The Finer Forge:

Work and the Fires of Transformation


  • Jason E. Smith Jung Institute, Boston



This paper explores work in the light of Jungian psychology.  There are two trends of ideas that can be discerned in Jung’s writings regarding the subject of work.  On the one hand, work is associated with the ego’s adaptation to life in the social world.  This view results in an opposition between external work—often called “real work”—and inner work.  Meaning is associated with inner work and is divorced from a primary activity of everyday life.  On the other hand, Jung takes an historical view of the work instinct and derives the appearance of work from the activity of the transformation of libido.  In this view, work is understood as a symbolic process reflecting an inner development. External work and ‘inner work’ are reunited in this attitude.  The figure of Hephaistos is employed to explore the archetypal background of the experience of work.  Fairy tales and poetry are used to illustrate the transformational nature of the Hephaistian energy that manifests in our work with its potential for both creative and destructive outcomes.