The Influences of Jung

"The Influences of C.G. Jung"

J.C. Macek III

Psychology 404.10


Dr. Jean H. Hollenshead

The Influences of C.G. Jung

Carl Gustav Jung was influenced by literature, symbolism, religion, and the occult From a very young age. Jung’s influencs remained with him as he became a doctor of medicine and a psychological theorist. The philosophical, the supernatural, the symbolic, the religious, and the occult all influenced Jung’s area of psychological expertise, making Jung’s psychology not only unique to Jung, but also pioneering in the field of general psychoanalysis.

In Ernest Gallo’s article "Synchronicity and the Archetypes. (Carl Jung’s Doctrines)", Gallo cites that Jung was "deeply drawn to the occult" (Gallo, 1994). Jung’s younger cousin, Helen Preiswerk, had the ability to actually shatter knives in a drawer "with a loud bang" (Gallo, 1994). This and other similar cases caused Jung to write his medical dissertation about occult phenomena using this cousin as his subject. Gallo continues by citing that "while Jung was arguing with Freud about psychic phenomena, a loud noise emanated from a bookcase; Jung predicted that it would be repeated and was highly impressed when this portentous prediction came true." (Gallo, 1994). Jung also reported that "he saw the vision of a face half buried in the pillow next to him" (Gallo, 1994). Despite Jung’s lack of doubt toward these experiences, Gallo says that "Jung was far more than a simple occultist." (Gallo, 1994), and that Jung was "engagingly skeptical about his wilder speculations" (Gallo, 1994).

The son of a Protestant Minister, Jung also had ties to western religion. Ties that showed themselves in his beliefs and writings (Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia). Jung cited the importance of the unconscious as a religious channel in his psychological studies. To Jung "the unconscious [is] the only medium in which one can experience God" (Abstracts, 1976, 10:19). It is therefor dangerous for humans in general to ignore the unconscious. Jung writes "Not only will Ignorance of the unconscious deprive him of the religious experience, it will also blind him to his capacity for evil, hence making possible for this evil to be projected and depriving him of his capacity to deal with it." (Abstracts, 1976, 10:19). Despite Jung’s insistence that psychology be "empirical and phenomenological rather than philosophical or metaphysical" (Abstracts, 1976, 11.1), Jung believed that psychologists must take religion into account in the analytic process as "it represents one of the most ancient and universal expressions of the human mind" (Abstracts, 1976, 11.1). Jung’s concept of "meaningful coincidence" is tied to the spiritual as well. This is evidenced when "At certain moments of heightened spiritual awareness, the archetypal meaning structure that spans the mind and the world flashes into visibility" (Gallo, 1994). Jung even goes so far as to suggest that religion is an integral aspect of the healing process. In fact, "Jung asserts that many neuroses are never cured unless the religious factor is restored." (Moreno, 1970, p. 79). Jung says that "’side by side with the decline of religious life, the neuroses grow noticeably more frequent…" (Moreno, 1970, p. 79). Jung explains that "examination of the spiritual side of the patient is recommended as a means of a cure." (Abstracts, 11:35). Furthermore, Jung maintains that "both religious and philosophical convictions are considered extremely valuable for the psychotherapeutic process, especially the Christian view of original sin and suffering." (Abstracts, 16:6). On the subject of The Self, Jung establishes that "the self produces a symbolism that is identical to the symbolism produced by human religious activity." (Moreno, 1970, 128). Jung explains this with "psychology does have to reckon with the existence of a God-image. Consequently it seems probable that the archetype of wholeness occupies a central position which approximates it to the God-image, for it produces a symbolism which has always characterized and expressed the deity." (Moreno, 1970, 128). For Jung, ignoring God in the lives of humans can lead to ultimate despair. "The reason for this contemporary destitution resides in the purely intellectual approach to man that disregards the needs of the unconscious and makes man as such into an absolute." (Moreno, 1970, 210). When one judges his or her surroundings by human standards one damages The Self severely. Antonio Moreno quotes Jung as saying, "’this narrowness of consciousness is always the shortest way to an insane asylum…‘" (Moreno, 1970, 210). While it is a fact that Jung believed that "the lack of religion is the source of many neuroses," (Moreno, 1970, 213), Jung did not subscribe to the belief that simple religious conversion could and would be a definitive cure-all, because "devout people… are suffering from scrupulosity, fears, obsessions, compulsions, and many symptomatic manifestations of mild acute neurosis." (Moreno, 1970, 213). Seeing as how "some neuroses are caused by factors and circumstances foreign to religion " (Moreno, 1970, 213), it is clear that "religion is not an infallible guarantee of mental health." (Moreno, 1970, 213). Taking in to account other agents "like trauma, worries, failures, family difficulties" (Moreno, 1970, 213) etceteras, it is clear that while Jung had a strong religious belief, in life and therapy, he did not believe that religion is the be-all and the end-all of all of psychology. Spirituality, to Jung, may have may have been a key factor in mental health therapy, but he did also believe that science must be approached empirically.

In Jung’s own words, "The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man. Failure to understand them, or a shrinking of ethical responsibility deprives him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life." (Bookshelf 1996-97). It is clear that Jung placed great emphasis on the symbolic images of the unconscious, the understanding of which leads ultimately to mental health. In the article "Symbols in Jungian Psychotherapy", Verena Kast explains that "We experience symbols in dreams, fantasies, works of art, infatuation, everyday life, folktales, myths, and symptoms. When we have once felt the impact of a symbol on our lives, we begin to orient ourselves and understand our lives in terms of the symbol." (Kast, 1996). Jung himself says that "’All the difficulties you overcome in… a fantasy are symbolic expressions of psychological difficulties in yourself, and inasmuch as you overcome them in your imagination you also overcome them in your psyche." (Kast, 1996). These fantastic symbols are, to Jung, actually archetypal images that are similar to those symbols that all humans hold within their psyche. The symbols are, according to Jung, "repressed or forgotten content of an individual’s mental and material life" (Bookshelf 1996-97), and are housed within the portion of the psyche that Jung referred to as the collective unconscious, "those acts and mental patterns shared either by members of a culture or universally by all human beings" (Bookshelf 1996-97). The primordial images Jung says all humans experience in some form or another "correspond to such experiences as confronting death, or choosing a mate and manifest themselves symbolically in religions, myths, fairy tales, and fantasies." (Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia). To more specifically define what these primordial archetypes really are, Jung writes "a word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider ‘unconscious’ aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained." (Jung, 1964, p. 20). Jung sees this wider meaning as the reason that religious institutions utilize symbols to better get across their meanings. If the symbol is indeed universal, the meaning will be grasped by the masses better than with simple empirical perceptions. "Man… never perceives anything fully, or comprehends anything completely." (Jung, 1964, p. 21), says Jung, these symbols are therefor necessary in many areas to greater experience reality. From a therapeutic standpoint, Jung’s symbols are used to interpret the psyche. "’The best way of dealing with the unconscious is the creative way. Create… a fantasy.’" (Kast, 1996). Jung suggests that a patient work out life’s little problems within a fantasy exactly as that patient would in real, inescapable life. Jung maintained that problems worked out in fantasy could be overcome in real life, as symbolically the subconscious houses life’s problems for the most part. (Kast, 1996).

Jung appears to have been influenced by English and classical literature as well. Jung found literature to be a psychological process which includes the process of materials being "drawn from man’s conscious life; and the visionary dealing with primordial images that transcend human understanding." (Abstracts, 1976, 15:7). Jung found that the archetypal symbols he worked with could, quite naturally, be found in the works of various ages. "It is to be expected… that the poet will turn to these mythological images to give suitable expression to his own experiences." (Abstracts, 1976, 15:7). The illustrious Doctor Herbert R. Coursen has found various possible sources of Jung’s beliefs in the literary works of the ages. For instance, the function of the symbolic in the unconscious is found in many different works. Coursen writes in his opus The Compensatory Psyche: A Jungian Approach to Shakespeare "The dream is a psychic friction that would impede the easy progress of mere ego. It is our nature, however, to dismiss dreams as meaningless, even as Oedipus dismisses Tiresias: ‘Yes, lead him away. While you remain you get in my way. When you are gone, you won’t bother me anymore.’ Or, as Caesar turns from the Soothsayer: ‘He is a dreamer. Let us leave him.’" (Coursen, 1986, p. vii). Coursen goes on to point out that "Jung and Shakespeare share… the context of the ‘psychology of Christianity,’ and each, obviously draws heavily on that construct. It is an inherited tradition that Shakespeare and Freud share less directly." (Coursen, 1986, p. viii). This shows the common influences of Shakespeare and Jung. Another Jungian concept which Shakespeare utilized long before his time is "Shakespeare’s awareness of dream as a prime expression of psychic content." (Coursen, 1986, p. viii). As further proof that Jung’s archetypes are universal and long running, Coursen points out that "Fascinating as the metaphors invented by the great 20th century explorers into the soul and psyche may be, they are mere flickers on the uneven wall of Plato’s cave." (Coursen, 1986, p. 189). Coursen shows other "Jungian" elements in Shakespeare with his words "The extroverted Kings, Henry IV and Henry V, suffer invasions from their repressed feelings, each attack characterized by a sleepless exploration of the enormous hollowness that extroversion has achieved. The Jungian approach accounts for seeming inconsistencies in characters like Hamlet and Claudius and for changes in characters like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, as repressed elements surface and have their way with consciousness." (Coursen, 1986, p. 190). James Joyce’s Ulysses is another work which was a the least scrutinized by Carl Jung. Jung’s analysis suggests that "At the end, Ulysses’ Masculine creative power turns into feminine acquiescence --- ‘The External Feminine/ Still draws us on.’ Ulysses’ is considered the distillation of new, universal consciousness." (Abstracts, 1976, 15:8). While it is unclear to what extent Jung was actually influenced by the great literary works of history, is quite clear that certain elements generally accepted as Jungian have been with readers for quite some time before Jung put his pen to paper.

Jung’s vastly varying influences have helped shape a psychology that has influenced a great many scholars, theorists, psychologists, and doctors of various specialties. These contributing elements to Jung’s psychology have influenced these same people vicariously. While still maintaining an empirical stance Carl Gustav Jung has taken the influential elements of literature, symbolism, religion, and the occult, and has formed these raw, primordial factors into a psychoanalytic system unparalleled by Jung’s peers, or his successors.

Sources Abstracts of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung. (1976). Rockville, Maryland: Princeton University Press.

Bookshelf 1996-97 [Computer program]. (1996). Microsoft.

Coursen, Herbert R. (1986). The compensatory Psyche: A Jungian Approach to Shakespeare. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Gallo, Ernest (Summer 1994). Synchronicity and the Archetypes. (Carl Jung’s Doctrines). Skeptical Inquirer, pp. 396 - 404.

Jung, Carl G., & von Franz, M.-L. (1964). Man and his Symbols. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc.

Kast, Verena (1996). The process of individuation. Retrieved June 17, 1997 from the World Wide Web:

Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia [Computer program] (1995). Microsoft.

Moreno, Antonio (1978). Jung, gods, & Modern Man. London: Sheldon Press.

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