CARL JUNG AND A MODERN FOUNDATION FOR BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN REASONING AND EMOTION
Introduction to Carl Jung
Emotions and the realm of the unconscious do not provide for easy clarity or for the measurement that the Western mind is trained, through its focus on rationalization and reasoning, to expect. The vast body of the work of Carl Jung provides an amazing foundation of potential for bridging the gap and providing a language for more effective and harmonious dialogue between the rational and the affective. A therapeutic dialogue establishing an individual’s philosophy of life might benefit from the symbolic language provided by Jung and other depth psychologists. The dialogue regarding philosophy of life is one avenue for both individuals and organizations to identify and reconcile the breakdown between the rational, objective articulation of goals, mission and meaning, and the discrepancies in action. Additionally, this path of harmonizing between rational goals and action provides a starting point for reconciling potential emotional or affective hindrances. Jung’s system of individuation, shadow, persona, synchronicity, archetypes, and the collective unconscious all provide a body of objective information for uncovering the wisdom within each individual for releasing maximum human potentials.
Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26, 1875, at Kesswil on Lake Constance in Switzerland (Van Der Post, 1975). Jung experienced his first dream at the age of three years old. Upon reflection throughout his later life, Jung would attribute the beginnings of his life and career to this dream which began the course for a life-long passionate pursuit of understanding the human psyche. Jung was born into a long line of male ancestors who were theologians. Early in his life, Jung was troubled by the discrepancy he sensed between the professed beliefs of his male role models and the lack of experience of these beliefs expressed in their living. His perceptions of life were troubled and he felt alienated from the reality portrayed through those around him and his own experience of reality that included dreams, visions, intuitions, and a hidden realm that appeared to him more real than that which could be observed (Jung, 1989). Jung periodically found some consolation within his family life through his mother who also espoused the religious ideas of her contemporaries but seemed to Jung to also live in a world of experience closer to the intuitive in which he was most immersed. Although, it was Jung’s perceptions in his still childish realm of sensing that there appeared to be a cloud of a different kind of darkness surrounding his mother’s experiences of life.
Jung was trained in medicine at a time where a transition was forming between understanding disease and illness from the categorization of symptoms towards a doctrine of materialistic, anatomical designations of identifying diseases (Stern, 1961). The trend of internal medicine was to move from symptom concepts of illness towards correlating disease to specifics of biology and anatomy. The consequences for internal medicine were more beneficial than the adaptations were in the realm of psychiatry. The trend towards mechanistic diagnosis and conceptualizing mental illness as disorders in the brain is too narrow a scope for the mechanics of man that must include the realm of the psyche and the unconscious. The transition to biological determinism morphed into the eugenics outlook culminating in the tragedies of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. In atheistic Russia the dogma of mechanistic behaviorism fit perfectly with a Marxist agenda and psychoanalysis was banned.
Jung’s confrontation with what appeared to him a religious hypocrisy experienced by his elders and those in authority over him contributed to a determination to reconcile the distortions he perceived in religious dogma verses essential personal experience (Jung, 1964). Jung determined that without individual personalization of the human psyche to receive divine inspirations and utter them in words or shape them in art, no religious symbol has ever come into the reality of human life, and therefore what was available to even one, was available to all. From a very early age Jung’s intuition guided him and he was profoundly concerned that a mortal split in the Western European spirit had taken place which manifested itself outwardly in increasing conflict between science and religion. He was convinced that this division was both unnecessary and lethal.
Jung was extremely disturbed by the apparent lack of real interest and compassion exhibited by his fellow psychiatrists in their work with the mentally ill (Van Der Post, 1975). "Jung himself was tormented by the question of “what really takes place inside the mentally ill” and he was so amazed how little this question and all it implied bothered his colleagues that he found himself observing them almost as much as their patients and began to suspect that there might be some strange interdependence between what passed for normal and what was condemned as abnormal. He began to suspect that there could be a pathological element in what paraded so confidently as normality around him" (Van Der Post, 1975, pg. 110).
Jung interacted with his patients at a deeply human level of respect and a true desire to comprehend their personal stories (Van Der Post, 1975). Remarking on the frequent charge against him of “mysticism”, Van Der Post makes the comment that Jung once told him that he was so concerned to scientifically and empirically validate his personal intuitions “that he worked through 67,000 dreams with his patients and helpers before even attempting to theorize about them” (pg. 103).
Jung pursued a path of exploration for defining symbolism through many avenues (Jung, 1964). His research guided him through a study of the cosmos, myth, storytelling of modern and ancient cultures, anthropology, ancient sciences, and diverse philosophies of civilization and cultures. His pursuits led him into dialogue and relationship with prominent thinkers of his time such as Freud, physicist Wolfgang Pauli, missionary Richard Willhelm, Albert Einstein, and a vast array of prominent figures. Jung learned much through these range of distinguished figures of science, but it was also not his custom to discuss these relationships or become unduly infatuated over these relationships (Jung, 1989). For Jung, each soul he encountered was enchanting, and this extended even into his relationships with his patients. Many of the patients he helped went on to live remarkable lives themselves. In his later years Jung developed a sixteen year relationship with the famous travel author and explorer, Laurens Van Der Post (1975), a favorite author to many, including Prince Charles of Wales. Van Der Post went on to commemorate Jung in book form, through an outstanding portrayal of Jung and reflection of his relationship with Jung, in “Jung and the Story of Our time” (1975). Jung was fascinated by the human personality. It was the study of the personality alone that fostered Jung's belief that “biology and spirit, science and the demands of the soul, the discipline without and the call within, have common living ground” (Van Der Post, 1975, pg. 91).
Jung developed an interest in the relationship of the study of physics and its correlations to the structure of the psyche, psychic energy and psychodynamics of depth psychology first through William James and then through his study of the work of Nobel laureate physicist Wolfgang Pauli (Zabriskie, 1995). Pauli’s “ground-breaking discoveries gave scientific demonstration of alchemical intuitions” (pg. 531). Jung too found the study of alchemy informative and confirming for many of his conceptions of archetypes and synchronicity. Jung’s system of depth psychology developed into analytical psychology. In 1929 Jung began another important relationship with lasting implications for the system of analytical psychology (Ma, 2005). In the work and translations of Chinese philosophy provided through Richard Wilhelm, Jung began “to build a bridge of depth psychological understanding between the East and the West” (Ma, 2005, pg. 238). Taoist alchemy, Chinese wisdom, and the I Ching provided Jung with a vast body of research for his theories of the relationship between psyche and matter.
Some of the most severe clinical issues that were observed by both Freud and Jung were often, at the roots, related to religion (Stern, 1961). Unfortunately, because of these observations both Freud and Jung have attained a stigma as anti-Christian in the Western world built upon these Judeo-Christian ideologies. Jung has been attacked with all kind of labels, from the descriptors of Atheist, Satanist, Gnostic, Mystic, Spiritualist, and Occultist (Jung, 1989). Freud did claim to be an atheist and Jung privately acknowledged his religion to be Christianity, but both were first and foremost scientists concerned with keeping their work scientific. The relationship of ailments of the psyche in relation to religion were of the utmost concern for Jung. But for Jung this relationship between illness and religion was due to an impersonalized and faulty subjective practice of the essential reality and spirituality of religion. Stern (1961) suggests that if Freud would have stated “What you call religion is actually your neurosis”, instead of claiming that religion is a neurosis, he would have stated a frequently observed truth” (pg. 117). Jung would most likely concur with Stern’s suggestions. Jung was not against religion he was against the hypocrisy and lies of the society in which he lived.
Jung could be considered a revolutionary. Many revolutionaries expounded valuable truth, but it is the way it is interpreted from theory to practical actions that can go dangerously and destructively wrong (Stern, 1961). Again, Stern highlights this point with the example of Marx and his real perception of drastic needs for change within the culture of his time. Stern (1961) suggests, along with his analogy of Freud, that if Marx “had told some of the members of the ruling class of the early industrialist period, “Woe unto you who use religion as an opiate for the people,” he also would have had a strong point (pg. 117). Jung also was a revolutionary, but his agenda was not to replace religion but to point to the destructive applications of a religion, or of any process, that imposes an imbalanced rationality in disregard of the emotional consequences for the psyche. Jung is often misquoted and misused, but his goal was to present the creative aspects of the unconscious and point out the detrimental consequences for refusing to recognize the destructive side of man. Jung himself defined the occult as destructive, but Jung also defined the occult as anything that remains an imitation of the real instead of a purposeful individuated intention for braving the arduous journey of becoming real (Jung, 1964).
Jung purposed to formulate his intuitions in as close to a scientific manner as was possible for his subject matter (Jung, 1989). The concerns and passions of his work were too important for him to color them with religious, scientific, or any other dogma that might taint their credibility for his audience of skeptics. It was his main concern to address the neuroses, bordering on psychoses, of the culture he perceived labeled anything nonrational as abnormal. It was his compassion for the neglected and those labeled “abnormal” that caused Jung’s anguish at the lack of recognition of the importance of unconscious processing and integration in the structures of mankind, be they social, scientific, educational, religious or political. Only in his later years did Jung really begin to talk at all in public, and still very little, regarding his religious beliefs, and even then he did so with painful reservation (Jung, 1989). In the end Jung did claim to be a truly religious man. "Jung’s last years were spent almost entirely in exploring the relationship between individual man and the pattern of God in the human spirit. He was convinced that our spent selves and worn-out societies could not renew themselves without renewing their concept of God and so their whole relationship in the soul" (Van Der Post, 1975, pg. 217).
Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections . New York, NY: Random House.
Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and his symbols . New York, NY: Dell Publishing.
Ma, S. (2005, April). The I Ching and the psyche-body connection. The Journal of Analytical Psychology , 50 (2), 237-250. Retrieved July 20, 2008, doi:10.1111/j.0021-8774.2005.00526.x
Stern, K. (1961). The third revolution: a study of psychiatry and religion . Garden City, New York: Image Books.
Van Der Post, L. (1975). Jung and the story of our time. New York, NY: Random House.
Zabriskie, B. (1995, October). Jung and Pauli: A subtle asymmetry. The Journal of Analytical Psychology , 40 (4), 531-553. Retrieved July 22, 2008, doi:10.1111/j.1465-5922.1995.00531.x