“A New Spring of Life”
In 1916, Jung wrote several essays and a short book in which he began to attempt to translate some of
themes of Liber Novus into contemporary psychological language, and to reflect on the significance and the
generality of his activity.
Significantly, in these works he presented the first outlines of the main components of his mature psychology.
A full account of these papers is beyond the scope of this
The following overview highlights elements that link most directly with Liber Novus.
In his works between 1911 and 1914, he had principally been concerned with establishing a structural account of general human functioning and of psychopathology.
In addition to his earlier theory of complexes, we see that he had already formulated conceptions of a phylogenetically acquired unconscious peopled by mythic images, of a nonsexual psychic energy, of the general types of introversion and extraversion, of the compensatory and prospective function of dreams, and of the synthetic and constructive approach to fantasies.
While he continued to expand and develop these conceptions in detail, a new project emerges here: the attempt to provide a temporal account of higher development, which he termed the individuation process.
This was a pivotal theoretical result of his self-experimentation.
The full elaboration of the individuation process, and its historical and cross-cultural comparison, would come to occupy him for the rest of his life.
In 1916, he presented a lecture to the association for analytical psychology entitled “The structure of the unconscious,” which was first published in a French translation in Flournoy’s Archives de Psychologie.
Here, he differentiated two layers of the unconscious.
The first, the personal unconscious, consisted in elements acquired during one’s lifetime, together with elements that could equally well be conscious.
The second was the impersonal unconscious or collective psyche.
While consciousness and the personal unconscious were developed and acquired in the course of one’s lifetime, the collective psyche was
In this essay, Jung discussed the curious phenomena that resulted from assimilating the unconscious. He noted that when individuals annexed the contents of the collective psyche and regarded them as personal attributes, they experienced extreme states of superiority and inferiority.
He borrowed the term “godlikeness” from Goethe and Alfred Adler to characterize this state, which arose from fusing the personal and collective psyche, and was one of the dangers of analysis.
Jung wrote that it was a difficult task to differentiate the personal and collective psyche. One of the factors one came up against was the persona—one’s “mask” or “role.”
This represented the segment of the collective psyche that one mistakenly regarded as individual.
When one analyzed this, the personality dissolved into the collective psyche, which resulted in the release of a stream of fantasies:
“All the treasures of mythological thinking and feeling are unlocked.”
The difference between this state and insanity lay in the fact that it was intentional.
Two possibilities arose: one could attempt to regressively restore persona and return to the prior state, but it was impossible to get rid of the unconscious.
Alternatively, one could accept the condition of godlikeness.
However, there was a third way: the hermeneutic treatment of creative fantasies.
This resulted in a synthesis of the individual with the collective psyche, which revealed the individual lifeline.
This was the process of individuation. In a subsequent undated revision of this paper, Jung introduced the notion of the anima, as a
counterpart to that of the persona.
He regarded both of these as “subjectimagoes.”
Here, he defined the anima as “how the subject is seen by the collective unconscious.”
The vivid description of the vicissitudes of the state of godlikeness mirror some of Jung’s affective states during his confrontation with the unconscious.
The notion of the differentiation of the persona and its analysis corresponds to the opening section of Liber Novus, where Jung sets himself apart from his role and achievements and attempts to reconnect with his soul.
The release of mythological fantasies is precisely what ensued in his case, and the hermeneutic treatment of creative fantasies was what he presented in layer two of Liber Novus.
The differentiation of the personal and impersonal unconscious provided a theoretical understanding of Jung’s mythological fantasies: it suggests that he did not view them as stemming from his personal unconscious but from the inherited collective psyche.
If so, his fantasies stemmed from a layer of the psyche that was a collective human inheritance, and were not simply idiosyncratic or arbitrary.
In October of the same year, Jung presented two talks to the Psychological Club.
The first was titled “Adaptation.”
This took two forms: adaptation to outer and inner conditions.
The “inner” was understood to designate the unconscious.
Adaptation to the “inner” led to the demand for individuation, which was contrary to adaptation to others.
Answering this demand and the corresponding break with conformity led to a tragic guilt that required expiation and called for a new “collective function,” because the individual had to produce values that could serve as a substitute for his absence from society.
These new values enabled one to make reparation to the collective. Individuation was for the few.
Those who were insufficiently creative should rather reestablish collective conformity with a society.
The individual had not only to create new values, but also socially recognizable ones, as society had a “right to expect realizable values.”
Read in terms of Jung’s situation, this suggests that his break with social conformity to pursue his “individuation” had led him to the view that he had to produce socially realizable values as an expiation.
This led to a dilemma: would the form in which Jung embodied these new values in Liber Novus be socially acceptable and recognizable?
This commitment to the demands of society separated Jung from the anarchism of the Dadaists.
The second talk was on “Individuation and collectivity.”
He argued that individuation and collectivity were a pair of opposites related by guilt. Society demanded imitation.
Through the process of imitation, one could gain access to values that were one’s own. In analysis,
“Through imitation the patient learns individuation, because it reactivates his own values.”
It is possible to read this as a comment on the role of imitation in the analytic statements of those of his patients whom Jung had now encouraged to embark on similar processes of development.
The claim that this process evoked the patient’s preexisting values was a counter to the charge of suggestion.
In November, while on military service at Herisau, Jung wrote a paper on “The transcendent function,” which was published only in 1957.
There, he depicted the method of eliciting and developing fantasies that he later termed active imagination, and explained its therapeutic rationale.
This paper can be viewed as an interim progress report on Jung’s self-experimentation, and may profitably be considered as a preface to Liber Novus.
Jung noted that the new attitude gained from analysis became obsolete.
Unconscious materials were needed to supplement the conscious attitude, and to correct its one-sidedness.
But because energy tension was low in sleep, dreams were inferior expressions of unconscious contents.
Thus other sources had to be turned to, namely, spontaneous fantasies.
A recently recovered dream book contains a series of dreams from 1917 to 1925.
A close comparison of this book with the Black Books indicates that his active imaginations did not derive directly from his dreams, and that these two streams were generally independent.
Jung described his technique for inducing such spontaneous fantasies:
“The training consists first of all in systematic exercises for eliminating critical attention, thus producing a vacuum in consciousness.”
One commenced by concentrating on a particular mood, and attempting to become as conscious as possible of all fantasies and associations that came up in connection with it.
The aim was to allow fantasy free play, without departing from the initial affect in a free associative process.
This led to a concrete or symbolic expression of the mood, which had the result of bringing the affect nearer to consciousness, hence
making it more understandable.
Doing this could have a vitalizing effect. Individuals could draw, paint, or sculpt, depending on their propensities:
Visual types should concentrate on the expectation that an inner image will be produced.
As a rule such a fantasy-image will actually appear—perhaps hypnagogically—and should be carefully noted down in writing.
Audio-verbal types usually hear inner words, perhaps mere fragments or apparently meaningless sentences to begin with . . . Others at such times simply hear their “other” voice . . . Still rarer, but equally valuable, is automatic writing, direct or with the planchette.
Once these fantasies had been produced and embodied, two approaches were possible: creative formulation and understanding.
Each needed the other, and both were necessary to produce the transcendent function, which arose out of the union of conscious and unconscious contents.
For some people, Jung noted, it was simple to note the “other” voice in writing and to answer it from the standpoint of the I: “It is exactly as if a dialogue were taking place between two human beings . . . ”
This dialogue led to the creation of the transcendent function, which resulted in a widening of consciousness.
This depiction of inner dialogues and the means of evoking fantasies in a waking state represents Jung’s own undertaking in the Black
The interplay of creative formulation and understanding corresponds to Jung’s work in Liber Novus. Jung did not publish this paper.
He later remarked that he never finished his work on the transcendent function because he did it only halfheartedly.
In 1917, Jung published a short book with a long title: The Psychology of the Unconscious Processes: An Overview of the Modern Theory and Method of Analytical Psychology.
In his preface, dated December 1916, he proclaimed the psychological processes that accompanied the war had brought the problem of
the chaotic unconscious to the forefront of attention.
However, the psychology of the individual corresponded to the psychology of the nation, and only the
transformation of the attitude of the individual could bring about cultural
This articulated the intimate interconnection between individual and collective events that was at the center of Liber Novus.
For Jung, the conjunction between his precognitive visions and the outbreak of war had made apparent the deep subliminal connections between individual fantasies and world events—and hence between the psychology of the individual and that of the nation.
What was now required was to work out this connection in more detail.
Jung noted that after one had analyzed and integrated the contents of the personal unconscious, one came up against mythological fantasies that stemmed from the phylogenetic layer of the unconscious.
The Psychology of the Unconscious Processes provided an exposition of the collective, suprapersonal, absolute unconscious—these terms being used interchangeably. Jung argued that one needed to separate oneself from the unconscious by presenting it visibly as something separate from one. It was vital to differentiate the I from the non-I, namely, the collective psyche or absolute unconscious.
To do this, “man must necessarily stand upon firm feet in his I-function; that is, he must fulfil his duty toward life completely, so that he may in every respect be a vitally living member of society.”
Jung had been endeavoring to accomplish these tasks during this period.
The contents of this unconscious were what Jung in Transformations and Symbols of the Libido had called typical myths or primordial images.
He described these “dominants” as “the ruling powers, the Gods, that is, images of dominating laws and principles, average regularities in the sequence of images, that the brain has received from the sequence of secular processes.”
One needed to pay particular attention to these dominants.
Particularly important was the “detachment of the mythological or collective psychological contents from the objects of consciousness, and their consolidation as psychological realities outside the individual psyche.”
This enabled one to come to terms with activated residues of our ancestral history.
The differentiation of the personal from the nonpersonal resulted in a release of energy.
These comments also mirror his activity: his attempt to differentiate the various characters which appeared, and to “consolidate them as psychological realities.”
The notion that these figures had a psychological reality in their own right, and were not merely subjective figments, was the main lesson that he attributed to the fantasy figure of Elijah: psychic objectivity.
Jung argued that the era of reason and skepticism inaugurated by the French Revolution had repressed religion and irrationalism.
This in turn had serious consequences, leading to the outbreak of irrationalism represented by the world war.
It was thus a historical necessity to acknowledge the irrational as a psychological factor.
The acceptance of the irrational forms one of the central themes of Liber Novus.
In The Psychology of the Unconscious Processes, Jung developed his conception of the psychological types.
He noted that it was a common development that the psychological characteristics of the types were pushed to extremes.
By what he termed the law of enantiodromia, or the reversal into the opposite, the other function entered in, namely, feeling for the introvert, and thinking for the extravert.
These secondary functions were found in the unconscious.
The development of the contrary function led to individuation.
As the contrary function was not acceptable to consciousness, a special technique was required to come to terms with it, namely the production of the transcendent function.
The unconscious was a danger when one was not at one with it.
But with the establishment of the transcendent function, the disharmony ceased.
This rebalancing gave access to the productive and beneficent aspects of the unconscious.
The unconscious contained the wisdom and experience of untold ages, and thus formed an unparalleled guide.
The development of the contrary function appears in the “Mysterium” section of Liber Novus.
The attempt to gain the wisdom stored in the unconscious is portrayed throughout the book, in which Jung asks his soul to tell him what she sees and the meaning of his fantasies.
The unconscious is here viewed as a source of higher wisdom.
He concluded the essay by indicating the personal and experiential nature of his new
“Our age is seeking a new spring of life. I found one and drank of it and the water tasted good.” ~Sonu Shamdasani, The Red Book, Page 208-210