Carl Jung Biography
Swiss psychiatrist and influential thinker. Carl Jung founded a new school of depth psychology, which he named Analytical Psychology.
Carl Gustav Jung, in 1922.
Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26, 1875, in Kesswil, Switzerland. His father, Johann Paul Achilles Jung (1842-1896) was a pastor. His mother, Emilie Preiswerk Jung (1848-1923), was the daughter of an established family in Basel.
As a child, Jung preferred to be left alone to play by himself. He was happy when he was in isolation with his thoughts. His father taught him Latin and his mother read to him about exotic religions from an illustrated children’s book, to which he frequently returned to view with fascination the pictures of Hindu gods.
According to Jung (1963/1989), in the summer of 1887, when he was 12 years old, a classmate threw him on the ground very hard and he became unconscious. A sudden thought came to his mind, that he could now stop going to school. From that day, he fainted whenever he had to do his homework or go to school. The doctors thought he had epilepsy, so he stayed home for six months. Then one day, he heard his father talking with a visitor. He was very worried that Carl would not be able to work and support himself in the future. At that moment the boy became serious. He decided he needed to work. He immediately started studying his Latin grammar. Although this effort made him faint three times, he insisted and eventually overcame his problem. Actually now he felt much better than before. He continued to work with his schoolbooks every day and a few weeks later he returned to school. He never suffered another attack. That event had taught him what neurosis is. (pp. 30-32)
He decided to study medicine. Maybe this decision was influenced by his grandfather’s reputation, who had been professor of surgery at the University of Basel.
One day, in the library of a college classmate’s father he found a book on spiritualistic phenomena that immediately absorbed him. The phenomena described were similar to those stories he had been hearing in the countryside. He also knew that similar stories existed in all parts of the world, from people of different religions. So, he concluded, these phenomena must be connected with the human psyche.
The following events turned him from medicine and surgery to psychiatry, during the last months of his studies.
According to Jung (1963/1989), in the summer of 1898, he was studying in his room, with the door half open to the dining room, where his mother was knitting by the window. A very loud crack, like a pistol, surprised them and the circular walnut, solid wood table beside her had split, from the rim to beyond the center. (pp. 104-105)
About 2 weeks later, Jung (1963/1989) says he returned home in the afternoon and found his mother, his fourteen-year-old sister, and the maid very upset. About an hour earlier they had heard another deafening crack. This time it had come from the direction of the sideboard, a heavy piece of furniture dating from the early nineteenth century. They had already examined it and could not find anything strange. Jung immediately began examining the sideboard and the entire surrounding area. In the interior of the sideboard, in the cupboard containing the bread basket he found a bread knife, with its steel blade broken to pieces. Its handle in one corner of the basket, pieces of the blade in all other corners of the basket. Carl Jung kept the fragments of that knife, until his death. (pp. 105-106)
Little did he realize at the time that in the future he would study these phenomena as a part of mind’s functioning.
At that time, psychiatry was not highly respected, so Carl Jung had little interest in it. But when he opened his psychiatric textbook, Krafft-Ebing’s "Lehrbuch der Psychiatrie", 4th edn. ( 1890 ), and read that psychoses are "diseases of the personality" his heart suddenly began to pound. His excitement was intense and it became very clear to him that psychiatry was going to be the goal of his life. He finally found a field to study, that included both spiritual and biological facts.
In 1902 he completed his doctoral dissertation "On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena".
In 1903 Carl Jung set up a laboratory for experimental psychopathology in Burgholzli Clinic. The same year he married Emma Rauschendbach who became his close collaborator until her death in 1955. Together they had four daughters and a son.
In 1909 he resigned from the Burgholzli Clinic because he was extremely busy with his private practice.
Carl Jung (lower right) and Sigmund Freud (lower left) in 1908, at Clark University, Worcester, MA, USA.
Carl Jung and Freud
In 1906 Carl Jung sent Sigmund Freud a collection of his early papers entitled "Studies in the Word Association” to which Freud responded positively. When they first met, they talked for thirteen hours, almost with no brake. The two psychiatrists became friends and worked together until 1913.
Carl Jung disagreed with Freud’s view that all complexes come from sexual trauma, because he had experience with psychological problems that had different origins. Freud also did not share the same interest with Jung, about spiritualism and parapsychology.
According to Jung (1963/1989), the first real crisis in their friendship came in spring 1909, from the following incident. Jung visited Freud in Vienna and asked his opinion on precognition and parapsychology. But Freud was too materialistic and rejected these matters in a way that upset Jung. A strange thing happened then. As Freud was leaving, Jung felt his diaphragm burning and a very loud crack came from the bookcase next to them. When Jung told Freud that this is a perfect example of paranormal phenomenon, he still denied it. Then Jung predicted that in a moment there would be another loud noise. And he was right; a second loud crack came from the bookcase. Freud remained puzzled and this incident raised his mistrust towards Jung. (pp. 155-156)
The next crisis in their friendship came in 1910, when Freud was trying to make his sexual theory a dogma against occultism. But according to Carl Jung, this had nothing to do with scientific judgment, only with Freud’s ambition.
Despite the incompatibility of their minds, they continued to work together until 1912. Many believe that the break in their friendship came by Jung’s publication of "Symbols of Transformation", which is full of mythological symbols.
Carl Jung during an interview.
The end of this friendship marked the beginning of a difficult period for Carl Jung. By renouncing Freud’s dogma, the whole psychoanalytic community turned against him. He was cut off from all his former professional associates and several of his friends. He also started the difficult trip inside his subconscious. This lasted six years and he recorded it in the unpublished book The Red Book. During this time he had fantasies of great floods sweeping over northern Europe, which were prophetic visions of World War I.
He made long expeditions to study different cultures and try to learn "primitive psychology" from the primitive societies of Africa. He traveled to East Africa, India, America and New Mexico where he visited the Pueblo Indians.
According to Carl Jung, our psychological purpose in life is to discover our other side, so that both sides can enjoy the whole range of our capacities. He called this spiritual experience individuation and considered it essential for our well-being.
Carl Jung studied Astrology which he believed was related to mythology. In 1944 he published Psychology and Alchemy in which he argues that the symbolism of alchemy is directly related to the psychoanalytical process. For him, alchemy was not the search for a way to transform material lead into gold. It was transformation of the human soul on its path to perfection. Lead is just a symbol for the impure soul and gold is a symbol for the perfected soul. Jung’s private collection of rare alchemic books was one of the finest in the world.
After a brief illness, Carl Jung died at his home in Kusnacht, Zurich, on June 6, 1961.
Carl Jung deeply influenced psychology and society. Some of his most remarkable contributions are:
- Foundation of Analytical Psychology, a new school of psychotherapy.
- Synchronicity, the concept of meaningful coincidences between inner and outer events.
- Introversion and extraversion, the general attitude types.
- Collective unconscious, the deeper layer of the psyche which contains the archetypes.
Click here for a list of Carl Jung’s publications.
- Jung, C. G. (1976). The Portable Jung (R. Hull, Trans.) (J. Cambell, Ed.). New York: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1971)
- Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Rev. ed., C. Winston & R. Winston, Trans.) (A. Jaffe, Ed.). New York: Random House, Inc. (Original work published 1963)
Alfred Myers, M.A.
12 November 2008
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