When Carl Gustav Jung published his seminal work, Analytical Psychology, an excellent introduction to his principles and essential reading for every student of the subject, exactly a hundred years ago, he was yet to establish himself as a seer and visionary nonpareil. All the same, the work reflected Jung’s growing stature — a thinker far ahead of his time. More importantly, it elevated his erudition — a manifestation he did not repress, or overlook, to foster and expand his reach, for the higher purposes of his own and others’ existence.
It also explains why Jung — a protégé of Sigmund Freud — broke away from his ‘mentor,’ and explored his own destiny: the world of dreams, psychic wholeness, the nature of god, oriental philosophy, alchemy, astrology etc., That’s not all. With his great postulate of synchronicity, Jung also emerged as the philosopher-favourite in our age of spiritual ‘renascence.’
To understand Jung is to comprehend the great unconscious, or his native Switzerland — a social perplexity that matches the opprobrious complexity of his own theories. For a man whose adolescence was troubled, Jung inquisitively did not view people kindly. Reason? Neurosis ran — sort of — in his family; his mother being the most affected by it. Strangely, it also brought in him a sense of alienation, but without infringement on his colossal intuitive chemistry.
For Jung [1875-1961], the Swiss Alps were a parallel of perfection, a mindful ‘kaleidoscopic’ inspiration. He was not just the proponent supreme of analytical psychology. He was also a sublime philosopher — a refined one at that — in his own right and write. He first registered as a medical student at the University of Basel in 1895. Soon after, he became interested in the possibilities of auto-suggestion, reincarnation, and even sensual fantasy. Come 1897, he delivered a mélange of posits culled from his ‘idols’ Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer et al. Needless to say, his thought has been and is being applied to diverse fields — from physics to eco-psychology. So also his seminal thinking constructs in psychoanalysis. It, therefore, comes as a big surprise that his contributions to philosophy have generally remained preclusive and even eerie.
It goes without saying that Jungian thought can provide us with an illuminating standpoint on contemporary philosophy. His psychological types can serve as a good signpost for us to examine his own philosophy: that typology [doctrine of types] is clearly applicable to epistemology [study of knowledge], in spite of its pertinence to ontology [study of nature]. As Jung himself wrote of his psychological types: “[My] work sprang originally from my need to define the ways in which my outlook differed from Freud’s and [Alfred] Adler’s.”
Philosophy is going through a renewal spell, at present. Well, almost. It is unlike how it evolved from the buoyant French sagacity of René Descartes, and the hardy British experientialism of David Hume, to the exalted insights of Kant, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel — the last great integrator. Yes, Jung was a pioneer. He took the role of a trail-blazer earnestly. What he said is of stupendous interest at the cutting-edge of philosophical thought today, albeit he was cognisant that his ideas could be endorsed, admired, contradicted, and also thrown into the back portals of history.
If Kant accepted Hume’s rather onerous shortcomings of human knowledge, that all we can know are observations of the senses, and operations of pure logic, he also had to deal with the fact that there are certain things people identify to be true: those that cannot be proved by either logic, or observation. Kant distinguished between things as we know them, and of the thing itself as the real thing a la Indian philosopher, Madhvacharya, of an earlier epoch. Kant also held that our sensory observations do not necessarily mirror, and unquestionably do not expend, actual reality, which is unknowable, but true in the most abstruse sense. Jung used this distinction to salvage us from definitive contradictions.
Jung, like Kant, accepted the existence of cause-and-effect in the ‘Spinozistic’ sense. He observed that resolute causality leaves no space for human freedom, even though human freedom is a cardinal appropriation of all societies and a nuclear experience of all people. Disapproval of human freedom contravenes human trustworthiness and exterminates some ideas that all people treasure as upright. Jung’s Kantianism presents itself in its elevated esteem for the objective reality of the inward life, not to speak of its transparent, consistent accent on human continuity with the rest of nature and cosmic laws.
Jung’s theory of synchronicity, “an ‘a-causal’ connecting principle,” is not so much cryptic or mystical. It is based on Kant’s distinction between phenomena and things-in-themselves. Kant also said that causality does not operate among things-in-themselves in exactly the same way it does in perceived eventualities. Jung may have had his limitations vis-à-vis his understanding of the whole human psyche to extraverted [object], sensing [perception of a physical stimulus] for data gathering and thinking [linking ideas derived from perceptions in logical order] for evaluation, yes. But, he saw that we do experience at least one thing itself directly: we experience our own existence. He also presaged the philosophy of phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and/or the one that was cultivated, and made enormously popular, by his more celebrated disciple, Martin Heidegger.
Jung, like the cognitive psychologists of today, thought of the human mind as not a simple, quiescent, externally programmed contrivance. He said that it was neither with its internal structure entirely distinct from, and unrelated to the universe, as many of us would presume. Our minds are part, Jung contended, of the universe, and participants in the same laws that created the universe. He, therefore, described the process of introverted sensation as the senses turned inward. This inner construct, he added, is clearly not a personal, individual matter of observing one’s own body or feelings, but rather turning one’s mindfulness to the personal experience of being itself. To this he connoted cross-cultural and historical observations. His classification of the experience of existence was, therefore, clearly allegorical and aesthetic. He beheld the collective unconscious, symbols, and exemplars as much as Heidegger recognised with being and time, understanding, the context of objectives, relationships, mood, and discourse [symbols/language].
Kant was principally essential to enlightening Jung’s distinction between introversion and extroversion. Introversion, according to Jung, was not mere subjectivity. How well do we all know that our neurology is matter and electricity: that our brains are also a direct, physical experience in the actual universe. We are just not simple subjects perceiving objects, even if we are ourselves included as objects. We are participant-observers in the Reality Web itself. Extroversion, therefore, as Jung explained, emphasises observation as much as introversion emphasises co-operation. This Kantian perspective explains why Jung could so powerfully discard the allegation of psychologism [philosophical position] — the reproof that he reduced god, for instance, to a psychic relic.
Jung’s definition of the psychic function, called intuition, is profoundly Kantian. He also affirmed that the human unconscious, expressed spontaneously in religious practice, myth, and literature, transcends mere subjectivity. It is a kind of perception, through us, as a thing-in-itself — of things. They really are, and by flowing into consciousness, he concurred, it is the personality of the universe becoming self-cognisant.
Jung was a multifaceted, reflective thinker. Central to his contributions are possibility syntheses that correct contemporary philosophy. Jung pointed out the weakness of any truth-discovering inventory that systematically precludes one, or another, part of human experience. His laid constant, inescapable stress on our direct participation in the universe by means of introversion/intuition, with the archetypes as exemplary. His recognised that feeling, a conscientiously evaluative function, is equal in importance and realistic to thinking, including logic, mathematics, analysis, and so on.
Jung’s psychoanalysis puts the individual or patient in touch with the unconscious. It’s a build-up of, and to, a kind of do-it-yourself therapy, or inner journey. It’s the way to find the self — that level of the unconsciousness where the individual consciousness merged with the psyche, like a river flowing into a mighty ocean. That unconscious, Jung reckoned, was collective. Such a collective nature of the human mind, he emphasised, was predisposed to respond to situations through fixed behaviour patterns — archetypes — a concept manifested by way of images and symbols, found in dreams, fantasies, and myths.
“An archetype,” as Jung put it, “is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself — the longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that, sooner or later, the water will return to its old bed.” It conjures up a classy metaphor: that nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious ‘tug’ closer together and independently of one another, and from contrasting points of the compass. They will, with a detached sense of attachment, push forward into transcendental confines — one with the characteristic of the atom, the other with that of Jung’s archetype.
The deduction: Jung’s silhouette, which reflects the Platonic idea of Timaeus, or ‘world-soul,’ not to speak of the totality of one’s psyche as being analogous to the ‘world-mind,’ is not only appropriate, but revolutionary. It may also, in effect, be best epitomised as the unfolding of the collective [un]consciousness not only in individuals, but also in every aspect of life.