April 20, 1958
What Makes a Man the Way He Is?
By JOOST A. M. MEERLOO
The last surviving giant of modern psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, will be 83 years old this July. It is amazing how fervently for or hostilely against Jung modern psychologists and psychoanalysts still show themselves to be when they discuss him and his work. I remember vividly a psychiatric meeting at which Jung was the principal speaker. At the beginning nearly everyone, in a skeptical spirit, traded jokes and little fibs about him. Yet when he started to speak, all were fascinated by his words and personality. There was something about his metaphysical impact on people that we scientists sought to escape but could not when we were face to face with him.
Perhaps it is this characteristic of Jung that has created the most animosity among his contemporaries. Even Edward Glover, the Freudian theoretician, in his diatribe against Jung (“Freud or Jung?”), calls him an enigma.
I must confess that I started to read these two volumes by Jung–one a newly published volume in his collected works dealing with oriental thought, the other with the contemporary crisis of man– with the same smug reservation many scientists feel when confronted with the ideas of another school of thought. I must acknowledge that, like many people, I tend to distrust what I cannot understand and verify with fact and theory. We suppose that everything must have a known cause. It is a fearful thing to live in the world of the unknown, beyond the edges of theoretical clarification. And this is, of course, the area into which Jung’s theories and inquiries have taken him. In attacking rational knowledge, in speaking in the tongue of a prophet, he forgets that science has to be built on verifiable facts and concepts.
The danger in learning about psychology and psychoanalysis through one particular set of concepts is that the neophyte will become so involved and entangled in it that it will be well-nigh impossible for him to shake loose his allegiance to his master, along with that master’s very human prejudices and blindness to the theories of rivals. But more and more the differing schools are acknowledging that the study of man’s souls must be approached from various angles. Increasingly it is realized that the time is about here for final integration and clarification of concepts.
Another cause of confusion and disagreement in the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis is language. As Freud developed the new depth psychology, several of his students and collaborators, showing all the convulsive signs of maturation and rebellion against the patriarch, attempted to fly out of his nest. In their attempt to appear original and in their struggle for individuation–to use a Jungian term–they gave new, involved names to concepts that were similar, thus producing more confusion than clarity.
Usually their criticisms and reproaches of one another were actually misrepresentations of one another. Yet however detestable, unreadable, and unquotable these schools found one another, they subtly influenced each other–and will continue to influence each other until the crisis in the evolution of psychological thought is passed.
Jung is one of these rebellious collaborators, of course, but with a difference. He and Freud employed different idioms, but both showed a poetic and creative touch in their choice of words.
The difference in the concepts of Freud and Jung is best illustrated in the way they considered man. Freud emphasized him in the present, Jung looked at him in a timeless, creative sense. Where Freud described a nearly unfathomable personal unconscious, Jung postulated a far wider unconscious for man in the collective sense, a subterranean storeroom for symbols, myths and fairy tales that represented inherited patterns of thought. Freud emphasizes the psychology of “here and now”; Jung is concerned with man taking shape under the burden of history, myth and eternity. For Freud the creative molders of man are the tensions of Eros; for Jung man’s spiritual core is determined by religious experience, by transcendental experience and by an unsophisticated self-composure.
Psychoanalysis, as created by Freud, ushered in a new understanding of man. It taught us to see that in our daily life we are aware of only a small, superficial portion of him; most of his psychic life remains hidden beneath the surface. He brought man down from his pedestal as the godlike molder of life. He revealed the hidden bias in every man and the intricate interdependence of body and mind.
Though Freud, the empiricist, shattered the picture of man as a mere rational being, he himself lived too much in the age of causal Darwinian thinking to inquire into comparable oriental concepts of man. Jung’s merit is that he was not bound by the assumptions of “the rational thinker.” Occupying himself more and more with myths and legends, he built up an audacious system of concepts often incapable of being verified empirically.
Jung demonstrates his vast knowledge of mythical lore and offers his conclusions about oriental thought in the seventh volume of this collected works, a volume intended especially for student and scholar, “Psychology and Religion: West and East.”
Nowhere else than in this study of the interplay of East and West is the point so forcefully made that man’s cultural past somehow molds his feelings and thinking as well as his highly contrasting attitudes toward reality. Occidental culture makes an ideal of the rational, thinking, individual being who lives in a vacuum separate from his fellow men. The Orient sees man more as a part of a family or group, continually participating, living in mystic interpretation with each other.
The volume contains Jung’s famous treatises on Western and Eastern religion and his “Answer to Job,” in which the struggle between good and evil in man is illustrated through the epic story of Job, who expected God to help him against God. Yet, the Biblical poem is the expression of total acceptance of life. “Naked came I forth out of my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The best example of the combination of Jung’s intuitive grasp and psychological intuition is his foreword to Suzuki’s “Introduction to Zen Buddhism,” which in itself is one of the finest treatises about Zen that I have read.
In “The Undiscovered Self,” a rather small monograph published last summer in Switzerland under the title “Gegenwart und Zukunft,” Jung, the archaeologist of the psyche, puts aside for the moment the final edition of his collected works to take a look at the distress of the Western world and the agonies of the entire planet. At the age of 82 he has the right to offer a capsule view of such a large subject. R. F. C. Hull’s translation is excellent and reads even more smoothly than the German original.
Jung inquires what the psychic forces are that today divide our world into two armed camps, ready to jump at each other at any moment. Why, in the midst of towering organizations, institutions and machines, is the individual lost and forgotten?
Jung’s response is a passionate plea for individual integrity and for freedom against intrusion upon it by mechanical forces and political majorities. He asks for an awareness of the uniqueness of the individual that can be understood neither by generalizations nor by statistics.
Thus Jung turns from scrutiny of the collective self to the far more important question of the meaning of the individual self. No wonder that he repeatedly quotes his former friend and teacher Freud. He has traveled a long way from that time in his life when he was infected by the collective mysticism of the Nazi ideology, when he postulated a creative Aryan collective unconscious opposed to a destructive Semitic unconscious. Now he recognizes that only through a study of the crisis within the individual and the widening gulf between his conscious and unconscious aspects can we improve our understanding of the crisis in society.
Jung does not write about the individual and the mass as contrasts. Both elements are represented in every living person. It is the lack of awareness of man’s duality and inner contrasts that may lead to uncontrolled outbursts, as in the time of the Nazis. The hope of increasing the control of the destructive forces within man lies in increasing man’s image of self, of his individuality and his feelings of inner freedom and inner confidence. It is here that the ego psychology of Freud and the thought of Jung again parallel each other.
Jung closes his treatise with a moving message: “I am neither spurred on by excessive optimism nor in love with high ideals, but am merely concerned with the fate of the individual human being–that infinitesimal human unit on whom a world depends, and in whom, if we read the meaning of the Christian message aright, even God seeks his goal.
It is not that present-day man is capable of greater evil than the man of antiquity or the primitive. He merely has incomparably more effective means with which to realize his proclivity to evil. As his consciousness has broadened and differentiated, so his moral nature has lagged behind. That is the great problem before us today.–The Undiscovered Self.” ~Joost A. M. Meerloo, New York Times, April 20, 1958.