Jungian Theory: A Brief Overview, I

From the start, Jung’s work included an interest in myth, symbolism, ritual, and the numinous.[1] Jung became a student of Sigmund Freud in 1906, however, the mentoring relationship ended in 1913 because of their professional differences.[2] Jung’s central issue with Freud’s method of psychoanalysis was its exclusivity and one-sided interpretations, which, he felt, left Freudian theory prone to “reduce high-flown ideals, heroic attitudes, nobility of feeling, [and/or] deep convictions, to some banal reality.”[3] Jung disagreed with Freud’s premise that repressed sexual trauma was the central motivation behind neuroses, finding through his own research that a variety of drives (including a sexual drive), caused neurotic responses in the psyche.[4] While Jung found Freudian theory helpful in small doses, he saw psychoanalysis as “capable only of harm” when there was a chance to build up the psychic function of a patient rather than reduce it to a neurosis triggered by sexual repression.[5] Jung learned from Freud’s attention to human darkness, and discovered that “[e]ven our purest and holiest beliefs rest on very deep and dark foundations,” yet felt Freud paid too little attention to the “shadow-side” of humanity and excluded its potential productive function.[6] Jung and Freud further disagreed on religion and religious experience. Jung found “Freud’s attitude toward the spirit […] highly questionable,” since Freud regarded spiritual expression with suspicion and “insinuated that it was repressed sexuality.”[7] Following this professional split, Jung shifted his focus away from what Campbell calls “a subjective and personalistic, essentially biological [i.e., Freudian] approach” and towards a mythically oriented psychology focused on “the symbolism of the psyche.”[8]

Jung views himself as “a physician, whose business is […] the sickness” of humanity, and understands that his remedy for this sickness must be “as real as the suffering” his patients experienced.[9] While his psychotherapeutic practice tends to a patient’s psychological disturbances, Jung recognizes that he needs to also deal with the individual’s religious attitude, or lack thereof.[10] For Jung, religion is not an “enemy of the sick,” but a “system of psychic healing,” compatible with psychology.[11]Nicknamed “Father Abraham” (because he was not perplexed by the paradoxical demands of God), Jung sees attempts to explain God through psychic experience as a natural inclination of humanity.[12] For Jung, the gradual separation of religion and science during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is detrimental to both sides. While in the Enlightenment age, “religion sought linkage, [and] science sought knowledge,” Jung suggests that a new worldview, one of “linked knowledge,” as imminent, and predicts that religion and science will meet again in collaboration, not in competition. [13]

Next time: a brief overview of Jung’s psychotherapeutic method



[1] For Jung’s earliest exploration into the psyche, see his 1902 dissertation, “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-called Occult Phenomena” in C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Psychiatric Studies, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Vol. 1, 1970. See also: Joseph Campbell, introduction to The Portable Jung, ed. Joseph Campbell, trans. R. F. C. Hull. (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), xi-xv.

[2] See Campbell, introduction, The Portable Jung, xv-xvi; Mary Ann Mattoon, Jung and the Human Psyche: An Understandable Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2005); Gerhard Wehr, Jung: A Biography, trans. David M. Weeks (Boston: Shambala, 1987),127-160.

[3] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd Edition, Vol. 7 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), par. 33 and 65.

[4] Jung, CW 7:33.

[5] Jung, CW 7:65.

[6] C. J. Jung, Collected Works: Practice of Psychotherapy, trans. R. F. C. Hull, Vol. 16 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), par. 145-6. See also: Jung, CW, 7:70.

[7] C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. Aniela Jaffe, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 149.

[8]Campbell, introduction, The Portable Jung, xxi.

[9] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: The Symbolic Life: Miscellaneous Writings, trans. R. F. C. Hull, Vol. 18 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), par. 1511.

[10] Jung, CW 18:1686.

[11] Jung, CW 16:249.

[12] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed., Vol. 9.1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), par. 393. See also Jef Dehing, “Jung and Knowledge from Gnosis to Praxis,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 35 (1990): 377-96.

[13]Edward F. Edinger, The Creation of Consciousness: Jung’s Myth for Modern Man (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1984), 58.


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