by George Boeree, Phd
Carl Jung was the most popularly known and influential member of the group
that formed the core of the early psychoanalytic movement-- students and
followers of famed Viennese psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. "Although Jung
is only now beginning to acquire the widespread popular recognition accorded
Freud," wrote David Elkind in a New York Times Magazine article, "many of
his concepts have long since become part of the American idiom." Contributions
made by Jung and his fellow pioneers in the exploration of the human psyche
extend beyond their applications in medical psychology. As the New York
Times observed in its obituary of Jung: "Before the coming of [Jung and
Freud], the world was little used to rummaging through man's subconscious
to find the key to his peace and security. Before Freud and Jung, the Western
world was inclined to think of man's conduct in terms of original sin. Dr.
Jung was one of those who gave a tremendous impetus to twentieth-century
thinking by declaring flatly that this explanation was not good enough."
"My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious," Jung declared in the prologue to his psychological autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, in which he recounts the early experiences that led to his lifelong interest in the phenomenon of existence. Jung's mother was described as emotionally distant, beset by physical and nervous disorders, and recalled by Jung as a semi-invalid. His father, a former scholar of some promise who had become a minister, grew increasingly bitter and disillusioned as his wife's health deteriorated and his personal and religious doubts intensified.
Jung also pondered religious questions as--reared in the solitude and majesty of the Swiss Alps--his sense of personal communion with nature was heightened by contemplation of dreams and fantasies. The resulting experience of a primal, elemental manifestation of deity seemed to Jung to be at variance with his father's somber teachings of the more traditional Christian God.
As Jung matured, he recounted, he was drawn out of the contemplation of his inner world and into the external world of school and social relationships. He began his studies at the University of Basel and prepared to enter medicine, but he still retained a fascination for the mental world, both as it is experienced and as it is manifested. He made a two-year study of a young girl who practiced spiritualistic phenomena, but it was while he was preparing for his state medical examinations that an incident occurred turning him decisively toward psychiatry. In his introduction to The Portable Jung, Joseph Campbell related that Jung was reading his psychiatry textbook, Krafft-Ebing's Lehrbuch der Psychiatrie, when his heart began to pound and he had to stand and draw a deep breath. His excitement was intense for, as Jung recalled, "it had become clear to me in a flash of illumination that for me the only possible goal was psychiatry." "Here, and here alone," Campbell declared, "was the empirical field common to spiritual and biological facts."
After completing his medical studies, Jung secured an appointment at the Burghoelzli Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, where, under the supervision of Egen Bleuler, he worked with patients suffering from schizophrenia, a mental disorder characterized by personality disintegration. During this period Jung came to recognize the existence of groups of thoughts, feelings, memories, and perceptions, organized around a central theme, that he termed psychological complexes. This discovery was related to his research into word association, a technique whereby words presented to a patient elicit other word responses that reflect related concepts in the patient's psyche and, in turn, gives clues to his unique psychic make-up. Jung's work in this area strengthened the credibility of word-association tests as a diagnostic tool.
Jung sent a copy of his word-association studies to Sigmund Freud and in 1904 began his first attempts to treat patients with Freud's psychoanalytic technique. Two years later, when Jung wished to consult with Freud on a specific case, Freud invited Jung to visit him in Vienna, and a professional affiliation commenced. Over the course of their association Freud favored Jung over his other followers in the growing psychoanalytic movement. As early as 1909 Freud confided that he wanted to make Jung his eldest son and successor in the movement. A year later, at the Second Congress of the Association of Psycho-Analysis Freud even insisted, despite organized opposition, that Jung should be appointed Permanent President.
Years later Jung recalled this event, as Campbell documented: "`My dear Jung,' [Freud] urged on this occasion, as Jung tells, `promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing of all. You see, we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark. . . .' In some astonishment Jung asked him, `A bulwark-- against what?' To which [Freud ] replied, `Against the black tide of mud . . . of occultism.'" Jung declared that that was the thing that struck at the heart: "I knew that I would never be able to accept such an attitude. What Freud seemed to mean by `occultism' was virtually everything that philosophy and religion, including the rising contemporary science of parapsychology, had learned about the psyche. To me the sexual theory was just as occult, that is to say, just as unproven a hypothesis, as many other speculative views. As I saw it, a scientific truth was a hypothesis that might be adequate for the moment but was not to be preserved as an article of faith for all time."
In other areas, however, Jung and Freud held similar views. Like Freud, Jung placed great importance on the interpretation of dreams. While working on dream interpretation and other areas of inquiry, Jung began formulating the earliest models of the concepts for which he is best known. As Jung's London Times obituary noted, "Jung regarded the symbol, whether found in dreams or elsewhere, as the best possible expression of something not fully understood. But he often noted that the symbols in the dreams of his patients, while highly charged with emotion, had no meaning for the dreamer and Jung himself could elicit little significance by associations." Jung came to realize that many of the same symbols seemed to recur throughout history in religion, the arts, folktales, alchemy, and other forms of human expression.
Jung became convinced that the source of this symbolic material was what he identified as the collective unconscious, a pool of inherited psychic residue accumulated since the beginning of the human race, an echo of the sum of experience accessible to all humans, that manifests itself through archetypes, or patterns of expression. According to Jung's theories, experiences such as the alternation of day and night, the change of the seasons, birth, and death, acquire psychic strength through repetition and become universal images, charged with emotion and serving as readily perceived evidence of the collective unconscious. Jung viewed the collective unconscious as distinct from the personal unconscious, which, according to Jung, serves as a storehouse of experience unique to each individual.
Jung's conception of the personal unconscious comprises various elements, including the shadow, a symbolic representation of a human's animal instincts and darker impulses; the anima, nondominant female traits naturally present in a male's personality; and the animus, a set of male traits similarly natural to female personalities. According to Jung, the spiritual potential of an individual seeks realization in the unity of the whole organism, incorporating the various elements of the personal unconscious and establishing access to the collective unconscious. Jung called the method whereby this state of unity is reached the process of individuation, which requires one to confront the unconscious in order to differentiate between and gradually integrate the various elements of which it is comprised. Since this unconscious material cannot be directly experienced, it manifests itself through such symbols as art, dreams, or external situations upon which the confrontation is projected and played out.
Jung was aware that parallels to the symbols in his own and his patients' dreams were also evident in Oriental cultures as well as European cultures of several hundred years ago. He became convinced that searching for and identifying these parallel symbols would assist in integrating an individual. "A good half of the reasons why things are now what they are is buried in Yesterday," Jung wrote in the preface to Violet S. de Laszlo's Psyche and Symbol. "Science in its attempt to establish causal chains has to refer to the past. We teach comparative anatomy, why not comparative psychology?"
It became clear that Jung's theories about individuation and the collective unconscious could be widely applicable to human experience and could embrace areas not previously within the realm of psychological study. "His great achievement is that he has shown psychology a new direction: he has constructed a psychology for human beings who reach out toward the unknown, the intangible, the spiritual," a Time article stated. "Even if he is only half right, Jung has suggested to mankind a way of `adjustment' not merely to his animal instincts and social pressures but to his great paradoxes and his eternal religious needs."
Indeed, Jung's approach went beyond that of Freud's, which was primarily concerned with the treatment of neurosis, to include also psychotics, or the mentally deranged, and "normal" individuals in all aspects of mental life. This wide range of application of Jung's theories is due, in part, to the complexity of his framework, an outgrowth of his reluctance to fall into the reductionist tendencies of science. He chose rather to construct his concepts on the evidence derived from his clinical observations and personal experience, including a long period of intense self-analysis that brought him to the edge of insanity.
This stage of Jung's personal and professional development began when the crumbling relationship between Freud and Jung, complicated by Freud's unwelcome and censorious involvement in one of Jung's private relationships, disintegrated by 1913 into a formal breach with the publication of Jung's The Psychology of the Unconscious. Freud openly criticized the role that Jung had ascribed to symbolism in the book and felt personally betrayed by Jung's departure from the views expressed in Freudian psychoanalytic theory. Jung likewise felt betrayed, believing that Freud in his inflexibility had failed to support him in what he felt to be a logical extension of their mutual work.
Campbell recorded Jung's own reactions: "The only thing [Freud] saw in my work . . . was `resistance to the father'-- my wish to destroy the father. When I tried to point out to him my reasoning about the libido, his attitude toward me was one of bitterness and rejection. . . . And then," he continued, "I could not accept Freud's placing authority above truth." Jung assessed that "the explosion of all those psychic contents could find no room, no breathing space, in the constricting atmosphere of Freudian psychology and its narrow outlook."
The schism was painful for Jung. Campbell reported that "when he had renounced Freud's dogma, the whole psychoanalytic community turned against him, launching even a paranoiac campaign of character assassination." Jung, for his part, sought to understand the rift in psychological terms. In the process, he devised a method of classifying variations of personality. He described these classifications in his book Psychological Types, identifying introverts and extraverts, terms that reflect a person's general orientation to the world, and detailing four modes of psychological functioning: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. Jung applied these theories to his own life and, labeling Freud an extravert and himself an introvert, reasoned that their rift in large measure resulted from their basically different personality types.
Jung's own recollections of his work The Psychology of the Unconscious reveal how far beyond the limits of Freudian psychology he had grown: "Hardly had I finished the manuscript," he states, "when it struck me what it means to live with a myth, and what it means to live without one. Myth, says a Church Father, is `what is believed always, everywhere, by everybody; hence the man who thinks he can live without myth, or outside it, is an exception. He is like one uprooted, having no true link either with the past, or with ancestral life which continues within him, or yet with contemporary human society." Jung asserted: "The psyche is not of today; its ancestry goes back millions of years. Individual consciousness is only the flower and the fruit of the season, sprung from the perennial rhizome beneath the earth; and it would find itself in better accord with the truth if it took the existence of the rhizome into its calculations. For the root matter is the mother of all things." The mythical orientation thereafter became characteristic of Jung's psychology.
From 1913 to 1917 Jung embarked upon a psychic self-exploration that some considered a breakdown and that Jung himself called a "confrontation with the unconscious." Elkind described the situation: "On the Zurich lake shore [ Jung] began collecting stones and building a miniature village, including a castle, cottages and a church. The building game had the desired effect and released a stream of vivid phantasies. It was a dangerous period, because much of what he encountered was the stuff of psychosis and there was always a danger of being trapped by the imagery and going insane."
But Jung emerged from the ordeal with renewed conviction of his theories on archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the process of individuation. Along with his views on the significance of dream symbolism, these theories formed the basis of his own approach, which he called analytical psychology. From this point on, Jung continued to perfect and expand his theoretical framework through his private clinical practice and through his study of such diverse subjects as alchemy, Zen Buddhism, folktales, extrasensory perception, astrology, and the occult.
As Jung developed these views, much of mainline psychiatry chose to ignore Jung's resulting contributions to the study and understanding of the human mind. Freudians regarded him as a misguided traitor, and subsequent schools of thought dismissed Jung's work as being too mystical, too cognizant of religion, and too populated by demons, fairy tales, and mythical figures to warrant any serious, or, at least, practical consideration. "But when Dr. Jung is accused of having left medicine for mysticism," a 1955 Time article recorded, "he replies that psychiatry must take into account all of man's experience, from the most intensely practical to the most tenuously mystical."
After his break with Freud, Jung developed his own following. And, during the last decades of his life, beginning in 1933, scholars from all over the world converged each year in Lake Maggiore, Switzerland, to read and discuss papers on Jungian thought. These were the annual Eranos Lectures, at which many of the principal papers of Jung's later years were presented.
Jung continued to treat patients and worked on his last major writings-- Aion and a thirty-year study of alchemy, Mysterium Coniunctionis--whereupon he stated: "My psychology was at last given its place in reality and established upon its historical foundations. Thus my task was finished, my work done, and now it can stand."
This Introduction to Jung Copyright ©1997 by C. George Boeree
All Rights Reserved.