Symbolic Life

It is a particular pleasure and satisfaction for me to have the privilege of speaking to you on this memorable day of the founding of an Institute for Complex Psychology.

I am honoured that you have come here for the purpose of establishing this institute of research which is designed to carry on the work begun by me.

I hope, therefore, I may be allowed to say a few words about what has been achieved up to the present, as well as about our aims for the future.

As you know, it is nearly fifty years since I began my work as a psychiatrist.

At that time, the broad fields of psychopathology and psychotherapy were so much wasteland.

Freud and Janet had just begun to lay the foundations of methodology and clinical observation, and Flournoy in Geneva had made his contribution to the art of psychological biography, which is still far from being appreciated at its true value.

With the help of Wundt’s association experiments, I was trying to evaluate the peculiarities of neurotic states of mind as exactly as possible.

In the face of the layman’s prejudice that the psyche was something immeasurably subjective and boundlessly capricious, my purpose was to investigate what appeared to be the most subjective and most complicated psychic process of all, namely, the associative reaction, and to describe its nature in numerically expressible quantities.

This work led directly to the discovery of the feeling-toned complex, and indirectly to a new question, namely, the problem of attitude, which exerts a decisive influence upon the associative reaction.

The answer to this question was found by clinical observation of patients and by analysis of their behaviour.

From these researches there emerged a psychological typology, which distinguished two attitude-types, the extravert and the introvert, and four function-types corresponding to the four orienting functions of consciousness.

The existence of complexes and of typical attitudes could not be adequately explained without the hypothesis of the unconscious.

From the beginning, therefore, the above-mentioned experiments and researches went hand in hand with an investigation of unconscious processes.

This led, about 1912, to the actual discovery of the collective unconscious.

The term itself is of a later date.

If the theory of complexes and type psychology had already overstepped the bounds of psychiatry proper, with the hypothesis of the collective unconscious the scope of our researches was extended without limit.

Not only the domain of normal psychology, but also those of racial psychology, folklore, and mythology in the widest sense became the subject-matter of complex psychology.

This expansion found expression in the collaboration with the sinologist Richard Wilhelm and the indologist Heinrich Zimmer.

Both are now dead, but our science has not forgotten the inestimable contribution they made.

Wilhelm above all introduced me to medieval Chinese alchemy and thus prepared the ground for an understanding of the rudiments of modern psychology that are to be found in the medieval texts.

Into the painful gap left by the death of these two fellow workers there stepped, a few years ago, Karl Kerenyi, one of the most brilliant philologists of our time.

Thus a wish I personally had long cherished saw fulfillment, and our science was granted a new helper.

The insights gained originally in the domains of psychopathology and normal psychology proved to be keys to the most difficult Taoist texts and to abstruse Indian myths, and Kerenyi has now supplied such a wealth of connections with Greek mythology that the cross-fertilization of the two branches of science can no longer be doubted.

In the same way that Wilhelm aroused an interest in alchemy and made possible a true interpretation of this little understood philosophy, Kerenyi’s work has stimulated a large number of psychological researches, in particular the investigation and elucidation of one of the most important problems in psychotherapy, namely, the phenomenon of the transference.

Recently an unexpected and most promising connection has been forged between complex psychology and physics, or to be more accurate, microphysics.

On the psychological side, it was first of all C. A. Meier who pointed out the common conception of complementarity.

Pascual Jordan approached psychology from the physicist’s side by drawing attention to the phenomenon of spatial relativity which applies equally to the phenomena of the unconscious.

  1. Pauli has taken up the new “psychophysical” problem on a much broader basis, examining it from the standpoint of the formation of scientific theories and their archetypal foundations.

Recently, in two impressive lectures, he showed on the one hand how the archetypal triad or trinity formed the point of departure for Kepler’s astronomy, and on the other how Fludd’s polemics with Kepler were based on the alchemical thesis of the quaternity.

The object at issue, the proportio sesquitertia or ratio of 3:1, is likewise a fundamental problem in the psychology of the unconscious.

Thirty years ago, the problem first presented itself in psychoogy as a typological phenomenon, i.e., as the relation of three more or less differentiated functions to one inferior function which was contaminated with the unconscious.

Since then it has been considerably widened and deepened by the study of Gnostic and alchemical texts.

It appears there partly in the form of the social or folkloristic marriage quaternio, derived originally from the primitive cross-cousin-marriage, and partly in the form of a differentiation in the sequence of elements, in which one or the other element, usually fire or earth, is distinguished from the other three.

The same problem appears in the controversy between the trinitarian and the quaternarian standpoint in alchemy. In complex psychology the quaternity symbol has been shown to be an expression of psychic totality, and in the same way it could be established that the proportio sesquitertia commonly occurs in the symbolism produced by the unconscious.

If, as conjectured, the quaternity or above-named proportion is not only fundamental to all concepts of totality but is also inherent in the nature of observed microphysical processes, we are driven to the conclusion that the space-time continuum, including mass, is psychically relative—in other words, that it forms a unity with the unconscious psyche.

Accordingly, there must be phenomena which can be explained only in terms of a psychic relativity of space, time, and mass.

Besides numerous individual observations the experiments conducted at Duke University by Rhine and elsewhere by other investigators have furnished sufficient proof of this.

You will forgive me if I have dwelt on the latest connections of our psychology with physics at some length.

It did not seem to me superfluous in view of the incalculable importance of this question.

To round out the position of complex psychology as it is at present, I would like to mention some major works by pupils.

These include the “Einfiihrung in die Grundlagen der komplexen Psychologic,” by Toni Wolff, a work distinguished for its philosophical clarity; the books of Esther Harding on feminine psychology;  the analysis of the Hypnerotomachia of Francesco Colonna, by Linda Fierz-David, a showpiece of medieval psychology; the valuable introduction to our psychology by Jolande Jacobi the books on child psychology by Frances Wickes, notable for their interesting material; the great book by H. G. Baynes, Mythology of the Soul; a synoptic study by Gerhard Adler; a large-scale work in several volumes by Hedwig von Roques and Marie-Louise von Franz; and finally, a work of significant content and scope on the evolution of consciousness by Erich Neumann.

Of particular interest are the repercussions of complex psychology in the psychology of religion.

The authors here are not my personal pupils. I would draw attention to the excellent book by Hans Schaer on the Protestant side, and to the writings of P. Witcutt and Father Victor White concerning the relations

of our psychology to Thomist philosophy, and finally to the excellent account of the basic concepts by Gebhard Frei, whose unusual erudition facilitates an understanding from all sides.

To the picture of the past and present I must now try to sketch out one for the future.

This can naturally take the form only of programmatic hints.

The manifold possibilities for the further development of complex psychology correspond to the various developmental stages it has already passed through.

So far as the experimental aspect is concerned, there are still numerous questions which need to be worked out by experimental and statistical methods.

I have had to leave many beginnings unfinished because of more pressing tasks that claimed my time and energies.

The potentialities of the association experiment are by no means exhausted yet.

For instance, the question of the periodic renewal of the emotional tone of complexstimulators is still unanswered; the problem of familial patterns of association ha remained stuck in its beginnings, promising though these were; and so has the investigation of the physiological concomitants of the complex.

In the medical and clinical field there is a dearth of fully elaborated case histories.

This is understandable, because the enormous complexity of the material puts almost insurmountable difficulties in the way of exposition and makes the highest demands not only on the knowledge and therapeutic skill of the investigator but also on his descriptive capacity.

In the field of psychiatry, analyses of paranoid patients coupled with research into comparative symbolism would be of the utmost value.

Special consideration might be given to the collection and evaluation of dreams in early childhood and pre-catastrophal dreams, i.e., dreams occurring before accidents, illness, and death, as well as dreams during severe illnesses and under narcosis.

The investigation of pre- and post-mortal psychic phenomena also comes into this category.

These are particularly important because of the relativation of space and time that accompanies them.

A difficult but interesting task would be research into the processes of compensation in psychotics and in criminals, and in general into the goal of compensation and the nature of its directedness.

In normal psychology, the most important subjects for research would be the psychic structure of the family in relation to heredity, the compensatory character of marriage and of emotional relationships in general.

A particularly pressing problem is the behaviour of the individual in the mass and the unconscious compensation to which this gives rise.toa rich harvest is to be reaped in the field of the humanities.

Here a tremendous prospect opens out, and at present we are standing only on its extreme periphery.

Most of it is still virgin territory.

The same applies to biographical studies, which are especially important for the history of literature.

But above all, analytical work remains to be done on questions concerned with the psychology of religion.

The study of religious myths would throw light not only on racial psychology but also on certain borderline problems such as the one I mentioned earlier.

In this respect, particular attention would have to be paid to the quaternity symbol and the proportion sesquitertia, as exemplified in the alchemical axiom of Maria, both from the side of the psychologist and from that of the physicist.

The physicist may have to consider revising his concept of spacetime, and for the psychologist there is need of a more thorough investigation and description of triadic and tetradic symbols and their historical development, to which Frobenius has contributed valuable material.

Comprehensive studies are also needed of symbols of the goal or of unity.

This list, put together more or less at random, makes no claim to completeness.

What I have said may suffice to give you a rough idea of what has already been achieved in complex psychology and of the direction which future researches conducted by the Institute might be expected to take.

Much will remain a mere desideratum.

Not all of it will be fulfilled; the individual differences of our workers on the one hand, and the irrationality and unpredictability of all scientific development on the other, will see to that.

Happily, it is the prerogative of any institution with limited means, and not run by the State, to produce work of high quality in order to survive. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 471-476