I began reading Carl Jung’s writings when I was in high school, and when I first met Carolyn, Jung’s work came up in our discussions a lot.
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who helped to revolutionize the field of psychology. Born in 1875, Jung has been described as a solitary and introverted child, with early aspirations to become a preacher or minister. However, after studying philosophy as a teenager, Jung decided against those religious aspirations and decided to pursue a career in psychiatry at the University of Basel instead.
In 1900 Jung moved to Zürich and began working at the Burghölzli psychiatric hospital, where he developed a relationship with the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Jung and Freud became close friends and built a strong professional association; for six years they cooperated in their work. However, in 1912 a split between these two intellectual titans developed when Jung published a manuscript titled Psychology of the Unconscious. This historic book created a theoretical divergence between the two men; after this their personal and professional relationship was damaged, and over the years they became increasingly bitter toward one another.
In a nutshell, Jung believed that there was more to the unconscious mind than Freud. According to both Freud and Jung, the unconscious mind is the mental reservoir of emotions, memories, and brain processes that are outside of our conscious awareness; yet influence our thoughts, desires, dreams, and actions. One basic difference between Freud’s and Jung’s theories of the unconscious mind was that Freud believed that it is purely the result of our personal development, while Jung believed that there was also a transpersonal dimension to it, what he called “the collective unconscious,” that was shared by all of humanity.
Jung saw evidence for the collective unconscious among the common elements found around the world in dreams, visions, myths, fairy tales, art, and other forms of cultural expression— what he called “archetypes.” Archetypes are those images, figures, character types, settings, and story patterns that, according to Jung, are universally shared by people across cultures.
In mainstream psychology, Jung is known for introducing many commonly used concepts to the field, and that have also been adopted by the culture at large — such as his models of psychological types, and his notions of the anima and animus, the Self, the shadow, and introversion and extroversion. Another idea that Jung developed that Carolyn and I have both found useful is the notion of “synchronicity.” Synchronicity is the coincidental occurrence of events that seem meaningfully related but cannot be explained by conventional mechanisms of causality. Synchronicities are those magic moments of strange association that just seem too personally meaningful to be mere coincidence — implying that we have some deep, psychic interconnection with the universe that can’t be easily explained through mechanistic science.
In addition to his work in psychology, and his prolific writing, Jung was also an artist, a builder, and a skillful craftsman. He built a small castle with 4 towers on the shore of Lake Zürich, known as the Bollingen Tower. Jung was known to have mystical, visionary, and psychic experiences. His psychological experiments between 1915 and 1930, where he engaged his mind with what he called the “mythopoetic imagination,” resulted in a series of “visions” or “fantasies” that were recorded as art and text in an illuminated calligraphic volume that became known as The Red Book. Hidden for years in a Swiss bank vault, this legendary manuscript was published posthumously in 2009. I’ve spent many an hour spellbound by this remarkable book; it’s a beautiful artwork and powerful spiritual insights.
Jung died in 1961. The last book that he wrote, Man and his Symbols, was published 3 years after he died. Princeton University Press published a 20-volume set titled The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, which contains Jung’s dissertation, essays, lectures, and letters from 1902 until his death. A number of his books weren’t published until after he died, and some of Jung’s manuscripts remain unpublished to this day.
Jung’s influence can be seen throughout Carolyn’s work. For example, an entry in Carolyn’s Alchemy of Possibility oracle is titled “Synchronicity,” and Carolyn’s painting Reflecting on my Shadow expresses Jung’s concept of the shadow — that dark side of the unconscious mind, the self’s emotional blind spot, which is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings.
Some quotes that Carl Jung is remembered for include:
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
A dream that is not understood remains a mere occurrence; understood it becomes a living experience.
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.