The Descent of the Soul: katabasis and depth psychology

the Descent of the Soul: katabasis and depth psychology

See Programme panels and full abstracts and contributors’ biographies after the conference description.

Jung regarded the Nekyia as a ‘meaningful katabasis …a descent into the cave of initiation and secret knowledge (CW5). He saw this as an appropriate model for deep self-descent toward healing. Famously he allowed himself to drop deep within the Self during a time of near-psychosis, and encountered the archetypal figures who formed crucial elements of his psychology: the old man, the hero, anima and animus. Included in this insight is acknowledgment of the paradoxical idea of one of his often cited sources, Heraclitus: descent and ascent are the same.

From Poe to Nietzsche, the self has always presented as an ‘abysmal’ problem as it was also for the ancients: the self is a dilemma to be resolved in confronting the risks of staring into the depths, exposing oneself to the risks, and moving on, possibly to acceptance …

Seneca advises ‘…[that even the bravest of men go] blind with dizziness if he looks down on an immense depth (vastem altitudinem) when standing on this brink (in crepidine eius) (57.4)

‘So cast, the brink of life begins to resemble the brink of nothingness … and the point is that the destitution of the self is not an aberration: it is one of the commonest ways in which subjects are formed in antiquity. Self-destitution paradoxically is a finely honed technique of the self, a practice that produces, literally constitutes – the self.’ (Porter, Foucault Studies 2017).

Using these insights as a springboard we want to explore the formation of self as a look into the abyss: as Poe proposed in ‘The Imp of the Perverse’ staring into the abyss was dangerous because it looked back at you. Nietzsche attests to this in more dire terms in Beyond Good and Evil. Yet Seneca would scoff at fear of this examination of the self; the momentous problem of self-formation was an ethical imperative.

And in his essay about the collective unconscious, projection of universal anxieties that the ‘rumours’ of flying saucers attest to, Jung quotes Goethe’s Faust: ‘Then to the depths!/I could as well say height:/It’s all the same.’

The achievement of the Self is a life-long endeavour involving confrontations or engagements to dissolve elements of projection that split the self into dissociated fragments. It could be argued that fragments or multiplicity is also what Jung meant by Self. This has been a considered motif since ancient times, in many cultures. During this conference the different modes of self-formation, as problem, or rather as self-fashioning endeavour/process or one of discovery can be seen through depth psychology’s enterprise as a therapy to heal the soul.

Presentations will explore the abyss, and how it constitutes and heals the Self, or does not. Papers will focus on depth psychology in relationship to Ancient Greek and Roman writers, exploring aspects of this problematic of descent/ascent into the depths within the frame of analytical and all theoretical orientations of depth psychology and archaic thought.

Any questions, please contact Leslie Gardner on both email addresses: and

With great pleasure we announce that poet Ruth Padel (Kings College, London) will read from her new book Emerald.

Conference is co-endorsed by Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex and International Association of Jungian Studies.

5th July + morning of 6th July 2019: Freud Museum, Hampstead London

Leslie Gardner, Visiting fellow, Dept PPS (University of Essex), Richard Seaford, Professor emeritus of classics and ancient history (University of Exeter), Paul Bishop, Professor, William Jacks Chair in Modern Languages (University of Glasgow), Terence Dawson, (independent scholar).


Friday July 5

9-9.15am: Greetings

9.15-9.55am Catriona Miller, keynote Contextualising Inanna’s Descent

Moderator , Leslie Gardner

9.55- 11.00 Panel 1

Suzanne Lye, Self as Story, Odysseus and Narrative Usefulness of Katabasis

Leslie Gardner, Acting out: Lucian’s True Histories

Madeleine Scherer, Straits of Memory, archetypes, anabasis and abandonment

Moderator, Sulagna Sengupta

Coffee – 11-11.20

11.20-12.30 Panel 2 –

Richard Seaford Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Sulagna Sengupta , The abyss (title t/c)

Moderator, Terence Dawson

Lunch – 12.30 – 1.30

1.30-2.45 Panel 3

Christian McMillan, The Neykia journey and wholeness in thought of Jung + Deleuze

Lyat Friedman, The abyss of the Machine: A Deleuzian response to Psychoanalysis

Gabriella Calchi Novati, Abyssal Self:Psychoanalytic reflections on the age of digital

Moderator Catriona Miller

Coffee – 2.45 – 3

3-4.15 pm Panel 4

Roula Marie Dib, Katabasis in Middle Eastern Female Hagiography

Maria Chriti, The Neoplatonic Katabasis of the soul in the world of the senses

Pierre Cardascia, Lacanian discussion of the ‘nekyia’

Moderator Richard Seaford

4.30-5 – Ruth Padel – reading from her new book Emerald

Moderator Craig Stephenson

Wine reception – during reading

Saturday, July 6 –

9.30- 10.15 – Paul Bishop,keynote The Archaic and the abyss

Moderator/respondent Richard Seaford

10.15 – 11.30 Panel 6

Alan Cardew, The Chariot as Vehicle and Metaphor

Kurt Lampe, Orestes’ K

Craig Stephenson , ‘Proteus’ the lost play of Aeschylus Oresteia

Moderator Christian McMillan

11.30- 11.50 coffee

11.50 -13pm Panel 7

Shane Butler Freud’s Roma Quadrata

Terence Dawson Katabasis + Virgil’s Orpheus and Eurydice, an Epicurean Theory of Myth

Moderator Mark Saban

13-13.30 finalising


Keynote: Catriona Miller

Contextualising Inanna’s Descent:What has the mistress of all lands done?

 The Sumerian culture of the Ancient Near East goes back at least five and half thousand years, though the goddess Inanna has roots going back even further.    The striking thing about Inanna even to modern eyes is that she is not a domestic goddess: she controls many of the Sumerian me, attributes of civilisation which vary from carpentry and kindling a fire, to the art of song and kissing⁠.The Descent of Inanna. describes the goddess’s descent to the underworld ruled over by her sister goddess Ereshkigal.  Much has been written about this work from a feminist perspective, however, the poem is only one of several texts about Inanna that have survived and the stories they have to tell about this goddess puts a different slant on the Descent.  Drawing on Jung’s model of the psyche which promotes the concepts of balance and of leaving a space for the unconscious to speak, it is clear that Inanna is a character in need of reflection and stillness: she is not beaten in battle, and she is not defeated in debate, nor is she put in her place by a lover or partner.  She is a ruler, a holder of knowledge, an active warrior and lover, and it is only the goddess of the underworld herself who can ‘pause’ Inanna, by insisting that she strip away her persona, her outward symbols of power and enforces ultimate stillness upon her hanging her as a piece of meat on a hook.  The Descent of Inanna tells the story of Inanna’s decision to look into the abyss which creates balance to Inanna’s otherwise highly active character. This paper will re-evaluate The Descent of Inanna from both a feminist and Jungian perspective. 


 Panel 1

Suzanne Lye

Self as Story: Static Odysseus and the Narrative Usefulness of Katabasis

When Odysseus stands at the edge of Underworld in the Nekuia (Odyssey 11), he does not conceive of it as an inapproachable abyss or engage with it as a way to discover his inner self. Unlike later writers and psychologists who have allegorized Underworld encounters as journeys towards self-realization and knowledge, the Homeric poet uses the motif of katabasis to portray a very specific version of Odysseus as a character and hero. The primary goal of the Nekuia, as a story, is to influence how external audiences perceive the epic’s protagonist. In this episode, Odysseus relates a certain version of his “self” that would be most palatable to the Phaeacians. The poet portrays the Nekuia’s Underworld, therefore, as a place for the selective display of identity where the “self” is carefully narrated to meet the requirements of external pressures rather than internal desires. By making an Underworld journey, Odysseus fulfills the divine mandate given to him by the sorceress Circe and, through his harrowing tale, persuades his Phaeacian listeners to give him the resources he needs to complete his nostos. Despite his conversations with the ghosts of family and friends, Odysseus himself does not evolve as a character in any substantive way. By narrating a journey to Hades, Odysseus crafts his audience’s perceptions of who he is from his own perspective – a devoted son, a peer to famous Greek leaders, and an equal of the greatest mythic heroes. The Odysseus who emerges from the Underworld episode is essentially the same one who enters – his sense of self remains intact, even as people and situations change around him. Odysseus remains the storytelling hero who uses narrative to construct a different “self” for each audience. Through the Nekuia episode, the poet suggests that the “self” is malleable, changeable, and responsive to the needs of one’s story.

 Leslie Gardner

Acting out in In Lucian’s ‘True Histories: using both Freud’s ‘disciple’ Tausk’s essay on ‘influential machines’ and Jung ’s essay on flying saucers, I find multiple examples of ‘conjectural rhetoric’ that exemplifies a defensive posture which I propose to explore alongside Darko Suvin’s influential definition of science : that sci fi engages in ‘cognitive estrangement’. Lying, projection and delusions are psychic events experienced widely. Both psychologists seek to normalise these manoeuvres as reaction to overwhelming experience. . Associating sight of these machines to repression and guilt, a death wish, Tausk argues that such hallucinations come from such deep repressions: the acting -out of those guilts impacts on psychic realities. Jung looks at collective trauma after the war to trace the features of the phenomenon of the multiple instances of sightings of seeialien objects in the sky. I attempt here an enquiry into the rhetoric of Lucian’s ‘acting out’ by way of his satiric science fiction.

 Madeleine Scherer

Straits of Memory’: Archetypes, Anabasis, and Abandonment in Wilson Harris’s Palace of the Peacock

At the end of late Caribbean writer Wilson Harris’s 1960 Palace of the Peacock, the main character and the novel’s meta-textual narrator ascend the eponymous Palace of the Peacock to reach enlightenment. While the majority of the novel follows the format of a katabasis, a descent into the jungles of Guyana inspired by both Homeric and Virgilian models, the end of the novel traces a Plantonic ascent. The protagonist loses all sense of individuality as he enters the ‘straits of memory’ of the Palace, and transcends the boundaries of his own persona and perception to become one with a higher entity, perhaps even the universe itself. He abandons the sphere of historical or any other man-made version of time, and enters a realm of simultaneity, a timeless space of enlightenment. The protagonist’s journey as a metaphysical ascent towards an archetypal knowledge of the world’s history, memory, and mythology is a quest for a spiritual, healing reality: as the protagonist is able to see the repeating cycles of oppression, both in the memories he accesses in his transcendence, and the colonial oppression he has witnessed over and over during the course of the novel, he is able to conceptualise a healing process for these cycles of tyranny, which can lead him to ‘freedom and strength’. This paper discusses Harris’s Palace of the Peacock as an example of a Jungian-inspired katabasis/anabasis narrative which places the discovery of archetypal structures at the end of an underworldly journey towards enlightenment. Comparisons to modern media such as the 2017 video game Senua’s Sacrificewill also be drawn to show the contemporary legacy of akatabasis narrative whose climax leads its protagonist towards a de-personalised viewpoint, as well as the discovery of archetypal narratives and metaphysical enlightenment.

Panel 2:

Richard Seaford:

In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (probably 6th century BCE) Persephone is gathering flowers when the earth gapes open, Hades emerges from it, siezes her, and in his chariot takes her down to the underworld. This is more than a mere katabasis: the earth suddenly opens up and she is forced deep downwards into the abyss, the first one in European literature.We know from vase-painting that it was for the Athenians a way of imagining the wedding. In the Homeric Hymn she is sought all over the world by her mother Demeter, who is eventually reunited with her at Eleusis. The myth was an aetiology of mystic initiation at Eleusis. Mystic initiation was a rehearsal of death, in which the initiand passed from anxiety to joy, from ignorance to knowledge, and from isolation to belonging to a group. The descent and return of Persphone from Hades were in some way (secret even then) enacted in the Eleusinian ritual. That is to say, the initiands experienced in some way Persephone’s terrifying descent and her ascent that ended in joy. This is one example of how ancient ritual may enact experiences which for us are confined to individual fantasy and relegated to the unconscious.

 Sulagna Sengupta

The abyss as purgatory space

The abyss (Naraka in Sanskrit for hell) is described as a purgatory space in Indian texts from where souls rise when the cycle of karma ends. This ancient religious belief takes on compelling psychological meaning in Savitri’s story where soul’s descent is narrativized. This paper brings an extraordinary sun myth from India and a woman’s journey into the depths, juxtaposed with a cult film, to show Self’s underpinnings in Yama’s netherworld. King Asvapati’s daughter Savitri (earliest reference in Vyasa’s Mahabharatha), encounters the god of death Yama through a curious turn of events in her marriage. The spirited Savitri prepares for what she has been forewarned – the death of her beloved. Following her husband in underworld Savitri encounters Yama, a myth that I relate to the tragic aftermath of India’s postcolonial history, recreated in a cinematic classic. The mythic motifs depict psyche’s descent and ascent, in individual and collective realms, showing how the Self may be conceived when a catastrophe has torn apart an existing order. Jung wrote that the entrances of Hades were the scenes of katabasis, crevices from where souls ascended after having conquered death, disintegration and madness or places where opposites came together and where ‘the adept’s soul was not only impressed by it but radically altered.’ We look into ancient and contemporary Indian material to examine Jung’s insights, exploring how the psychological essence of katabasis may be grasped in today’s turbulent and unsettling times.

Panel 3:

Lyat Friedman

The Abyss of the Machine: A Deleuzian Response to Psychoanalysis 

Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia is a text dedicated to the destruction of an Oedipal self. Written by Deleuze and Guattari in 1972, it attempts to undo the therapeutic process by which one can gain insight into oneself and re-establish a coherent narrative of oneself. It opposes the practice by which one can rediscover oneself by exploring an unconscious past and exposing unacknowledged desires. The text attempts to undo the abyss of the self, so central to the Western tradition. Offering a schizoanalysis, instead of psychoanalysis, Deleuze and Guattari write: ‘In its destructive task, schizoanalysis must proceed as quickly as possible, but it can also proceed only with great patience, great care, by successively undoing the representative territorialities and reterritorializations through which a subject passes in his [or her] individual history.’ (Anti-Oedipus, 318). This presentation seeks to present the difficulties Deleuze and Guattari find in the analysis of the self in psychoanalysis and to clarify the problematic mental construction of the oedipal identity. Caught in a “mother-father” dyad, without any “lines of flight,” one cannot but escape the oedipal scene by entering into an oedipal narrative. It is, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, a trap. But not only is the process of acquiring a self stifling, it is also a process by which the individual is required to neglect oneself and one’s desires and disregard one’s personal history, for the sake of a universalizing history of one’s parents, cultivated with sexualized themes. It is an abyss well versed and traversed. This presentation also seeks to explore the alternative narrative Deleuze and Guattari propose: the narrative of the machine. In so doing, it will attempt to show that a machine can have an abyss, but it is an open one. It is open to the company of others.

 Christian McMillan

The Neykia journey and wholeness in the thought of Jung and Deleuze. 

In his 2007 work Deleuze and the Unconscious, Christian Kerslakewrites that ‘The notion of a ‘second birth’, rebirth or renaissance is fundamental to [the work of Gilles] Deleuze from the beginning’. He adds that ‘large tracts of Jung’s Transformations and Symbols [of the Libido, CW. Vol. 5, 1912] (the work to which Deleuze most frequently refers) are devoted to the myth of rebirth which Jung discovers in the background to the mythologies handed down by history’ (p. 81). The myth of the hero who enters on a ‘night sea journey’ (Neykia – the Journey into Hades) is one that preoccupied the work of Deleuze and his collaborator Félix Guattari. In this paper I consider the extent to which Deleuze differs from Jung in his positive appraisal of the role of modern art in the Neykia journey, paying particular attention to James Joyce’s novelUlysses on which Deleuze and Jung commented at some length whilst reaching quite different conclusions about the nature of what it is to be ‘whole’. ‘Wholeness’, another theme that is evident in all of Jung’s writings, is a central philosophical concern of Deleuze’s post-structuralist thought. Deleuze’s frequent celebrations of the fragmentation of wholes seems to be at odds with Jung’s positive elaboration of therapy as tending towards healing as a whole-making enterprise. Even at his most ‘metaphysical’ Jung sometimes advocates a vision of reality as an organic ‘whole’ in which, borrowing from the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370bc): ‘There is one common flow, one common breathing, all things are in sympathy. The whole organism and each one of its parts are working in conjunction for the same purpose and each of its parts are working in conjunction for the same purpose’ (cf. Jung, 1952, para. 925). This organicist, holistic vision of the cosmos (and the psyche) might explain why Jung is reticent when dealing with modern art works such as Ulysses(cf. Jung, 1932) whose vision of wholeness gestures to a notion of individuation which is fundamentally critical of this kind of organicism.


Gabriella Calchi Novati

“Abyssal Self”: Psychoanalytical Reflections on the Age of Digital Biopolitics

In this paper I instigate a dialogue between what I call digital biopolitics and psychoanalysis. With the advent of Web 2.0, the space of the virtual has eroded our daily space of experience, becoming the space of our being par excellence. Jaron Lanier, a major pioneer of the self-generated technology of Web 2.0 has voiced his doubts about any constructive potential of such technology, claiming that ‘you have to be somebody before you can share yourself’, for ‘persons’ have become ‘rarities’ in the twenty-first century ‘lifeless world of pure information.’ Digital rather than existential, the contemporary abyss is not a space where one could spiritually travel, but has become the place for narcissistic fascination and digital vertigo. Boaventura de Sousa Santos reminds us that the travel motif not only is symbolically double, but also always contains its own opposite, namely the idea of a fixed home – domus and oikos. To me the self is domus and oikos, in that it is the individuation journey’s point of departure and point of arrival. Such a journey, however, in the age of digital biopolitics, is in crisis for, what a person is, in the truest sense, counts less than the virtually infinite number of self-generated copies, aliases, and avatars of that self. And since we have moved far beyond the post-modern era of simulacra, in our age of digital biopolitics the self has become vertiginously abyssal. Thus, I propose to apply de Sousa Santos’ concept of ‘abyssal thinking’ to delve into what I call “abyssal self”. By employing a Lacanian lens of investigation, where the Real and the Symbolic can be understood via Aristotle’s distinction between tuché and automaton, I conclude by advancing that one of the main traits of the “abyssal self’ is its incessant fall outside of signification.  



Panel 4:

 Roula-Maria Dib

Katabasis in Middle Eastern Female Hagiography: a Post-Jungian Perspective 

 The role of katabasis, or ‘descent’ in the development of the spiritual psyche is a topic that has been relatively unexplored in hagiographic literature, particularly in the stories of the Byzantine Greek Orthodox matericon, or ‘mothers of the church’ in the Middle East. These female saints have, in one way or another, escaped patriarchy, embarking on journeys of ascension towards spirituality, but through the routes of descending into various circumstances of self-destitution. A post-Jungian revisiting of this literature will show how, in addition to eliding a patriarchic social system, female saints such as Barbara, Tala, Marina, and Anna-Simon have achieved spiritual development, or individuation, by seeking refuge in maternal landscapes;they fled to camouflaging natural environments, katabatic womb-like abysses such as dark settings, cavernous spaces, and forests, which were sites of an inner coniunctio. Some post-Jungian studies may be helpful in approaching this subject, especially those that have looked into topics such as the heroine (Coline Covington and Maureen Murdock), women in war (Elizabeth Eowyn Nelson), pregnant darkness (Shepherd Bliss), the goddess culture (E.C. Whitmont), ecocriticism (Susan Rowland), light inside dark times (Michael Meade), and sexuality and the religious imagination (Bradley TePaske). Synthesizing these post-Jungian perspectives, and revisiting this hagiographic literature through the lens of this fusion allows for a new reading beyond the classical one. The latter type focuses on the ascension and reflects a challenge of ‘worldly’ patriarchy in favor of a ‘father god’. However, a new reading highlighting the psychically-nourishing aspects of descent into nature, withdrawal into the self and thus the ‘underworld’ of the psyche will show the fruitful katabasis resulting in the heroism of ‘sainthood’.

 Maria Chriti

The Neoplatonic Katabasis of the Soul to the World of the Senses: Language as a Tool for Regaining Self-Conscience 

The debt of Carl Jung to Neoplatonism has been acknowledged by scholarship: his“universal archetypes” and “archaic patterns” of the soul have significant counterparts in the Platonic transcendental Forms and the Neoplatonic residual innate content of the psyche. According to the Neοplatonists, the soul kept this content after its fallfrom the One (= Neoplatonic “paradise”) to the sensible world. This specific katabasis resulted in oblivion of the soul’s genuine identity, but also to the necessity of recollection. Stimulation of the soul’s forgotten knowledge by means of reckoning with deities has also been pointed out for Proclus by contemporary scholars, focusing, however, on theourgia and not on the means of language, given that: a) Proclus is the first to explicitly associate language with bringing forward the soul’s divine remnantswith help from linguistic phantasia, and b) his student Ammonius and the latter’s students, Simplicius and Philoponus explicitly consider language as the only conventional tool for the psyche to be reminded of who she was. These philosophers from the School of Alexandria lay stress on the urgent and compulsory presence of human vocal sounds in contrast to the once-upon-a-time divine non-linguistic communication among the souls, emphasizing the uniqueness of linguistic expression as regards recollection. It can be said that contemporary psychology could be more profited from the Neoplatonic tradition as regards the first occurrence of the relation between language and recollection, than from the Neoplatonic theourgia; it is important that from Ammonius onwards, linguistic utterance is rendered as the only instrument by means of which the psyche can bring forward what is deeply hidden, the only way to remember its unification with the universal soul, as Carl Jung would put it, the only way to come closer to her genuine self.  

Pierre Cardascia

In analytical psychology, katabasis, ‘journey to and from’/return (this is very important) – to the underworld is explicitly related to the Jungian school through the nekyia. Although Jung borrows the word from the Greek tradition, the concept encompasses a wider multiplicity whose contours cross cultures and eras. The hero, the heroic soul, voluntarily explores itself to the abyss, and meets the dead. Or death? In other words, the hero meets an inhabitant of the subterranean world, and returns changed, damaged but not deteriorated. If what the abyss is intended to be is incorporated in one way or another into the soul, then it is important to knows its nature… but this is the difficulty – the abyss is something whose nature is unknowable. We will establish this point through study of examples, sometimes contradictory, sometimes convergent definitions. This epistemic approach will serve us to explore another such journey back and forth, the reading of Descartes by Lacan in the ‘Logic of Fantasy’ where he argues that fantasy has two names for one and same substance:desire and reality – a relationship of texture without interruption- there is only one and the same stuff that has a back and a forth, we go from one face to another without noticing it.

 Panel 5: Ruth Padel reading from Emerald introduced by Craig Stephenson

Saturday , July 6

Keynote: Paul Bishop

The archaic and the abyss

In his sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, the German mystic Johannes Tauler quotes Psalm 42:2, ‘deep calls unto deep’. In  this sermon, Tauler exhorts his listeners: entsink, entsink in den grunt , i.e. ‘sink into thy inmost soul, into they nothingness’, and he goes on to draw a link between the exhortation and what Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite says about the soul’s knowledge of God. Now in the late 1930s, classical scholarship noted the similarities between these passages in Tauler and one of Jung’s major intellectual reference points, the Presocratic thinker Heraclitus. These similarities turn around the concept of the abyss. Using a specific interpretative framework, this paper explores the link in Heraclitus between the archaic and the abyss, and it concludes (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde) that we are all in the abyss, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Panel 6:

 Alan Cardew

Anabasis: The Chariot as Vehicle and Metaphor

When considering Katabasis and the myth of the descent, whether into the Underworld or the Unconscious, it important not to forget brighter realms, and, if only for the sake of symmetry, to consider the contrary movement; Anabasis, the ascent to the heavens, the spaces of light and the holy. To expedite the ascent through vast and complex spheres of angels angels, gods, and stars it is best to have a vehicle. Pasternak said that man is forced to use metaphor because he is too short-lived for the tremendous task that is imposed upon him. The chariot is perhaps the most powerful of such metaphors, a device of speedy transport to higher levels that appears in both Western and Eastern spiritual traditions.The paper will begin with the image of the chariot as it appears in Parmenides and the Phaedrus of Plato, move to Ezekiel and Merkabah mysticism, and conclude with the divine immobility of the Bhagavad Gita.


Kurt Lampe: Orestes’ K


O gods, what do I see? What underworld denizen do I gaze upon?” 

(Menelaus addressing Orestes, Eur. Or. 385)


In The Resilient Spirit, the Jungian analyst Polly Young-Eisendrath tropes the mindful confrontration with pain and loss as a katabasis. The mythical protagonist Orestes clearly “goes down” into pain, loss, and even what has sometimes been described as psychosis. Moreover, as I will show in the first part of this paper, an array of ancient sources manifest the archetypal pattern Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Erich Neumann analyse as incest (return to the womb), ingestion by the maternal dragon, or descent into the monster’s lair. Prominent features of this pattern include representations of Clytemnestra as a dragon or serpent, or as a threat to Orestes’ maturation, identity, or life; and representations of Orestes’ ritual initiatory segregation, of his becoming the monster he kills, sacrificing parts of himself (blood, hair, a finger), identifying with solar divinity, and dying by snake-bite. Much of this will complement recent Jungian readings of Aeschylus’ Oresteia as a paradigm for individuation (e.g. Trousdell 2008, Pestell 2018).

Yet I will also highlight Marie Delcourt’s criticism of Jungian readings; far from being an exemplar of transformation, she suggests, Orestes “never escapes [his] neurotic dilemma. … [His] history is nothing but its unfolding” (1959: 79-80, 88-90). In the second part of this paper, I will sketch two explanations for why this is so.

Craig Stephenson

Proteus, the lost play of Aeschylus Oresteia

In Aeschylus’ tragic trilogy The Oresteia, a succession of three literary dreams propels the mythic action forward. Returning from exile to revenge his father Agaememnon’s death, Orestes plots to kill his mother Clytaemnestra. Hearing the Chorus describe Clytaemestra’s dream of a snake (in The Libation Bearers), he claims to apprehend itsmeaning, and the Chorus agrees with his interpretation of the dream as prophesying his own return. But something is left out of his interpretation, something Orestes only experiences after he murders his mother. Her snake resurrects in a second dream, a hallucinatory nightmare from which Orestes flees in mad terror. Finally, in The Eumenides, this dream of the snake materializes into outer reality for all Athenians to witness, allowing Aeschylus to dramatize a collective response to the third dream’s demands. Aeschylus wrote a satyr play entitled Proteus to conclude his Oresteia, but there exist only a few fragments. How might a Jungian reading of the three snake dreams contribute to discussions about this missing fourth piece, which theatre historians suppose was replete with a chorus of satyrs and the appearance of the god Proteus?Can we imagine the last play as dreaming onwards the snake dreams of the trilogy? How does our modern psychological understanding of this ancient Greek classic alter if we locate the lysis of Aeschylus’s snake dreams not at the end of the trilogy but in the lost play?

  Panel 7

Shane Butler

Freud’s Roma Quadrata

In a famous passage in Civilisation and its Discontents, Freud compares the psychic apparatus to the city of Rome—or rather, to a fantastic version of Rome in which the city’s many stacked layers of history were all instantly available to the observer. Understandably, the passage has received much attention, including from classicists. But the fact that it was prompted by some very specific reading by Freud seems to have gone unnoticed. This paper follows the links—bibliographical, archaeological, etymological—back to an obscure chapter of Rome’s archaic history, which leads us simultaneously up into the sky and down into the Underworld. We finally emerge, surprisingly, through Freud’s other famous figure for the psyche: the Mystic Writing Pad. And along the way, we consider a crucial debt (and possible defect) that depth models owe to the logic of the page.

Terence Dawson

Katábasis and Virgil’s Orpheus and Eurydice: an Epicurean Theory of Myth

Many scholars regard Roman adaptations of the Greek myths as banalisations of their earlier counterparts. This paper looks at Virgil’s rendering of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which Robert Graves regarded as “mythologically absurd”. Virgil embeds the myth within a story of his own contriving: a story about Aristaeus having lost his bees. In the course of his search for his lost bees, Aristaeus speaks first with his mother, and then with Proteus, who tells him the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as if it will help him to find his lost bees. The first part of Virgil’s adaptation involves a katábasis, a “descent” from a social space into an imaginal space which corresponds to the depression into which he has fallen as a result of his loss and grief. Some refer to this space as the other. Psychoanalysts call it the unconscious. Jung saw it as a space in which inarticulate hunches and intuitions take shape and become conscious thoughts or feelings. Aristaeus cannot grasp why Proteus has told him the myth. It is left to his mother to interpret the myth for him.

Virgil was an Epicurean. This paper shows how he separates the myth from religious belief in order to reconsider it as an expression of human and psychological tendencies. It argues that this represents an extraordinary contribution to the understanding of myth. Instead of seeing myth as a reflection of a specific cultural moment, he sees myth as the expression of a pressing psychological challenge of which the subject has no inkling and which requires the help of an “other” to interpret. In short, it suggests that Virgil has a claim to being the father of emphatically psychological readings of myth.

Contributor biographies

Paul Bishop

He is William Jacks Chair of Modern Languages in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Glasgow. For Routledge he has edited The Archaic: The Past in the Present (2012), co-edited (with Leslie Gardner) The Ecstatic and the Archaic: an Analytical Psychological Inquiry (2018), and recently published On the Blissful Islands: With Nietzche & Jung in the Shadow of the Superman (2016) and Ludwig Klages and the Philosophy of Life: A Vitalist Toolkit (2017).


Shane Butler

He is Nancy H and Robert E Hall Professor in the Humanities and Professor and Chair of Classics at John Hopkins University. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of seven books, including, most recently, a monograph The Ancient Phonograph (Zone 2015), and two edited volumes, Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception (Bloomsbury 2016) and Sound and the Ancient Senses (Routledge 2019), co-edited with Sarah Nooter. He is currently working on a monograph entitled On the Surface: John Addington Symonds Across Space and Time.


Pierre Cardascia

After PhD in philosophy (analytical philosophy, logics, game semantics), supervised by Shahid Rahman (UFR Philo, Lille3) and André Hirschowitz (UFR Maths, Nice), Pierre Cardascia started a business specialized in game-design, innovative pedagogies and escape games : SubOptimal Games. He made several interventions like “Why do the adults not authorize themselves to play ?” at FIJ2019 (Festival International des Jeux de Cannes), “Free Gustav ? or the importance of the narrative in serious escape games” at SEG2018, “Why read Jean-Yves Girard” for a study day Dimensions de la psychanalyse at the Institute of Protestant Theology (Paris).He published “La dialogique des matrices” in la Revista des Humanidades de Valparaiso, Año 3, 2do semestre, N° 6,  2015, “Through the concept of sensible space : mandalas, mandorlas and crop circles.” in the webjournal DEMETER and some other papers about logics, mythology and aesthetic.

Alan Cardew

He is a Member of the Cambridge Center for the Study of Platonism, a Fellow of the Athens Institute for Education and Research, and a Fellow of the Foro di Studi Avanzati in Rome. He has written on Heidegger, Jung, Cassirer, and Nietzsche.


Maria Chriti

Dr Chriti is at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Modern Greek Language. . Fields of interest: Aristotelian logic, ancient linguistics, philosophy of language, Neoplatonism. Post-doctorate research (CHS, University of Harvard): “Aristotle as a name-giver: The cognitive aspect of his theory and practice”. Among her published works are: Α History of Ancient Greek: From the Βeginnings to Late Antiquity, with A.-F. Christidis & M. Arapopoulou (Cambridge: CUP, 2007) and “Ancient Philosophers on Language” (with P. Kotzia), in The Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics (eds. G. Giannakis et al. 2014, vol. I, 124-133).


Terence Dawson

Terence Dawson is an independent scholar, following a career of teaching in Brazil, the UK, and Singapore. He has a special interest in both music and the visual arts. With Polly Young-Eisendrath, he co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Jung (1997; 2nd ed. 2008). He is the author of The Effective Protagonist in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel: Scott, Brontë, Eliot, Wilde (2004), and articles mostly on English and European literature.


Roula-Maria Dib

She obtained her PhD at University of Leeds is presently Assistant Professor of English at the American University in Dubai, and editor-in-chief of Indelible, the university’s literary journal. She teaches courses in composition, literature, creative writing, and world mythology. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on the role of Carl Jung’s alchemy and individuation theories in Modernist poetics. She has a forthcoming book, Jungian Metaphor in Modernist Literature (Routledge), and writes poems, essays, and articles in several journals. The themes that pervade her work usually revolve around different aspects of human nature, ekphrasis, surrealism, alchemy, and mythology. She is a member of the International Association for Jungian Studies (IAJS), the Jungian Society for Scholarly studies (JSSS), and the British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS).


Lyat Friedman

Lyat Friedman, Chair of the Master’s Program in Policy and Theory of the Arts, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Her book, In the Footsteps of Psychoanalysis: A Postmodern Gendered Criticism of Freud’s Method, was published in Hebrew in 2013 and is now being translated into English. Her current project is entiteld Transformative Criticism. She has published extensively on phenomenolgy,  psychoanalysis, feminism, art, and cultural criticism.


Leslie Gardner

Leslie Gardner PhD, convenor. Director of international literary agency Artellus Limited, based in London. Founding member International Association Jungian Studies. Author of ‘Rhetorical investigations: GB Vico and CG Jung’ (Routledge 2013), co-editor ‘House: the wounded healer on television’ (Routledge 2010) with Luke Hockley, co-editor ‘Feminist Views from Somewhere (Routledge 2017) with Fran Gray, co-editor (with two chapters included) with Raya Jones ‘Narratives of Individuation’ (Routledge 2019), chapter in Routledge International Handbook Jungian Film Studies (Routledge 2018) on Cocteau and archetypal theories; author of articles and reviews. Presently Fellow in Dept Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. Previous IAJS regional conferences in London, ‘(Dis)enchantment’ with Mark Saban and Kevin Lu; ‘Feminist Views from Somewhere’ with co-convenor Fran Gray; and ‘Ecstasy and Archaic Thought’ in London summer 2018, the first in classics and depth psychology gatherings: subsequent book including papers ‘The Ecstatic and the Archaic’ (Routledge 2018) with Paul Bishop.

Kurt Lampe

His doctoral work was in ancient philosophical hedonism, leading to The Birth of Hedonism in 2015 (Princeton). After that he moved into modern continental philosophy with a 2016 AHRC Networking Grant, from which the primary outputs are two forthcoming collections on Stoicism in modern French and German philosophy (Bloomsbury). Most recently he has become fascinated by ancient Greek religious practices and their bearing on philosophy of mind and the cultivation of mental wellbeing. Throughout 2018-2019 he has been running workshops with psychotherapists, academics from various subjects, and modern pagans from various backgrounds in order to think about the interface of “pagan” polytheism and mental wellbeing (see” 


Suzanne Lye

Suzanne Lye received her A.B. from Harvard University, where she studied organic chemistry and the history of antibiotics. After receiving her Ph.D. in Classics from the University of California, Los Angeles, she was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dartmouth College. At present, she is working on a book-length project about conceptions of the afterlife in ancient Greek Underworld narratives from Homer to Lucian. She has also participated in several digital humanities initiatives through Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, including the Homer Multitext Project. She has published on ancient epic, ancient religion and magic, ancient representations of gender and ethnicity, modern pedagogy, and Classical reception.


Christian McMillan

He was Senior Research Officer in the Department for Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex working on an AHRC funded project ‘“One world”: logical and ethical implications of holism’ (2016-2018). His doctoral thesis, ‘The image of thought in Jung’s whole-Self: A critical study’ (2014) focussed on similarities and differences in the thought of depth psychologist C. G. Jung and French post-structuralist philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. Forthcoming publications include: Jung, Deleuze and the Problematic Whole (ed., 2019); ‘Jung, Literature, and Aesthetics’ in Jung and Philosophy (ed. Jon Mills, Routledge, 2019); ‘The ‘image of thought’ and the State-form in Jung’s ‘The Undiscovered Self’ and Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Treatise on Nomadology’ in Jung, Deleuze and the Problematic Whole. Previous publications ‘Archetypal Intuition: Beyond the Human’ in Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society (ed. David Henderson, 2012); ‘Jung and Deleuze: Enchanted Openings the Other’, Internal Journal of Jungian Studies, special issue (Dec, 2018)

Catriona Miller, keynote

Dr Catriona Miller is a senior lecturer in media at Glasgow Caledonian University with a particular interest in feminism and mythology from a Jungian perspective.  Recent publications include Miller, C. 2018, ‘Enki at Eridu: God of Directed Thinking’, in L Gardner & P Bishop (eds), The Ecstatic and the Archaic: an Analytical Psychological Inquiry, Routledge, Oxon, pp. 147-60, and Miller, C. 2018, A Jungian Textual Terroir, in L Hockley (ed), The Routledge International Handbook of Jungian Film Studies, Routledge, Oxon, pp. 7-25.  She has a monograph Angels, Aliens and Amazons, Cult TV Heroines forthcoming for Bloomsbury.

Gabriella Calchi Novati

She is a performance studies scholar and a critical theorist. She works at the intersections of performance studies, biopolitics and psychoanalytic theory. Her essays on digital cultures, critical theory, film, theatre, contemporary art, activism and politics have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as ‘Theatre Research International’, ‘Performance Research’, ‘Performance Paradigm’, ‘About Performance’, and ‘Cinema: Journal of Philosophy & the Moving Image’; and in many edited collections.She is a member of ‘The Anthropocene Atlas of Geneva’ (TAAG) Advisory Research Group: and a member of the organising and scientific committee of the international and interdisciplinary academic-artistic network “Terror on Tour”. She earned her PhD from Trinity College Dublin in 2012, and is currently a psychoanalyst in training at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich.


Ruth Padel

Ruth Padel is a London poet, author and conservationist, Professor of Poetry at King’s College London, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Recent poetry includes Darwin – A Life in Poems, a verse biography of her great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin; The Mara Crossing, on migration and immigration from cells to souls, trees, sharks andnhuman beings;  Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth, shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize, on harmony and fission in ourselves and in the Middle East, and most recently Emerald, a lyrical exploration of the search for value in the mourning process. She started out as a classical Greek scholar, and her prose includes In and Out of the Mind: Greek Images of the Tragic Self and Whom Gods Destroy: Elements of Greek and Tragic Madness, as well as Tigers in Red Weather a personal prose account of wild tiger conservation.She was Chair of Judges for the 2016 T S Eliot Prize and Judge for the 2016 International Man Booker Prize. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books and The White Review. Awards include First Prize in the National Poetry Competition and a British Council ‘Darwin Now’ Fellowship. See

Mark Saban

Mark Saban trained with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, with whom he is a senior analyst, working in London and Oxford.He is also a lecturer in Jungian and post-Jungian studies in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. Publications: Mark co-edited (with Emilia Kiehl and Andrew Samuels Analysis and Activism – Social and Political Contributions of Jungian Psychology (Routledge 2016). Recent writings include ‘Outside-In: Jung’s myth of interiority ambiguated Or – Knowing me, Knowing Jung – ahah!” Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2018 63, 368-381 and ‘Jung’s “personal myth” and the two personalities’ in Narratives of Individuation, ed Leslie Gardner and Raya Jones (Routledge 2019).

Richard Seaford

He is Emeritus Professor of Ancient Greek at the University of Exeter. He is the author of numerous papers and books on Greek drama, Greek religion, Greek philosophy, Greek society, and on the interrelation between them.

Madeleine Scherer

She is an Early Career Fellow at the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Warwick. Her work focusses on classical reception, memory studies, the underworld, and postcolonial studies.  

Sulagna Sengupta

Sulagna Sengupta is a Jungian scholar and the author of ‘Jung in India’, Spring Journal Books, USA, 2013. She is a member of International Association of Jungian Studies (IAJS) and has presented at IAJS conferences since 2014. Her paper, “Indeterminate States: Cultural Other in Jung’s India”, presented at the 2018 IAJS-IAAP conference in Frankfurt is planned for publication in IJJS in 2020. Also, to be published by Routledge in 2020 in Feminist Views from Somewhere is her paper “Earth, Ecology and the Feminine”. Sulagna is currently initiating her PhD in Jungian Studies at the University of Essex, UK working on the Indian epic, Ramayana. She has actively supported and been part of India’s environmental initiatives and lives in an ecological commune in Bangalore, South India.

Craig Stephenson

Craig E Stephenson, Ph.D., is a graduate of the C. G. Jung Institut Zürich, the Institut für Psychodrama auf der Grundlage der Jungschen Psychologie, Zumikon, and the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex.  His books include Possession: Jung’s Comparative Anatomy of the Psyche (2009/2016), Anteros: A Forgotten Myth (2011), and Ages of Anxiety (2016). He edited Jung and Moreno: Essays on theTheatre of Human Nature (2013) and, for the Philemon Foundation, On Psychological and Visionary Art:Notes from C. G. Jung’s Lecture on Gérard de Nerval’s Aurélia (2015). He served as Director of Training for the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association, New York City.








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