Author’s Reply to Sylvester Wojtkowski’s polemical review of Act and Image

Warren Colman

We have created a space for ongoing discussion here. Please leave your thoughts on the pieces in this issue.

First of all, I would like to thank Sylvester Wojtkowski for his detailed review of my book, Act and Image: The Emergence of Symbolic Imagination. Thanks too are due to Tom Singer for giving me the opportunity to respond to what Wojtkowski himself refers to as his ‘polemical fervour’ and ‘archetypal animus’.


The Cartesian ‘Soul’

I appreciate the time and trouble Sylvester has taken to consider my arguments but it is inevitable, given the difference between his perspective and my own that he has not really grasped the fulcrum of the argument and his review is full of misreadings and misconceptions. The fundamental reason for this, in my view, lies in the challenge I make to the Cartesian perspective that separates mental life from the material world. Wojtkowski’s robust defence of ‘soul’ and ‘psyche’ remains rooted within a Cartesian world-view and so my attempt to construct a non-Cartesian view of psyche seems anathema to him since, were he to embrace it, it would undermine his own assumptions. Instead, he takes me to task for not questioning my assumptions, upbraiding me for not seeing my own ideas in terms of fantasies and metaphors, apparently without realising that my work is a critique of this way of seeing things. That is to say, he remains within a perspective that my argument challenges and then upbraids me for not doing the same. This is a shame since in many respects we are ‘on the same side’ in valuing imagination and the soul as the heart of our human way of being.

To explain this, let me go straight to the heart of the matter – the question of ‘soul’. Wojtkowski frequently bemoans what he takes to me my ignorance of the soul. ‘It is truly depressing’, he writes ‘when Jungians do not at least acknowledge [the soul]’. To understand this, we need to understand what is meant by ‘the soul’ here, something which is not easy to discover as it tends to be taken for granted as a basic tenet of the so-called ‘archetypal school’ of psychology. Wojtkowski makes only a glancing reference to the origin of this ‘soul perspective’ when he attempts to take me to task for questioning Jung’s Cartesian dualistic split between body and mind. He claims that ‘This is a simplification as Jung often thinks in terms of the trinity of mind, soul and body’ (p. 4), presumably referring to Jung’s emphasis on ‘esse in anima’ as a ‘third realm’ between body and mind. As I’ve explained elsewhere (Colman 2017a), this was Jung’s ingenious solution to the problem of a split Cartesian world in which the hegemony of scientific materialism threatened the age-old world of the gods, represented in The Red Book by Izdubar. Through the establishment of esse in anima as an independent third realm (the soul),

Jung was able to use the reality of the psyche as a trump card with which to put not only Izdubar in his pocket but the science and philosophy that threatened to kill him off. Psychological explanations trump philosophical ones by revealing their underlying archetypal origins (Colman 2017a, p. 35).

Read Author's Reply to Sylvester Wojtkowski's polemical review of Act and Image in its entirety here.