Apophatic Elements in the Theory and Practice of Psychoanalysis: Pseudo-Dionysius and C.G. Jung

Henderson, David. 2012. Apophatic Elements in the Theory and Practice of Psychoanalysis: Pseudo-Dionysius and C.G. Jung. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis identifies apophatic elements in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis through an examination of Pseudo-Dionysius and C.G. Jung. Pseudo-Dionysius brought together Greek and Biblical currents of negative theology and the via negativa. The apophatic concepts and metaphors which appear in the work of Pseudo-Dionysius are identified. The psychology of Jung can be read as a continuation and extension of the apophatic tradition. The presence of neoplatonic themes in Jung’s work is discussed, as well as his references to Pseudo-Dionysius. There is a thorough examination of Jung’s discussion of opposites, including his reception of Nicholas of Cusa’s concept of the coincidence of opposites. The role of the transcendent function in Jung’s psychology is reviewed. The work of contemporary scholars of religion, philosophers and Jungian theorists are compared to Jung’s using the lens of apophasis. There is an exploration of ways in which motifs in Pseudo-Dionysius’ Ecclesiatical Hierarchy resonate with contemporary psychoanalytic psychotherapy. This study demonstrates that apophatic motifs saturate Jung’s work. It provides a platform for research into apophasis in the wider field of psychoanalysis.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


C.G Jung, Pseudo-Dionysius, apophasis, apophatic, coincidence of opposites, opposites, Nicholas of Cusa, unknowing, unknowable

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Date Deposited:

11 Jun 2012 12:41

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:16



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