Mills, J: Jung on Transcendence


Jon Mills


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The term “transcendence” has a convoluted semiotic history, particularly in philosophy and religion. Jung applies the notion in a psychological sense rather than a logical or metaphysical one. His 1916 paper “The Transcendent Function,” written after his break with Freud and during his so-called “confrontation” period, laid dormant for decades, buried in his files until students discovered the manuscript and distributed it for publication in 1957. In his 1958 revision and Prefatory Note published in the Collected Works, Jung believes it was the foundational precursor to his method of active imagination whose trajectory is oriented toward an integration of the personality as a whole. This is a seminal early work that is closely related to the question and process of individuation and the psychological quest of holism, which focuses on the dialectical tension of opposites, onesideness, compensation, and balance within his conceptualization of the Self as a developmental pursuit of the numinous within a trajectory toward achieving a unifying, totalizing, or refined personality, namely, the synthesis of soul. We may immediately question whether this form of unification and holism is possible, but the notion of a psychic “function” that leads to the experiential lived reality of a phenomenal felt transcendence within the subject harbors qualitative psychological-spiritual value. The theoretical unpacking of this early essay further brings us into dialogue with Jung’s more mature work on the conundrum and resolution of opposites exemplified in his preoccupation with the coincidence of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum) and their complexity (complexio oppositorum), hence giving rise to complementarity, tensions, conflicts, and compensation, and their conjunction (coniunctio oppositorum), therefore leading toward their union as balancing activities of psyche teleologically oriented toward achieving wholeness. In this presentation, I explore the possibility of a synthesis of internal opposition that leads to a greater principle of unity through the sublation of soul. I will further examine the “union of conscious and unconscious contents” (CW, 8: 69) in the process of active imagination by drawing on patient material derived through her associations in the analysis of the transference.

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