A Conceptual Application for the Human Hand
Jung’s Model of the Psyche
Carl Jung likely had his palms read by the well known and respected hand reader, Julius Spier. Jung wrote in the introduction to Spier’s palmistry book:
“The totality-conception of modern biology which is based on the evidence of a host of observations and research does not exclude the possibility that hands, whose shape and functioning are so intimately connected with the psyche, might provide revealing and, therefore, interpretable expressions of psychical peculiarity, that is, of human character.”
Jung was very impressed with Spier’s reading of hands and spoke highly of his work and Spier’s gift. He wrote, “I have had several opportunities of observing Mr. Julius Spier at work, and must admit that the results he has achieved have made a lasting impression on me. His method, though predominantly intuitive, is based upon a vast practical experience. Experiences of this kind can be rationalized to a great extent, that is to say, they admit of reasonable explanation once they are available. The manner, however, in which they are obtained depends, apart from routine, in its most decisive points, upon a subtly differentiated creative intuition which in itself implies individual specific talent.”
After three decades of reading hands and studying everything about hands, I understand and agree with Jung’s description. The intuitive aspect is the ability to connect the dots and give coherence and meaning to the creases on the palms, the flow of the fields of ridges (or dermatoglyphics), and every aspect of the structure and function of the hand itself. It takes years of practice for a hand analyst to reach the level where knowledge and intuition blend creating a profound multidimensional model of one’s personality, behavior, boundaries, pleasures and preferences. A model of our psyche is hiding in the palms our hands.
Oh to have been a fly on the wall to observe Carl Jung having his hands read by Julius Spier! Can you imagine how he must have felt hearing the story of his own psyche as revealed in his hands? Spier’s book “The Hands of Children” was published in 1944, so I’d need a time machine to take a trip into the past to look through the many facets of the fly’s eyes. Jung said “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.” So come along with me into my creative fantasy world and let’s take a look at this concept of how Carl Jung may have associated what Julius Spier was communicating to him about himself from his hands.
“Who looks outside, dreams ~ who looks inside awakes.” – Carl Gustave Jung
Below is a graphic I have prepared for illustrating how to apply “Jung’s Model of the Psyche” to the hands.
The Outer World is the external world of objects and other people. The radial or thumb side of the hand has long been associated with our outer self. The thumb represents our individuality and our sense of self or ego that we have the strength and courage to present to the world outside of ourselves. The Outer World includes our public life and our relationship to the people and situations that can lead to our own personal advancement. With our index fingers we direct other people’s attention toward objects in the external world.
Our Persona is our protective mechanism, our outer masks we display as our public image or the face we are willing and able to show to the world. This outer face protects the many layers beneath which can be peeled away like an onion as we move deeper and deeper into our more hidden aspects of our self and into our Shadow side. In my model I have placed the Persona as a gray veil covering the entire palm. The darker the shades of gray, the more hidden, protected and mysterious are the stories buried there. Our outer self is covered with the thinnest veil, as this area represents the image shaped for ourselves by ourselves, our experiences, and the environment that we wear on the outside for all to see.
“So far as we know, consciousness is always Ego-consciousness. In order to be conscious of myself, I must be able to distinguish myself from others. Relationship can only take place where this distinction exists.” – Carl Gustave Jung
The Ego forms the center of Consciousness. Some hand analysts have assigned the Ego to the thumb itself. I often say to people in readings, this is your ego, your sense of self, and how you put your self out there. Others have assigned the Ego to the index finger. The Ego is the part of your self that refers to itself as “I”. Such as “I am happy.” Jung wrote that the Ego is “the complex factor to which all conscious contents are related. It forms, as it were, the center of the field of consciousness; and, in so far as this comprises the empirical personality, the ego is the subject of all personal acts of consciousness.” Because this central position in the field of consciousness connects with the whole spectrum of awareness via the senses, the Ego is shown as the thumb’s relationship primarily to the index finger, and as well its opposing nature to all the fingers. Our individuality is illustrated in the uniqueness of each fingerprint and the impression it leaves on all that we touch. The permanence of these prints could symbolize the need for our having an Ego as the physical body is a home to our soul.
Our Consciousness is our awareness through our senses and how we process the information continuously exchanged with our outer world. We touch the world through our fingers. The index fingertip has more nerve endings than any of the other fingertips and is more sensitive to touch. Our sense of touch involves so much more than just feeling the physical texture of our environment. We pick up vibration, pressure, feel heat and cold, wet and dry, soft and hard, and sense energies yet to be observed or fully understood by science. It makes good sense (pun intended) to associate the fingers and the thumb with Consciousness. The mounts below the fingers blend the Consciousness into the central Self.
We comprehend the world through our own Personal Unconscious as responses, preferences, inclinations, viewpoints and opinions. Our own individual and unique ‘rose-colored-glasses’ we wear on our egos. The Personal Unconscious provides us with the capacity for empathy in its connections through the self with the Inner and Outer Worlds and the Conscious and the Collective Unconscious. It is the place where things forgotten surface from the subconscious and appear in the conscious.
“As an empirical concept, the Self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in humans. It expresses the unity of the personality as a whole. … It encompasses both the experienceable and the inexperienceable (or the not-yet experienced)” – Jung
Existing in the realm of the Collective Unconscious we find our most primal and instinctive urges and drives. Here we find our Shadow and the Anima or Animus. Forces that rise from deep within ourselves. New discoveries in science relating to genetics and epi-genetics show how the experiences of our ancestors are passed down through our genes. Sometimes from deep within our essence we feel a sense of some kind of just out of touch reason for our actions and impulses. Something we just can’t put a finger on. Other times we feel a strong connection to our roots, our ancestors, our tribe. This place just beyond conscious reach is the Collective Unconscious.
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” – Carl Gustave Jung
As we pass through the Self we move into our deeper and darker nature. Next on our journey inwards we meet the Shadow. Our Ego is the polarity of our Shadow. Our Ego is the image we project through our Persona and our Shadow is what we wish to conceal. We leave the territory that determines our ability to compromise our preferences, our level of openness, and enter the realm of the inner self. Our Shadow is easiest to see in the things we least like in others. The Shadow side of our selves resides on the Collective Unconscious side of the hand and in the Inner World beyond the Personal Unconscious. The hypothenar area contains mounts that in palmistry relate to restraint, reflection, insight, imagination, intuition and transformation. Polarities exist here such as daydreams and nightmares, insight and confusion, imagination and hallucination, stamina or submission, illusion and reality.
The Anima or Animus resides in the more instinctive zone moving into the realm of the Collective Unconscious. The woman in the man and the man in the woman. Our other half may be inside of us all along while we seek to find ourselves with another. We often look for qualities in others we lack in ourselves. The thenar area of the palm indicates our vitality, our libido and in general our physical energy. If this area is weak we have little energy or desire to accomplish our goals and fulfill our dreams. When it is full and healthy, our energy abounds. The more energy we have for ourselves, the more energy we have to share with the Outer World. The Anima is said to be a force that maintains connections in families and can also be related to how we transfer or project qualities onto others that are not their own.
“When the yin and yang are balanced, the personality is integrated. In the personal unconscious, the undifferentiated or unassimilated opposites of personality are projected: a man’s anima, or hidden feminine aspect, will be represented in the unconscious by feminine anima images; vice versa, a woman’s animus, or hidden masculine aspect, will be represented in the unconscious by masculine images.” (Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes: An Integrated View of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Katherine Bartol Perrault )
The Inner World contains an illusive but Conscious doorway to the Personal Unconscious Self, the Shadow, and beyond; stretching into the space where illumination, transformation, and transcendence are sought and sometimes discovered in profound experiences. The Inner World contains the ring and little fingers and the ulnar side of the hand. Research has shown that the ring finger represents energies behind risk taking and adventure loving activities. The little finger also known as the auricular finger, has several archetypes. Best known is Mercury, the wing footed, mythological messenger of the gods, also known as Hermes, there’s the Trickster, and then there’s ever mischievous Cupid. “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind…” – Shakespeare “The Midnight’s Summer’s Dream”. Cupid doesn’t need light to see in the Inner World. Here in the area most hidden by our Persona is where our darkest secrets reside, the place where we learn to listen, share, and nurture ourselves and others.
The map of the hand can be simplified by visualizing both a vertical and a horizontal division on the palm side of the hand. The location of this mid section in each division is really a blending of the polarities from one energy field to the other. It has no exact boundaries and is located in a general central location unique to the individual. Our outer worlds can extend as far outside ourselves as we can imagine and equally into the depths of our soul, our inner world, in the Jungian world of paradox.
Judith Hipskind’s diagram from the book “Palmistry the Whole View” illustrates similar divisions which can be seen in the examples above. Hipskind has divided the hands into vertical and horizontal sections along with a division of three realms or zones. She writes, “With the zones, a theory which is used in other studies of man applies very nicely to the hand. This concept, which is a direct expression of man’s need to structure reality into various categories of functions, involves the age-old notion of a heaven, an earth, and a hell. These categories have their parallel in the psychological terms, ‘superego’, ‘ego’, and ‘id’.” Her zone of Mental Activity (superego) is easy to associate with Consciousness and the bottom of the hand, the Zone of Instinctual Energy (id) as the Collective Unconscious, and with Self(ego) in the middle between the two as Social Energy. The fingers are more actively involved dabbling in things of the world and the wrist is like the truck of a tree leading to its roots. In her graphics, the outer world relates to the conscious zone and the inner world to the unconscious zone.
Fred Gettings wrote in his book “The Book of the Hand” (1965) “C. G. Jung is one of the few modern investigators to have recognized the importance and basic truth of the four-fold classification handed down to us from ancient times.” Gettings describes the fingers as Creative Conscious Expression with particular emphasis on the ring finger. The Active Zone represents the fingers and also the area beneath the fingers, the mounts. The Passive Zone is toward the bottom of the hand and contains the Subconscious and the Id. Reservoirs of Physical Energy are found on the lower radial side of the hand. The upper radial side of the hand according to Gettings is related to “energy made explicit and given form”. Psychic Energy fills the reservoirs on the lower ulnar section. The upper ulnar section contains the little finger and Gettings says, ”Mercury rules the rapid externalization of that which is held in the subconscious reservoir.” and the “expressions of emotions and thoughts”.
It is fascinating to see that the formula of Jung’s Model of the Psyche fits like a glove with the basic ideas of Palmistry and how the hand has long been analyzed and interpreted to describe and explain human existence. In the near future we’ll explore symbols, alchemy and archetypes and look at how they have been assigned to the various digits and mounts.
Special thanks and deep appreciation goes to Liz Hallows of Handscapes for her passion for Jungian theory and hands. Her inspiration and motivation opened the Jungian doorway of my Psyche and beyond. Thanks also to those that inspire me through their debating and sharing of concepts and viewpoints.
in joy and peace,
- “Living with Paradox” Anne Singer Harris
- “The Hands of Children” Julius Spier
- “Palmistry the Whole View” Judith Hipskind
- “The Book of the Hand” Fred Gettings
- “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” C. G. Jung
- “On Divination and Synchronicity” Marie-Louise Von Franz