21st Century : Masters : Carl Gustav Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was the most enigmatic and controversial disciple of Sigmund Freud. He introduced to psychoanalysis crucial questions about religion and the soul which Freud neglected.
Born 26 July 1875 in Kesswil, Switzerland, Jung was the only son of a Swiss Reformed Church Evangelical minister. He was a strange melancholic child who had no brothers or sisters until he was nine, so he played his own imaginary games.
The family were steeped in religion. Jung had eight uncles in the clergy, as well as his maternal grandfather. His earliest playgrounds were churches and graveyards. There were other religious influences on Jung, stemming from his mother and maternal grandfather, Samuel Preiswerk, a respected pastor in Basel, who had contact with a different worlds altogether - the spirit world. Every day he conversed with his deceased first wife, while his second wife (Jung’s grandmother) and his daughter (Jung’s mother) listened in. Contact with the spirits was not unusual amongst Swiss rural folk.
These dual religious influences of Swiss Protestantism and pagan spirituality reflected a dualism in Jung himself. He believed he had two different personalities which he named "Number 1" and "Number 2". Number 1 was involved in the ordinary, everyday world. He could burst into emotions and seemed childish and undisciplined. Yet he was also ambitious for academic success, studying science and aiming to achieve a civilized, prestigious life style. The Number 2 personality was much more troublesome, the "Other", identified with the stone and the secret of God’s grace. Number 2 carried meaning and seemed to stretch back into history in a mysterious manner.
Jung gravitated towards science and philosophy, winning a scholarship to Basel University to study medicine. In his second year, when he was twenty, his father died.
Jung loved his student days, and alongside medical textbooks he devoured works on philosophy, especially those of Kant and Nietzsche. He also read Swedenborg and studied spiritualism and the paranormal. He also became a member of the university debating society, the Zofingia Club, formerly an 18th century duelling society.
In what was a "flash of illumination", Jung realised that what he really wanted to do was psychiatry after reading a textbook by Krafft-Ebing. Jung’s apprenticeship in psychiatry began in December 1900 when he became an assistant at the Burgholzli Mental Hospital, a clinic attached to the University of Zurich. Jung now encountered at first hand the world of the insane, seeing inmates as dead souls in the underworld of Hades.
Outside psychiatry, Jung married Emma Ruaschenbach on 14 February 1903, seven years after first laying eyes on her and they had five children. From about 1911, Antonio Wolff became Jung’s mistress, a relationship that lasted until her death in 1952. This triangular arrangement, difficult for both women, was tolerated by them and was known to the members of the Zurich analytic circle. Emma Antonia both worked with Jung and practised as analysts.
Jung’s work with word association tests confirmed observations on the Unconscious already made by Sigmund Freud. Jung sent him a copy of his results, and in 1906 the two men began a correspondence and friendship which lasted until 1913. Their initial rapport was immense and Jung’s visit to Freud in Vienna in 1907 they talked non-stop for 13 hours.
Jung soon became a leading light in Freud’s project. He was elected the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) and became the editor of its Jahrbuch, the first psychoanalytical journal.
In 1909 Jung was designated "heir apparent of psychoanalysis", yet only four years later he became for Freud ‘that brutal and Sanctimonious Jung’. The split was dramatic and final.
After his split with Freud, Jung embarked on a perilous journey: the passage through mid-life crisis. Jung was 39 and he’d reached a dead-end. Friends and colleagues deserted him. He lost interest in scientific textbooks and he gave up his post at the university. Between 1914-1919, he withdrew from the world to explore his own unconscious.
Early in 1944, in his 69th year, Jung fell and broke his foot. Following this, he had a heart attack. In a drugged state and close to death, he fell into an unconscious delirium and had an out-of-body experience. Jung was disappointed and resented coming back to life. When Jung was allowed to sit up for the first time, he was struck by the date 4th April 1944.
After this illness and near-death experience, Jung’s principal works were written. During his seventies, that strange "something" called the soul was proving stronger than ever, and Jung was now prepared to give it voice.
To the end, Jung went on seeking for "an answer to Job": a reply to the spiritual dilemma facing modern man. Due to the wide range of his thought, Jung’s influence extends far wider than the theory and practice of analytical psychology (Jung named his method Analytical Psychology to distinguish it from psychoanalysis). He bridges the world of science (the testing of theories through empirical, clinical observation) and that of divination (the realm of spirits, omens and mythopoeic imagination).
Jung’s critics portray him as a darker figure, a tyrannical, ambitious man who wasted his wife’s fortune, someone who transgressed analytical boundaries and encouraged a court of adoring acolytes, an intellectually arrogant man, submerging everything in his own theories and that he was anti-semitic.
Jung’s wife Emma died on 27th November 1955. Ruth Bailey, an Englishwoman whom he first met on a trip to East Africa in 1925, became his housekeeper, companion and nurse until his death in 1961.
Jung continued a vast correspondence about his work and was frequently honoured throughout his old age. At the age of 85, on the last evening of his life, Jung opened and drank one of the best wines in his cellar. He died peacefully the following day, 6 June 1961, in his house on the lake.
A great storm broke across the lake in the hour following his death. The myth of Jung has only just begun.
Jung, Analytical Psychology, and Culture
The Jung Center