Circle of Eranos: the Importance the Meaning of Existence

If we talk about organizations that marked psychology and philosophy, we can not forget about the Círculo de Eranos.

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If we talk about organizations that marked psychology and philosophy, we can not forget about the Círculo de Eranos. Like the Vienna Circle, it was an interdisciplinary movement that was oriented to the search for new horizons, but it differed from the first by its attention to the ideas of the East.

This organization emerged in the early thirties, a difficult period characterized by the confrontation between ideological and cultural extremism. It was composed of a variety of scientists and philosophers who had in common the eagerness to find the mysterious connections between the thought of East and West. They used to meet in Ascona (Switzerland) next to Lake Maggiore.

The Circle of Eranos, which in Greek means ‘food in common’, consisted of three fundamental pillars: Rudolf Otto, Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn and Carl Gustav Jung. From 1933, they began to meet and hold annual conferences, some with a duration of 8 days and from which later came texts and specific works. Among its objectives were the search for meaning, the compensation of opposites and integration through the symbol.

«No science can replace the myth».

-Carl G. Jung-

Stages and periods of the Circle of Eranos

The Círculo de Eranos was founded in 1933 and over time three stages have been distinguished according to their work. The first between 1933 and 1946 characterized by comparative mythology, the second between 1947 and 1971 in which cultural anthropology took center stage and the third between 1972 and 1988 that focused on a symbolic hermeneutics.

However, at a general level, there are two major periods: the main period from 1933 to 1988 and the new cycle from 1989 to 2016 in which different professionals stand out. Both in one and in another, as we said earlier, his goal was aimed at exploring and approaching the dimension of the symbolic and the meaning of existence.

However, the organization still works today, although the big annual events are no longer the axis of the organization’s activity. The years of splendor passed, but the task of linking the knowledge of diverse cultures still stands. So the organization keeps lecturing and producing material with the desire to resurface.

The pillars of the Circle of Eranos

The role of the organization was based on the establishment of relationships that allowed the exchange of knowledge. For the same reason, during the annual meetings, the participants slept, ate and shared all kinds of activities during the 8 days.

Each year, a theme and an exhibitor were discussed, from which they were deliberated together. The synergy was motivated by the organizers, who formed a symbolic triangle.

Rudolf Otto, the denominator

Rudolf Otto was an emblematic German Protestant theologian distinguished by the comparative study of religions. It was he who chose the name of the organization and who motivated the dissertation on topics that included religion.

His works were based on the study of sacred issues as non-rational human experiences that were presented in all cultures in different ways.

Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn, the founder

The Anglo-Dutch spiritualist and theosophist, besides being the founder, was in charge of welcoming all the guests in her residence, where the annual meetings were held.

Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn studied in depth the mysteries of Indian philosophy and meditation. He was actively linked to the main ideas of the time such as Gestalt and great authors of interculturalism such as Richard Wilhelm.

Carl Gustav Jung, the inspirer

Perhaps he was the most outstanding member of the Circle of Eranos because of his influence on the thought of the time. The Swiss psychologist formed the third vertex and was considered the great inspirer of the themes and reflections that were carried out in the meetings.

Jung always felt great curiosity about different cultural expressions and theorized about their connectivity in the idea of ​​a collective unconscious. Thus, his participation was key. In addition, the multidisciplinary exchange influenced many of his great works.

However, little by little, highly prestigious professionals such as the mythologist Joseph Campbell, the phenomenologist G. van der Leeuw and psychologists such as E. Neumann, M. L. von Franz and J. Hillman joined the organization.

The study of symbolism

The members of the Circle of Eranos agreed that human beings are united by the symbolic, the primitive and the spiritual. These connections are expressed in a disordered and hidden way in different cultures, although they are biased by the unilateral dogmatism that usually exists in both the East and the West.

His purpose then was very clear: to connect the symbolic, which was expressed in less rational ideas, such as God’s.

The interactive soul

The Jungian interpretation of religion had a great influence on the rest of the thinkers of the Circle of Eranos.

Jung took the concept of an interactive soul from Aristotelian philosophy. According to this, the soul is the motor and the faculty of man to know his environment. On the other hand, the archetypes and the collective unconscious explain certain spiritual roles and needs that transcend generations and history.

What the Eranos Circle left us

Subjects such as meditation were the pillar of an organization that tried to unveil the link of man with his soul and nature. From a plural approach, which at no time tried to capitalize on a unilateral vision, bridges were linked between meaning and emotions.

The themes varied from the abstract to the transcendental, as the adaptation of the human being to the city, migration and the challenges of the new times.

A contemplative reference

Another of the great legacies of the organization was the ability to expand the limits of knowledge by a group of academics. Unlike other organizations that met to discuss certain issues under certain immovable premises, the members of the Circle found in their meetings a method to explore the unknown.

Today its mission transcends the continents and most followers of the Jungian school profess the openness to the contemplation of the unknown. This group of people who had not fit into other organizations, managed to make their treaties last and serve as a guide for many people today.

“Man is crucified between the opposites and suffers until the third mediator comes.”

-Carl G. Jung-