Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture I 20th April 1934

I will begin with some explanations of how the ideas which I spoke of in the last semester came into being.

When we speak of psychology, we enter an infinitely wide and complicated sphere.

It is not like other sciences which have their definite boundaries.

It is a significant fact that there is an American University which publishes a volume about psychology every year under the title of: “Psychologies of 1904” and so on.

Psychology consists of a number of individual beliefs and not of fixed systems, but beliefs always strive to become the generally valid truth, and these convictions often become exaggerated.

Many varying opinions exist about psychology because it has so many different aspects.

Psychology is concerned with the psyche in which everything primarily originated.

Nothing exists which was not psychic once.

This desk, for instance, was once an image in someone’s mind.

This building first existed as the phantasy of some architect; they both originated in someone’s psyche.

There is nothing which man has done, thought or undertaken which has not originated in the psyche.

Our experience also is above all psychic.

In fact, we can only experience through the psyche.

The only immediately perceivable is psychic: a psychic image, and this is the only basis of experience.

“I find this to be so and so”, that is th e first truth.

Reality is the reality of our experience, of our perception, it is our perception which is real and which colours the character of reality for us.

If you can make yourself formulate your experience, you have the outlines of your own psyche.

There is, naturally, an outer world, and things which stand outside our psyche, but psychology is essentially the science of the directly experienced, and everything else which can happen is neither direct nor immediate.

When you burn yourself, for instance, by touching a hot iron, the process is not simple but highly complicated.

Pain requires certain affections, of the nerves, brain etc., but a large part of the re action is unconscious; what the pain really looks like and where it is in the nerves or brain – that one does not know.

As psychology is such a fundamental matter it naturally touches other sciences: pedagogy and philosophy,
for instance.

Its widespread character gives rise to numerous misunderstandings.

The psyche appears to everyone as that which is reality to him and it takes an exceedingly long self-education
to see that one’s own experience is not the general experience.

This is such a hard task that some people give it up altogether, and for this reason they are glad to limit and confine psychology.

Here I must point out a paradoxical truth, that the psyche is a general phenomenon and also a personal thing.

There is nothing living except the individual, there is no life except individual life but, since the individual is the bearer of life, it is also universal.

The psyche experiences itself and is at the same time a general phenomenon; everything that exists depends on this fact.

Moral and religious hypotheses are an important factor in our lives, we are dependent on them.

Some we really consciously share, others we do not, some indeed we fight against, and yet they influence us.

They come from our milieu, our culture, our speech.

Moreover, the earth influences the psyche.

Man is greatly influenced by where he is born; a European born in the colonies is colonial, there is something about him which is not quite in tune in Europe.

Very difficult psychological problems arise from this fact.

You see this especially in the English who have been born in the colonies, and in Americans, on account of the Indians who are indigenous to their soil.

These things are exceedingly important for one must treat such people differently.

An Englishman needs quite different treatment from a Frenchman.

Different conditions can even modify the skeleton.

In a family of seven children, four of whom had been born in Hamburg, and three in America, the latter looked real Americans.

I once watched the men leaving a factory in Buffalo and thought what a lot of Indian blood they must have, but the American doctor I was with assured me that they had none.

Even their skulls had changed and taken on Indian form.

When I was in Africa I watched my own dreams going black, and I observed that many of the Europeans who had settled there were in a nervous condition.

The poison of “going black” was working in them.

You can see signs of this in their houses, the crockery is chipped, the pictures are crooked, everything is untidy and has a ramshackle look.

Natives never look you in the face; only the medicine man does this, the others are probably afraid of the evil eye; and Europeans in the process of “going black” never look at you either, and develop a strange motion of the eyes.

The natives are able to see a great deal which is hidden from the European.

A friend of mine was nearly killed by a mamba which he did not s e e but which was quite visible to the natives.

I observed my own eyes rolling once when I was botanising in the jungle, it is as if the unconscious got into the eyes in order to reveal the hidden dangers of the jungle.

One of the most frequent assumptions regarding psychology is that it is a kind of cookery book which tells “how one must make it”.

There can be no cookery book and we must make our own recipes.

Otherwise we are like the American mother who took her child on her knee in order to punish it and had to hold
it there while she found the right place in her book on education in order to see what to do next!

Psychology is no arbitrary matter, it is more a phenomenology that consists of many realities which have to be accepted as they are.

This is exceedingly difficult.

There are many facts in psychology which are very irritating.

One cannot help saying: “This should not be so, it should be otherwise”, because one is hit by it and has a personal judgment.

An ther great difficulty in psychology is the presentation of its facts and of the material.

We must necessarily represent them in ordinary every-day language, but that gives an image which is highly unsatisfactory to the audience.

One should really describe every single one of these facts in its own language in order to make it intelligible.

These things app ear differently to everyone, and beyond that the languages we use are very poor in psychological nuances.

The French language is the worst of all, it is far too clear and definite,

English is better, and German is comparatively good because of its indefinite character; Chinese would be the best of all for this purpose.

The fundamental outlines of psychological truths cannot be expressed in concepts or ideas, only very indefinite formulation is suitable to them.

The sharper and more definite a formulation is, the less it expresses a psychological idea.

Nothing is simple in psychology, the psychological unit is always a complexity, nothing psychic can be isolated.

It is therefore peculiarly difficult to explain ones elf in terms that really describe anything.

We are surrounded by the opposites in psychology so that the language we use should hold a double meaning. ~Carl Jung, Lecture I, 20April1934, Pages 93-95.