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Symbolic Life

The author of this book, who studied analytical psychology in Zurich a few years ago, has asked me for a few introductory words to his work.

I accede to his request with all the more pleasure as I was not bored but decidedly delighted by reading his book.

Books of this kind are often of a very dry, though learned and useful, character.

There are indeed not a few of them, because, together with the discovery of a new empirical psychology, the modern scientific mind has become interested in what were formerly called “curiosites et superstitions des peuples sauvages,” a field formerly left to missionaries, traders, hunters, and geographical and ethnographical explorers.

A rich harvest of facts has been gleaned and gathered up in long rows of volumes even more formidable than Sir James Frazer’s Golden Bough series.

As everywhere in the science of the nineteenth century, the collection type of method has prevailed, producing an accumulation of disconnected and undigested facts which in the long run could not fail to make a survey almost impossible.

Such an ever increasing accumulation, here as well as in other sciences, has hindered the formation of judgment.

It is a truism that there are never facts enough, but, on the other hand, there is only one human brain, which only too easily gets swamped by the boundless flood of material.

This happens particularly to the specialist, whose mind is trained to a careful consideration of facts.

But when judgment is required the mind must turn away from the impression of the facts and should lift itself to a higher level from which a survey becomes possible.

One might almost say: as a rule the higher standpoint is not given by the specialized science but by a convergence of viewpoints from other scientific realms.

Thus the understanding of primitive psychology would have remained an almost insoluble task without the assistance of mythology, folklore, history, and comparative religion.

Sir James Frazer’s work is a splendid example of this composite method.

It is rather astonishing that among the co-operating sciences psychology seems to be lacking.

It was, however, not completely absent.

Among the many who tried to tackle the problems of the primitive mind, no one has done so without psychology.

But the psychological point of view employed by each investigator was his own—just as if there were only one psychological standpoint, i.e., the author’s own psychology.

Seen from Tylor’s point of view, animism is quite obviously his individual bias.

Levy-Bruhl measures primitive facts by means of his extremely rational mind.

From his standpoint it appears quite logical that the primitive mind should be an “etat prelogique.”

Yet the primitive is far from being illogical and is just as far from being “animistic.”

He is by no means that strange being from whom the civilized man is separated by a gulf that cannot be bridged.

The fundamental difference between them is not a difference in mental functioning, but rather in the premises upon which the functioning is based.

The reason why psychology has hitherto rendered so little assistance to the explorer in the vast field of primitive psychology is not so much the natural disinclination of the specialist to appeal to principles outside his particular domain as the fact that a psychology which would be really helpful simply did not exist.

The psychology that is needed must be a psychology of the complex functions, i.e., a psychology that does net reduce the complexities of the mind to their hypothetical elements, which is the method of experimental or physiological psychology.

The first attempt at a complex psychology was made by Freud, and his essay Totem and Taboo was one of the first direct contributions of the new psychology to the investigation of the primitive mind.

It matters little that his attempt is nothing more than an application of his sexual theory, originally gleaned from pathological minds.

His essay nevertheless demonstrates the possibility of a rapprochement between psychology and the problem of the primitive mind.

Sometime before the work above mentioned, I undertook a similar task that eventually led me to the primitive mind, but with a very different method.

While Freud’s method consisted in the application of an already existing theory, my method was a comparative one.

I have reason to believe that the latter yields better results.

The main reason is that our new psychology is in no way advanced enough to present a theory of the mind that would have universal application.

With modesty we can claim no more than the possession of sound facts and some rules of thumb which might prove useful in the attempt to master the problem of the primitive mind.

Mr. Aldrich, I observe, has made use of his studies in analytical psychology, to the advantage of his research.

His sane and balanced opinions, equally distant from the Charybdis of dry empirical enumeration of facts and the Scylla of deduction from arbitrary premises, owe their vitality and colour in no small measure to a consideration of analytical psychology.

I am sure that the analytical psychologist will welcome Mr. Aldrich’s book as one of the most vivid and clear presentations of the primitive mind in its relation to civilized psychology.

I may also express the hope that the co-operation of the psychologist will prove its usefulness to all students of primitive psychology who approach their subject from the ethnological standpoint. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 561-563