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Jun 13, 2024

Are we all neo-Jungians now? by Ginny Hill

In a recent paper for the Journal of Analytical Psychology, I discuss Jung’s creative writing process and his practice of active imagination based on selected entries in The Black Books and Liber Novus, also known as The Red Book. These selected entries concern Jung’s fantasy dialogues with the dead in 1914 and 1916, culminating in Jung’s authorship of Septem Sermones ad Mortuous (Seven Sermons to the Dead)-a stand-alone pamphlet that Jung circulated among peers and colleagues. Jung included an adapted version of Septem Sermones in the third and final manuscript of The Red Book, called Scrutinies.  

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Land of the ancestors

In my article, I explore the importance of these texts in the development of Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious as “mythic land of the dead, the land of the ancestors.” Despite their significance, Jung chose not to publish The Black Books or The Red Book during his lifetime and after his death in 1961, Jung’s family decided against publication for many decades. The Red Book and The Black Books were not published until 2009 and 2020, respectively, by W. W. Norton, in collaboration with Sonu Shamdasani-professor of Jung history at University College London-and The Philemon Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing Jung’s unpublished works to publication.  
In the years between Jung’s death in 1961 and the 2009 publication of The Red Book, those of us interested in Jung’s life and theories were restricted to reading the Collected Works, his published letters, and books aimed at a general readership such as Man and His Symbols and Memories, Dreams, Reflections. During that time, a body of written work developed-including in the Journal of Analytical Psychology-whereby authors elaborated their understanding of what it meant to practice as a Jungian analyst, largely based on the Collected Works and other hitherto public material. Andrew Samuels-a Jungian analyst and professor of analytical psychology at the University of Essex-describes the period since Jung’s death as “post-Jungian” and he identifies three main tendencies emerging among post-Jungian analysts: the classical tendency, with a focus on the self/Self; the developmental tendency, which prioritises the transference and counter-transference; and the archetypal tendency, with a preference towards working with symbols and imagery.   
Samuels published Jung and the Post Jungians in 1985, which itself became an influential text. However, in an interview with my colleague at the Society of Analytical Psychology, Max Noak, in the latest issue of the Jungian journal, Harvest, Sonu Shamdasani, editor of The Red Book and The Black Books, states: “Given the whole notion of the post-Jungians, you have to assume that you know what Jung is if you’ve gone beyond Jung. But Jung has to be there as this black box you depart from, and you know what Jung is, and that’s finished. The publication of Jung’s work is seriously incomplete. You’re dealing with inadequate translations, you simply don’t have the full scope of what Jung was actually saying before you can start saying in you’re developing beyond it” (p. 114).  
The publication of The Red Book and The Black Books marked a significant step towards more a comprehensive understanding Jung’s cosmology and the Jungian world is still coming to terms with the contents, as well as the creative process they represent, despite Jung having written these works more than a century ago. For this reason, I believe we are entering a new phase in our engagement with Jung’s legacy, which we might call neo-Jungian, in that we now have an opportunity to engage directly with two foundational texts documenting the period in which Jung began to explore his fantasies and document his internal world of images, which he referred to as his coming to terms with the unconscious. In his interview for Harvest, Shamdasani describes Jung’s “theology of the dead” (p. 118) as a central concept emerging during this episode and I apply Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious as “the mythic land of the dead” to clinical practice in my journal paper, Therapy for the dead: Working clinically with Jung’s Black Books and The Red Book.   


Ginny Hill is a psychodynamic psychotherapist working in private practice in London. She is a member of the Society of Analytical Psychology and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Analytical Psychology.


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