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Carl Jung and Erich Fromm



With Erich Fromm, who had openly voiced his aversion to Jung since the mid-thirties, as with Paul J. Stern after him, Jung rose to the status of “prophet of the unconscious.”

But as such-as Fromm attempted to portray him-he had not proclaimed prophetic wisdom but rather, and this with regard to the tension-filled thirties, produced only the “naive assertions of a reactionary romantic,” or perhaps a ruthless opportunist.

To be sure, Fromm also did not hesitate to attribute all sorts of contributions and advances, beyond Freud, to his unliked colleague from Zurich.

But his contempt could hardly have been more appalling when he wished-subliminally!-to make Jung jointly responsible for the contemporary intellectual crisis of modern people:

“The majority, of course, still cling to religious conceptions, but for most these conceptions have become empty formulas, and no longer the expression of a reality to which they feel tied. Under these circumstances Jung’s lack of commitment and authenticity is fascinating to many who find themselves in the same situation. With his

blend of outmoded superstition, indeterminate heathen idol worship, and vague talk about God, and with the allegation that he is building a bridge between religion and psychology, Jung has presented exactly the right mix to an age which possesses but little faith and judgment.”

With this he nearly attained Ernst Bloch’s level of Jung-defamation.

With some bewilderment Rainer Funk, in his carefully edited edition of Fromm’s works, noted how surprised many readers continually were at the sharp, not to say shameful statements on the part of the great Jewish social philosopher.

Funk suspected some “very personal reservations.

One cause of these might also be the fact that Jung had been able to attract many-and above all wealthy-people with his psychology in the United States …. ”

From being a critic of Freud, Fromm quickly became his apologist, concluding:

“Although psychoanalysis has much to thank him [Jung] for, essentially he disregarded the central core of it, the search for truth and the deliverance from illusions,

and replaced it with a seductive spirituality and a brilliant obscurantism.”

Indeed, he said, for Freud there was at least still the category of truth; Jung equated God with the unconscious.

The problem of truth, or truthfulness, did not exist for him at all.

How particular Fromm himself was about the truth can be read a few lines further on, where he purported to unveil Jung’s past at the time of the Third Reich:

“Jung praised the Nazis as long as they were winning, and when they lost the war he turned away not only from the Nazis but the whole German people. In his personal conduct he displayed a lack of conscience and veracity.”

This could only have been written by one ignorant of the facts.

While these statements were. written when the accused could no longer defend himself(!), Fromm’s criticism that Jung’s concept of truth was “untenable” was an old one.

It was found in the lectures which Fromm presented at Yale University in 1949-the same Terry Lectures to which Jung had been invited twelve years earlier.

In a brief statement Jung had published on another occasion (London, 1958), he recalled that it lay outside the reach of people to make absolute assertions, although it was ethically imperative to be fully responsible for one’s own subjective truth.

Every human judgment, however great one’s subjective conviction might be, is subject to error, especially judgments which deal with transcendental subjects.

Fromm’s philosophy, I am afraid, has not yet gotten past the level of the twentieth century; but man’s drive to power and his hubris are so great that he believes in an absolutely valid judgment.

No scientifically thinking man with a sense of intellectual responsibility can afford such arrogance. ~Gerhard Wehr, Jung: A Biography, Pages 472-476