Carl Jung: I have failed in my foremost task, to open people’s eyes to the fact, that man has a soul …
[In context: “I have failed in my foremost task, to open people’s eyes to the fact, that man has a soul and there is a buried treasure in the field and that our religion and philosophy are in a lamentable state. Why indeed should I continue to exist?]
Michael Fordham recalls that in 1960, Jung had written a letter to someone in London which was “an account of how he felt he had failed in his mission – he was misunderstood and misrepresented” (1993, 119).
The letter appears to have been one that Jung wrote to Eugene Rolfe, which contained these statements:
I had to understand, that I was unable to make people see, what I am after. I am practically alone . . . I have failed in my foremost task,
to open people’s eyes to the fact, that man has a soul and there is a buried treasure in the field and that our religion and philosophy
are in a lamentable state. Why indeed should I continue to exist?
Consequently, Fordham flew out to see Jung, and assured him that the Jungians in London “were in a strong position to rebut
open misunderstandings and were striving to further recognition of his work” (1993, 119).
To this, Jung looked at Fordham “as if I were a poor fool who did not know a thing” and dismissed him.
On reflection, Fordham stated that his comments had been on a superficial level, and that had he spoken more profoundly, he would have had to tell Jung “that it was the delusion of being a world saviour that made him feel a failure – I had not the stature to do that”.
However, more can be said than this. To begin with, these statements are linked with his general pessimism concerning
the fate of the world.
As he saw it, the ultimate value of psychology was whether it could prove to be of any significance in this regard.
It is also possible to link his admission of failure to his letter to Herbert Read, which articulates the culmination of his understanding of the relation of the primitive to the modern, the individual to the collective and the import of complex psychology for the West.
For Jung, in primitive societies, the relation of the medicine man to the tribe was not simply a contingent or arbitrary social arrangement, but corresponded to an archetypic necessity.
What was required was to respond to the same necessity in a modern manner – the result being complex psychology.
For it to succeed in this task, it required the full scale recognition of the West.
No psychology has managed to achieve this. Judging by these late letters, in Jung’s own estimation, complex psychology – and psychology as a whole – had failed to make sufficient social impact, and hence failed to provide adequate antidotes to the “fathers and mothers of all terrors.” ~Sonu Shamdasani, Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology, Pages 351-352.