The International Society for Psychology as the Discipline of Interiority

The International Society for Psychology as the Discipline of Interiority

April 2015 Issue           



The particular procedure of the psychological approach is an absolute-negative inwardization, a recursive progression. It is a relentless movement into the initially hidden (“implicit”) depth of the phenomenon at hand via successive logical negations (the self-negations of the phenomenon’s first immediacy and its subsequent preliminary appearances) so that what it contains in its depths is made explicit, is brought to light, released into its truth (into its being true: “very-fication”), through its being integrated into consciousness, that is to say, into consciousness as consciousness’s own logical form, its very constitution (Wolfgang Giegerich, What is Soul? 2012, pp. 313-14.)).


The 3rd International ISPDI Conference
May 12-14, 2016

Malibu, California

"Interiority, Truth, and Psychology"

Interiority and Truth are key concepts of Psychology as a Discipline of Interiority (PDI) Those wishing to submit proposals are advised to consult the society's website, especially the Definitional Statement, as well as the Concept Wall and Articles pages. Familiarity with the work of Wolfgang Giegerich, such as The Soul’s Logical Life, What is Soul? and Neurosis, is very helpful for understanding PDI. Successful submissions will show evidence of having comprehended the Society’s approach to psychology. As a critical psychology, PDI also encourages informed critiques of its assumptions, utility, accessibility, purpose or validity.

Papers may also focus on one or more of the concepts that are central to PDI. Among others, these include: the psychological difference, the "soul's" logical life, absolute-negative interiorization, dialectical thinking, consciousness and history, and the psychotherapeutic implications of PDI.

We hope you will consider submitting a proposal and look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

The Executive Committee

 serra retreat ad vertical mar14b 2015

The Logic of Image: simulating 'mythic image' in Anselm Kiefer's 'Parsifal II'.

Michael Whan


'His last work is in this respect his greatest masterpiece. In the art of seduction, Parsifal will always retain its rank – as the stroke of genius in seduction.'

Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner

Throughout his thinking and practice, Jung stressed the centrality of image for his psychology: 'image is psyche' (CW 13, § 75). Hillman too kept faith with this notion: 'The datum with which archetypal psychology begins is image … soul is constituted of images … the soul is primarily an imagining activity' (Hillman,1983/2004, p. 18). In the context of depth psychology, both statements reflect analytical and archetypal psychology as historical products of modernity. Thus, they imply the historicity of image. Though both Jung and Hillman acknowledge psychology as emerging in a particular historical period, neither – as far as I'm aware – address explicitly the historicity of image. Understood within the context of its historicity, this means a recognition of the logos of image as reflecting the logic of modern consciousness.

How are we to understand the logical status of image in this historical moment? This matters for Jung's psychology, since very early on, Jung was psychologically sensitive to the aetiology of the present in the individual's psychopathology, going so far as seeing psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on 'infant experience' as containing a neurotic complex at the heart of its thinking. In an early essay entitled 'The Theory of Psychoanalysis' Jung stressed the 'aetiological significance of the actual present': 'The further we get away, in analytical investigations, from the epoch of the manifest neurosis, the less we can expect to find the real causa efficiens … In constructing a theory which derives from causes in the distant past, we are first and foremost following the tendency of our patients to lure us as far away as possible from the critical present. For the cause of the pathogenic conflict lies mainly in the present moment' (CW 4, § 373). Jung here draws on the concept of regression to account for the 'infantile level' of psychopathology, understanding it as a regression of libido, 'going back to … reminiscences'. For Jung, then, the notion of the present was critical in understanding how psychology could itself fall under the influence of a 'regressive activation', and hence avoid what in the present moment gives rise to pathological responses (ibid.). Jung recognized how psychology could itself be neurotic. Further, Jung's emphasis on psychological typology illustrates how the 'personal equation', which itself also expresses the historical locus of the psychologist, influenced the making of psychology. We have therefore, in our psychological relation to image, to think and feel our way into our understanding of the nature of the image and its workings as either a defence against or as truth of modernity, as a truth of the soul as it is today.

What, then, if we raise the question: Is Jung's psychology and its legacy of the notion of mythic image as the fundamental datum, a 'regressive activation' away from the 'epoch' of the 'critical present'? Is our notion of image essentially a 'going back to... reminiscences', denying Jung's insight that 'In history there is no way back' (1976, p. 346)? Do we equate image with the soul? Or, according to the notion of soul as absolute negative interiority, do we need to 'see through' the image to soul? Psychological work entails, Jung asserts, not falling for the 'suggestive power' (CW 7, § 269) of images. This means also understanding the logical status of the image. Analytical and archetypal psychology identify the image as the authentic (a-temporal) language of the soul. According to both psychological approaches, images give imaginal form to the primordial level of our subjective and collective experiences. Images are the expression of the mytho-poetic psyche, its Urerfahrung, the primordial, archetypal experience – its mode of mythic being-in-the-world. For Jung, image reflects the immediacy of the soul. Giegerich contests this, pointing out how the archetypal imaginal expression of 'subjective experience' is mediated by '(often subliminal) cultural reminiscences … [and as with Jung] by scholarly learning'. Subjective imaginal experience, the stuff of analysis and psychotherapy, Giegerich argues, is less the authentic, spontaneous imaginal language of the soul, than 'a subjective substitute for and simulation of former objective soul truths', long since superseded 'because mankind has entered a new mode and logic of being-in-the-world' (Giegerich, 2012, p. 118; italics mine.).

The question I seek to address is that of image as simulation: that simulation is the logical status of the image in our medial age. Further, that in the logical status of the imaginal as simulation, as simulacra, we come upon the 'suggestive power' of images in psychology. The imaginal is a seductive anima. Yet, is this also the way of the soul undoing the grip of image over psychology, the soul's own dialectical self-contradictory attempt to heal its identification with its former (symbolic, imaginal) 'objective soul truths', as acted out in analytical and archetypal psychology, and elsewhere. The difference between, say, an authentic, epiphany of a 'god' and its simulated, imaginal appearance lies in the difference between presentation, its (the god's) actual, ontological presencing, and its fabricated re-presentation. As Giegerich puts it: the depiction of a 'god', 'the presentation in an image', as art, entails 'an image that releases and opens itself into a whole “world”'. In terms of modernity and its techno-logic, with 'fabrication (in contrast to presentation)', the point is to make something be, to have a literal 'existence as a positive fact' (2007, p. 189). Such a 'positive fact' includes not only the physical, but also positivistic notions as in metaphysics and psychology – as when, for instance, in Jungian psychology we take notions of 'the Self' as an empirical, 'positive fact' operating in the psyche. The dissemination of simulation, through such instruments as the Web and television and other cultural media, serves to let 'the show be' (ibid., p.193). The naturalistic bias in psychology, when we assume that the symbols and images that we find in our subjective experiences are nature, conceals the way that the logical constitution of modernity, its mode of being-in-the-world, has through its techno-logic, re-constituted subjective experience. Subjective experience in the context of imaginal psychology, its taken-for-granted, unquestioning reign of image, which obfuscates the crisis of representation, has become simulated experience (Smith, 2001, p. vii). Hence, even 'being authentic' may be but a simulated authenticity, say, for instance, a kind of hysterical effort to feel and express an emotion, in the way one would if one was truly being authentic. Such simulacra act out in psychology a concealment of the soul's rupture from nature, such as the contrivance of anima mundi. Jungian psychology contradicts itself in an undialectical way, when, asserting its alchemical credentials, it purports that the symbols and images of the analytical process, are natural. For, were it true to its alchemical ethos, it would recognize their fabrication, their being as an opus contra naturam, a 'work against nature'. That is to say, against naturalistic consciousness.

Throughout Giegerich's writings, the term simulation appears in many places, but he eschews using the term as a moralistic judgement. Rather, he states, it is not a matter of dishonesty, pretence, 'but that the bond of necessity between subjective mind and image/idea … is simulated … “simulation” is … the description of an objective quality' (2007, p. 322). Continuing, he elaborates on what is meant by 'objective quality': 'the modern image as simulation of image means that the image is reduced to a kind of external packaging that hides and shuts away its inner substance and truth. Within itself, the image logically negates its own substance, turns against it'. In the techno-logic of modernity, the image has lost its depth: it 'is now all presentation [fabrication], display, without really being the presentation of some imaginal substance or depth'. For, the 'image within itself burns up its imaginal substance in the process and for the purpose of its sheer self-presentation. It uses its substance as fuel.' Nevertheless, this is not a mistake: 'It is intended; it is the inherent telos of the logic informing the information society' (ibid., p. 323). Indeed, the stress on emotion, on connecting with and expressing 'one's feeling', on 'body-work', in contemporary psychotherapy, corresponds to the logical status of image as simulation, since the image is no longer mythic, 'gnoseological, aiming for a knowing, meaning, concept. It is now functional. It aims exclusively for the intensity of the impression it makes, the intensity of the excitement and stimulation of the senses and emotions it evokes, or, sometimes, of the suggestive power of a vague feeling of “meaning” it provides' (ibid.). Image as simulation seeks to persuade. Rather than meaning, we have a 'staging of meaning … Immense energies are deployed … to avoid the desimulation that would confront us in the face of the obvious reality of a radical loss of meaning' (Baudrillard, 2010, p. 80). Emotion and 'body work' are there to supply some 'feeling' and 'sensation' to substitute for the voiding of reference, historical locus, 'substance' through the image's self-negation, its inner 'burn-out', to avoid the loss of 'meaning'.

Simulacra cancel out the difference between the historical locus in which the images originally and authentically belonged and the context in which they are re-produced in modernity (Smith, 2001, p. 2). The image refers to itself alone, it is its 'own pure simulacrum' (Baudrillard, 2010, p. 6). The loss of the real historical locus of the image, its truthful grounding, say, in an authentic mythic culture, in which the mythic image opens onto a true mode of mythic being-in-the-world – its 'worlding' – rather than the private world of subjective experience of the modern individual, means the real of the image is swallowed up in medial hyperreality. A vivid instance: the Lascaux cave. To protect the original wall paintings, a replica was built close by. Visitors could look through a peephole at the authentic cave, then go and view the replica. But even if the original cave may remain in the memory, also of future generations, yet, 'from now there is no longer any difference: the duplication suffices to render both artificial' (ibid., p. 9).


To turn now to the work of Anselm Kiefer, the contemporary German artist. My approach though is mainly through the study of Kiefer's works by the Jungian analyst/archetypal psychologist, Rafael López-Pedraza, entitled Anselm Kiefer, 'After The Catastrophe' (1996). The reference to 'After The Catastrophe' is to Jung's essay on Wotan (CW 10), in which Jung sought to account for the Nazi phenomenon through the mythology of the Germanic god. López-Pedraza states that Jung offers a psychological 'diagnosis … which demonstrates that the characteristics of the German god Wotan go a long way toward explaining the historical behavior of the Germans in terms of a particular biology'. He quotes Jung, saying that Wotan was a 'fundamental attribute of the German psyche' (CW 10, §§ 375, 389, 391). López-Pedraza provides a Jungian conception of Kiefer through his analysis of Kiefer's personality and creativity, proposing that Kiefer as a gifted artist is able 'to activate in himself the German past, its mythology, and history from its primitive beginnings to Hitler and National Socialism'. Kiefer is able to regress to 'the historical past', which López-Pedraza perceives as Kiefer's individuating search for himself and part of this 'is through Germany's historical past and its collective unconscious, within himself' (1996, p. 13). The emphasis in Jung's study of what López-Pedraza calls a 'psycho-biological view' and on which his own analysis of Kiefer's work draws, roots both accounts partly in nature as an explanatory factor. The reference to the 'collective unconscious' as a fundamental psychic factor posits the psyche as partly rooted in the instincts, hence grounding the psychological explanation naturalistically. From this perspective, the imaginal at its deepest level is a 'natural' phenomenon. There is a continuum from the depths of nature to the cultural level – Jung's spectrum (and López-Pedraza's 'psycho-biological') between the instinctual and the spiritual ends of the psyche – rather than rupture and sublation.

López-Pedraza explores many of Kiefer's paintings, both offering subtle Jungian understandings of them, but also showing how the paintings provide 'many insights into psychology' (p. 89). Kiefer's art is thus illuminated by psychology, and psychology by Kiefer's art. Kiefer's employment of mythical and alchemical motifs in his paintings make his works of special interest to Jungian psychology, specifically as articulating the eruption out of the depths of the 'collective unconscious' the archaic (the mythic/archetypal) into modern, imaginal, art form. López-Pedraza's study is but one of many studies of Kiefer's work, which point toward the rich impact of his work. Kiefer's images provoke much reflection.

I want to focus on just one painting, of which López-Pedraza writes: the 'enormous painting Parsifal II 1973 is Kiefer's depiction of a great European myth, one that contains a strong theme of redemption' (p. 38). He continues: 'in this painting … Kiefer begins to express openly the psychology of “after the catastrophe”' (p. 40). So in linking Parsifal II with Jung's essay, López-Pedraza argues that Kiefer expresses 'openly' the myth of the psychology of the 'catastrophe'. Whereas further down the same page, he appears to retract this claim: 'Kiefer's rendering of Parsifal confronts us with a myth that does not function'. Why this change of heart? In his 'Acknowledgments', López-Pedraza refers to Niel Micklem, the British Jungian analyst, for 'his cogent reading of the images of Parsifal...'. However, what Micklem discerns in the Parsifal painting questions López-Pedraza's approach. A question that opens up onto that of simulation. For Micklem perceives something different in this painting than a mythic image opening onto the archetypal, 'psycho-biological', psychology of the 'catastrophe'. Quoting him in full, he writes, having seen the painting in the Zürich Kunsthaus, 'Then I found this socking great Kiefer! Its size alone is moving. Let me tell you what I saw. What it means I have no idea!: An enormous claustrophobic wooden room with no windows; empty, threatening and unpleasantly uncanny. Two monstrous constructions of wooden beams in the room doing nothing and reminiscent of gallows. A bucket of blood in the middle, such as you might see at a butcher's. Amfortas is down below in spirit and unredeemed. Parsifal is up in the air in spirit. The myth doesn't seem to work, and the myth not working is a claustrophobic building with pompous constructions – empty' (p. 38, italics mine.).Following on from Micklem's cogent insight, López-Pedraza notes that the 'statement that the painting depicts a myth that does not work is striking; it suggests that the myth once functioned but now does not, making us wonder about Kiefer's intention … Furthermore it challenges our thoughts about myth itself' (p. 38). What of Kiefer's intention? Is there not a suggestion in the paintings title: Parsifal II? For does not the 'II' imply a duplication – Parsifal II as a simulated image? The duplication implied in the title begs the question of Parsifal 'I', recalling the Lascaux cave and its duplication.

The myth not working 'is a claustrophobic building', as if the vertical dimension can no longer fit with and into the lesser horizontal dimension of the 'pompous constructions'. Or, if it does, only through the transformative (simulating) conditioning of the logic of modernity. Furthermore, the stress is upon emptiness. That is, the 'enormous claustrophobic room', as simulation, has undergone its own self-negation – implied also by the 'wooden beams … reminiscent of gallows'. The myth not working means the myth can no longer serve to redeem. The logic of the image as simulated has negated its own mythic 'substance'. 'Amfortas is … unredeemed'. Myth can no longer save us. The 'interiority' of Kiefer's image is a claustrophobic interiority. It is a simulated, inflated interiority, which, though it alludes to the Parsifal myth, at the same time dialectically cancels it out, raising it to a different level of logical complexity, one belonging to the logos of the simulacrum. It is an inflated interiority masquerading as an 'inner infinity'. It is an image that incorporates the negations in the history of Western art. Rather than being an immediate expression of mythic substance, it is complex, mediated, self-interpreting, and self-referencing. Its 'meaning', I suggest, lies in the challenging questions it raises to 'our thoughts about myth itself'. The logic of Kiefer's painting is that of duplication, not 'primordial experience', Urerfahrung. What then of the intentionality of the painting as image? The image depicts more a 'theatre setting', a staging of a myth no longer working. By entitling the painting Parsifal II, Kiefer alludes to another Parsifal. Is this to the original myth? The 'dramatic staging' suggests otherwise, it points to Wagner's music drama (Gilmour,1990, p. 61). Gilmour argues that 'the painting resists our desire to read it in simple realistic terms … the sheer size of the work … reminds us of the abstract sublime'. The painting points rather to the Wagnerian pretentions of German mythology, rather than a truthful expression of it. The angle of the painting, its enormous size, suggests 'we are below the floor level looking up onto a stage … This provides a theatrical atmosphere. The painting creates a 'symbolic conflict' leaving an unresolved question as to 'whether the Parsifal ideal, the music-drama that celebrated it, and the culture that supported them both has played a positive or negative role within history' (ibid., p. 62). The Kiefer work, through its simulated nature, functions at a more ironic, sophisticated level, with different levels of interpretation, than that as a pure symbolic expression of 'Redemption' straight from the psyche's archaic depths : 'Kiefer's relocation of the myth within the confines of an empty attic room appears to revere the myth and to debunk its pretentiousness' (ibid., p. 66). The painting is rather a staging of 'meaning', not primordial presentation; even the 'woodgrain' depicted in the image is an allusion to the Wagnerian staging of the Parsifal drama and its ideological impact on and in recent German history (ibid., p. 73). This is the function of simulation, to provide a staging, a show that something be, doing so through its capacity to fabricate 'presentation'.

When some Jungians speak of 'dreaming the myth onwards', they deceive themselves, for such 'dreaming' cannot be the selfsame logic and ontology of our once mythic being-in-the-world. Kiefer's painting points to the difference of the logic of that world-relation, of the soul's self-relation: a difference comprising the difference between a simulated mythic 'interiority' and an authentic mythic image, which contained the world wholly within itself. As Jameson has put it: we are 'aware of a new and original historical situation in which we are condemned to seek History by way of our own pop images and simulacra of that history, which remains forever out of reach.' (Jameson, 1984: 66; quoted in Gilmour, 1990, p.164). The numbering of the painting also indicates a fundamental rupture, for with the 'II', One has become Two, which means the basic archaic unity of mythic being-in-the-world, the participation mystique, has broken, the simulacrum denotes the image's estrangement from any grounding, like a map without any territory, it is an abstraction of techno-logic, in the form or the appearance of the imaginal. The image under this logic is a mask concealing absence, a deception which pretends to be symbolically expressive of presence. The One becoming Two of Parsifal II intimates the impossibility of the painting as an authentic 'first immediacy' of mythic existence. Kiefer, I contend, seeks to expose and discern the dissociation in the way the painting's title indicates a pushing off from Oneness, implying the work of dialectical negation. If the imaginal bespeaks the positivism of the imagination, with the order of simulation this has undergone a self-negation, its self-emptying. Simulation is the positivized image of what is essentially, in its truth, negation. Kiefer's painting as a myth that doesn't work, which López-Pedraza has to admit against the thesis in his book, shows the soul's work through simulation rendering the redundancy of the mythic substance of image, the supercession of mythos by logos.

Image as simulation intends the soul's work to bring home to consciousness by way of disappointment and disillusionment – the nihilism, the emptiness, that clings to simulacra – and work off its former soul truths: 'Consciousness cannot simply be asked to “swallow” the fact that it lives in modernity or adulthood. Rather it will have to go the negative way of learning, the way of the systematic refutation and destruction of each and every possible way in which the utopian premise of the absolute principle and its celebration might be defended. One by one all subterfuges must be cut off. It has to find out for itself that there is no feasible alternative to modernity, no way to get out of it' (Giegerich, 2013, p. 349). The Kiefer image of the (Wagnerian music-dramatic) staging of Parsifal II, gives artistic form to the 'Sacred Festival Drama' of the 'absolute principle' in its emptiness.

An essay by Margrit Burri in Spring some years ago explores the distortion, falsification and bedevilling of Germanic Mythology. She identifies a number of factors for this distortion, noting that the source for Jung's essay on Wotan, Ninck, though valuable has decided limitations (Burri,1978, p. 93; Ninck,1935). Further, relevant to Kiefer's image as a reference to Wagner's staging of Parsifal, which itself is a theatrical, simulated expression of a myth, a highly 'ritualized' music drama, Burri cites Nietzsche's insightful remarks (Her Nietzsche source is not referenced): 'This music, as Nietzsche showed, is the music of an absolutized feeling torn off from everything else. Nietzsche spoke of the loss of the ability to let an extreme feeling go. In other words, this music is created by the desire to drown oneself in emotion, to give oneself over to it totally and to dissolve in it … [Wagner] had the creative power to express … what is an indispensable aspect of 'modern' consciousness at large: a split off absolutized feeling that also dominates today's psychotherapy' (ibid., pp. 93-94). Burri's words point to the correlation, the bond (bondage), between the image as simulation and the attempt to overcome its inherent objective quality as 'empty over empty' (Ted Hughes, 'Crow') through emotion and inflated feelings, not only in culture at large, the media's dramatization and sensationalism of emotion, but no less in psychotherapy. The Jungian denotation of experiences, dreams, fantasies, as 'numinous', as 'the sacred', is another instance of this sway of 'absolutized feeling'. The emptiness of the Kiefer painting, I suggest, is an ironic counterpoint, seeing through (Wagnerian) emotionalism to an exposure of the 'Sacred Festival Drama' in his Parsifal music and its staging. As Jung himself observed in his 'After The Catastrophe', 'And what could they not have learned from the suet-and-syrup of Wagner' (CW 10, § 432). As such, can we not take it as an insight, discerning the simulated character of the 'mythic' image through which we 'celebrate' the 'absolutized feeling', which we act out by installing obsolete soul truths, in order to ward off realization of its logic of the self-emptied image? What Kiefer shows in his painting is not a symbolic image granting us access to a primordial imaginal, an 'archetypal' image, rather, how this myth of Redemption has fallen under the sway of the logic of simulation and its accompanying 'absolutized feeling', and thus expresses the soul truth of today's logic of the image. The Kiefer Parsifal image is a work of desimulation which dialectically corrodes its ’mythic’ simulating, imaginal wrapping from within, exposing graphically the void it is meant to a-void.


The psychological insight into Kiefer's painting as depicting a myth that doesn't work points to the way the image under the logic of simulation lets the show be. Elsewhere in López-Pedraza's book with his take on Kiefer's work as giving artistic expression to the archetypal psyche, the nature of the image as simulation goes undetected. Indeed, the book is a high-level exemplar of analytical/archetypal psychology's unconsciousness of the mythic imaginal, of the 'ensouled', inner world of the archetypal as simulated. The fabrication of 'presentation' positivizes that inner world, the archetypal, the 'psycho-biological', as 'positive fact'. The real has become the hypperreal, which is actually a seductive defence against the aetiology of the historical present, a derealization that keeps the void concealed within the 'wrappings' of imaginal simulation, and to which Kiefer alludes with the emptiness of the claustrophobic room of Parsifal II.

Michael Whan


Baudrillard, J. 2010. Simulacra And Simulation, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press.

Burri, M. 1978. 'Repression, Falsification , and Bedevilling of Germanic Mythology', translated into English by Wolfgang Giegerich, Spring, An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought, Irving.

Giegerich, W. 2007. Technology and the Soul, Collected English Papers, Volume Two, New Orleans, Spring Journal Books.

________ What Is Soul, 2012. New Orleans, Spring Journal Books, 2012,

________ 2013. Neurosis, The Logic of a Metaphysical Illness, New Orleans, Spring Journal Books.

Gilmour, J. C. 1990. Fire On The Earth, Anselm Kiefer And The Postmodern World, Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

Hillman, J. 1983/2004. Archetypal Psychology, Connecticut, Spring Publications

Jameson, F. 1984. ''Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', New Left Review 146 (1984): 66; quoted in Gilmour, 1990,

Jung, C. G. C. G. Jung Letters, volume 2, 1951-1961, selected and edited by Gerhard Adler in collaboration with Aniela Jaffé, translations from the German by R, F. C. Hull, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976

López-Pedraza, R. 1996. Anselm Kiefer, 'After The Catastrophe' London, Thames and Hudson.

Smith, M. W. 2001. Reading Simulacra, New York, State University of New York Press.

Ninck, M. 1935. Wotan und germanische Schicksalglaube, Diederichs.


Report from Berlin: Is there a modern soul?

Through the auspices of the Guild for Psychological Studies in the San Francisco Bay Area, about twenty people gathered on February 28, to hear about the “psychological difference” from those of us who attended the ISPDI Berlin conference in July 2014.

Faith Mason pushed off from her topic title,  “The Psychological Difference: So what? Why bother?” She offered an introductory description of the psychological difference for those unfamiliar with that idea and Giegerich’s writing. She gave a few examples of beginning thinking, where one might see the effect of the psychological difference in one’s life and thinking. One specific example began with the subjective experience of procrastination as a personal failure or weakness. However, when procrastination is viewed from the point of view of psychology it is seen as a manifestation of the difference between ego-time and soul-time; a thought that thinks itself can only ripen, come to consciousness, in a time that does not conform to the ego’s expectations. A soulful reflection on procrastination changes our relationship with time. The talk as a whole was an example of the struggle a human might engage in when trying to discern the implications of the point of view of the psychological difference, and therefore a memoir of sorts of this process.

Harry Henderson explored the practical implications of the psychological difference under the title, “The Psychological Difference as Perspective and Tool.” His presentation suggested that difference is fundamental to existence. The psychological difference represents difference becoming conscious of itself. We can experience its reality more concretely by reflecting on how it expresses itself in the course of our life and in our relationship to the soul phenomena of our time. The psychological viewpoint is also of practical utility in gaining a deeper understanding of modern technological and economic developments.

Hal Childs provided an introduction to the psychological difference by way of, “A brief history of the psychological difference.” First touching on the limitations of Jung’s personalistic notion of “the unconscious,” he then showed how the psychological difference has created itself through the transformations of the logical forms of consciousness soul has adopted throughout western history. The “mythological difference” and the “humanistic difference” were described in order to point to the contemporary development of the psychological difference. The shift that creates the psychological difference is that the difference moves from being an external factor that consciousness encounters outside of itself (gods, goddesses, metaphysics, and raw materialistic nature), to the contemporary situation when the difference is now a function of consciousness itself, the tension and duality of consciousness being conscious of itself in the light of the conscious distinction between ego and soul.

The three presentations on the psychological difference set the table for an experiment that brought the group into an interactive process of guided psychological reflection on two texts taken as soul documents, one ancient and one modern. Hal prepared the group with a guided explanation of the difference between an ego reaction and a soul interpretation with the mythic image of the Phoenix. The ego might react to the image of the Phoenix’s self-immolation and re-creation as horrible, or as a miracle, or as impossible. A soul interpretation would abstract the dynamic image and might see the interior idea that is thinking itself as the Phoenix in terms of the death-rebirth cycle, or an ouroboric process of self-sublation, or even as an image of devotion to a psychological phenomena. After this added introduction to the psychological difference we approached our texts with questions that guided our reflection either line by line or word by word.

The ancient text that we explored was the empty jar parable found in the Gospel of Thomas (logia 97):

The kingdom of God is like
A woman [who] was carrying a jar full of meal.
While she was walking on a distant road,
the handle of the jar broke
and the meal spilled behind her on the road.
She did not know it; she had not noticed a problem.
When she reached her house, she put the jar down
and discovered that it was empty.

For each descriptive line of the parable, our basic question was, “What is soul saying about itself?” Or, “What process is the thought that is thinking itself undergoing?” With a group this size the process of reflection is fairly spontaneous, and there is no attempt to arrive at a unified consensus, but the focus is always on the text as soul document. One of the disciplines in this process is that each response is to the question not to some other person's response. We do not encourage conversation but rather soulful reflection. What we hope for with such a group process of reflection is to introduce people to the possibilities that arise when we are conscious of the difference between the ego level and psychology’s thoughtful responses. If the group can maintain its commitment to an awareness of the psychological difference, this helps each person discriminate between their ego response and how soul is creating itself in the moment in the phenomenon.

The modern text we worked with derives from Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Hal first came across this “aphorism” in Wired magazine, vol. 20.05 (May 2012) (“The Man Who Knows What’s Next.” pp. 163-169.)

“Software is eating the world.”

With such a short statement we worked word by word, exploring “software,” “eating” and “world” in the present tense.

We find that working with a group utilizing questions adds a dynamic and collaborative dimension to the process of reflection that is engaging and creative. The immediacy of multiple points of view from several individuals walking around the same idea (the text) can lead to insights that would not be possible in solitary thought. Of course, group process will limit the sustained deep thought that can occur with the solitary thinker, and we certainly do not think of the group process as a substitute for the lonely labor of the concept. We approach it as a teaching tool that we hope inspires thought. Because questions, by their phenomenological nature, engage the mind and stimulate thought, this group process is also successful in immediately engaging the individual with the work of thought in the moment.

We hope that the notion of the psychological difference became a little more real in the minds of those who attended our Report from Berlin.


Faith Mason, Hal Childs, Harry Henderson

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