Psyche and Society: Some Personal Reflections on the Development of the Cultural Complex Theory


  • Thomas Singer C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco and Board of National ARAS (The Archive for Research into Archetypal Symbolism)



Beginning with a review of the current development of cultural complex theory, this article discusses the notions of the "collective psyche: "thin times", the cultural complex as being like a "teratoma" and the major characteristics of cultural complexes. The article is framed in terms of "personal reflections" of Thomas Singer who places the development of the ideas in the context of his personal development as a Jungian analyst. The theory and practice of "cultural complexes" is likened to a cultural circumambulation of highly conflicted political, social, economic and environmental issues in which the search for effective action is always at issue.

Much of what tears us apart in the world today can be understood as the manifestation of autonomous processes in the collective and individual psyche that organize themselves as cultural or group complexes—which one can metaphorically imagine as accumulating in the collective psyche much like a newly reported area in the Pacific ocean where microscopic plastic particles from around the world seem to be coming together in a massive glob that fills an area the size of Texas. Cultural complexes are every bit as real, every bit as formative, every bit as ubiquitous, and every bit as powerful in their emotional and behavioral impact on individuals and groups as are personal complexes. Indeed, cultural complexes may present the most difficult and resistant psychological challenge we face in our individual and collective life today. Thomas Singer, unpublished remarks to the Berlin Jung Society