Jung's intention behind writing this book and otherwise investigating this field was to expand the symbolic expressions that arise from the unconscious beyond the scope of Freud's pansexualism. For the most part Jung deferred to Freud's interpretation of dreams, but radically opposed Freud's exclusive reliance on sexuality as the sole cause of unconscious impulses. "Symbols of Transformation" is Jung's attempt at explaining a variety of other-than-sexual causes for the symbols and impulses that arise from the unconscious. By discussing these unconscious forces, Jung relies upon his theory of the collective unconscious and the archetypes, which he deals with more explicitly in volume 9/1.
Jung begins with a short chapter on two modes of thinking which explain the means through which unconscious archetypes can intrude upon conscious. The first mode of thinking he mentions is directed thinking, which is defined by taking thoughts and ideas meaningful to the individual and translating them into objectively relay-able symbols, or in our case, words. This type of thought he claims is discursive and tends to be quite exhausting. The applications and merits of this type of thought are self-evident. The next form of thinking he addresses is dreaming or fantasy-thinking. In this type of thought, images come and go as they please. The verbal constraints found in directed thinking vanish and instead, images and feelings. This form of thinking is effortless, spontaneous and seemingly guided by unconscious motives (18). Jung writes that the advantages modern man has over his ancestors is that he has learned to focus his energies onto directed thinking, while the earlier humans who had the same intellectual capacities (although less material knowledge) emphasized this fantasy-thinking. It was this early preponderance on fantasy-thinking that caused early humans to invest so heavily in mythology. Their myths were the living manifestations of the societies focus on fantasy thinking. Whatever it was that pre-occupied the unconscious of the early society quickly manifested itself in the sphere of mythology. These unconscious motivations are what Jung will call archetypes. He finds that the same archetypes that can be inferred from mythology are the exact same archetypes found in the psyche of people today. Just as their motivations crafted myths, Jung believes they still influence us today.
Jung later picks up on the archetype of sexuality, which he believed Freud used so nebulously that it lost all meaning (135). Jung does to a degree recognize that sexual energy or more generally as he used the term, libido had overtly sexual sources. He writes that music most assuredly had sexual origins, but to place music in the same category as sex today would be absurd. Jung writes that the sexual energy was divorced from the physiologically act and applied to secondary sexual situations. In the case of music, one's dance or drumming could secure them a mate. Jung also suggests that reinvested energy may be what causes animals to build nests and care for their young. As the original energy caused the production of ova and spermatozoa, animals that could direct their energy to safe-guarding the environment of their offspring led to advantages in child production. I am not sure how well these theories mesh up with evolutionary biology, but this is how Jung understood it.
This reallocation of sexual energy Jung also attributes to the origin of art. This freed energy simply sought a abstract expression beyond its original biological intention. In this sense, Jung is expanding Freud's definition of libido beyond its strictly sexual origin to account for any bodily impulse that encourages the individual to act.
Such impulses Jung identified as the source of neurotic behavior. Spontaneous rhythmic behavior Jung (as well as Freud) attributed to rhythmic suckling of children that finds other applications upon sexual maturity. Jung mentions a case of a young girl beset by such an affliction coupled with sexual compulsions. Jung explained it as sexual energy redirecting itself though rhythmic behavior, which he finds to be a common means of dissipating energy (but in the case of the girl, the rhythm could not fully release her energy). He goes on to write that a dog scratching at a locked door or a man stroking his beard when thinking are both ways of expressing energy when the individual's intended object cannot be achieved. When the expression of libido is completely blocked, Jung claims that all manner of aberrant behavior manifests unconsciously. If this energy is not properly released, neuroses arise.
The remainder of the book addresses various examples of archetypal images found in mythology and the unconscious impulses associated with them, such as the hero as a manifestation of the idealized unconscious, the voyage as roughly spiritual awakening and water as the unconscious. I feel that many of these examples are difficult to follow due to their seemingly esoteric nature. If one is well versed in obscure Greek mythology, perhaps they would read a bit more easily, but I found that his sometimes brainy, abstract meanderings ultimately detracted from his argument. Regardless, by thus juxtaposing the impulses and archetypes of the unconscious, Jung allows his reader to draw his/her own conclusions about how well mythology is a symbolic expression for the yearnings of the unconscious. By following the myths, we can see how earlier thinkers mapped out the unconscious mind, letting us know what to seek and what to avoid in getting to know the Self. As is a common critique of Jung, I wished he would have been more explicit with his correlations rather than leaving the actual connecting of the dots up to the reader.