Jim's Depth Therapy

30 days 2


Before introducing the new pieces I’m adding to the to the depth psychology and depth therapy puzzle, I want to note a few things about them both.

Studies show that depth therapy has greater and more permanent favorable results than other forms of therapy. And for good reason—it runs deep, unlike most therapies whose views too often only attend to the surface of life. We could think of depth psychology as a growing body of  knowledge and wisdom, about how to cultivate a healthy mind and discover and live what makes life worth living. 

Many of depth therapy's areas of focus and methods, including dreams, active imagination and alchemical work, will clarify, relieve and resolve painful psychological problems. Including alienation, emptiness and dissatisfaction. As well  as grief and trauma, and the “miseries” so common today: stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. 

At its best, depth therapy heals and liberates. By enabling us to become aware of, and break free from, our unconscious conflicts, patterns and programs. And then enter into direct experience of our mind's deepest nature, and come home to who we truly are.

Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Melanie Klein, Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, Pierre Janet and Eugen Bleuler are some of depth psychology's and depth therapy's founders. Later contributors include David Winnicott, John Bowlby, Marie Louise von Franz, James Hillman, Patricia Berry and Tom Putnam. It’s impossible to note all the important figures in depth psychology, without leaving many people out, including Plato, William James and Nietzsche. Nietzsche noted a very important training requirement for all 21st Century depth psychologists. He noted that...

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. ”


For clarity and simplicity’s sake, here I will subsume both Freud and Jung’s work in all forms, as well as that of their followers and colleagues, including psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts, under the category of depth psychology and depth psychotherapy. Let's note that Freud and his work have been misunderstood from day one, especially by physicians and scientists trying to colonize and exploit his insights. Freud was not a physician trying to understand and cure mental illness. He was an artist, as all true depth psychologists must be. In his own words: 

"Everybody thinks…that I started by the scientific character of my work and that my principal scope lies in curing mental melodies. This is a terrible error…I am really by nature an artist. … in all countries into which psychoanalysis has penetrated it has been better understood and applied by writers and artists than by doctors. My books, in fact, more resemble works of imagination than treatise on pathology…."

yellow rush

If depth psychology is to evolve and prosper, it must not lose its way by pandering to the formalisms of western science and university psychology departments, for acceptance and approval. Depth psychology must honor its true nature. In essence, it’s more at home in contemplative science than empirical science. First person experiential knowledge is the foundation of contemplation. Experiential knowledge of psychology arises only from the well-trained systematic observation of one’s own mind. Not from the intellect’s abstract conceptual theories, especially theories based on third-person empirical experiments and statistical data. Such is the so-called scientific psychology found today in the shallow end of the pool at most universities and psychotherapy training institutes.

A badly needed scientific revolution is on the horizon. If we can overcome the inflexible formalism of the dogmatic views that limit science today.  This revolution, whether far or near, is inevitable. It will finally understand and recognize the validity of experiential methods, as well as empirical ones. The systematic observation of one's own mind can yield knowledge about how the mind works in the shallows of awareness. And, as well, what mind actually is, in its awakened deepest nature. A psychology based on empirical science alone will never lead us into an appreciation of the healthy mind and true sanity. 

Depth psychology needs a fresh blood supply. It’s become tired and mired in the problems that arise when a path becomes burdened by institutional formality and conformity. In the west, we call people “psychologists” who pass tests and write dissertations. Many of these “psychologists” haven’t  spent 50 minutes in a direct experience of their own mind. Depth psychology must become a way of life, not a career or a school of thought. We can’t really consider ourselves depth psychologists if we haven’t made deep dives into our own mind, dives that connect us to the experiential knowledge of our innermost core. 

Depth psychology is both art and science. The humanities feel more like depth psychology’s true home. As Freud intimated, depth psychology's Mother is the Creative Imagination. A Mother shared with all authentic artist siblings, those committed to inner life and loyal to art and  psychology’s deepest obligation. An obligation captured, especially well, in a compelling word-image by composer Robert Schumann: “To send light into the darkness of men’s heart...."  As depth psychologists, we must realize that we can't send light into another's heart, until or unless we experience it in our own. 


If we can learn to systematically observe our own mind, we’ll discover the forces at play that give rise to our pain, problems and suffering. These forces leave us tethered to a fictive surface-identity rooted in our past conditioning. To fly free, and become fully alive, we must liberate ourselves from a conditioned identity that's far too small for who we truly are. 

My depth psychology and therapy add and incorporates pieces important to our evolving work on the depth psychology puzzle. Depth psychology must better understand the nature of a healthy mind and true sanity. And depth therapy must better help people cultivate and protect them both. The contemplative sciences need to be explored and understood. They have much to offer us.

yellow leaves

Depth therapy must wake us up, so we can engage in the process of inner work aimed at what Jung called the "privilege of a lifetime: To "Become who we truly are." Who we truly are, in our innermost core, lays beyond the limits of our conditioned ego-based identity. We should keep in mind that Jung discovered what he was talking about all those many years, only through direct experience. During his near death experience (NDE), at 69, following his heart attack.  

Jung's NDE completely transformed his life. He had a direct first-hand encounter with a state of timeless awareness, with what his conceptual mind had only thought about. Jung  was thrust into an experiential flow of awareness that was beyond words. He no longer trusted the thinking conceptual mind. Because it blocked access to the levels of mind where greater intrinsic truths can be found, truths he found to be of stunning emotional power and beauty. In his words: "It is impossible to convey the beauty and intensity of emotion...."

I include the views and methods of contemplative science in my depth psychology vision for the future. And in my depth therapy work. Because contemplative science methods grant us access to the to the mind's natural state: Timeless awareness in the timeless moment.  It was Jung's experience of this that so changed his life. 

Without such experience, it's impossible to encounter who we truly are. And what we need to know and understand about a healthy mind and sanity. The work of contemplative scientists must be recognized, studied and understood. The work of Longchenpa, to cite just one example, leaves him worthy of recognition as one of the world's greatest psychologists. Using Dzogchen contemplative science methods, he spent a lifetime in the intense exploration of his own mind. His writings should be required reading for 21st Century depth psychologists. Keith Dowman, a capable contemplative scientist himself, has spent years studying and translating Longchenpa's work into english. They are a treasure-trove.

To enter into the mind's true nature, is to enter into timeless awareness which is always NOW. Jung picked up the scent of this, as he noted:: "... some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time." But most of his followers, and the institutes that carry his name—have lost the trail. Trainers and trainees in both the Freudian and Jungian Institutes would profit more from observing the unhealthy aspects of the human mind that arise in their own respective groups, rather than going over and over again the formalized ideas of Freud and Jung's work.

Once awakened, Jung intuitively gravitated to contemplative science methods. As celebrated depth therapist James Hillman's first wife Kate described:

“Jung lives now in an “in-between state somehow, most often he lets himself drop off into awake non-directive states, leaving the ego and mind out. He says he experiences truth as light, that is not with the consciousness that he has preached all these years, but another kind of awareness on a very deep level…. Jung says he does not trust consciousness in the usual sense anymore… …it means giving up a great deal to enter into this state where truth so to say lingers on a different level, that Jung has always known about it, but not until now really taking it on as a change in himself.”

The non-directive states Jung dropped into are akin to Dzogchen psychology's non-meditation. Dzogchen begs to be properly recognized, understood and practiced as a contemplative science. More about this later and elsewhere. For now, it's important to note that the study and practice of knowledge and methods rooted in eastern cultures is fraught with problems that must be carefully understood and addressed. Too often, westerners either regard contemplative science as inconsequential and so ignore it. Or they fall into a naive swoon over it, and as their mind becomes swollen with projections, they lose their compass and miss the point.

The basis of some forms of contemplative science may have worked well in the East, but, as Jung realized, they have little or no foundation in the West. Unlike the East, we have no history, traditions or institutions that can support and steward eastern forms. Quite the contrary. Nor are we inoculated against or prepared for its excesses. We have our work cut out for us. But making best use of experiential knowledge of the mind is a tremendous opportunity and an invaluable adventure. The survival of our species may depend on it.


Entheogens are organic or synthesized chemicals containing molecules that can trigger deep inner experiences. Research shows that entheogens, or psychedelics, as they were formally known, can bring us into non-ordinary states of consciousness. Many such states have been reported as sacred. I first encountered entheogen research in Dr. Walter Pahnke’s  1962 Good Friday experiment, conducted at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. Ninety % of the participants who received 30 mgs. of psilocybin reported experiences which satisfied criteria for authentic mystical experience. The signature of an authentic mystical experience is release from the confines of the conditioned “I” or “me,” and an awakening from the daily dream we mistake for reality.  

Many thousands of widely available studies have been done since that time, studies that demonstrate the power of entheogens to liberate us from our conditioning and connect us to the deeper parts of our mind. Where we can temporarily realize and connect to more of who we truly are. Part of  work has been informed by entheogen research and its findings, findings that shed light on the conditioned forces at play in the human mind and on the unexplored realm of our deeper mind. I do not use entheogens in my practice. NDE and an entheogen experiences share many similarities. Both are instructive, but not necessary.

At their best, like contemplative science experiential knowledge and practice, the entheogens can enable an experiential flash of the timeless awareness that is our mind’s true nature. And so allow us a glimpse into who we truly are and our deeper possibilities. Entheogens can also relieve many psychological afflictions, including the anxiety and malaise associated with terminal illness, death and dying.  

Entheogens such as  LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, Peyote, can, for a time, liberate us from the delusions of the herd’s collective materialistic nightmare, a nightmare that misses the point of being alive. Entheogens can pull us out of our surface “I” or “me” thinking-mind, ego identity. And they can drop us into our deep intuitive-mind and into, the realm of the heart. Where flashes of knowledge, insight and wisdom turn the lights on in our deep interior, our true home.

Again, contemplative science and entheogen research can unveil closely related truths, through different lenses. In essence, depth psychology and depth therapy are an interdependent adventure that can make use of research from both. Depth psychology must move more in the direction of a second awakening to experientially discover who we truly are. And then and only then establish a therapy process rooted in the understanding and cultivation of a healthy mind and true sanity.

That’s exactly what Jung and his work were, in essence, all about. Jung knew that the human soul can only be found in our deep interior and that: “Those that look outside dream, those that look inside Awaken.” He noted: “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.” A depth therapy that doesn’t understand or enable this Awakening is a path to nowhere.

A very important note of caution. Don’t approach entheogens causally or carelessly. Doing so  can lead you into a dance with a hurricane. Not pleasant or safe. If you are so inclined, familiarize yourself with entheogen research, prepare, be very careful of what you take and where. “Setting” is very important. Arrange for someone experienced to serve as your sitter and, if need be, your guide. If you like, do an international search for legal substances in legal places with trustworthy people in charge.