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Being stuck, blocked, repeating the same pattern over and over again. Life serves up impossible situations at times. According to C. G. Jung, we have within us a capacity that can shuttle us beyond our impasses. He has called it the transcendent function. In this course, we shall explore the transcendent function from a variety of perspectives. The purpose here is to awaken our own sense and ability to work with this necessary function of the psyche.
First, we shall look at what Jung meant by the transcendent function, by discussing his essay on the matter. Then we shall look at it in operation through the "clinical material" of some great symbolic literature. In Old English poetry, there is a force that operates beyond our expectations which breaks down walls and sends us on our way. It is called the "Weird." What many don't know about Merlin is that he was a highly traumatized individual who was able to heal and transcend his injuries through a process that Geoffrey of Monmouth describes in his Life of Merlin. In honor of the 700th anniversary of Dante's death, we shall conclude with a discussion of Dante at the City of Dis from the Inferno. The transcendent function is beautifully evident there in the form of the angel.
Class format: Presentation, followed by discussion.
Suggested Readings (available online or emailed excerpts):
C. G. Jung, "The Transcendent Function," CW 8.
Old English poems, "The Ruin," "The Wanderer," "The Dream of the Rood."
Geoffrey of Monmouth, "The Life of Merlin."
Dante, Inferno, canto 9.
I Jung and the Transcendent Function
II The "Weird" in Old English Poetry.
III Trauma and Recovery in the Life of Merlin.
IV Dante and the Angel at the Blocked City of Dis.
Mark Napack, M.A., S.T.L., M.S., studied archetypal patterns in comparative literature at Columbia University, after which he applied Jungian theory to the redemption motif in medieval theology for his thesis at Fordham University. He further studied Jung, psychology, and the history of religion at Loyola and Catholic Universities. A long-time graduate and college instructor, Mark has presented at international conferences and his work has appeared in scholarly journals and books in English and French. Mark Napack, LCPC, is also a Jungian-informed psychotherapist in North Bethesda, MD.
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