Carl Jung

The Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a founder of modern depth psychology.

Carl Jung was born on July 26, 1875, in Kesswil, the son of a Protestant clergyman. When he was 4, the family moved to Basel. As he grew older, his keen interest in biology, zoology, paleontology, philosophy, and the history of religion made the choice of a career quite difficult. However, he finally decided on medicine, which he studied at the University of Basel (1895-1900). He received his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1902. Later he studied psychology in Paris.

In 1903 Jung married Emma Rauschenbach, his loyal companion and scientific collaborator until her death in 1955. The couple had five children. They lived in Küsnacht on the Lake of Zurich, where Jung died on June 6, 1961.

Jung began his professional career in 1900 as an assistant to Eugen Bleuler at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Zurich. During these years of his internship, Jung, with a few associates, worked out the so-called association experiment. This is a method of testing used to reveal affectively significant groups of ideas in the unconscious region of the psyche. They usually have a disturbing influence, promoting anxieties and unadapted emotions which are not under the control of the person concerned. Jung coined the term "complexes" for their designation.


Association with Freud

When Jung read Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, he found his own ideas and observations to be essentially confirmed and furthered. He sent his publication Studies in Word Association (1904) to Freud, and this was the beginning of their collaboration and friendship, which lasted from 1907 to 1913. Jung was eager to explore the secrets of the unconscious psyche expressed by dreaming, fantasies, myths, fairy tales, superstition, and occultism. But Freud had already worked out his theories about the underlying cause of every psychoneurosis and also his doctrine that all the expressions of the unconscious are hidden wish fulfillments. Jung felt more and more that these theories were scientific presumptions which did not do full justice to the rich expressions of unconscious psychic life. For him the unconscious not only is a disturbing factor causing psychic illnesses but also is fundamentally the seed of man's creativeness and the roots of human consciousness. With such ideas Jung came increasingly into conflict with Freud, who regarded Jung's ideas as unscientific. Jung accused Freud of dogmatism; Freud and his followers reproached Jung for mysticism.

Topology and Archetypes

His break with Freud caused Jung much distress. Thrown back upon himself, he began a deepened self-analysis in order to gain all the integrity and firmness for his own quest into the dark labyrinth of the unconscious psyche. During the years from 1913 to 1921 Jung published only three important papers: "Two Essays on Analytical Psychology" (1916, 1917) and "Psychological Types" (1921). The "Two Essays" provided the basic ideas from which his later work sprang. He described his research on psychological typology (extro-and introversion, thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition as psychic functions) and expressed the idea that it is the "personal equation" which, often unconsciously but in accordance with one's own typology, influences the approach of an individual toward the outer and inner world. Especially in psychology, it is impossible for an observer to be completely objective, because his observation depends on subjective, personal presuppositions. This insight made Jung suspicious of any dogmatism.

Next to his typology, Jung's main contribution was his discovery that man's fantasy life, like the instincts, has a certain structure. There must be imperceptible energetic centers in the unconscious which regulate instinctual behavior and spontaneous imagination. Thus emerge the dominants of the collective unconscious, or the archetypes. Spontaneous dreams exist which show an astonishing resemblance to ancient mythological or fairy-tale motifs that are usually unknown to the dreamer. To Jung this meant that archetypal manifestations belong to man in all ages; they are the expression of man's basic psychic nature. Modern civilized man has built a rational superstructure and repressed his dependence on his archetypal nature—hence the feeling of self-estrangement, which is the cause of many neurotic sufferings.

In order to study archetypal patterns and processes, Jung visited so-called primitive tribes. He lived among the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona in 1924/1925 and among the inhabitants of Mt. Elgon in Kenya during 1925/1926. He later visited Egypt and India. To Jung, the religious symbols and phenomenology of Buddhism and Hinduism and the teachings of Zen Buddhism and Confucianism all expressed differentiated experiences on the way to man's inner world, a world which was badly neglected by Western civilization. Jung also searched for traditions in Western culture which compensated for its one-sided extroverted development toward rationalism and technology. He found these traditions in Gnosticism, Christian mysticism, and, above all, alchemy. For Jung, the weird alchemical texts were astonishing symbolic expressions for the human experience of the processes in the unconscious. Some of his major works are deep and lucid psychological interpretations of alchemical writings, showing their living significance for understanding dreams and the hidden motifs of neurotic and mental disorders.


Process of Individuation

Of prime importance to Jung was the biography of the stages of inner development and of the maturation of the personality, which he termed the "process of individuation." He described a strong impulse from the unconscious to guide the individual toward its specific, most complete uniqueness. This achievement is a lifelong task of trial and error and of confronting and integrating contents of the unconscious. It consists in an ever-increasing self-knowledge and in "becoming what you are." But individuation also includes social responsibility, which is a great step on the way to self-realization.

Jung lived for his explorations, his writings, and his psychological practice, which he had to give up in 1944 due to a severe heart attack. His academic appointments during the course of his career included the professorship of medical psychology at the University of Basel and the titular professorship of philosophy from 1933 until 1942 on the faculty of philosophical and political sciences of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In 1948 he founded the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Honorary doctorates were conferred on him by many important universities all over the world.

Further Reading on Carl Gustav Jung

Jung's writings are being assembled in the 18-volume Collected Works (1953—). Studies of Jung's life and work include Gerhard Adler, Studies in Analytical Psychology (1948); Frieda Fordham, An Introduction to Jung's Psychology (1953); Ira Progoff, Jung's Psychology and Its Social Meaning (1953); Richard I. Evans, Conversations with Carl Jung (1964); E. A. Bennett, What Jung Really Said (1967); and Aniela Jaffé, From the Life and Work of C. G. Jung (1970).