Carl Jung

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
Carl Jung, "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", 1962

Carl Jung on the cover of TIME magazine Feb. 14, 1955.

Carl Jung (July 26, 1875 - June 6, 1961) was a psychiatrist who established Analytical Psychiatry and is recognized to this day for being one of the most influential 20th century thinkers. He was a contemporary and close friend of Freud, and is regarded as one of the founders of modern psychology. Aside from Analytical Psychiatry, he was also noted for his contribution to dream analysis and utilized spirituality as part of his psychoanalysis theories. Concepts such as the collective unconscious, the archetype, and the animus are Jung’s inventions – they were mapped out in his books The Red Book, which is considered his definitive literary work, and The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious.

Jung held many non-scientific beliefs that are now rejected by schools of psychology. These odd beliefs included a heavy base in mythology, which he began studying in 1909. Jung also held a life long interest in the occult, which he describes in an early dissertation. In 1926, he began the study of alchemy in earnest, which appears in many of his later works.

Among his contribution to the fields of music and literature is his essay “Your Negroid and Indian Behavior”, published in April 1930, a commentary on the perceived behavioral differences between Europeans, Americans, Native Americans (whom he calls “Indians”), and those of African descent. Jung believed that the temperament and mannerisms of the American people were significantly influenced by their coexistence with other ethnic groups; he in particular finds fascination with how "black culture", especially with regards to music and dance, manifested itself in the behavior of the rest of the American people.

In spite of these politically controversial views, Jung attained much recognition for his contributions to psychology. Jung was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Harvard, Oxford, Calcutta University, and Geneva University. He was the first president of the International Psychoanalytical Association from 1910 to 1914. In 1936, he was named an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

Early life and the beginning of his career

Carl Jung was born July the 26th of 1875 to his father, Paul Jung (a clergyman) and his mother Emilie Jung in a small village in Kesswil, Switzerland.
Jung, circa 1882
Soon after his birth, the family moved to a small town called Klein-Huningen near Basel. His home life was not ideal since his parents suffered from marital problems. It is these problems that Jung attributed with being the cause of some of his issues:

"Dim intimations of trouble in my parents' marriage hovered around me. My illness in 1878 must have been connected with a temporary separation of my parents. My mother spent sever months in a hospital in Basel, and presumably her illness had something to do with difficulty in the marriage... I was deeply troubled by my mother's being away. From then on, I always felt mistrustful when the word 'love' was spoken. The feeling I associated with 'woman' was for a long time that on innate unreliability. 'Father', on the other hand, meant reliability-- and powerlessness. That is the handicap I started off with. Later these early impressions were revised; I have trusted men friends and been disappointed by them; and I have mistrusted women friends and was not disappointed."<ref>

Being an only child up until the age of nine, Jung kept to himself and despite efforts from his parents to have him play with children his own age, it was no use. His sister, Gertrud, was born when he was nine years old, but by then he was too different for her to be a real companion. It was in Basel that Jung attended medical school at Basel University, beginning in 1895. Upon the completion of his medical training, Jung took a job at an insane asylum in Zurich in 1900.

Jung begins corresponding with Sigmund Freud in 1906, and they develop a professional and personal relationship that is vital to Jung’s work in the field of psychology. In the early stages of his career, Jung and Freud shared the same theories on Psychology. This changed in 1912 when Jung published “Transformation and Symbols”, which broke away from Freud’s theories on the libido and sexual energy. As a result of these ideological differences, Freud ceased all communication with Jung, effectively enacting a Freud feud.

As a result of losing his friend and cohort, Jung fell into a state of depression and had a complete psychological breakdown. However, it is this breakdown that Jung attributes his best work from, claiming that he gained most of his insight as a result of the unconscious fantasies he had between 1913 and 1918. Many of the theories Jung would later publish originated as delusions during this time of mentally unstable meditation.

Jungian Philosophy

Carl Jung believed that the psyche was made up of three parts, not unlike Sigmund Freud's three-part psyche, however the parts of the Jungian psyche consisted of the ego, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. While the ego and the personal unconscious contain personal memories, even those that have been suppressed, the collective unconscious includes all of our inherited memories as a species. These themes and recurring motifs are inherited by culture, but, more generally, the cause of our inheritance lies in our genes, and thus, our it is our primordial desires that link us to the behavior that we ultimately act out.

This, Jung argued, explains why there are certain archetypes that occur throughout history, even in cultures that have had no interactions with each other. He argued that these archetypes, though they are universal, are not static, but nuanced and malleable. Some of these archetypes include:
  • The Self: the unification of personality and consciousness represented as a circle, square, or mandala.
  • The Wise Old Man: serves as a mentor, guiding a young protégé and serving as a source of wisdom
  • The Maiden: woman representing innocence and purity
  • The Hero: man as a defender/rescuer
  • The Trickster: character that makes trouble, deceives and lies

There also exist in the collective unconscious archetypical motifs such as the Creation of the World or Universe, the Apocalypse, and the Flood. These motifs appear time after time across different continents and cultural narratives; Jung's idea of a collective unconscious was an attempt to explain why the human race carries such similarities in thought and belief.

The idea is useful because it allows us to reflect on how the underlying structures help to form the complex mosaic of human experience. Even ancient contexts share many themes and ideas such as the concept of 'Second Birth'. In Egyptian and Christian texts the concept of a leader who is both human and divine is prevalent. Jung uses this fact to elucidate what he means when he implies that instinct frequently guides human behavior.

The themes and motifs come across in all aspects of life. If, as the adage suggests, art imitates life, then it would hold that many ideas in art of all kinds can be related to the underlying ideas that are based in human instincts.

For a Jungian treatment on T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, click here: Eliot's The Waste Land

"Your Negroid and Indian Behavior"

Jung's argument is essentially a behavioral analysis of several racial and social groups that attempts to explain the assimilation of one culture into another over time, using the generally homogeneous European races as a control group. Music and dance in particular, Jung thinks, are very powerful cultural assets that Americans have begun to assimilate rapidly into their culture because of primitive fascination with its rhythm and body movements. Ignoring the racist tone that pervades his descriptions of non-white peoples, it is apparent that Jung finds the distinctive behavior of Americans to be a deep spiritual and psychological phenomenon that does not stem from a genetic impurity. Jung notes that he was initially confused at the appearance of non-European white people, thinking them to be of Native American lineage; but upon being corrected by his American friend that this is not the case, he was “puzzled and half incredulous but later came to see how ridiculous my hypothesis had been”. Later, he realizes that “it is not so much in the anatomical features as in the general behavior, both physical and mental” (page 1).

He continues on to characterize the American people as vivacious, lively, yet overly free with their emotions. Jung takes careful note of certain mannerisms: at first he discusses the openness of the American laughter and the emergence of slang, which he finds agreeable (he describes it as "a language in the making, a thing fully alive"), then goes on to physical qualities such as “the way he walks, how he wears his hat, how he holds his cigar, and how he speaks. Americans move with loose joints and swaying hips” (page 2). He also focuses on the “emotional incontinence” that pervades American culture, a desire to express oneself freely, something that he cannot fathom occurring in European societies and is not overtly fond of. He warns that a consequences of this will be difficulty amongst the youth in relations with the opposite sex due to increased promiscuity between the sexes which denies the possibility of real love. Yet he cannot help but be fascinated and drawn in by the hustle and bustle of this culture, seeing within it potential for a complex, varied, sophisticated culture built on new values, admitting that still "the country is admirable - nay, just divine - with the faint perfume of unhistorical eternity in the air" (page 3).

Jung's next topic of concern is the relationship between the black and white peoples, from the perspective of a white man comparing himself to his black servant. This is immediately apparent by his challenge to the reader, "now, what is more contagious than to live side by side with a rather primitive people? Go to Africa and see what happens" (page 4). He is of the belief that coexistence with other cultures and races will inevitably influence someone, yet this effect is seemingly amplified when around those deemed primitive, because "he fascinates the inferior layers of our psyche, which has lived through untold ages of similar conditions". Jung claims a connection between a conscious, learned civilized self and a subconscious, innate reflex-driven self that "recalls not only our childhood but also our prehistory". He goes on to say that because the white man was only considered cultured around 1200 years ago, the primitive side in the white man is not as strong as those of other races with longer histories of civilization such as Scandinavians and the Latins. Because of this, Jung characterizes the relationship between coexisting black and white populations as living under each others' skins, slowly influenced by the other, yet the behavior of the Americans has been infected, as if a kind of mental disease, with the primitive appeal of African mannerisms. He cites in particular "the Negroid dance and music", and "his primitive motility, his expressive emotionality, his childlike immediacy, his sense of music and rhythm, his funny and picturesque language" (page 4). Jung thinks that this would be a more serious problem were it not for the fortunate case that the white man far outnumbers the black, and so the degree to which American culture is colored by the African American leads to only peculiarities and external quirks - he concludes that "the inner quick of American character" is "untouched". For a discussion of African American culture in America, see Harlem Renaissance.

The rest of Jung's claims from this point onwards is evidence towards this conclusion about the American psyche, and do not seem overly relevant to the course's focus on musical adaptation. He suggests that living in a foreign country for long enough can result in it getting under one's skin and changing someone from the inside outwards, which can manifest itself physically - Jung thinks this occurs because every country has a collective attitude that pervades its culture, citing the case of France and Germany, and noting that it is particularly difficult for a young, constantly changing culture such as America. He concludes his essay by stating that if he had to put his finger on any particular ideal held dear by the American culture, it would have to be that of heroism - something that he describes as "bringing out the best in every man". This ideal pervades the way mothers raise their children, schools teach young students, and the way friends encourage each other onwards until they are unable to progress no further - he finds this particularly manifest in how Americans are willing to go to extreme lengths to break records and make a name for themselves. Ultimately, Jung thinks that "this childlike, impetuous, naive people has probably the most complicated psychology of all nations" (page 7).


The following are clips found on YouTube of Jung speaking about his beliefs.


Brown, Clifford A. Jung's Hermeneutic of Doctrine: Its Theological Significance. Chico, CA: Scholars, 1981. Print.
Cherry, Kendra. "Archetypes- Jungian Archetypes.", Web. 22 April 2011.
Jung, C. G., Gerhard Adler, and Aniela Jaffe. C.G. Jung Letters: 1906-1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1973. Print. Jung, C.G., and Aniela Jaffe. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print. Rowland, Susan. Jung a Feminist Revision. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2002. Print. Jung, Carl. The Concept of the Collective Unconscious. MDR, Jung, 8 "Quotations by Author: Carl Jung." The Quotations Page, The Quotations Page. Web. 24 April 2011.