Carl Gustav Jung: biography and work of a spiritual psychologist.
An essential psychologist in the history of psychology.
Carl Gustav Jung was born in July 1875 in Kesswil, Switzerland, into a very religious family. He was a withdrawn and solitary child, who spent most of his childhood without being able to relate to brothers or sisters. Partly because of this fact, he used to play with elements of nature and used his imagination to weave extravagant narrative lines about everything he experienced.
However, the unusual mental associations and symbolisms that populated young Jung's mind did not limit his reign to his waking hours. Jung soon began to have very vivid dreams with a strong symbolic charge.. And, as was to be expected from someone who devoted much of his career to the study of dreams, at least one of these dreams marked him for life.
Biography of Carl Gustav Jung
When he was barely three or four years old, Jung dreamt that he was descending through a dark rectangular hole that seemed to be dug in a meadow..
When he reached the bottom of the hole, he found an arch from which hung a green curtain that seemed to close his way. Jung, moved by curiosity, pushed the curtain aside with one arm to find, on the other side, something like the royal chamber of a palace, with a high ceiling and a red carpet that described a path to an important place.
It all started with a dream
At the end of the carpet, presiding over the room, an impressive royal throne of great size, on which rested a strange creature: a monster in the shape of a tree, with the consistency of human skin and with no face but a single eye at the top of the trunk. The creature remained motionless and did not even show signs of reacting to his presence, and yet Jung had the feeling that at any moment it could start crawling on the ground and reach him quickly. At that moment, he heard his mother shout, from the entrance to the pit, "Look at him! It's the men's dining room!"
At that moment, sheer terror caused little Carl to wake up.. Many years later, he offered an interpretation of this dream based on the phallic symbolism of the subway god and that of the green veil, which shrouds the mystery. And, although it may seem that experiencing this kind of nightmare would be a very unpleasant experience, Jung came to regard this dream as his initiation into the world of mysteries, the study of religion and symbols, and the workings of what would later be called the unconscious by psychoanalysts.
Jung's predisposition towards spirituality
This dream, coupled with Jung's great imagination and curiosity towards abstract subjects from a very early age, caused him to experiment more and more with different ways of accessing the divine and the occult, usually through self-induced thoughts.
The fact that in his family there were so many people strongly related to Lutheranism and that his mother had an erratic behavior that seemed not to respond at all to what was happening in the world of the observable (as she seemed to go through episodes of dissociation from reality), led to the birth in Jung of a double spirituality: one that was Lutheran and another that was based on ideas more closely related to paganism..
Jung began to develop an extraordinary sensitivity to relate to each other sensations and ideas that apparently had little in common. This was one of the characteristic traits that defined Carl Gustav Jung's way of thinking as we know it today, and that would lead him to easily adopt the approaches of psychoanalysis.
The university period
Upon reaching his second decade of life, Jung became an avid reader. He was interested in many subjects and found reading to be an excellent pastime, so that each time he satisfied a series of doubts on a subject he was assailed by many others originating in his new knowledge base. In addition, he was interested in developing himself as a person in two different ways: in everyday or social aspects and in subjects related to the mysteries of life. Reading gave him raw material to work with in order to make progress in both areas, but his aspirations were never satisfied, which motivated him to continue his research.
Once he had reached university age, Jung decided to study medicine at the University of Basel, and did so from 1894 to 1900.and did so from 1894 to 1900. After graduating, he began working as an assistant in a hospital, and soon after he decided to specialize in psychiatry.
While working in this field, Carl Gustav Jung saw how he was able to address through his own work the two aspects he was passionate about: the Biological processes treated in medicine and the psychic and even spiritual issues. Thus, from 1900 he began to practice in a mental institution in Zurich.
The relationship between Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud
Although the psychiatry from which Jung started to work in the psychiatric clinic proposed a materialistic and reductionist vision of mental illness, he never renounced to adopt elements and formulations coming from the thematic field of spiritualism, anthropology and even the study of art. Jung believed that one could not understand the human mind by renouncing the study of symbols and their roots in the history of human culture, so he did not share Jung's view.He therefore did not share the approach of what we understand today as psychiatry.
Therefore, Jung always moved in the tension between the material and the spiritual, something that earned him not a few enemies in the academic world. However, there was one researcher with a materialistic philosophical basis who interested him greatly, and his name was Sigmund Freud.
The importance of the unconscious and symbols
This was not surprising, given the central role that the concept of "the unconscious" plays in Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Jung agreed with the neurologist that at the bottom of the human psyche dwells a realm inaccessible to consciousness that ultimately directs people's acts and thoughts, and whose force is expressed through and whose force expresses itself through primal impulses.
Jung and Freud began sending letters to each other in 1906, and a year later they met in Vienna. At their first meeting, according to Jung himself, they talked for about 13 hours.
From about the time of their first meeting, in Vienna, Sigmund Freud became something of a mentor to Jung and Freud. became a kind of mentor for the young psychiatrist, who had already taken an interest in psychiatry.who had already been interested in psychoanalysis for some years. However, although Jung was fascinated by the writings on the unconscious and impulses, he did not agree to approach the whole spectrum of mental processes and psychopathology as if everything were based on biological functions.
Jung's disagreement with Freudian thought.
This also led him to reject the idea that the cause of mental pathology is to be found in blocked processes related to human sexuality (Freud's so-called "Sexual Theory"). Thus, in a similar way to the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, Jung took a large part of the proposals of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis and added the cultural factor in the equation. added the cultural factor into the equationdisplacing the protagonism of sexual impulses.
Jung, however, went far beyond materialistic explanations, as his writings delve deeply into explanations with an obscurantist tone, aimed at explaining phenomena of a spiritual nature that are usually approached from parapsychology and certain philosophical approaches.
The unconscious, according to Jung
Jung believed that Freud's portrayal of the nature of the unconscious was incomplete without the addition of an important cultural factor. He held that in the psyche of each individual person there is indeed a very important part that can be called "the unconscious," but for Jung a part of this unconscious is, in fact, a kind of "collective unconscious. a kind of "collective unconscious" or collective memory, something that does not belong only to the individual.something that does not belong only to the individual.
The concept of unconscious collective
This collective memory is full of all those recurrent symbols and elements of meaning that the culture in which we live has been weaving over the generations. The collective memory that Jung describes, therefore, is an element that explains the similarities between the myths and symbols of all the myths and symbols of all the cultures we live in. an element that explains the similarities between the myths and symbols of all the cultures he studied, however different they may seem from each other.however different they might appear to be from each other.
These recurrent elements did not exist only as a phenomenon to be studied by anthropology, but had to be addressed by the psychology of the time, since individual minds also operate on the basis of these cultural schemas.
In this way, culture and the cultural legacy that is passed down from generation to generation remains more or less the same over the centuries, creating a foundation in which the human psyche can take root and add to it learning based on and add to it learnings based on one's individual experiences. These learnings and the manner in which they are realized, however, will be conditioned by the cultural substratum of this unconscious part of the psyche.
Jung and the archetypes
Thus, for Jung a part of the unconscious is composed of inherited memories, the raw material of culture.the raw material of culture. These memories are expressed through what Jung called "archetypes".
Archetypes are the elements that make up the collective memory, fruit of the hereditary transmission of culture. These archetypes exist as embodiments in all the cultural products made by human beings (theater, painting, stories, etc.) but they also belong to the invisible world of the unconscious of each person, as if it were something latent. As they are elements that are characterized by being of hereditary transmission, they are basically universal, and can be found in different forms in practically all cultures..
Cultural production as a key element in understanding the human psyche.
That is why Jung drew attention to the fact that in order to understand the human mind it was also necessary to study the products of the human mind, that is, its cultural productions. In this way, Jung justified the need to link psychology and anthropology, in addition to the study of the symbols used in obscurantist fields such as the tarot.
Through the archetypeswhose etymology comes from what in ancient Greek is translated as "original model", we would be able to see a glimpse of how our common ancestors, the fathers and mothers of the rest of the cultures, perceived reality. But, in addition, through its study we can know the unconscious mechanisms by which we understand and organize our reality today. Archetypes serve, according to Jung, to describe the orography of cultural nature on which our individual experiences are based.
A varied legacy
Jung proposed a way of understanding psychology that did not seem very conventional in his day, and would be even less so today.
He was a person with multiple concerns, and the nature of these sources of interest was not usually easy to describe in words. His legacy is especially alive in psychoanalysis, but also in the analysis of art.but also in art analysis and even in obscurantist studies.