Prolegomena to a History of Jung’s Influence

_”I stand isolated between the faculties and must depend on someone else to seriously concern himself with this line of research, which up until now has happened only in a very few cases.”

This sober statement, not without bitterness, by Jung at the age of eighty-five agrees with those extremely pessimistic remarks in which the founder of analytical psychology complained of how little he was read and how seldom-so far at least-understood, and that he had had to resign himself “to being posthumous.”

The reference to Meister Eckhart, who had had to wait six centuries, was cold comfort.

The prospects of the young psychiatrist at the Burgholzli in Zurich and the designated “crown prince” of Sigmund Freud had once seemed extremely optimistic, considering his acceptance in the United States (from 1909) and the first, to be sure still tentative reception of the specifically Jungian expressions of research and therapeutic methods in depth psychology.

But to the extent to which Jung was able to expand the horizon of his knowledge to the transpersonal and collective unconscious and the world of archetypal reality, the intellectual-and even more, spiritual-demands on his audience also increased.

So long as one pursues a relatively conscious or ego-centered psychology, the possibility of easier calculability and verifiability is offered, and ratio is assured of a relatively high tribute.

One can point, as happens in classical psychoanalysis, to the personal unconscious with its mechanisms of defense and repression, or to traumatic experiences in one’s own past, and thus to actual events that one has undergone as a suffering person, whose burden one carries.

All this is indisputable, and this makes “science” possible.

It becomes very much more difficult when the horizons are widened and deepened.

Quite new demands arise the moment one “digs deeper,” and incorporates the experiences of humanity, those factors which have normally been recorded in the spiritual and religious traditions of humankind.

This much more complex way of looking at things requires an outstanding extension of the conscious horizon.

One must take the step from the everyday, dissociated, divided ego to the Self which represents a spiritual and psychic completeness or wholeness.

It is important not only to interpret this Self, but to walk the path toward self-development, or individuation.

The human being can no longer remain what he is, but must-out of fateful necessity-become what his essential nature makes him.

Thus a psychology oriented to the self-becoming of man no longer remains bound to the past with its early traumatic impressions and its instinctive fate, but opens a vista on the dimension of the future.

Hence such a “therapy” means not the removal of troublesome symptoms in order to make the person simply “functional” or conform to the existing norms of the community.

To psycho-analysis is added psycho-synthesis; wholeness comes into the picture, not at the expense of the ego, but in the extension of the ego and the inclusion of the Thou personal, social, and humanistic.

For true self-becoming is not brought about apart from reality as it is lived and to be lived; rather the world of one’s fellow humans and things represents-as we have seen-the indispensable transit stations of individuation.

All this explains why Jung’s analytical psychology is more “difficult” than many another therapeutic practice, and certainly more taxing, for it lays claims upon the whole person.

But because of this it is also quite literally more promising.

Hence the Jungian way need not shrink from comparison with a path of spiritual knowledge along which processes of initiation are passed through.

So it is understandable that Count Karlfried Durckheim, for example, in the essential points of his Initiation Therapy, not only referred to Jung but shared in his discoveries.

But such paths of knowledge must not only be known about; they must also be traveled.

Undoubtedly, this points to Jung’s innermost concern, individuation as a path to self-development, which is not only to be considered from the therapeutic standpoint but has to do with the maturation of the personality and the discovery of meaning, and thus reaches deep into the spiritual and religious.

What had once begun in the field of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic activity found its full expansion into cultural and religious life.

At first Jung’s activity naturally affected his patients and students.

Not a few of them became his collaborators, after experiencing in themselves the effectiveness of his “treatment.” Concepts like “complex” and “archetype,” “extraversion” and “introversion”-along with a number of others-found entry into common parlance, even though Jung’s typology fell into the critical crossfire just as the doctrine of the archetypes or his introduction of the term “collective unconscious.”

If the objection was occasionally raised that Jung’s psychology was more a psycho-mythology, if it was even equated with a religious-psychological worldview or substitute religion, its relationship to praxis must not be forgotten.

The methodical foundations Jung provided should be remembered, beginning with the association test, which attracted great notice in the professional world in his early period; through the method of active imagination, by which the contents of the unconscious can be activated; down to the style of dream interpretation with its subject and object levels; that is, it turned out to be important and practicable to distinguish clearly whether the images and figures in a dream are to be connected with the subject himself or whether other, external objects are meant.

Jung’s methods of painting or artistic representation from the unconscious were adopted or modified by other therapists.

In group therapy-as is little known-Alcoholics Anonymous received a decisive impulse from Jung.

Since the origins, influence, and further development of analytical or complex psychology have been presented by others-for example, Gustav R. Heyer, Henry F. Ellenberger, Carl A. Meier, Hans Dieckmann, and Eberhard Jung-a general overview may be justifiable here.

As a line of psychological research and method of therapy, the work of C. G. Jung has taken its place in the cultural canon, so that in many respects it has gone beyond itself and forms a bridge to other disciplines.

This corresponds to the need of all those who endeavor to overcome the one-sidedness of a purely natural-scientific and technically oriented style of knowledge, working to avoid alternatives that are unproductive because they exclude other perspectives, be they nature versus spirit, conscious versus unconscious, Western thought versus Eastern spirituality.

Jung’s intensive concern with symbols, myths, and archetypes-seemingly unusual at first sight-provided aids to understanding not only for the grasp of psychic phenomena.

Above all they made available building blocks and “catalysts” with whose help seemingly disparate groups of problems and fields of endeavor could be reached.

In the forum of the Eranos conferences which have taken place for over half a century, interdisciplinary conversation (as discussed above) was and is preserved in an exemplary way, when natural scientists of various specializations, mythographers, religious scholars, anthropologists, and not least theologians entered the dialogue.

Under the rubric of a scarcely less grandly conceived “synopsis” -not synthesis!

The International Community of Physicians and Ministers (today the International Society for Depth Psychology) has been active from Stuttgart since 1949.

Here every year adherents of the various schools of depth psychology come together to talk with theologians as well as members of related occupations.

Its founder, the physician and psychotherapist Wilhelm Bitter, took pains from its inception to see that the side of Jungian psychology remained represented.

Much like the above-mentioned Eranos Yearbook, the annual conference reports give a glimpse into the work carried on there.

A considerable share of the fruitfulness of depth psychology and the dialogue with it undoubtedly falls to the theology of the various denominations (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox), to the extent they are in a position to transcend all-too-narrow confessional and denominational bounds.

It is astonishing and at the same time moving to follow by means of the two volumes of letters the passion with which C. G. Jung wrestled with the theologians for years, whether expounding upon his position and defending himself against dogmatic shortsightedness or stressing the long neglected factor of religious experience.

Shortly before his death he still appeared delighted to receive from John A. Sanford of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Los Angeles a copy of a sermon which spoke from the heart to him and his experience.

In his reply of 10 March 1961 Jung wrote:

It is a historical event, as you [John A. Sanford] are-so far as my knowledge goes-the first one who has called the attention of the Christian congregation to the fact that the Voice of God can still be heard …. The understanding of dreams should indeed be taken seriously by the Church, since the cura animarum is one of its duties, which has been sadly neglected by the Protestants ….The pilgrim’s way is spiked with thorns everywhere, even if he is a good Christian, or just therefore.

One might also think of how fruitful an effect Jung’s understanding of symbols, his doctrine of the archetypes, had on theologians of the rank of Paul Tillich, whether because the experience of Self corresponded to that of God, or because quite new approaches to biblical exegesis were opened up by archetypal psychology.

Thus Jung’s resigned assertion about his supposed isolation is very much less justified at the threshold of the third millennium than it was at the end of his life.

Still, statements like those found in “The Undiscovered Self: Present and Future,” one of his last major works, are nonetheless worth pondering in this connection:

Just as man, as a social being, cannot live in the long run without being connected with the community, so too the individual finds the real justification for his existence, and his own spiritual as well as moral autonomy, nowhere but in an extramundane principle that is capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors. The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance, on the strength of his own resources, to the physical and moral sway of the world. For this man needs the evidence of his own inner, transcendent experience ….

And elsewhere in the same text:

I am convinced that it is not Christianity, but the conception and interpretation of it hitherto, that is antiquated in the face of the circumstances of today’s world. The Christian symbol is a living being that carries the seeds of further development within itself. It can continue to develop, and it depends only on whether we can decide to meditate once again, somewhat more thoroughly, on the Christian premises ….  ~Gerhard Wehr, Jung: A Biography, Pages  486-491