Since the posts below were part of an ongoing exchange that was archived when the new website was launched, I've copied them below in case anyone would like to continue the discussion.
A few thoughts about reading Giegerich as a psychological work.
The Open Inquiry meeting last Sunday included a discussion about the process of trying to understand certain difficult concepts in Giegerich using outside sources. The question brought up was whether readers of Giegerich’s work consulted Hegel’s writing when trying to understand certain concepts popularized by Hegel. Some people replied in the affirmative while others thought that one should stay within Giegerich’s own work, and let the meaning of these concepts over time, patience, and with ongoing reflection, define themselves.
This started an interesting dialogue. Some pointed out that of course background reading and knowledge in other fields will help one’s understanding of Giegerich’s work. I brought up the question that given that we are in the field of psychology and trying to do psychology (as the discipline of interiority), should we not apply the psychological dictum given to us by Jung and often repeated by Giegerich that, “The image (text, work) has everything it needs within itself” to Giegerich’s work as well?
Jung’s work, viewed psychologically, can be conceived as an example of the general soul “speaking about itself” and, over time, redefining its form (from metaphysical to psychological). Is Giegerich’s work also an example of the soul, or psychology, continuing the process of refining itself? If his work is viewed as psychological, then wouldn’t it also be on the same logical level as a dream or a myth, for example, and could be read as having everything it needs within itself, including it’s own meaning.
This meaning would then only need to be made explicit by a receptive and psychologically open consciousness.
Of course one does not have to read Giegerich psychologically. One could read it technically, for example, in a straight forward manner and view it simply as a basic critique of Jung and Jungian psychology.
In Giegerich’s paper Two Jung’s, he clarifies the Jungian notion of amplification using Jung’s dictum of interpretation using the idea of "staying with the image”. He contrasts this with Freud’s technique of Free Association which eventually leads away from the image. Amplification, says Giegerich, means making something louder, so you can hear it better. The important idea is that in order to “hear” an image or a concept in a dream better, one can consult something “outside” the image but the information found from another source is understood as actually being contained within the image, inherent and implicit within it. It’s the soul of/in that image speaking about itself, deepening itself.
When one understands Giegerich’s work as one that “borrows” terms and concepts from Hegel, for example, instead of the reader comprehending them within their own (psychological) context, this is an unpsychological reading of the work. Not that this is an incorrect approach but I think it runs the risk of missing the point and the soul in the work.
Thank you to Colleen, who hosts the Open Inquiry and to the colleagues who join and discuss these interesting topics. If anyone would like to add to the discussion, feel free. The Open Inquiry is open to all members. Contact Colleen El-Bejjani for information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for initiating this discussion. I have a couple thoughts.
First, I don't consider Giegerich's work--spanning as it does over multiple volumes of thousands of pages--to be an "image" in the same sense as a dream or a myth, for example. So, the methodological approach appropriate to a dream would not be appropriate to Giegerich's work.
Second, did Giegerich not find it extremely beneficial to read Hegel--and, incidentally, also Kafka--en route to cultivating his psychological sensibility? If so, is not what is good for the goose also good for the gander? Giegerich emphasizes at the end of the Soul's Logical Life that the goal of any training of psychologists is the training of the mind. It seems to me that any form of immersion in philosophy, literature, art will shape and form the mind in a more psychologically-attuned manner. That sort of cultivation, like any perfection of craft, is mostly open-ended. Bringing that sort of background to the reading of Giegerich's work will only deepen your comprehension of it.
Is it necessary to read and understand Hegel to understand Giegerich? No. Is it helpful? I would think, absolutely.
Thanks for your comments. I have a couple of thoughts:
1. I do actually think one can read Giegerich's work psychologically, i.e., as the soul speaking about itself or, as Giegerich has subtitled a couple of his books, as "...a contribution to the soul's/psychology's self-clarification." Maybe some of his works lend themselves easier to this methodological stance than others.
2. Of course I don't think that people should not read Hegel or Kafka, or anyone else in order to educate themselves about western thought, history, life, or whatever as part of informing themsleves or training their minds for psychological thinking and understanding. Naturally a psychologist should have a good grasp of as much of the western canon as they can.
But to frame the question that came up in the Open-Inqury differently, "Is it necessary to read Hegel, for example on his idea of the 'Concept,' to understand Giegerich's use of the term, or can one stick only to his work and let the idea, as it shows up in different texts and contexts, "define itself" over time and committed psychological reflection?" Some in the group were for the former, some the later.
In my last post I brought up the idea of amplification (especially when done carefully) as a way of avoiding substituting Hegel's philosophical use of the term, some 200+ years ago, for Giegerich's psychological use of the term today. This would avoid, to go back to the dream example, bringing in external ideas from a symbol book about snakes into the one I had in a dream last night. Amplification, if done properly, allows the snake in my dream to make use of relevant cultural information in order for it to make its own meaning clearer all the while remaining within its particular context.
For me personally, I very much enjoy reading Hegel as well as commentary on Hegel.
But I try and keep the two "snakes" separate, even though they are both "snakes"!
Thank you, John, for starting this very interesting topic. I would like to share two thoughts.
On some level I can follow Dan’s critique that a person’s work cannot be addressed in the same way as a myth. The work of a single person always stays somehow personalistic and we run the risk of falling into the anthropological fallacy. But there is not only Giegerich. There is also the ISPDI. That is the change from a person to a society or from an individual to something collective. Furthermore, the ISPDI now acts itself out without the person Giegerich being directly involved. Our patron does not participate in the discussions here. We even do not know whether he reads any postings at all. All that does not bring PDI to the level of a myth, but Giegerich<->myth is a qualitative difference whereas PDI<->myth is a quantitative one. I think that the movement of PDI, i.e. including but not limited to Giegerich’s work, not only can but must be addressed as the soul speaking about itself. How could we seriously speak about self-relation or about psychology or the soul coming home to itself if we did not allow PDI coming home to itself?
In regards to the importance of Hegel, I think there are two very different meanings or intentions of “understanding Giegerich”. One approach is trying to get as close as possible to that what Giegerich himself actually thinks or wants to say. The other approach is to get inspired for your own ideas by retracing Giegerich’s text. The former would be interesting e.g. for a biography, for putting the thoughts in historical context or from the perspective of an extravert thinker in the terms of Jungian typology. For this approach I would go even further than Dan by saying it is not only helpful but required to engage in Hegel, simply due to the fact that Giegerich mentions him so often and at different places. However, for the other approach, the work is self-sufficient. It is a self and can be fathomed as a self. Reading and understanding Hegel’s original text as a by definition exterior aspect is not only not necessary but also per se not helpful. It only can become helpful for a specific individual who resonates with both Giegerich and Hegel and strives for and wants to extract a personal understanding which combines the thoughts of both of them.
Hello Harald, Thank you for your thougths, which have sparked a few questions:
I think you make a good point that if we're going to do psychology, we need to be reading Giegerich and other psychological work, well... psychologically. And thus continuing the process of PDI's "coming home to itself".
I'm curious as to why you think that the work of a single person always stays somehow personalistic, which could lead to the anthropological fallacy? Do you mean to say that if an individual's "great" work (a "great" work meaning that the person is a genuine artist, for example, a legitimate voice of "soul") is not picked up by the generality, i.e., if the work stays between only a few people, then it can't have the quality or logic of the "soul speaking about itself"? And if so, would this be because if the work is not being disseminated and not growing, then the soul isn't really "speaking" about it, or if it is, it's not "listening" to itself?
If Giegerich is truly writing from the standpoint of "soul," isn't it already "collective"?
Hello again Harald,
Just to finish my last post with a comment on the second part of your post, about reading Hegel to understand Giegerich. I like how you differentiate between two approaches to reading Giegerich's work. One is more biographical, or for putting ideas in an historical context. And the other tries, as you wrote, "...to get as close as possible to that what Giegerich himself actually thinks or wants to say." For this later approach, you write that the work is self-sufficient and, "... is a self and can be fathomed as a self." Agreed. But would you not also agree that if you conceive of the work as a "self," i.e., psychologically, then you would no longer be concerned, strictly speaking, with what "Giegerich" himself actually thinks or wants to say, but rather what psychology wants to say. This may sound like hairsplitting, but the difference is crucial. Of course one can be interested in what Giegerich the man is trying to say, and read the work this way. But if you are actually reading and conceiving the work as having its own psychological "self," then you are not linking it to the person (anthropological fallacy) but to the soul. I'd be interested in your thoughts.
By the way, here's a comment Giegerich himself made about his work, Hegel and psychology:
"I find that often people try to make me a Hegelian, simply because I refer to Hegel and have learned a few things from him. But neither do I propagate Hegel’s philosophy, nor do I claim that what I say is such that Hegel would have been of one mind with me. I do not even claim to understand Hegel properly. My work is in psychology and about our modern situation, and is not an attempt to propound Hegel’s philosophy. Our purpose in our time cannot be to inscribe our modern psychological interests and needs into the ready-made form of Hegel’s system and to rely on him as an authority that validates our own work. We have to think from within our own historical situation and on our own responsibility. However, I think that in trying to do so there is no way around Hegel. It is the most advanced, comprehensive, and differentiated thinking and supersedes everything that came afterwards ... But quite apart from this generally valid observation, the specific indispensability of Hegel for psychology (i.e., psychology as the discipline of interiority and interiorization) is that there is no other body of thought that could better initiate into, and train in, absolute negativity, interiority, and the capacity to "uroborically," ("speculatively") comprehend the other as the soul's... own other" (Dialectics and Analytical Psychology, p. 8-9).
From Michael Caplan:
We use these formulas in a legitimate attempt to understand them, but I think they can become mystifying and we can get stuck on them. I wrote about the idea of "soul dignity" on another page; reading something "psychologically" is one, too, if not the main one. With alchemy/psychology, everything depends on what's "in the retort," because that's all we have to work with in interiorizing a phenomenon into itself. But this is not at all the same as the intellectual work of understanding an author's ideas.
If one wants to interpret something about Giegerich's work psychologically, one has to spell it out very precisely and within very specific parameters, so that a subject is delineated (a "prime matter") upon which alchemical operations can begin. For example, although one would have to argue each point: "With Giegerich, it is objectively the case that psychological theorizing attains a new level of self-understanding by itself becoming psychological, i.e., self-reflective; so what does this achievement of this particular cultural phenomenon mean in the larger context of contemporary cultural consciousness?" The "prime matter" is, together, the objective achievement of Giegerich's psychological theory in the context of its historical locus. There we have a defined phenomenon that can be interiorized into itself, i.e., whole elements (the logical status achieved in his work and the logical status of the context) that can be read against each other as "the elements in the sandtray" or "the images in the dream." From this angle, I would offer the interpretation that Giegerich's work is indeed simply "one book on the shelf," one option in the "marketplace of ideas," precisely as it appears; but that this particular book is the only one that explains the bookshelf as such, that is, why truth must appear as one of many books on a bookshelf, as an option entirely equivalent to other options, but nonetheless the truth of the whole.Otherwise, one is discussing something else, something much simpler and completely unmystifying, a question that applies to the work of any theorist: what else do I have to read to understand this thinker?
At first, of course you approach it from wherever you are, with whatever degree of familiarity with other thinkers. And if people from many backgrounds and a huge range of education do read a particular thinker, one can safely conclude for example that, no, one does not need to read Hegel to read Giegerich, because so many of us are in that position.
That said, another question arises, again entirely without psychologically mystifying terms: is it helpful, useful, etc. to read Hegel to better understand Giegerich? The answer is a simple and unqualified yes. Any body of work that makes such significant and frequent references to another thinker would send any serious reader to that other thinker's work, very naturally.
Then one further set of very specific questions, arising from a central one: in the case of Giegerich's thinking, what role do Hegelian ideas play? How dependent are his own ideas on Hegel's, and what's the connection between the two thinkers' interests? That is, why the fundamental overlap? Why does this relationship between Giegerich's psychology and Hegelian philosophy exist, what is its nature? These are questions of intellectual geneaology, conceptual comprehension, and theoretical focus, exciting and illuminating questions in their own right, none of which needs in any way the unique tools available to psychology as a discipline of interiority, such as "interiorizing a phenomenon into itself”.
I would like to reply to your questions about an “individual’s great work” from two weeks ago. (Sorry for it being late.)
The reason we look at traditional fairy tales (like those collected by the Grimms) as an expression of the soul is that they are precisely not written by a single person but have been formed by a huge number of unknown people over many generations. Literary fairy tales (like the wonderful ones written by Andersen, or more recently the stories about Harry Potter) can have the same structure and the same type of content. They also can and do address archetypal topics or issues. The author might even be an inspired genius. But a single person is be definition not collective, and hence a single person’s work (alone and for itself) cannot be an expression of the soul. Such work can only become an important part of a soul phenomenon if a movement or a community develops out of the work. Impressionism can be looked at as a soul phenomenon, Monet cannot. Pyramids are a soul phenomenon due to the countless workers who identified with it, not due to the fear of a single pharaoh. A single prophet’s own ideas are not an expression of the soul, but the way how the society understands and recites it can be looked at as a soul phenomenon. (A funny satire of this can be found in the movie “The Life of Brian”.) In his newest book "Working with dreams" Giegerich himself says that individuation, the core of the practical side of Jungian psychology, does not happen in the individual. This goes a bit away from the topic here (and is also debatable), but it comes from the same approach.
So no, an individual cannot be a “legitimate voice of soul”, not even Giegerich. And with an individual’s work alone the soul does not speak about itself. The inclusion (and even priority) of the collective movement is mandatory. In our case that is in particular us or the ISPDI (but also the people who are scandalized by some of Giegerich’s statements.) I would say that this is also exactly the reason why the extra-long title of our society does not include the name of our patron.