These blogs are psychological reflections on the COVID-19 crisis from the perspectives of depth psychology, particularly Jung’s psychology and the innovative cultural-historical psychology of Jan Hendrik van den Berg. In these contexts, they attend to this crisis by exploring the cultural-historical origins of the rise of our modern technological world view that have made COVID -19 possible.
They also explore the archetypal and mythic depths of this pandemic, which draws upon my most recent book, Victor Frankenstein, the Monster and the Shadows of Technology: The Frankenstein Prophecies, which presents the story of Prometheus as the myth of our time.
As such, each of these blog posts, in the original sense of the word, is an essay, an attempt from a personal point of view to express in a brief way a reflection on some topic of interest and concern for a writer. Indeed, this form originated in the 16th-century with Michel de Montaigne in response to conditions not unlike our own world today.
Retiring as Mayor of Bordeaux in 1585, he left the city before the ceremony to acknowledge the change in government because his city was being ravaged by a re-appearance of the bubonic plague. In this retreat, a step back as it were from the immediacy of the moment, he invented the genre of the essay. Or, perhaps, we should say he re-discovered for his age the wisdom of the Greek maxim to ‘Know Thyself.’ Although generally associated with Socrates, its origins are to be found inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Expressed as an imperative, ‘Know Thyself’ is the first of three commands followed by ‘Nothing to Excess” and ‘Surety Brings Ruin.’
One can hear the echoes of these maxims today in Jung’s and Van den Berg’s psychologies. To know oneself requires a pause that steps back from the spirit of the times in order to listen to the spirit of the depths. In that pause, the work of coming to know oneself is in service to knowing one’s place in the wider contexts of the cultural-historical, mythic, archetypal, and cosmological depths of psyche.
Regarding ‘Nothing to Excess,’ it echoes the necessity in Jung’s psychology to find the balance of the third position between two extremes, the place of soul that holds together the tension of spirit and matter.
As for the last maxim, ‘Surety Brings Ruin,’ the basis of Jung’s psychology in alchemy testifies to the dis-solution of fixed positions, the temptations of ego-consciousness toward ideological, either-or, black and white thinking.
To the reader, then, these blog posts are invitations to stop for a moment in the midst of what so often today feels like an onslaught of ever-increasing events that seem and might very well prove to be catastrophic in ways that are unimaginable. For a moment in this place of the pause, these essays attempt to open the space of the creative imagination to regard these events from soul’s point of view.
It is, of course, a challenge to let go of the facts – scientific or otherwise – and ideas, theories or conspiracies, when there is such a heightened sense of fear, anxiety, and the underlying sorrow in the face of the possible loss of loved ones, friends, and the stories and images of the worldwide suffering of others that settle in our bones.
It is difficult, maybe even impossible, to do so. But it is necessary if we are to attend, for example, to the wisdom of the virus and what it might be saying to us about who we are and have become so that its presence is now a global pandemic.
As strange as it may sound, my hope is that these blogs might help us imagine COVID-19 as a kind of homecoming leading us back to our place within the natural world.
Enjoy the articles in this series:
If you enjoy these essays by Robert Romanyshyn, you might also enjoy his course Reflections on Ecology and Soul. In this course, Robert takes us on a journey into the depths of the soul of the world, and into those places where nature, psyche, technology and humans meet.
Robert D. Romanyshyn is an Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, an Affiliate Member of The Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, and a Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. He is also a Core Faculty Member at Jung Platform.More Posts by Robert Romanyshyn