Jung and God

C.G. Jung: Letters Volume 2 1951-1961

selected and edited by Gerhard Adler, in collaboration with Aniela Jaffé, translated by R.F.C. Hull
Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XCV:2, 763 pp., $20.00

C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time

by Marie-Louise von Franz, translated by William H. Kennedy
C.G. Jung Foundation, 355 pp., $15.00

Jung and the Story of Our Time

by Laurens van der Post
Pantheon Books, 276 pp., $10.00

Jung on Elementary Psychology: A Discussion Between C.G. Jung and Richard Evans

by C.G. Jung, by Richard Evans
E.P. Dutton & Co., 224 pp., $3.95 (paper)

Last year marked Jung’s centenary, and Freud’s is already twenty years past; yet these two, who evolved so inevitably from a century of preoccupation with the strata underlying rationalistic thought, have remained curiously sacrosanct from serious biographical inquiry. The course of the six years’ relationship between them, revealed with the publication in 1974 of the Freud/Jung Letters,showed Ernest Jones’s biography of Freud to be, at the least, a discreet and partisan account; while Jung, fifteen years after his death, has had the benefit of scarcely any genuine assessment or biographical study. Books such as Marie-Louise von Franz’s, which is a dense and committed slab of Jungian exposition, or Laurens van der Post’s, which is pure hagiography, will do little to interest readers either in the odd and complex man himself or in his place in cultural history: with literary friends who can write of him as “one of the greatest religious phenomena the world has ever experienced,” as van der Post does, he hardly needs enemies.

And yet, patchy and difficult, in comparison to the letters, as Jung’s books strike the uninitiated, obfuscating the learning and the insights he clearly possessed, Jung surely deserves better treatment by now: partly—how he would have hated that!—as one-half of the Freud/Jung—phenomenon, and partly simply on his own account. If the late nineteenth-century climate was ready, as L.L. Whyte has shown in The Unconscious Before Freud, for a Freud to crystallize the clinical work of Charcot and Janet, the experimental psychology of Fechner and Wundt, and the philosophical preoccupation running from Hegel and Schopenhauer through Herbart, Carus, and von Hartmann, it was equally inevitable that there should be a Jung to balance the Freudian bias.

It is difficult to know whether his personal protest, with all the emotional, practical, and intellectual consequences it implied for him, contrived to debar him from the areas (such as child psychology) which were associated with Freud, or whether his interests would in any case have developed along the lines they did. The irony is that the very points—the strictly sexual interpretation of libido and the reduction of cultural patterns to sexual motifs—which provoked his dissidence and with which the Freud/Jung correspondence showed him to have been consistently in disagreement have long since been tacitly or explicitly revised; and while Freudian theory has proliferated in new and fruitful directions, Jung’s name now tends to appear in the company of courses on yoga, Tarot reading, and macrobiotic cooking. This too, it is clear from these letters, he would emphatically have hated.

Poor Jung, should we say? Should we feel that if only he had not been unconsciously maneuvered, by a quirk of Freud’s mentality, into playing the part of rebellious, outcast son, he could have had a more honorable career as second-in-command under the Freudian banner? If there was one thing that the Freud/Jung correspondence clearly showed, it was that the …

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