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Carl Gustav Jung: biography and work of a spiritual psychologist

Carl Gustav Jung: biography and work of a spiritual psychologist

March 30, 2024

Carl Gustav Jung was born in the month of July 1875 in Kesswil, Switzerland, in the bosom of a very religious family. He was a withdrawn and lonely child, who went through much of his childhood without being able to relate to brothers or sisters. Partly because of this fact, he used to play with elements of nature and used his imagination to weave extravagant narrative lines about everything he experienced.

However, the unusual mental associations and the symbolisms that populated the mind of young Jung did not limit his reign to the hours he spent awake. Jung started very soon to have very vivid dreams and with a strong symbolic charge . And, as expected from someone who devoted a large part of his career to studying the dream, at least one of these dreams marked him for life.

Biography of Carl Gustav Jung

When he was only three or four years old, Jung dreamed that he was descending through a dark rectangular hole that seemed to be dug in a meadow. .

When he reached the bottom of the hole, he found an arch from which hung a green curtain that seemed to block his path. Jung, moved by curiosity, pulled aside the curtain with one arm to find, on the other side, something like the royal chamber of a palace, with a high roof and a red carpet that described a path to an important place.

It all started with a dream

At the end of the carpet, presiding over the room, an impressive royal throne of great size, on which reposed a strange creature: a tree-shaped monster, the consistency of human skin and no more face than a single eye on top of the trunk. The creature remained motionless and did not even show signs of reacting to his presence, and yet Jung had the feeling that at any moment he could crawl on the ground and catch up quickly. At that moment, he heard his mother shout, from the entrance to the pit: "Look at him! It's the men's room!"

At that moment, pure terror caused little Carl to wake up . Many years later, he offered an interpretation of this dream based on the phallic symbolism of the subterranean god and that of the green veil, which covers the mystery. And, although it may seem that experiencing this kind of nightmare is a very unpleasant experience, Jung came to consider that this dream was his beginning in the world of mysteries, the study of religion and symbols, and the functioning of what most later it would be called the unconscious by psychoanalysts.

The predisposition towards Jung's spirituality

This dream, together with the great imagination and curiosity towards abstract subjects that Jung had from a very early age, caused him to experiment more and more with the different ways of accessing the divine and the occult, normally through self-induced thoughts.

The fact that in his family there were so many people strongly related to Lutheranism and that his mother had an erratic behavior that seemed not to respond at all to what happened in the world of the observable (as it seemed to go through episodes of dissociation of the reality), it caused that Jung was born double spirituality: one that was Lutheran and one that was based on ideas more related to paganism .

Jung began to develop an extraordinary sensitivity to relate to each other feelings and ideas that apparently had little in common. This was one of the characteristic features that defined the way of thinking of Carl Gustav Jung as we know him today, and that would lead him to adopt with ease the approaches of psychoanalysis.

The university period

When you reach your second decade of life, Jung became an avid reader . He was interested in many subjects and found reading an excellent hobby, so that each time he satiated a series of doubts about a subject he was assaulted by many others originated in his new knowledge base. In addition, he was interested in developing as a person in two different senses: in everyday or social aspects and in subjects related to the mysteries of life. The reading allowed him to have raw material with which to work to make progress on both sides, but his aspirations never came to be satisfied, which led him to continue investigating.

Once he had reached the age of going to college, Jung opted to study medicine at the University of Basel , and he did so from 1894 to 1900. When he finished, he began working as an assistant in a hospital, and soon after he decided on a specialty in psychiatry.

Exercising in this field, Carl Gustav Jung saw how he was able to approach through his own work the two aspects that he was passionate about: the biological processes treated in medicine and the psychic and even spiritual subjects. Thus, from the year 1900 he began to practice in a mental institution in Zurich.

The relationship between Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud

Although the psychiatry from which Jung started to work in the psychiatric clinic proposed a materialist and reductionist vision of mental illness, he never renounced to adopt elements and formulations from the thematic field of spiritualism, anthropology and even the study of art. Jung believed that you could not understand the human mind by renouncing the study of symbols and their roots in the history of human culture , so he did not share the focus of what we understand today as psychiatry.

Therefore, Jung always moved in the tension between the material and the spiritual, something that won him not a few enemies in the academic world. However, there was a materialist philosophical base investigator who was very interested in him, and his name was Sigmund Freud.

The importance of the unconscious and symbols

No wonder, given the central role that the concept of "the unconscious" has in the psychoanalytic theory of Freud. Jung agreed with the neurologist that at the bottom of the human psyche inhabits an area inaccessible by the conscience that ultimately directs the acts and thoughts of people and whose strength is expressed through primary impulses.

Jung and Freud began to send letters in 1906, and a year later they met in Vienna. In their first meeting, according to Jung himself, they were talking about 13 hours.

More or less from their first meeting, in Vienna, Sigmund Freud he became a kind of mentor to the young psychiatrist , who had already been interested in psychoanalysis for a few years. However, although the writings on the unconscious and the impulses fascinated Jung, he did not agree to approach the whole spectrum of mental processes and psychopathology as if everything were based on biological functions.

Jung's discrepancy with Freudian thought

This also led him to reject the idea that the cause of mental pathology is in blocked processes related to human sexuality (the so-called "Sexual Theory" of Freud). That is why, in a similar way as the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson did, Jung took a large part of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis proposals and added the cultural factor in the equation , displacing the protagonism of sexual impulses.

Jung, however, went far beyond the materialist explanations, since his writings go deep into explanations with an obscurantist tone, oriented to explain phenomena of a spiritual nature that are usually approached from parapsychology and certain approaches to philosophy.

The unconscious, according to Jung

Jung believed that Freud's portrait of the nature of the unconscious was incomplete without an important cultural factor. He maintained that in the psyche of each individual person there lives, indeed, a very important part that can be called "the unconscious", but for Jung a part of this unconscious is, in fact, a a kind of "collective unconscious" or collective memory , something that does not belong only to the individual.

The concept of unconscious collective

Is collective memory It is full of all those symbols and elements of recurrent significance that the culture in which we live has been woven throughout the generations. The collective memory that Jung describes, therefore, is an element that explains the similarities between the myths and symbols of all the cultures that he studied , however different they seem to be.

These recurrent elements did not exist only as a phenomenon to be studied from anthropology, but they had to be addressed by the psychology of the time, since individual minds also operate based on these cultural schemes.

In this way, the culture and the cultural legacy that is transmitted from generation to generation it remains more or less the same over the centuries, creating a base on which the human psyche can take root and to add on it learnings based on the individual experiences of each one. These learnings and the way in which they are performed, however, will be conditioned by the cultural substrate of this unconscious part of the psyche.

Jung and the archetypes

So, for Jung a part of the unconscious is composed of inherited memories , the raw material of culture. These memories are expressed through what Jung called "archetypes."

The archetypes are the elements that make up the collective memory, the result of the hereditary transmission of culture.These archetypes exist as a manifestation in all the cultural products made by the human being (theater, painting, stories, etc.) but also belong to the invisible world of each person's unconscious, as if it were something latent. As they are elements that are characterized by being of hereditary transmission, they are basically universal, and can be found in different forms in virtually all cultures .

Cultural production as a key element to understand the human psyche

That is why Jung called attention to the fact that to understand the human mind one also had to study its products, that is, its cultural productions . In this way, Jung justified the need to relate psychology and anthropology, as well as the study of symbols used in obscurantist environments such as the tarot.

Through the archetypes , whose etymology comes from what in ancient Greek is translated as "original model", we would be able to see a glimpse of how our common ancestors, the fathers and mothers of other cultures, perceived reality. But, in addition, through its study we can know the unconscious mechanisms through which we understand and organize our reality today. The archetypes serve, according to Jung, to describe the orography of cultural nature on which our individual experiences are based.

A very varied legacy

Jung proposed a way of understanding psychology that at the time did not seem very conventional, and that today would be even less so.

He was a person with multiple concerns, and the nature of these sources of interest was not usually easy to describe with words. His legacy is especially alive in psychoanalysis , but also in the analysis of art and even in studies of the obscurantist type.

Carl Gustav Jung - In His Own Words Documentary 1990 (March 2024).

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