pulling in the same direction (which is not to say I take astrology literally, but I do find it a valuable tool for re-imagining and mythologizing my life).

In the words of Walt Whitman, who shares my birthday:

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

Tending to the community residing within seems just as essential as tending to community outside oneself. Hillman is an invaluable guide for that (as, in my mind, are Mary Watkins – Waking Dreams; Invisible Guests – and Robert Bosnak – Tracks in the Wilderness of Dreaming; Embodiment – Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art, and Travel – among others).

Though I don’t want to pull the conversation too far into the weeds, I’m curious if you have any thoughts you’d care to share on the subject. (Pretty sure I don’t need to tell you this, but don’t worry if your opinion differs from mine – that’s what makes it a conversation, an exchange of thoughts and ideas, rather than a debate.)