Interview with Dr. Jean Bolen
How did you come to favor Jungian Psychology? Why is Jung’s philosophy more meaningful to you than Freud’s?
I was intrigued by dreams and their potential meaning. In my residency training at the University of California Medical Center San Francisco, this was knowledge that Jungian analysts had. Spirituality and creativity, the use of metaphor and myths were within Jung's psychology, and these were and are meaningful aspects of my life and how my intuitive mind works. I also thought that Jung's psychology on women was an improvement on the classical psychoanalytic Freudian perspective that defined women as being inherently inferior because we lacked a penis and therefore suffered from penis envy. At the time that I entered the training program at C.G. Jung Institute in San Francisco, it was not to become a Jungian analyst but to learn Jungian psychology. In the process, I found that this was an identity that I gradually grew into, so that when I was certified, it was outer recognition of an inner attitude and way of working.
Did you use Jung’s philosophy and teachings for your own personal development?
I entered a Jungian analysis prior to entering the Jungian Institute because a number of hours of personal analysis was required before applying. I began working with my own dreams and talking about my life. In the process I saw how present and past are related, how events affected my family how my parents influenced me. Dreams brought up past emotional events which reverberated with the present. My analysis put my life in a larger context and was the beginning of my appreciation of what it means to have a personal myth.
How did it change your life? Does it underlie your spiritual beliefs?
My professional and writing life would not be what it is but for Jung and synchronicity. Many if not most of the major influences on my adult life have come through meaningful coincidences or synchronicities. (C. G. Jung coined the word and first described synchronicity toward the end of his long and creative life.) The direction I took when I became interested in Jungian ideas has shaped my professional life as both a Jungian analyst and an author. The nine books that I have written so far have a depth view of meaning and choice that draw from my Jungian practice and perspective. How I got to be a Jungian analyst was pure synchronicity as well as how I got to be an author. For example, at the time, I was at the only psychiatric residency in the United States where I could have had Jungian analysts as supervisors and could take a Jungian seminar. My first book, The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self came about through a series of synchronicities, which I have recently told of in the introduction to The 25th Anniversary Edition. Jung's theories do not underlie my spiritual beliefs, however. My spirituality and intimations of being part of a divine universe came first.
In your book, The Tao of Psychology you write: "Synchronicity gives us a glimpse into the reality that there is indeed a link between us all, between us and all living things, between us and the universe." How did you discover this concept? What do you advocate that would enable us to “see” and appreciate this in our lives today?
It was like putting two and two together. The insight that we are part of a meaningful and beautiful universe was a humbling, full-of-grace experience, which I intuitively sensed. Synchronistic moments or reflections upon the past in which synchronicities are recognized, also touch upon and evoke similar feelings of being a recipient of grace. There is no logical way to explain synchronisitic events, they are beyond cause and effect,. When significant synchronicities happen, we experience a connection between the invisible and visible worlds--and it is awesome and numinous, mysterious, and full of grace.
Often it begins with the word "synchronicity", without which these events are not noticed. Like how would we identify the color "blue" if we had no word for it. I also think that an ability to see beauty and be affected by it, is another beginning place.
(The following questions were answered below
as a collective by Dr. Jean Bolen:)
What does being a Feminist mean to you? How do you practice feminism? What is your view of feminism today?
What is your understanding of why society is patriarchal in nature?
How optimistic are you that a critical number of people will come to change how they think and behave thus causing a change in culture and society, as you propose in your book, The Millionth Circle?
How does the current global humanitarian and political turmoil with escalating and unprecedented levels of injustice and suffering fit into this view, as it would almost seem that the world continues to watch and accept it passively?
I am a Feminist, who in recent years has made a point of saying so. Every honorable word that once was used to describe an empowered woman, or a man who supports or has compassion for the vulnerable, has been denigrated or trashed, and thus avoided. Feminist and Liberal, are recent casualties. In Crones Don't Whine, I am working on redeeming another one of these once honorable labels.
Feminist in my personal vocabulary means activist on behalf of women and advocate of the feminine principle. I see patriarchy as a hierarchal system which is bad for everyone and for the planet. It supports domination and exploitation of those with more political and physical power over those with less; dehumanizing both parties.
I believe we are in a time when a spiritually-energized women's movement can bring the feminine principle of nurturing, sustaining and protecting what is vulnerable into consciousness. The women's movement brought about extraordinary shifts in attitude and subsequent changes through women meeting together in consciousness-raising groups and supporting each other to take the actions that culminated in a movement. I wrote a small book called The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and The World that is like a seed packet that is quietly seeding circles with a spiritual center in many parts of the world, inspired the formation of the Millionth Circle Initiative and November 2 on the United Nations calendar as the "World Day of Circles of Compassion" as part of the millionth circle movement. The anti-nuclear proliferation activists were sustained by the allegory of "The Hundredth Monkey", and the idea of critical mass which were the foundation idea of the metaphoric "Millionth Circle."
With the Internet communication, the potential of 5th women's world conference in the next few years, the existence of a huge number of women over 50 influenced by the women's movement, and a vision supported by the UN Security Council resolution #1325 on "Women, Peace, and Security", the potential exists to implement the idea that women become involved whenever and wherever violence is involved from the domestic to the international scene. This and the idea of "the millionth circle" makes me optimistic that the time is coming soon for the emergence of the feminine principle into collective consciousness and an end of patriarchy.
Do you see the goddesses in every woman as an entity that once lived in the physical world or do you see them as ideals that the uninhibited woman can strive to be with these ideals or qualities being refined in the psyche of women through time. How do you explain how the wisdom of these archetypes can apply to contemporary life? How can women discover their god-archetypes? How can this empower them?
Goddesses once were worshipped as feminine deities connected with the moon, seasons, earth, with motherhood, fertility, sexuality and the mysteries of life and death. These were awesome and powerful qualities that were personified by goddesses. While goddesses have disappeared from Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion, they are still held in reverence and worship elsewhere. My interest in the psyche, and in the images and qualities that exist in us that fit into personality patterns, passions and traits that are seen in ancient Greek mythology which is the basis of western mythology led me to write Goddesses in Everywoman and Gods in Everyman, and to say that it would have been more accurate psychologically to have written a book with the title Goddesses and Gods in Everyone.
The Olympian deities exist as archetypal patterns in us. The Greek goddesses and gods provide us with images and names of psychological patterns, that when active in us help us to understand our priorities and behaviour. Depending upon family and culture, some archetypes are encouraged and others suppressed. In a patriarchal culture, both genders are forbidden or discouraged from developing some archetypes and are often forced into roles, which are not inherently meaningful if there is no archetypal support for the role. To develop any archetype requires the freedom or opportunity to do so.
How do you define leadership? Do you see yourself as a leader?
I think of leadership and how wild geese fly in formation. The leader is the point person who temporarily leads those that have agreed to travel together. Like a lead goose, a leader needs vision and a sense of direction. Strength to lead has to do with being trusted, and trust has to do with having qualities and experience needed for whatever the particular task is. Sometimes it is actual strength as on an athletic team, usually it is strength of character, conviction, and courage. I think leaders look out for those who trust them to lead, that they foster growth in others, and are generous with credit and appreciation. I do see myself as a leader.
What do you believe is good about getting old?
If we become juicy crones and not merely older, then this is a time when we are wiser and more appreciative of the good that comes our way, including knowing how lucky we are to be alive and healthy. It is possible to be more authentically ourselves than at any time in our lives, and to make time for neglected interests and parts of ourselves. Travel, meditation, music, creativity of all kinds, chosen service, reading and learning all may become possible. We also can be an influence in our families, institutions and the wider world.