Friday, February 17, 2012

Carl Jung on the Transcendent Function

Jung's concept of the transcendent function, originally developed in 1916, is at the center of his system of Analytical Psychology. There are striking parallels between Jung's notion of the transcendent function and the concept of alpha function proposed at a later time by Wilfrend Bion (1962, Learning from Experience):

"The tendencies of the conscious and the unconscious are the two factors that together make up the transcendent function. It is called 'transcendent' because it makes the transition from one attitude to another organically possible." [The Transcendent Function, CW 8, par. 145.]

"Once the unconscious content has been given form and the meaning of the formulation is understood, the question arises as to how the ego will relate to this position, and how the ego and the unconscious are to come to terms. This is the second and more important stage of the procedure, the bringing together of opposites for the production of a third: the transcendent function. At this stage it is no longer the unconscious that takes the lead, but the ego." [The Transcendent Function, CW 8, par. 181.]

"From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. If, for instance, we conceive the opposition to be sensuality versus spirituality, then the mediatory content born out of the unconscious provides a welcome means of expression for the spiritual thesis, because of its rich spiritual associations, and also for the sensual antithesis, because of its sensuous imagery. The ego, however, torn between thesis and antithesis, finds in the middle ground its own counterpart, its sole and unique means of expression, and it eagerly seizes on this in order to be delivered from its division." [Psychological Types, CW 6, par. 825.]

"If the mediatory product remains intact, it forms the raw material for a process not of dissolution but of construction, in which thesis and antithesis both play their part. In this way it becomes a new content that governs the whole attitude, putting an end to the division and forcing the energy of the opposites into a common channel. The standstill is overcome and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals." [Psychological Types, CW6, par. 827.]"

C.G. Jung (1916/1958) The Transcendent Function, Collected Works Vol. 8, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

C.G. Jung (1921) Psychological Types, Collected Works Vol. 6, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

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