I recently re-read Jung’s Symbols of Transformation, a massive revision of a work he composed  thirty-seven years earlier, as he came to the parting of the ways with Freud. He noted that at 36, when he wrote Wandlungen und symbole der libido (published in 1912), he was still fighting to get out of the narrow box of Freud’s theories, and just embarking on the deeper journey towards death in the second half of life. His introduction to the 1950 edition contains some fine general statements about our relations with myth, suggesting that if we are unconscious that we are living a myth, we may be driven by it to unfortunate or disastrous outcomes. 

     He insists that psychology needs to learn from history just as history can learn from psychology.
     The seed of this book is a 20-page journal of the “autosuggestive” fantasies of Miss Frank Miller, an American woman, a writer and journalist and stage performer.  Jung did not know her personally, and got several things wrong about her. Her name was not a pseudonym; she was named for her father in Alabama. Jung diagnosed her fantasies as “the prodromal stages of schizophrenia” and predicted she would eventually suffer a full schizophrenic breakdown; she did not. However, in 1909 she was admitted to a hospital in Massachusetts diagnosed with a “psychopathic personality” and a tendency to “hypomania”. [1].Her fantasies were published in French translation by Théodore Flournoy, a professor of psychology at the University of Geneva and a student of the paranormal, in 1906. Jung read the French translation, not the original.
    It’s desirable to read this text (published as an appendix) before weighing into Jung’s immense commentaries. Miss Miller was clearly a woman of considerable education and intelligence; she notes where her knowledge had to catch up with her experience. She dreams a hymn of creation in which God first manifests Sound, then Light, the Loves. She notes she had not heard at the time of Anaxagoras, who imagined creation starting from chaos in the form of a whirlwind, which presumably involved sound.
    Jung’s method in exploiting this material is an example of both circumambulation and amplification. He walks round and around the images, then allows himself to find their likenesses on the big screen, in the mythology and iconography of all the world’s cultures that are known to him.
    Jung’s approach – as he admitted many years later – may also be a textbook example of projection: what he finds in Miss Miller’s psyche are the contents of his own.

“I took Miss Miller’s fantasies as … an autonomous form of thinking, but I did not realize [at that time] that she stood for that form of thinking in myself. She took over my fantasy and became the stage director of it, if one interprets the book subjectively. …to put it even more strongly, passive thinking seemed to me such a weak and perverted thing that I could only handle it through a diseased woman.” [Shamdasani, 2012, 27‐ 28]  “And so I assimilated the Miller side of myself, which did me much good. I found a lump of clay, turned it to gold and put it in my pocket. I got Miller into myself and strengthened my fantasy power by the mythological material” [2].

His justification for turning to myth to illuminate the individual psyche is that psyche is more or less the same everywhere. “Because the basic structure of the psyche is everywhere more or less the same, it is possible to compare what look like individual dream motifs with mythologems of whatever origin.” [3]


1.Somu Shamdasani, “A woman called Frank”. Spring: Journal of Archetype and Culture (1990) vol. 50, 25-56. 
2. Somu Shamdasani, Introduction to Jungian Psychology: Notes of the Seminar on Analytical Psychology given in 1925 by Carl Jung. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2012) 32
3. C.G.Jung, Symbols of Transformation, Collected Works volume 5,para 474


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