Symbolic Life

It is a pleasure to comply with the author’s wish that I should write an introduction to her book.

I have read her work with the greatest interest, and am gratified to find that it does not come into the category of those sententious books, bristling with prejudices, which expatiate on the psychology of women with gushing eloquence, and finally overflow in a sentimental hymn to “holy Motherhood.”

Such books have another unpleasant characteristic: they never speak of things as they are, but only as they should be, and instead of taking the problem of the feminine psyche seriously, they conveniently gloss over all the dark and disagreeable truths with advice that is as ineffectual as it is patently good.

Such books are not always written by men—if they were they might be excusable—but many are written by women who seem to know as little about feminine feelings as men do.

It is a foregone conclusion among the initiated that men understand nothing of women’s psychology as it actually is, but it is astonishing to find that women know nothing of themselves either.

However, we are only surprised as long as we naively and optimistically imagine that mankind understands anything fundamental about the psyche.

This is indeed one of the most difficult tasks the investigating mind can set itself.

The latest developments in psychology how with ever-increasing clarity not only that there are no simple formulas from which the world of the psyche might be derived, but that we have never yet succeeded in defining the field of psychic experience with sufficient exactitude.

Despite the immense surface area, scientific psychology has not even begun to break down the mountain of prejudices that persistently block the way to the psyche as it really is.

Psychology is the youngest of the sciences and is suffering from all those childhood ailments which afflicted the adolescence of other sciences in the late Middle Ages.

There still exist psychologies which limit the field of psychic experience to the consciousness and its contents, or understand the psyche as a purely reactive phenomenon without any trace of autonomy.

The fact of an unconscious psyche has not yet gained undisputed acceptance, despite an overwhelming mass of empirical material which proves

beyond all doubt that there can be no psychology of consciousness without a recognition of the unconscious.


Lacking this foundation, it is impossible to deal with a psychological datum that is in any way complex, and the actual psyche we have to deal with in real life is complexity itself.


Consequently, a psychology of woman cannot be written without an adequate knowledge of the unconscious background of the mind.


Drawing on her rich psychotherapeutic experience, Dr. Harding has sketched a picture of the feminine psyche which, in scope and thoroughness, far surpasses previous works in this field.


Her presentation is refreshingly free from prejudice and remarkable for the love of truth it displays.


Her arguments never lose themselves in dead theories and fanatical fads, which unfortunately are so frequently met with in this field of work, and she has succeeded in penetrating with the light of knowledge into crannies and depths where before darkness prevailed.


Only one half of feminine psychology can be grasped with the aid of biological and social concepts, and in this book it becomes clear that woman possesses a peculiar spirituality very strange to man, to which Dr. Harding has devoted a special chapter.


Without a knowledge of the unconscious this new aspect, so essential for an understanding of the psychology of woman, could never have been brought out with such clarity and completeness.


The fructifying influence of the psychology of the unconscious is also evident in many other places in the book.


At a time when the divorce rate has broken all records, when the relation of the sexes has become a perplexing problem, a book like this seems to me of the greatest help.


To be sure, it does not provide the one thing everybody expects—a generally acceptable recipe for solving this dreadful tangle of questions in a simple and practical way, so that we need rack our brains about it no longer.


On the other hand, the book contains an ample store of what we actually need very badly, and that is understanding—understanding of psychic facts and conditions with the help of which we can orient ourselves in the complicated situations of life.


1799 Why after all do we have a psychology? Why is it that we are especially interested in psychology just now?


The answer is that everyone is in desperate need of it.


Humanity seems to have reached a point where the concepts of the past are no longer adequate, and we begin to realize that our nearest and dearest are actually strangers to us, whose language we no longer understand.


It is beginning to dawn on us that the people living on the other side of the mountain are not made up exclusively of red-headed devils who are responsible for all the evil on this side of the mountain.


A little of this uneasy suspicion has filtered through into the relations between sexes; not everyone is utterly convinced that everything

good is in “me” and everything evil in “you.”


Already we can find super-moderns who ask themselves in all seriousness whether there may not be something wrong with us, whether perhaps we are too unconscious, too antiquated, and whether this may not be the reason why when confronted with difficulties in sexual relationships we still continue to employ with disastrous results the methods of the Middle Ages if not those of the caveman.


There are indeed people who have read with horror the Pope’s Encyclical on Christian marriage,  and yet must admit that for cavemen our so-called

“Christian” marriage is a cultural step forward.


Although we are still far from having overcome our prehistoric mentality, which enjoys its most signal triumphs just in the sphere of sex, where man

is made most vividly aware of his mammalian nature, certain ethical refinements have nevertheless crept in which permit anyone with ten to fifteen centuries of Christian education behind him to progress towards a slightly higher level.


On this level the spirit—from the biological point of view an incomprehensible psychic phenomenon—plays a not unimportant role psychologically.


It had a weighty word to say on the subject of Christian marriage, and it still participates vigorously in the discussion whenever marriage is doubted and depreciated.


It appears in a negative capacity as counsel for the instincts, and in a positive one as the defender of human dignity.


Small wonder, then, that a wild and confusing conflict breaks out between man as an instinctual creature of nature and man as a spiritual and cultural being.


The worst thing about it is that the one is forever trying violently to suppress the other in order to bring about a so-called harmonious solution of the conflict.


Unfortunately, too many people still believe in this procedure, which is all-powered in politics; there are only a few here and there who condemn it as barbaric and would like to set up in its place a just compromise whereby each side of man’s nature is given a hearing.


But unhappily, in the problem between the sexes, no one can bring about a compromise by himself alone ; it can only be achieved in relation to the other sex. Hence the need for psychology!


On this level, psychology becomes a kind of special pleading—or rather, a method of relationship.


It guarantees real knowledge of the other sex instead of arbitrary opinions, which are the source of the incurable misunderstandings now undermining in increasing numbers the marriages of our time.


As a weighty contribution to this striving for a deeper knowledge of human nature and for a clarification of the confusion in the relations between the sexes, Dr. Harding’s book is heartily to be welcomed. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 807-810