Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), A Perspective

by Dr. Parviz Dehghani​

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), A Perspective

Who was he? Well, he was a Swiss psychologist and therapist. He was also a student of Freud for a while till he changed his direction to a different theory very different from Freud’s materialistic psychoanalysis. He produced so many works among which are ‘Man and his Symbols’, and the autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections. He divided the psyche into the ego, the personal unconscious and collective unconscious. His understanding of Freud in terms of mythology, religion and philosophy guided him towards a universal unconscious which manifested itself in symbolic form by dreams, mysticism and religion. What is going on here with Jung? What does he mean by ‘collective unconscious? Apparently the way to approach it is through the idea of an ‘archetype’. As soon as we hear about this term, we think of Plato’s Forms or archetypes. Don’t blame yourself for thinking this way. The collective unconscious for him determines that our experience is comprehended and is based on certain organizing principles, namely archetypes. Right away we can think of Kant’s categories. According to Jung there’re too many archetypes to be classified. Nevertheless, he pointed out some of the most important ones which morph our lives and are responsible for our actions. One of these is the ‘mother’ archetype. There’s no doubt that we all have a biological connection with our mothers. Nonetheless, Jung here is referring to more than just a relationship to other human being. The mother archetype, according to him, refers to a psychological necessity. Remember, all of us expect something or somebody in our lives to satisfy the role of nurturing us and giving us comfort when we’re stressed. This is an evolutionary necessity. We arrive at this world ready to demand mother and search for her. This is  Plato’s territory and his belief in reincarnation. Usually we project this necessity on to our biological mother. Jung’s psychotherapy comes into play when people reveal certain behaviors which are shown when their biological mothers have not satisfied the archetypal role. Come to think of it, we cannot expect perfection from this world. We tell our children we’re trying our best to be the ideal parents but we’re also aware of the fact that we’re unable to fulfill all their needs not because we’re poor but because we’re not perfect. For example, Jung argues, the person whose biological mother didn’t satisfy the archetypical role may find him or her attracted to ‘mother-substitutes’ such as the church, the army, national patriotism sport and other kinds of attractions.

Distinguishing among different personality types, Jung came up with words ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’. These two terms have come to be equivalent with an individual who is either shy (introvert) or the one who is bold (extrovert). However, these words are not to be used to judge people for being better than the other. But Jung’s explanation of these two terms is very complex or developed deeply in technique than we normally understand them. An introverted person is an individual whose ‘ego’ is directed more towards the internal and unconscious, while extrovert one is turned more towards outer reality and external activities. In Bhagavad-Gita there’re three paths to the Ultimate Reality. One is through disciplined or yoga of knowledge designed for those who have the power of deep reflection like Jung’s introvert personality. The second one is through disciplined or yoga of love. The third is by disciplined or yoga of action, which reminds us more of extrovert personality. These three yoga’s are designed for different personalities. Karma yoga refers to the third one, which is way above ordinary karmic action. This is not about action and its consequences (karma), which is based on causality. This yoga anticipates Kant’s categorical imperative. We ought not to expect anything in return when we give.

In Hinduism people worship gods that suit their personalities.

This very distinction between introvert and extrovert helps us to understand what Jung means by the self. Here we’re puzzled and have no idea which self he is talking about. Going back to Kant, we have a true Self and an ordinary self, which he argued that our pure reason cannot penetrate the former. When Jung says the self is the master archetype by whose principle we structure our lives (not exact quote), is he speaking of the true Self? It sounds as if he was referring to our true Self or Atman in Hinduism. This is an uncreated Reality within us. True Self is the only Reality in us, which corresponds to Plato’s archetype. He maintained that the self is in constant process of development, which becomes completely realized when all aspects of our personalities are evenly expressed. Does this mean it is getting better or it simply changes? True Self is not subject to change. For Buddha, the self consists of ‘body’, ‘feelings, ‘perception’, ‘disposition’, and ‘consciousnesses’. All these aggregates are constantly changing. He never argued that they were developing. The element of time is missing here. It is only change and becoming, which is discussed and finally even change is but an illusion.

To be too much invert or too much extrovert shows us an immaturity in development. But if we develop normally, as we age, we tend to balance out the different aspects of our personality. Finally, Jung believes, the self is completely realized in death.

As we can see, it seems Jung is talking of French wine in which there’s an element of evolution involved except when the bottle leaks and turns into vinegar. Here we can notice that Jung like Freud is taking time very seriously. What does death got to do with his project? What do we know about death? We’re dying and living at every moment. We’re dying and being born at every moment. Any vacuum behind me when I walk is death. Motion is a series of beings and non-beings. Life and death are interwoven and are with us at all times. Death is not a goal to reach. Those kids in Uvalde Texas didn’t have to reach death. Death collapsed upon them suddenly when they were shot. Once they could no longer breathe, they died. What is death any way that Jung spoke of? We know the cause of it according to Buddha. The cause of death, Buddha said, is rebirth. But what is death, we still don’t know? When a plant ceases to grow, it dies. We still don’t know the essence of death. If we argued that the lack of movement meant death, we would be faced with the fact that, what if we were told that nothing in the Universe is actually dead? Remember, we judge everything by contrast. Just as everything is relative to something else, we compare life and death based on the fact that the former is moving in contrast with the latter. We compare motion with rest. Otherwise, how can we even define what it means to move or go from ‘A’ to ‘B’? We need an archetype or Plato’s Form in order to understand the realm of becoming. We need the Universality of Being to comprehend becoming. In the final analysis, things are neither alive nor dead. Buddha was logically confronted with the fact that If he didn’t believe in any transcendent Reality, then how could he define change to which we were not to be attached otherwise we would suffer. You might say these are all rational inter play of our mind. However, the tool of reasoning is the only one we have to work with even though we ought to go beyond it at some point. Buddha couldn’t have explained what change was when he rejected gods and deities. Even if he really didn’t deny their existence except what people’s perceptions were about them, he still had to deal with the problem of change. Ultimately he had no choice but accept the fact that even what we see and observe are nothing but illusions. This was something he must have believed as a Hindu called ‘MAYA’. Therefore, I personally think Jung touched on something, which he had no idea what it was, that is death. Great thinkers long before him had intellectually wrestled with what death was without victory and eventually they too had to surrender to it in silence leaving us to experience it for ourselves without being able to come back from it to tell others about it. We’re mortal beings and at the end we shall succumb to death.

Finally we’re facing with Plato’s allegory of the cave. What we see are not ultimately real. Nevertheless, we should appreciate the fact that he spoke of death, which is a very thorny subject.

I totally disagree with those who argue that Jung’s psychology is too mystical and not scientific. First of all he doesn’t seem to be concerned about the metaphysical realities as Plato was with his Forms and universals. When he calls the self an archetypal reality, he fails to go beyond the physical Reality. Neither Freud nor Jung was the Biblical Joseph. I don’t think he knew much about mysticism either. He didn’t deal with the true Self or Atman in Hinduism.

We think we have solved many of our psychological problems thanks to the efforts of these two great giants. Unfortunately we have millions of people with mental issues all over not only in the Western world but even those around the world.  Austrian or Swiss women of their days and even today had nothing to do, for instance with Japanese women. Of course, women are women all over the world but culturally and religiously they’re very different.

Subjective interpretations of both Freud and Jung may be incapable of falsification. However, when we examine today’s psychology it is very much scientifically oriented.

Just because Jung’s psychology has been very popular and has worked, doesn’t mean it has been on the right track when it comes to the mental health of many people.

It is said that Jungian psychology has resulted in the development of highly exact personality profiling, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It also has contributed to the growth of psychometric testing. This method is now used in human resources departments to assess whether a candidate is qualified for specific job.

They say Jung synthesized Freudian psychology with mysticism. This I believed had already been done when Freud studied Schopenhauer’s works and realized the influence of Hindu/ Buddhism philosophy there. It is also said that what Jung did brought Eastern philosophical ideas closer to modern Western thought. The contribution of mysticism to Western philosophy, we should remember, was missing in Kant’s thoughts. We know very well that Pythagoras was a believer in reincarnation. The great thinker who picked on that was Plato. There have been many great Greek philosophers who had been involved with mysticism, which reminds us of the Eastern mystical figures in India and China. The fog of materialism and rationalism, however, prevented mysticism to reach the West for centuries.

Regardless of Jung’s religious and philosophical short comings, he was a great mind directing Freud’s psychology back to where Spirit played a tremendous role in human mental and psychological problems.

(Philosophy, 100 essential thinkers, by Philip Stokes)