Jung Darwin Book by Thomas T. Lawson
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Review by Leslie de Galbert
Translation by Thomas T. Lawson, original French follows

Thomas T. Lawson, Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind
London, Karnac, 2008.

The thought of Jung moves forward in time, lighting the way for us -- even astonishing us -- by varied paths and voices, sometimes unexpected. Thomas T. Lawson was finishing law school at about the time he discovered Jung’s work and, throughout a long career as a trial lawyer he returned continually to Jung's writings, deepening thus an understanding of a body of thought sometimes obscure and difficult to penetrate. Studying Jung's writings from the perspective of one outside the field of psychology, and putting together what he learned of analytical psychology with his experiences as a trial lawyer, as a painter, and as a father of a family, Lawson was all the better able to amaze himself and in so doing to amaze us by juxtaposing his reading of Jung upon Darwinian evolutionary theory.

In a writing style both direct and accessible, Lawson lays out and explains key Jungian concepts such as "archetype", "the collective unconscious", "individuation", and "synchronicity", definitions which will provide the ground for the development of his argument. In his opening pages he weaves into the explication of these concepts examples of the hereditary, genetic nature of the instincts. From the time of the first appearance of Jung's researches, we have known that psychical, archetypal images make their appearance throughout the ages and across cultures, in our myths, our fairy tales, our religions and rituals, and our deliriums. It follows from this that the collective unconscious transmits from generation to generation certain patterns or motifs by which the psyche expresses itself. Lawson recalls to us also that Erich Neumann, one of Jung’s closest disciples, in his study of universal themes in world mythology, advanced the hypothesis of a progression or evolution recognizable in mythic imagery through time. Neumann's argument supports Jung's thesis according to which humanity is heir to a collective unconscious structured by the archetypes and that the images “produced” by these archetypes bring to consciousness that which had theretofore been unconscious. This is what Neumann calls the "evolution of consciousness."

Lawson advances that the Jungian concept -- of a collective unconscious structured by archetypes of which every man and woman is possessed at birth – can square with the strict science of Darwinian evolutionary theory. His hypothesis is that, over the ages, human consciousness evolved in a way similar to the biological evolution of the species; this idea may be implicit in certain of Jung’s writings and can be found again in Neumann’s book. The novelty in Lawson is in saying that consciousness undergoes, across time, an evolution by a natural selection similar to that – in biology – of the human species; there is a potential "to become" conscious innate in the unconscious. The difference between biological evolution of the species according to Darwin and the evolution of consciousness according to Lawson is that the former is done at the genetic level (the evolution of the instincts) and the latter by another sort of natural selection: that which expresses itself in the diverse cultures of the world through the ages.

In connecting biological evolution and the evolution of consciousness Lawson is naturally led to confront "instinct" and "archetype". He does so in a remarkable way, in particular in giving numerous examples in human behavior that illuminate their respective roles and the interlacing of the one with the other. To my mind, this interrelation – between instinct and archetype – is the most subtle and perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book. In a late work, Jung wrote that the instincts are rooted in the physical organism, whereas the archetypes spring from the spirit. This and similar passages permit Lawson to write that (p. 32) "the archetypes, to sum up, and along with them the instincts, are rooted in the central nervous system of the human species". This assertion seems to contradict, at least partially, the opposition between instinct and archetype, but Lawson’s arguments are solid, and they have the great virtue of allowing us to consider -- and even compelling us to do so -- Jung’s work from a point of view that is eminently scientific. I enthusiastically recommend the reading of this book, particularly today, at a time when pschoanalysis is taking into account the great importance of the neurosciences for our practice and as testimony moreover of the indissoluble link between psyche and soma.

Leslie de Galbert, Cahier jungiens de psychanalyze, 129, Juin 2009: 112-13.

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Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind.