Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Jungian Psychology

The theory of "analytic psychology" argued by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) may not be as central to the 20th century as that advocated by his teacher and rival, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), but Jung's essentially narrative delineation of the contours of the human psyche – and of the route each human must follow to attain full maturity – has proved enormously suggestive for writers of fantasy.

Jung's career lasted from the beginning of the century until his death, and his terminology and concepts inevitably shifted over this extended period; any of his central texts – e.g., Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido (1912; trans Beatrice M Hinkle as Psychology of the Unconscious 1916 US; 4th ed much rev vt Symbole der Wandlung 1952; this version trans R F C Hull, with author's further revs, as Symbols of Transformation: An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia 1956 US) – underwent significant alterations. This may have caused some difficulty to his colleagues; but creative writers in search of evocative images have, naturally, paid relatively little attention to any inconsistencies.

Very roughly, in JP the conscious surface structure of the mind or ego coats or (depending on the metaphor) orbits a central inner self, which is allied to the "collective unconscious". In turn, the dark, profound, beckoning, populous "collective unconscious" registers on the self – rather in the way that the Mythagoes of Robert P Holdstock's Ryhope Wood sequence, which owes much to Jung, register on characters who orbit the woods – through the agency of protean but persistent images, whose shape is determined by a kind of imploring conversation between the ego/self and the larger inner world.

But, before travelling Into the Woods – into the region where one's ego/self may conduct an integrative conversation with that greater community within – one must learn how to recognize some aspect of one's self capable of guiding the conscious ego inward. As Ursula K Le Guin suggests in "The Child and the Shadow" (1975), this guiding aspect of the ego/self might be thought of as a kind of Liminal Being at the Threshold to the interior, a being which takes the shape of that which the surface ego has repressed, but which the self, Antaeus-like, continues to generate – all the more powerfully when that denied shape has been stringently repressed. Jung gives an explicit name to this "being": as Le Guin phrases it, "The first step is often the most important, and Jung says that the first step is to turn around and follow your own shadow."

This Shadow, Le Guin suggests, may have appeared in literature in many guises: Cain, Caliban, Enkidu (the Trickster friend of Gilgamesh), Frankenstein's Monster, Gollum (Frodo's shadow in J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings [1954-1955]), Dante's Virgil, etc. More abstractly, it is the Doppelgänger who haunts the dreams of the ego; the Double who stares back through the Mirrors of the mind's eye. It is the bright-eyed Talking Animal that does not tell a lie. It attends the Wrongness that warns the protagonist the world is becoming untuned; it also attends the Thinning that desiccates the Land which has forgotten its true nature, the fading out of and retreat from Reality that wastes the protagonist who has forgotten his full self (>>> Amnesia).

First there is a Night Journey to make. The child must follow the shadow through the gates (> Orpheus) into the interior, where can be found deep Archetypes. These figures or clusters of imagery include the Anima, which is the feminine side of a man's nature (the analogous masculine side of a woman's is the animus), and which may manifest itself as a Lamia, Muse, crone or – certainly for many fantasy writers – as the Goddess entire (Jung was less fertile in describing aspects of the animus). Other archetypes include the father, who is also the Magus, and the mother. It is only here, where the Symbols of Transformation can be recognized and sorted, that the integration of self and shadow can be accomplished, perhaps in the end through an experience of Metamorphosis. In fantasy tales this metamorphosis may well be literal.

Later Jungian explorations into Alchemy and the works of Paracelsus may enrich this central narrative, but do not significantly alter it. Jung was much less interested in what he called exoteric alchemy – in attempts at Transmutation – than in what he referred to as esoteric alchemy: secret studies in the path upwards into wholeness and true being. His ideas on UFOs – very roughly, that they are mental constructs essential to human belief processes – form a Playground that fantasy writers have been rather slow to exploit; however, for example, The Flipside of Dominick Hide (1980 tvm) by Alan Gibson and Jeremy Paul, though generally regarded as maverick sf, can also be read as a Technofantasy commentary on Jungian ideas. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.