Dialectics & Analytical Psychology: The El Capitan
by Wolfgang Giegerich, David L. Miller and Greg Mogenson
Reviewed by Harvey L. Shepherd
In his introduction to this book, David Miller writes that the ideas presented in it may represent a radical advance in Jungian thought and, indeed, "third wave Jungian thinking."
These ideas are those of Wolfgang Giegerich, a Jungian psychoanalyst in Germany. Miller is comparing his work to that of Jung himself and to the "second wave, the "archetypal psychology" associated with James Hillman.
The book is made up of papers presented to graduate students of the Pacifica Institute in California in June, 2004, by Giegerich and two "conversation partners": Miller, a retired faculty member of Pacifica and the University of Syracuse whose lectures I have enjoyed in Montreal, and Greg Mogenson, a Jungian psychoanalyst in London, Ont.
The book will not be everybody's cup of tea. Some will dismiss Giegerich as preposterously hyper-intellectual and self-referential.
Yet the book left me feeling profoundly challenged. Again and again, I found the authors fairly persuasive in their claim that their differences with Jung and Hillman are also within these founders' legacies, pressing to logical conclusions issues that have been present from the beginning.
The book insists that image be completed by thought. This is not in itself a departure from Jung and Hillman. But Giegerich's stress on logic is overwhelming, even as he perhaps pushes even further than Hillman in denying any central psychological place to the ego, which many of us have been inclined to suppose is where thinking comes from.
Miller insists that Giegerich's thought is not a negation of what Hillman's archetypal theorizing had accomplished, "but rather a call to continue it radically in an attempt to complete it in its and Jung's own spirit, an anima-psychology sublated by an animus-psychology." Giegerich does not deny that the soul is image, Miller writes, but insists that "The soul always thinks."
Do I hear someone groaning: "An anima-psychology subWHATted by an animus-psychology?"? If Giegerich catches on, "sublated" will be the new buzzword. It translates a German word from the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel, Aufhebung, "in the threefold sense of a) negating and canceling, b) rescuing and retaining, c) elevating or raising to a new level."
Got that? In any event, Giegerich regards Hegel's as "the most advanced, comprehensive and differentiated thinking," which "supersedes everything that came afterwards." In Hegel, he believes, "an intellectual level has been reached and a standard been set to fall short of which our thought cannot afford. It will never do not to come up to the state of the art that 'the soul' in its history has already reached."
This was not Jung's opinion. He did not study Hegel systematically and did not think much of what Hegel he did read. As a philosophical mentor, Jung much preferred Immanuel Kant.
Hegel's dialectic, and what Giegerich does with it, have important points in common with the central Jungian notion of the transcendent function: a creative synthesis resulting from a tension of opposites. But Giegerich insists, sometimes in scathing language, that there are crucial differences. Dialectic for Giegerich does not have to do with a tension between opposites in the external world (as between one's wife and mistress, to take a crude example) or even between ideas that seem to contradict each other, but with contradictions that analysis finds within one statement. (We might argue, for example, that the idea of fidelity is meaningless without the possibility of infidelity. These are my examples and I am not sure Giegerich would approve.) Using illustrations from fairy tale and myth, Giegerich demonstrates how his dialectic goes from an original "Position" to its Negation then to the Negation of the Negation, then to Absolute Negation, and finally to a Restored Position. (Don't ask.)
This book also requires the reader to wrestle with Kant's philosophical distinction between analytic and synthetic statements. As you may recall, analytic statements - many of the statements in mathematics, for example - state in their predicate what is already implied in the subject. For example, "4" is another way of saying "2+2." Synthetic statements add new information, often drawn from experience.
Now, forbidding as all this may be, it is also one example of how the book made me feel that Giegerich really may be pushing forward issues implicit but unresolved in Jung. Jung's ideas often have a sort of analytic (in the Kantian sense) feel to them. For example, his theory of four psychological functions - thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition - seems to have a nice logical structure. But Jung insists that he is an empiricist, his conclusions based on his and other observations in the consulting room and elsewhere. And of course both Jung and Hillman have a spectacular bent for piling up data, from mythology and elsewhere. Some sorting out of when Jungian psychology is analytic in the Kantian sense, and when psychoanalytic in the Freudian sense, might well be worthwhile.
Be that as it may, Giegerich is relentlessly analytic, in the Kantian sense. Giegerich can go on for pages analyzing one small part of a fairy story, negating, counter-negating, absolute-negating and position-restoring until at least part of me wonders if he is in danger of vanishing up his own dialectical navel. He writes:
Inasmuch as my reading of myth is a psychological one and I define psychology as the discipline of interiority, my thinking of myth obviously has to be analytic in this sense. It cannot be synthetic, because if it were synthetic, I would think of something that has something literally outside of itself, a literal Other, and then it ipso facto would be a thinking in terms of external relations between two or more things or persons. But for psychology there is no Other. Or the other that there is is "the soul's" own internal other, that is to say itself as other.
We seem to be some distance away from what some of us have been accustomed to thinking of as psychology. Giegerich rubs that in. Psychology "is not about life and life phenomena," he writes, "not about people and their development or behaviour, but it is about 'the soul,' the 'logical life,' the dialectics operative within such life phenomena, within people's behaviour." For him, studying myths, like studying geometry, "is not about us and our sole purpose in pursuing it should be to learn to comprehend something and thereby refine the mind." In looking at myths, he writes,
I do not ask for a practical use or wish to get answers or help for living my life, for better mastering predicaments, for overcoming neurotic conflicts, for improving my self-development or simply for understanding myself better, nor to give some mythic depth to my reality. All such egoic and extraneous concerns I leave behind.
And me with them, to a great degree - even if such bald statements are attenuated by hints that psychology, as he conceives it, may have indirect contributions to make to psychotherapy and the living of life (somewhat, I suppose, as pure math contributes to rocket science).
I still consider myself an unreconstructed first-wave guy. But I can't shake the feeling that Giegerich poses challenges to Jungian thought that should not be ignored. I recommend the book, of which this review is far from an adequate summary, to those willing to take up its challenges.
I look forward to renewing my own struggle soon. Spring Journal Books plans a four-volume Collected English Works of Wolfgang Giegerich. The first volume, "The Neurosis of Psychology," will be out shortly.