The work of Carl Gustav Jung (yoong) defies exact classification. A psychologist by training and profession, Jung conceded that medicine was for him a detour from his primary preoccupations, religion and philosophy. Jung always insisted that he was an empirical scientist, dedicated to the objective study of all psychic manifestations, but his psychological theories and therapeutic methods—called analytical psychology—ultimately led him back to his first loves. Jung’s erudition encompassed an astonishingly vast collection of subjects: world mythologies, history of religion, theology, mysticism, the occult, Eastern thought, philosophy, physical science, history of science, and art. Although he claimed to be scientific, his writings overflow with speculations, supernatural accounts (often personal), and mysticism; this is especially true of his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Jung is probably best known for his theory of the collective unconscious and its contents, the archetypes. He also originated the much debated concept of synchronicity, a noncausal but meaningful connective principle that has application all the way from parapsychology to the physics of the atom. In short, Jung developed a psychology of human culture—a universal psychology.
Jung’s father, Johann Paul Achilles Jung, was a Protestant minister who had studied Oriental languages but whose intellectual development, as his son later judged, had been stunted by Christian dogma. This kind of dogmatic sterility, which no longer provides the living mythological symbols necessary to mediate the archetypes of the collective unconscious, later became Carl Jung’s chief concern. From about the age of eleven, Jung found himself drawn to philosophy, especially questions concerning metaphysics and the existence of God. Reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781) convinced him that any pure reality that lay beyond conscious psychic categorization was in principle inaccessible to human reason (although in later life he sometimes expressed doubts about this theory). What mattered was God’s existence as psychic reality. Jung chose medicine as his occupation because it seemed to him that only scientific psychology permits meaningful and factual statements to be made on such matters.
After receiving his medical degree in 1902, Jung joined the staff at the Berghölzli psychiatric clinic at...
(The entire section is 988 words.)