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Hubback, J. (1973). Uses and Abuses of Analogy. J. Anal. Psychol., 18(2):91-104.

(1973). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 18(2):91-104

Uses and Abuses of Analogy

Judith Hubback, M.A.


The theme of this paper has been in my mind for many years, in a diffuse form. It became possible to get it into focus and to do something with it when I read Mary Gammon's paper, ‘“Window into eternity”: archetype and relativity’.1

The aspect of Mary Gammon's paper which I wish to take up is the one which is implicit in the way she uses the theories of physics to ‘cast new light on the archetypal structure of the psyche’. When I was reading her paper, there were times when I feared that if archetypes, structures and the psyche were as difficult as I find modern physics I had better follow Voltaire's advice in Candide; that is, retire and cultive my garden. Then I remembered that my interpretation of his remark is, ‘You must cultivate your garden’. And that led me to see that it would be a misuse of Mary Gammon's use of analogies to take the two sides of them as parallel in all respects.

An analogy is a likeness in certain respects between two things which are otherwise different. So the object of using Einstein's and Heisenberg's theories on the structure of space as an analogy for the archetypal structure of the psyche is, I suppose, to enable us to understand how our psyches are constructed better than we would by studying this structure (or the model for it) directly. Because modern physics is difficult unless it has been studied properly, it does not follow that the attribute of difficulty need be carried over into psychology. In other words, any user of an analogy has to be careful that the element he abstracts from one science for use in another throws more light than it causes further darkness, which then has to be elucidated. This thought disposed of my fear that the likely misuse of analogy rendered the whole device useless, or turned it into mere intellectual gymnastics or exhibitionistic juggling.

An analogy is a device. Or it can be called a tool. It is a way or a method towards understanding something, in this case the unconscious psyche, which cannot be studied directly.

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