This book explores the history of the idea of the midlife crisis, using the writings of C.G. Jung and Goethe to investigate its relevance for today. Tracing how “the ages of humankind” became “the stages of life” in which the midlife crisis represents a pivotal moment, Paul Bishop offers a detailed analysis of a paper by Jung on this subject. He then shifts the focus to Goethe’s interest in Orphic wisdom, and one of Goethe’s major later poems, “Primal Words. Orphic” (Urworte Orphisch). Using Jungian ideas to explore the psychological implications of this poem, Bishop draws on Goethe’s own commentary, and other background material, to uncover its vital message.
Reading Goethe at Midlife reveals the remarkable symmetry between the ideas and Jung and Goethe. Jung’s analysis of the stages of life, and his advice to heed the “call of the self,” are brought into the conjunction with Goethe’s emphasis on the importance of hope, showing an underlying continuity of thought and relevance from ancient wisdom, via German classicism to analytical psychology.
“At a time when many Jungians are turning to neuroscience to provide an external underpinning for Analytical Psychology, this scholarly book is very welcome: it returns to psychology’s home territory, placing Jung firmly in a long cultural tradition. Impressively well-read in many fields extending from literature and the history of ideas to psychoanalysis and Jungian studies, Paul Bishop allows a text by Jung and a late poem by Goethe to mirror and enhance each other, demonstrating Jung’s intellectual proximity to the tradition of German classicism. The wealth of ‘amplifications’ that Bishop brings to the many themes treated allows us to experience a living reality—a continuity of ideas across different times and cultures.” -Wolfgang Giegerich, author of The Soul’s Logical Life
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Preface to the second edition
Chapter 1: The Stages of Life and the Midlife Crisis: A Brief History of an Idea
Chapter 2: The Turning Point in Life: What Conflict the Sun Must Experience at Midday!
Chapter 3: Goethe’s Orphism
Chapter 4: Primal Words. Orphic