A Guided Tour of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Robert Hopeke titled this book A Guided Tour of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung, and that is precisely what it is: a Michelin Guide to a major region of the European intellectual tradition—the mind and work of Carl Gustav Jung—and specifically to the twenty imposing volumes of his Collected Works (1953-1979).
Interestingly enough, Jung’s Collected Works themselves constitute a guided tour of a realm, and it is this realm, which Jung almost alone of the great thinkers of his century has explored, that makes the possession of a key to his mind and work so valuable a tool. Jung is the great explorer of the area known variously as “the imagination,” “the invisible world,” “the world of dreams,” “the psyche,” and “inner space.” In his own terminology, it is the unconscious, and in particular the “collective unconscious,” that he explores.
The Jungian writer D. Streatfeild puts the matter forcefully in his book Persephone: A Study of Two Worlds (1959). “There exists,” he writes, “an inner world, which lies ’outside’ our personal minds, and in which they are contained in exactly the same way as our bodies are contained in the outer world.” It is the realm of those great images (Jung calls them archetypes) which all humankind carries in the back of its mind,” and which emerge in dreams in times of imbalance or accelerated growth, and figure largely in the myths and religions of the world.
Were Jung merely another disciple of Sigmund Freud with his own slight variation on the Master’s general theme that people often act from unconscious motives, his work might command less attention than it does. But Jung is more than a minor Freudian: Arguably, he is the Plato of the age, and the collective unconscious he explores the most vital unexplored territory in the world.
This is an unpopular opinion in many circles, and it is unpopular precisely because Jung’s interest does not lie in the world of sight (whose realities are objects, whose psychology is behaviorism, and whose bottom line is the dollar) but in the realm of vision (whose realities are dreams, whose psychology is archetypal, and whose bottom line is love).
Sight or vision? A world devoid of spirit, or a world imbued with it? The inner or the outer life? It is not that Jung recommends the inner over the outer, spirit in preference to matter, but that he sees the inner as having equal reality with the outer, as holding equal sway over human life.
Specifically, Jung suggests that fixation on the external world of things and accomplishments to the exclusion of the inner world of values and meanings deprives life of its richness—of joy and sorrow both—leaving it both bland and unsatisfactory. Furthermore, he suggests, the inner world will have its revenge, for the laws of the human psyche are as immutable as any other laws of nature, though closer to the bone than some. Failure to pay attention to the powerful energies of the inner world—of dream and inspiration—causes them to go sour and turn against one. Unexpressed tenderness becomes irritable sensitivity, for example. And so the rich pathology of neurosis unfolds.
There are many ways to approach the thought of C. G. Jung, perhaps the most obvious being to consider him as a disciple of Freud who went beyond his master in the exploration of the unconscious. How, then, would one navigate his works?
The route into those twenty volumes via Freud leads through volume 4, Freud and Psychoanalysis (1961), perhaps, to volume 5, Jung’s first great study of the collective unconscious, Symbols of Transformation (1956). Here, however, one encounters an impasse, for volume 5 of the Collected Works is a major rewriting of an earlier work. Jung penned this extensive revision of his Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido in 1952, having written the original work some forty years earlier.
The Collected Works, then, contain the latest versions, not all the versions, of Jung’s various writings. They can offer the reader a wide view of Jung’s thought, but not of the historical stages in its development. Indeed, they do not include such crucial works as the autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963) and VII sermones ad mortuous: The Seven Sermons to the Dead (1967), a “channeled” visionary prose poem which contains the first appearances of many of the motifs that would be important in his later work.
Granted, then: The twenty volumes of the Collected Works offer a less than ideal collection of Jung’s total output. How is one to get about these twenty volumes without becoming impossibly entangled in them? Again, much depends on the reason for a given reader’s interest in Jung.
To approach Jung via Freud is to take a historical and psychological avenue; but many readers approach Jung because certain of...
(The entire section is 2050 words.)
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