Stein’s Map of the Soul—Persona: Review

Anima, animus, archetype, shadow, persona, apperception, individuation—pure Jungian parlance that remains with me still, despite the passage of years since I first read depth psychiatrist, Carl Jung. For a time, I seriously thought about changing careers and becoming a Jungian therapist.

I initially came upon Jung in teaching a college course dubbed Introduction to Literature, designed to teach students how to write expository essays, using literary models. One of its units featured Jungian archetypes. I was hooked.

The archetypal offered a simple palette for opening up literature for my students, baffled at how I somehow could extract meaning from a text that otherwise was simply prose. Know the pattern and you unlocked the door. The hero archetype, for example, with its separation, initiation, return triad.

Jung began my fascination with myth, which led to a National Humanities stipend to study the subject at Claremont Graduate School in 1978. I would learn that myth transcended what the public associated with, say, Greek and Roman mythology popularized by Edith Hamilton. Much more, myth was any attempt to render meaning in an an accidental cosmos, whether religious, political or philosophical, etc. If nature abhors a vacuum, so does the human mind. Myth confirmed Jung’s notion of a Collective Unconscious, or primordial repository of symbolization embedded universally. All cultures, for example, share legacies of a flood, or of Man’s first sojourn in a garden paradise.

In 1986, I studied Jung and Freud in an eight week seminar at Yale. In that wonderful summer, I read perhaps a layman’s best introduction by the sage himself, Man in Search of a Soul. Critic Northrup Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism proved a cogent, expansive source on archetype, and then there was Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers series, enjoying popular acclaim on PBS.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded on my Kindle Murray Stein’s recent book, Map of the Soul—Persona: Our Many Faces, which gathers not only his own insights, but those of other prominent Jungians.

I knew Murray when he was just sixteen, not yet a Yale student. His father was pastor of our church in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and we’d share long talks on varied topics, especially contemporary biblical criticism. Murray now trains analysts at the International Analytical Institute in Zurich, of which he’s president, has published widely, and lectures internationally.

Stein’s book is a short, but welcome, review of Jungian essentials for lay people, particularly on the persona:

Persona is a type of mask. It hides parts of the self that you do not want to be seen by others, and it also expresses who you feel you are at the present time.…But it does not say who you are when you are alone.

In brief, we are much deeper than the masquerades performed by our personas, which unchanged, inspire those complexes, or sub-conscious elements of charged emotion frustrating our living authentic lives and achieving the happiness authenticity makes possible. Deep within our subconscious, lies the Shadow, or unknown self, contrary to the personas we project. Often, we repress it for its contradictions to our social roles or its resulting angst. And here lies the crux and challenge of the Jungian approach—to acknowledge that repressed element and achieve reconciliation in what Jung called “individuation”:

But if we understand anything of the unconscious, we know that it cannot be swallowed. We also know that it is dangerous to suppress it, because the unconscious is life and this life turns against us if suppressed, as happens in neurosis.…Consciousness should defend its reason and protect itself, and the chaotic life of the unconscious should be given the chance of having its way too – as much of it as we can stand. This means open conflict and open collaboration at once. That, evidently, is the way human life should be. It is the old game of hammer and anvil: between them the patient iron is forged into an indestructible whole, an ‘individual.’ This, roughly, is what I mean by the individuation process.

Stein’s earlier book, also titled Map of the Soul (minus the persona tag), ironically caught the attention of the Korean rock group BTS, which have spread Stein’s Jungian message worldwide in their album, Map of the Soul Persona. Stein comments extensively on the album’s songs and their Jungian components in the book’s opening pages.

I think you’ll find Stein’s book riveting and a good place to begin your acquaintance with Jung, one of psychology’s foremost discerners of the human psyche and a principal influence on my own life.

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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