Carl Jung

Jung, Carl 1875-1961 Son of a pastor; his paternal grandfather and great grandfather were physicians. Took a degree in medicine at University of Basle, then specialised in psychiatry. In early papers he pioneered the use of word-association, and influenced research into the toxin hypothesis regarding schizophrenia.

Jung’s addition to modern therapeutic attitudes to dream work arose out of his difference of view with Freud regarding human life. Jung felt life is a meaningful experience, with spiritual roots. His interest in alchemy, myths and legends, added to the wealth of ideas he brought to his concept of the collective unconscious. The subject of symbols fascinated him and he devoted more work to this than any other psychologist. He saw dream symbols not as an attempt to veil or hide inner content, but an attempt to elucidate and express it. He saw dreams as a way of transformation where what was formless, non verbal and unconscious moves towards form and becoming known. In this way dreams ‘show us the unvarnished natural truth.’ By giving attention to our dreams we are throwing light upon who and what we really are – not simply who we are as a personality, but who we are as a phenomena of cosmic interactions.

Jung recommended looking at a series of ones dreams in order to develop a fuller insight into self. In this way one would see certain themes arising again and again. Out of these we can begin to see where we are not balancing the different aspects of ourselves.

Jung felt that human life is meaningful and has its roots in a transcendent reality. In this and other ways he differed from Freud who was at first a collaborative colleague. Jung did not, as Freud, see the unconscious as a storehouse only of repressed infantile and unsocialised urges. It was a place of mystery and life. It included not only the widest storehouse of personal and family experience, but it stretched beyond this, linking each of us with a collective experience of life. This ‘collective unconscious’ Jung said, holds within itself the merged experience of all that has lived.

Also from the unconscious arose what Jung called the influence of the Self. He defined the Self as the whole of the person, as distinct from the narrow focus of self we know in our daily life. For example if you could have a sense of all your memories rather than simply what is relevant to the moment, you would have a different view of all you did. Jung described this as similar to a ball with a small black circle drawn on it. The small black circle is our normal waking awareness, the ball is the Self.

From the Self – a more total awareness – arises what Jung called the ‘transforming influence’. Our sense of wholeness, however unconscious it may be, leads us toward becoming more inclusive of our total potential. Jung taught that part of our wholeness is an awareness of being an intrinsic and unseparated part of the universe. Dreams are often an expression or a reflection of the Self. As such they are self-regulatory and can lead to what Jung called individuation. This is an attainment of your own personal identity beyond the sense of self you arrive at from such things as class, role, gender, economic situation and physical appearance.

Jung was a psychiatrist working with and training a great number of people. A major emphasis of his work was on dreams. His approach was quite different to Freud. The major points are:

  • The dream was seen as a source of information, not as an attempt to disguise meaning as Freud thought.
  • Because he honoured the wisdom of the unconscious Jung was intent on unfolding what the drama and structure of the dream held in it. He did not lead away from the dream with associations. However he did add his own insights to what the dreamer might discover.
  • Jung encouraged people to explore a dream using active imagination, a way of honouring personal fantasy. He also suggested allowing the body to fantasise. He wrote that fantasy is necessary because the conscious mind has no idea, no experience of what is held within unconsciously. Not only might you find the pain of past trauma, but also what Jung called the ‘dark possibilities’ – the unknown potential. You have to ‘let go’ of your consciously held convictions in order to let the voice and experience of the unconscious speak – to allow more of yourself to be lived.
  • To help a person discover their associations with something in their dream Jung would stick with the dream setting and format, not encourage associations that led away.
  • If the dreamer found difficulty in arriving at an association, Jung would ask them to describe the symbol in their own words, as if Jung knew nothing about it. Therefore, if you dreamt of a table, you might say something like, ‘It is a thing usually made of wood and having four supports. Upon these a flat surface is fixed, so that you can place objects, food, books, etc., on it at a level nearer your hands or mouth.’
  • Use of the term the Self was Jung’s way of bringing the transcendent dimension into his work. This was something Freud never did. Later, in approaches like Psycho-Synthesis this approach to psychological growth and healing was extended, and is now frequently met under the name Trans-personal.
  • Jung wrote that the conscious self raises prolific objections to becoming aware of unconscious experiences. It appears intent on blotting out spontaneous fantasy that might reveal something other than its own cherished defences and beliefs. It often takes firm determination to allow unconscious content. “In most cases the results of these efforts are not very encouraging at first. Moreover, the way of getting at the fantasies is individually different… oftentimes the hands alone can fantasy; they model or draw figures that are quite foreign to the conscious.” From Commentary in Secret Of The Golden Flower by Richard Wilhelm, commentary by Carl Jung. Published by Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Many thinkers and observers of dreams felt that it was not enough to say dreams could be understood through the association of ideas. This could mean that association explains the whole phenomena of dreaming. Through their work Freud and Jung showed the wealth of information and experience that can be uncovered within a dream’s imagery and drama. Henry Maudsley, the British doctor after whom the Maudsley Day Hospital and school of psychiatry in London was named, wrote – “We are dealing with … an actual constructive agency’ in dreams ‘whereby ideas are not merely brought together only, but new products are formed out of them.” He says elsewhere that he is struck by “the extraordinary creations of dreams,” and that a study of dreams would be “full of promise of abundant fruit.”

If we are going to use association in exploring dreams, it is helpful to recognise the difference between free association, and looking for associations with a dream’s contents. Jung points out that with free association the starting point can be anywhere – dreams, ink-blots, clouds, shapes of landscape, a prayer wheel or rosary. He gives the example of a colleague who described to him a long train journey in Russia. Not knowing the language he found himself wondering what the strange shapes of the Cyrillic characters meant. Relaxing he began to imagine all sorts of meanings for them. One image and feeling led to another until, to his annoyance he found that long buried memories and difficult emotions had become stirred up.


The point Jung makes in connection with dreams is that if one took a dream image and ‘free associated’ with it, this could certainly lead to an uncovering of ones complexes or neuroses, but what one arrived at might have little or nothing to do with integral links with the dream. For instance the dream of the divinities and the bishop mentioned above, might, in free association, lead to a remembrance of a traumatic bullying at school, which had nothing to do with the feelings and links invested in the dream.

Finding ones memories and feelings associated with the dream however, leads to a clear realisation of how our own mental and emotional experience and structure have formed the dream. In one of my own dreams in which I was in my father’s shop attending to a man who had been shot in the arm, exploring the associations led me to uncover massive feelings to do with my relationship with my father. I felt for the first time in my life, how his lack of praise and support had led to an injury to my self confidence. In just the way my left arm supports the action of my creative right arm, and its injury would mean I could not be so effective with my right arm, so this lack of confidence had undermined my outward expression, something I was trying to attend to at that time. Working in this way, where the dream is honoured as something important instead of simply a starting point to lead elsewhere, was a turning point for Jung. He says he came to believe the dream ‘expressed something specific that the unconscious was trying to say.’ Therefore, after each excursion into associations, Jung would return to the dream and continue checking against its structure and content.


FOR JUNG, ‘yoga’ was a general term indicating all of Eastern thought and psychological practice. In his writings ‘yoga’ is used to designate Eastern traditions as diverse as Hinduism, Indian Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism and Chinese Taoism. For Jung, therefore, ‘yoga’ should not be confused with the narrow and technical definitions of the term which are encountered in Eastern thought itself In Indian philosophy, for example, yoga’ refers to one of the six classical schools of thought-the yoga view-point systematised by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. 1

Although Jung was aware of this technical usage of ‘yoga’ as early as 1921 (3, p. 196), (and based his 1939 Lectures given at the Eidgenoiissiche Technischie Hochschule, Zurich, on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) (JUNG 6) his interest from the beginning was not with Patanjali’s technical definitions but with the spiritual development of the personality as the goal of all yoga (Ibid.). In his lectures Jung observes that in India the practice of yoga involves both psychology and philosophy. To be a philosopher in the East requires that one has undergone the spiritual development of yoga. It is in this sense that Jung sees ‘yoga’ as a general term (inclusive of psychology as well as philosophy), which is the foundation of everything spiritual, not only for India but also for Tibet, China and Japan. Consequently in writing his Tibetan commentaries (JUNG 7), Jung talks about ‘Tibetan Yoga’. In his commentary on the Taoist text, The secret of the golden flower (JUNG 5), he refers to ‘Chinese Yoga’ and in his psychology of Eastern meditation (JUNG 9) (actually a commentary on the Pure Land Buddhist Text, Amitayur-dhyana Sutra), Jung speaks of the ‘Japanese practice of yoga.

Although ‘yoga’ in Eastern thought often has a very technical meaning, it is also employed in a general way similar to Jung’s usage. Mircea Eliade, in his well-known book, Yoga: immortality and freedom, observes that yoga is one of the basic motifs of Eastern thought (ELIADE 2, p. 3). And T. H. Stcherbatsky, the Russian scholar of Buddhism, maintains that yogic trance (samadhi) and yogic courses for the training of the mind in the achievement of the goal of release from suffering (moksa, or nirvana) appear in virtually all Eastern schools of thought-be they Hindu or Buddhist (STCHERBATSKY 20, pp. 16-19). It is exactly this sense of yoga as a way to release and self-realisation that Jung has taken as the general theme of all Eastern thought and practice. However, the conception of the nature of the self-realisation to be achieved, and the proper method to follow, are points on which Jung and the East show significant differences.


If we arc to understand Jung’s encounter with yoga, a firm grasp of the viewpoint from which Jung began is required. Although the period of Jung’s life with which we are concerned was very turbulent both personally and professionally, 2 through it all one thing remained firm in his mind-that he was an empiricist, grounded completely on observation and experience. Jung understood his whole encounter with the contents of his unconscious as a scientific experiment. In Jung’s view, the possibility of being an objective psychological observer of others required first that the observer be sufficiently informed about the nature and scope of his own personality: ‘He can, however. be sufficiently informed only when he has in a large measure freed himself from the levelling influence of collective opinions and thereby arrived at a clear conception of his own individuality’ (JUNG 3, p. 10). It is Jung’s view that as one goes farther back in his history and as one goes East, the individual is more and more swallowed up in the collectivity of the society. Only in recent times has there been sufficient individual awareness to make possible impartial observation and objective psychology (Ibid., p. 8).

From a scientific point of view, Jung’s purpose in opening himself to the contents of his unconscious was twofold. in the first place, it was necessary that he gain awareness of these contents with their warping needs and biases if he was to become an objective observer of others. Secondly, the contents of the unconscious are, for Jung, empirically real, and therefore proper objects for the scientific study of psychology. With regard to yoga, this means that Jung saw his approach as that of an objective observer who had encountered certain psychic realities in his own self-analysis, and then looked elsewhere (including to the East) for supporting evidence. This is made quite clear in Jung’s September 1935 letter to Pastor Jahn in Berlin. Jung says:

.    . . You seem to forget that I am first and foremost an empiricist, who was led to the question of Western and Eastern mysticism only for empirical reasons. For instance, I do not by any means take my stand on Tao or any yoga techniques, but I have found that Taoist philosophy as well as yoga have very many parallels with the psychic processes we can observe in Western man (JUNG 13, p. 195).

In his Memories, dreams, reflections, Jung offers two examples of how the study of yoga can provide verification or support for something already encountered in Western consciousness. The first has to do with Jung’s 1918-1920 discovery of the psychic development of the self occurring in a circular (circumambulation) rather than linear fashion. He found that this new insight could best be expressed in paintings such as his ‘Window on eternity’. Several years later Jung reports an event that provided for him confirmation of his experience of the self. He received a letter from Richard Wilhelm enclosing the Taoist treatise, The secret of the golden flower with the request that Jung write a commentary on it.

I devoured the manuscript at once, for the text gave me undreamed-of confirmation of my ideas about the mandala and the circumambulation of the centre. That was the first event which broke through my isolation. I became aware of an affinity; I could establish ties with something and someone (JUNG II, p. 189 (197)). 3

The second example comes out of Jung’s struggle with the contents of his unconscious. In the course of his self-analysis one of the several dream figures he encountered was Elijah (called by Jung ‘Philemon’). Psychologically, says Jung, Philemon came to represent Superior insight. He was a guide through the inner darkness (Ibid., pp. 176~7 (182-3)). Many years later, in a conversation with an Indian friend, the role of the Indian guru in the process of education was discussed. When Jung’s friend admitted that Sankara, the 8th-century philosopher-saint, had been his personal guru, Jung made the discovery that in Yoga there arc ‘spirit gurus’. Jung reports the conversation as follows:

‘You don’t mean the commentator on the Vedas who died centuries ago?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I mean him he said, to my amazement.

‘Then you are referring to a spirit?’ I asked.

‘Of course it was his spirit,’ he agreed.

At that moment I thought of Philemon.

‘There arc ghostly gurus too,’ he added. ‘Most people have living gurus. But there always some who have a spirit for teacher’ (ibid. p. 177 (184)).

To Jung this did not signify that he had experienced an Indian spirit guru.  Only that, as he put it, ‘Evidently, then, I had not plummeted right out of the human world, but had only experienced the sort of thing that could happen to others who made similar efforts’ (Ibid.). It was confirmation only in the sense of confirming that Jung’s experience of Philemon was a true human experience and not an idiosyncratic fantasy of Jung’s own mind. But the content of Jung’s Philemon remained resolutely Western, understandable not through the teachings of Eastern yoga, but through the wisdom of Western alchemy. As we shall see, this principle of finding confirmation ill form rather than content, typifies most of Jung’s contacts with yoga.

But the principle of looking for ‘confirmation in forms’ of psychic experience is too narrow. For Jung, yoga was not just an after-the-fact confirmation of his Western discoveries. Yoga often played the role of broadening and heightening one’s experience of consciousness, by stimulating one to an increased awareness. This does not mean, warns Jung, that Western science should be belittled or given up only that one must not become so encapsulated in the Western scientific approach as to claim that it is the only approach there is. In his ‘Commentary on The secret of the golden flower’, Jung says, ‘The East teaches us another broader, more profound, and higher understanding-understanding through life’ (JUNG 5, p. 7). The difficulty the typical Westerner has in experiencing this higher understanding arises from two things; his attachment to Western science as the only valid way knowing, and his difficulty in identifying with the strangeness of Eastern texts such as The Secret of the Golden Flower. This means that the Westerner approaching Eastern yoga must not give in to his first reaction which will be to quickly dispose of it by calling it ‘Eastern wisdom’, in quotation marks, or by relegating it to the obscurity of religion or superstition. Nor must he make the mistake of attempting to cope with the strangeness of Eastern ideas by becoming an uncritical imitator of yoga practices. Through a shallow imitation of yoga Practices, says Jung, Western man ‘abandons the one safe foundation of the Western mind, and loses himself in a mist of words and ideas that could never have originated in European brains, and can never be profitably grafted upon them’ (Ibid., p. 7). The increased awareness, which Jung values as a result of his contact with the East, comes not through mindless imitation. It comes, rather, as a result of critical study of the East as a parallel to our human experience in West-a parallel that reawakens Western man to aspects of his own experience that in modern times he had lost touch with, i.e. the intuitive, the spiritual.

A careful study of Eastern texts such as The secret of the golden flower stresses the importance of having a balance between opposites in one’s experience. When the opposites balance one another, says Jung, that is a sign of a high and stable culture. ‘One-sidedness, though it lends momentum, is a mark of barbarism’ (JUNG 5, p. 9). This, in Jung’s view, is the difficulty in which the modern West finds itself After having placed great value on the spiritual and the intuitive during the Middle Ages, the intellect has come to a position of overwhelming dominance in modern man. But now there is a reaction in the West against the one-sidedness of the overstressing of intellect to the virtual exclusion of the other aspects of human experience. At this point, study of the East is helpful in presenting an approach to life which includes all of the aspects or opposites and attempts to hold them in tension-intellect balanced with intuition. The truth of the East is not in the Eastern way itself, but in the demonstrated need for a balance between intellect and intuition, between thinking and feeling. And this serves to provide parallel confirmation of the reaction in the modern West in favour of feeling and intuition as a cultural advance or ‘a widening of consciousness beyond the narrow confines of a tyrannical intellect’ (Ibid., p. 9). The wisdom of Eastern yoga for the West is that one must ‘yoke’ these extreme oscillations from intuition to intellect and now back again towards intuition, into a creative tension or balance. To be overbalanced in any one aspect of consciousness is a sign of immaturity and ‘barbarism’, to use Jung’s word for it. Consequently, it is not the case that the modern West should give up its highly developed scientific intellectually that the intuitive and feeling aspects of psychic function must achieve an equally high development in Western consciousness so that a creative balance can be achieved, and a widening of consciousness result.

While Jung openly admired the Eastern yoga principle of inclusiveness and balance between the opposing aspects of psychic function it is clear that he felt that the East had overstressed the intuitive, just as the modern West had overdeveloped the scientific. As Jung put it in his ‘Commentary on The Tibetan book of the great liberation’: ‘In the East, the inner man has always had such a firm hold on the outer man that the world had no chance of tearing him away from his inner roots; in the West, the outer man gained ascendancy to such an extent that he was alienated from his innermost being.’ (JUNG 7, pp. 492-3). Jung illustrated this contention by observing the following difference in Eastern versus Western religious practice. In the West, the spiritual is associated with something external and lifted up, thus the high and raised up place of the altar and cross in Christian Churches. In an Eastern Siva temple, however, the spiritual symbol, the lingam, is often sunk in a deep shaft several metres below ground level. To Jung this indicated that, in Eastern experience the spiritual is to be found in the inward direction, in the deepest and darkest place (JUNG 6, pp. 121-2). In his Psychology of Eastern meditation, Jung makes the same point:

The West is always seeking uplift, but the East seeks a sinking or deepening, Outer reality, with its bodiliness and weight, appears to make a much stronger and sharper impression on the European than it does on the Indian. The European seeks to raise him-self above this world, while the Indian likes to turn back into the maternal depths of Nature (JUNG 9, p. 570).

The principle of all Eastern yoga is that the pairs of opposites (dvanda) the extremes, must be transcended or held in creative tension (JUNG 3 pp. 195-8; 5). They must not exclude or devalue one another. From the East, therefore, the West needs to rediscover or resensitise itself to the interior aspects of intuition and feeling-but without letting go of its strong grip on exterior scientific consciousness. The East, on the other hand, needs the science industry and technology of the West, but not at the expense of its sensitivity to the inner man.

On both sides, ‘said Jung, a balanced, widened and inclusive consciousness needs to be achieved. But on the question of how this balancing was to be achieved, Jung was emphatic. The West must not simply attempt to copy the Eastern spiritual yoga, or the East blindly adopt Western science. Each should study the other and gain inspiration from its example, but each must pursue its own development within its own historical consciousness. As E. A. Bennett put it, ‘A race with an ancient cultural heritage, in Jung’s opinion had a collective experience not available to other races’ (BENNETT I, pp. 68-9). The modern West, says Jung, cannot graft Eastern yoga onto its scientific consciousness as so many misled individuals naively attempt to do (JUNG 4, p. 149 fn. 8, p. 171£). In his letters the question of the practice of Eastern yoga frequently arises, and Jung’s response is always emphatic and always the same. Yoga is suitable to the Eastern but not to the Western mind (cf. JUNG 13, p. 310). The occidental world should leave it alone and instead develop or rediscover its own spiritual practice. While yoga is the spiritual foundation of everything in the East, on no account is it a suitable practice for the West (JUNG 6, pp. II, 13,42). Although Jung admits to having practised yoga himself on a few occasions during his turbulent period of self-analysis, he states that his purpose was quite different from that of an Easterner.

I was frequently so wrought up that I had to do certain yoga exercises in order to hold my emotions in check. But since it was my purpose to know what was going on within myself, I would do these exercises only until I had calmed myself enough to resume my work with the unconscious. As soon as I had the feeling that I was myself again, I abandoned this restraint upon the emotions and allowed the images and inner voices to speak afresh. The Indian, on the other hand, does yoga exercises in order to obliterate completely the multitude of psychic contents and images (JUNG II, p. 171 (177)).

This is not the place to examine critically the correctness of Jung’s analysis of the Easterner’s experience of yoga; our present concern is to understand the attitude which  Jung brought to his study of it. It is quite clear that for Jung the study of yoga served two important purposes. First, it provided confirming evidence that others had had similar experience to that of his own. Secondly, it suggested that consciousness was wider than the typical modem Western fixation on the scientific intellect. The study of Eastern yoga highlighted the intuitive side of psychic functioning, and encouraged modern Western man to redevelop his sensitivity to this aspect which had been so dominant in Western experience during the Middle Ages. For Jung personally, as we shall see, the role Eastern yoga played in the development of his thinking was brief but influential. Although Eastern ideas lingered on throughout his thinking, Jung’s main fascination with yoga occurred during the 1920s and 1930s, culminating with his journey to India in 1938. By the end of his visit, however, the focus of his interest had already returned West, so that when his boat docked at Bombay he had no desire to leave the ship to see the city. ‘Instead’, reports Jung, ‘I buried myself in my Latin alchemical texts (Ibid., p. 265 (284)). Indeed it may well be that in the development of Jung’s thinking yoga lead him on from his early fascination with Western gnosticism and then back to Western alchemy, which then remained the keystone for the rest of his life.


In a conversation with Richard Evans a few years before his death, Jung recalled the way he had come upon the notions of archetypes’ and the collective unconscious. He noticed that in primitive groups, as well as the great religious traditions, there exist certain typical patterns of behaviour, often supported by mythological tales. In religions there are the codes of conduct as well as the examples set by the saints. In Greek mythology there are the poetic models of fine men and women. As he thought about the notion of archetypes, Jung asked himself whether anyone else in the history of the world had studied that problem. After casting his ‘scholarly net’ widely Jung first concluded that nobody had, except a peculiar spiritual movement that went together with the beginnings of Christianity, namely, Gnosticism . . .  and that, the Gnostics were concerned with the problem of archetypes’ (Jung 14, p. 350). The Christian Gnostics, who lived in the first, second and third centuries A.D., had come across structural elements in the unconscious psyche and made a philosophic system out of it. In his autobiography Jung notes that between 1918 and 1926 he seriously studied the Gnostic writers (JUNG 11, p. 192 (200)).

It is in his Psychological types, first published in 192 1, that Jung’s analysis of Gnosticism is clearly seen. Jung points out that the farther we go back into history, the less the individuality and the more of the collective we encounter. In primitive peoples, says Jung, we find no trace of the concept of the individual. Indeed, the very idea ‘individuality’ is fairly recent in the history of human thought. Jung felt that the development of the notion of ‘individuality’ went hand in hand with the differentiation of man’s psychological functioning (JUNG 3, p. 10). The Gnostics caught Jung’s eye because they were one group in classical Western literature that did differentiate between basic types of psychological functioning, and stressed the individual development of the personality even to the point of perfection (PAssMORE 17, pp. 83-8).4 As we shall see, this notion of the perfectibility of man’s nature is also found in Eastern yoga, although it is a premise which Jung never accepted. The Gnostics dual emphasis on perfectibility and the need for disciplined individual development, both of which are shared by yoga, may well have paved way for the movement in Jung’s thinking to the East.

Gnostic philosophy established three basic types: the pneumatikoi or ‘thinking type’, the psychikoi or ‘feeling type’, and the hylikoi or ‘sensation type’ (JUNG 3, p. ii). In addition to their perception, of different psychological types, the Gnostics, says Jung, lay before us man’s unconscious psychology in full flower, almost perverse in its luxuriance; it contained the very thing that most strongly resisted the regula fidei, that Promethean and creative spirit which will bow only to the individual soul and to no collective ruling. (Ibid., pp. 241-2). For Jung, therefore, the Gnostics evidenced awareness not only of different psychological types, but also the importance of individuality. In Jung’s view, such psychological knowledge set the Gnostics apart from the collective psychology characteristic of the centuries before and after them right up to the modem period. Jung expressed it in the words: ‘Although in crude form, we find in Gnosticism what was lacking the centuries that followed: a belief in the efficacy of individual revelation and individual knowledge’ (Ibid., p. 242).

It is clear that the foundations for several of Jung’s major theoretical concepts may have originated or at least received strong support from early Christian Gnostics, i.e. the psychic functions of thinking’, ‘feeling ‘sensing’, and the ‘process of individuation’. The Gnostics were also fascinated with symbols and the question of how to release these symbols (e.g. God, Sophia and Christ) from the entrapment of the baser instincts. While all of this fascinated Jung as a parallel providing his thinking within historical support, he became increasingly frustrated by the lack of material available due to the suppression of the Gnostics by the early Christian Church. In his autobiography he summarises his Gnostic studies in the following words:

But the Gnostics were too remote for me to establish any link with them in regard to the questions that were confronting me. As far as I could see, the tradition that might have connected Gnosis with the present seemed to have been severed, and for a long time it proved impossible to find any bridge that led from Gnosticism – or neo-Platonism-to the contemporary world JUNG 11, pp. 192-3 (20 1).

That bridge from Gnosticism to the modem world Jung later discovered to be medieval alchemy. But Jung made this discovery through his study of Eastern yoga.

It is quite natural that Jung’s study of early Christian Gnosticism should have led him to the East. One of the Church Fathers who most fascinated him was Origen, and of course Origen was much influenced by Eastern thought (JUNG 3, p. 16f). In addition Jung was also reading the contemporary philosopher Schiller. Schiller was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer who championed Eastern yoga as it is presented in the Hindu scriptures, The Upanishads. It is not surprising then to find Jung putting aside Gnosticism and immersing himself in Eastern thought, beginning with the Indian Brahmanical tradition of the Upanishads.


Jung reports, in his memoir, that very early in life he had become aware of a kind of split within his personality, as if two Opposing souls were housed in the one breast (JUNG II, p. 221 (234)). And when, as a young man, Jung read Goethe’s Faust, it awakened in him the problem of opposites, of good and evil, of mind and matter, of light and darkness (Ibid., p. 222 (235)). Faust, and his shadow Mephistopheles, presented to Jung in dramatic form his own inner contradictions. ‘Later’, says Jung, ‘I consciously linked my work to what Faust had passed over: respect for the external rights of man, recognition of “the ancient”, and the continuity of culture and intellectual history’ (Ibid.). Although Jung’s search into the ‘ancient sources’ first took him to the Gnostic experience of the opposites of matter and spirit, it was in the Eastern approach to the problem that he found the first real ‘light’.

Dvandva is the Sanskrit term for the pairs of opposites in classical Indian thought. The dvandva include one’s individual experience of opposites such as hot and cold, love and hate, honour and disgrace, male and female, as well as the encounter with universal cosmic opposites such as good and evil. In Hindu thought it is by the inherent separation of the pairs of opposites from another that the universe itself is said to come in to being (RHADHAKRISHNAN & MOORE 18, p. 23). The experience of the dvandva is psychologically analysed by Jung as a tension between the opposite aspects of each archetype or a split in the deployment of psychic energy at the level of the unconscious (JUNG 3, p. 194). There is an infinite variety in the amounts of psychic energy that could be contained on either side of the split, e.g. 50/5O, 60/40, 70/3O, etc. In Jung’s view, however, an unbalanced deployment of psychic energy on one side can only go on for so long until finally the opposite tendency will reassert itself and swingthe ‘pendulum’ in the other direction. Jung said that this is exactly what is Occurring in modern Western experience: the psyche has developed in too one-sided a fashion with an overemphasis on the scientific intellect, thus robbing the intuitive function of its power. Now, the intuitive side is reasserting itself (e.g., witness the contemporary Western fascination with the East) and the movement is beginning to flow in the opposite direction. In Jung’s view any imbalance in the split of psychic energy, while it may produce the short-term gains of rigorous specialisation (e.g. modern Western technology), will, in the long run, prove detrimental.

Naturally this split is a hindrance not only in society but also in the individual. As a result, the vital optimum withdraws more and more from the opposing extremes and seeks a middle way, which must naturally be irrational and unconscious, just because the opposites are rational and conscious. Since the middle position, as a function of mediation between the opposites, possesses an irrational character and is still unconscious, it can also be projected in the form of a mediating god, a Messiah (Ibid., p. 194).

The projection of a mediating Messiah, says Jung, is indicative of the more primitive nature of Western religion-primitive because it lacks insight into the psychological balancing of the opposites that is occurring, and instead blindly accepts the whole thing as the action of God’s grace. By contrast, the East has for thousands of years known of the processes required to balance the opposites, and had made them into paths (marga) of liberation or release. 5

In his Psychological types, Jung reviews the teaching of the Vedas, Upanisads and Yoga sutra on the problem of the pairs of opposites (Ibid., pp. 195-7) and reaches the following conclusions. In Hindu or Brahmanical thought, the pairs of opposites are experienced as a continuum extending from external opposites such as heat and cold to the fluctuations of inner emotion and the conflict of ideas such as good and bad (Ibid., p. 197). The Hindu marga, or path, aims at freeing the individual completely from entanglement in the opposites, which seem inherent in human experience, so that he can experience oneness with Brahman (moksa). What is meant, says Jung, is a union of opposites in which they are cancelled out. … . Brahman is the union and dissolution of all opposites, and at the same time stands outside them as an irrational factor. It is therefore wholly beyond cognition and comprehension ( II Ibd., p. 198). The specific psychological process the yogi uses to realise this transcendence of the opposites involves the systematic withdrawing of libido or ‘attention’ from both external objects and internal psychic states-in other words, from the opposites. This eventually results in the elimination of sense perception and the disappearance of conscious contents (e.g. rational ideas), which opens the way for rising up of images from the collective unconscious. These, says Jung, are the archetypes, ‘. . . prinnordial images, which, because of their universality and immense antiquity, possess a cosmic and suprahuman character’ (Ibid., p.202).the great images of the Vedas, such as Rta (divine cosmic order) and Dharma (The universal moral law), are symbols with the power to regulate and unite the destructive tensions of the pairs of opposites.

In Indian thought Rta acts as a principle of dynamic regulation by with-drawing energy from any imbalance existing between the pairs of opposites until a balance or ‘middle path’ is achieved. As Jung put it, ‘The optimum can be reached only through obedience to the tidal laws of the libido, by which systole alternates within diastole-laws which bring pleasure and the necessary limitations of pleasure, and also set us those individual life tasks without whose accomplishment the vital optimum can never be attained’ (Ibid., p. 213).

It is this psychological vital optimum that is symbolised in Indian concepts such as Rta. Rta and Dharma function to bring out the inherent fundamental laws of human nature which, when followed, guide the natural flow of libido into the middle path through the conflict of opposites. Although Jung finds close agreement between his own personal experience and the Indian view of the dynamic relationship between the pairs of opposites, there is one point on which he sharply differs. In a letter to his friend V. Subrahamanya Iyer, guru of the Maharaja of Mysore, and with whom Jung had searching talks during his visit to India in 1938, Jung discusses the impossibility of getting beyond the pairs of opposites in this life. Whereas to the orthodox Hindu moksa means a complete freedom or transcendence from the tensions of the pairs of opposites, Jung argued that without the dynamic tension between the opposites there is no life.

It is certainly desirable to liberate oneself from the operation of the opposites but one can only do it to a certain extent, because no sooner do you get out of the conflict than you get out of life altogether. So that liberation can only be a very partial one. It can be the construction of a consciousness just beyond the opposites. Your head may be liberated, your feet remain entangled. Complete liberation means death (JUNG 13, p. 217).

The basis of Jung’s disagreement is rooted in his typically Western view of ego. Since the experience of oneself as an individual ego is fundamentally an experience of separation of oneself from other objects and persons, and since separation is the cause of the pairs of opposites, the complete over-coming of the pairs of opposites would also imply the eradication of the ego and its sense of separation. But if there is no ego, there is no kinower and therefore no consciousness. Abolishing the ego to transcend the opposites leaves only unconsciousness. In response to Subrahamanya Iyer’s suggestion that there is, at the highest level, a consciousness without ego, Jung replies, ‘I’m afraid this supreme consciousness is at least not one we could possess. In as much as it exists, we do not exist’ (Ibd., p. 247).

In contrast to the very idealistic approach of Hindu yoga, Jung found the attitude of Chinese yoga more realistic in its perception of the problem of the pairs of opposites. Jung observed that, like Hindu Rta, the Chinese Tao is a uniting symbol for the pairs of opposites. Jung uses the fact that uniting symbols are found independently in Chinese and Indian thought as evidence for the existence of a ‘uniting’ archetype in the collective unconscious. In Jungian theory this uniting archetype comes to be known as the ‘self’. For Lao-Tsu, author of the Tao Ti’ Ching’, the Tao is hidden, nameless and yet at the same time the source of all creation. The Tao manifests the created universe by being divided in to a fundamental pair of opposites named yang and yin. All of the other pairs of opposites can be grouped under yang, on the one side, and yin on the other. Yang, for example, includes ‘warmth, light and maleness, while yin; is cold, darkness and femaleness (JUNG 6, pp. 214-1 5). The Taoist view is that psychic danger occurs when there comes to be too great a split between the opposites thus resulting in a serious imbalance. In his commentary on The secret of the golden flower, Jung says that this is exactly what has happened to the psyche of the modern West. As contemporary Western man’s conscious scientific intellect achieved more independence and power, his intuitive unconscious was thrust into the background to a corresponding degree. This made it even easier for the evolving emphasis upon consciousness to emancipate itself from the unconscious archetypal patterns. Gaining in freedom, the modern Western scientific intellect burst the bounds of mere instinctuality and reached a condition of instinct atrophy (JUNG 5, p. 2).

The overdeveloped conscious intellect of today’s Western man not only suffers from being cut off from his instinctive roots in the collective unconscious, but, due to this very ‘rootlessness’, he experiences a false sense of mastery over and – freedom from nature – to the point of proclaiming him-self God (Ibid., p. 12). Jung points to Nietzsche as an example of just such a result (JUNG 3, pp. 13646).Jung also takes up the Chinese insight that when one of the opposites reaches its greatest strength the other will begin to reassert itself Quoting from the I Ching, he says, ‘When yang has reached its greatest strength, the dark power of yin is born within its depths, for night begins at midday when yang breaks up and begins to change into yin’ (JUNG 5, p. 13). For Jung, the Dionysian eruption of Nietzsche’s unconscious, with its intuitive and instinctive qualities, was confirming evidence of the correctness of the ancient Chinese insight.

Jung also saw the split of psychic energy into varying levels of imbalance throughout the pairs of opposites as a helpful theoretical model for understanding mental breakdown. Jung makes use of a parallel between the one-sidedness of a patient’s orientation threatened with breakdown and the purely conscious orientation of modern Western man suffering from a chronic imbalance.

The Easterner, by contrast, through the practice of his various yogas has kept a better balance between the pairs of opposites and thus does not as yet suffer from the same chronic problems as his Western colleague. Here Jung again sounds his warning that the solution for the Westerner cannot be found by taking up the direct practice of Eastern yoga. Jung says the neurosis or split within consciousness would then simply be intensified (Ibid., p. 14). But what can be learned from the East is a general approach to be adopted so that the split, the imbalance between the opposites may be brought into harmony.

Although during 1918 and 1920, Jung had received from the analysis of his own unconscious a clue that the way to psychic integration was not linear but circular, it was not until his encounter with The secret of the golden flower several years later that his therapeutic concept of ‘circumambulation of the self’ was crystallised and confirmed (JUNG 11, p. 311 (I9~7)). In his commentary on The secret of the golden flower Jung points out that ‘the union of opposites on a higher level of consciousness is not a rational thing, nor is it a matter of will: it is a process of psychic development that expresses itself in symbols’ (JUNG 5, p. 21). Jung maintains that in Western as well as Eastern experience the symbols of integration that appear are chiefly of the mandala type. Afa’udala means circle, and implies a circular movement focused on the centre. It is a mental image or a ritually acted out symbol which aims at engaging all sides of one’s personality-all the positive and the negative opposites of one’s nature.

In Jungian theory the unifying psychological process of symbol formation is usually described as the raisiing or individuating of an archetype from the level of the collective unconscious to the level of conscious awareness. This may occur with varying degrees of psychic intensity from a relatively ordinary ‘insight’ experience to the most extraordinary mystical experience (e.g. Paul’s visionary experience of Christ). In conformity with much Eastern yoga, Jung admits that such a symbolic unity cannot be achieved by a determined effort of the conscious will-because the will is, by nature, biased in favour of one of the sides of the opposites, namely, the conscious side. It is necessary that the appropriate cultural image, through the psychic process of intuition, be allowed to speak to and engage the contents of the collective unconscious in a manner that defies defmitive expression.

It is the purpose of the various meditational tecimiques ofEastern yoga to make possible and promote this process. In the West this same goal of psychic unity should be pursued, not by imitatiing Eastern yoga, but by developing parallel Western practices such as the cultivation of what Jung calls ‘active imagination’. By such means the contents of deeply unconscious layers can be raised and brought into fertile contact with ego-consciousness. Human history, too, may be seen to progress and unfold by sudden moments. When this happens, a pair of opposites may, momentarily at least, be said to be in balance and harmony (JUNG 5, pp. 22-8).


Jung, in the ‘Late thoughts’ section of his biography observes that religious symbols, ‘by their very nature, can so unite the opposites that these no longer diverge or clash, but mutually supplement one another and give meaningful shape to life’ (JUNG 11, p. 311 (338)). This insight, which is nowhere more necessary than in reconciling the inevitable internal contradictions in any conception of God or Absolute Reality, Jung encountered in a highly refined form in Tibetan Buddhism. While writing his Commentary on ‘The Tibetan book of the great liberation’, he notes that in the Tibetan meditations the different gods are nothing but symbolic representations of various aspects of the pairs of opposites which when taken together, constitute the whole (JUNG p. 495). In Indian and Chinese thought, too, any representation of the divine in either philosophical or artistic forms almost always includes the various aspects of the pairs of opposites. The Hindu gods, for example, are balanced and completed by their goddesses (e.g. Siva-Sakti). Indeed, this balancing and fulfilling union between the male and female aspects of the absolute Brahman is the dominant symbolism in medieval Indian art (ZIMMER 23). The same  may be found in the Tibetan yab-yum images (Obermiller, 16), the Taoist yin-yang symbol (Thompson 22, pp. 63-76) and the many different ways in which Zen art represents the finite in the infinite (Suzuki 21). This aspect of Eastern religious symbolism seems to have made a pro-found impact upon Jung. It provided a ‘bridge’ for his return to Western thought in that he discovered the same sort of symbolising of the opposites in Western alchemy (JUNG 8, p. 152f.). However, perhaps even more important, it provided him with a theoretical structure for the Christian experience of God by means of which ‘the unavoidable internal contradictions in the image of a creator-god can be reconciled in the unity and wholeness of the self as the coniunctio oppositorum of the alchemists or as a unio inystica’ (JUNG II, p. 311 (338)). It is clear that Jung’s most significant religious experience did not have to do with the reconciling of God and man, but rather with the reconciliation of the opposites within the God-image itself (Ibid.). Although Jung’s theological solution takes its content from Western alchemy, its form was largely shaped in his earlier encounter with Eastern religion. In his Commentary on ‘The secret of the golden flower’ Jung summarised the significance of this encounter as bringing God within the range of his own experience of reality. By this he did not mean that he was adopting the metaphysics of Eastern yoga, for this he explicitly rejects. By seeing God, not as an absolute beyond all human experience, but as a powerful impulse within my personality, says Jung, ‘I must concern myself with him, for then he can become important, even unpleasantly so, and can affect me in practical ways . . . ‘ (JUNG 5, p. so).

While analysing the differences he found between East and West Jung noticed that in the East the religions received great respect because they provided the paths or yogas by which entrapment in the tensions of the pairs of opposites could be overcome. By contrast, Western forms of contemplation are little developed and in general are not respected. Contemplative religious orders are often judged to be worthless because they spend their time meditating and doing nothing, rather than in helping the needy. Jung states it concisely. ‘No one has time for self-knowledge or believes that it could serve any sensible purpose . . . We believe exclusively in doing and do not ask about the doer… ‘(JUNG 10, p. 498). This leads Jung to conclude that the religious attitude of the West is extroverted while that of the East is introverted (JUNG 7, p.488). While Western religion sees God immanently at work in the events of the natural world, and acting through grace in his transcendental separation from the world (Rudolph Otto), Eastern religion finds spiritual information and guidance mainly through introspection. Here Jung would probably admit that he is overemphasising for the purpose of making his point (Ibid., p. 506). Eastern religions, such as Hinduism, do not receive spiritual information and guidance only through introspection. For the Hindu the encounter with his scriptural revelation, the Veda, which comes to him from the external world (thus given cultural environment), is essential for his eventual realisation of moksa or release. Similarly, the Western Christian, for example, has some sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit within. But the general insight Jung stated as a result of his encounter with Eastern yoga still receives credence today. Recent Western commentators such as Jacob Needleman (15) and Theodore Roszak (19) still stress the necessity. of an ‘inward turn’ exactly as Jung prescribed it some forty years ago.

Yet another aspect of Eastern religion which attracted Jung was that it was based on an experiential knowledge of man’s own consciousness, and not on the blind faith or otherworldly grace that he felt characterised much Western religion. If the Eastern approach were adopted by the West, not only would this remove religion from the realms of otherworldly superstition, it would also do away with the conflict between religion and science. As long as science is based on empirical fact, and religion on blind faith, the barrier between the two will remain and the psychic split within Western man will deepen into still more of Nietzsche’s madness. In the West both science and religion have to become less dogmatic and expand their awareness. ‘There is no conflict between religion and science in the East,’ says Jung, ‘because no science is there based upon the passion for facts, and no religion upon mere faith …’ (JUNG 7, p. 480). Of course Jung realised that he was referring here to traditional Eastern science and not to the imported brands of  Western science that one now encounters in contemporary Eastern universities.6


There is little doubt that Jung’s encounter with the various Indian, Tibetan and Chinese forms of yoga had a significant and beneficial impact upon his life. But it was an impact that he found difficult to communicate to his Western readers. Jung was only too aware of the strong possibility that any such attempt would run the risk of promoting misunderstanding at many different levels-some relatively harness, others quite dangerous. He realised that because the Westerner typically does not know his own unconscious, it is quite likely that when he finds the East strange and hard to understand he will project onto it everything he fears and despises in himself Anyone who has had the experience of teaching the East to the general public of the West can confirm this insight of Jung. The other kind of typical Western reaction, and perhaps the one which Jung feared most, is to be quickly attracted to the East, to give up one’s own heritage, and, with little or no understanding of the psychic processes involved, to become a ‘surface’ imitator of Eastern yoga-in a word, to mindlessly ape the East. As Jung put it, “The usual mistake of Western man when faced with this problem   of grasping the ideas of the East is like that of the student in Faust. Misled by the devil, he contemptuously turns his back on science and, carried away into Eastern occultism, takes over yoga practices word for word and becomes a pitiable imitator’ (JUNG 5, p. 7). The reason Jung feared this so much was that he felt the direct practice of yoga by a Westerner would only serve to strengthen his will and consciousness and so further intensify the split with the unconscious. This would simply add more aggravation to the already chronic Western ailment – over-development of the will and the conscious aspect of the psyche. The outcome would be just as disastrous for the Western neurotic who suffers from the opposite problem of a lack of development of the conscious and a predominance of the unconscious. Since the thrust of yoga is inward, it would only plunge such a neurosis further into the depths (Ibid., p. 14). In addition to these considerations, Jung pointed out that if we try to snatch spiritual techniques directly from the East ‘we have merely indulged our Western acquisitiveness, confirming yet again that “everything good is outside”, whence it has to be fetched and pumped into our barren souls’ (JUNG 7, p. 483).

When the above limitations and dangers are taken seriously, Jung felt that the West could obtain substantial benefits from encounter with the East. One of the major contributions of Western contact with the various spiritual disciplines of Eastern yoga is that they serve to remind the West that some-thing similar may be found in its own cultural heritage. As examples of authentic spiritual practices, which have been forgotten by the modem West, Jung points frequently to the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola, but with deepest interest to Western medieval alchemy. And in addition to helping the West recover these most valuable aspects of its own tradition, contact with the East also had the effect of directing the attention of modem Western man to the importance of his inner nature and its intuitive function. As Jung clearly demonstrates in His last essay, ‘Approaching the unconscious’, scientific as well as artistic and religious creativity may directly depend on sensitivity to the intuitive process of the unconscious (JUNG 12). Even in his own day Jung looked upon the growing interest in Eastern yoga as a sign that the West was beginning to relate to the intuitive elements within itself

Were he alive today Jung would probably judge the even greater fascination with the East in the same optimistic way. But he would surely repeat again and again his warning to the West that denial of its own historical foundations and its contemporary scientific advances would be sheer folly and the best way to bring about yet another uprooting of consciousness JUNG 5, p. 49).

You cannot he a good Christian and redeem yourself, nor can you be a Buddha and worship God. It is much better to accept the conflict we must get at Eastern values from within and not from without, seeking them in ourselves, in the unconscious… (JUNG 7, pp. 483-4).

Jung believed that the science of modern psychology would provide the necessary means for the contemporary West to seek within successfully Jung 5, p. 43)


Jung does not use the term ‘yoga’ in a narrow technical way as is the case, for example, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In his writings Jung applies ‘yoga’ in a general way to encompass all of his encounters with Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist systems of thought. Following upon His 1912-1918 confrontation with the unconscious, Jung’s encounter with yoga served two important purposes. First, it provided him with confirming evidence that others had had similar experiences to his own. Second, it gave further substance to the Gnostic suggestion that consciousness was wider than modem man’s fixation upon the scientific intellect seemed to allow. Indeed it appears that in the development of Jung’s thinking, yoga led him on from his early fascination with gnosticism to a decade or so of sojourn to the East, and then back to Western alchemy.

The fundamental importance of the pairs of Opposites (dvandva) in Eastern thought provided Jung with powerful cross-cultural confirmation of his personal experience of the psychic tension within the personality. Jung observed that Hindu concepts such as Rta and Dharma highlight the inherent laws of human nature which, when followed, guide the natural flow of libido into the middle path through the conflict of opposites. The overcoming of the conflict of opposites within the personality is the goal of the various margas or psychological disciplines of Eastern yoga. Modern Western man has overweighted the conscious orientation of the psyche and thus suffers from a condition of chronic imbalance. The Easterner, by contrast, through the practice of his various yogas has kept a better balance between the pairs of opposites and thus does not as yet suffer from the same chronic problems as Western man. Jung repeatedly warns, however, that the solution for the Westerner cannot be found in taking up the direct practice of Eastern yoga-this would only serve to intensify the existing neurosis or split within consciousness. But Jung felt that knowledge of Eastern yoga could play an effective role in sensitising one to techniques or disciplines present within Western thought, which when adopted, could correct the imbalance of the modern psyche. Jung’s study of yoga focused his interest on the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola, and particularly upon the practices of medieval alchemy. However, in the end it was the pathway of individuation through active imagination that, in Jung’s view, was the appropriate ‘yoga’ for modern Western man.

Perhaps the most important result of this study is the observance of a basic divergence between Jung and most traditional Eastern yoga. Although Jung finds close agreement between his personal experience and the Eastern view of the dynamic tension between the pairs of opposites, Jung firmly believed that it was impossible to get beyond this tension. To most orthodox Hindus, for example, moksa means a complete freedom or transcendence from the tensions of the pairs of opposites. Jung, however, argued that without such dynamic tension there is no life. The basis of Jung’s disagreement is rooted in his typically Western view of ego. Since experience of oneself as an individual ego is fundamentally an experience of separation from other objects and persons, and since separation is the cause of the pairs of opposites, the complete overcoming of the pairs of opposites implies the eradication of the ego. But if there is no ego, there is no knower and therefore no consciousness. In Jung’s view abolishing the ego to transcend the opposites leaves Only the unconscious – an outcome which simply will not square with the Western experience of philosophy, religion, and modern science.


I.    BENNETT, E. A. (I 966). What Jung really said. London, Macdonald.

2.    Eliade, M. (1958). Yoga: immortality and freedom. Princeton University Press.

F    3. JUNG, C. G. (1921). Psychological types. Coil. wks., 7.

4.    (1928). ‘The relations between the ego and the unconscious’. Coil. wks., 7.

From Man and His Symbols

Jung’s thinking has coloured the world of modern psychology more than many of those with casual knowledge realise. Such familiar terms, for instance, as “extrovert,” “introvert,” and “archetype” are all Jungian concepts-borrowed and sometimes misused by others. But his overwhelming contribution to psychological understanding is his concept of the unconscious-not (like the “subconscious” of Freud) merely a sort of glory-hole of repressed desires, but a world that is just as much a vital and real part of the life of an individual as the conscious, “cogitating” world of the ego, and infinitely wider and richer.  The language and the “people” of the unconscious are symbols, and the means of communications dreams.

Thus an examination of Man and his Symbols is in effect an examination of man’s relation to his own unconscious. And since in Jung’s view the unconscious is the great guide, friend, and adviser of the conscious, this book is related in the most direct terms to the study of human beings and their


spiritual problems. We know the unconscious and communicate with it (a two-way service) principally by dreams; and all through this book (above all in Jung’s own chapter) you will find a quite remarkable emphasis placed on the importance of dreaming in the life of the individual.

It would be an impertinence on my part to attempt to interpret Jung’s work to readers, many of whom will surely be far better qualified to understand it than I am. My role, remember, was merely to serve as a sort of “intelligibility filter” and by no means as an interpreter. Nevertheless, I venture to offer two general points that seem important to me as a layman and that may possibly be helpful to other non-experts. The first is about dreams. To Jungians the dream is not a kind of standardised cryptogram that can be decoded by a glossary of symbol meanings. It is an integral, important, and personal expression of the individual unconscious. It is just as “real” as any other phenomenon attaching to the individual. The dreamer’s individual unconscious is communicating with the dreamer alone and is selecting symbols for its purpose that have meaning to the dreamer and to nobody else. Thus the interpretation of dreams, whether by the analyst or by the dreamer himself, is for the Jungian psychologist an entirely personal and individual business (and sometimes an experimental and very lengthy one as well) that can by no means be undertaken by rule of thumb.

The converse of this is that the communications of the unconscious are of the highest importance to the dreamer-naturally so, since the unconscious is at least half of his total being-and frequently offer him advice or guidance that could be obtained from no other source. Thus, when I described Jung’s dream about addressing the multitude, I was not describing a piece of magic or suggesting that Jung dabbled in fortune telling. I was recounting in the simple terms of daily experience how Jung was “advised” by his own unconscious to reconsider an inadequate judgement he had made with the conscious part of his mind.

Now it follows from this that the dreaming of dreams is not a matter that the well-adjusted Jungian can regard as simply a matter of chance. On the contrary, the ability to establish communication with the unconscious is a part of the whole man, and Jungians “teach” themselves (I can think of no better term) to be receptive to dreams. When, therefore, Jung himself was faced with the critical decision whether or not to write this book, he was able to draw on the resources of both his conscious and his unconscious in making up his mind. And all through this book you will find the dream treated as a direct, personal, and meaningful communication to the dreamer-a communication that uses the symbols common to all mankind, but that uses them on every occasion in an entirely individual way that can be interpreted only by an entirely individual “key.”

The second point I wish to make is about a particular characteristic of argumentative method that is common to all the writers of this book-perhaps of all Jungians. Those who have limited themselves to living entirely in the world of the conscious and who reject communication with the unconscious bind themselves by the laws of conscious, formal life. With the infallible (but often meaningless) logic of the algebraic equation, they argue from assumed premises to incontestably deduced conclusions. Jung and his colleagues seem to me (whether they know it or not) to reject the limitations of this method of argument. It is not that they ignore logic, but they appear all the time to be arguing to the unconscious as well as to the conscious. Their dialectical method is itself symbolic and often devious. They convince not by means of the narrowly focused spotlight of the syllogism, but by skirting, by repetition, by presenting a recurring view of the same subject seen each time from a slightly different angle-until suddenly the reader who has never been aware of a single, conclusive moment of proof finds that he has unknowingly embraced and taken into himself some wider truth.

Jung’s arguments (and those of his colleagues) spiral upward over his subject like a bird circling a tree. At first, near the ground, it sees only a confusion of leaves and branches. Gradually, as it circles higher and higher, the recurring aspects of the tree form a wholeness and relate to their surroundings. Some readers may find this “spiralling” method of argument obscure or even confusing for a few pages-but not, I think, for long. It is characteristic of Jung’s method, and very soon the reader will find it carrying him with it on a persuasive and profoundly absorbing journey.

The different sections of this book speak for themselves and require little introduction from me. Jung’s own chapter introduces the reader to the unconscious, to the archetypes and symbols that form its language and to the dreams by which it communicates. Dr. Henderson in the following chapter illustrates the appearance of several archetypal patterns in ancient mythology, folk legend, and primitive ritual. Dr. von Franz, in the chapter entitled “The Process of Individuation,” describes the process by which the conscious and the unconscious within an individual learn to know, respect, and accommodate one another. In a certain sense this chapter contains not only the crux of the whole book, but perhaps the essence of Jung’s philosophy of life: Man becomes whole, integrated, calm, fertile, and happy when (and only when) the process of individuation is complete, when the conscious and the unconscious have learned to live at peace and to complement one another. Mrs. Jaffe’, like Dr. Henderson, is concerned with demonstrating, in the familiar fabric of the conscious, man’s recurring interest in-almost obsession with-the symbols of the unconscious. They have for him a profoundly significant, almost a nourishing and sustaining, inner attraction-whether they occur in the myths and fairy tales that Dr. Henderson analyses or in the visual arts, which, as Mrs. Jaffe’ shows, satisfy and delight us by a constant appeal to the unconscious.

Finally I must say a brief word about Dr. Jacobi’s chapter, which is somewhat separate from the rest of the book. It is in fact an abbreviated case history of one interesting and successful analysis. The value of such a chapter in a book like this is obvious; but two words of warning are nevertheless necessary. First, as Dr. von Franz points out, there is no such thing as a typical Jungian analysis. There can’t be, because every dream is a private and individual communication, and no two dreams use the symbols of the unconscious in the same way. So every Jungian analysis is unique-and it is misleading to consider this one, taken from Dr. Jacobi’s clinical files (or any other one there has ever been), as “representative” or “typical.” All one can say of the case of Henry and his sometimes lurid dreams is that they form one true example of the way in which the Jungian method may be applied to a particular case. Secondly, the full history of even a comparatively uncomplicated case would take a whole book to recount. Inevitably, the story of Henry’s analysis suffers a little in compression. The references, for instance, to the I Ching have been somewhat obscured and lent an unnatural (and to me unsatisfactory) flavour of the occult by being presented out of their full context. Nevertheless, we concluded-and I am sure the reader will agree-that, with the warnings duly given, the clarity, to say nothing of the human interest, of Henry’s analysis greatly enriches this book.

I began by describing how Jung came to write Man and his Symbols. I end by reminding the reader of what a remarkable-perhaps unique-publication this is. Carl Gustav Jung was one of the great doctors of all time and one of the great thinkers of this century. His object always was to help men and women to know themselves, so that by self-knowledge and thoughtful self-use they could lead full, rich, and happy lives. At the very end of his own life, which was as full, rich, and happy as any I have ever encountered, he decided to use the strength that was left to him to address his message to a wider public than he had ever tried to reach before. He completed his task and his life in the same month. This book is his legacy to the broad reading public.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved