Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil, Switzerland on July 26, 1875, an only son and eldest child. His father was a pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church, and his mother came from a family of clergymen. From his early youth, Jung was captivated by his dreams and inner life. This led him to embark on a journey of self-discovery, in which he questioned the beliefs of the Protestant tradition in which he had been steeped. He was gifted with an uncannily sharp and inquisitive intellect, and even at a young age was concerned with the nature of the human psyche. He read extensively from the works of Goethe, Kant, Schopenhauer and Meister Eckhart, to name a few. Though in his student years he was interested in religious thought, philosophy and archeology, he chose to pursue a degree in medicine. Upon his graduation from the University of Basel, Jung decided to specialize in psychiatry. He accepted a position at the Burghölzli hospital in Zurich, working under Eugen Bleuler. The Burghölzli was renowned as a center for the treatment of schizophrenia. Here, psychological research, as well as hypnosis and other early forms of psychotherapeutic treatment were encouraged. There was an emphasis on the introduction of scientific methods, in the hopes of revolutionizing the understanding and effectiveness of psychiatric treatment. Jung had found the ideal home to begin his life’s work.
Jung and Emma Rauschenbauch were married in 1902. Together, they had five children. The same year he married, Jung went to Paris to study with the leading French psychologist, Pierre Janet,whose ideas had a major impact on Jung. Upon his return, he collaborated with Franz Riklin on the word association experiment. This resulted in the discovery of what Jung termed feeling-toned complexes. He applied this discovery to his study of schizophrenia to show that patients’ delusions had symbolic meaning. This study laid the foundation for his concept of the collective unconscious. Jung recognized that there were symbolic elements in patients’ fantasies that, unknown to them, also appeared in world-wide mythology. Through the word association experiment (the basis for the now extensively used “lie detector” test), the patient reveals deep-seated, hidden complexes or patterns of behavior that erupt out of the unconscious. While these complexes have personal relevance, they are derived from archetypal patterns, such as those expressed in age-old myths and fairy tales.
In 1906, at 31, Jung began a correspondence with Sigmund Freud that blossomed into a friendship. Though they came from different intellectual backgrounds and were almost a generation apart in age, they nonetheless shared an interest in grounding psychology in an in-depth exploration of individuals’ lives. They also emphasized the role of the unconscious in the individual’s relationship to the inner and outer worlds. Freud termed this approach Psychoanalysis. When Jung later embarked on a different direction from Freud, he called his approach Analytical Psychology.
Jung left the Burghölzli Hospital in 1909 to devote himself to his private practice and to the study of collective expressions of the unconscious, such as mythology, folklore and religion. He compared these products of the collective unconscious and subjected them to analytic thought. He later named this comparative method amplification. Amplification is a means of enlarging the understanding of an image from a dream or fantasy through comparison with material such as that from mythology and religions. His first, ambitious work on amplification was Transformations and Symbols of Libido, originally published in 1912, later revised and renamed Symbols of Transformation. The decision to publish this now classic work was a painful one for Jung; it clearly demonstrated that his view of the nature and role of the unconscious and of complexes and libido differed from Freud’s. The publication destroyed their relationship. The break was finalized in 1914, when Jung’s Zurich Psychoanalytic Association left the International Psychoanalytic Association and formed the Association of Analytical Psychology. During this time period Jung also wrote Psychological Types, which was in part an attempt to understand the different psychological attitudes of Freud, Alfred Adler and himself.
Despite the formation of his own Association, the break with Freud left Jung isolated both professionally and personally. It precipitated his great turning-inward, which he called his “confrontation with the unconscious.” During this time he explored the depths of his own psyche in order to find himself and to discover his own myth. This discovery was for him a counterbalance to the secular modern world. During these explorations he developed a method called active imagination. In this process one encounters the living reality of the unconscious through dialogue and other forms of imaginative engagement with fantasy or dream figures. This means of self-investigation would become the centerpiece of Jung’s approach to the psyche. Jung included his own inner dialogues along with illustrations in The Red Book, a journal which he wrote during this difficult period of his life. He went on to elaborate his thinking in his many other books and articles, some of which are published in The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. The many more unpublished works of Jung will appear incoming years in The Complete Works.
Through the investigation of the contents of his own and his patients’ unconscious, and through a painstaking study of mythology, comparative religions, anthropology, and finally alchemy, Jung concluded that the current myth of our time does not meet the psychological needs of the individual. What is missing in our age of hyper-rationalism is the capacity to re-connect with our lost instinctual nature. He coined the term individuation for the inner process which propels each of us toward greater wholeness. This process is directed by the uniting archetype, the Self, which is, paradoxically enough, both the center and the entirety of the psyche. Jung reminded us that our own wholeness and the healing of the world soul, the anima mundi, are dependent upon each one of us developing a more conscious relationship with those unexplored or rejected parts of ourselves which lie hidden in the unconscious and which he termed the shadow.
After a long lifetime dedicated to the understanding and healing of the human psyche, Jung died on June 6, 1961, in Küsnacht, Switzerland. His dreams at the end expressed grave concern for the well-being of the world, and also confirmed the achievement of a personal wholeness to which he had been devoted during his entire life.