Act before Image—a polemical review of Warren Colman’s Act and Image

Sylvester Wojtkowski, PhD

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Beauty awakens the Soul to Act


“It is as if we did not know, or else continually forgot, that everything of which we are conscious is an image, and that image is psyche.”

C.G. Jung, Commentary on "The Secret of the Golden Flower." CW 13, p.50.

“Meaning is what we give to the image. Significance is what the image gives to us (egos). The archetype’s inherence in the image gives body to the image, the fecundity of carrying and giving birth to insights. The more we articulate its shape the less we need interpret.”

James Hillman, Egalitarian Typologies and the Perception of the Unique, p. 32

“Some maintain that there is a form of language so strong, so con-substantial with the very foundation of being, that it ‘shows’ us being (that is, the indissoluble plexus of being-language) so that self-revelation of being is actuated within the language.” Umberto Eco, Kant and the Platypus, p. 31

“Of course, genesis is a theory, a point of view, a fantasy, and not a fact. Even in biology, where this fantasy is at home and where are many more facts supporting it, this remains a truism.” Wolfgang Giegerich, “Ontogeny = Philogeny. A Fundamental Critique of Erich’s Neumann Analytical Psychology” in Collected English Papers, Volume I, The Neurosis of Psychology, p. 27

In Act and Image, Warren Colman aims to investigate the genesis of symbols, which he considers the major issue underlying Jung’s hypothesis of archetypes. As he puts it in the final statement of the book: “In this study I have attempted to “use directed thinking to construct a material basis for the existence of the non-material fantasy-thinking of symbolic imagination.” [p. 260] It is an ambitious piece of work, and a substantial contribution to critique of Jung’s ideas. To respect its significant weight, I’ve decided to give it a close reading. Therefore, mine is rather an extensive, polemical review, that I believe does justice to the work. Its length, I hope, is a sign of the book’s value, not just of my polemical fervor.

Colman notes in the introduction, that he was surprised, coming from the SAP developmental tradition, that in his Zurich lecture based on the initial material for the book, Jungians from the classical, archetypal perspective are unconcerned with the question of origins of symbolic imagination and take the notion of archetype not as a hypothesis but as “living reality that provides orientation and meaning for the practice of psychotherapy and living in general.” He attributes this unquestioning attitude to the idea that for many Jungians archetypes become symbolic images in themselves. [p. 3] True to the post-modern perspective, Colman from the start acknowledges that he approaches psychology from the developmental side, asking questions like “where did it come from and how did it develop?” Although he considers his developmental attitude “natural,” being exposed to the other school of thought made him “see his assumptions from outside.” Unfortunately, instead of questioning his assumptions, he falls back on the sociological explanation, that “no mode of thought can be separated from context in which it occurs.” [ibid]

Read Act before Image—a polemical review of Warren Colman’s Act and Image in its entirety here.