The importance of the lectures given by Jung at the ETH in Zurich does not need to be highlighted.
The lectures were delivered a few years after Jung’s period of self-experimentation, and at a time when Jung had begun the study of alchemy, and after he had resumed the academic career that he had abandoned in 1914.
The spectrum of knowledge covered by the cycle of lectures is impressive, as shown already in this first volume, which covers the course delivered during the winter semester 1933-1934 on the history of modern psychology.
Jung begins the lectures with his own version of the history of modern psychology, which for the first time offers a different narrative than the Freudocentric one, thus representing, at the time, a significant contribution to the fields of history of ideas and history of psychology.
Unsurprisingly, this version of history is given from Jung’s perspective, because Jung saw the development outlined here as culminating in his own psychology.
Beginning with a reference to astrology, and continuing with Descartes’ views on the soul and the monopoly of the idea of soul by the Church at that time, Jung outlines the development of ideas about the mind by philosophers from the 17th century onwards: first in Germany by Leibniz, Kant and Hegel, among others; he then follows with an outline of English 18th century philosophers and French Enlightenment thinkers. J
ung’s narrative then moves through Carus, Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, arriving all the way to the late 19th century and the contribution of thinkers like Ribot, Janet and William James.
All of this extensive historical account is given at breakneck speed in the first five lectures.
The second part of this cycle of lectures (beginning with the fifth lecture) consists of an introduction to analytical psychology, two case studies (the Seeress of Prevorst, published by Justinus Kerner, and Helene Smith, made famous by Théodore Flournoy in his From India to the Planet Mars), and the presentation of a diagram on the localization of consciousness.
In this second part, Jung also discusses the major ideas of his mature work: the objective reality of the unconscious, the atemporality and a-spaciality of the unconscious, the archetypes, and even mentions the transcendent function—a concept that Jung had written about in an essay from 1916, but which was only distributed within the Psychological Club in Zurich and was only published in 1957.
Five lectures (lectures 5 to 9) are devoted to the Seeress of Prevorst and two to Helene Smith (lectures 12 and 13), which is of considerable importance, given the influence these two case studies exerted on Jung’s thought and work.
In particular, these two works were seminal for his interpretation of mediumship, and for the seances he conducted with his cousin, Helene Preiswerk, as can be seen from the first volume of CW.
These lectures will thus be particularly useful for those interested in Jung’s views on parapsychological phenomena and visions, as they provide information about his thoughts on mediumship in the 1930s.
Interestingly enough, toward the end of the lectures Jung offers a diagram on the localization of consciousness, which the editor, Ernst Falzeder, considers to be complementary to the psychological typology published in 1921.
The diagram places the subject at the intersection of inner and outer worlds, each of which is composed of several diametrically opposed layers, in which consciousness can be located.
These layers go from the subject to objective reality, passing through the domains of the objects and ideas.
The final objective reality, be it internal or external, is here ‘the concept of God’.
Thus, this diagram allows one to locate the attitudes or psychological forms of consciousness and to follow potential movements of consciousness, for instance from the experience of the shadow to mystical experience, according to the five layers of the interior experience outlined in this model.
In this context, Jung explains the way in which he leads some of his patients towards the unconscious.
He clarifies this diagram with the examples of the Seeress of Prevorst and Helene Smith, whose cases he had just presented and analysed, as well as those of Freud, Rockefeller, the ‘normal man’, Niklaus von der Flüe, Goethe and Nietzsche.
The relation between depersonalization (or here: desubjectivisation) and inner or outer objective reality is here emphasized in an unprecedented way.
These lectures are a must read, if only for this model of the mind, which Jung does not present anywhere else.
Furthermore, readers who are more broadly interested in altered states of consciousness, or in the application of psychedelics and meditation to psychotherapy will find a captivating echo in Jung’s speculations, as these may help them work through their own models of interiority.
The lectures also show Jung as a brilliant orator and capture some of the sparkle of his humour and wittiness—something that is not always seen from the Collected Works.
Thus, one can for instance read: ‘Probably, this idea also informs cannibalism.
Ladies and gentlemen, cannibalism, however, is not practiced just for the fun of it!
Nor is it due to a lack of meat, nor the cultivation of cuisine. In actual fact it is magic’ (25).
It is also worth highlighting the abundance of patient cases he presents—some of them familiar from other works—according to the motto ‘Psychology consists of good stories!’ (88).
I must here also point out the incredible editorial work that the editor, Ernst Falzeder, has undertaken for this publication.
As no manuscript exists for these lectures, the lectures were reconstructed from different shorthand notes, written in German, as well as from the English notes edited by Barbarah Hannah and Elizabeth Welsh, so as to deliver the content as faithfully as possible, with a concern for transparency: whenever several versions differ or are not clear enough, and the editor cannot decide, he gives the content of each version—and sometimes fills in the gaps with his own research when it is a question of a particular work (for example the complicated issue of the solar circles described by the Seeress of Prevorst).
The critical apparatus adds an important dimension to the text: the footnotes sometimes take more space on the page than the original text, but this does not deprive the reading of its fluency, but rather complements Jung’s discourse, which tends sometimes to be superficial because of the extent of the topics he covers.
For example, in the first two lectures, Jung treats of the works and ideas of a plethora of thinkers: Descartes, Burckhardt, Leibniz, Wolff, Tetens, Wundt, Hartley, Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Berkeley, Hume, Priestley, Reid, Hamilton, Stewart.
Sometimes, Jung himself makes a mistake, which is dutifully corrected by the editor: for instance, on the origin of the concept of the ‘unconscious’ (32, footnote 158).
The cross-references are greatly developed, which is significant for any reader studying Jung’s work.
On this point, one finds a copious amount of references to the CW, as well as comments based on unpublished and archive material, such as letters and papers found in the ETH archives, the Protocols to Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the Zofingia Lectures or the German Seminar of 1931, soon to be published by the Philemon Foundation.
The linguistic skills of the editor are also extraordinary, notably in Latin, French and of course in German. These skills allow him to bring to the readership elements of knowledge that are not available in English alone (but only in the Gesammelte Werke for example), to rectify some translation errors (for instance in the case of the Seeress of Prevorst) and to deliver original translations from these languages.
Furthermore, some mistakes in the original student notes are also clarified and likely alternatives are proposed.
In conclusion, one finds in this volume, which is of first-rate importance in Jung History, a thrilling content, brilliantly edited by Falzeder, despite the mountain of difficulties we imagine he must have faced.
One can only hope that the next instalment of ETH lectures will be as exciting as this one, and that it will build a meaningful bridge towards Jung’s publication of Psychology and Alchemy in 1944, shedding a new light on its composition. ~Quentin Schaller