If the University Won't Have Jungians, Then How Might Jungians Have the University?

The following article by Michael Vannoy Adams is a paper presented on the panel "Jung at the University: An Academic Challenge" at the 16th Congress of the International Association for Analytical Psychology in Barcelona, August 30, 2004.

Because I believe that the proper name "Jung" tends to privilege an individual over a discipline and even implicitly to countenance a personality cult, I shall not be talking about Jung at the university. Instead, I shall talk about Jungians and Jungian psychology at the university. I am personally much more interested in Jungian Studies than "Jung Studies." If I may say so, thank God I am a Jungian and not Jung.

The absence of Jungians and Jungian psychology at the university is conspicuous. It is not at all immediately obvious to academics that Jungians and Jungian psychology belong at the university. It would never independently occur to a psychology department in a major university to propose a position specifically for a Jungian. The positions that Jungians occupy as academics at Texas A&M University and Essex University are exceptions that prove the rule. Jungians were not appointed to positions that already existed at those universities. Two new, special positions dedicated explicitly and exclusively to Jungian psychology had to be established. Jungians and Jungian psychology would not be at Texas A&M University and Essex University had not an individual and a Jungian institute donated considerable sums of money to those universities for that opportunity. (Does this experience recommend the active solicitation of philanthropy as an effective strategy and tactic to increase the presence of Jungians and Jungian psychology at other universities?)

Since 1986, I have held a variety of positions at the New School in New York City. I have been associate provost of the university and director of a Psychoanalytic Studies program that I personally designed quite specifically to include Jungian courses on an equal basis with other psychoanalytic courses, and I have taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in Jungian Studies and other Psychoanalytic Studies. Not everyone at the New School appreciated a Psychoanalytic Studies program that included courses on Jung, Jungians, and post-Jungians. Eventually, I was replaced as director of the program, and the program was redesigned effectively to exclude Jungian Studies. Sadly, the program is now defunct. Currently, at the New School I teach such undergraduate courses as "Dream Interpretation," "Psychoanalyzing Greek and Roman Mythology," and "Psychoanalyzing Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Mythology."

One other faculty member teaches Jungian psychology at the New School. He teaches such graduate courses as "Freud and Jung," "The Individuation Process: The Analytic Psychology of C.G. Jung," and "Seminar on Selected Problems in the Psychology of C.G. Jung." Over the years, he has also supervised a number of Jungian research projects in the clinical psychology program, including the doctoral dissertations of two Jungian analysts who are colleagues of mine in the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association. He is not a Jungian analyst, but he is a real rarity - a professor with tenure who regularly teaches Jungian courses and supervises Jungian research projects in the clinical psychology program of a university.

Rather than simply report on the amount and kind of Jungian Studies at the New School, I propose to inquire into and reflect on what the negative consequences are for the profession of Jungian analysis that there is no significant Jungian presence at universities. I shall then suggest some possible ways that, even if the university will not have Jungians, Jungians might have the university.

A recent issue of a Jungian journal contains two references to Jungians and the academy. Wolfgang Giegerich notes that "Jung's work did not attract and inspire great minds" (as Freud's work did) and "academically stayed a nonentity" (2004: 41-2). Greg Mogenson describes Jungians as "the tadpoles in the backwater." According to this metaphor, Jungians are undeveloped creatures in an isolated place. Jungians are not mature, and they are not in the mainstream. "And the tadpoles in the backwater," Mogenson exclaims, "wonder why academics and other makers of the modern mind have so little interest in Jungian psychology!" (2004: 71).

It is inaccurate to say that academics and other makers of the modern mind have little interest in Jungian psychology. They have no interest in it: zero. If I were asked to name an internationally eminent academic with a serious interest in Jungian psychology as a vital contemporary field of study, I could not name a single one. I do not mean simply an academic with tenure, publications, a respectable reputation, and curiosity about Jung. I mean an academic with real distinction in any discipline - but perhaps especially in psychology. What major, even famous, academic in any discipline ever so much as mentions Jungian psychology or any Jungians after Jung? None.

What are academics interested in? They are interested in ideas. In contrast, James Hillman says, "it seems that Jungians are not interested in ideas." Or, to be more exact, it seems that many Jungians are not interested in any ideas except Jung's ideas. According to Hillman, many Jungians believe that "they have all the ideas they need; Jung gave them the ideas, all they need do is apply them." Hillman says of such Jungians: "They are satisfied." Many Jungians, he says, "simply live off Jung's ideas" (1983: 35-6).

Jungians tend to be interested in ideas other than Jung's only when those other ideas seem to confirm Jung's ideas. Such Jungians are ever eager opportunistically to appropriate any ideas that apparently provide such confirmation. For those Jungians, the epitome of a perfect new idea is really a very old idea that they proudly believe Jung already discovered years ago and academics only now have independently and tardily rediscovered. (Those Jungians conveniently disregard any new ideas that refute Jung's old ideas.) This is all an attempt to defend Jung's ideas so that Jungians can complacently continue to apply them - I would emphasize, uncritically.

Before I began to write these remarks, I took a word association test. It was a one-word word association test. When I associated to the word "university," the word that occurred to me was "criticism." Criticism seems to me most accurately to define the activity that universities exist to provide. The title of a famous book in the philosophy of science is Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (Lakatos and Musgrave 1970). If the purpose of universities is the growth of knowledge, then criticism is the means to that end. "Criticism" is not, however, a word that I immediately associate with "Jungians." In fact, in The Fantasy Principle: Psychoanalysis of the Imagination, I criticize Jungians for not being critical:

Jungians do not need controversy merely for controversy's sake, but they could very much use some controversy over serious issues - as well as some criticism (if at least some of them could develop a capacity not to take that criticism personally). What interests me is the possibility of Jungians who are not sensitive to criticism and therefore defensive about it but who are receptive to criticism and reflective about it. A receptive, reflective ego in effective relation to a constructively (and deconstructively) critical unconscious is what I consider to be the sine qua non of any psychoanalysis. It is a necessary (if not sufficient) condition for each and every increase in consciousness. (Adams 2004: xii)

If Jungians could use some controversy, perhaps they could also use a new term. In addition to all of the introverts and extraverts, perhaps there should be at least a few "controverts."

The Fantasy Principle includes a discussion of the "critic" as an internal object, personification, subpersonality, or archetypal image. I note that, to the extent that the unconscious exists to offer to the ego constructive criticism (and, I would add, deconstructive criticism), "for Jung, the entire unconscious is, at least functionally, the 'critic!'" (Adams 2004: 47). From a Jungian perspective, the function of the unconscious is to criticize the attitudes of the ego in an effort to increase consciousness. This is the purpose that criticism serves in any sincere, authentic Jungian analysis. If the ego is receptive rather than defensive, criticism from the unconscious presents an opportunity for an increase in consciousness. In contrast, criticism serves no such apparent purpose in the profession of Jungian analysis. Criticism is simply not integral to the profession of Jungian analysis. If, however, criticism were a dominant value and a regular, systematic activity in the profession of Jungian analysis, it could, as criticism is at the university, be the means to an end - the growth of knowledge.

The absence of Jungians and Jungian psychology at universities deprives Jungians of the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the continuous process of criticism. This continuous process of criticism is vital to the growth of knowledge because it defines trends in traditions of ideas in and across the various disciplines at the university. Jungians have no intimate access to these trends in traditions of ideas. Is there any way for Jungians to make up for what they miss out on by not being at the university? If the university will not have Jungians, might Jungians still, in some significant sense, have the university?

As I have mentioned, I am a member of the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association. In the process of establishing that organization, the members of the JPA engaged in an intense discussion about principles of analytic training. In response to my voicing a concern that, in spite of the best of intentions, the JPA might at some point begin to repeat errors that other training programs have committed in the past, two of my colleagues cautioned me that if I remained backward-looking, continued frequently to refer to the past, then I - and perhaps the JPA, too - would, like Lot's wife, turn into a pillar of salt. When I replied, I mentioned that I know a professor who is writing a book about the image of Lot's wife in literature, art, and culture. I said that if members of the JPA happened to have any interest in analyzing the psychology of "looking back," I would be happy to invite him to give a talk to the JPA on that topic with special reference to the research that he has conducted on Lot's wife. This particular academic is not at all a Jungian, and that is the wonderful irony of it, for he has, in a sense, conducted "Jungian" research and does it much better than Jungians know how to do it - and he is hardly exceptional in that ability.

Some of the very best "Jungians" are non-Jungian academics. For example, I think of a major academic like Michael Walzer, who analyzes the image of "exodus and revolution" in a beautiful book by that name. What interest him are the social and political applications, historically, of that image in the cause of liberation from oppression. Walzer documents the history of the image of a chosen people enslaved in Egypt, freed by belief in one god, and led by a prophet through a wilderness to a promised land. Walzer never so much as mentions Jung, but "exodus and revolution" is what Jungians would call an archetypal image - and, in effect, that is exactly how Walzer regards the image. At the very end of the book, Walzer states three points:

Although Walzer historicizes the image of "exodus and revolution" (he demonstrates how many different individuals and groups throughout history have appropriated the image and applied it to serve their own particular social and political purposes), his conclusion is, in effect, that the reason the image is capable of virtually infinite extension and such recurrent historical application, is that it is, in a sense, "archetypal" (everywhere is "Egypt," somewhere there is a "promised land," the way is always a "wilderness," and so forth).

Another example of a "Jungian" project accomplished by academics who are in no sense Jungians is the lovely book The Medusa Reader (Garber and Vickers 2003). This is an interdisciplinary case book on the image of Medusa from Homer to Gianni Versace. Among the 73 selections included in the book by the editors Marjorie Garber and Nancy J. Vickers are commentaries by three different psychoanalysts - Freud, Sandor Ferenczi, and (one Jungian) Erich Neumann. When Jungians have attempted similar projects, they have tended to be reductive in the extreme. For example, in The Great Mother, Neumann reduces a multiplicity of images of different women to the ostensible unity of "woman" - or reduces many images of a vast variety of females to one putatively eternal essence, the "feminine" (1955). In contrast, The Medusa Reader is a marvel of differentiation. Rather than indulge in an essentialist reduction that would obliterate differences among the various instances of the image of Medusa, Garber and Vickers respect those differences and document them historically.

Consider also the "Implicit Association Test" (Nosek, Banaji, and Greenwald 2002; 2004). I first heard of this test from a psychologist at the New School. What immediately interested me most about the Implicit Association Test was the apparent similarity between it and Jung's Word Association Test. Could it be, I wondered, that Jung's Word Association Test had been the inspiration for the Implicit Association Test? The Implicit Association Test was developed by three social psychologists (none of them psychoanalysts) in order to measure implicit attitudes. "The word 'implicit,'" the three social psychologists say, "is used because these powerful attitudes are sometimes hidden from public view, and even from conscious awareness" (Nosek, Banaji, and Greenwald 2004: 1). As they define "implicit," it is, in at least some dimensions, virtually synonymous with "unconscious." The Implicit Association Test might just as easily have been named the "Unconscious Association Test." There are, however, significant differences between the Word Association Test and the Implicit Association Test. For example, the Implicit Association Test does not use only words. It uses a combination of words and pictures. Also, it does not, as the Word Association Test does, ask subjects to respond, as quickly as possible, with the first word that comes to mind. Rather, it pairs pictures (for example, white and black persons) with words (for example, negative and positive expressions) and forces subjects to respond in ways that measure implicit attitudes about certain sensitive topics - including important social issues such as age, gender, race, the 2004 American presidential election, presidential popularity, sexuality, Arabs and Muslims, weight, religion, disability, Native Americans, Asian Americans, weapons, and skin-tone.

Jungians could also benefit from academics who address issues that have no immediate or apparent relation to Jungian psychology. Jungians would have an opportunity to become much better informed about contemporary ideas. For example, consider the philosopher Jacques Derrida's idea of "deconstruction." Some years ago, I wrote a letter to a Jungian publication in an effort to rectify a misstatement about deconstruction. In a previous issue of the publication, a Jungian analyst had incorrectly asserted that deconstruction "has been carried into psychoanalysis, especially by some followers of Jacques Lacan" (Young-Eisendrath 1995: 5). For me, it was embarrassing that a Jungian analyst would confuse the contributions of Derrida and Lacan. Lacanian analysis has nothing whatsoever to do with deconstruction.

The Jungian analyst defined deconstruction as follows: "Deconstruction is a skeptical philosophy of doubt and criticism of established methods and theories in many disciplines." Then, she also said: "I see little resonsance between Jung and deconstruction" (Young-Eisendrath 1995: 5). This is, to me, a provocative and potentially extremely important question. I was the first Jungian to publish an article on the relation between Derridean philosophy and Jungian psychology (Adams 1985). For many years, I have wondered what relation there might be between Jung's idea of "compensation" and Derrida's idea of "deconstruction." I have suspected that, rather than say that the unconscious tries to compensate the attitudes of the ego, it would be more accurate to say that the unconscious tries to deconstruct the attitudes of the ego. "Compensation," as Jung employs the idea, implies that something from the unconscious is (or might be) added to the ego. "Deconstruction" implies nothing of the sort. Rather, it implies that things (identifications, fixations, associations - or, perhaps Derrida would say, assumptions) are continually subtracted from the ego by the unconscious, which is perpetually problematizing the attitudes of the ego without providing any of those favorite Jungian reassurances such as "balance," "wholeness," and so forth. Because of what I know about deconstruction as a result of my personal experience at the university, my notion about how the unconscious functions in relation to the ego is now, I acknowledge, more Derridean than Jungian, more deconstructive than compensatory. In my letter to the Jungian publication, I said: "I hope that some Jungians will study deconstruction seriously and decide for themselves whether it has anything positive to offer them, both theoretically and practically" (Adams 1995: 7).

I believe that Jungians have much more to gain from the university than the university has to gain from Jungians. If that is true, then in order for Jungians to "have" the university, they are going to have to reach out to academics - and not only to those who are sympathetic to Jungian psychology but also to those who are indifferent or even antagonistic - and invite them into the Jungian scene, bring them literally and physically and psychically into it, in a variety of creative, innovative ways, in order for Jungians to have an opportunity to mingle with them, listen to them and speak to them, share with them, and, I would emphasize, learn from them. I can imagine Jungian training programs appointing academics as "fellows," establishing guest lecture series for important academics, holding conferences on special themes with academics from various disciplines, asking academics to offer courses for candidates at Jungian training programs - and just in general opening up radically to academics in a way that would be both incredibly exciting, enriching, and, of course, disturbing - for to open up and reach out would mean for Jungians to emerge from the isolation that they have defensively indulged in for many years, participate in and contribute to a discourse of real criticism, and actively engage in a dynamic exchange with academics - and, most importantly, with other, different, and new ideas.


Adams, M.V. (1985) "Deconstructive Philosophy and Imaginal Psychology: Comparative Perspectives on Jacques Derrida and James Hillman," Journal of Literary Criticism, 2,1: 23-39. Reprinted in Rajnath (ed.) (1989) Deconstruction: A Critique, London: Macmillan, pp. 138-57, and in Sugg, R.P. (ed.) (1992) Jungian Literary Criticism, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, pp. 231-48.

Adams, M.V. (1995) "Jungians and Deconstruction," Round Table Review, 3,1: 3 and 7.

Adams, M.V. (2004) The Fantasy Principle: Psychoanalysis of the Imagination, Hove and New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Garber, M., and Vickers, N.J. (eds.) (2003) The Medusa Reader, New York and London: Routledge.

Giegerich, W. (2004) "The End of Meaning and the Birth of Man: An Essay about the State Reached in the History of Consciousness and an Analysis of C.G. JungOs Psychology Project," Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, 6,1: 1-65.

Hillman, J. [with Pozzo, L.] (1983) Inter Views: Conversations with Laura Pozzo on Psychotherapy, Biography, Love, Soul, Dreams, Work, Imagination, and the State of the Culture, New York: Harper & Row.

Lakatos, I., and Musgrave, A. (eds.) (1970) Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965, volume 4, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mogenson, G. (2004) "Whaling with Giegerich, the Ahab of the Notion," Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, 6,1: 67-83.

Neumann, E. (1955) The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype, trans. R. Mannheim, New York: Pantheon Books.

Nosek, B., Banaji, M.R., and Greenwald, A.G. (2002) "Implicit Association Test," http://buster.cs.yale.edu/implicit/.

Nosek, B., Banaji, M.R., and Greenwald, A.G. (2004) "Implicit Association Test," http://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/.

Walzer, M. (1985) Exodus and Revolution, New York: Basic Books.

Young-Eisendrath (1995) "Struggling with Jung: The Value of Uncertainty," Round Table Review, 2,4: 1 and 4-7.

Jung New York | Michael Vannoy Adams