The Citizen’s Dilemma in Divisive Times



Those of us who get our bearings from the “Spirit of the Depths” as well as the “Spirit of the Times”—who pay attention to politics as well as to our dreams—find this a difficult historical moment. How do we manage ourselves psychologically and politically amidst all the fury and vitriol in public discourse? How do we tend both psyche and polis? The American election looms against the backdrop of a fierce zeitgeist—economic and environmental crises, revolution, tyrants who murder their own citizens, occasional glimpses of a new day.

The C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco presents this half day conference where four Jungians will speak to these issues from diverse points of view. In the tradition of Jung’s Man and His Symbols, we will use word and image to evoke both the collective and the archetypal.


Thomas Singer, M.D.

Super PAC dollars and the insatiable national appetite for the lowest level of pandering at the highest volume make the chances of a substantive debate about our country’s vision and policies of the future highly unlikely in the 2012 Presidential elections. Although so much is at stake, it is still reasonable to ask: why should anyone join the “talking heads” who will be surfing the subject endlessly? Even though the issues and policies will be muddied rather than clarified, there is still something inherently fascinating about this national spectacle which will play more like a Superbowl game than the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The fascination comes from the fact that the collective psyche and its connection to the cultural and collective unconscious are energized with charged emotionality, complexes, and characters parading across the national stage. The elections give us a unique opportunity to consider the state of our national psyche in its confusions, absurdities and deep concerns. What issues will trigger potent emotions in the electorate? Which cultural complexes with their stereotypical thinking and fixed attitudes will shape and determine public opinion? The Presidential elections are a collective x-ray about how we perceive ourselves as a people, what we fear and what we hope for at a conscious and unconscious level.


Richard Stein, M.D.

“Yes and no. Between the yes and the no, spirits take flight from their matter, and heads are separated from their bodies.” —Henry Corbin, alone with the alone

In the journey of many seers comes the confrontation with a politics of extremism. Jung’s reaction to the break with Freud threw him into the chaos of a collective unconscious at the brink of war. His explorations in The Red Book attest to the depth of the conflict and reveal his discovery of an inner guide.

From the Middle East, we learn of the persecutions of great Islamic mystics and their revelations of light and guidance. Henry Corbin, the renowned French Islamist, writes of the Great Disjunction in the Western psyche and how it functions in the cultural wars between the Christian West and Islam. With this perspective in mind, we will examine some of the religious and political forces within our own society.

Clinging to the Axis Mundi: The Poetry of Politics

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Ph.D.

“Our times have demonstrated what it means for the gates of the underworld to be opened.” —C.G. Jung

How can poetry respond to the rancor, the bitterness, the extremism, the climate change deniers, the New Deal dismantlers, the Women’s Rights plunderers of our collective moment? Poetry is no more than the flap of a butterfly’s wings, the dart of a hummingbird—a strophe flung into the roar of the mob. Poetry does so little, dares so much. Poetry is the prophet down from the mountain, a gadfly on the body politic, a witness to the desecration; poetry sings our cultural myths, mourns what’s been lost, praises the newborn day. Naomi Ruth Lowinsky will read and muse about some of her political poems.


Richard Tarnas, Ph.D.

The past and the future are converging in our time with extraordinary force. Old structures are collapsing, movements for radical change spreading, societies becoming deeply polarized – all this amidst an increasingly critical state of Earth’s biosphere. To help us navigate such a dramatic threshold of transformation, we need multiple perspectives and sources of insight.

Jung pursued astrological research throughout his career, and many of us who have followed his lead in a more systematic way have concluded that there are few frames of reference more helpful in illuminating the timing of individual and collective archetypal dynamics than an archetypally informed knowledge of the ongoing planetary movements. Perhaps more than any other form of analysis, archetypal astrology can illuminate synchronistic waves of events and trends occurring throughout the world at a given time, while also revealing larger historical patterns that unfold cyclically through the centuries. In this final portion of the conference, we will examine the current planetary alignments to help identify the major dynamics at work in the cultural zeitgeist for our complex and precarious moment in history.


THOMAS SINGER, MD, is a Jungian analyst and psychiatrist.  After studying religion and European literature at Princeton University, he graduated from Yale Medical School and later trained at Dartmouth Medical Center and the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.  His writing includes articles on Jungian theory, politics and psychology and he has written and/or edited many books including: The Cultural Complex: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives on Psyche and Society; Initiation: The Living Reality of An Archetype; Psyche and the City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis.

RICHARD STEIN, M.D., is a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst who has been in private practice in San Francisco for 35 years. He has taught for years in the Analytic Training and the Public Programs at the Jung Institute in San Francisco, as well as other training centers. His study of the parallels and differences between Jung and Sri Aurobindo has been expanded by explorations in shamanism, Sufism, and the kabbalah.

NAOMI RUTH LOWINSKY, PH.D., is an analyst member of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, a widely published poet, and the author of three books of poetry, most recently Adagio & Lamentation. The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way is a memoir of her creative life. She is co-editor with Patricia Damery of Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way.

RICHARD TARNAS, PH.D., is a professor of philosophy and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. He is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of Western thought that became both a best seller and a required text in many universities, and Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network in the UK.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To discuss ways we can manage ourselves psychologically in difficult political times, ways to stay connected to our values in this historical moment while also staying connected to our souls, ways to tend both psyche and polis.
  2. To analyze the state of our national psyche from the evidence of the current election season, for example, which cultural complexes are currently shaping political opinion?
  3. To describe and assess the deep contribution that Islamic mysticism has to offer to healing the polarizing conflicts of our contemporary political process. To see the cultural roots of what Jung rediscovered through active imagination as the collective unconscious. To consider Corbin and Jung’s respective approaches to the individual and the role of inner guidance in the mature development of the person.
  4. To demonstrate how the creative process, in this case poetry, can support us psychologically when our psyches are violently affected by the news of the day. To consider how creativity can bind together the spirit of the times and the spirit of the depths.
  5. To explain our times from the point of view of archetypal astrology. To identify the major dynamics at work in the cultural zeitgeist as they are affected by current planetary alignments.


“The Cultural Complex: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives on Psyche and Society” (Routledge Press, 2004),

“Initiation: The Living Reality of an Archetype” (Routlege Press, 2007)

“Psyche and The City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis, (Spring Publications, 2010)


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