About Carl Jung
A Brief Note on Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Written by and used with permission from James Hollis
“Carl Jung was one of the creators of modern depth psychology, which seeks to facilitate a conversation with the unconscious energies which move through each of us. He contributed many ideas which continue to inform contemporary life: complex, archetype, persona, shadow, anima and animus, personality typology, dream interpretation, individuation, and many other ideas. He had a deep appreciation of our creative life and considered spirituality a central part of the human journey. His method of interpretation of symbolic expression not only deepens our understanding of personal material, opening the psychodynamics of our personal biographies and dreams, but the deeper, collective patterns which develop within culture as well. In his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung wrote that meaning comes “when people feel they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama. That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it. A career, producing of children, are all maya (illusion) compared to that one thing, that your life is meaningful.”
Not for a moment dare we succumb to the illusion that an archetype can be finally explained and disposed of. Even the best attempts at explanation are only more or less successful translations into another metaphorical language. (Indeed, language itself is only an image.) The most we can do is dream the myth onwards and give it a modern dress. And whatever explanation or interpretation does to it, we do to our own souls as well, with corresponding results for our own well-being. The archetype — let us never forget this — is a psychic organ present in all of us. A bad explanation means a correspondingly bad attitude toward this organ, which may thus be injured. But the ultimate sufferer is the bad interpreter himself.
— Carl Jung, The Psychology of the Child Archetype [Das göttliche Kind] (1941),
We are living in what the Greeks called the right time for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science.
—Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self(1958)
For the sake of mental stability and even physiological health, the unconscious and the conscious must be integrally connected and thus move on parallel lines. If they are split apart or “dissociated,” psychological disturbance follows. In this respect, dream symbols are the essential message carriers from the instinctive to the rational parts of the human mind, and their interpretation enriches the poverty of consciousness so that it learns to understand again the forgotten language of the instincts.
—from Man and His Symbols
Unfortunately there is no doubt about the fact that man is, as a whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. It is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is steadily subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.
—from Psychology and Religion, 1940.
To strive for perfection is a high ideal. But I say: “Fulfill something you are able to fulfill rather than run after what you will never achieve.” Nobody is perfect. Remember the saying: “None is good but God alone.” [Luke 18:19], and nobody can be. It is an illusion. We can modestly strive to fulfill ourselves and to be as complete human beings as possible, and that will give us trouble enough.
—from Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice, The Tavistock Lectures: 149
The Red Book
The Red Book, also known as Liber Novus (New Book ), is a 205-page manuscript hand-written and illustrated by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung between around 1914 and 1930, which describes his personal confrontation with the unconscious. It was first published in 2009.
About this work Jung said: “The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”
The San Diego Friends of Jung channel on youtube.com includes lectures by notable speakers who have presented for FOJ over the years, including Christine Downing, Edward Edinger, James Hollis, and Robert Johnson. There are over 200 lectures in our recorded collection and we hope to add more to youtube in coming months. To get started listening click here.
Other “Friends of Jung” Organizations