Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung

Go into any person’s house who has a liberal education and you will probably find a copy of Jung’s Man and His Symbols. I found my nice, hardbound edition in a used bookstore in San Francisco; I think it was in the Mission district, or the Castro, on the way home from an Ntozake Shange reading (I also found a book of hers there). I have flipped through MAHS many times but never read it. As I am working on a book that has to do with Jungian psychology, I am finally cracking it for real–for the words, not just the pictures.

It’s interesting to me how books open up for us when we are different ages, with different life experiences. Books I thought were fantastic in my teens or twenties I find unreadable now, but there are some that still Wow me every decade. And there are books, like Jung’s and A Course in Miracles, that I bought in my late 20s and couldn’t make heads or tails (tales?) of that I am starting to enjoy and understand now, in my late 50s. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” is a common spiritual saying, and I guess I’m finally ready for some of the spiritual lessons I avoided when I was younger, drinking and dining my way through San Francisco.

It’s embarrassing to write, but the Preface to the book says basically that it is Jung’s philosophy dumbed down for the masses. I’m happy to not have to read the more complex versions (with no pictures I am assuming). This version, some chapters written by Jung just before his death and other by his very close colleagues, is dry enough. The information seems stale and I much prefer the current writing on Jungian psychology and its applications of James Hollis. Still, it’s good basic stuff.

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