Carl Jung reader helps us understand ourselves.

Carl Jung's reader sheds light on a giant of psychology.

I’ve started  a Carl Jung reader as part of my endless ruminations on why I and other do what we do.

I’m about one third of the way through the  630-page volume, which is edited by the late, great Joseph Campbell, and can say that I’m having a terrific time.

The work is fascinating on a number of levels.  A titan in the field, Jung takes direct aim in severa of the pieces at what he saw as Sigmund Freud’s excessive attention to repression and the id.  

The break with Freud was not quite akin to the recent split between Al and  Tipper Gore, and in the world of elite psychologists at the turn of last century, it was a doozy.

Jung’s split is intriguing both because of his emphasis on archetypes and collective psychological experiences, and because, by forgoing the comfort of his community’s affirmation, he went on what Campbell would later describe as the hero’s journey.

Campbell’s role in the selection of the essays is another engaging  aspect of the collection.  Having read some of Campbell’s work and watched a lot of his public television special with Bill Moyers, I could see what drew Campbell to Jung’s work.  He includes excerpts in which Jung talks about the importance of dreams, of masks, and of myths as a way to understand one’s own, and humanity’s, fundamental experiences. 

I am in the middle of Jung’s description of people who are extraverted, or driven largely by objective data, and those who are intraverted, or influenced more by their inner and emotional lives.  This, too, is entertaining, if a bit schematic (To be fair, Jung does point out earlier in the piece that each person has some blend of these two types.).

Jung’s facility with classical texts, with novels and with history are another source of pleasure in the reading, even if some of the references expose other areas in which I would like to learn.

As mentioned above, Jung does overstate his case at times.  His prose is jargon-drenched in places that can make certain sentence a serious mouthful to get through. And, at least thus far, I’ve not yet found too much that truly resonates with my understanding of my own life.

That said, I’ve still got about 400 pages of reading fun and thus plenty of time to absorb the wisdom the Swiss genius has to impart. Beyond that, the gain one receives from reading some authors is arriving at a deeper understanding of a truly original and world-historical thinker.


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