Sunday, 22 January 2012 09:13

Carl G. Jung: Men Of Ideas

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Jung began a school of psychology called Analytical Psychology. This school tends to factor in the idea of spiritual matters into psychology. Whereas this consideration of spiritual matters would seem to make it irrelevant to the academe yet many people, particularly religionists, are at home in Jungian Psychology. We, therefore, need to understand Jung’s views on human nature.


Ozodi Thomas Osuji

Carl Gustaf Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrists (he worked at the world famous Burgholzli Psychiatric Hospital in Zurich, and was supervised by Eugene Bleuler, the man who coined the term schizophrenia) whose Analytical Psychology influences those psychologists and lay folk who believe that there is more to human beings than their bodies, that there is a spiritual element to man.

Academic Psychology construes itself as a science. Science, by definition, is that aspect of philosophy that eschews all talk of Spirit and God, for those cannot be verified as true.  Science concerns itself with that which can be verified. Psychology, like the scientific enterprise it thinks that it is a part of, does not concern itself with God and spirituality but, instead, with the aspect of human thinking and behavior that can be verified.

Sigmund Freud, under the scientific impulse, delimited his study of human beings to their brains and what he called their ego unconscious. As Freud saw it, repressed material (largely of sexual nature) in the unconscious mind is what influences people’s thinking and behaviors.

Behaviorists like Ivan Pavlov, John Watson and B. F. Skinner were not even willing to entertain the idea of unconscious mind since that could not be verified as existent but, instead, limited themselves to human behaviors, to that which all of us can see and verify.

So what is man? Behaviorists answer that question by stating that man is a learning organism and through learning (classical and operant) learns certain behaviors. He persists in those behaviors that society positively reinforces and extinguishes those society does not approve. The so-called human personality is a learned variable, behaviorists tell us.

Today, neuroscience goes further and tells us that man is a product of his body and that the configuration of particles, atoms and elements in his brain determines what he thinks and does. We do not even have to bother with Freud’s so-called unconscious or Pavlov’s so-called classical conditioning or Skinner’s operant conditioning, all we have to do is study the human brain, appreciate the dance of neurotransmitters and electrical ions and wham we know all there is to know about human personalities, thinking and behavior.

Carl Jung wades into this discourse on epistemology and tells us that man is more than his learned responses, the composition of his brain and Freudian unconscious. Jung believes that there is a spiritual dimension to human beings. He tried valiantly to prove that spirit matters. Alas, he did not succeed for spirit cannot be proved with the yardsticks of science.

Generally, folk have certain experiences that lead them to the path that they are on; Jung is no exception to this pattern. Jung had experiences that led him to believe that spirit is real. To begin with, he had a mother who believed that she saw spirits and talked to them. At age twelve another boy knocked Carl down and he was unconscious for a while.  He did not attend school for over six months. In the meantime he developed a ritual. He carved a wooden object and placed it in the attic of his parent’s house and would take sacrifices to it on a regular basis. He said that this ritualistic behavior kind of made him feel peaceful and happy. (In many American households, folk have a corner where they place, say, the Bible and or other items they consider sacred, and kneel to them and pray to their understanding of God and feel peaceful from doing so.)

Later, Jung read about primitive folk who carved wood and placed sacrifices to it and considered what they were doing religious. He was able to appreciate that what those so-called primitive folk were doing was what he was doing (in so-called civilized Switzerland). The question that came to his mind is: how come he did what primitive folk did though he had not heard about primitive folk (in Africa and the Americas…Native Americans carved wood, totem poles and worshipped them)? How did he know this and why did such behavior give him a sense of peace and joy?

Jung reasoned that perhaps a part of his mind probably has the residue of his people’s primitive practices and the primitive practices of all mankind. As it were, what our ancestors did is stored in our ego unconscious mind and somehow we remember them (in his case, when his brain was jarred open by a blow from another boy).  He reasoned that may be human beings have what he called collective unconscious mind where our ancestors past practices, culture, are lodged and somehow those practices still influence our behaviors today.

As Jung sees it, the collective unconscious mind influences folk behavior in the present; the past lodged in pour minds influences our present thinking and behaviors. (But how is this accomplished, through genes? Is the past culture of mankind written into our genes? If so, where is the evidence, an empiricist would ask.)

Jung’s idea of collective unconscious is obviously in contradistinction to Freud’s idea of unconscious mind.

To Freud the mind is composed of the here and now events. The individual is born into society and that society forbids him from engaging in his supposed natural polymorphously perverse sexuality and he represses those sexual desires into his ego unconscious and those repressed material affect his behavior. The unconscious is not from thousands of years ago but from the individual’s present life.

Freud had thought that if he limited his idea of unconscious to the here and now that it could be construed as scientific (hence he undertook to analyze that mind…psycho analysis, mind analysis). Freud struggled mightily to make his psychoanalysis a science. He wanted folk to accept it as a science though Nazi folk called it the Jewish science.

Here comes Jung saying that the human mind contains materials from thousands, if not millions of years ago, and Freud obviously could not accept that thesis. To accept the idea of collective unconscious throws us back to the realm of religion and spirits.

Thus, Freud rejected Jung’s thesis and the two fell out and in 1914 went their separated ways. When a fellow has ideas that Freud disagreed with that is the end of their relationship! Freud was an intellectual dictator and it was either his way or the highway. Jung went on the high ways of life seeking true knowledge as opposed to Freud’s pseudo knowledge.

The Freud-Jung split is interesting for Freud had the highest esteem for Jung. While in medical school Jung read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and other books and articles and was impressed by Freud’s views. In 1906 Jung wrote a book on Word Association and sent a copy of it to Freud and the two became inseparable friends. Jung was invited to join the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and, indeed, was made its president when Alfred Adler, Freud’s prior star disciple, left.

In 1912 Jung wrote his book on the Psychology of the Unconscious and in it expounded on the idea that the unconscious is not only the repository of Freud’s Id instincts but cultural practices. After reading this book that essentially attacked his views, Freud went ballistic. For a while Freud and Jung tried to patch things up but things between them had had fallen apart and the center of their relationship could no longer hold.  Thus, Jung went his way in 1914.

Actually, Jung did not completely reject Freud’s idea of unconscious; he merely added to it. He differentiated between what he called the Personal Unconscious and the Collective Unconscious.

In the personal unconscious (the individual’s unconscious mind) is the repressed material that Freud talked about.  But that is only one part of the mind.

In another part of the mind, the collective unconscious mind is the residue of mankind’s past experiences.

With their parting of ways Jung blossomed and gave the world a slew of psychological ideas.

Jung introduced the idea of introversion and extraversion, the idea that some people are introspective and reflective whereas others are excitable and outgoing and not burdened with serious thinking.

The introvert is shy, quiet and thinks about things whereas the extrovert is outgoing and seeks thrills and excitement and does not ask why questions a lot.

The idea that people fall into types now seem trivial but in the early twentieth century it was actually revolutionary. That idea led to classification of people into personality types. (Today, psychiatry has ten personality types: paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, antisocial, avoidant, and dependent, obsessive compulsive and passive aggressive.)

Most personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (Type Indicator…MBTI), the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory etc are predicated on Jung’s idea that people fall into types.

And Jung did not delimit his idea of human types to the world of the here and now. He believed that there are archetypes in our collective unconscious minds that we fall into and those influence our behaviors. There is the anima and animus, male and female types. There are doers, there are thinkers, and there are dreamers.

As Jung saw it, the task of psychology is to understand what archetype actuates each individual’s thinking and behavior   For example, if the dominant archetype in the individual’s unconscious is spiritual, spirituality he must seek.

(I learned how true this is when in my thirties an inner force forced me to change my direction. Hitherto, I had considered myself an atheist and considered religionists neurotic if not psychotic. But an inner pressure led me to study the religions of mankind, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam etc. I was compelled to think about spiritual matters despite my atheism.  Apparently, in my collective unconscious is my family members’ role as their people’s spiritual leaders, the high priests of Amadioha. As it were, I had to know about spirituality and perform a job related to it for it is the dominant archetype in my unconscious mind.)

Jung introduced the concept of synchronicity. In our experience we often see things happen as if they are related and synchronized; that is, made to happen as if one caused the other or one must follow the other.  For example, when Charles Darwin was writing his Origin of Species, arguing that animals evolved gradually in adaptation to their environment, other writers, who were not aware of the existence of Darwin, were doing the same.  In fact, Darwin had to rush to publish his book before a German with similar ideas took credit for it. When, in England, Isaac Newton was developing Calculus, Leibnitz, in Germany, was doing the same.

The idea of synchronicity is that somehow similar ideas occur to many persons at the same time. Apparently, an idea whose time has come enters many people’s minds at the same time. Why so? Is it due to accident or are minds connected, joined so that minds know what other minds are doing?

At the conscious level we do not know what is in other people’s minds. Could it be that at the unconscious level we know what other minds are thinking and join their thoughts and that leads to one occurrence causing another to occur?

Is synchronicity real and if so how does it work? Jung believes that synchronicity is real and that it works because all minds, at the unconscious level, are joined into one mind and can tune into what other minds are doing. This is a spiritual idea, not a scientific one (or has science delimited itself too much?).

Jung gave a different twist to Freud’s interpretation of dreams. While accepting that some dreams are, as Freud said, wish fulfillment, Jung believed that dreams also contain insights into spiritual matters.  Some people, Jung included, claim to receive communication from their dead ancestors in their dreams.

Jung further believed that dreams have types and contain symbols, understanding which helps us understand the meaning of our dreams.  A snake in ones dream means a certain thing, Jung would say.

(As an African I do not accept the dream symbols that Jung posited. The objects he was talking about have different symbolic representation in African societies. In some African societies, for example, snake does not mean a tempter who tricks human beings to sin, as was the case in the Adam and Eve story. In Alaigbo a snake, particularly the python, represents the gods, a helper. Jung’s dream symbols represent the world he knew about: European and Christian.)

By way of criticism, Jung made a controversial move during the ascendancy of the Nazis in his Germanic world (though he is Swiss he is from the German part of Switzerland). Jung reportedly joined the Nazi party.

I will not get into the specifics of this foolish behavior (though I am aware of them).  Let us just say that some folk reject Jung on account of his flirtation with Hitler (he supposedly had members of a medical association that he was president of to read Hitler’s Mien Kampf). Let me put it this way, when I was in graduate school and heard what Jung did, that was it for me. I do not fool around with fools; I do not rationalize evil. Did this man toy with Nazism? Yes, he did and I did not want to know why he did so. I tuned him out.

As a result of that unfortunate incident I do not pay much attention to Jung’s Analytical psychology. However, I am aware that it influences many folk, especially those seeking to bring spirituality into the world of science.


Campbell, Joseph. (Ed.) The Portable Jung.   New York: Viking.

Jung, C.G. (1967).  Michael Fordham (ed.) The Collected Works of C. G. Jung.  London: Routlege & Kegan Paul.

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176