Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 1. Introduction

Carl Jung standing in front of Burghölzli
clinic, Zurich in about 1909
"He dreamed that, instead of sitting in his study and talking to the great doctors and psychiatrists  who used to call on him from all over the world, he was standing in a public place and addressing a multitude of people who were listening to him with rapt attention and understanding what he said. . . ."
John Freeman, in his Introduction, C. G. Jung (ed.), Man and His Symbols (various editions and formats)
The quote reveals the impetus for Jung's conception and production of Man and His Symbols. Whenever I have asked anyone if they have read anything by Jung, they have told me that the only work that they own is this one.  This makes me wonder how successfully Jung's dream was realized by this work. Jung, himself, wrote only the first part, he thought it better that his associates should write the rest of it -- feeling, perhaps, that they were closer to the public mind than himself. This is a problem shared by almost anyone who has originated a subject or a philosophy over many years: it becomes so much a part of themselves that they have a great difficulty adopting the role of an observer seeing it for the first time. They cannot see the forest for the trees.

Yet, the influence of Jung is most strongly expressed by those who had managed, directly, or indirectly to access the mind of Jung to a great degree, and this influence is frequently carried forward with great success. Almost everyone has seen at least the first of the Star Wars movies, but  a very small percentage of that number realize that it is a Jungian work. The mythologist, Joseph Campbell was strongly influenced by Jung, and he, in turn, influenced George Lucas and Star Wars was born. But the influence was not restricted to just getting an idea for a movie -- Lucas, himself, was changed by these connections.

My own, conscious, interest in Jung came also from Joseph Campbell. I say conscious, because I had previously come into contact with the work of authors who had also incorporated Jungian psychology in their work, although I did not know it at the time. So when I encountered Campbell, and later Jung, there was already something familiar and comfortable about what they wrote. There will be more on this subject later in the series. I now have to ask myself if my first contact with Jung would have been Man and His Symbols, would I have traveled the same road?

Perhaps you have noticed that in all the links I have given here, so far, none are to articles about Jung, himself. This is not an oversight. Instead, if you are willing, you can be part of an experiment. In this series, I plan to expose you to the work of Jung in a more "organic" manner -- through many connections. Jung has had a profound influence on my own thinking and, of course, I own many books written by him. Not just "Man and His Symbols".

It is axiomatic to postmodernism that all philosophies are revealed through text, and that to understand the text, you really should understand something of the writer of that text, for the two cannot be separated. Accordingly, if you have not already done so, go back and read the article about John Freeman that I linked to at the start of this post. Of course, one could follow a never-ending chain and learn something of  the writer of that article, and so forth, but I would not recommend taking that path -- at least, not too far!

Once you have done this, then watch the following video interview of Carl Jung by John Freeman at Jung's house in Switzerland, and our own journey will continue tomorrow.

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