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The Impact of Jung’s Ideas on American Universities

Contact with Jung: Essays on the influence of his work and personality

Jung’s views have been presented occasionally in graduate programs of a few universities and colleges, and in courses which had to do with various points of view in depth psychology or personality.


Generally, however, his contributions have not been taken seriously in working out a final scientific attitude.


It is possible that a systematic attempt to present Jung’s insights is taking place only in one college program, and even in this instance Jung’s ideas have come to be presented only after a long development of a program combining both philosophy and  psychology, which made it advantageous to use the relatively new material involving considerations of the unconscious and depth psychology.


Jung’s thinking is in line with a long tradition in the world of thought.


As one who began in the nineteen-twenties to teach the philosophy of Heraklitos, Parmenides, Plato, Plotinos, Descartes,  Berkeley, Leibniz, Kant, the English idealists, Schiller, James, Bowman, and others and, in psychology, James, McDougall, and Murphy, I found no difficulty in following the remarkable new findings of Jung.


My first serious contact with Jung occurred at a seminar of Fritz Kunkel’ s, where I was introduced to James Kirsch.


After some conversations, Kirsch stated that I did not seem to be following Kunkel’ s ideas, but that I sounded like a Jungian.


Yet I had not studied Jung.


It was not surprising later to find Jung himself warmly responsive to the contributions of the above-mentioned philosophers.


But, in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, such viewpoints had to be presented so objectively that individuals who became convinced of the value of this tradition of thought had to continue their search for the self in a too limited and objective way; thus omitting the enormous values available through consideration of the unconscious.


When Jung’s empirical ideas became available in the ‘forties, there was, of course, a very changed world outlook and a greater susceptibility to his ideas.


In any case, Jung finally opened up a possible new way of life and thought.


There were many reasons why Jung’s contributions to contemporary thought and to the solution of the deeper problems of personality emerged rather late in the mental life of higher education in the United States.


His work, Studies in Word Association (1906-09), was known by psychologists usually in relation to Freud’s concepts of the unconscious; and, otherwise, only in general experimental situations.


His Psychology of the Unconscious (1943) suffered in translation; and, furthermore, presented an approach so foreign to the existing intellectual atmosphere that it was not widely enough read and used, even by psychologists.


Thus, Jung’s insights, as they have become understood during the past thirty years or more, have penetrated very slowly into the of college thinkers in the United States.


There has always been great resistance to concepts which are at variance with conscious-collective thought.


Granted, even now, that Jung’s new illuminating views become finally accepted, and particularly that of the importance of the quest for the self; that,

for example, the recognition of opposites, the creativity of the unconscious, archetypes, and the rest become part of a new acceptable view of reality; there will remain, as in the past, the need for the individual to realize his own individuation process, as analysis clearly demonstrates.


So another inspired prophet may have to come along to meet later collective outlooks.


Presenting Jung’s concepts, then, in actual classroom situations, or to members of the faculty and other professional workers, makes manifest the varying degree of understanding and readiness to accept that one would find at any period in the development of thought, when revolutionary ideas are presented.


As would be expected, there are a few who consistently resist Jung’s suggestions.


The Impact of Jung’s Ideas on American Universities as ‘not making sense’.


On the contrary, some grasp the new ideas easily as ‘making a lot of sense’ and, hence, become eager for further knowledge.


The majority, of course, form a group in between these two extremes, with some individuals finally realizing the significance of the new ideas and others falling by the wayside as they become lost in struggling to understand such new symbols.


Something of this sort occurs in analysis, too, with a relative few who continue to develop their insights.


Jung is a ‘way-shower’ and the ‘way is narrow’.


The majority of college students and faculty will accept only a few ideas which fit in with their own systems of conscious reflection, and will not go far into the application of them to self-development.


The ‘broad way’ has always been worldly in direction, or in terms of the ‘not-self’, for, as Jung has pointed out many times, there is a natural resistance to confronting the promptings of the unconscious.


In retrospect, it should be borne in mind that, during the first decades of the twentieth century, nineteenth-century materialism was still permeating not only the points of view of intellectuals but the attitudes of the population as a whole.


Jung’s references to the strong effect this nineteenth-century materialism had on Freud’s outlook will be recalled.


It is no small wonder, then, that Freud with his adherence exclusively to temporally defined conditions should have a far easier time being accepted by college and university thinkers than Jung, who introduces the importance of ‘symbols’ in experience in contrast to the more easily defined and

readily understood ‘signs’ of Freud.


Those who confronted the extreme ‘objectivists’ with the original insights of Jung were said to be mystical or vague.


In psychology as a science, the attitude of those who tried to develop an acceptable standpoint for this new science, rather than continue with the ‘schools’ of psychology, gradually fell in with some form of the approach of Behaviorism regardless of the acceptance also of concepts from other ‘schools’.


Thus, today, psychology is usually defined as a science of behavior.


Thence, the very tangibleness of the objectively perceived proved so attractive that there was a strong tendency to reject data of the mind or psyche, derived from meditation, introspection, or analysis.


Such data were felt to be subjective rather than objective and, therefore, unsuitable to science.


Freudian concepts were much more readily understood than those of Jung, and were gradually integrated.


Medicine, too, had already had time to consider the discoveries of Freud and to integrate them into psychiatric thinking.


Medically trained individuals are usually prone to prefer the perceivable and specifically definable types of ideas such as Freud has to offer.


Jung’s ideas were not quickly grasped; hence, were resisted.


Perhaps Freud’s summary of his own feelings about Jung’ s ideas, as expressed in his History of the Psycho-analytic Movement (19r4), portrays accurately the initial attitude of those in medicine and psychology when confronted with the suggestions of Jung.


Freud stated in effect that Jung’s views were unscientific, vague, and mystical.


Gradually, however, there came about a greater receptivity and acceptance of Jung’s more comprehensive approach.


Central in the advancement of Jung’s ideas in the field of college teaching is the importance of demonstrating the effect the unconscious attitude has upon the reception by the mind of ideas and resulting viewpoints.


John Dewey discussed this question on a conscious basis in his work How We Think (1933), but the new possibility suggested by Jung of showing how the unconscious affects ideas and how projections follow is far more challenging.


Perhaps this is due to the arousal of feelings I have been involved with unconscious resistances, as contrasted with the colder logic of Dewey’s approach.


In any case, by being shown the effect of unconscious projections upon the objective manifold of experience, many thoughtful individuals are led to realize an entirely new point of view in which the activity of the mind or psyche becomes a necessary part of reality.


This is a step toward the recognition of opposites, and opens the way to a later consideration of the place of archetypes.


But far more important is the recognition of the ‘autonomy’ of the unconscious.


Frequently, thinkers are greatly impressed by the realization of forces influencing their minds which are not mere responses to egocontrolled



If Jung’s findings had done nothing else than furnish this wedge in the solid position of extreme intellectualism with its highly plausible claim to ‘scientific attitude’, they would have been a major contribution in the development of human thought.


However, individuals who have found such a new The Impact of Jung’s Ideas on American Universities possibility are anxious to find more.


At this point, the powerful effect of Jung’s extreme empiricism becomes fundamentally vital.


College thinkers are quite used to following logical sequences.


Parenthetically, so are theologians and people affiliated with organized religions.


Most thinkers acquire, as part of their training in mental discipline, the capacity to compare and contrast various conflicting hypotheses.


Jung goes beyond such conceptual manipulations and arouses the minds of the thinkers to see emergent and novel ideas.


This has the effect of making a rigid objectivism less secure.


One important approach to Jung in the field of academic psychology is by means of relating his concepts to an already existing comprehensive approach, such, for instance, as Gardner Murphy presents in his work, Personality (1947).


Murphy’s suggestions as to the logic of a category of’ self’ beyond a mere ‘ego’; his recognition of the need for considering personality as a whole,

rather than as a mere abstraction; his emphasis upon natural processes in reality leading to the possible emergence of the self; his treatment of the dreamer, creativity, etc., make a place for Jung’s concepts without real contradiction.


Students have responded warmly to the comparison and contrast of the two approaches, with Jung adding the supplementary implications from the unconscious and other clinical material that further develop Murphy’s own views.


In fact, this may be the most important approach in academic circles: to start with some existing system of thought, and lead on to the empirical limitations in it according to how Jung’s ideas may be applicable.


On the whole, it is these very omitted, or overlooked, data and experiences that become realized.


This is basic when one considers what Jung is saying.


In teaching about personality adjustment there are, of course, many possible approaches and many kinds of goal for different considerations of the subject.


One workable approach, however, even for many as inexperienced as sophomores, is through a representation of the importance of the shadow in personality development, and the anima-animus possibilities which carry the student beyond mere concrete sex in considering his problems.


Admittedly, it is best to have more mature students, perhaps the more mature the better; but relatively immature students have caught insights into new possibilities for themselves.


It is always wise to be as concrete as possible in representation, and there should be no effort to urge anyone to get more than a partial grasp of what Jung has to say, but a fair preliminary grasp of the contents of Two Essays (1953), Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933), and The Undiscovered Self (1957) is within the reach of many students.


There are some colleges and universities that allow courses on objective, non-doctrinal treatments of the religious experience, and here is one area of experience wherein Jung is of profom1d value.


The reading ofJung’s work on Psychology and Religion: West and East (C.W., n), with discussions and reports on such portions as the Answer to Job (1952), comes as a revelation to many who are interested in examining the nature of the religious experience.


Comparing the effect of this with introducing students to concepts from philosophical sources, as I have done over a period of many years, shows the tremendous influence Jung can have if the way can be found to present him in the right context.


There need be no emphasis at all upon changing anyone’s accepted religious affiliations.


Those who undertake the study of the psychology of religion in a college program enter of their own free will and accord.


Changes are individual experiences and in accordance with the nature of the personalities who study.


Many agnostically inclined find their first insights into religious poss1biht1es.


As a final statement, it may be said that a place for Jung very definitely exists in the field of college teaching.


The magnitude of Jung’s possible contributions can hardly be assessed at the present time.


Some who are aroused seek analysis, and it seems to be perfectly justifiable to expect this as a possible outcome of teaching.


Faculty members, also, might be expected to follow their own discoveries of Jung with a search for individuation.


There are, of course, other approaches but, fundamentally, Jung has opened up a new way for the Western mind of today, and it is already

beginning to make its values apparent. ~E.V. Tenney, Contact with Jung, Pages 157-162