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Jung's Thought and the Age of Aquarius

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) September 28, 2014: The Swiss psychiatrist and psychological theorist C. G. Jung, M.D. (1875-1961), contributed to the idea that the world is about to enter the Age of Aquarius. He based his contribution to this line of thought on his interpretation of the imagery of the figure of Aquarius in astrology.

I am old enough that I can remember the 5th Dimension's 1969 hit song about the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Their peppy song made the dawning of the Age of Aquarius sound attractive.

After World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Cold War, the imagined Age of Aquarius might sound attractive to certain Americans for understandable reasons.

Of course the idea of a new age has been part of the Christian tradition of thought for centuries. If we were to think of the Second Coming of Christ in the Christ myth as an external event in the real world, then it would be the new age.

However, whatever Dr. Jung might have imagined about the possible potentiality of the Age of Aquarius, his interpretation of the imagery of Aquarius in astrology needs to be brought down to earth.

Dr. Jung concentrated on the second half of life.

Now, for more down to earth imagery, I suggest that we should think of the second half of life as involving the imagery in the Homeric epics, the ILIAD and the ODYSSEY. In each of these epics, we find the proverbial ten years of time. I suggest that we should think of these proverbial round numbers as being elastic. However, as I will explain momentarily, the two Homeric epics are not perfect as analogues for the second half of life.

For a period of years in the second half of life, our ego-consciousness is like the walled city of Troy in the Trojan War. The Greeks are battling to defeat the Trojans in their walled city. Thus the Greeks are analogous to the forces of the unconscious.

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As everybody knows, the Greeks eventually win and conquer the Trojans. Their conquest over the Trojans is analogous to the experience of irreversible madness that Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) experienced from January 1889 to the end of his life. But the experience of irreversible madness does not sound attractive for understandable reasons. So the analogy of the Iliad for the second half of life is not perfect. Nevertheless, the Greek siege of Troy is a wonderful analogy for the siege of the unconscious in the second half of life.

After the Greeks emerge victorious over the Trojans, King Odysseus and his men set sail for their return journey to Ithaca. My, oh my, look at all the hardships that befall Odysseus on his journey back to Ithaca.

Dr. Jung claims that the collective unconscious can be symbolized as the sea. So let's say that Odysseus symbolizes the ego-consciousness that somehow emerges from the Trojan War and the relentless onslaught of the forces of the unconscious. Perhaps the relentless forces of the unconscious in the Trojan War could be understood as the forces of the personal unconscious. In any event, Odysseus is finds himself in the sea of the collective unconscious.

Even when Odysseus eventually reaches Ithaca, look at all the hardships he has to overcome in Ithaca!

Queen Penelope has long been thought of as an icon of patience.

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But think of the patience that Odysseus had to have to endure all his hardships!

Of course the ODYSSEY does have a happy ending when Odysseus and Penelope are brought together in the end. When we are so lucky as to experience in our psyches a psychological process comparable to King Odysseus (representing the masculine spirit in the human psyche) brought together again with Queen Penelope (representing the feminine spirit in the human psyche), the we will experience the kind of personal transformation that Dr. Jung writes about -- which is the key to the emergence of the Age of Aquarius.

However, if we look at King Odysseus' life as portrayed in the ILIAD and the ODYSSEY as symbolically representing the course of life in the second half of life, then we should conclude that the second half of life is filled with struggles and hardships.

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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