Carl Gustav Jung was born in July 1875 in Kesswil, Switzerland, into a very religious family. He was a withdrawn and lonely child, who lived much of his childhood without being able to have relations with brothers or sisters. Partly because of this, he played with elements of nature and used his imagination to weave extravagant narrative lines out of everything he experienced.
However, the unusual mental associations and symbolisms that populated young Jung’s mind did not limit his reign to the hours he spent awake.
Jung quickly began to have very vivid dreams and a strong symbolic charge.. And, as you would expect from someone who has devoted a large part of their career to studying dreams, at least one of those dreams marked him for life.
Biography of Carl Gustav Jung
When he was only three or four years old,
Jung dreamed he was descending through a dark rectangular hole that appeared to be dug in a meadow.
When he got to the bottom of the hole, he found an arch from which hung a green curtain that seemed to block his path. Jung, moved by curiosity, parted the curtain with one arm to find, on the other side, something that looked like the royal chamber of a palace, with a high ceiling and a red carpet representing a path to a place. important.
It all started with a dream
At the end of the carpet, presiding over the room, an impressive large royal throne, on which rested a strange creature: a monster in the form of a tree, a skin of human consistency and no more face than a single eye at the top of the trunk. The creature stood still and didn’t even show any signs of reacting to its presence, and yet Jung felt that at any moment he could start crawling on the ground and get it quickly. At that moment he heard his mother scream from the entrance to the pit: “Look! This is the men’s dining room!
At this moment,
sheer terror woke little Carl. Several years later, he offers an interpretation of this dream based on the phallic symbolism of the underground god and that of the green veil, which covers the mystery. And, although it may seem that experiencing this kind of nightmare is a very unpleasant experience, Jung came to regard this dream as his start in the world of mysteries, the study of religion and symbols, and the functioning of what will later be called the unconscious by psychoanalysts.
Predisposition to Jung spirituality
This dream, coupled with the great imagination and curiosity for abstract subjects that Jung had from an early age, made him experiment more and more with the different ways of accessing the divine and the occult, usually through self-induced thoughts.
The fact that in her family there were so many people strongly linked to Lutheranism, and her mother had erratic behavior that did not seem to fully respond to what was happening in the observable world (as it seemed to go through episodes of dissociation from reality), gave birth to a double spirituality in Jung: one that was Lutheran and another that was based on ideas more related to paganism.
Jung began to develop an extraordinary sensitivity in relating to each other feelings and ideas that seemingly had little in common. It was one of the characteristic traits which defined Carl Gustav Jung’s way of thinking as we know it today, and which would lead him to easily adopt the approaches of psychoanalysis.
The university period
After reaching its second decade of life,
Jung became an avid reader. He is interested in many topics and finds reading an excellent pastime, so that whenever he allays a series of doubts about a topic, he is assailed by so many others coming from his new one. database. In addition, he was interested in developing as a person in two different ways: in everyday or social aspects and in matters related to the mysteries of life. Reading gave him raw material to progress on both sides, but his aspirations never materialized, which prompted him to continue his research.
Once he’s reached college age,
Jung chose to study medicine at the University of Basel, And he did it from 1894 to 1900. In the end he began to work as an assistant in a hospital, and soon after switched to the specialty of psychiatry.
Practicing in this field, Carl Gustav Jung saw how he was able to approach through his own work the two aspects which fascinated him: the biological processes treated in medicine and the psychic and even spiritual problems. Thus, from 1900 he began to practice in a psychiatric establishment in Zurich.
The relationship between Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud
Although the psychiatry that Jung went to work in the psychiatric clinic offered a materialist and reductionist view of mental illness, he never gave up adopting elements and formulations from the thematic field of spiritualism, anthropology and even the study of art. Jung believed that the human mind could not be understood by renouncing the study of symbols and their parentage in the history of human cultureSo I did not share the objective of what we mean today by psychiatry.
Therefore, Jung has always evolved in the tension between the material and the spiritual, which has won him quite a few enemies in academia. However, there was one materialist philosophical scholar who interested him a lot, and his name was Sigmund Freud.
The importance of the unconscious and of symbols
This was not surprising, given the central role that the concept of “unconscious” plays in Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Jung agreed with the neurologist that
deep in the human psyche dwells an inaccessible realm of consciousness which ultimately directs actions and thoughts people and strength is expressed through primary impulses.
Jung and Freud started sending letters in 1906, and a year later they met in Vienna. When they first met, according to Jung himself, they talked for about 13 hours.
More or less from his first meeting, in Vienna, Sigmund Freud
he became a kind of mentor for the young psychiatrist, Who had already been interested in psychoanalysis for a few years. However, and although the writings on the unconscious and impulses fascinate Jung, he does not agree to approach the full spectrum of mental processes and psychopathology as if everything is based on biological functions.
Jung’s shift with Freudian thought
It also led him to reject the idea that the cause of mental pathology lies in blocked processes related to human sexuality (Freud’s so-called “sexual theory”). Therefore, in a manner similar to that of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, Jung took much of the propositions of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and add the cultural factor to the equation, Displacement of the prominence of sexual impulses.
Jung, however, has gone far beyond materialistic explanations, as his writings delve fully into obscurantist-tone explanations, aimed at explaining phenomena of a spiritual nature that are generally approached from parapsychology and certain approaches to philosophy. .
The unconscious, according to Jung
Jung believed that Freud’s portrayal of the nature of the unconscious was incomplete without adding an important cultural factor. He argued that in every person’s psyche lives, indeed, a very important part which can be called “the unconscious”, but for Jung a part of this unconscious is, in fact,
in a kind of “unconscious collective ”or collective memory, Which does not only belong to the individual.
The concept of the collective unconscious
This collective memory is full of all these recurring symbols and elements of meaning that the culture in which we live has woven throughout the generations. The collective memory that Jung describes, therefore, is an element that explains the similarities between the myths and symbols of all the cultures he studied, As different as they may seem.
These recurring elements did not only exist as a phenomenon to be studied from anthropology, but had to be addressed by the psychology of the time, as individual minds also operate on the basis of these cultural patterns.
In this way, the culture and cultural heritage that are passed down from generation to generation
it remains more or less the same over the centuries, creating a foundation upon which the human psyche can take root and add learnings based on each person’s individual experiences. However, these learnings and the way they are realized will be conditioned by the cultural substratum of this unconscious part of the psyche.
Jung and the archetypes
So for Jung
part of the unconscious is made up of inherited memories, The raw material of culture. These memories are expressed through what Jung called “archetypes”.
Archetypes are the elements that make up collective memory, the fruit of the hereditary transmission of culture. These archetypes exist as embodied in all cultural products made by human beings (theater, painting, stories, etc.) but they also belong to the invisible world of each person’s unconscious, as if it were of something latent. As these are elements characterized as being of hereditary transmission,
they are fundamentally universal and can be found in different forms in virtually any culture.
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 its products, that is, its
cultural productions. In this way, Jung justified the need to link psychology and anthropology, as well as the study of symbols used in obscurantist fields such as tarot.
archetypesThe etymology comes from what in ancient Greek translates to “original model”, we could see an indication of how our common ancestors, the fathers and mothers of the rest of the cultures, perceived reality. But in addition, thanks to their 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 a cultural nature on which our individual experiences are based.
A very varied heritage
Jung proposed a way of understanding psychology that in his day did not seem very conventional, and even less so now.
He was a person of many concerns and the nature of these sources of interest was generally not easily described in words.
His legacy is still particularly alive in psychoanalysis., But also in the analysis of art and even in studies of the obscurantist type.