Reflections on Jung in the 21st Century

This is a blog on Jungian themes published by Michael Escamilla

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Carl Jung

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Carl Jung

Further Reflections on Jung in the 21st Century


It was just over fifty years ago, that the English musical group, the Beatles, released their masterwork, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, as a long-playing record.  This album was in the news again recently (and at the top of the sales charts), due to the 50-year anniversary of its release and a careful “remixing” of the original audiotapes done by Giles Martin, son of the original producer (George Martin).  The original Sgt. Pepper's was released in England on the 26th of May 1967 and a week later in the United States and was a substantial commercial and critical success.  The top selling record album in England for over six months and in the United States for close to four months, it also was a critical success.  In addition to winning the Grammy award as best album of 1967, Sgt. Pepper's also won Grammys for best album cover and best engineered non-classical record.  Rolling Stone magazine has twice compiled critical lists of the “best albums” in rock music and twice named Sergeant Pepper’s as the best recording of all time:


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most

important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time.


                                        Rolling Stone May 12, 2012 


The album cover is a modern “pop art” masterpiece, portraying a number of famous personalities standing around the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr).  On the top row of figures is none other than an image of C.G. Jung, where he appears, eyeglasses raised on his forehead, between the American comedian W.C. Fields and the American writer Edgar Allen Poe.  This essay explores how Jung ended up on the cover of one of the most popular record albums of all time and also allows the opportunity for a bit of Jungian analysis of the album itself.


The Sergeant Pepper Album Cover: or How Did

C.G. Jung End Up On The Cover of The “Most

Important” Rock and Roll Album Ever Made?



This is the photograph of Jung that was used for the cover of the Sergeant Pepper's  album cover.



In the waiting room  of  Jungian analyst Tess Castleman’s office in Dallas, Texas, a large portrait of the Sergeant Pepper’s album cover was (and still is) proudly displayed.  I had the good fortune to work with Tess as one of my training analysts, and I came to know her as being a staunch advocate of Jung’s theories and ideas and how analytical psychology has important things to say at not just the individual, but also the cultural level.  Although I never asked her about the Sgt. Pepper’s album, I’m sure that she displayed the photograph in part to highlight that C.G. Jung was on the cover of this quintessential cultural object.  With Sergeant Pepper’s in the news again, I set out to try to track down exactly how Jung’s image ended up on that album cover. 


Sergeant Pepper’s is a complex conceptual piece, both in terms of its music and the associated artwork.  Musically, the Beatles were moving into a new period of their work, where they were determined to express themselves as “men” (not boys) and as “artists” (as opposed to performers).  They had just finished their last set of live performances (tours in England and the United States) and had decided henceforth to concentrate on using the music studio to create recordings that would be the end point of their artistic process.  Also, rather than recording themselves playing "live," they were determined to use the possibilities of multiple track recording to create new tapestries of sound, using other instruments and sound sources than their traditional guitars, bass and drums.  This marked a major transition for the group, and for rock or pop musicians in general, and inevitably this required the four Beatles  to reflect on their history as a popular performing phenomenon.  One question that rose up in early 1967 was who their “audience” would now be, if they were never to perform in public again.


In a sense, the four men who had composed the Beatles (with the assistance in the studio of their producer, the classically trained George Martin, and recording engineer Geoff Emerick) were changing their persona (Carl Jung's word for the version of ourselves that we choose to present to the public).  They were leaving behind the image of fresh-faced, androgynous youth performing their updated version of American rock and roll in front of large audiences of primarily pre-teen and teenage girls and boys, and moving to a stage of being four individuals using tapes in the recording studio to create works of art that could be listened to by anyone.  In a sense, their 1968 album, the White Album, best expressed their transition to being individual recording artists (the accompanying album included four separate photographs of each “Beatle,” face shots unadorned by costume or posing of any sort and an album cover with no extant image at all – a white, blank canvas, emphasizing in a way that the “work” here was completely an aural construction). 

The Beatles in 1968. These photographs were included with the White Album.


Before moving on to the White Album, though, the Beatles had to become conscious of the fact that they had effectively become a persona (the version of themselves they presented to the public had become all consuming of their time and personal lives) and that this was stifling their individual growth and maturity as artists.  On the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s they symbolized directly that they were artists and that as such, they could take on or put on different costumes. 

They were not quite ready to take all the costumes off, though.Sergeant Pepper shows the group in the process of moving from one persona into another – that of four mustachioed (they are clearly men now!) performers, trading in the traditional instruments of rock and roll, and assuming the persona of a brass band from another time and place.  The idea of this new “persona” came from Paul McCartney, who, of all the Beatles, seems to have had the most difficulty letting go of the idea of being a performing band (now, in his 70s, McCartney still performs a carefully choreographed show in concerts throughout the world).  At the time, McCartney the performer, with the group’s decision to no longer perform in public, seems unconsciously to have felt the need to repackage the group and to create a fantasy space where they could impersonate an imaginary band, complete with new name and outfits.  


A photograph of the Jim Mac Jazz Band and their audience from the 1920s.  The band was named after James McCartney, father of Paul McCartney. Jim McCartney is seated third to the right of the bass drum.


The basic structure for the Sgt. Pepper album cover came from an old photograph of McCartney’s father’s band (the Jim Mac Jazz Band), in which Jim McCartney and bandmates are posing around a bass drum with the band’s name on it, surrounded by an audience of men and women.  For the album cover, the Beatles were to dress in uniforms, standing behind the bass drum, posing as “Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”, and holding brass instruments.  Indeed, the album itself begins with a song in which this new “band” presents itself, now accompanied by brass instruments, and the song is reprised near the end, framing the album as an evening of entertainment with various musical scenes, performed for this imaginary audience. 


If the Beatles were no longer going to perform in public, who would their audience be?  The concept of the album cover was based in large part on answering this question.  American artist Jann Haworth and English artist Peter Blake, both exponents of “pop art”, designed the cover.   Pop art, an aesthetic movement developed primarily in the visual arts, can be seen as having some similarity to what the Beatles were doing with their music: i.e. creating serious artistic works, but using non-traditional elements such as images (or in the Beatles’ case, sounds) from popular culture, often with an element of irony and humor.  Haworth and Blake decided that they would used cutout, life-size photographs of people, along with a few wax figures from a London museum, to form an audience standing around the Beatles and to whom they (or their new personae, The Sgt. Pepper’s Band) would be about to perform (or to have just performed).  On the record album, we would hear this supposed audience clapping and talking in the background between songs.  


Ultimately, just over 70 characters ended up on the cover as this “audience.”  But who chose them?  The Beatles were asked to come up with a list of “people they admire” – in essence, the idea would be that they would be creating and presenting their art work (the sonic recordings of the album) to a dream audience of people who had inspired them.  The audience was not all contemporary persons, including a few from the previous century, but primarily was composed of English language writers, and performers (actors, athletes, musicians) from the present and the previous 100 years.   The images were chosen first by the Beatles themselves (Ringo passed on this, so technically Lennon, McCartney and Harrison chose the initial 28 characters), but to fill out the audience Haworth, Blake and English art dealer Robert Fraser, chose the rest.  Interestingly, Lennon chose at least one character he didn’t admire (Adolf Hitler), which would have added a note of darkness to the representative audience (others from the Beatles’ list who didn’t end up on the cover, for one reason or another, included the Marquis de Sade, Nietzsche and (another Lennon choice…) Jesus).  The list that came from the Beatles themselves is impressive in that it lists quite innovative thinkers in literature (Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Burroughs, Aldous Huxley, Alfred Jarry) and a number of revolutionary philosophers/scientists (Nietzsche, Einstein, Karl Marx, Jung).  Persons who pushed the envelope of social mores and thinking, included in the Beatles’ list, included a few characters known for exploring the darker (or censored) regions of human experience, including Burroughs and Joyce (both subjects of pornography charges for their writings), de Sade, Alistair Crowley (a proponent of magic and Satanic ritual), and American comedian Lenny Bruce.  In a nod to their recent history in show business, they also chose a number of vaudeville and film entertainers, including Izis Bon and Fred Astaire.  To further confuse the levels of reality, persona and meaning, they even included wax figures of their earlier, clean-cut selves. 


The cover, and the characters selected for it, might be best understood, in Jungian terms, as a symbolic representation of what Joseph Henderson called “the cultural unconscious.”  Henderson felt that that there was an intermediate realm between the collective unconscious (which by its nature is not tied to any specific culture, but provides the structure and archetypes in which individuals and cultures develop) and the manifest content of cultures (cultural beliefs, practices, symbols).  Henderson writes that the cultural unconscious may include both modalities of the collective unconscious and manifest culture, and that it blends


“the archetypes of the collective unconscious, which, on one hand, assists in the formation of myth and ritual, and on the other, promotes the process of development in individual human beings.”

                                                                                    Henderson, 1988


From this perspective, the characters chosen by the Beatles (and their artist colleagues) might be seen as people representing  their influences and their “ideal” audience, but also cultural figures that represented archetypes that were influencing the Beatles as individuals in their process of development.


So, who chose Jung to end up on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s?  Unfortunately, it is not possible to say exactly which Beatle chose Carl Jung for the cover, but we do know that Jung was on the original list that came from John, George and Paul.  Although we can't rule Paul out, he is the least likely of the three, as he has never mentioned Jung in over fifty years of interviews (and he drops other names frequently).  There are several Indian yogis (teachers) on the cover, that were chosen by George, who had been developing a deep interest in Indian religion and music, and it is possible that Jung was chosen by George, who seems to have been aware of Jungian concepts: 


“Moustaches were part of the synchronicity and the collective consciousness…”

                                                   George Harrison on the Beatles growing mustaches at the

                                                   time of the Sgt. Peppers recordings


Exploration of the “world within” was an important new goal that both Harrison and Lennon were deeply involved in, through experimentation with LSD and meditation practices they learned from Indian gurus (primarily the Maharishi).  It may be in the context of following these interests that Lennon or Harrison came across Jung’s writings on the unconscious and the richness of internal images, as well as concepts such as the collective unconscious and synchronicity.  Jung also wrote extensively about Indian religion and concepts and I would guess was well represented in the books at the Indica gallery and bookstore where the Beatles often shopped.  In favor of Lennon possibly having put Jung on the list is that of the Beatles, he is the one known to have also showed an interest in psychotherapy – later in his life, he would engage in therapy with Arthur Janov and utilize experiences from that work in creating some of his most autobiographic and wrenching music (see Plastic Ono Band, his first solo album, released in 1970).  Lennon was known to have purchased and read a copy of Jung's Man And His Symbols, during the year of 1966.  Also, Lennon, of all the Beatles, was the most vocal exponent of what Jung would call “individuation,”  the development of one’s own path in life, apart from the constrictions and expectations of society.   Arguing against Lennon is the fact that although he lived a life that could be seen as individuated, there are no known interviews or writings of his where he talks directly about Jung or uses Jungian terms.  The closest I could find to Lennon talking about Jung is in one of his last interviews, in 1980, where the interviewer mentions Jung in the context of developing the less developed functions of our personality, with reference to how Lennon had spent the previous five years staying at home and taking on more traditionally feminine roles.  Lennon responded enthusiastically to the comment, but framed it more as him being a feminist, and of overcoming the “macho” masculine image he had grown into as a young man.


In his essay “The Cover Story,”  Kevin Howlett acknowledges that “nobody is really sure who chose who” but he writes that it is likely that George Harrison chose C.G. Jung for the cover (along with Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, Mahatma Gandhi, and several Indian Yogis).  Harrison, unlike Lennon, at times used terms that came from Jung when giving interviews.  He is also known to have studied the I Ching (his song "While My Guitar Gently Sleeps," on the White Album, was inspired by it), which, if he had Richard Wilhelm's translation, included an introduction by Jung.  With Lennon and Harrison now deceased, this may be as close as we can get to uncovering how Jung ended up in the “audience” on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s.


A Buddhist Mandala from the 15th Century. (Rubin Museum of Art)


The cover is also interesting symbolically.  It can be seen as a mandala figure, organized around a center.  Jung wrote often of mandalas, which can be seen in many cultures, as symbols of wholeness, integration of opposites, and of the self.  The structural center is a circle, the bass drum, which can be considered both a symbol of wholeness and, musically, a symbol of the primary note and heartbeat underlying rock music.  Although not well balanced between male and female characters, the cover does encompass people representing a number of opposites, in gender, age, and humour (melancholics like Edgar Allen Poe stand amidst vaudeville comedians and Aphrodite figures like Jayne Mansfield and Marlene Dietrich, the innocent child figure of Shirley Temple and the notorious black magician Alistair Crowley). (If Lennon’s suggestions of Hitler and Jesus had been included, opposites would have more obviously been constellated).  The Beatles and their surrounding audience come up from a garden full of plants and flowers, perhaps signifying the primal nature in which all creation comes from.  In true “pop art” fashion, various elements of popular culture are almost randomly displayed in the garden, including a television, dolls and a stone figure of Snow White (herself the heroine of a classic fairy tale of individuation).   There are hints of the Garden of Eden in the imagery (or is this just synchronicity, or the collective unconscious at work?), including a Mexican candle representing the Tree of Life, and a velvet snake crawling through the grass.


In any essay on the Beatles and Carl Jung, it probably should be mentioned that, although Jung never visited Liverpool (the Beatles’ hometown in England), he did have a famous dream, which he shared in Memories, Dreams and Reflections, in which he visits Liverpool and finds, in the center of this city, a pool, and within that pool, an island with a beautiful tree on it.  Jung interprets the dream as his finding the “pool of life” and realizing that this is in the “center” – i.e. within himself and not to be sought elsewhere.  It is unlikely that this writing of Jung’s had anything to do with his being on the Sgt. Pepper’s cover, but it is a nice bit of additional synchronicity between the stories of Jung and the Beatles.


The Music of Sgt. Pepper’s: Resonances with C.G. Jung


In addition to the fact that the Beatles placed Jung in their ideal audience on the cover of the album, it is interesting to note some of the parallels between Jung’s ideas and the Beatle’s interests and musical art at the time they created the Sgt. Pepper’s album.  Among these are the concepts of the persona and individuation, an interest in the culture and religion of India, in LSD and a love of African American  music traditions.  Jung, who died in 1961, was not alive at the time the Beatles became a popular phenomenon (the Beatles burst on the scene, with a recording contract, and international renown, in 1963 and 1964), but they certainly overlapped in time and were moved by similar influences. 


Persona and Individuation


In terms of the persona, Jung had coined this term to explain the psychological mechanism used to present oneself to the world, modeled after the masks used in ancient Greek drama.  As defined by Jung:


“(The persona) is a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual.”

                                                                                                                                  Jung 1953


Jung also notes that an individual gaining insight on their persona and separating from it is a key moment in the path towards individuation:


the persona is a semblance... the dissolution of the persona is therefore absolutely necessary for individuation."


                                                                                                                                  Jung 1953


As mentioned above, Sgt. Pepper’s was an important turning point for the Beatles as they stepped outside of the personas they had developed for performance (four clean cut “boys” singing songs of love and desire to an audience of adoring girls) and moved to more personal artistic representations of their inner experiences, values and beliefs.  Sgt. Pepper’s marked a transition towards that setting aside of persona, albeit through the use of a newly assumed persona (the Sergeant Pepper’s Band).  As they further developed their work in the White Album, Lennon in particular moved towards writing more autobiographical songs, culminating in his solo album Plastic Ono Band, which eschews fantasy characters or traditional love songs, and instead writes about Lennon’s personal feelings and beliefs.  In that later Lennon album, the closing song has a line “I don’t believe in Beatles,” which can be thought of as the closure to a process that began with Sgt. Pepper’s rejection of the early Beatles persona. 




George Harrison of the Beatles learning sitar from Ravi Shankar


Sgt. Pepper’s came out in 1967.  And one of the other record albums receiving a Grammy award for that year was the album “West Meets East” by Indian musician Ravi Shankar and western classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin.  There was clearly, in the “collective consciousness” an increased interest in England towards merging with the cultural traditions of India, and this was seen in Sgt. Pepper’s musically in the song that opens the second side of the album, “Within You Without You.”  In both this song by the Beatles and the “West Meets East” album of Shankar and Menuhin, Indian musical instruments, note structures, and drones are merged with classical western musicians (strings in particular).  The song “Within You Without You”, written by Harrison, also includes a number of sung lines inspired by Indian spiritual traditions (including the Bhavagad Gita), ultimately reflecting on the transcendental consciousness and timelessness of the human soul.  Similar to Harrison’s exploration of Indian wisdom and tradition, Jung had also walked the path of a modern European man drawn towards the insights and practices of Indian spirituality.  Also like Harrison (and the other Beatles for that matter), Jung visited India, immersing himself for a brief time in this culture (Jung travelled to India in 1937 - thirty years later, the Beatles did).  Jung practiced yoga himself, for decades, and no doubt included some meditation into this practice.  In his writings and lectures on Indian philosophy and culture, it is clear that Jung (as was true of Harrison and the Beatles) became more aware of and open to transpersonal aspects of consciousness (see Jung's Lectures on The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga). 


Lysergic Acid And Experiencing the Collective Unconscious


Clearly one of the factors which led to the development of Sgt. Pepper’s music, was the Beatles’ experimentation with marijuana and, more specifically in 1966, with lysergic acid (LSD).  LSD was first synthesized by a Swiss chemist, Albert Hoffman, in 1938 and was soon discovered to have strong psychotropic effects.  The first psychiatrist who took LSD experimentally described “an unprecedented experience of unimaginable intensity” moving from visual hallucinations of “circles, vortices, sparks, showers, crosses and spirals in constant, racing flux.”  In a darkened room, the psychiatrist, W.A. Stoll, describes visions of arches, deserts, Gothic vaults and then states:


I felt myself one with all romanticists and dreamers, thought of E. T. A. Hoffmann, saw the maelstrom of Poe (even though, at the time I had read Poe, his description seemed exaggerated). Often I seemed to stand at the pinnacle of artistic experience; I luxuriated in the colors of the altar of Isenheim, and knew the euphoria and exultation of an artistic vision.”

                                                                            From A. Hofmann, LSD – My Problem Child


It was introduced as a psychiatric medication in 1947 and it is interesting to note the “indications” for its use:


     “a) Analytical psychotherapy, to elicit release of repressed material and provide mental relaxation, particularly in anxiety states and obsessional neuroses…

      b) Experimental studies on the nature of psychosis: by taking  (lysergic acid) himself, the psychiatrist is able to gain an insight into the world of ideas and sensations of mental patients.


Hoffman himself noted that the ingestion of LSD resulted in a breakdown of the “accustomed world view” and in the process there was a “loosening or even suspension of the I-you barrier.”  An English therapist “of Jungian persuasion” developed a treatment called “psycholytic therapy” which utilized LSD in conjunction with group therapy and expressive drawing and painting.  Carl Jung was quite taken with the recent discoveries regarding LSD and saw it as a potential tool to more directly access the images and archetypes of the unconscious.  Michael Fordham describes meeting with Jung at Jung’s home in Kusnacht, Switzerland, near the end of his life and that Jung was most interested in talking “about LSD and the abaissement du niveau mental that it produced so that archetypes could come into the field of consciousness.” 


It is open to debate how similar the experiences of the unconscious are when induced by psychedelics, compared to unmedicated inner work, dreamwork and active imagination (the latter being Jung’s way of working towards encountering the unconscious) or to the direct experiences of unconscious material seen due to medical illnesses (such as schizophrenia, which in Jung’s view, was an illness causing a lowering of mental functioning which allowed unconscious material to more easily manifest).  Nevertheless, clearly what the Beatles were experiencing through their experimentation with LSD gave them access to unconscious feelings and imagery in a way that parallels Jungian analytic work (albeit without the careful and longitudinal work of analyzing the images and feelings that come up in the analytic process).   Archetypes  are presented and reflected in Sgt. Pepper’s  - often shape shifting or moving in and out of each other, in the manner of enantiodromia which comes from the direct  encountering of archteypes in the unconscious – among the archetypes characterized in the lyrics (and made to come to life through the music) are Trickster figures (the circus performers  in “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite”), Anima figures (“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” “She’s Leaving Home”), warriors (Sgt. Pepper, “Lovely Rita” looks “a little like a military man,” the Beatles themselves dress in psychedelic, effeminate versions of military uniforms on the cover), grandparents (“When I’m Sixty Four”), the Self (“Within You Without You”), the savage masculine (“Getting Better”), the Lover (“With a Little Help From My  Friends”), Death of the Hero (“A Day In The Life”). In addition to the flood of archetypal characters which populate Sgt. Pepper’s,  we can also attribute at least in part the Beatles stepping outside of their own persona (as the pre-Sergeant Pepper Beatles) as likely to have been influenced by their drug experimentation. 


In the track “Strawberry Fields,” recorded as one of the first songs in the Sgt. Pepper’s sessions (but released as a single and not part of the album), Lennon and his colleagues create a powerful musical expression of both the insights and experiences of an inner psychedelic experience.  Lyrically the focus is more on the emotional experience of ego and self being experiences, while musically the “hallucinatory” aspect of the psychedlic experience is portrayed.  It is interesting to note that the first two songs recorded as part of the Pepper sessions (“Stawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”) were Lennon and McCartney’s respective revisiting of childhood experiences – symbolically working through what Jung would call the “personal unconscious” of lived childhood memories, prior to their embarking on their encounter with the “collective unconscious,”  and the  more archetypal panoply of characters found in the proper Sgt. Pepper’s album.


In the United States, America psychologists (including Timothy Leary, who's work Lennon read in 1965) working with LSD  developed somewhat of a different approach to the analytic work done by the London groups.  American psychologists, in contrast to “psycholytic therapy”, developed what they called  “psychedelic therapy,” aimed at inducing a “mystical-religious experience,” similar to how mescaline is used in indigenous American ceremonies.  This latter type of "religious" experience seems to have been how Harrison responded to LSD.  In later interviews, Harrison would state that his LSD experiences were the cause of his spiritual seeking and led him to his exploration of and adoption of Indian religion.


“Up until LSD, I never realized that there was anything beyond this state of consciousness…The first time I took it, it just blew everything away.  I had such an incredible feeling of well-being, that there was a God and I could see Him in every blade of grass.  It was like gaining hundreds of years of experience within twelve hours.  It changed me and there was no way back to what I was before.  It wasn’t all good, because it left a lot of questions as well…it wasn’t easy.”


                                                                                              George Harrison, 1987 interview


Sgt. Pepper’s is indeed filled with psychedelic imagery in the lyrics (particularly in Lennon’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite”) but the dissolving of the “I-you” barrier is most evident in Harrison’s “Within You Without You:”


“And the time will come when you see we’re all one, and life flows on within you and without you.”

                                             G. Harrison, “Within You Without You” 1967



African American Music


Lastly, in looking at parallels between Jung and the Beatles, it is interesting to note that both the Beatles and Jung derived much inspiration from the African American musical tradition.  This music seems to have fed their soul in a deep way.  In Sergeant Pepper’s, the connection to this music is mostly obscured, as the Beatles rely on musical progressions and instrumentation that deviates from rhythm and blues, but their entire career was built from their appreciation of, performance of, and transmutation of American rock and roll and rhythm and blues which had largely been developed by African American musicians.  It is more difficult to see this thread in Jung’s life.  In contrast to the Beatles, who were primarily living and breathing within the musical world, Jung writes or speaks little about music.  We don’t know, for instance, if he ever heard any of the 1950s rock and roll music which so inspired the Beatles.  Nevertheless, we do know that Jung was moved by the source music from which Rock and Roll developed.  A colleague of mine, touring Jung’s house in Kusnacht (still lived in by his family), asked one of his relatives if Jung ever listened to music.  The answer was that he did, and that he owned a phonograph and records.  Interestingly, the relative mentioned that on one of Jung’s visits to the United States, he had stopped in a record store and bought a number of records of “negro spirituals,” and that these records were among his favorites.

It is interesting to note that many of the American popular music traditions, particularly those involving vocal music, evolved from spirituals.  These mostly a cappella renditions eventually transformed into more modern gospel music, and from there, to rhythm and blues and rock and roll.  Richard Penniman, who's early recordings as Little Richard, directly inspired Lennon, McCartney and the other Beatles (they toured with him in their earliest years as a group and performed many of his songs) was one of the handful of persons who transformed gospel singing to the secular world of rock and roll.  In Sgt. Pepper's, in a very roundabout manner, we can find the Beatles transforming that musical source, now in the form of "rock and roll" back to some of it's spiritual origins, albeit now cloaked in Indian costume.  The innate spirituality which infused the "spiritual" music that Jung listened to, after taking a cultural journey into secular rock and roll and a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, once again found itself expressed as the Beatles brought the transpersonal back into rock and roll music. Later works of theirs would carry on this tradition, not just in Harrison's writings (most fully expressed in his solo career, in songs such as "All Things Must Pass" and "That Is All"), but even in Lennon ("Across the Universe") and McCartney ("Let It Be").


Collective Consciousness and Collective Unconscious


Sgt. Pepper’s as a work of art can really only be appreciated by listening to it.  The music was created in the studio, using a four-track tape machine (meaning each song could use four separate tapes which, when mixed together, could create the sonic spectrum of the song).  Underlying the music, on most of the songs, is the basic structure of bass, drums, guitars and pianos, but most tracks also have superimposed sounds ranging from string orchestration, to the use of brass instruments, harps, Indian instruments, harpsichords, found sounds, and electronically modified sounds.  Classical instruments are used in both traditional harmonic arrangements, but also in novel techniques (such as the blurred orchestral microtonal development in “Day In the Life”).  The stereo mixes in particular use the sense of space created by the stereo field to present aural paintings of exquisite detail and tonal color.  All the music is also vocal, and the lyrics, apart from two songs by McCartney (“When I’m Sixty Four” and “Lovely Rita”) are notable for not being love songs (which their earlier career, up until 1966, was built on).  Instead, we have songs of friendship (“With a Little Help From My Friends”), a psychedelic inner journey (“picture yourself on a boat on a river…” in “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”), a young woman leaving her parents home to find a more exciting life (She’s Leaving Home”), self development (“Getting Better”), spiritual insight (“Within You Without You”), grating suburban boredom (“Good Morning”), undirected inner reverie (“Fixing a Hole”), and in the final masterful piece (“A Day In the Life”) a melancholic, surrealist view of English life using images culled from the daily newspaper and a daily bus ride taken by the protagonist.  The entire album feels a bit like a magical stage act (no doubt due to the “framing” of the songs by the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” introduction and reprise), which has revealed moments in the lives of various people, capturing moments mundane, dramatic, tragic and comic, which could have all occurred within one day (much like James Joyce’s Ulysses).  Even McCartney’s “love” songs (“When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Lovely Rita”) are primarily humorous in nature, almost mocking collective notions of nuclear families and planned retirement (sometimes due in part to Lennon’s added sardonic vocal lines). 


Songs such as “She’s Leaving Home,” “Getting Better,” “Fixing a Hole” and “Within You Without You” speak to what Jung would call the individuation process, in particular the aspect of moving outside of the collective process of civilization and into inner experiences and realizations, which in turn drive the future development and life choices of a person.  As such, they also reflect the cultural “consciousness” of their time (1967), in which, at a mass level, youth and young adults were questioning the meaning and values of their collective societies and developing a “counter-culture” fed by many of the ideas of romanticism, beat writers (such as William Burroughs), and philosopher/thinkers like Jung and Nietzsche.  Part of this counter-culture, in which Sgt. Pepper’s sits as a major artistic work, is clearly interested in more direct experiences of the spiritual and of the imagery in our unconscious.  In this sense, Sgt. Pepper’s represents to some extent the work of the artist who experiences directly the material of the psyche and transforms it into art. 


The collective unconscious, as formalized by Jung, is a transpersonal set of archetypes and psychological processes which underlie all of mankind, but which influence each person differently, as the individual develops between the inner forces of the unconscious and the outer forces of the culture.  Sgt. Pepper’s stands as a testament to a moment when a popular artist (or here group of artists) begins an individuation process and, through the transmission of their psychological experience into art (in this case musical art), provides an aesthetic expression of what an entire culture is experiencing.  The Beatles themselves never claimed to be the initiators of cultural change, but as artists they helped to express and capture a moment of growth and transformation in a manner treasured by many.


By the way, the remixed version of the album, by Giles Martin, is highly recommended.  It doesn’t really change the overall sounds or sonic ideas of the original album, so carefully put together by the Beatles, George Martin and Geoff Emerick, but the new “remix” uses the original tapes and modern technology to more clearly capture the detail of the musical instruments and sounds of what is an extraordinary work of sonic art, songwriting, and musicianship.  And there are several interesting tracks which highlight the “work in progress,” including Harrison instructing the Indian musicians and the Beatles working on playing several pianos simultaneously for the final chord of the album.





1. Jung, CG. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, London 1953.


2.Henderson J. "The Cultural Unconscious, " 1998, Quadrant Vol. 21(2)


3.   The Beatles. The Beatles Anthology, 2000, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.


4. Fordham, M,  Hobdell, R (ed.).  Freud, Jung, Klein and the fenceless field, 1995, Routledge, London.


5. Howlett, K.  “The Cover Story.” In Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, book accompanying release of the Deluxe Edition, 2017, Apple Corps Limited.

6. Jung, CG, Shamdasani S (editor), The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga.  1999, Princeton University Press.

7. Hofmann, A and Ott, J.  LSD – My Problem Child, 1980, McGraw-Hill.

8. Gould, J. Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America. 2007, Crown Archetype.





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Loving The Alien: On David Bowie

Loving The Alien: On David Bowie                                       

by Michael Escamilla



                                     Photo by Masatoshi Sukita from 1980, when Bowie was living in Kyoto, Japan   



       A little over one year ago, the world received word that the English musician/artist David Bowie (nee David Jones) had died after having been ill with cancer.  The news came as quite a shock to the music community worldwide and to the many fans of his work and was the first rumble in a year where many other musicians and actors of significant popularity passed away.  In this blog I’d like to share a few thoughts on David Bowie’s work and legacy, with some thoughts on creativity, alienation, psychosis and individuation and, of course, some “Jungian” reflections on what Bowie brought to our culture in the 20th and 21st centuries.

       Bowie was born as David Jones in 1947 and began a long-lasting career as a musician (writer, singer, performer, producer) in 1963, working primarily in the medium of “rock music” or “rock and roll.” Despite adding other artistic activities to his resume (acting on stage and cinema and in music videos) he continued his musical work up to his death on January 10 of 2016.  His last album, titled simply with an image of a black star (“*”) was released on his 69th birthday, two days before his death.   Along the way, Bowie was known for inventing a number of different stage personae, at the same time as he continued to develop new musical styles in which to express himself (or ultimately, his Self in the Jungian sense). As Bowie was well aware of the ideas and writing of C.G. Jung, and commented that his way of dealing with his psychological struggles was through his artistic work (musical and theatrical), his oeuvre can give us insights into his individuation process.   Moreover, as the individuation process of each person has similarities and commonalities with the process of all humans, his work can give us important insights into the process of psychological exploration and transformation which underlie individuation in general. 


The Age of Enlightenment and Alienation


       The theme of alienation was one of the most consistent symbolic realms in which Bowie worked throughout his life, and this fascination with “the alien” took different and deepening forms for him over time.  A year after his death, we live in a culture where how to deal with the “other” or “outsider” has risen to the level of discussing the building of great walls (literal and figurative) to separate those who are different from mythical notions of racial and national purity.  Fear of “the other” is certainly, psychologically, a millennia old concern (our own biology is a dance of antigens and antibodies), but the concept of individuals being alienated from their own selves became a phenomenon, psychologically, in the 19th century.  Alienation (the sense of disunity with one’s own self and one’s own society) is one of the major causes of suffering in the modern world, and was hypothesized by Jung and others as a consequence of psychosocial developments dating to the advent of the age of enlightenment, an era which priviledged rationality, logical and mathematical processes, the material world, and mass production at the expense of the irrational, the symbolic and religious experience.  Lost in the transformation to utilitarian and rational (“enlightened”) viewpoints were the psychological valuation of mystery, the numinous, and connection with nature.  In fact, when Jung began his training and career as a psychiatrist, many still used the word “alienist” to define this new profession, in which a medical doctor’s aim was to help care for and heal persons who were suffering because they had become “alienated” from their society (and, it was thought, from themselves).


The Unconscious, Schizophrenia, and Creativity


       Through his early work with patients at the Burgholzli hospital in Zurich, Jung and his colleague Eugen Bleuler found a way to understand the bizarre behaviors, beliefs, and narratives of their “alienated” patients, along the way coming up with a diagnostic category called “schizophrenia.”  Jung became fascinated with the ideas and themes he detected within the delusional ideas of his patients, leading him to explore the symbols and experiences of the unconscious directly in himself, and leading to a new view of psychosis as representing direct experiences with unconscious forces, dynamics, and symbolic images.  These same forces, in Jung’s view, were operative in all human beings and served as the energies and patterns through which an individual’s psychological experience of life would be molded.  The “schizophrenic” patient was different from others only in the sense that the person’s ego (sense of “I”) was relatively weakened in relation to the other dynamic entities within the unconscious, and any person under the right circumstances (in which the iron hold of the ego is weakened, sometimes intentionally) could access these “psychotic” states.  The products of the unconscious are often seething, frightening, disturbing and beyond rationality.  For those who must confront these processes (either through genetic disposition or other external factors such as sensory deprivation, psychological stress or trauma), the ego can indeed become fragmented and difficult to reconstitute – hence one becomes alienated from themself (i.e. feels that they have become something else than their sense of “I” as experienced by the ego). 

       There is scientific evidence that first degree relatives of people with schizophrenia have a higher level of artistic and vocational creativity than the average person, as well as evidence from brain imaging studies that creative people (compared to less creative people) tend to have differences in dopaminergic neurons that are similar to the differences seen in brains of persons with schizophrenia.1  David Jones (Bowie) came from a family which was strongly predisposed to developing schizophrenia (he had a half brother who was institutionalized with this diagnosis, as well as at least one maternal aunt) and we know from some of his interviews that he felt in his early twenties and thirties that he was falling into similar psychotic territory (a combination, it appears of family disposition, the use of drugs including cocaine, and a determination to explore artistically alternate personae and to enter into the world of “the alien”).  He would later recuperate from this brush with psychosis through becoming clean and sober and entering his “Berlin” phase (this will be discussed further on in this article).

       Bowie (his stage name itself signifies a persona, a consciously chosen “other” personality which he could inhabit to explore alternate realities) may or may not have done formal analysis, but we know that he was aware of Jung’s psychological concepts and that he used his artwork to give life and expression to the ideas, concepts and feelings which emerged from his unconscious.  As a true artist, his work is not reducible to logical explanations, but at it’s best works to give expression to symbols and images (musical notes and textures, words, costume, staging), creating a numinous experience for those who are moved by his work (Jung would call this type of art “visionary”), and, at times, relating these symbols and experiences to himself as the man behind the creator (a type of art that Jung would call “psychological”, i.e. related to a personal story of development).  His work is often not pleasant (the last two videos he created for some of his last album are actually painful to watch, especially for fans of his work who realize he made these while he was ill with cancer.  In the case of his last video, Lazarus, he knew that he had lost the battle with cancer and would soon die.  But it is especially in his last stage of work that he courageously faced and bridged the world of unconscious imagery and the flesh and bone human being that he was. 



Rock and Roll Music and David Jones: “I had heard God.”


       Growing up in a relatively stable home (albeit with the “ghosts” of schizophrenia and mental illness ever present), the young David Jones had the good fortune to attend a secondary school that was known for encouraging creativity and the arts.  His adolescence coincided with the advent into culture of the phenomenon of “rock and roll,” and he appears to have experienced this music (an explosive amalgum of African American rhythm and blues traditions, figuratively and literally amplified by technologic developments lending a new palette of sounds and volume to these musical forms) in a strongly numinous manner.  According to Jones, when he first heard the song “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard, he felt that “I had heard God.”2  He was especially taken by a saxophonist who was part of Little Richard’s band and soon Jones learned how to play that instrument.  He joined a number of rock bands, first as a saxophonist and eventually as a singer.  As he developed, he became primarily known for his skills as a songwriter and singer, and then as a performer, but he continued to play saxophone throughout his career, usually incorporated into his recordings in one form or another.  His early groups were essentially rhythm and blues based, often doing cover versions of American blues artists and he also adopted some of the vocal and writing stylings of English “music hall” popular music.

       Jones took interesting detours from this music career even in his early years. At one point he took time off to practice Buddhism.  Also, early on in his career, he spent several years outside of the music business studying and performing as a mime.3  By the time he had finished this experience he was ready to re-enter the performing world of contemporary rock music, approaching his performances with an accent on movement and dance.  His mime teacher, Lindsay Kemp, taught an aesthetic which expressed the inner beauty of a person through “gestures” and movement.  Kemp stated that he:


                          “endeavore(d) to teach everyone …to free what was already

                            there.   Everybody has that dove flying around inside them, and

                            to let it fly is a fabulous experience.” 3


       Necessity led Jones to have to adopt a stage name, as another singer (David Jones of the Monkees) was becoming popular, and he chose the name “Bowie” as a stage name.  Perhaps he liked the sound of the name.  It is difficult to draw a connection to his selection of this last name on the surface, as he chose it from having heard of James Bowie, an American hero (and scoundrel)4 who was known primarily for developing a type of knife used in street fights (the Bowie knife) and for being one of the defenders who died at the battle of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.  Once assuming the stage name, and now having incorporated the movement/expressive work of mime into his art, it was not long before Jones shifted from recording music performed in a fairly conventional pop/music hall idiom to the first of his alternate egos (personae), the “Space Oddity.”


David Bowie as Jungian Artist: Encountering the “Alien”


       There are many themes that Jones consciously explored in his music, stage and video productions from the early 1970s through his last work in 2016, and these were affected by his interest in the unconscious process and dreams.  He alluded to being fascinated with the theories of Jung, both in the lyrics to an early song5 and in interviews over the years.  Among the themes he explored, often again and again, were the encounter with the shadow (a dark, sinister, unsettling aspect of his self, which again and again insists on interacting with his “ego”), the unification and assimilation of opposites, an exploration of anima and animus figures, an endless fascination and at times identification with “the other” (gender, sexuality, country, culture, extraterrestrial) and a somewhat tortured struggle with the concepts of religious experience and ritual.  Tanja Stark6 has written an erudite and stimulating essay on the Jungian themes encountered in much of Jone’s (Bowie’s) work and of his stated interest in Jung’s ideas.  Here I will touch only on the theme of “the alien” which recurs from beginning to end of his video oeuvre (including the “alienated” phase of his “Berlin period” work, and on the last two videos he released (one shortly before his death and one just after).  Henceforth I will refer to him as David Bowie, the stage name Jones chose for himself and under which he released his artistic work.

       The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the word “alien” as:


                              “not one’s own, foreign…differing, out of harmony, repugnant…

                               a being from another world…person excluded…”7


This definition resonates with the world which Carl Jung and his fellow “alienists” encountered in their work with the clinically insane at the dawn of the 20th century.  It also clearly held a resonance, as a symbol, for David Bowie as he developed his artistic works (songs, videos) during the dynamic, dissonant and creative cultural revolution of the last fifty years (1963 to 2016).  That Bowie’s artistic creations (including the recurrent symbol of the “alien”) held meaning and attraction for people during this half a century is evident in the success of his work commercially and critically, and in the response to his unexpected death from cancer (statements were released mourning his loss by heads of state around the globe).  As described by the Jungian analyst Verena Kast,5 to symbolize is “to discover the hidden meaning” in concrete situations and “to experience symbols as symbols” requires an emotional response to the symbols.  As an artist, Bowie gave expression and (through music and staging) emotional valence to symbols which drew his attention, amplifying and enriching images and concepts and ultimately making these objects available to his audience to experience and interact with and ascribe their own individual meaning to.

       The encounter with the unconscious and its manifold archetypes occurs through images and experiences have a numinous  quality.   They are also often experienced as parts of one’s self that are “foreign” or “alien” to the ego.  In this sense, Bowie’s fascination with the “alien” is directly accessing a common experience of all of the forms or archetypes (shadow, anima, animus, trickster, God/self, etc) as they erupt into our field of consciousness and overpower, fascinate, and inspire us.  They are always “alien” at first, and require an interaction and coming to terms with them, an integration with our sense of who we are (originally our consciousness is defined by our ego…as life goes on this hopefully broadens to allow a fuller sense of self which incorporates additional inner figures and archetypes).  A failure to integrate them results in either projection of these onto other persons or, in the case of schizophrenia, an overwhelming of the ego (and conscious thought) by these other inner characters.  It is quite possible that some, perhaps through fragility or permeability of the ego functions, have a tendency to more directly experience these unconscious figures, and that Bowie, given his family history, had the blessing (or curse) of an active imagination and ability to both access and emotionally react to these inner figures and archetypes.


The Space Oddity


       Bowie first explored the “alien” experience through the images of outer space exploration – both man leaving the earth to enter a new, ungrounded, destination and later, through the concept of an extra-terrestrial alien coming to visit earth.  Bowie’s first successes (“hits” to use the terminology of pop music) were the song “Space Oddity” (in which Bowie portrays a man shot out into space) and, shortly after, the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (in which Bowie play-acted a fictional extraterrestrial character who had come to earth to be a rock and roll star).  

       Timed to coincide with the first manned mission to land on the moon, Bowie released a video in 1969 for his song “Space Oddity” (  In the video portrayal for this song, Bowie portrays two different characters – he plays a man representing “Ground Control” (a scientist or technician) who is communicating with an explorer/astronaut named “Major Tom” who rockets up to outer space. The video is crude and simple, most notable for the other-worldly floating of Major Tom in outer space, appearing first inside of a circle, which turns out to be his space capsule (he is like an embryo inside the womb).  The Ground Control character is amazed at astronaut Tom’s successful rocketing into outer space and coaxes him to leave the “capsule.”  Astronaut Tom leaves the capsule and experiences the confusing and stimulating state of anti-gravity, where he is soon joined by two ethereal women figures.  The connection between Tom and Ground Control breaks and he ends up suspended in his capsule, far from earth, observing that:


                       “Planet Earth is blue

                        And there’s nothing I can do”


For Jung, exploration of outer reality (in the case of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” the scenario of man journeying to outer space) is always paralleled by the process of exploring inner reality.  In Jungian psychology, we have inner archetypes which form our experience of the world.  Symbolically, the exploration of space, especially when used in an artistic sense, can be seen as an exploration of inner realities and figures.  Given that view, Bowie first discovers a double feminine figure, an anima or “other” (doubling in dreams can be interpreted as a way that the psyche expresses a greater need to provide a symbol for integration).  Moreover, the male figure in the song shifts from the rational, “nerdy” scientist firmly rooted on the ground (ground control) to the dionysian, anima possessed, character suspended in the realm of the spiritual, cosmically viewing the entire planet, but hopelessly disassociated from it at the same time.

       A few years later, Bowie’s persona has transformed from the space explorer (Major Tom) to an androgynous, extraterrestrial character who has returned to earth (his “Ziggy Stardust” character.  In 1972, Bowie made another videotape for the same song (“Space Oddity”, but here we see him alone in a music studio, playing a guitar and singing the song.  He has transformed by this point in his career into an androgynous character, complete with plucked eyebrows, long red hair, and a sparkly shirt that looks more like a blouse (“Major Tom” and his anima figures have merged into one creature).  The apparatuses of the modern music studio (for an audio artist like Bowie, the music studio is the equivalent of the alchemist’s laboratory) stand in for the computers and machinery of space stations and rockets that had appeared in the 1969 video.  By this stage of his career, one could say that symbolically Bowie was working on integrating his anima (inner female), at least in terms of his stage personae, as he cultivated an image that was bi-sexual in orientation and androgynous in presentation.  He also used the perspective of an extra-terrestrial walking upon the earth (his “Ziggy Stardust”) persona to give him a new perspective – that of an outsider (a person alienated from humanity) looking at the world and observing it in all of its variety, beauty, sexiness, tragedy, and horror.  No doubt, for legions of fans, Bowie in this stage of his career was championing the cause of many who themselves felt alienated in the culture they had inherited from their parents’ generation.  He also had created a fantasy space in which fans could join him on an imaginative journey outside of otherwise humdrum or painful daily lives.  His openness and acceptance of transgender, homosexual and bisexual tropes also reached out to many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who for the first time had a popular star expressing images from what had been a largely closeted (and oppressed) lifestyle.

       The extraterrestrial persona continued in songs such as “Is There Life on Mars” (1972: and “Starman” (1972:  The imagery and music related to the image of the outer-space alien eventually ended for Bowie when he “retired” his Ziggy Stardust character and performing band in 1973.  There would be references to this character and identity in later work (most notably he plays the role of an alien sent to earth to find water for his dying planet in the film “The Man Who Fell To Earth” (a 1976 film by director Nicholas Roeg)), but by 1973 he had moved on to another persona and musical interest.  The themes of the alien/alienation continue however, in different (now no longer extra-terrestrial) forms.


The Thin White Duke, Soul Music, and the Kabbalah


       From 1973 to 1974, Bowie created a character he called Aladdin Sane (playing of the idea of “a lad, insane” recording an album with that title.  Lyrics from that album use more poetic license and juxtaposition of images and experiences, no longer forming a clear narrative, as he perhaps expressed the experience of schizophrenia (which his half brother had developed by this time in Bowie’s life).  The music is still based on the rock and roll/ rhythm and blues structures of his “Ziggy Stardust” band, but we also see the appearance of atonal and erratic piano soloing in the title track (this frenetic jazz improvisation will return integrated in his last work, *, in 2016).   The theme of insanity is something which Bowie continues to reference from time to time in his songs or videos (see below for references in the 1980s videos "Ashes to Ashes" and "Loving the Alien").  As explained above, insanity can be thought of (and at the time C.G. Jung began his career as a psychiatrist, was indeed thought of) as an "alienated" state.  Jung's later theories of schizophrenia would hypothesize that the illness is a state in which, through the weakening of neural structures, one's ego is inundated by other internal "complexes" (for Jung, he would later hypothesize that these "complexes" in turn were personalized versions of archetypes (the shadow, the trickster,the self, the anima/animus, etc) which although part of our psyche are experienced (in dreams or psychoses) as "other", autonomous entities.

       Following the phases of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, Bowie next created a new persona, “The Thin White Duke,” which he would inhabit on stage from 1974 to 1976.  “The Thin White Duke” presented as an unnaturally thin and pale, well dressed version of a privileged white male, incongruously developing and performing a new type of rhythm and blues “funk” music.   He moved to the United States and developed the music and recordings in Philadelphia and New York, strongly influenced by African American soul artists from these cities.  The music was inventive and creative and culturally bold – his performances on the American “soul music” program “Soul Train” are particularly striking as he lip syncs in a studied, purposely awkward manner surrounded by a primarily African American inner city audience ( - far away from the predominantly white audiences of his earlier rock 'n' roll work).  It is hard not to see this as a constellation of complete opposites, as this extremely “white,” “European” and stiff character throws himself into a diametrically opposed musical and cultural world (African American soul music).  This world, though, specifically the 1970s Philadelphia soul sound, was one of the evolutionary paths which American black music had taken after the creations of Little Richard and the early rock and roll pioneers.  It was in this music that the young Bowie had first heard “the voice of God” and, dare we say it so plainly, experienced “soul” for the first time.  Now he was in the thick of it, but consciously representing himself as an outsider at the same time. 

       Perhaps not unexpectedly, this stage of his life, although creative, was internally painful. Bowie’s encounters with the numinous at this stage of his work move from encounters with anima figures to more generalized images of the deity – in both evil and loving forms.  Bowie would later describe this period of his life as a descent into psychological despair, fueled by alcohol and drug use, and he seems to have had experiences during this time which led him to fear he was becoming schizophrenic.  On an episode of VHI Storytellers, he states that the period from 1974 to early 1977 “were singularly the darkest days of my life” (  He states in that episode that he was concerning himself with questions such as: “do the dead interest themselves in the affairs of the living?”   Whatever he was encountering in his personal life, it is interesting to note that his created material at the time incorporates ideas and themes from alchemy.  On the album art work for “Station to Station” (1976) he can be seen drawing the Sefirot  (an image from the Kabbalah of forces or powers through which an unknowable God interacts with his/her created world).  The Kabbalah and Sefirot can be looked at as similar to other alchemical treatises, as guidelines for inner development and individuation.  The subject matter of the Kabbalah and Sefirot includes integration of female and male energies and archetypal forces such as beauty, mercy, and justice.  These were the themes that more and more preoccupied Bowie as he moved from the album Young Americans to the album Station to Station.  The title song “Station to Station” actually refers to moving through the various stages (or stations) of development in the Sefirot/Kabbalah tradition (After 1977 these themes recede in his work until his very last album, *.  Among the energies or archetypes Bowie was encountering during 1976 (he had moved to Los Angeles for the recording of Station to Station) were images of witchcraft and the “dark” side of the deity, including attempts to conjure Satan (this was the period he would later describe as being on the edge of psychosis).  The integration of dark and light forces and the opposites images or forces of the Divine contained in the Self  (“God” and “Devil”) are aspects of the alchemical work of encountering the archetype of the Self.

       Another song recorded for the Station to Station album, “Word on a Wing,” offers some insight into his relationship with a positive form of the deity (around this time he began wearing a silver cross, which he would wear for the next twenty years or more, despite what seems to have been, for Bowie, a lifelong dissatisfaction with organized religions of any kind)).  The song opens with the lyrics:


 “In this age of grand illusion, you walked into my life out of my dreams."

"I don’t need another change.  Still you forced your will to my scheme of things.”

(Bowie, “Word on a Wing”, 1976).


It is quite possible this song came from a dream experience, as Bowie was known to use dreams as part of his creative process.  It also reminds one of the encounter of the ego with the divine (or, for Jung, the archetype of the Self).   The above song passage recalls a quote of Jung’s regarding the artistic process:


“Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.  The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him.  As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “man” in a higher sense – he is “collective man” – one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic forms of mankind.”  Jung Psychology and Literature 1930


Later in the song “Word on a Wing” Bowie sings of his process of encountering the numinous and of his iterative process of “knowing” God:


“Just because I believe doesn’t mean I don’t think as well. 

Don’t have to question everything in heaven or hell…

Lord, I kneel and offer you my word on a wing. 

And I’m trying hard to fit among your scheme of things”

(Bowie, “Word on a Wing”, 1976)


It is perhaps the most difficult step of an individuation process – the encounter of one’s ego with the divine (Self) and the coming to terms with the I-Thou experience which is built into the fabric of our psyche. 


Berlin, the Nigredo Phase, and a New Kind of Alienation


       In the next phase of Bowie’s work, from 1977 to 1980, he left the United States and chose to place himself in another alien location, moving to the city of West Berlin during the time when it was a walled island surrounded by communist Europe, physically and culturally cut off from western Europe and the United States.  The German director, Wim Wenders, in writing notes about his film “Wings of Desire” wrote of it as a place that was like hell on earth, a landscape of broken buildings, high anxiety and political isolation, surrounded with a literal wall forbidding admixture between Eastern and Western political and social cultures (and enclosing those in the city with no free or open land exit to the rest of the world).  In essence, Bowie was facing and working with the theme of alienation again, by immersing himself in a city and political culture (West Berlin) which was alienated at a group level from it's fractured country of origin, Germany.  Bowie retreated here to work on a series of albums and to restart a life off of drugs and alcohol. 

       The two main albums from this period, Low and Heroes, were largely recorded in Berlin and each contained one album side of primarily instrumental music – most of it very dark and somber and utilizing electronic and doctored sounds.  The work of this period was collaborative, with the English musician Brian Eno, and placed Bowie outside of the musical mainstream.  The albums were less commercial and indeed sold less than his previous work had.  But for many, they symbolize one of the peaks of his artistic creativity (for instance, the American composer Philip Glass later created symphonic versions of much of this work - his Symphony No. 2 was based on the Low album and his Symphony No. 4 was based on the Heroes album).

       Two songs from this period are particularly striking.  On the Low album (released in 1977) the song “Warszawa” ( begins with deliberate dirge-like tones, clearly capturing a mood of what alchemists (and Jungians!) would call the “nigredo” stage, a “depressed” or “low” phase of the individuation process, in which the ego is fallen to pieces and is decomposing.  The song develops slowly with sparse chords and electronic lines. Then a new, rising melodic structure begins, using processed sounds of violins and wind instruments, clearly synthetic but referencing the real instruments. This new progression expresses something both more human and less dirge-like, despite the fact that the sonic materials expressing the melody are encased in a cold “electronic” form.  At the four minute point of this song, the music dips into a more ominous minor chord and Bowie begins singing – not a single voice, but several overdubbed voices: a chorus of baritone male voices (sounding like Russian political music from earlier in the century), a single male tenor voice, a high pitched “female” voice at first solo, then doubled.  At times all the voices can be heard, singing in a foreign language (in truth Bowie made up the words phonetically and they are “meaningless”).   These “alien” voices represent a multiplicity of aspects of the self, with the “female” voices seeming to capture elements of grieving, arising from the “nigredo” of sound, but nested upon the firm, earthy and masculine baritone notes.  After the vocal interlude, the earlier musical themes return, reprising the rising structure of the music before abruptly ending.

       As Bowie himself noted in an interview with the Polish magazine Tylko Rock:


“In that tune [Warszawa], I wanted to express the feelings of people who yearn to be free, they can smell the scent of freedom… but they can’t reach it.” (Oleksiek 2011)


In another interview from 1997, Bowie stated:


I attempted to capture and render musically the anxiety which I had heard in these Polish folk songs. [...] As I don’t speak Polish, I tried to sing in what one could call a ‘phonetic music’. I know that my music doesn’t portray Warsaw the city, but for me it was a kind of a symbol, a catchphrase which carried content that was very important for me” (Glinski 2015)


Not only is the song striking in it’s capturing of a certain time and place (Berlin during the cold war, the angst of Eastern Europeans living in proximity or directly under authoritarian governance), the song itself is an example of how Bowie used synchronistic and “chance” experiences to make his art.  Apparently Bowie had stopped for an hour in Warsaw while on a train ride in 1976 and walked to a nearby record store, where he heard a shop assistant playing a record by a group called “Polish National Song and Dance Ensemble.”  An avid record collector, he purchased the album.  Not understanding the language of the singers (Polish), he was nevertheless drawn to a song called “Helokanie”, a song of call and response between "villagers" and a girl herding sheep.  On the Polish record, it is a composed choral work, but like other composers who utilized local folk music, the composer of “Helokanie” incorporated lyrics and a melody which he had overheard a girl singing while he was on a walk in the Polish countryside.  Within the recording of “Helokanie” ( ) one can hear the different voices (men’s choir, young girl singing) and pieces of the melodies and phonetic sounds which Bowie recreated within his and Eno’s song “Warszawa.”  Bowie grafted these non-western melodies onto the soundscape of “Warszawa” using his own voice, channeling both female and male voices (for an artist who had already integrated feminine and masculine aspects of his character, this was perhaps not a new challenge, although the vocal range and artistry he displayed here is nothing short of stunning).  To even further indicate the chance nature of the elements which composed “Warszawa,” the original melody of the first section came from some notes that the four  year old child of Brian Eno had been playing on a toy piano and which Eno built the prototype of the song around.   Many of the songs put together by Bowie and Eno on the Low album and the subsequent albums Heroes and Lodger utilized a set of shuffled and randomly chosen instructions that they called “oblique strategies.”  The instructions led to creative experiments in sound and composition and utilized other chance elements, challenging the artists to create from elements they did not directly dictate or orchestrate – elements from outside the direct control of ego (although, as in analysis, ego was utilized to interact with the creative symbols or structures emerging from “outside” the ego).

       The song “Heroes” was also recorded in West Berlin and also released in 1977 as the title song of an album with the same name, a few months after the Low album.  The song, an anthem of a doomed action taken by a couple (the symbol is a classic conjunctio image – a man and woman, or, as the lyrics state a “king” and “queen”), kissing at a wall (the Berlin wall is implied) – two human beings challenging the enforced separation of European and Russian states.  The imagery is of martyrs (“I can remember…Standing by the wall…And the guns shot above our heads…” “and the shame was on the other side…oh, we can beat them, forever and ever…then we could be heroes just for one day”).  In the same way that Bowie’s earlier Ziggy Stardust work had given imagery and voice to the marginalized and outcast, “Heroes” created a symbolic, indeed heroic image by which the vulnerable human could stand up against the power and force of the state (of society, in it’s rigidities).  The song moves beyond alienation to a celebration and transformation of the central figure or figures in the realm of the symbolic.  It may be the most moving example of the principle of individuation in Bowie’s work and it is hard not to associate the song to the images of the Rosarium which Jung wrote about in his works "The Psychology of the Transference" and the book Mysterium Coniunctionis.  Musically, a rather standard rocking and rolling chord structure (on bass, drums and piano) is obscured by layers of electronic oscillators, waves of synthesized keyboard chords and guitar feedback loops, and a vocal recording that forced Bowie to express himself more forcefully as the song climaxed, in order to be heard.  In video performances of this song from that era (, Bowie is no longer in costume, dressed simply in a t-shirt, black trousers, and leather jacket, hair un-dyed and without makeup.  He wears a cross around his neck (another symbol of transformation) and stands rooted to the ground against a disorienting background of searchlights shining through a cold, fog-like atmosphere.  The “alien” has become fully human as an “alienated” man, the suffering “hero” of his own life story.  And, as an artist, he had created a musical and poetic image that all persons suffering alienation in the face of political or social repression could relate to.


“Ashes to Ashes” and the First Return of "Major Tom"


        As the 1980s drew to a close, and moving forward from his “Berlin” phase, Bowie continued  to explore the theme of the alien in both his film work (“The Man Who Fell to Earth”) and his musical work and videos (“Ashes to Ashes”).  In “Ashes to Ashes” (1980) Bowie purposely revisited the character of “Major Tom” from the song “Space Oddity,” recasting the romanticized space explorer as a “junkie” “strung out in heaven’s high, hitting an all-time low,”  effectively crash landing the image of the space explorer (and Dionysian drug user) onto the earth.  In the video ( he appears in a costume that is as much the Italian-French mime character Pierrot as it is an exotic creature from another planet.  A number of archetypal characters images appear, including female and male characters in clerical dress, a construction truck, an embryonic Bowie,  and  a “mother” character who counsels him on how to “get things done” by avoiding the flights of fantasy.  Bowie himself has described the song as a farewell to the work he did in the 1970s.  It also seems to symbolically  acknowledge his movement away from drug use and the experimentation phases of the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s, through the “Low” period, to a point of restarting his life from scratch. 

       The “Ashes to Ashes” video also has scenes where Bowie plays a character in isolation in a psychiatric ward.  On one hand this could be referencing the physical “withdrawal” process from addiction, but it also clearly symbolizes the psychological struggle that he has been dealing with as an artist from early in his career (hence references to Jung and madness in his earlier work, including the character of “Aladdin Sane” (a lad, insane), and which we may imagine he had a particular susceptibility to experience (as mentioned above, schizophrenia ran in his family and in the early 1970s he experienced his brother’s early psychotic break, which came after the two of them had gone to hear a music concert).  As Jung himself discovered, in working with schizophrenic patients, who were supposedly “alienated” from themselves, these same patients were often deeply immersed in archetypal experiences and clearly strongly effected by collective cultural elements.   Jung moved from realizing his patients were living direct experiences with the archetypal world to experiencing (and hence discovering) these psychological forces himself.  As Jung wrote in the Red Book, he experienced “psychotic” visions shortly before World War I broke out, and he subsequently let himself experience the archetypal inner world common to all mankind, in a more direct manner.  It is perhaps no surprise, given both Bowie’s and Jung’s deliberate decision to work with the unconscious (Bowie as artist and Jung as psychiatrist/psychologist), that they would increasingly be drawn to similar thematic material, including the relationship of man to God images and to the archetypal symbols at the core of the “religious” experience. 

       During the 1980s, Bowie produced a song and video which dealt directly with religious experiences, which he titled “Loving the Alien” ( Released in 1985, this was actually a song he wrote to express his frustration with organized religions in general, juxtaposing lyrics and video of Christian and Muslim religious symbols.  There are images of mirroring, clashing of cultures, and a feverishly praying Bowie who’s skin is blue (perhaps referencing Hindu depictions of the gods Shiva or Krishna).    The lyrics express a general frustration at the religious clashes happening (for hundreds of years) in the “holy land,” but perhaps at a more challenging level he critiques the concept of humans projecting their hopes for salvation (and their need to absolve sins through “hanging” them upon a scapegoat-God image).  The projection of evil upon people from other religions (in the video this is highlighted by images of medieval knights and Saracens in battle, or broken mirrors/windows) is paralleled by a process shared by both Christian and Muslim religions (he doesn’t explicitly mention other religions) in which there is worship of a creator who is essentially alien (other than man himself and beyond the world we inhabit).  The psychological torment of experiencing and encountering these collective tensions are made explicit at the end when the narrator (Bowie) is depicted as in a cell that could be either a psychiatric unit or a prison in which he is being “treated” or tortured with electric shocks. 


Late Bowie: His Final Works, Individuation, Integration, and Dissolution


“Where Are We Now?”



      Following his “Berlin phase” of 1977-1979, Bowie went on to enjoy a full, creative career, reaching a commercial peak in the 1980s, and continually writing and recording music until weeks before his death at age 69 in January of 2016.  His final works (the “Next Day” and *) bear witness to a man who continued to explore the interface of dreams, symbols, the unconscious, and transformation.  These last two albums were accompanied by videos which he co-created and acted in and which also were full of symbols of individuation, integration of the anima, the shadow, the trickster and explorations of numinous experience and its relation to artistic and religious creation.  “The Next Day” was Bowie’s twenty-fourth studio album and was released in 2013.  It is likely that at least some of the songs and/or videos were done after he had become aware that he was potentially mortally ill with cancer.

       That Bowie’s Berlin period (when the albums “Low” and “Heroes” were created) signaled a key moment in his own archetypal individuation process (the nigredo stage of his alchemical work), is supported by his returning, as he approached the end of his mortal life, to themes from the days of his life in Berlin.  The cover of “The Next Day” is actually a replica of the “Heroes” album, with the title “Heroes” lined out and a large white square with the word “The Next Day” pasted on top of the photograph of Bowie that was on the “Heroes” album.  The accompanying video for the song “Where Are We Now?” ( was directed by a visual artist and friend of Bowie’s named Tony Oursler and lyrically recalls several seemingly mundane places from West Berlin (a tram station, a coffee shop, a department store), set over a melancholic melody with a questioning chorus about where “we” now are.   Oursler, as recounted in the essay by Tanja Stark.6  Bowie was very energized and cognizant of Jung at the time they made this video:


  Ouster wrote that “David Bowie inhabits Carl Jung’s archetypes, reading and speaking of the psychoanalyst with passion” (Stark 2015). 


In fact, Ousler went with Bowie to see the “Red Book” exhibit (a showing of Jung's Red Book, with accompanying art and objects from Jung's work) when it showed in New York in 2009-2010. 

       The "Where Are We Now?” video opens with images of jewels (a diamond, the creative “gold” of the opus of individuation and alchemical work), followed by a glass covering and empty frame (the artist’s tools – the glass reflects life and the visionary artist – his task forever to create something that reflects his experience of the numinous).  The film then moves into an artist’s studio, with a crude Siamese-twin doll (two conjoined monkey-like bodies, with two heads, upon which are projected images of Bowie singing and of a silent woman).  This hermaphroditic, trans-species creature (man and his anima, animal and human) sits upon a table filled with objects, concrete symbols including the diamond, a snake, a wise old man, an empty bottle, a sphere, and books.  Projected behind them are black and white film images of Berlin, including the Berlin Wall (by this point in time just a memory) and towards the end, a famous statue of an angel, from one of the parks in Berlin.  The song lyrics speak of a breakdown in the order of time and of the line between life and death:


“ A man lost in time….just walking the dead”


And further lyrical images move to words about fire and rain.  If this had been Bowie’s last video it would have left us with a moving portrait of integration of opposites and of the wholeness which Jung would often speak of as the goal of an individuated life.




"Black Star"



       But Bowie lived long enough to complete a final studio album “Black Star” and produce two final videos for the songs Black Star( and Lazarus ( (while simultaneously bringing a musical play to Broadway that threaded together songs and themes from throughout his work!).   These final videos eschew the sense of completeness and wholeness that manifested in the video for “Where Are We Now,”  instead seeming to tap into more of what Jung would call  “visionary” and "psychological" modes of artistic creation.  Jung, in his essay on “Psychology and Literature (published in volume 15 of his Collected Works), first describes a “psychological” mode of art, in which the author builds upon life experiences to tell a story of personal transformation.  This might correspond, for instance, to Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”, in which he used symbols from the collective unconscious, but basically told a story which had relevance to his own personal growth and process of integration.  In his essay on “Psychology and Literature,” Jung also talks about a more disturbing “visionary” type of art, in which the artist is more directly channeling symbols and transformative processes from the direct unconscious.  The video and musical work Bowie created for the song “Black Star” is an excellent example of this visionary type of art. 

       In this last year of his life, Bowie was working on his music and broadway play, undergoing treatments for cancer, and no doubt attending to life with his wife and family (an area which he kept very private – interestingly, given his fascination with the alien/other as expressed throughout his career, he spent his last 24 years married to a black Somalian model and entrepreneur, who was from a Muslim background).  It is likely that Bowie, in facing his mortality, was also asking questions which had occupied him throughout his career, namely the question of a deity and how he could relate to that spiritual dimension, and the question of what happens to the human soul as it transitions into death.  In “Black Star” we see a series of images and a “science fiction” story that delves deeply and disturbingly into images death, suffering, religious ritual, and the creation of mythology.  The video and song allow Bowie an artistic frame with which he could channel terrifying, primal experiences.  But, through the process of creating art with these images and feelings, Bowie is not just experiencing these images and feelings but relating to these alien, "other" archetypes and landscapes (as Jung did the images he elaborated in the Red Book, the ego interacts with the inner elements in bringing them to conscious expression).  The images in this video are dark, strange, grotesque and other-worldly and as such, fulfill many of the criteria of Jung’s “visionary” art.  The following excerpts highlight some of  Jung's key thoughts about "visionary" art:


(In the visionary mode of artistic creation) “the experience that furnishes the material for artistic expression is no longer familiar.  It is something strange that derives its existence from the hinterland of man’s mind, as if it had emerged from the abyss of prehuman ages, or from a superhuman world contrasting light and darkness."


“It is a primordial experience which surpasses man’s understanding and to which in his weakness he may easily succumb.  The very enormity of the experience gives it its value and shattering impact.  Sublime, pregnant with meaning, yet chilling the blood with its strangeness, it arises from the timeless depths: glamourous, daemonic, and grotesque, it bursts asunder our human standards of value and aesthetic form, a terrifying tangle of eternal chaos, a crimen laesae whose height and depths are beyond our fathoming, or a vision of beauty which we can never put into words.”


“This disturbing spectacle of some tremendous process that in every way transcends our human feeling and understanding…the primordial experiences rend from top to bottom the curtain upon which is painted the picture of an ordered world, and allow a glimpse into the unfathomable abyss of the unborn and of things yet to be.  Is it a vision of other worlds, or of the darknesses of the spirit, or of the primal beginnings of the human psyche?  We cannot say that is is any or none of these.”


Jung, “Psychology and Literature” (CW 15,141)


       Bowie’s video for “Dark Star” is carefully structured and acted out, but it’s core material is disturbing and far removed from everyday experience.  The entire video, reflecting the title of the song, is carried out under a form of darkened light.  The “Dark Star” concept itself is most likely a direct reference to the alchemical symbol of the “Black Sun,” an image related to the nigredo stage of alchemy and one in which the psyche is forced to confront and create from with the depths of desolation, emptiness, and despair (see Stanton Marlon’s  book The Black Sun11 for an excellent summary of the “Black Sun” motif in psychology and alchemy).  The video opens with images of an astronaut’s body (symbolically we must consider this Major Tom and hence, Bowie), lying in a desolate landscape under both a black star and a black sun (or a sun in the stage of eclipse).   In a twist of "black" humor which Bowie injects into both of these final videos ("Black Star" and "Lazarus"), the astronaut’s outfit has an embroidered “happy face.”  We soon learn, as the helmet it opened by a woman who approaches it solemnly, that inside is a skull.  But the skull is covered in intricate jewels and she takes it, as one would a religious relic, to her village, where a ritual is being acted out.  Bowie next appears as the “narrator,” in a disorienting visual state, with bandages wrapped across his face (and thus blinding him) and two black buttons put in the place of his eyes.  It is both an image of suffering and of turning inward and works effectively and in a heart-breaking manner if we consider this an artistic representation of Bowie’s struggle to create art in the face of his disease and suffering (cancer).  On top of a frantic drum pattern, complicated by jazz saxophone soloing erratically and furtively and synthesizers mimicking static discharges of electricity, the blind narrator sings about a “solitary candle” that is “at the center of it all” and of a “day of execution” in which “only women kneel and pray.”  The candle can be thought of as a symbol of consciousness in the center of a vast, complex and dark unconscious world.

       In an attic with bright light entering into the inner darkness, several characters (a black and white man and a  woman with dark hair) perform an erratic dance based on shaking their arms, not unlike the repetitive movements seen in catatonic psychoses.  The main woman, who carries the astronaut skull into the town, is revealed to have a tail, adding to the uncanny and primal nature of this world underneath the dark star.  As this section comes to an end, women are forming a circle and performing a more involved, solemn ritual dance.  All is ominous, dark and strange, as Jung noted about this type of art:


“It is strange that a deep darkness surrounds the sources of the visionary material…

Jung, “Psychology and Literature” (CW 15,144-145)


The song moves from strange humming sounds to the chords of a church-like organ, and the next phase of the video begins with a scene of dark vegetation transforming into an image of a preacher (Bowie, now unmasked, holding a black holy book with a black star on the cover).  He holds his head up towards the heavens and stands, along with the three “catatonic dancers” (now watching  with eyes open in amazement), in front of an obviously fake backdrop of bright blue skies and white clouds (the dancers shadows can be seen on the sky image).  The preacher character sings of someone dying, with his spirit rising, then refers to the story of a fallen angel, and of a preacher who “trods upon sacred ground” to proclaim “I’m a Black Star.”  The music moves between choruses where the preacher sings about seeing with “open hearted pain” amidst visions of eagles and diamonds and verses performed by an alternate, trickster-like version of the same preacher, who excoriates the listener and tells him he has come to take him home:


                         “I can’t answer why

                          Just go with me

                          I’m a take you home

                          Take your passport and shoes

                          And your sedatives, boo

                          You’re a flash in the pan

                          I’m the great I am”   (Bowie, Black Star, 2016)


Choruses in the background seem to refer to Bowie the man, alternating between what he is (a “blackstar”) and what he is not (“a filmstar”, “a popstar”, “a gangster”).  Of course Bowie (David Jones) has been all of these (The "Thin White Duke" performed as a star on black music shows, Bowie acted in films, was a pop star, and, although not a "gangster" was the first rock artist to package his songs as a stock market investment and accumulated a great amount of wealth) and at the same time is none of these, as they were all personae or different aspects of himself.  As the video proceeds, the preacher character seems both in touch with the God Yaweh (I Am) and with the trickster or devil (Lucifer, the devil coming to claim the soul of the dying).  A horrid scene of crucifixion unfolds, with three bodies writhing in agony on makeshift crosses, bags over their heads and straw coming out of their bodies (at once men and scare-crows).  As the video winds down we see a montage of images of the preacher(s), the crucifixions, the button eyed narrator, the women in ritual with the skull, and the black star (sun) which shines darkly over everything.

       Though carefully scripted and filmed, and recorded and sung in a thoughtful and masterful manner, Bowie’s “black star” song ultimately leaves the work for us, as viewers/listeners to relate to in our own individual way.  There is no simple and straightforward message given here.  Again, to quote from Jung:


“…the work of the artist meets the psychic needs of the society in which he lives, and therefore means more than his personal fate, whether he is aware of it or not.  Being essentially the instrument of his work, he is subordinate to it, and we have no right to expect him to interpret it for us.  He has done his utmost by giving it form, and must leave the interpretation to others and to the future.  A great work of art is like a dream: for all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is always ambiguous.  A dream never says “you ought” or “this is the truth.”  It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and it is up to us to draw conclusions.


“…when we let a work of art act upon us as it acted upon the artist.  To grasp its meaning, we must allow it to shape us as it shaped him.  Then we also understand the nature of his primordial experience.  He has plunged in to healing and redeeming depths of the collective psyche, where man is not in the isolation of consciousness and its errors and suffering, but where all men are caught in a common rhythm which allows the individual to communicate his feelings and strivings to mankind as a whole..”


Jung, “Psychology and Literature” (CW 15,161)









       Bowie’s final video was for the song “Lazarus,” which was also the name of the Broadway musical he worked on up until his last days.  The video was almost assuredly filmed at the point in time where Bowie knew he had lost the battle with cancer and would soon die.  The title references the story from the New Testament, in which Jesus raised a character (Lazarus) from the dead (in the biblical story, Lazarus eventually dies again, so his miraculous resurrection is a brief one).  In the video for “Lazarus”(, Bowie presents a work which, using Jung’s division of art into “psychological” and “visionary”, can be considered as a “psychological” approach to his encounter and entry into death.  As such, it stands in juxtaposition to the “visionary” film for “black star.” 

       The “Lazarus” film opens with a wardrobe bathed in dark shadow and with a hand opening it from within.  Next we see Bowie again portraying the blinded (eyes wrapped and buttons for eyes) creature we have previously encountered in the "Black Star" video, much frailer now and lying in bed.  He is alone in a room that looks like a hospital or jail cell or psychiatric institution (or could it be the cell of a monk?).  As he sings “look up here, I’m in heaven” we see the character struggling to rise and eventually levitating.  The character sings plaintively:


                           “Look up here, I’m in heaven

                             I’ve got scars that can’t be seen

                             I’ve got drama  can’t be stolen

                             Everybody knows me now…”


Beneath his bed is a shadow figure (one of the “catatonic” actors from the black star video, but here more in shadow and more ominous).  The figure reaches out a hand towards him as Bowie’s invalid character begins to levitate, thus escaping temporarily from this shadow character.  The lyrics refer to his sickly and weakened state:


                             “Look up here, man, I’m in danger

                               I’ve got nothing left to lose..."



He mentions being “high” (on sedatives) and mentions him dropping his cell phone (his means of communication?), which he jokes about "Ain't that just like me?"  Sense of direction are lost (through rotation of the camera we become disoriented as to what is up and down) and we are not sure if the character is lifting up towards the ceiling or falling towards the floor.  His hands make the motions which the “catatonic” dancers had made in the “black star” video.  The viewer, as well as the character, are clearly in a transitional, "luminal" state.

        Then, as the music gathers intensity and changes chords, we see an un-blinded Bowie who has emerged from the wardrobe next to the bed.  This second character is dressed in a tight-fitting outfit (black, with silver stripes across it) which happens to be an outfit Bowie posed in for the album “Station to Station” in 1976, in which he was drawing images from the Kabbalah (the image of the Sefirot).   He now faces the camera squarely, an aged and tired looking David Bowie, strikingly different from the self-assured personae he previously used as a singer.  This second character is standing and dancing in an exaggerated manner (we can see here the use of movement which Bowie had learned in his youth work as a mime) and sings of autobiographical elements of Bowie’s life (moving to New York, where he spent his last twenty years).  The character on the bed starts to sing about “being free…like a bluebird” and in an extraordinary montage we see the “Kabbalah” Bowie figure sit down at a desk, and, with a pen, begin to furiously write on page after page. A skull (the same one from the black star video) sits on the same desk,and while the "Kabbalah" character writes feverishly, the camera also shows us the shadow figure, now sitting below the desk,  and the “death-bed” blinded Bowie character, who continues to levitate over his bed.  In some ways this is an exquisitely portrayed, but simple presentation of the link between mortal suffering, the archetype of the artist who transforms the suffering into art (here it is writing, but given the fact that Bowie was acting in and created this film, the video itself is the artwork being produced from his final suffering), with symbols of death (the skull) and spirit (the bluebird) inspiring the artist, and through it all, the shadow figure lurking and demanding an ultimate integration.  The “Kabbalah” Bowie runs out of paper, but continues to write on the desk, as he seems to be running out of both time and materials. 

       In the final stages of the video, the "Kabbalah " character is silent (simultaneously, the invalid character on the bed has been surrounded with shadow) and he now moves, in deliberate, mime-like fashion, like an old man, backwards towards the wardrobe.  The movements are resolute and determined, as he enters the wardrobe and finally closes it.  He has entered his final resting place.  The video is personal and dealing directly with Bowie's psychological experience, but has echoes and resonances with the more visionary “black star” video.  Taken together, they offer the viewer/listener an experience of death and dying that, although personal for each of us, is at the same time a collective psychological experience for all human beings.  Again, to quote from Jung’s essay on the artist:



“This re-immersion in the state of participation mystique is the secret of artistic creation and of the effect which great art has upon us, for at that level of experience it is no longer the weal and woe of the individual that counts, but the life of the collective.  That is why every great work of art is objective and impersonal, and yet profoundly moving.”


Jung, “Psychology and Literature” (CW 15,161)



In Closing...


       David Bowie (David Jones) had the great fortune to live a long life as a creative artist (musician, actor, videographer) and his work, over five decades, cannot be adequately summarized in one essay.  Indeed, I have focused here on only a small sample of his musical and video work. Bowie's interest in Jungian thought and openness to work with the symbols of transformation give us one of the great examples of an artist of the 20th/21st century combining both personal and visionary approaches to express archetypal processes and to incorporate archetypes from the unconscious into his conscious artistic productions (and we hope, into his life: by all accounts, Bowie was a gracious and sober gentleman in his later years and was content in his marriage and with his family life as well as his musical work).  He was perhaps given a special gift for working with and being affected by archetypal aspects of the self which are “alien” and “other” by virtue of his genetic loading (Jung and his mentor, Bleuler both realized that persons with a schizophrenic predisposition also often had a special aptitude for creative artistic expression).

       In exploring the “alien” Bowie gave cultural expression to concepts such as integration of the anima and the shadow, both on a personal and cultural level.  His work to “love” or to “integrate” the alien never stopped and never reached an easy resolution.  His  closing work and videos certainly did not shy away from experiencing the approach towards death and he has left us a touching and stimulating artistic expression of the numinosity of the dying process.  As some of his close friends have said, his last work was a final gift to his audience.

       For this alienist (I am a practicing psychiatrist), I have learned much from the work of Bowie.  And, a year after his passing, I continue to mourn the loss of this talented and creatively driven human being.




I owe a special thank you to Nomi Kluger-Nash for letting me know about Stark’s essay on Bowie, which gave me the idea for this essay.  It turns out (we didn’t know each other at the time) Nomi and I both saw David Bowie in 1980 when he performed as an actor on Broadway in the play “The Elephant Man.”  In that production, Bowie played the role, without makeup or props, of yet another alienated soul, Joseph Merrick.  Merrick, an Englishman in the 19th century, suffered from horrible medical deformities (including speech impediments) and had been abusively exhibited as a “freak” (a man “half human and half elephant”) before finally finding some solace in a hospital, where he was able to live in a humane manner and to become educated and develop friendships and create works of art.  Some excerpts from that production can be seen here:




References Manzano O, Cervenka S, Karabanov A, Farde L, Ullén F. “Thinking outside a less intact box: thalamic dopamine D2 receptor densities are negatively related to psychometric creativity in healthy individuals.  PLoS One. 2010 May 17;5(5):e10670.


2. “I had heard God.” Doggett, Peter (January 2007). "Teenage Wildlife". Mojo Classic (60 Years of Bowie): 8–9.


3. Brown M.  “Lindsay Kemp: The Man Who Taught Bowie His Moves.”  Crawdaddy, Sept, 1974.


4. Davis, WC.  Three Roads To The Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis.  1998. Harper Collins: New York, New York.


5. “Drive In Saturday,” from Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane, contains the lyric:


        “Jung the foreman prayed at work

          Neither hands nor limbs would burst

          It’s hard to keep formation with this fall out saturation…”


6. Stark, T., “Crashing out with Sylvian: David Bowie, Carl Jung, and the Unconscious,” in David Bowie: Critical Perpectives, Devereux E, Dillane A, Power MJ (editors), 2015: Routledge, New York, NY.


7.  Sykes, J.B., editor.  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English.  Seventh Edition.  1982.  Oxford University Press. Oxford, England.


8. Kast V, The Dynamics of Symbols: Fundamentals of Jungian Psychotherapy, 1992, Fromm International Publishing Company, New York, NY.


9. Oleksiak, W.  “How David Bowie Created Warszawa.”  CULTURE.PL.


10. Glinski, M.  “Did David Bowie Know Esperanto?  The Invented Language of Warszawa & the Eastern-European Story Behind It.” CULTURE.PL.


11. Marlan, S.  The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness. 2008. Texas A&M Press: College Station, Texas.

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Call for Papers

Jung in the 21st Century

October 31, 2016

Michael Escamilla


Call for Papers

The Jung Page was begun in 1995 as a website providing online educational resources for persons interested in the work of C.G. Jung  and Analytical Psychology.  Founded and originally maintained by analyst Don Williams, in more recent years the Jung Page has been maintained by the Houston Jung Center and is now supported there by the Frank MacMillan Institute. 

With the cooperation and generosity of analysts, academics, independent scholars and commentators, and the editors of several Jungian journals, The Jung Page provides a place to encounter innovative writers and to enter into a rich, ongoing conversation about psychology and culture. 

 The Jung Page features new articles on the main web page and also archives articles that have been featured on the page.  We are currently accepting for consideration articles of interest to the Jungian and Analytical Psychology community.  Please send an electronic version of any article you would propose to be published on this site to:


Michael Escamilla,MD

McMillan Institute Scholar

E-mail:         This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Please include author and title and a brief description of the author.  We accept articles published in other journals, as long as we have consent of the author(s) and journal.  Also, please choose one of the following categories when submitting your article:  Book Review, Film Review, Original Research,  Culture & Psyche, Analytical Psychology, Literature, Psychology & Environment, Music.





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Distressed Zen Buddhist Priest: The Healing Power of Dreams

Distressed Zen Buddhist Priest: The Healing Power of Dreams

 Michael Escamilla, MD and David Rosen, MD                (USA) 


     There is a natural, and perhaps mutual, affiliation between the disciplines of Zen Buddhism and Jungian analysis.  Although separated by continents, cultures (Eastern and Western) and millennia, each deal intimately with a search for transformation at the deepest level of the individual.  Each tradition also seeks the path to their respective transformative process from "within" - i.e. through reflection upon one's own thought processes (conscious and unconscious).  Accompanied by a guide (a Zen priest or Jungian analyst) the person seeking transformation enters into the work with an openness to exploring layers of consciousness and towards coming to an epiphany (or series of epiphanies) and self-derived wisdom that come from our capacity to experience all of nature within ourselves. 

       Zen Buddhism derives its origin from the sayings of The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, an Indian spiritual teacher who lived in the 6th century.  The Buddha derived much of his approach from already extant mystical and religious ideas such as the concept of a universal soul ("Atman" "Brahman").  At the forefront of Buddha's teaching is that life and all that we experience of it is essentially a process of attachment which engenders suffering ("dukkah").  For the  Buddha,  there is a "middle way" between suffering attachment to the experience of the world (maya)  and negating one's existence and desires through the suffering of asceticism.  Meditative practices allowed one to observe the ramblings of our consciousness and eventually experience an epiphany (Satori) in which one can connect to the essence of all life (the universal soul) while simultaneously achieving non-attachment to the transient elements of our existence.  Buddha taught both methods to approach this state as well as precepts for living in the world that incorporated the deeper knowledge which comes with the epiphanic realizations experienced in meditation.  As the teachings of the Buddha spread through the East, a form which we know as Zen Buddhism developed in China and, later, Japan.  Those who submit themselves to this form of Buddhism essentially follow a vocation that involves processes aimed at arriving at the Satori experience, which must ultimately be experienced and cannot be taught in a logical or dogmatic form.  From this form of Buddhism we owe statements such as "if you see the Buddha on the road, kill him" and in answer to the question of whether a dog has a Buddha nature, the answer "wu!"   Paradoxes in the form of koans are studied, in essence developing mental capacities that open the psyche to non-linear and non-dualistic forms of consciousness.

       Writing for a western audience, D.T. Suzuki wrote An Introduction to Zen Buddhism in 1934, and C.G. Jung later wrote a foreword to Suzuki's book.  Jung commended Suzuki's work to communicate some of the concepts of Zen Buddhism to a Western audience. Jung felt that "Western man" was in great need of experiencing spiritually transformative work that would lead to a process of "becoming whole" (this was Jung's euphemistic description of the individuation process). However, while drawing parallels between his psychological ideas and Zen Buddhism, Jung also warned that the spiritual process and illuminations of Zen Buddhism were ultimately likely to be unobtainable by Westerners trying to use these "philosophies" for themselves, as Jung stated that the work of the Zen acolyte unfolded within a longstanding cultural, philosophic and theological structure, many of whose concepts and formulations were unfamiliar to those who grew up in the culture of the West.

       One wonders if Jung would have felt the reverse were true.  Could analytical psychology have a resonance with persons from an Eastern culture, given that the concepts of ego, the unconscious and individuation were developed by Jung and his colleagues in 20th century Europe and America, based upon millennia of a civilization descended from Greek culture, Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religions, mythologies of Germanic, Celtic and Norman peoples, and alchemical mysticism?  In the last few decades, we have seen therapists from Japan, Korea, China and other countries in Asia become trained in Analytical Psychology, and have found that indeed the methodologies of Analytical Psychology bear fruit in therapy with those raised in the culture of the Far East.  The analyst Hayao Kawai has written about the bridge between Buddhism and therapy as practiced from a Jungian approach. Japanese analysts  Shunya Takeno and Tadashi Maeda have also written about the application of Jung's theoriesi in their patients in Japan where they have found it helpful in working in particular with psychotic patients.  Maeda's work in particular explores parallels between Buddhism and Jung's psychological ideas about the ego and Self.

       While in Japan on sabbatical at Kyoto Bunkyo University, David Rosen had the following encounter with a Zen priest, whom he had been encouraged to visit by a Jungian analyst colleague who was leaving Japan as David was arriving.

"As expected, the Zen priest called and I went to his small, sparsely furnished priest quarters with tatami flooring and we sat on Zen pillows. "

"The Zen priest was middle-aged, as I was. He spoke better English than my broken Japanese, so we chose the former to converse in. "

"His first generous offering was foamy green tea, which he whisked repeatedly with a tiny bamboo utensil. He served this to me in a unique, wabi-sabi bowl. I quickly gulped the tea. "

"He informed me that he had read Jung's foreword to D.T. Suzuki's Introduction to Zen Buddhism. He added that Jung clearly understood the parallels between Zen and his own psychology. "

"I reflected quietly on the fact that Satori and oneness were similar to the Self and the ongoing healing process of individuation. "

"He then asked a question that was often repeated: "Would you like some more tea?" I said, 'Yes, thank you very much.' I drank this tea more slowly and observed him carefully."

"He was centered and I felt like I entered a meditative state. It was as if I was sitting next to a calm, running brook. "

"The Zen priest observed me in turn. It’s like we were mirror images. "

"I asked him what he wanted to see me about. He said: 'I had a really bad dream.'"

"He was puzzled, as he said in his training that he was told to disregard dreams because they are like thoughts. "

"He said, 'I tried to do this, but I couldn't ignore them. They kept breaking through, flooding my mind, and they disturbed me.' "

"I sat there, nodding silently."

"He asked if I'd like more tea. Again, I accepted. "

"He then asked a question: 'Are you individuated?' "

"I said, 'No, it's a process.' "

"We drank more tea."

"Then I asked him, 'Are you enlightened?' "

"He said, 'No, it's a process.' "

"Then he inquired again, 'Are you sure you're not individuated?' "

"I responded, 'No.' "

"He laughed, and so I laughed."

"He asked, after more silence, "Would you like more green tea?" "Oh yes," I said."

"There was more silence."

"Then came his deep, accepting look. He asked, 'Tell me the truth, are you individuated?' "

"Again I said 'No.' ,

"I subsequently asked him 'But you must be enlightened.' "

"He said, 'No.' And he laughed heartily."

"During a pause in our mutual laughter, he offered me more tea. Again, I accepted. "

"It was as if we were drunk, but we weren't. Laughing in that place where you want to cry. "

"I persisted, while laughing, 'But to be a Zen priest, aren't you supposed to be enlightened?' "

"He bent over in laughter. "

"I said, 'You wanted to ask me something?' "

"He suddenly turned very serious. "

" 'Am I a rapist and murderer?' "

"I was stunned by his question."

"He saw my surprise and said, 'Please tell me. Am I a rapist and murderer?' "

"I came to with the question: 'Are you a rapist and murderer?' "

"He said, 'Yes.' "

"I didn't know what to say or think."

"I said, 'Really?' "

"He said, 'Yes.' "

"He asked, 'Do you want more tea?' "

"I said, 'No.' "

"I gathered up the courage to say, 'Please tell me what happened.' "

"I felt like a priest who was taking confession."

"He said, 'I raped and murdered a young woman.' "

"I replied, 'This is critical. Were the police involved?' "

"He said, 'No.' "

"I remembered a case I had seen many years ago, when a professor who was a patient had said he murdered his mother and father. In shock, I didn't know what to do. I told the patient, 'Call home.' Then we both heard his mother answer the telephone. I wrote on a notepad: 'Ask how your father is.' She said, 'He's fine.' "

"I asked the Zen priest, 'Why do you think you did that?' "

" 'Because I saw myself doing it.' "

"I said, 'But wasn't that a dream?' "

"He replied, ' Yes, but it happened.' "

"I said, 'That's the difference between a dream and reality.' "

"Then, he bent over in laughter, 'Thank you.' "

"I said, 'Thank you...' "

"We started laughing together, because we didn't have to cry."

"He asked, 'Would you like another tea?' "

"I said, chortling, 'Please.' "

"Then, while drinking the last foamy green tea, we began laughing, alternated with tears."

"Nearly three hours had passed."

"As I prepared to leave, we embraced and bowed to one another."

       In Jung's introduction to Suzuki's book, as noted by the Zen priest above, Jung draws parallels between psychotherapy and the practice of Zen Buddhism.  Jung felt the process of obtaining enlightenment for the Zen Buddhist was similar to the work an analysand goes through in order to attain a state of wholeness.  Jung felt that the Satori experience derived from the unconscious illuminating the psyche with what has been missing as a result of the one-sidedness of the conscious "l".  The "I" - i.e.. the "Ego" stands as the ultimate development of the enlightened Western man.  For the Buddhist, the "I" is the great obstacle to insight and true wisdom.

In this same introduction, Jung writes about psychotherapy:

"psychotherapy is a dialectical relationship between the doctor and the patient.  It is a discussion between two spiritual wholes, in which all wisdom is merely a tool.   The goal is transformation; not indeed a predetermined, but rather an  indeterminable change, the only criteria of which is the disappearance of 'I-ness.'"

In the encounter between David Rosen (who by the way, had previous to this encounter developed a theory of "Egocide" as a path towards transformation and encounter with the far richer and more complete archetype of the "Self") and the Zen priest, we see an encounter of two human psyches, each from a tradition promising realization of a deeper, transpersonal wisdom. The discussion between these "two spiritual wholes" takes place at first as a series of questions regarding whether the other has obtained enlightenment or individuation, with each repeatedly insisting (like Peter's three-fold denial of Christ!) that he has not obtained a state of enlightenment (for the priest) or individuation (for the analyst).  The healing which takes place is evident from the release of emotion - deep laughter and tears - on both sides of the encounter.  We might say that, through this session, the priest individuates a bit and the analyst has a glimpse of enlightenment.  For both, this comes at the expense (relievedly so) of their respective egos.  Neither "I" is enlightened or individuated, although there is some of each occurring in the room.  At the end of the session, each thanks the other.  Both psyches have shifted to some extent and each has mirrored the other in the process.

          Given more time, perhaps the priest could accept the concept of dreams being somewhat more than just the "thoughts" he had been taught to recognize them as.  Indeed, dreams come from the unconscious and hence carry unknown content and knowledge to the conscious observing ego, in essence echoing the process of Satori.  Perhaps this is why the priest could not let them go, as he had likely been able to do with the more ego-connected thoughts that bubbled up in him during meditation.  More connected to the Self, dreams are not from the same place as the ego and our day to day world of Maya, and they perform their work symbolically, rather than in a material manner.  And they can therefore confuse the ego.  Like the priest, with his statement of being a murderer because he dreamed it, and Rosen's professor who had, in his imagination only, murdered his mother and father, Michael Escamillal once had a patient who only in a delusion had killed someone - causing his treating doctor considerable angst until the self-reported homicide could be documented as a fiction.    

          In the violent images dreamed by the Zen priest, we are reminded of images of Kali and Shiva the destroyers, archetypal divine images of death, destruction and rebirth which arose in the Hindu culture that Buddha himself grew up in.  Like dreams, the archetypes of murder and rape exist within the deeper recesses of the Self and occupy a place worthy of attention, but are clearly distinct from the ego and its humdrum discharges of associations.  A more extended therapy, paying attention to the symbols found in the priest's dream, perhaps would have revealed aspects of the Zen priest's Self that needed attention in order for him to become more whole.  What in his psyche was needing to be killed, or to be ravaged?  And what within him was needing to commit such acts and to what intra-psychic end?  For instance, he may have been individuating through attacking a strong mother complex, which the analyst

 Kawai feels is the dominant complex (both nurturing and devouring) underlying the collective Japanese psyche. 

          The images and thoughts emanating from our conscious mind may indeed be the root of both our attachments and our suffering.  But the contents of the deeper unconscious, although carriers of the expansion of consciousness (and bringer of our Satoris) can cause equal turmoil and, if not properly contained, suffering.  As we are able to work with these inner images and dialogue with them, as Dr. Rosen helped the priest to do in this session, we can be thankful that we are not possessed by these archetypes.  Similarly, we might hope that, through the practice of non-attachment,  we as analysts and teachers help protect our egos from becoming identified or inflated by our work towards achieving a bit of enlightenment or individuation in our walk through these present incarnations.



Armstrong, K.  Buddha, 2001. Penguin Books, London, England.

Kawai, H.  Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy.  Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas.

Maeda, T.  The Understanding and Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia.  2004. Thesis.  C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich

Rosen, D.H. Transforming Depression: Healing the Soul through Creativity. 2002. Nicolas-Hays, Inc., York Beach, Maine.

Suzuki, D.T. (introduction by Jung, C.G.), An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, 1964. Grove Press, New York, New York.

Takeno, S. Schizophrenia – Myth or Reality: How Can We See and Face Schizophrenia. 1991. Thesis: C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich.



Dr. Escamilla is a Jungian analyst and a Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Center of Emphasis in Neurosciences at Texas Tech University Health Science Center at El Paso, and is the McMillan Institute Scholar at the Jung Center in Houston, Texas.

 David Rosen is a Jungian analyst and a Professor of Psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, in Eugene, Oregon.  He served as the McMillan Professor of Analytical Psychology at Texas A&M University, where he is now Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology.

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Reflections on Jung in the 21st century

Reflections on Jung in the 21st Century

Transitions: The McMillan Scholar

       It is now over one hundred years ago that Carl G. Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and the person for whom this web site is named, began publishing his work on the psychology of the unconscious.  In this time, the ideas and theories which he developed have moved from being dependent on the individual person of C.G. Jung (whose work in the field of psychiatry and psychology began in 1900 and lasted until his death in 1961) to being embedded in an ongoing international culture of Analytic Psychology practitioners, theorists, and, yes, academics.  This initial column will touch on the role of Analytical Psychology and Jungian ideas in academia, specifically within the context of the work made possible through the vision of Frank McMillan, Jr, which has been based out of the perhaps unexpected location of eastern Texas, since 1986. 

       A hundred years ago, in 1916, Jung himself was in a fallow period.  He had completed a decade of work (1900 to 1909) in which he had completed training as a psychiatrist and, with his mentor, the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, had gained international renown for his application of a scientific method (the word association experiment) to quantitatively measure indications of what Jung called unconscious “complexes.”  Along with Bleuler and the team of psychiatrists at the Burgholzli psychiatric hospital just outside Zurich, Switzerland, Jung began to develop a psychological system which gave due consideration to unconscious processes and which, in his early work, he utilized to make sense of the delusional and hallucinatory symptoms (as well as the “disorganized” and repetitive behaviors) often seen in patients with severe psychotic disorders.  Indeed, the introduction of psychological understanding to working with these patients soon led to a new conceptualization of many of these psychotic illnesses into a theoretical disease which Bleuler (in a 1911 publication1, within which Jung’s work is heavily cited) called “schizophrenia” (or, more accurately, a number of closely related mental disorders Bleuler referred to as “the schizophrenias”). 

       Jung’s work at the Burgholzli, in particular his use of the word association experiment to identify complexes and his 1906 publication on “The Psychology of Dementia Praecox”2 (Dementia Praecox was the medical terminology at that time for the disorder that modern psychiatry now denotes as Schizophrenia), attracted the attention of Sigmund Freud, a Viennese neurologist who was developing his own theories of the unconscious as he treated patients with a number of neurotic and psychosomatic conditions in the neighboring country of Austria.  From 1907 forward, C.G. Jung took on an active role in working with Freud to develop the psychoanalytic movement (including the founding of an international psychoanalytic association and conferences in Europe) while still working with Bleuler at the Burgholzli.  In these last years working at the hospital, in addition to his continuing work with patients, Jung supervised and taught psychiatry residents and students, and continued his own research work.  The professional association with Freud led to the two of them visiting the United States in September of 1909, where they were invited to deliver lectures at Clark University (in Massachusetts) describing their theories and research work on the unconscious.  Freud delivered five lectures on the theory of psychoanalysis and Jung delivered three lectures on the word association experiments which he and his colleagues had conducted at the Burgholzli.  Three years later, in September of 1912, Jung was invited to deliver a series of lectures on his psychological theories at Fordham University in New York (this was recently celebrated, in 2012, by a conference at Fordham sponsored jointly by the university and the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association of New York3).

        By 1916, however, the associations with Bleuler (at the Burgholzli) and Freud had effectively ended for Jung.  By that time, Jung had been out of the Burgholzli and in private practice for 6 years and had effectively ended his research and teaching work at that hospital and the affiliated university at Zurich.  Jung had also broken with Freud due to theoretical differences in their respective views of the essential elements which comprised the source of psychological libido (the presumed energy associated with psychological thoughts, emotions and (at the unconscious level) complexes).  The tipping point of the relationship with Freud is thought to be traceable (from an intellectual standpoint) to the publication of Jung’s work Symbols of Transformation in 1912.   Freud formally ended their personal and professional relationship in a letter sent to Jung in 2013.4    In 1906, now one hundred years in the past, Jung was continuing his work with patients in a private practice, and was deeply engaged in his own self-exploration of his unconscious (the fruits of which we can now see in his famous Red Book.5   He had retreated from writing papers or books for the larger community (this work would resurface in 1921 with the publication of his book Psychological Types6).  From that point forward, Jung continued to work and publish for the wider community, including giving invited talks and seminars to both psychiatrists (Tavistock lectures, scientific meetings) and for mental health professionals, students and the lay public (Shamdasani).  He formally re-entered academia with an appointment as a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (known as the ETH), where he lectured from 1933 to 1941.  Coinciding with his appointment at the ETH, Jung also participated, from 1933 to the early 1950s, in a series of conferences known as the Eranos conferences7, which brought together academics from disparate fields (including religious studies, science, and philosophy) and which went on for actively through the 1960s and 1970s.  In 1948, Jung  participated with others in founding the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, which he viewed as an institute that would not only teach practical aspects of analytical psychology, but also form a home for academic discourse and research on topics of interest to the analytical psychology field.   This move to an institute solely focused on analytic psychology, however diverse it’s intentions to foster intellectual discourse from related fields, soon became the dominant model for the intellectual work of Jungian analysts throughout the world, with the formation of a number of Jungian based institutes organized as part of an international association (the International Association of Analytical Psychology).  While this model has flourished with respect to developing Jung’s ideas and many areas of analytic psychology, and done so through both the promotion of student dissertations and independent publishing, one negative consequence of this has been that much, if not the vast majority, of Jungian academic discourse has taken place outside of university settings.  This has led to a situation where there is a paucity of Jungian or analytic psychology being taught in academic settings throughout the world and, along with this, there is a similar lack of rigorous research in analytical psychology.  By contrast, other branches of psychology, such as the behaviorist and cognitive therapy models have flourished both in academia and in their extension to treatment of individuals in psychiatric and psychologic clinics affiliated with major medical centers in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

        If we now fast forward one hundred years in time to the present time in which I am writing this blog entry, we can reflect on how C.G. Jung’s psychological theory of the mind continues to interact both with a larger community of lay individuals and practitioners of Analytic Psychology, as well as with academic institutions and the scientific community.  This is especially pertinent to the shifting role of the McMillan scholar position, which began in 1986 at Texas A&M University in College Station and which now continues in a new incarnation through the Jung Foundation of Houston. In addition to the McMillan scholar position (more about this later), there are certainly other footholds in academia (i.e. colleges and universities outside of the various Jungian Institutes and Foundations affiliated with the International Association of Analytical Psychology (IAAP)), but they are few and far between.  In terms of the current presence of academic scholars affiliated with universities, there are only a few examples I am aware of university positions in academia for Jungian scholars (it is my hope that this current blog post may inspire those who are working with Analytical Psychology or Jungian research in university settings to write in with your comments and observations!).  Among those I am aware of we can count the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex in England, where Andrew Samuels and Renos Papadopoulis are professors and both write and teach in the area of analytic psychology, at both undergraduate and graduate levels.  Sonu Shamdasani, one of the leading academicians who covers the work of Jung and Analytical Psychology, is a scholar with training in the history of medicine, and he currently is a professor at the University College in London.  A number of academics who work in the field of analytical psychology, including Joseph Cambray (a recent president of the IAAP) have found positions teaching at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California, which offers several degree programs in fields such as clinical psychology and mythological studies in addition to graduate programs in Jungian and Archetypal studies.  Verena Kast, a former president of the IAAP and current President of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, taught for many years as a professor of psychology at the University of Zurich.  Interestingly, both Drs. Kast and Cambray have also played a role in the McMillan Scholar story as it has evolved over the last three decades.  Apart from the  supported faculty positions just mentioned, throughout the world there are assuredly many Jungian analysts who are affiliated with universities and medical centers, mainly in the fields of psychology and psychiatry.  For instance, at the University of California at San Francisco, where I completed my psychiatry residency training, there were several Jungian analysts who were affiliated clinical faculty in the department of psychiatry, and at least one Jungian analyst on faculty  directing one of the inpatient units I worked on.

       One of the most innovative experiments in bringing Jung to an academic setting occurred at Texas A & M University in College Station.  There, a faculty position was created in the department of psychology, through the efforts and generosity of Frank McMillan, Jr., a Texas geologist and engineer who had come across the writings of C.G. Jung through a fortuitous meeting with an eccentric artist in a diner in East Texas (the story is told in detail in the book Finding Jung by Frank McMillan III8 and also covered in an article9).  McMillan, Jr., who would later tell analyst David Rosen that “Jung saved my life,” worked effortlessly to create the position at his alma mater (Texas A&M), a Texas university more better known for it’s outstanding engineering and agricultural science programs, although also comprised of a flourishing college of humanities, medical school, and many other academic disciplines.  There, for close to twenty years, the McMillan Scholar position supported a full time faculty member who published on Jungian topics, taught classes on Analytical Psychology, supervised graduate students and their dissertations on themes relevant to Analytical Psychology, performed innovative research on the topic, and hosted an annual speaker in a series known as the Fay Lectures.  Each of these Fay Lectures was by a noted Jungian analyst and consisted of an annal series of lectures delivered at Texas A&M University.  The analysts involved were international in scope and were well-respected scholars, and each Fay Lecture was eventually published in book form (these books are available through Texas A&M Press, as well as on the world wide web:  From 1986  to 2012 the McMillan Scholar position at Texas A&M was held by Dr. David Rosen, a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst by training.  David brought a wealth of energy, intellect, generosity of spirit, and good humor to his work as a scholar, editor and lecturer at Texas A&M, and apart from his work related directly to the position at Texas A&M, he is an accomplished author on topics as diverse as the process of creativity in treating depression, the Tao of Jung, the spiritual insights and mythical journey of Elvis Presley, and volumes on Haiku poetry.  A second volume of his life memoir is in the works (the first volume, published in 2014, covers his life through the stage of his becoming a psychiatrist10) which will cover his period of time as the McMillan scholar and will no doubt shed some light on the complexities and challenges of being a Jungian analyst and scholar working in a university setting.  David now describes himself as being “in recovery” from academia (there is hope for those of us still working in academic settings!) and continues his individuation process through creative writing projects and a budding career as the stand-up comic “Dr. Nada.”

       Ultimately, with Dr. Rosen’s retirement from Texas A&M, through a difficult process in which, at it’s core, the value of Jung’s work in a modern psychology department was challenged (not by faculty within the department, I should stress), and as documented in an article by Frank N. McMillan III,11 the position of the McMillan scholar moved to the Jung Center of Houston. The Jung Foundation in Houston, Texas was founded in 1958, endorsed by C.J. Jung as a location where seminars, classes, and lectures on Analytic Psychology and related topics are taught locally (and now, through archives on the world wide web, available internationally).   This was also the location in which Frank McMillan, Jr. was able to attend and learn more about Jung.  The McMillan scholar position, in it’s new location, will continue to coordinate and present the Fay Lecture series and edit the books forthcoming from that work at Texas A&M University Press.  Rather than teaching directly within a university setting (previously at Texas A&M), the scholar position will now work by disseminating research and academic work on Jung through the website of the Jung Page ( and in coordination with the Jung Center in Houston.  This in effect moves the work related to this position to a worldwide community as its’ primary focus, which was always a part of the goal when the position was at Texas A&M University, but takes the work outside of the walls of the traditional university setting.  For more formal positions within university settings around the world, aside from the many Jungian scholars who work at university settings as clinical faculty (and a handful as research faculty), the programs at the University of Essex and Pacifica University are perhaps the best known.

       The onus for carrying on academic work and research in Analytical Psychology thus, at this stage of the 21st century, lies primarily on the many Jungian associations throughout the world (where training and academic work on Jung’s ideas continue to flourish in regional associations and, through larger organizations such as the International Association for Analytic Psychology).  Journals also play a key role in continuing this work.  For instance, the Journal of Analytical Psychology continues to provide a forum where research work in Analytical Psychology can be critically presented, and other journals and web sites keep intellectual ideas and theories on Jung current and evolving.  Publications in book form also play a very large role in preserving and developing Jungian thought and ideas.  Among these, a particularly intensive series of publications has been forthcoming from the Philemon Foundation (  The Philemon Foundation, like most of the Jungian foundations and institutes throughout the world, operates outside of any particular university, overseen by a board of directors and facilitating participation by Jungian scholars from multiple countries.  The Philemon Foundation has, as it’s focus, the publication of Carl Jung’s writings, but, in addition to the work of translation, brings current scholarship to bear on both the editing, commentaries, and introductions of these works.  In essence it continues the work of the Bollingen Foundation (1948-1968), which, in partnership with Princeton University Press (Bollingen series), published the English editions of Jung’s collected works from 1957 through the 1990s.

       So, what are the opportunities and dangers of a Jungian community who’s main academic work is carried out in institutions and foundations who are friendly to Jungian ideas, rather than in the academic settings of universities and psychiatric institutes?  On the positive side, the Jungian community has continued to grow, with a focus on training analysts and, in the process, developing a rich tapestry of thoughts on themes that were of primary importance to Jung, in particular with regard to explorations of archetypal images, the existence and analysis of unconscious contents as manifested in dreams and active imagination, and the idea of personality types.  On the negative side, operating outside of the university setting, we have been on the sidelines of the major developments in psychology and psychiatry of the last half century.  Research funding at the national level, although substantial in psychology and psychiatry, has not been available to researchers using analytical psychology approaches, as academic and university discourse has largely focused on materialistic (biologic) and behavioralist models of human psychology.  In terms of treatment of psychiatric and psychological problems, something that was important to Jung himself, there have been few research studies to show the efficacy of analytical psychology, which threatens analytical psychology having a valid argument as to it’s usefulness in treating the very patients and people Jung developed his theories for.  Unconscious psychological processes continue to be studied in the university setting, but the terminology used by current neuroscientists has diverged from the terms used by analytic psychologists. Lastly, rigorous, hypothesis based science, to test and define concepts such as  “complexes”, “archetypes” and “the collective unconscious”,  key elements in analytical psychology, are scarce.  For those interested in a reading more about the difficulties of bridging Jungian thought with the academic community, David Tacey wrote a compelling article in 1997 on this topic: “Jung in the academy: devotions and resistances.”12  The situation Tacey summarized at the time seems to have changed little in the intervening 19 years.

       Whereas many Jungian analysts or Analytical Psychology scholars would eschew the need to bring analytical psychology into the fray of the modern university setting,  I would argue that Jung himself worked hard to do so throughout his career (teaching at the ETH until 1941 and later, giving addresses at Psychiatric Congresses up to his very last years) and that, through his support of conferences such as the Eranos conferences (in which Jung and others presented papers from an analytical psychology perspective in a setting where many viewpoints and academic frameworks were represented), he both expected and took pride in the fact that the analytical psychology framework he and others had worked to develop could be used in interactions with scientists and thinkers from different schools of thought.  It must be said that it behooves those interested in analytical psychology in the current century to work to further this work, both through finding ways to re-enter academic discourse in university settings and through the participation in conferences in which different views of psychology, science and the humanities are presented.  Such interactions can be challenging and, at times frustrating (the politics of academia and sometimes dismissive nature of academicians who are critical of Jung’s theories can certainly be unpleasant at times), but if Jung’s ideas and the subsequent developments in analytical psychology have import for the human race and our understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe, they should be able to take their place, influence and be influenced by the discourse outside foundations and institutions that are based solely on analytical psychology and Jung’s ideas. 

       David Rosen, the first McMillan Scholar, often tells the story of Frank McMillan, Jr. telling him that “Jung saved my life,” meaning that his discovery of Jung’s ideas and approaches helped move him from a place of despair to one of finding a soulful in-depth understanding of his own psychological experiences and ideas.  I think that for McMillan Jr., at the core of his vision for the McMillan Scholar position, his hope was that Jung’s ideas would be introduced to students and academicians in university settings and that analytical psychology would continue to play a role in the academic discourse of our present times.  It is my hope that, as the new McMillan Scholar, I can help to fulfill that vision through continuing the tradition of the Fay lectures and publications and, through the Jung Page, to highlight scholarly activities in Analytical Psychology throughout the world.  The Jung Page is already a rich resource for those wishing to learn more about Jung and Analytical Psychology and will continue to be so.  I encourage all to explore the resources contained within and welcome any comments or suggestions on how to make the website more useful for those with an interest in Jung and Analytical Psychology.


Michael Escamilla, MD



1. Bleuler E.  Dementia Praecox oder die Gruppe der Schizophrenien [Dementia Praecox or The Group of Schizophrenias].  Published originally as a chapter of G. Aschaffenburg’s Handbuch der Psychiatrie, Leipzing 1911.

2. Jung, C.G.  The Psychology of Dementia Praecox (1907).  Published in English in volume 3 of the Collected Works of C.G. Jung, The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease, Bollingen Foundation Press, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1960.

3. Mattson ME, Wertz FJ, Fogarty H, Klenck M, Zabriskie B, editors.  Jung In The Academy And Beyond: The Fordham Lectures 100 Years Later.  2015.  Spring Journal Inc., New Orleans.


5. Jung, C.G. The Red Book: Liber Novus.  Edited by Shamdasani, S.  W.W. Norton and Co., New York, NY 2009.

6. Jung, C.G. Psychological Types (1921) published in English as volume 6 of the Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Bollingen Foundation Press, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey 1971.


8.  McMillan, Frank N. III.  Finding Jung.  Frank McMillan Jr., A Life in Quest of the Lion. Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas, 2012.

9. McMillan, Frank N. III. And Rosen, D. “Synchronicity at the Crossroads: Frank McMillan Jr., Forrest Bess, and Carl Jung.” Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche, 6(2): 86-102, 2012.

10. Rosen, DH.  Lost in the Long White Cloud.  2014.  WIPF and Stock; Eugene, Oregon.

11.  McMillan, FN III, “Frank N. McMillan III on Ancestors: The Quick and the Dead”, Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche, 8(3): 77-80, 2014.

12. Tacey, D.  “Jung in the academy: devotions and resistances.”  Joutnal of Analytical Psychology, 42 (2) 269-283, 1997.

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