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Austin, S. (2005). Mogenson, Greg. Northern Gnosis: Thor, Baldr and the Volsungs in the Thought of Freud and Jung. New Orleans, La.: Spring Journal Books, 2005. Pp. 140. Pbk. $200.00.. J. Anal. Psychol., 50(5):711-712.

(2005). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(5):711-712

Mogenson, Greg. Northern Gnosis: Thor, Baldr and the Volsungs in the Thought of Freud and Jung. New Orleans, La.: Spring Journal Books, 2005. Pp. 140. Pbk. $200.00.

Review by:
Sue Austin

In Northern Gnosis Mogenson's aim is that of comparative study—of ‘insighting the theories of Freud and Jung through the lens of Norse myth’ (p. xii). He does not seek to provide a psychological reading of Norse mythology, but aims instead to ‘discover how Norse divinities enact themselves in the concepts and theories of our depth psychological forebears’ (p. xii). His primary point of reference throughout is Jung's characterization of psychology as an archaic myth in modern dress (p. 79).

Northern Gnosis is relevant to clinicians in a number of ways. First, and I suggest, most importantly, it reminds us how the psyche, in spite of all our efforts, refuses to be assimilated into consciousness. Here I am reminded strongly of a comment by Sherry Salman (see ‘Blood Payments’ in Terror, Violence and the Impulse to Destroy, ed. John Beebe, 2003, p. 245), which provides a particularly telling image of the kinds of dynamics which Mogenson is discussing:

Jung early on pointed out that when we deny the autonomy of any complex, much less of archetypal affect, trying to ‘assimilate’ it, eat it, and make it ‘one of our own,’ we are engaging in … a magical solution that is doomed eventually to fail. It is unsettling to observe how easily in our analytic practice and training, what we often find left behind after a therapeutic meal of such ego-satisfying interpretations, are still the Furies.

Northern Gnosis gives us a range of Norse counterparts to the Furies, each determined to live its own telos, its own part, regardless of our attempts to assimilate it.

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