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Schenk, R. (2011). Singer, Thomas (ed.). Psyche and the City: A Soul's Guide to the Modern Metropolis. New Orleans, Louisiana: Spring Journal Books, 2010, Pp. x + 417. Pbk. $ 32.95.. J. Anal. Psychol., 56(4):554-556.
(2011). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 56(4):554-556
Singer, Thomas (ed.). Psyche and the City: A Soul's Guide to the Modern Metropolis. New Orleans, Louisiana: Spring Journal Books, 2010, Pp. x + 417. Pbk. $ 32.95.
Review by: Ronald Schenk
Among the most important notions that Jung derived from alchemy and which deconstructs the modernist interiorization of soul was that of anima mundi, the soul of the world. This idea gives the world its own autonomous life separate from any human perception, and it has a long tradition, from Heraclitus and Plato to the Renaissance Neo-Platonists. James Hillman expanded Jung's insight into a full vision of depth psychology as oriented toward the subjectivity of the world. Now Thomas Singer has picked up the torch in his recent focus on cultural psyche and in this volume has collected essays by Jungian analysts reflecting upon the ‘soul of the city’ in which they live and work: Bangalore, Berlin, Cairo, Cape Town, Jerusalem, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Montreal, Moscow, New Orleans, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Sydney and Zurich.
The notion of ‘soul’ is universal but has its Western roots in the thinking of ancient Greek writers. For Homer the soul was a life principle, while Heraclitus considered soul in terms of flux, ubiquity, and depth. For Plato, soul was the ‘self-mover’ of life and the intermediary between the unseen, unknowable world of forms and the perceived world. Aristotle considered soul as the animating ‘essential whatness’ of things. Soul, then, is the ‘unmoved mover’, the animating force that is everywhere, encompassing both spirit and matter.
The term ‘city’ comes from the Latin civitas, which has its roots in the Greek word polis, which refers to a ‘circle of rocks’. The polis was public, as opposed to private, space where the individual could make his mark or reputation outside the battlefield. Permeated by agon (competition), it was a place of appearance and remembrance. In sum, the city, in its roots, connotes an encirclement of all-inclusiveness, a life-giving quality through the recognized appearance of one's being, and a place of memory, reflection and exchange free from the necessities of survival. The city has a life of its own which has us, not we, it.
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