Symbols of Transformation, Phenomenology, and Magic Mountain


  • Gary Brown University of London



When C. G. Jung partnered with Sigmund Freud, he already had a broad knowledge of world mythology and an understanding of the unconscious formed largely from Schopenhauer’s Will and Nietzsche’s Dionysian energy of nature, or physis. Unwilling to reduce this unconscious—matrix of dreams, myth, and literature—to Freud’s infantile sexual libido, Jung’s break with Freud was inevitable. His long suppressed ideas emerged in Symbols of Transformation, a mythically enriched study of regression in service of development, which rejects Freud’s limited libido. This paper uses Heidegger’s phenomenology to purge remaining traces of psychic encapsulation from Jung’s significant archetypal insights and demonstrates the modified Jungian articulation in the context of Thomas Mann’s novel, Magic Mountain, a study of hermetic individuation. Not only does this paper use Jung’s insights to clarify the labyrinthine development of the novel, thereby taking sides in a literary debate about its meaning, but it uses Mann’s artistic insights to expose limitations of Jungian theory.