A Jungian Perspective/ Psychology And Metaphysics
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Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Author: C G Jung
Recorded and Edited by Aniela Jaffé
Publisher: Fontana Press
Date: 1995
ISBN: 0-00-654027-9
Reviewed: 30 May 1998 by Carmel Briggs

This book is the story behind the man, Carl Gustav Jung, who lived from 1865 to 1961, and who has had such a profound influence on modern psychology. Written mostly by the man himself, this is not a list of dates and events, but a personal history of the internal images, thoughts and feelings that led Jung to develop the insights that have made him so famous. Born into a religious family, Jung at a very early age had dreams and visions that conflicted strongly with the religious beliefs and discussions that surrounded him.

He describes the internal conflicts and the ways in which he dealt with them, giving himself the labels Personality No 1 and Prsonality No 2. He suggests that this conflict exists within all of us, but many people are not conscious of it. Church became a place of torment for him as he listened to his father’s sermons, becoming more and more sceptical at this way of preaching the will of God. It seems that in Jung’s view, the will of God was an obscure and unknown thing, different for each individual, and to be explored daily, not just issued as jargon that people took for granted, without thought.

Jung had to keep many of his thoughts to himself, because he discovered early that people were disturbed by what he said, they would only accept facts, and facts were not available. He describes the richness of his thoughts and internal experiences as ‘I felt that at some time or other I had passed through the valley of diamonds, but I could convince no-one – not even myself, when I looked more closely – that the specimens I had brought back were not mere pieces of gravel.’

Jung’s appraoch to his patients was to listen carefully to their story – trying to understand the human background and the human suffering before offering any clinical diagnosis. He points out that the peril which threatens us all nowadays comes not from nature, but from man, from the psyches of the individual and the mass. (This is a man who lived in Europe through two world wars.) He stresses the importance, for anyone working in the field of psychotherapy, of understanding themselves, not just the patient, because he believed that in therapy, the whole personality of both doctor and patient come into play. He found that his own dreams were often influenced by the course of therapy with a patient, and he gained many useful insights that way.

Jung was aware that many people are faced with symbolism in dreams that they are unable to understand. In some cases, fear of change could cause resistance, expecially in people like theologians, who are bound by church and dogma. Jung himself described his life as living on two planes simultaneously ‘one conscious, which attempted to understand and could not, and one unconscious, which wanted to express something and could not formulate it any better than by a dream.’

He travelled widely and from his travels in North Africa came his understanding that living in alien surroundings can awaken in people an archetypal memory of a prehistoric past that they appear to have forgotten. This he refers to as the ‘shadow self’. We call ourselves civilised, but it was only a few generations ago that our ancestors performed dreadful acts of barbarism. We often dissassociate ourselves from this fact.

In writing about Christianity and Buddhism, Jung describes Buddha as the image of the development of the self, who later became a model for men to imitate. Similarly in Christianity, he suggests that individuals do not pursue their own destined road to wholeness, but attempt to take the way taken by Christ. This he says, leads to a ‘fateful stasis’ in the great religions. So, says Jung, ‘we find that the so-called Christian West, far from creating a new world, is moving with giant strides towards the possibility of destroying the world we have.’

The book touches on many of Jung’s thoughts that are contained in his Collected Works – on religion, rencarnation, good and evil, archetypes, dreams, education, and I found myself sufficiently intrigued to feel inspired to read in more depth.

Jung describes man’s great gift as being that of consciousness, his ability to reflect and use his mind. To Jung, then, the prime goal of mankind is to develop that consciousness, through developing self-knowledge. ‘As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.’

Carl Gustav Jung was a man who certainly achieved that goal.