Although Sigmund Freud has long been considered the pre-eminent genius of 20th-century psychology, Carl Jung has recently emerged as a more prophetic figure because of his revolutionary introduction of spirituality into psychology. While still a medical student, Jung was fascinated by spiritualistic phenomena, including what appeared to be poltergeist activity in his own home, and later made a study of certain elements of the occult. In the early 1900s, he became a protege of Freud, who announced he was adopting Jung, 19 years his junior, “as an eldest son.” They later collided over Freud’s rejection of occultism and parapsychology, however, and Jung broke off because he “could not accept Freud’s placing authority above truth.” He himself experienced graphically lucid dreams and prophetic visions.
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
Modern scholars have exposed Jung’s dark side, however, arguing that he was a racist and anti-Semite who was “at best ambivalent and, at worst, openly supportive” toward the Nazis in the 1930s. He has also been shown to be a womanizer and misogynist and an unloving father who lacked compassion in his personal life.
Yet there is no denying the powerful influence that Jung’s concepts have had on the psychology and metaphysical thought of the late 20th century. His terms such as the collective unconscious and archetypes (images, patterns, and symbols that are often seen in dreams or fantasies and appear as themes in the world’s mythologies, religions, and fairy tales) along with synchronicity and the shadow (the hidden, often unwelcome aspects of the unconscious) have entered our vocabulary as surely as Freud’s id, superego, and libido. Further, Jung’s insistence on the value of feeling and intuition alongside sensation and rational thought presaged a major component of the New Age. And he wrote influential introductions to and explanations of several classics of Eastern metaphysics, including the I Ching and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, that were virtually unknown in the West at that time. Jung was especially well-versed in the symbolism of what were then extremely arcane mystical traditions such as Gnosticism, Alchemy, Kabbalah, and the esoteric beliefs of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.
Jung’s work has found champions in some of today’s most influential and best-selling authors, from Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, and Robert Bly to Marion Woodman, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Thomas Moore, among many others.