A Closer Look at Carl Jung: A Biography in Short
This body of work explores the life, professional history, theories, and influence on psychology by the Swiss born psychotherapist and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. Here we use The Portable Jung (1972) by C.G. Jung (edited by Joseph Campbell) and Psychological Type (1990) by C.G. Jung as the primary sources of information. It covers the spectrum of Jung’s life, from his birth in Kesswil Switzerland, to his academic studies, his marriage, his relationship with Sigmund Freud, his founding of analytical psychology, his theories on the collective unconscious, concepts of the extraverted and introverted personality types, Archetype, and finishing with the end of his life in 1961 in Zurich Switzerland. We also covers Jung’s influence on the arts and religion, Jung’s thoughts on the difference between Eastern and Western Thinking, as well as his later thoughts on subjects such as Alchemy. Also included are his thoughts on the Collective Unconscious, Psychological type, and the human psyche.
Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26, 1875, in Kesswil, Switzerland to father Johann Paul Achilles Jung, a clergyman, and mother Emilie Preiswerk Jung. At an early age his father taught him Latin and his mother exposed him to exotic religions from illustrated children books (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, p. viii). Early in life Jung had interest in pursuing both archaeology as well as Theology as a career. Unlike his father, he did not subscribe to the belief of Jesus as God. Instead, according to the editor Joseph Campbell, “He regarded Jesus as a man; hence, either fallible or a mere mouthpiece of the Holy Ghost, who, in turn, was ‘a manifestation of the inconceivable God’” (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971). This open minded approach to world religion and his concept of God would facilitate his later development of his idea on the Collective Unconscious.
Growing up through his younger years, Carl Jung had a turbulent time dealing with his mother whom he found to be very problematic, eccentric and depressed. She spent a lot of time in isolation obsessing about the spirits she believed visited her at night. It was at this point of his life that Jung had his first exposure to spirits and the occult. During this time period he learned of certain relatives that were engaged in table-turning with a medium. He was so fascinated with the subject that, for two years, he took meticulous notes on the experience. It was not until Jung felt the medium start to cheat, that he stopped his observations of the proceedings (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, p. X). His fascination with the supernatural would continue throughout his lifetime.
When Jung initially studied Medicine at the University of Basel in 1895, he had no plans to study psychiatry. During this period of time it was held in content, but once Jung read that psychoses are personality diseases, he became very excited in the field. This combination of both biological and spiritual facts greatly interested Jung. In 1900, at the age of 25, he began his work as First Assistant Physician at the Burgholzli Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich, under Eugen Bleuler. During this period, he completed his dissertation, which went on to be published in 1903, titled “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena.” Afterward, in 1906, he published Studies in Word Association (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, p. xi) .
The publication of Studies in Word Association would lead to Jung’s introduction to Austrian neurologist, and the founding father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud in 1906. Carl Jung and Freud influenced each other during a professional relationship during which Freud looked to Jung as an adopted son. Jung was a fan of Freud’s idea of the unconscious and a proponent of the newly developed “psycho-analysis” through his book The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). Unfortunately, Jung and Freud had an impassible difference of opinion on the formation of the core personality. Freud believed in the power of the libido and sexual development as the source of personal growth. Carl Jung abandoned this idea and instead believed in the idea of the collective unconscious. This, based on his theory, is the part of the unconscious that contains ideas and memories inherited from our ancestors. The straw that broke the camel’s back was Jung’s publication of the non-Freudian work, Symbols of Transformation (1912) (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, pp. xv-xx).
Upon renouncing Freud’s dogma, the entirety of the psychoanalytic community turned against Jung, and even launched a paranoiac campaign of character assassinations against him. It led him into a period of troubled isolation where he wallowed in a mercurial sea of fantasies and mythologies. He had what was described as a horrible “confrontation with the unconscious”. He saw a series of appalling visions of the whole of Europe drowning in blood. The World War broke out the following August. During this period, he privately induced hallucinations and recorded his findings during his experiences of these, “active imaginations.” The dreams and fantasies that Jung experienced would create the foundation for the archetype theories, and in 1921 the fruit of Jung’s thinking appeared in the monumental tome, Psychological Types, or The Psychology of Individuation (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, pp. xxiv-xxv)
In the forward to the 9th edition of Psychological Type (1990) the editor quoted Carl Jung in explaining the reasoning for monumental tome and concept of type, “This work sprang originally from my need to define the ways in which my outlook differed from Freud’s and Adler’s… I came across the problem of types; for it is one’s psychological type which from the outset determines and limits a person’s judgment” (Jung, Psychological Types, 1990). This fundamental idea that we are each born with a predetermined psychological type remains a focal point of personality type assessment to this day and was part of the groundwork for the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality assessment tool. Jung developed the concepts of Extraversion and Introversion. It is important to note that his strict definition differs from those we use today. Jung stated that, “If a man thinks, feels, acts, and actually lives in a way that is directly correlated with the objective conditions and their demands, he is extraverted” (Jung, Psychological Types, 1990, p. 333). Jung described the introvert as, “Distinguished from the extravert by the fact that he does not, like the latter, orient himself by the object and by objective data, but by subjective factors… it (introverted consciousness) selects the subjective determinants as the decisive ones” (Jung, Psychological Types, 1990, pp. 373-374).
Jung also championed the idea of Individuation, which was a psychological process of integrating the opposites, including the conscious and unconscious through means such as dreams and active imagination. He believed that striving for Individuation leads to achieving positive physical and mental health (Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1989).
Jung’s other major psychological developments were his ideas of the collective unconscious and the Archetypes that originated from the collective unconscious. As Jung put it, “The collective unconscious is a part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from a personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latte, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition” (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, pp. 59-60). Jung had originally spoken mainly of three archetypes that originated out of the collective unconscious, the Ego (or the Self), the Shadow, and the Anima/Animus. The Ego represented the unification of the unconsciousness and the consciousness of an individual. The Shadow mainly consists of the life and sex instinct being composed of repressed ideas, desires, and shortcomings. The Anima/Animus represents the “true self” rather than the image we present to others. It serves as the main source of communication with the collective unconscious (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, pp. 139-162).
Related to his thoughts on his psychological theory is the idea of the persona. He argued that it acts as the mask for the “collective psyche”. He thought of it as a complicated system that worked as a mediator between individual consciousness and the social community. Similar to the functionality of a physical mask, he felt the persona served a double function. It served as a way to make a certain impression to others, and also as a means to hide part of the true nature of an individual. Jung believed it was the therapist’s job to help the patient liberate themselves from the deceptive cover over the persona, as well as the power of unconscious impulses (Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, 1977, p. 157).
Carl Jung also wrote on the dramatic difference in Eastern and Western thinking. He pointed out that the East had not produced anything on the same level as what we consider “Psychology”. In the East, the focus had been on philosophy and metaphysics. He states that critical philosophy, which he notes as the mother of modern psychology, had been a completely foreign concept to the East. In the East the idea of “mind” had the connotation of something metaphysical. Western conception of “mind” had lost any such metaphysical connotation by Jung’s time and while he admits to not know nor pretend to know what the “psyche” is, Western culture could deal with the phenomenon of “mind” (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, pp. 480-481). The Eastern obliviousness to such a concept kept their minds clear of interruptions of their concept of faith, religion, and by association, God. The West, on the other hand, developed a new disease: the conflict between science and religion. Jung stated that the conflict between science and religion is in reality a misunderstanding of both (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, p. 482). As the battle between science and religion continues to rage on to this day, we have clearly not come to a common ground as of yet.
Jung also went on to study the connection between Alchemy and Psychology through the interpretation of alchemical symbols in dreams that he interpreted as messages as they come over into consciousness. He categorized these imagines into a definite category which he called mandala symbolism (Jung, The Portable Jung, 1971, p. 324).
By the end of his life Jung had left an undeniable mark on psychology as well as our society as a whole. His religious believes counterbalanced Freudian skepticism on religion and his proposition that art can be used as a form of therapy for dealing with trauma, fear, and anxiety helped countless patients. His work and accomplishments have been highlighted in literary works, TV, and film throughout the decades.
Carl Gustav Jung died on June 6, 1965 in Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 85. His mark on the field of Psychology is both undeniable and monumental.
Jung, C. (1971). The Portable Jung. (J. Campbell, Ed.) New York: Penguin Books.
Jung, C. (1977). Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Random House, Inc.
Jung, C. (1990). Psychological Types (Vol. VI). Princeton: Princeton University Press.