Approaching Infinity: Contemporary Analytic Work with a Spiritual Perspective



Where Sigmund Freud oriented to helping patients achieve psychic “health”, Carl Jung and Wilfred Bion both looked more to helping patients become who they really are. Both thinkers thought in terms of an ever-present struggle within each person to come more fully into being. In this seminar, we look at the way Jung and Bion, in different ways, each have contributed to an emerging contemporary approach to analytic work, where the task is less about developing insight into one’s issues than it is about wresting oneself from the infinite into a more incarnate form that expresses one’s truer, deeper self.

This task of becoming has historically been viewed through a religious lens as a struggle between man and God. Jung was the first depth psychologist to think about the religious instinct in the human soul instead of dismissing religion as “superstitious.” He took the man-god relationship in mythology as reflecting the relationship between the finite conscious self and the infinite unconscious depths. He called it the ego-self axis.

The CG Jung Institute of San Francisco presents Approaching Infinity. In this seminar, we flesh out the psychological and spiritual meanings of the ego-self axis with examples from music, poetry, and art as well as from psychoanalysis. Together, we reflect on the ways that we encounter our very painful human limits on the way to becoming more of who we can be.


Mark Sullivan, Ph.D., MFT is an analyst member of the Jung Institute of San Francisco where he teaches in the public programs and the analytic training program. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkley, CA.  He practices in Oakland and San Francisco where he sees individual adults, teens, and children as well as couples.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify and describe in detail 4 specific spiritual movements commonly seen in both patients as well as therapists seeking more emotional wholeness.
  2. Identify in specific and concrete ways factors in the transference/countertransference that prevent patients from advancing in psychotherapy.
  3. Compare and contrast the differences between a left brain and right brain framework as a client is working on such areas as imagery, poetry, and music.

Outline of Talk:

  1. The first call:  the call to go within – 45 min
    – Cave paintings at Lescaux with a discussion about the spiritual exercise of “becoming.”
    – Jung’s discussion of the progressive nature of the unconscious and its place in development as well as the role of reflection and turning inward in all spiritual traditions, including depth psychotherapy

  2. The second call:  the call to go within -45 min
    – Temple of Epidauros in Greece and the celebration of Aesclepius as the first physician healer god including the use of dream incubation.
    – Navajo sand paintings
    -The analytic frame as an example of creating sacred space in a contemporary way

  3. The third call: to seek and find oneself in relationship to another – 45 min
    – Bion’s concept of “O” and  the role of consciousness and reflection in incarnating the infinite unconscious into a finite form as the pathway to becoming oneself through the activity of two minds coming together in psychotherapy
    – People in various states of emotion in relationship to another, including a brief discussion of attachment and loss and the possibility of experiencing and holding those emotions in a safer way in depth psychtotherapy.
    – The priest, rabbi, or spiritual teacher contrasted with the psychotherapist.
    – Levinas and recognizing the divine spark in the other as opposed to losing oneself in merger
    – A brief naming of Jung’s notion of the defense against becoming an individual through a projection of the Self on the teacher and/or the assumption of the role of “wise woman” or “wise man” in a similar defensive posture
    – A brief mention of Bion’s notion of attacks on K and attacks on growth as an aspect of the growing process

  4. The fourth call:  the call to find and recognize something larger than our egos that both guides and frustrates our conscious intent or will -45 min
    -Painting of Saul/Paul being thrown from his horse
    – The role of emotion in frustrating and guiding our will and the place of emotion in depth psychotherapy
    – Projecting into the other in depth therapy
    – The transference/countertransference as a contemporary example of the fourth call

  5. Left and right brain integration of this model; 30 min
    – Several examples of music of Jung’s ego/self axis as a way towards a brief experience of the four calls Subject/Object splits in gender identity
    – Discussion and questions


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