Current Position:Index-Individuation in the Light of Chinese Philosophy

Individuation in the Light of Chinese Philosophy

Author:John Beebe       2014-04-11 Font:S M L


Individuation in the Light of Chinese Philosophy 

John Beebe (San Francisco)


       Individuation has becomeone of Jung’s signature concepts, but he did not invent the term, and itsmeaning for his psychology is still open to clarification and development.  Jung took over the word “individuation” fromits historical use in Western philosophy where, as a Latin possessive noun, itforms part of principium individuationis, the principle of individuation, that was an important idea in scholasticphilosophy[1],[2]  The history of this idea can be traced fromAristotle[3] toLeibniz[4],Kant[5],Schopenhauer[6],and Nietzsche[7]before it finally gets to Jung, who gave it new life within analyticalpsychology.  Individuation was aprinciple, a “given” of reality, that thinkers in the West found necessary topostulate in order to account for the coming into being of individualentities.  It stood in lieu of a causalexplanation for how the ten thousand things emerge—and was in fact anarchetypal notion of how individuality asserts itself. 


       When Jung appropriatedSchopenhauer’s idea of the principium individuationis as the aspect of time andspace that allows things to be themselves, he did so to point to the way theindividual personality of a patient develops in the course of a deeppsychotherapy[8]  Individuation, for Jung, was the unconsciousdynamic that enabled the individual person to emerge.    Theterm has been used more narrowly by psychoanalyst Margaret Mahler to refer tothe process in early personality development through which an infant achievesautonomy and agency apart from its mother  It is understood that in later development this independent ego willalso acquire a distinct identity. Although this view of early individuation is not entirely foreign toJung, he really intended the term individuation to apply to later middle life,when the personality that emerges is not just an ego that can adapt and cope and achieve its ends, but a self that hasthe capacity to unify and radically redirect the aims and tasks of the personalong individual lines.  Suchindividuation is quite apart from the ego strength needed to meet theexpectations of one’s family or culture for productivity andself-restraint.  It cannot occur untilthe second half of life, and even then it doesn’t happen for many people.  Nevertheless, it has become the ultimate goalof Jungian analysis. 


       I recall near the end ofmy own therapy with Joseph Henderson asking him when he thought individuationcould be said to start.  He said, “Oh,somewhere between ages forty-five and fifty.” “Not before?” I asked him.  “Notbefore,” came his reply.  By then I wasforty-eight, and I knew what Dr. Henderson meant.  (I was relieved not to be late.)  Up until then, although I certainly showedtraces of originality, I was always seeking some authority outside myself toguide my thinking.  Once I turnedforty-seven, it became natural for me to think for myself.  Part of that shift, over the past twentyyears, has been more of an effort to say what I really think about the basicconcepts of analytical psychology, particularly dreams, complexes,psychological types, and individuation. I have found I wanted to say how I have experienced the things for whichthese are our Jungian names.  Today Iwould like to reflect again about individuation, drawing upon  the wisdom of Chinese philosophy. 

       We have to understandthat though Jung eventually came to understand individuation in quite a Chineseway, the term itself, individuation, which implies a heroic ideal ofimpregnable wholeness, is a holdover from the first part of his professionalcareer  That career, in my view, dividesinto two distinct halves.  Jung oftenspoke of the first and second halves of life, and that model can be applied aswell to a professional career.  I reckonJung’s career as a doctor to start with his graduation from medical school in1902 and to end with his death in 1961, 59 years later.  The span of his life’s work can be seen todivide rather cleanly into two halves, each 29 1/2 years long, if we take thepublication in English of his watershed “European Commentary” on the Taoistmanual “The Secret of the Golden Flower” as the midpoint, which in 1931 endedthe first half of his career and inaugurated the second half of hisprofessional contribution. 


       The astrologicallyminded will quickly recognize that the two twenty-nine and a half year periodsthat emerge on the basis of such a division correspond to two cycles of Saturn,which, from the standpoint of the earth, , takes 29 1/2 years to return to whereit was in the heavens when a cycle began. Astrology understands the long period of the planet Saturn’s cycle as abackground influence that shapes the personality undergoing development by avery gradual chastening, in which Saturn serves as the taskmaster.  This is a good image of at least part of whatJung intended the term individuation to comprehend.  From this perspective, the first half ofJung’s career, which must have seemed like a very long time to him, was but thefirst of two such cycles that, taken together, circumscribe his fullcareer. 


       The first of thesecycles stretches from the 1902 presentation, when he was nearly twenty-seven,of his doctoral thesis “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called OccultPhenomena” to the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Zurich, across theyears to the 1931 English publication, when Jung was still 55, of his “EuropeanCommentary” on the T’ai-i Chin-hua tsung-chih, the 17th centuryTaoist text that Richard Wilhelm’s translated as The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Taoist Book of Life[9].   Like most people’s first Saturn cycle, theperiod from 1902 to 1931 was professionally Dr. Jung’s most heroic period, bothas a psychotherapist and as a theorist of psyche  It was of course a time of great achievementsand discoveries for Jung, but one of its most heroic aspects was that as aclinical teacher he repeatedly renounced the supremacy of the hero and with itthe goal of achieving and maintaining a strong, competent ego. This wasradical, and in one sense, Jung’s need to get past the hero was the basis ofhis break with Freud, whose psychoanalysis, which continued to emphasize theego, would soon become ego-psychology. The break with Freud is sometimes described as the culmination of Jung’sheroic efforts to put the hero aside, but I see Jung’s departure frompsychoanalysis as an anticipation of what he was later to do in his owntheory.  The real shift away from heroicpsychology comes for Jung, I believe, at the very end of the first 29 ½ yearcycle of his career, when, in the English edition[10]of his Commentary to The Secret of the Golden Flower, he writes:


…If the unconscious can be recognized as a co-determining quantityalong with the conscious, and if can be lived in such a way that conscious andunconscious (in a narrower sense instinctive) demands are given recognition asfar as possible, the centre of gravity of the total personality shifts itsposition.  It ceases to be in the ego,which is merely the center of consciousness, and is located instead, in whatmight be called a virtual point between the conscious and the unconscious.  This new centre might be called the Self. [11]


This is Jung’s pithiest description of what he thought humanindividuation requires[12],and I find it remarkable that it was inspired by Richard Wilhelm’s somewhatconfusing translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower.  As Thomas Cleary has shown in his extensivelyannotated 1991 translation, Wilhelm misunderstood the nature of the CompletelyReal (Perfect Realization) Taoist School’s practice of “turning the lightaround,” which had incorporated Chan Buddhist yoga practice, confusing it witha more familiar practice of Taoist energetics involving the circulation of heatin the body, which led Wilhelm (who knew little of Buddhist meditation) to see“The Secret of the Golden Flower” as another Taoist alchemical text and totranslate the name for its basic meditation technique, fan-chao as “circulationof the light.” 


       A process with this namewould imply, perhaps, the flow of insight in a rich experience of the soul thatpsychological consciousness can promote, but it does not imply a shift in thecenter of that consciousness, as does the “turning the light around”process  that is the basis or beginningof the Golden Flower practice, which eventually leads to the discovery of theheart of the mind.[13]  What is reached by this process is fu, aplace in the mind where thought itself arises and where the mind can becontemplated objectively and can also operate objectively  The mind in this place is spoken of as amirror and experienced as ego-less. This involves the shift from an ego-centered, subjective use of mind towardan objectivity toward the thinking and feeling process itself  Such objectivity is the most salientcharacteristic of a mind that is grounded in what Jung calls the self.   It is this shift of emphasis that Clearyattempts to capture in his translation of the Chinese phrase fan-chao as“turning the light around.”  The idea isbeautifully conveyed by the Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei’s well-known four-linepoem about being in a deer forest.[14] Here is a translation that I have slightly revised from oneavailable on the internet that seems to me better than any other I have found[15]:

       Empty mountains.  No one to see.

            But echoes are heard of someone’s words.

       Evening sunlight shinesinto the deep forest.

       And is reflected on thegreen mosses above.

The “light” is consciousness, and “turning” it “around” is meant toconvey not a circuit, but a reversal of the subject-object polarity on whichego-consciousness depends. The subject becomes the object.  The former, egoistic use of consciousness isnow observed.  And observed,consciousness is deflected and re-emerges as a light  grounded in nature, in the experience Jungcalls the self, Buddhism the “Buddha-nature,” and Taoism “the source beforefather and mother.”  This is a lessdirected light, but one with a lot more affection for the real and potential toget us to see than before. 


       Without practicalexperience, one cannot understand what is being talked about, but I would pointout to those who have never taken up Chan Buddhist or Perfect RealizationTaoist practice nor wandered through the forest of the self through a longJungian analysis nor reached the “evening light” of spontaneous individuationafter age forty-seven, that something like this reversal of polarity occursevery time we go to sleep and dream. Then the perspective of the waking ego, with its lusts, attachments, andanxieties, is met in a variety of symbolic guises and becomes the object ofanother perspective which somehow remains outside the subjectivity of theanxious ego.  The ego continues to beobserved and felt in the dreaming state, by a self that is at least somewhatdetached, but we see the ego as a shadow in our dreams.  Our dreams invite us to critique the ego’sstandpoint.  They  present things that the ego in the wakingstate is unwilling to face.  Therein liesthe tremendous power of dreams, since during the day, the ego’s standpoint ismore or less thoroughly identified with, so much so that even when the ego isanxious, it is somewhere almost always pretty sure that it is right and believeits troubles are a consequence of the lack of sympathy of others.  In a dream, on the other hand, even at theheight of anxiety, the self that is dreaming may seem to identify with theperspective of the frightened ego, but there is self-awareness that wonders ifmaybe the ego’s state of mind is inauthentic, hyperdramatic, or absurd.  In a dream,  the thought, “How did I get mixed up in this?”may come. 


       In other words, thedream makes clear that the self is unhappy with the ego’s perspective onthings.  It’s that ability to turn thelight of any consciousness around and examine where it is coming from thatmakes the dream state so special, and so remarkably effective in promotingreflection on the ego’s perspective, which in the waking state is so littleopen to question, unless the person has been trained in questioning the ego, asthrough Buddhist practice, or through a psychoanalysis that invites the ego tolook at its shadow.   Jung seems to havegrasped that the Taoist text was talking about the move from ego to selfthrough his ability to amplify specific images in the text.  One of these images was the Golden Flower,which Jung recognized as a mandala image. The text  induced Jung to amplifythe flower in a Buddhist way.  The floweris an image that the Buddha himself resorted to more than once to explainenlightenment to his disciples.  In hisfamous “Flower sermon,” when, near the end of his life, he found himself stilltrying to express to his followers, gathered by a quiet pond, the essence ofhis teaching, the Buddha pulled out of the water a golden lotus flower, withits roots intact, and held it up for them to see.  There is an analogous, though more dialogicmoment between Jung and a student in his English seminar on Visions. Thequestioner, a Swiss, Herr Fritz Allemann, had asked, “Is not individuation, inour sense of the word here, rather living life consciously?  A plant individuates but it livesunconsciously.”  Dr. Jung answered, “Thatis our form of individuation.  A plantthat is meant to produce a flower is not individuated if it does not produce aflower, it must fulfill the cycle; and the man that does not developconsciousness is not individuated, because consciousness is his flower, it ishis life, it belongs to our process of individuation that we shall becomeconscious.” [16]  


       In my attempts to becomeconscious of what Jungian psychology is trying to get at when it speaks ofindividuation, I have often turned to Chinese philosophy to obtain an objectiveperspective.  Chinese philosophy hashelped me to understand what the consciousness that emerges with the GoldenFlower may be like.  Sometimes in mylectures and writings, I have compared individuation to the progressivedevelopment of the various functions of consciousness, suggesting that ifconsciousness is the human being’s flower, the eight function-attitudes that Jungdescribes in Psychological Types—extraverted feeling, introverted feeling,introverted intuition, extraverted intuition, extraverted sensation,introverted sensation, introverted thinking, extraverted thinking—are thepetals of that flower.  But today, Iwould like to talk about the bud of the flower. I would like to turn around the light that Jung cast on Chinesephilosophy by using analytical psychology, and instead seek to illuminate ourpsychological concept of individuation with Chinese philosophical ideas. Withthis reversal of focus, I think I can make clearer what the experience ofconsciousness is like when it stems from the self

       Drawing on Chinesephilosophy is one way to bring our conception of individuation more in linewith the way Jung thought about it in the second half of his career,culminating in the “memories, dreams, reflections” that he supplied to hissecretary Aniela Jaffe as he neared the end of his life, so that we would haveat least some record of the way he had conceived his own individuation.   I would like to mention just three examplesfrom Chinese philosophy that have helped me better to conceive the nature ofthe development that Jung calls individuation. Each of these examples has the power to individuate the concept beyondwhat it seemed to Jung to be at the end of the first twenty nine and half yearsof his career as a doctor.


       My first example istaken from the seminal text of all Chinese philosophy, the I Ching.  I have often called this book a textbook ofthe self and seen it as an easy path of instruction for an ego that has nototherwise found it possible to accept the self’s perspective.  Because it can be used in this way, as thestand-in for the self to an ego that has reached the limit of its resources, Iwondered if there would be anything in the book that spoke to individuation perse.  I meant, of course, something beyondthe  role the book plays in making theego willing to submit its intentions to inquiry.  Was there anything in the content, ratherthan in the process of using the I Ching, that might suggest how the ego’sattitude shifts as it gives itself over to the self’s perspective? 


       The “answer” that cameto mind, almost as if I had put the question to the I Ching, which I did notactually do, was the fourth  line ofHexagram 14, “Possession in Great Measure.” The text for this line is: 




He makes a difference

Between himself and his neighbor

No blame.[17]


In his commentary to this line text, Wilhelm says he thinks itrefers to the “position of a man placed among rich and powerful neighbors,” asituation requiring extreme conscious modesty. It is rare for me to quarrel with Richard Wilhelm’s line text glosses,but in this case I have a different understanding, because I think the linelocates the greater possession in the person who has consulted the oracle,taking him as what Confucian thought calls the chun-tzu, the profound person,the person on the path of self-cultivation[18]


       All of  hexagram 14 speaks to the “possession ingreat measure” of such a person by pictographically depicting a fire in heaven:all its lines then concern the problems that appear along with such aconcentration of light that has enough magnitude to shine far.  This is an apt metaphor for the great degreeof consciousness that emerges with individuation.  Such a consciousness inevitably stands outfrom the more limited consciousnesses around it.  The person who has humbly reversed the lightof the mind to subordinate the ego and locate itself in the self has now comeinto a great possession, a superior consciousness, and  has to accept the responsibilities ofcarrying it.  Such a consciousness willset him apart from his neighbor, the more collective person who is stillclinging to the ordinary ego standpoint. 


       The I Ching callspersons  in touch with such consciousness“Great People,” [19]  meaning that they belong to,and serve, the greater consciousness that Jung calls the self.  To recognize oneself as such a person is notmodest in any usual sense of that word, but the I Ching insists that there isno blame in seeing that one’s consciousness, if great in this sense, isdifferent from one neighbor’s.[20]  The Classic of Change doesnot worry about inflation in the person making such discrimination.  In fact, the usual effect of recognizing thatone is in possession of a degree of consciousness is to make one far morecircumspect than other people.  One hasto be careful to recognize that others may not yet be where one is, and at the sametime vigilant about one’s remaining unconsciousness, because others will seizeupon that to make you equal again, by taking you down a peg.  This is another reason, if we are moreconscious, that we need to make a difference between ourselves and our neighbors.  One has to recognize, too, that one’s  very own ego can be such a neighbor,  envious of the self-perspective that has beenattained by oneself at one’s best, and eager to humiliate that.[21]


       A related idea fromChinese philosophy that has helped me to understand this  aspect of individuation better is theConfucian notion of self-cultivation, which Professor Tu Wei-Ming at HarvardUniversity has done so much to explain to people in the West.  This is an idea that he finds in thedevelopment of Confucius thought originating with Mencius, but he recognizesthat it is also there “in Chuang-tzu’s version of Taoism, and Ch’an (Zen)Buddhism.”  He speaks of it as Confucianonly because it was Confucius who made empathy and integrity a practice, thuslinking dealing with others kindly and ethically to the highest degree of workon the self.  In Confucian thought, twoof the central values are jen, humaneness, and li, propriety.  There is, as Tu Wei-Ming points out, a “creativetension” between them, which is resolved only when one understands that for thetrue Confucian the li are not empty persona forms, but ritual acts throughwhich humaneness can be enacted so that it actually does do others somegood.  As he puts it, “li can beconceived of as an externalization of jen in a concrete social interaction.”[22]Ritual cannot, of course, replace sincerity of heart, the highest Confucianvalue; so he makes it clear that “it is of paramount importance that werecognize the primacy of jen (humaneness) over li (ritual)” even as werecognize “the inseparability of li from jen.” [23]  As he explains, “Etymologically, theideograph li suggest a sacrificial act, and the earliest available dictionarymeaning is “treading” or “following.”[24] Specifically, it points to the step or act whereby spiritual beingsare properly served and human happiness obtained.” He adds, “Whether we focuson its original meaning of sacrifice or its derivative meaning of propriety, liimplies the existence of an “other.” 


        The psychology of individuation often isdescribed as a progressive discovery of self that requires that we ignorecollective attachments, but here we read that the enactment of li in order to properly take care of the other is theright way to develop the self.  I find asimilar  emphasis on what a Buddhistwould call “right action” all through the Confucian commentaries on the IChing, which is why I prefer the Wilhelm translation, which  includes them, to other English translationsthat emphasize mainly the Taoist layers of the text.  They simply concern themselves withcontemplating the movements of the Tao and are not moved to recommend  any effort to consciously position one’sbehavior toward others, ethically.  Theidea of trying to direct one’s behavior so that the Tao may be furthered is anidea that is often ridiculed by Taoist thinkers, who find it typicallyConfucian. 


       Always trying to findthe right way to act is one way to lose the Way.   That is why Lao-tzu requires that we go tothe “root of the void” (in other words, a place without prescriptions) ratherthan push our egos to seek the right route to virtue.    Confucian thought adds something in itsunderstanding that individuation is not simply behaving naturally according toone’s tao, but involves becoming able to move beyond natural instinct to a moreconsidered perspective. 


       My favorite example ofhow “reconsidering” may be part of individuation comes from the life of ChuHsi, the founder of neo-Confucianism, who during his 12th centurylifetime spearheaded the educational reform movement known throughout China asWei-hsüeh, the “true learning” school, which demanded of its students years ofstudy of the Confucian classics to build in them a working understanding of thenature of virtue.[25]  As this movement began to threaten the circlearound the Emperor that had gained important government posts not through theircommand of virtue but through more traditional forms of educationaladvancement, Chu Hsi’s school was attacked as “false learning.”  Chu, outraged, sought to defend his teaching:

He wrote an [open letter to the Emperor] which his students fearedwould have disastrous consequences.  Chuat that time was sixty-four and not in good health.  Some of his students begged him to retire,but he would not listen to them.  Hisfriend and student Ts’ai Yüan-Ting (1135-1198) suggested that he put thequestion to the I Ching.  Since Chu Hsihad almost single-handedly revived the practice of I Ching divination as partof the study of this classic and regarded it as an essential part of learningto be a sage, he could hardly refuse.  Hecast the yarrow stalks obtaining hexagram # 33 T’un (Withdrawal (Retreat),changing to hexagram # 37 Chia-jen (Family). He then burned the memorial and retired for the last time, taking thenew honorific name, T’un-weng, “Old Man who has withdrawn.”[26] 

Although he himself lived only five more years and so did not get tosee neo-Confucianism prevail in China, Chu Hsi, by withdrawing, ensured thatthe True Learning would not be essentially harmed by the backlash against it, whicha forceful push on his part would most probably have precipitated.  After his death, a later emperor realized thevirtues of the True Learning method of education and made it the official basisof bureaucratic preferment throughout China. This development ensured that the civil service examinations would layemphasis on a mastery of ethical education, and the new system would last inChina for hundreds of years..  


       Looking more closely atthe divination that Chu Hsi received from the I Ching you will find that thechanging yang line in the first hexagram, which advised retreat, is the nine inthe fourth place, “Voluntary retreat bring good fortune to the superior man/And downfall to the inferior man.”  The hexagramthat was generated on this basis of this line going from yang to yin was “TheFamily,” in which the fourth line became, “She is the treasure of the house.Great good fortune.”  The clearimplication was that by retreating now, the true learning movement would intime become an anima value for the Chinese collective, something that couldadvance because the heart of the culture was behind it.  Thus Chu Hsi’s propriety (li) in retreatingduring his own lifetime resulted in a greater exercise of his jen in thedevelopment of Chinese culture for later generations.   Using his own method of seeing what the selfwanted him to do, divination, the revolutionary thinker had found a soundethical ground on which to tread with integrity even while following the adviceof his students to behave with unusual emphasis on propriety.


       Time allows me to giveyou only one other example of how Chinese philosophy images individuation.   I think you may be relieved to hear that itis a non-ethical example, and a Taoist one, to balance the Buddhist and Confucianperspectives I have been emphasizing.  Itis also a familiar one, so I hope it will not stretch you too much  toattend to it.  It is fromChuang-tzu.   In the first of his “innerchapters,” Chuang-tzu addresses the magnitude of the transformation that isrequired for individuation:


In the darkness of the Northern Ocean, there is a fish namedk’un.  The k’un is so big that no oneknows how many thousands of tricents (three hundred paces) its bodyextends.  After it metamorphoses into abird, its name becomes P’eng. The P’eng is so huge that on one knows how manythousands of tricents its back stretches. Rousing itself to flight, its wings are like clouds suspended in thesky.  When the seas stir, the P’engprepares its journey to the Southern Ocean, the Lake of Heaven.[27]  


This passage speaks, almost grotesquely, to the way the unconsciousis transformed and enlarged in the process of becoming Self.  Instinct itself (the fish) is spiritualized(the bird), which can fly farther, and get deeper (the Southern Ocean) andcloser to moving in accord with the divine plan (the Lake of Heaven).  How, though does Chuang-tzu conceive thedynamic that changes the darkness of the Northern Ocean, the commonunconsciousness, to the Lake of Heaven that is the Southern Ocean, the mediumof the self, whose instincts are presumably more ethical and certainly moretrustworthy?  How does he get us past theheaviness of the process, which seems so daunting? 


       The Jungian analyst PiaSkogemann has made a philological examination of Chuang-tzu’s word for suchsignificant transformations, hua, and has discovered that even metamorphoses asstrange as this one are deeply rooted in the processes of nature, whichcertainly offers many opportunities to observe peculiar natural transformations.  From this perspective, she interpretsChuang-tzu’s famous recounting of his putative butterfly dream, in which hewoke from dreaming that he “was a butterfly flitting and fluttering around,happy with himself and doing as he pleased,” as not just a parable ofindividuation, but the report of a true dream. It is his openness to the dream that, as Skogemann points out, suggeststhe degree of the philosopher’s individuation, of his readiness to accept theperspective of the self.  She makes thecase that the lightness of the dream is a kind of compensation to thephilosopher’s engagement with the weight of the world and to his staggeringperception of the amount of consciousness it may require to adequately meet thedifficult world  You may remember that inhis account of the dream, he tells us that he awoke to find that he was oncemore “solid and unmistakable Chuang…. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang…whohad dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang….” [28]Taking her cue from the fact that always in Chuang-tzu, a hua (which otherwisemight in this case be a manic anticipation of Kafka’s twentieth century“Metamorphosis”) is a natural transformation, Skogemann amplifies the dream bydrawing upon the natural history of the butterfly.  She sees the caterpillar or cocoon stage thatis thereby implied (as the prehistory of the insect) as an image of theordinary human ego.  Thus “the butterflywould be the actualization of the self in the world; the spontaneous creativespirit of the moment”[29]  that is released when an ego is able totransforms itself into self.  Such atransformation—for the dreaming Chuang-tzu, a delightful surprise—would beindividuation.


       If we accept Skogemann’sview that the dream is a compensation for the grimmer view of individuationthat Chuang-tzu had in fact been holding prior to the dream, we realize that itis bidding the philosopher to recognize that individuation is not just amovement into a new heaviness and new responsibilities (as in his image of theheavy fish that becomes an even heavier bird), but a process that releases thespirit, providing the person who is already in a second half of life that willend in death, the energy to transcend the body. The price, however, is a certain forgetfulness of the ego considerationsthat normally attach to any body.  Theself that permits such transformation was for the Taoists, as Skogemann makesclear, “nature with its mysterious workings.” (p. 88)


       I would add that, fromthe evidence of this dream, one of nature’s workings is a tendency to transformconsciousness in such a way that normal ego-identity is lost in favor of pure,delightful unorganized being (the butterfly that is Chuang-tzu who has quiteforgotten himself)  In fact, in the midstof individuation, our normal certainty of ego-identity begins to seem the oddstate we are able to visit only when we are dreaming.  Put another way, the state of uncertainty atwhich we arrive when we have accepted the workings of the self is the one thatcharacterizes the soul when it is fully awake. The Self that one reaches in individuation is not a place, like theego.  Rather, one loses the ability todistinguish ego and self.  That isbecause, we are, like the man who has become a butterfly, fluttering aboutbetween them, and no longer sure which state defines us.  Perhaps that is why Jung, in “advanced oldage” recalled the statement of Lao-tzu, whose honorific name (we do not knowhis real one) means The Old One: “All are clear, I alone am clouded”  Jung found the Chinese philosopher’sassertion an apt expression of what he too had come to feel as his own life andwork drew to a close. At the end of Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he expressesthe profound uncertainty that comes with individuation (and this we can learnbest from the Chinese language itself, which is always just beyond translationinto a single, unambiguous meaning):


The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more there hasgrown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things.  In fact it seems to me as if that alienationwhich so long separated me from the world has become transferred into my innerworld, and has revealed to me an unexpected unfamiliarity with myself.[30]



[1] John Goheen (1940).  TheProblem of Matter and Form in the De Ente et Essentia of Thomas Aquinas,Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[2] Francisco Suarez (1982).  Suarezon Individuation [Metaphysical Disputation V: Individual Unity and ItsPrinciple, Jorge J. E. Garcia (ed. and Trans.)], Milwaukee: MarquetteUniversity Press.

[3] A. C. Lloyd (1970). “Aristotle’s Principle of Individuation,” Mind79, pp. 519-529

[4] J.A. Cover and John O’Leary-Hawthorne (1999).  Substance and Individuation in Leibniz,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[5] Eric. M. Rubinstein (2001). “Rethinking Kant on Individuation,” Kantian Review 5, pp. 73-89.

[6] Arthur Schopenhauer (1969). The World as Will and Representation,Vol. 1, E.F.J Payne (trans.), New York: Dover Publications, pp. 112-113.

[7] Christopher Janeway (1998) Willing and Nothingness: Schopenhauer as Nietzsche'sEducator, Oxford: Clarendon Press,1998

[8] Anthony Storr (1999). “Foreword” to Jung in Contexts, Paul Bishop (Ed.), London and NewYork: Routledge, p.xvii.  In the samevolume, see also James Jarrett’s “Schopenhauer and Jung,” p. 200 and thesection on ‘The Dionysian Self,’ pp. 224-230 in Paul Bishop’s “C.G. Jung andNietzsche: Dionysus and Analytical Psychology.” 

[9] This text, from the Taoist School of the Realization of Truth, orPerfect Realization School (Ch’uan-chen tao, which Cleary renders as the“Completely Real” School of Taoism), is literally titled “Teaching of theGolden Flower of the Supreme One.”  Itdescribes meditative breathing exercises that synthesize Taoist and ChanBuddhist practices, which include fan-chao, which Richard Wilhelmtranslated as “circulation of the light” and Thomas Cleary as “turning thelight around,” which if done rightly crystallizes the Golden Flower, the embryoof enlightenment, resulting in fu, a “return to the source,” where(according to the Jungian analyst Mokusen Miyuki) “form and spirit have not yetseparated within consciousness into knowing and understanding.”  Of the practice, Miyuki says “this process isquite simply a search for a wholeness that existed within our body beforeHeaven and Earth came into existence.” (Thomas Cleary, The Secret of the Golden Flower: The Classic ChineseBook of Life, HarperSanFrancisco, pp. 73, 76;  Ingrid Fisher-Schreiber, The ShambhalaDictionary of Taoism, Werner Wunsche (trans), Boston: Shambhala, pp.153-154 [her quotes from Miyuki are taken from the German translation of his 1967 Diploma Thesis for the C.G. JungInstitute, Zurich, The Secret of the Golden Flower, Studiesand Translation, published in 1972 by O.W. Barth Verlag, Weilheim as Kreisendes Lichtes: Die Erfahrung der Goldenen Blüte] What is reached by thispractice is the place in the mind where thought itself arises and where thethinking process can be contemplated objectively, without identification withany of its particular contents, whether thoughts, feelings, or intentions;hence the mind in this place is spoken of as a mirror and experienced asego-less. 

[10] This also included some revisions to the version that had beenpublished in German two years before.

[11]  C.G. Jung (1931).  “Commentary” in The Secret of the GoldenFlower: A Chinese Book of Life,” translated and explained by RichardWilhelm (English translation of Wilhelm’s text and explanation and of Jung’scommentary by Cary Baynes), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, p.123.

[12] Jung calls attention to his commentary to The Secret of theGolden Flower in his preface to the second edition (1935) of “DieBeziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewussten,” the 1926 version of whichhad been translated into English (by H.B. and Cary F. Baynes) as “The RelationsBetween the Ego and the Unconscious,” the second of the Two Essays onAnalytical Psychology as published in London and New York in 1928.  He says that the Commentary is a “developmentof the last chapter” of the essay, where he had written that the “goal ofindividuation” is “sensing the self” (see Jung’s Collected Works, Vol. 7,p. 124 and  ¶ 405, p. 240).   

[13] In contemporary Buddhist parlance, this isa very skillful form of mindfulness practice.


[14] I am indebted to Professor Victor Mair for calling this poem to myattention and pointing out its relevance to the interpretation of fan-chaothat (following Cleary’s translation and explanations) I am advancing here.

[15] This translation(the first line and the formatting of which I have adjusted slightly) wasoffered by Boris Bangemann of Singapore in his “Spotlight Review” (August 6, 2002, online: Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei:How a ChinesePoem Is Translated, abook by Eliot Weinberger and Octavio Paz that offers a series of translationsof Wang Wei’s poem.  A number of theseare online also at , andnone that I have seen seem to me to focus the movement of the light as clearlyas Bangemann’s.  I do not have enoughChinese to read the poem in the original, but it happens that the sinologistProfessor Victor Mair had received a completed draft of this paper that did notyet contain a reference to the poem, which I did not then know, earlier thismonth from me, just as he was going to teach it once again to a class of hisstudents, using the Weinberger book, to discuss problems of translation.   Noting my paper’s focus on the need to findan adequate translation for the word  fan-chao,he immediately recognized as a synchronicity (personal communication, September14, 2006) because “in Wang Wei's poem, the idea of ‘returning light /illumination’ occurs twice (parallely at the beginnings of the last two lines)as FAN-YING (‘returning shadows,’ though that could also be FAN-CHING[‘returning prospects / brightness’]) and FU-CHAO (‘repeat-shine’)”  and what I had just sent him seemed to shedsome light on Wang Wei’s meaning.  Ishould also mention that only after completing the “finished” draft of thispaper that Professor Mair saw did I learn from Professor Heyong Shen that JosipPasic had cited the first two lines of this poem in 2002 at the SecondInternational Conference on Analytical Psychology and Chinese Culture, which Idid not attend.  They appear as anepigraph to his paper, “Likeness and Unlikeness: On the Nature of the Image,”which has just been published in that conference’s proceedings, edited by Dr.Shen [2006] Psyche: Images and Synchronicity, Guangzhou: Education Pressof Guangdong Province, pp. 254-268. 


[16] C. G. Jung, Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-1934,edited by Claire Douglas, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997, pp.758-759.  The exchange is worded somewhatdifferently in Volume 2, pp. 296-297 of the edition of the Visions Seminars:From the Complete Notes of Mary Foote published by Spring Publications in1976.

[17] Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes (1968). The I Ching or Bookof Changes.  Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press, p. 62/

[18] This translation is Tu Wei-Ming’s. See his (1985) Confucian Thought: Selfhood as Creative Transformation,Albany, NY: SUNY Press, pp. 56-60.

[19] Ritsema, Rudolf and Karcher, Steven (1994). I Ching, Dorset,England and Rockport, MA, p. 723, 725.

[20]  The phrase “the great in theperson” is used in the new translation that Rudolf Ritsema has brought out withSantena Augusto Sabbadini.  See their TheOriginal I Ching Oracle (2005), London: Watkins, p. 784.

[21] Cf. Murray Stein, “Sibling Rivalry and the Ego’s Envy of the Self,”in The Family: Personal, Cultural, and Archetypal Dimensions,Proceedings of the National Conference of Jungian Analysts, San Francisco,California, October 20-23, pp. 1-12.

[22] Tu Wei-Ming (1979). Humanity and Self-Cultivation: Essays inConfucian Thought, Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, p. 18

[23] Idem.

[24] Cf. , Hexagram 10 in the I Ching, which Wilhelmtranslates as “Treading [Conduct]”and defines as the right way of conductingoneself, on the one hand, and literally “treading upon something.”

[25] “Chu’s understanding of Confucianism…defined how later ages wouldthink of “Sung learning.”  By the end ofhis life Chu Hsi had become the most influential scholar of his times, despitethe court’s attack on his school as “false learning” in the 1190s.  His influence did not depend on hisbureaucratic career.  During thehalf-century between his examination and his death, he held office for onlynine years, almost all his posts being in local government, and spent onlyforty-six days at court (during which time he had three audiences with theruler.)  Yet by the end of these fiftyyears he, with his students and allies, had succeeded in creating, outside ofthe government school system and examination education, the infrastructure ofprivate academies, the corpus of texts, and the network of scholarlycommunities necessary to sustain a coherent program of education and cumulativescholarly tradition.  He persuadedliterati that true learning was a means of transforming the self into a moralpersona along a path directed at sagehood, and he provided them with theinstitutional and pedagogical means to accomplish this.”  Kidder Smith, Jr., Peter K Bol, Joseph A.Adler, and Don J. Wyatt (1990). Sung Dynasty Uses of the I Ching,Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p 54.

[26] Ibid, p.205.

[27] Mair, Victor H. (Trans). (1998) Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang-tzuHonolulu: University of HawaiiPress, p. 3.

[28] Chuang-tzu (1964).  BasicWritings, Burton Watson (trans.), New York: Columbia University Press, p.49, quoted in Skogemann, Pia, “Chuang-tzu and the butterfly dream,” Journalof Analytical Psychology, 31/1, 1986, p. 76. 

[29] Skogemann, op cit., p. 88.

[30] C. G. Jung (1963). Memories, Dreams, Reflections, AnielaJaffe (Ed.) Richard and Clara Winston (Trans.). New York: Pantheon Books, p. 359.