Saturday, May 26, 2018

Lost and Found: Jung's Psychology and Its Social Meaning, Part I Search for Meaning

Lost and Found: L&F is a series devoted to the beauty and knowledge to be found in old books. 

The third book in this series is devoted to Jung's Psychology and Its Social meaning by Ira Progoff, Ph.D.

In the first chapter of the book, Dr. Progoff compares the period when Jung was developing his theories to the latter stages of ancient Rome and alludes to Jacob Burckhardt's history of the period. Like this period in ancient Rome, Jung's time was a time a searching, a time when old ways of thinking no longer worked.

It is a clever allusion because Jung learned from Burckhardt that the study of certain thing like personality could not be done in isolation but require historical and social perspective performed via a multi-disciplined approach. Jung turned the lens that Burckhardt used to analyze ancient civilizations on modern society.

Underappreciated Visionary

While Jung is the most revolutionary Psychiatrist of the modern age, his work has not entered the popular consciousness for several reasons.

One of the biggest reasons for this lack of appreciation is that his work is falsely thought to be merely an offshoot of Freud's psychoanalytic movement. While Jung was an early supporter of Freud and was seen as his heir apparent after being appointed head of his psychoanalytic association, this relationship lasted for only a few key years and, even then, Jung never fully adopted many of Freud's central ideas.

Besides being lumped together with Freud, Jung did not present his ideas in a simple manner that could be readily grasped by the public. Jung's ideas revolutionary and, as such, he had to borrow vocabulary from other source and reuse it for his own purposes. This re-purposing of terminology causes much confusion when trying to understand Jung's writing.

Jung's multifaceted approach to understanding personality was necessarily an uneven one, full of stops, starts and false leads. Jung did not hesitate to change course as he developed his theories until he found good fits. He would take up one source as a possible explanation only to abandon it latter and then pick it up again in a different context. His was a complex approach that matured over time and did not come wrapped up in a neat package.

Due to its brilliance, Jung's work has influenced many other intellectuals but, due to its complexity, this influence has been piecemeal not comprehensive. Progoff gives the examples of Mumford, Tillich and Toynbee as being influence by Jung in this scattered fashion.

Mumford , a Life - Jung's Influence
Speaking of Jung Podcast - Speaking with theologian who became interested in Jung via his study of Tillich
A Jungian psychohistory: A. J. Toynbee's use of analytical psychology in his theory of civilizations

Jungian Influences


Jung's interest in medicine and philosophy led him to specialized in psychiatry since it was the one field of medicine where he felt philosophy might have some application. Early on Jung looks to Schopenhauer's (and Hartmann's more modern) theories on will to explain the unconscious drives of his patients. Later, Jung moved  beyond Schopenhauer to other explanations for will/libido.

Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science - On schopenhauer's Influence


As mentioned, Jung was influenced by Freud but not to the extent that many believe. Early on, Jung was a supporter of Freud's theories when they were unfashionable. It took Jung getting some clinical experience and a second reading of Freud's Interpretation of Dream's to finally appreciate Freud's theories such a repression. At the same time, Jung never fully accepted Freud's focus on sexuality and animalistic/biological impulses as the basis for human behavior. Jung officially broke with Freud in 1911 with his publication of the Psychology of the Unconscious where he introduced his concepts of the collective unconscious and his school of Analytical Psychology.

Freud and Jung had asked many of the same questions but their differing approaches led to differing conclusions. Freud approached things from a medical perspective one that was deterministic and biological in its focus. Jung picked off where Freud's approach left off and focused an a broader system that took into account the creative, spiritual and purposeful side of human nature.

Freud believed that the unconscious mind with its physic energy could be rationally explained and the mental ills of the modern world cured in the same way. Jung believed that the cure for illnesses caused by modern focus of the rational over the spiritual was not more rationality. Jung focused on reorienting from a strictly rational perspective to restoring a healthy balance (synthesis) between the spiritual and rational sides of man.

Harley Therapy - Freud vs Jung – Similarities and Differences

J.J. Bachofen...

When Jung turned to studying symbolism, his main source of inspiration was J.J. Bachofen. Bachofen has been credited with influencing many of Jung's foundational theories such a his thoughts on matriarchy/anima and archetype. It was from Bachofen that Jung learned to analyze myths and symbols via an ethnographic approach.

Spiritualism and the Foundations of C. G. Jung's Psychology - On Bachofen's Influence of Jung


Neitszcsche had a profound influence on Jung particularly his thoughts regarding Apollonian and Dionysian societies/personality types.

Depth Insights - Jung’s Reception of Friedrich Nietzsche: A Roadmap for the Uninitiated by Dr. Ritske Rensma

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