Confrontation with the Unconscious
After his traumatic parting with Freud, Jung (aged 37) was able to pursue more freely his unique approach to the unconscious contents of the mind, and particularly his interest in archetypal symbolism. For the next six years or so he dedicated his time to working on both his own and his patients' dreams and fantasies. However, Jung firstly had to endure a prolonged period of 'inner uncertainty' and 'disorientation'1 - his own 'dark night of the soul' - in order to formulate a new approach to his work and discover his personal myth2. His fascination with the unconscious and his 'creative illness' helped develop a capacity for visions and waking dreams, which he called active imagination. Jung describes one of these in his autobiography:
One night I awoke and saw, bathed in bright light at the foot of the bed, the figure of Christ on the Cross. It was not quite life-size, but extremely distinct; and I saw that his body was made of greenish gold3.
In 1913, Jung also had several overpowering visions that pointed to the 1st World War, seeing 'rivers of blood' in the northern landscape4.
Further dreams5 confirmed that unconscious contents are not dead, outmoded forms (as Freud believed), but belong to our living being. Rather than individuals starting life as a blank slate (a tabula rasa, he believed that the whole personality is present, in potentia, from birth and that the environment brings out what is already there (in the first half of this century, with behaviourism dominant in the Universities, this was a most unpopular position to adopt). It is these primordial images or archetypes6 in the collective unconscious that predispose us to approach life and to experience it in certain ways, according to patterns already laid down in the psyche. Jung said that there are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. There are archetypal figures (eg, mother, child, father, God), archetypal events (eg, birth, death, relationships, marriage), and archetypal objects (eg, water, sun, moon, fish, snakes). Archetypes are therefore the total endowment granted by evolution in order to facilitate adaptation to life. Each finds expression in the psyche, in behaviour, and in mythology.
The investigation of his inner reality finally laid the foundation for many of his psychological theories and concepts - notably, on the development of personality, the archetype and complex, and the Self and individuation.
Jung eventually developed his own therapeutic system called analytical psychology, so as to distinguish it from Freudian psychoanalysis. Its central feature is that mental health (or illness) depends on the functional relationship, achieved in the course of individual development, between conscious and unconscious processes. Moreover, this conscious-unconscious interaction is important in the achievement of all creative activity, whether artistic, literary or scientific - leading to the development of personality or individuation. Jung describes this goal as 'the self-realisation of the unconscious'.
The Transcendent Function
The main conviction that emerged from his years of 'soul searching' was that we each have a 'transcendent function,' a yearning to evolve, to transcend oneself and that it is the blocking of this function that leads to mental illness. Jung believed that God can become whole only through a creative confrontation with the opposites and through their synthesis in the Self - the wholeness of the individual human personality. The transcendent function is an archetypal process which mediates opposites and enables the transition from one attitude or condition to another, by the utilisation of symbols. It is activated whenever consciousness is engaged in the tension of opposites, and only the living symbol has the power to unite opposites and mutually supplement one another. The function, therefore, has a healing effect by bridging the conscious and unconscious, facilitating movement beyond one-sidedness. In this respect, the choice of psychiatry helped Jung to reconcile the opposites within himself - the rational with the irrational, the objective with the subjective, the biological with the spiritual, his number one with his number one personality, etc. It is this reconciliation of opposites within, and the principle of compensation between inner and outer realms of experience, that formed the cornerstone of Jungian theory.
As Jung began to emerge from 'the darkness' he went through a period of drawing mandalas7. Jung interpreted mandalas as expressions of the Self and wholeness, corresponding to the microcosmic nature of the psyche. As psychological phenomena they appear spontaneously in dreams, often under conditions of psychic disorientation and in order to compensate the disorder and confusion of the psychic state. Jung, who found inner peace in drawing and contemplating mandalas, saw their appearance as an attempt by nature at self-healing.
In later life, Jung applied these observations to his interest in UFOs. In 1958, in his essay 'Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth', he considered that they were a compensation by the collective unconscious for our rational scepticism and our need for symbols of wholeness in a deeply divided world.
Between 1919 and 1944, Jung wrote his major works, many in the form of individual essays. He also conducted a large psychotherapeutic practice, held seminars in German and English, and made numerous long journeys, including anthropological expeditions to the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico in 1924-5, and to the Elgoni of Kenya in 1925-6. He also travelled to North Africa, India and Sri Lanka in later life.
Since Jung's death in 1961, different schools of Jungian psychology have evolved in all the major Western countries, being designated 'classical,' 'developmental' or 'archetypal' according to the emphasis placed on different aspects of Jung's thought (eg, use of the transference, amplification, imagination, the development of personality, and so forth8). Many have common views, but dogmatism and conflict between the recognised schools has inevitably arisen due to the differing structures and priorities, the ordering and weighting, with regard to theoretical areas.
Though there were long-standing obstacles to Jungian psychology gaining recognition in the wider culture or the helping professions, there has been a definite sea change over the last few decades. Jungian books sell well, with Jung's ideas now being used in a routine and down-to-earth way. Though post-Jungians have challenged and attacked aspects of Jung's work, this can be seen as part of Jungian family life with its healthy differences. Indeed, Jung urged that opposites have to be discriminated before they can be brought together.
However, in academic circles the view still persists that Jung was a mystic pre-occupied with religious questions and esoteric material, and, therefore, unscientific. Since depth psychologies deal with natural (metaphysical) phenomena and unprovable areas, matching up to the highest scientific standards will always be wanting. However, Jung saw it as a duty to push the boundaries of knowledge. 'Science,' he said, 'comes to a stop at the frontiers of logic but nature does not - she thrives on ground as yet untrodden by theory.'9
The Collected Works of CG Jung
CG Jung, Collected Works, edited by Sir Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, Gerhard Adler, and William McGuire, Translated by RFC Hull (except for volume 20, Princeton: Princeton University Press (Bollingen Series XX); London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
|1||Psychiatric Studies||1957 2nd edition 1970|
|3||The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease||1960|
|4||Freud and Psychoanalysis||1961|
|5||Symbols of Transformation||1956; 2nd edition 1967|
|7||Two Essays on Analytical Psychology||1953; 2nd edition 1966|
|8||The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche||1960; 2nd edition 1969|
|9 part 1||The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious||1959; 2nd edition 1968|
|9 part 2||Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self||1959; 2nd edition 1968|
|10||Civilization in Transition||1964; 2nd edition 1970|
|11||Psychology and Religion||1958; 2nd edition 1969|
|12||Psychology and Alchemy||1953; 2nd edition 1968|
|14||Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy||1963; 2nd edition 1970|
|15||The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature||1966|
|16||The Practice of Psychotherapy||1954; 2nd edition 1966|
|17||The Development of Personality||1954|
|18||The Symbolic Life: Miscellaneous Writings||1976|
|19||General Bibliography of CG Jung's Writings||1979|
|20||General Index to the Collected Works||1979|
|CG Jung: Letters (ed. G Adler with A Jaffé)||1976; Vol 1: 1906-50; Vol 2: 1951-61||Routledge and Kegan Paul|
|The Freud/Jung Letters (ed. W McGuire)||1974||The Hogarth Press and RKP, London|
|CG Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters (ed. W McGuire and RFC Hull)||1978||Thames and Hudson, London|
|Septem Sermones ad Mortuos||1967||JM Watkins, London|
|Modern man in Search of a Soul||1961||RKP, London|
|Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-34 (ed. C Douglas)||1998||Routledge, London|
|The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of a Seminar Given in 1932 (ed. S Shamdasani)||1996||Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ|
|Dream Analysis: Notes of the Seminars Given in 1928-30 (ed. W McGuire)||1984||Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ|
|Man and His Symbols||1968||Doubleday, New York|
|Word and Image (ed. A Jaffé)||1979||Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ|
|Memories, Dreams, Reflections||1983||Flamingo, London|
|Portable Jung (ed. J Campbell)||1976||Viking Press, New York|