Today I want to talk about Carl Jung. And yet just as a little taster, if your doctor told you they believed in spirits and had two personalities you might be a bit shocked. Yet even as one of the finest minds in psychology – this is exactly what Jung thought…
Carl Jung a Leo
Jung was a Leo born on the 26th of July 1875, in Thurgau Switzerland. He was an only child of an eccentric mother called Emilie who spent much of her time in her own room, enthralled by the spirits that visited her at night – something the young boy found rather scary (hardly surprising!).
Jung’s early years
Later, Jung claimed that one night he saw a faintly luminous figure coming from her room, with its head detached from the neck and floating in the air in front of the body- not something you‘d forget in hurry I guess.
Jung had a better relationship with his more mainstream father but he still became a solitary and introverted child. Remarkably, from an early age Jung was convinced that he had two personalities; ‘Personality Number 1’ was a typical schoolboy whilst ‘Personality Number 2’ was a dignified and influential man from the past.
In 1895, Jung studied medicine at the University of Basel. In 1900, he worked in a psychiatric hospital in Zurich. In 1903 Jung published his dissertation entitled “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena”.
Carl Jung and Freud
Three years later he published Studies in Word Association and sent a copy to Sigmund Freud which lead to a close friendship between these two great minds. The two men met for the first time in 1904, and Jung recalled the discussion between himself and Freud continuing for thirteen hours, virtually without stopping.
Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido
In 1912 Jung published Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido resulting in a theoretical divergence between him and Freud which eventually destroyed their friendship, both stated that the other was unable to admit he could possibly be wrong.
Jung’s primary disagreement with Freud stemmed from their differing concepts of the unconscious. Jung saw Freud’s theory of the unconscious as incomplete and unnecessarily negative. To a point Jung agreed with Freud’s ideas on what Jung called the personal unconscious, but he also suggested the existence of a second form of the unconscious underlying the personal one; this was the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious was home to the archetypes which appear in all human cultures; these archetypes appear in mythology as a lake or body of water, and in some cases a jug or other container.
Jung and spirituality
Jung was profoundly unsettled by his argument with Feud and suffered a difficult psychological transformation, which was aggravated by World War I. However, adversity seemed to inspire him and his work on himself and his patients convinced him that life has a spiritual purpose beyond material goals. Jung thought our main task is to discover and fulfil our deep innate potential.
Jung and Astrology
Based on his studies of various religions and philosophies such as Taoism Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and astrology, Jung perceived that this journey of transformation, which he called individuation, is at the mystical heart of all religions. It is everyone’s life’s goal to meet the ‘self’ as well as the divine.
Jung and UFO’s
You’d be forgiven for thinking searching for the meaning of life might have kept Jung busy but he continued to write on various themes until the end of his life. He covered a wide range of subjects including UFOs. In his work Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, Jung analyzed the archetypal meaning and possible psychological significance of UFO sightings.
Psychology and Alchemy
In 1944 he turned his attention to alchemy. In his work; Psychology and Alchemy he demonstrated a direct connection between alchemic symbols and psychoanalysis. He argued that the alchemical process was the transformation of the impure soul (lead) to perfected soul (gold), and a metaphor for the individuation process.
Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous
Jung’s ideas may seem esoteric but he and others have applied them in practise to relieve real suffering. Unlike Sigmund Freud, Jung thought spiritual experience was essential to our well-being and Jung argued that spirituality can help to cure alcoholism. Indeed, he is considered to have had an indirect role in establishing the famous group; Alcoholics Anonymous.
It all began when he treated Rowland Hazard III, at first his treatment was ineffective and Jung decided that Hazard’s only hope was the possibility of a spiritual experience. In desperation Hazard followed Jung’s advice and returned home to the USA where he joined an evangelical movement known as the Oxford Group. Hazard introduced other alcoholics to Jung’s work and most importantly Ebby Thacher. Thacher in turn introduced Bill Wilson to Jung’s ideas and when Wilson co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous some of Jung’s notions found their way into the group’s programmes (although some doubts have been cast on these events they are recorded in the letters of Jung and Wilson).
Jung and Art Therapy
Jung was also instrumental in the development of art therapy. Like much of Jung’s work this sprung from his personal experience – when he was distressed he often drew, painted or made objects this led him to think that making art can alleviate or contain feelings of trauma, fear, or anxiety and a so aid the healing process.
After a full and productive life Jung died in 1961 following a short illness. Today his work influences academics and practitioners the world over, keeping his legacy forever young.