Friday, December 20, 2019

[Shadow Work Series] The History of the Shadow: Carl Jung and the Psychologization of Religion

Before we descend into the realms of shadow work, it helps to know its historical origins.  You may be surprised to learn that shadow work is not intimately tied with witchcraft but rather borrowed from psychology.  The concept of the shadow actually comes from a Swiss psychologist named Carl Jung.

Carl Jung

A Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung has had his fingers in everything from philosophy and anthropology to literature and spirituality.  You may best know Jung's work through the concepts of introversion and extroversion, or perhaps you've taken a few Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests.  Jung's theories were the basis for MBTI, particularly his concept of archetypes.
ARCHETYPES. Symbolic images that appear to be universal patterns or themes common to the whole of the human experience.  (Source)
Jung began his studies as a research scientist at Burgh√∂lzli hospital where he eventually caught the eye of the infamous Sigmund Freud.  A long-time supporter of Freud's theories relating to the unconscious mind, Jung began corresponding and collaborating with him.  Freud saw Jung as the heir to his own psychological theories and eventually made Jung the president of newly-created International Psychoanalytical Associaton in 1910.

Like Freud, Jung's research and theories focused on the way our unconscious mind affects our behavior.  The two had a lengthy partnership with shaped much of our views in psychology today.  However, Jung's studies eventually led him away from Freud, causing a lasting rift between the two.

Freud versus Jung
The Division that Developed Modern Analytical Psychology and Shadow Work

Jung embarked on an American lecture tour in 1912.  While there, he publicly criticized a number of Freud's theories, from infantile sexuality to the Oedipus complex.  Additionally, Jung published a book that same year called Psychology of the Unconscious, which included these lectures.  While his lectures and the resulting publication were in no way focused on differentiating his theories from Freud's, Jung lamented later in his autobiography that it was this specifically ended their friendship.  This division was a deep internal struggle for Jung and led to isolation as many of Freud's colleagues distanced themselves from the younger psychologist.  However, this allowed him to continue expanding on his groundbreaking theories that moved away from libido and sex as the primary motivator of the psychological unconscious.  Eventually, his continuous research and development led to him being recognized as the founder of analytical psychology.
ANALYTICAL PSYCHOLOGY: A psychological process that emphasizes symbolic imagery and archetypes as a means of bringing the subconscious into consciousness.  This exploration allows a person to become more aware of what drives their actions and gives them more control over their emotional state and their life. (Source)
While Freud believed that the subconscious stored repressed unacceptable desires, Jung felt the subconscious was instead a storage of archetypes fractured from our self-image.  These archetypes, he theorized, were neither good nor bad, but may have fractured into the subconscious for a variety of reasons.  For Jung, the central goal of the human experience was something called individuation.
INDIVIDUATIONThe process of reintegrating the different archetypes of our subconscious, creating a wholeness of the self. (Source)
One of these subconscious archetypes is known as the shadow, and one form of individuation requires shadow work.

Shadow Work and Witchcraft
The Psychologization of Religion and Jung's Occult Interests

After exploring the history of Jung, you might wonder how shadow work found its way into witchcraft.  During the 20th Century, psychology and religion began to find common ground.  From counselors in churches to the use of religion in 12-step addiction programs, we saw the psychologization of religion.
PSYCHOLOGIZATION: The utilization of psychology and psychological theories in unrelated fields.
We began to see religion and psychology as having similar goals.  Jung saw it too.  While Freud maintained an objective worldview, Jung was pantheistic.  Much of his psychological analysis was based on the cultural structure around patients, which included their religious beliefs.  Individuation, he believed, was the primary goal of all religions and the shadow popped up in all of these systems, from the Christian concept of sin to the Buddhist's false sense of self. In fact, Jung even clarified that he didn't believe God existed - he knew.

Jung also had an interest in the occult.  He attended seances, claimed to have witnessed "parapsychic phenomena," and claimed that spirits were more than simply a psychological figment.  He also associated the process of alchemy with his psychological work, stating that the transformation of lead into gold was a metaphor for individuation.  Jung was even interested in astrology and divination.  It was Jung that proposed synchronicity, the concept of unrelated co-occurrences having deeper meanings, even going as far as to use this as an explanation for the relevance of I-Ching.

Jung's work was often published with wording that was inaccessible to the non-psychologist.  By the time his psychological theories were presented in ways that were more understandable, the New Age/Spiritual milieu was in full swing.  In this particular time period around the 1950s-1970s, history saw the rise of a number of practices, from pagan reconstructionism to witchcraft to new ageism.  One reason why practices and religions like Neopaganism, witchcraft, and New Age/Metaphysics overlap so much is that these movements occurred at similar time frames.  The New Age movement, the development of Wicca from Golden Dawn and European occultism, the reconstruction of Greek, Roman, and Norse beliefs - these were all socio-cultural movements reactionary to events surrounding the time period.  Likewise, Jung's work, which already included spiritual, esoteric, occult-like undertones reflecting the psychologist's personal beliefs, gained popularity during these movements.  Because of this, it's easy to see why something like shadow work might become integrated with some of these practices - thus why many modern witches and pagans take on shadow work as a spiritual practice.

Problems with Jung
Criticism, Critical Thinking, and Caution

Within psychology, Jung's work has been routinely criticized as being pseudo-philosophy and watered-down pop-psychology.  Though he considered himself as an empirical scientist, Jung's theories are often vague and ever-evolving, lacking a way to quantitatively substantiate. Jung's interest in religion, spirituality, and mysticism didn't help matters.  Combining scientific psychology with the likes of mythology and the occult was a red flag that has called Jung's academic rigor into question for many psychologists. Did Jung manipulate the evidence to support his theories?  Did his overgeneralize in a way that made his work relatable without basis?  Were the archetypes of the subconscious Jung proposed as unscientific as astrological signs?  You might see how colleagues and predecessors of Jung might scoff at his work when it's being used in fields far beyond the reach of psychology.  I mean, after all, we're here talking about this on a blog that talks about full moon correspondences and the meanings of stones.  It's up to you on the scientific accuracy of Jung's work and how that relates to its use in your Craft.

Even more so, Jung himself might be his own discreditor.  Jung theorized that one's "cultural residue" had a profound effect on their archetypes.  As such, it's possible that the culture of the time Jung developed his theories has long passed, making them outdated to the modern witch.  Many of his theories when it comes to characterizing genders are markedly sexist.  And in developing his archetypes, Jung was overfocused on European cultural influences. It has been suggested that Jung's theories about innate characteristics of races and genders aren't simply a product of a misinformed time but rather a direct call to the German Nazi Party's chief ideologist, Alfred Rosenberg.  Is this a stretch to make these connections?  Was Jung a product of his time and location or did he have connections to the Nazi party?  Does it matter?  Do we selectively take the important, relevant parts of his work and use it for good or do we throw it all out?  I'm in no way suggesting the latter is the wrong choice.  I've grappled with this in relation to witchcraft itself in the past.  This is simply a decision you'll need to make on your own.

Finally, now that Jung's work is accessible theologized pop-psychology that could be easily integrated with our Craft, there's a concern that shadow work is being seen as a low-cost, brief solution for long-term, costly mental healthcare.  It's important that we make a distinction between the shadow work of the Craft versus medical psychiatry and professional therapy.  Integrating shadow work into your practice can be an effective way of self-analyzation but it in no means a replacement for professional aid.  If you decide that Jungian work is viable for your personal brand of witchcraft, you will also need to decide if you can appropriately handle the work.

All of that being said, for the witch that's still interested and finds themselves in the right state of mind and position in life to move forward, for the witch that can separate the good of the world from the man behind it, for the witch that can reconcile the scientific issues and the theologization of Jung's psychology, shadow work has much to offer.  It can be exceedingly difficult, painful work but, when done with the appropriate amount of critical thinking and self-care, shadow work can be the key to unlocking a door to living consciously and authentically.

Exercise Two
A List of Opposites
Begin by listing every self-trait that comes to mind.  Are you strong-willed? Intelligent? Kind? Maybe a little lazy?  Jot them down in a single column on the left-hand side of the page for as many pages as you need.  Take a week to really nail down everything you feel makes you, you.  Then, when that list is complete, take another week to go through on the right-hand column and fill out their opposites.  Strong-willed? Try weak-willed.  Intelligent? Ignorant.  Kind? Rude. Lazy? Hard-working.  You can use as a means of finding antonyms for your traits.

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