by Alex Chapunoff, LMHC, TIRF
From time to time, we will post intros about teachers or authors who have made valuable contributions to therapy and self-knowledge.
Carl Jung (1875-1961) holds a key place in Western history because he was the first to bridge the gap between medical science (psychiatry) and mysticism. He was a psychotherapist from Switzerland who started out as a disciple of Sigmund Freud but later branched out on his own.
Freud had developed the understanding of the personal subconscious and how it influenced people’s lives and communicated through dreams. Jung went further, discovering the role of the collective unconscious: at another level, beyond the personal subconscious, we all share the same unconscious mind. Everyone dips in the same pool, so to speak. It is a species-wide trait, and finds expression in stories, myths, artifacts, and symbols; many of which say similar things, though their creators were unaware of one another, being separated by distant locations and times.
Jung also coined the terms introvert (one who seeks psychological energy from within) and extravert (one who seeks it from without), persona (the face we show, or the role we play, for society’s sake), shadow (the unacceptable side of us which we don’t like and try to hide from ourselves and others), individuation (the process of discovering all your traits and becoming who you really are), and synchronicity (the appearing of coincidences which are so remarkable and meaningful as to be knowing).
Carl Jung’s goal was to unite physics and psychology. From his studies of the I Ching (or Book of Changes), he realized that the mind is a co-creator of reality. Quantum mechanics came to the same conclusion when it determined that an observer is a vital participant in what is observed.
Jung is also important for the 21st Century because he taught of the risks of ignoring our true heritage: if we neglect our inner nature, we will also neglect outer nature (e.g., the environment). They are interrelated; there is no real boundary between them.
Finally, Jung updated the ancient mystical teachings into a scientific and intellectual form which a modern person can appreciate. As an eminent researcher, he presented these studies with academic respectability. But, more importantly, he ensured that his work carry on the richness and vitality —the breadth and depth—of the wisdom traditions.
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