When entering into the realm of projections we are discussing dissimilation “by which a subjective content becomes alienated from the subject and is, so to speak, embodied in the object…as projection means the expulsion of a subjective content into an object” (Jung, 1921/1990, p. 457). Introjection then refers to assimilation or “an indrawing of the object into the subjective sphere of interest” (Jung, 1921/1990, p. 452). The intention of presenting a more defined introduction to projection is to acquaint ourselves with what may occur in reading poetry; specifically regarding the reader who projects upon the experience of metaphor. In regards to the topic of projection, I am focusing on the ego’s tendency to project the shadow, and how it is plausible for poetry to allow for the shadow to be expressed, and how the shadow may be encountered when another experiences poetry. I understand that there are varying forms of expression, artistically based, yet I am choosing to further my discussions on poetry and alchemy:
Just as with the philosophical or metaphoric explanation of how the alchemist projects unconscious content upon the matter of which they have engaged, the poem can be perceived as that which the individual will project upon or what might be the carrier of the projections. I am looking at the experience of a poem just as how the alchemist, the adept, would experience the seeking of prime matter, the prima materia. This is to say that as an individual experiences a poem, the ego projects upon it what material had been activated from within the unconscious. Jung (1921/1990) had written about how the subject can be isolated from the environment due to the projection of shadow.
Edinger (1996) had explained that by isolating the “subject from the environment” a real relationship had been turned “into an illusionary one” where the addict may become overwhelmed if he or she “does not at present have the capacity to assimilate shadow” (p. 26-27).
It seems that this potentiality speaks to how art in general can affect the individual. When discussing the work of an alchemist, they project the unconscious upon the matter, or metaphorically, alchemy captures projections onto matter. The changes the alchemists made to the physical matter parallel the projections and psychological processes of the unconscious. “Every projection is simply there as an uncriticized datum of experience” (Jung, 1955/1970, p. 488). Awareness of projections is found through investigation and introspection, said Jung; although to be introspective and engaged with metaphor from within the realm of poetry, the individual is then engaged in imagination. Dependent upon ego strength, the capacity to assimilate, the individual will then hold too various intensities of imagery or symbolism associated with the poetry. Through the imagination, or the imaginatio, the ego functions with the ability to hold symbolic interpretations, as symbolized in the personified projections of the alchemical operations (Edinger, 1994a, 1994b; Schwartz-Salant, 1995). The personification of the projections associated with the metaphor are found from the individual who is engaged in the poetry that has been expressed, they in theory too project the unconscious onto the metaphor, the matter, the psychological content. Poetry can be seen as the creation of meaning. “A metaphor could be seen as a combination, where the reader begins to see one of the words through the other. Or, one of the words functions as a perspective – or lens – through which the other word is seen” (Henrik, 1999, The Theory of Metaphor, para 5).
I view alchemy as the symbolic, metaphoric projection of unconscious material. The changes the alchemists made to the physical matter parallel the projections and psychological processes of the unconscious. Yet through poetry, the changes are being experienced by the individual of who has read, listened too, etc; here we find the emergence of the imagination and the individuals ability to perceive the poems intentions aside from what is deemed relevant. “A semantic field will thus be seen through the agency of another semantic field, organizing the object of our perception. Since the combination of words is new, the perspective is new too, and may reveal something hitherto undiscovered (Henrik, 1999, The Theory of Metaphor, para 5).”
Edinger, E. (1994a). Anatomy of the psyche: Alchemical symbolism in psychotherapy. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
Edinger, E. (1994b). The mystery of the coniunctio: Alchemical image of individuation. Toronto, ON, Canada: Inner City Books.
Edinger, E. (1996). The Aion lectures: Exploring the self in C. G. Jung’s Aion. Toronto, ON, Canada: Inner City Books.
Henrik, E (1999). Transference, metaphor and the poetics of psychoanalysis. Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review. 22(2), Retrieved from http://pgi.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pph&AN=SPR.022.0218A&site=ehost-live&scope=site
Jung, C. G. (1990). Psychological types. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 6). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1921)
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Erik J. Welsh, PhD
– Author of The Addiction Complex