Reading Jung: Psychology as Art

I first read Jung in an introductory class taught by Robert Romanyshyn. His instruction for our reading was to take up Jung’s practice of hospitality toward psyche by noticing our reactions and journaling them. I now understand that the attitude of hospitality lives in Jung’s writing as an invitation to the same. Embracing the invitation, we open to how psyche is moving in the writing and in its reading. More than personal reflection, this is an act of engaged relationship

As Susan Rowland makes clear in Jung as a Writer (Routledge Press, 2005), the many figures of psyche find a voice in his writing; the writing embodies psyche. Hospitality is a well-oiled door that opens to a home for figures who knock to enter, to have their say and have what they say matter. The imaginal figure of Jung the writer dwells in the writing as one who, in his struggle to relate to psyche, arrives at hospitality as framing the most viable and fruitful space for relationship. The relationship that birthed their work lives in the writing as an invitation to the same. By virtue of this relationship, the work, process and product, is creative. To paraphrase Rowland, Jung’s words enact and perform the creativity of the psyche (ibid., p.2). If we read in an engaged manner, we participate in a creative act. The same is true of performing a piece of music written by someone else when the performer connects to the intent of what found its way into the work. The performance enacts the act of composition: composer and performer connect to and tend the creative impulse as it finds its way into the living work.

Our relationship with psyche is at the heart of creative acts. When what psyche offers matters to us we are inspired to enmatter the encounter. Being open and susceptible to what psyche offers is the beginning of creativity. Susceptible, we become imaginally malleable like clay. As we create we are figured by the emerging creative impulse–an intent that is in some sense not our own yet implicates us. This exemplifies what goes on all the time: psyche imagines us.

Our relationship to the emerging creative impulse lives in what we create. Our figural identity in the work lives in the work as an imaginal force that, particularly for those who stand susceptible before it, locates them in relationship to the work. As we open to a created work, it imagines us. As we read the writing psyche writes us. This is the power of Jung’s writing: it locates us in hospitable relationship to psyche which releases its generativity.

Ill at ease or at home, psyche dwells in language. When psychology is artful psyche thrives in its logos.

As soon as ideas cease being art they are dead to us.

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