On this day in 1875, the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was born. When I was kid, I loved Jung. His work was so interesting. Freud seemed so bizarre to me, although there were things I liked about his work. But what I liked most about Jung was that he didn’t focus on dysfunction. He provided a description of why people were the way they were without necessarily labeling it as abnormal.
My favorite work, of course, was Psychological Types. Not only does it cover his whole system, but it provides a great deal of background information. He looked at other writers who had classified people into different types, “There are two kinds of people in the world…” What was especially nice about his system was that he didn’t classify types as normal and abnormal. That was especially important regarding introversion and extroversion, because introverts had long been labeled as damaged.
Now, of course, with the Myers-Briggs test books on the subject are everywhere. But they’ve also changed the theory somewhat. I don’t mind that, but it is interesting. Jung wasn’t some kind of oracle. And Jung thought that women were always (or nearly so) feeling types and mean thinking. That’s clearly not the case, although there does seem to be a strong tendency in that direction. I just took the HumanMetrics test and it said I was an INFP, although I am just as likely to come out as an INTP. Not that this necessarily means anything. I know the types are a model of how people are, but I’m not that sure of how fundamental they are. But it does explain to me why many (even most) perfectly nice people see the world so differently than I do.
Jung’s greatest work is undoubtedly The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious. But it is overwhelming. Again, I don’t necessarily accept it. In particular, I don’t acception the notion of a collective unconscious. But we do share archetypes that are ingrained from our evolution. I have no doubt that the other great apes share some of the same ones, and probably also sparrows and frogs. The book itself is very interesting in the the way that Jung uses eclectic knowledge to pull the theory all together. But one must be very careful with Jung, because he was very good at that kind of thing, regardless of the truth. But there is no doubt that there is at least a core truth to it.
When I was young and fearful of death, I took a great deal of comfort in Jung’s answer to whether he believed in God, “I know.” At this point, I’m not even sure what he meant. He was a mystic. And as a fellow mystic, I could easily answer that question in the same way, without it being in the least bit comforting to my frightened young self. The question is too vague. What is meant by “God”? I would be interested in hearing Jung’s answer to the question, “Do you believe a God that loves you?” That’s where we would potentially part company. But it is regardless a very good answer to the question, because he took a very boring question and made it interesting.
Happy birthday Carl Jung!