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A Library Guide to Jung's Collected Works

Explore Jungian psychology resources available from the Pacifica Graduate Library

Reference publications: Transcendent Function

Jung on the Transcendent Function

Jung's essays on the Transcendent Function from the Collected Works:

Additional resources on the Transcendent Function

Ebooks available from the library:

Print books available from the library:

Journal articles available from the library:

Carter, L. (2010). The transcendent function, moments of meeting and dyadic consciousness: Constructive and destructive co-creation in the analytic dyad. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 55(2), 217–227.

Abstract: In reading the work of Beebe (2002) , Sander ( Amadei & Bianchi 2008 ), Tronick (2007) and Stern and the Boston Change Process Study Group (1998), resonances to the transcendent function can be registered but these researchers seem to be more focused on the interpersonal domain. In particular Tronick’s concept of ‘dyadic expansion of consciousness’ and ‘moments of meeting’ from the Boston Change Process Study Group describe external dyadic interactions  between mothers and babies and therapists and patients while, in contrast, Jung’s early focus was on the intrapsychic process of internal interaction between conscious and unconscious  within an individual. From an overall perspective, the  interpersonal process of change described by infant researchers, when held in conjunction with Jung’s  internal process of change, together form a transcendent whole that could also be called a complex adaptive system. Such new theoretical perspectives from other fields confirm and elaborate long held Jungian notions such as the transcendent function which is, in many ways, harmonious with a systems perspective. Throughout this paper, clinical vignettes of interactive moments along with sand play and dreams will be used to illustrate theoretical points regarding the healthy process of the transcendent function along with descriptions of failures of such conjunctive experiences.

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Clark, A. (2010). “Fascination”, “contagion” and naming what we do: Rethinking the transcendent function. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 55(5), 636–649.

Abstract: Taking ‘The psychology of the transference’ (Jung 1946) and ‘Problems of modern psychotherapy’ (Jung 1931) as its text, this paper begins by challenging the usefulness of the term ‘transcendent function’ in contemporary debate about the nature of ‘imagination and psychic transformation in analysis’. It argues that Jung’s language in The Practice of Psychotherapy (CW 16)—fascination, suffering, infection, influence—is closer and truer to the experience it describes than the philosophically inspired terms transcendent function and conflict of opposites. His ideas in these writings anticipate later trends in psychoanalytic theory concerning countertransference and the effect of one mind on another, and constitute a theoretical basis for the concept of mutual transformation. Jung’s radical insistence on an analytic relationship founded on mutual unconsciousness as the locus of transformation cannot, it is argued, be satisfactorily accounted for by the traditional terminology.

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Colman, W. (2007). Symbolic conceptions: The idea of the third. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 52(5), 565–583.

Abstract: The idea of the third which appears in Jung’s concepts of the transcendent function and the coniunctio also occurs in several psychoanalytic theories concerning the emergence of reflective and symbolic thought in childhood development (defined here as the development of ‘imaginal capacity’). Noting the way this process is often conceived in terms of the metaphor of sexual intercourse leading to ‘conception’, this paper suggests that such images need to be understood as symbolic conceptions of the meaning-making functions of the human mind. This leads to a different view of psychoanalytic theories that attempt to account for the development of imaginal capacity in terms of the Oedipus complex. It is suggested that a) these functions must be operative in the mind before the Oedipal situation can become meaningful and b) that psychoanalytic theories are themselves symbolic conceptions which, like mythological narratives, seek to communicate and comprehend psychic reality through imaginal forms.

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Dehing, J. (1993). The transcendent function: A critical re-evaluation. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 38(3), 221–235.

Abstract: Examines reasons that restrained Jung from publishing his main paper on the topic of the transcendent function (TF) in 1916 and why he dismissed the concept in his later writings on psychotherapy. Also investigated are reasons for the variation by Jung in sometimes defining the TF as a function, but more often as a method, process, or effect brought about by the dynamics of a relationship. Based on the history surrounding Jung’s split from Freud and the subsequent development of the former’s theories, a practical understanding of the TF is derived. An approach to the TF similar to that of Jung suggests that in the analytical situation, the therapist should avoid any intervention that would mitigate conflict or evacuate suffering. It is essential that conflict is borne and that pain is endured.

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Fogarty, H. (2008). A Jungian perspective on transcendence and symbolization. Issues in Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30(1), 27–41.

Abstract: The article examines C. G. Jung’s interactive field theory, Jung as psychologist of the religious function of the psyche and Jung’s method of dialogical interaction that results in the formation of transcendent function. According to the article, Jung’s motif in his work is the process of individuation, of becoming a psychologically conscious individual within society, of moving toward wholeness rather than remaining neurotically stuck in one-sidedness. The transcendent function, according to Jung’s vocabulary, arises through a process, which he calls active imagination.

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Gildersleeve, M. (2015). Unconcealing Jung’s transcendent function with Heidegger. The Humanistic Psychologist, 43(3), 297–309.

Abstract: In the first sentence of his book, The Transcendent Function, Jeffery Miller says “The transcendent function is the core of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological growth and the heart of what he called individuation, the process by which one is guided in a teleological way toward the person he or she is meant to be” (Miller, 2004, p. 1). Consequently, for Jung, the transcendent function is the question of unveiling the unconscious for individuation to take place or, as Heidegger would say, the question of unveiling Being for authenticity to take place. As a result of the apparent equivalence, these questions can be synthesised to demonstrate that read together, each of these thinkers brings deeper understanding, meaning, and interpretation to the projects of the other in such a way that an extension for application is created for both philosophy and psychotherapy.

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Gildersleeve, M. (2016). Retrieving and projecting Jung’s transcendent function with complexes and the Rosarium Philosophorum. Cosmos & History, 12(1), 87–106.

Abstract: This presentation will retrieve Jung’s work on the transcendent function and complexes as well as a phenomenological and ontological interpretation of Jung’s work on the Rosarium Philosophorum to project a new meaning of the use of the transcendent function in psychotherapy. This presentation enables complexes and the Rosarium Philosophorum to be understood in connection to the ontology of the transcendent function that was presented in the author’s article Unconcealing Jung’s Transcendent Function with Heidegger . This presentation will also highlight how Nietzsche’s work in The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra inform the use of Jung’s transcendent function in psychotherapy. More specifically, this presentation will demonstrate that stage 1 of the transcendent function involves discovering the meaning of a guilty mood of a complex from having-been. Stage 2 of the transcendent function focuses on removing the obstructiveness of a complex from being in the world by retrieving missing possibilities from the readiness to hand. Stage 3 of the transcendent function involves the practical application of the intellectual discoveries from psychotherapy which can provide further “insight into one’s mistakes” which “are not really seen at all, only the idea of them” (Jung, 1966, p. 291). By applying the insights from psychotherapy to everyday relationships where the obstructiveness of a complex is encountered, mistakes and possibilities missing from the readiness to hand are highlighted as they are “noticed by the other person as well as by oneself. Then and then only can they really be felt and their true nature recognized” (Jung, 1966, p. 292).

      Humanities International Complete

Hamer, Marc R., & Collins, J. C. (2019). Romantic love songs and the transcendent function. Quadrant, XLIX(1), 39–50.

Abstract: "Using, archetypal, alchemical, and phenomenological Jungian perspectives, the authors examine the psychological landscape of romantic love songs and the creative process of the songwriter by discussing muitidimensional symbolism and how romantic love songs can provide a doorway to an experience of the transcendent function."

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Powell, S. (1985). The bridge to understanding: The transcendent function in the analyst. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 30(1), 29–45.

Abstract: Discusses some of the contents of the analyst’s transcendent function that can be used as a bridge toward understanding the patient’s inner dilemmas. The interpersonal and intrapsychic nature of the dialectic between the patient and the analyst puts a burden on the analyst, who is seeking to clarify the processes between the 2 participants in the analysis, particularly with patients who have not achieved unit status and the symbolic attitude. It is argued that the transcendent function, which according to Jung is based on transcending the ego, is a process that at first rests mainly in the hands of the analyst. Four clinical illustrations are presented to show the gradual use, first by the analyst and then by the patient, of experiences that had largely been unconscious and that, because of the intolerable psychic pain they caused, were projected vigorously onto the analyst. It is concluded that when analyzed and understood properly, these communications can be used in the service of the patient.

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Rytovaara, M. (2010). The transcendent function in adolescence: Miracle cures and bogeymen. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 55(2), 204–216.

Abstract: This paper proposes that Damasio’s mental images, Stern’s moments of meeting and Tronick’s dyadically expanded consciousness refer to different aspects of the same psychological process as Jung describes in the transcendent function. This proposition is illustrated with two case vignettes of adolescents who functioned on a pre-symbolic level, but who through a transformative experience were catapulted into new developmental trajectories and the beginning of symbol formation.

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Singer, T. (2010). The transcendent function and cultural complexes: A working hypothesis. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 55(2), 234–240.

Abstract: Insights of analytical psychology can be more useful in understanding social, political, and cultural aspects of our lives in which the collective psyche is the currency of exchange. Cultural complexes can be defined as emotionally charged aggregates of ideas and images that tend to cluster around an archetypal core and are shared by individuals within an identified collective. They accumulate experiences that validate their point of view and create a store house of self-affirming, ancestral memories which are based on historical experiences that have taken root in the collective psyche of a group and in the psyches of the individual members of a group. The complexes of a given culture are built up over time and multigenerational experience, some of which have been traumatic. It is challenging enough to describe and understand how cultural complexes express themselves in group and individual behavior, much less to have any real insight as to what might be palliative for their more destructive effects.

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Ulanov, A. B. (1997). Transference, the transcendent function, and transcendence. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 42(1), 119–138.

Abstract: People in analysis come into direct contact with the transcendent, that which surpasses not only our ego consciousness but the whole psyche, through the transcendent function working in the transference-countertransference field. Reductive and synthetic methods of interpretation of transference, in both objective and subjective levels of meaning, inaugurate moving the ego out of center stage into the process of relating to the Self. The transcendent function is the means of enlarging psychic space in the transference field to make room for coinciding opposites and a “creative solution” that arises from their conversation. That solution, or set of symbols, addresses us with such compelling authority that Jung likens it to “the voice of God.” A clinical case illustrates the connection of transference, the transcendent function, and the experience of the transcendent which, I believe, we must identify as such in order to go on relating to it.

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