Remembering Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961)

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The BBC News reflecting on Carl Jung, who died 50 years ago today:

But Jung would also be troubled by the way life is unfolding now. For example, he lived in a period “filled with apocalyptic images of universal destruction”, as he observed – thinking of the Cold War and nuclear bomb.

These particular horrors have receded. But it is striking how quickly they have been replaced by new threats. The most obvious is the devastation that is anticipated as a result of climate change. Or you could point to terrorism. And it does not stop there.

We seem to have a fascination with ruination that extends beyond the possible or probable to the purely imagined. Look at how the end of the world provides an irresistible storyline in movies. Or recall how the Rapture predictions of Harold Camping spread like wildfire across the internet last month […]

He argued that while modern science has yielded unsurpassed knowledge about the human species, it has led, paradoxically, to a narrower, machine-like conception of what it means to be a human individual.

This presumably explains why complementary therapies are flourishing in the 21st Century. They try to address the whole person, not just the illness or disease. Or it suggests why ecological lifestyles are appealing, because they try to reconnect us with the intrinsic value of the natural world.

In short, the life of the psyche is crucial. Jung believed it is fed not just by psychology, but better by the great spiritual traditions of our culture, with their subtle stories, sustaining rituals and inspiring dreams. The agnostic West has become detached from these resources.

It is as if people are suffering from “a loss of soul”. Too often, the world does not seem to be for us, but against us.

Towards the end of his life, Jung reflected that many – perhaps most – of the people who came to see him were not, fundamentally, mentally ill. They were, rather, searching for meaning.

As founder of the school of Analytical Psychology, Jung is the most important aspect of 20th century psychology (this, of course, being relegated to an opinion).  Freud comes close.  But he wasn’t as brave or exploratory as Jung was in his research (who meticulously studied Eastern and Western philosophy; alchemy; astrology; and sociology.  Take a look at The Red Book, and you’ll see what I mean).  Without Jung’s research, the 21st century Western world might have completely removed God out of modern psychology and psychiatry; leaving us depressives and anxiety disorders prey to spiritless empiricism and behaviorism.

“The world has a soul.”

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