Shifting between the worlds of Carl Jung

The New Atlantis has a wonderful article giving an in-depth biography of Carl Jung, perhaps one of the most interesting, infuriating and brilliant thinkers in the history of psychology.

Variously a pioneering experimental psychologist, a depth-analyst, an asylum psychiatrist and a man submerged in his own psychosis, he had a massive influence on both our understanding of the mind and 20th century culture.

…Jung never slackened in his pursuit of the ultimate — both ultimate good and ultimate evil, which he tended to find inseparable. He was frequently off in the empyrean or down in the bowels of hell, consorting with gods and demons as ordinary men do with family and friends. Few persons conducted such conversations, and most of them were inmates of lunatic asylums. For a time the thought that he might be insane terrified him.

The fear dissipated, however, as he became convinced that his visions were genuinely revelatory and belonged to the primordial psychic reality that all men have in common: the collective unconscious, he called it. Poets and such may get away with beliefs like these, for their madness is pretty well taken for granted, but it was a most unorthodox way for an esteemed psychiatrist to think.

Jung is also probably one of the most misunderstood figures in psychology, largely owing to his tendency to swing between science, poetic genius and outright flakery.

The New Atlantis article is a fantastic exploration of the man and his ideas and one of the best short introductions you could find. Well, as short as you could get with Carl Jung.

Link to ‘Psychology’s Magician’.

12 thoughts on “Shifting between the worlds of Carl Jung”

    1. is it called
      “psychology: the science of making shit up and just pretending like it’s true and hoping people believe you” ?

      that’s what Jung and freud did, for the most part.

      I’m unaware of anything they ever did beyond speculation.

      calling them reputable “Scientists” in their field would be like saying that a guy that said “well, we THINK That this random cocktail of shit we put together is going to cure this person’s cancer… and, I mean… we’re experts, so it’s true!”

      then, they just never used it or tested it, YET still proclaimed it’s ability to cure cancer, without ever seeing if it ACTUALLY DOES.

      then a bunch of suckers bought into it.

      that’s how psychology works, in an analogous sense.

      1. sorry, let me finish that part
        “that would be like saying the person that that invented said ‘cancer cocktail’ deserves an honorary doctorate in medicine for finding the ‘cure for cancer’.”

        are you aware of the success rate of close to zero percent of any ability to actually produce results in the field of psychology?

        google “psychologists”

        ever see any numbers?

        or do you see lots of “sales tactcs” like
        “ohio’s most well-acclaimed psychologist”

        “been in the field for over 20 years”

        etc, etc

        none of them ever even ATTEMPT to prove shit. psychology is WAY more like an art than a science.

        yet, it is taught as a “Science” and people think of it as “fact”.

        VERY little of it is… applied psychology usually doesn’t work, also.

  1. For an excellent take-down of Carl Jung, see:

    Here’s an excerpt from the article:


    “Jung was a preternaturally unclear writer and thinker: he would never say anything clearly when obfuscation would do. Whether this was from lack of talent or an unconscious appreciation that clarity led to the possibility of contradiction and even refutation, no one can say…

    To read Jung is to enter a world more of connotation than of denotation, of meanings hinted at rather than expressed forthrightly. To extract a definite opinion from Jung is like trying to catch an eel with soapy hands, or trap steam with a butterfly net. His esoteric erudition is formidable: it is difficult to refute a man who will not say what he means, but backs whatever he means up with a plethora of references to fourteenth-century texts.


    1. one more bit of information that favors my opinion that:

      The bulk of the science of “psychology” isn’t scientific and seems more like opinion or rough estimates that are only backed by estimations that seem more philosophically entertaining (see:mental masturbation) than provably accurate and useful

      (PS: once schooled at an American University pursuant of a B.S. in psychology; I’ve taken the classes… I have seen how much of it is very strongly-held bias an opinion appealing more to respect of authority than logic, reasoning, and proofs masqueraded as concrete “fact”. I can see why so many women like this field… they can never be wrong.


  2. I quite like Jung, but this article pulls out and celebrates his worst qualities.

    Jung was a study in contradictions, brilliant insights (the idea of collective unconscious, way ahead of his time even if phrased in an unfortunate manner) mixing with complete silliness (his belief in the Shroud of Turin).

    Pulling out the silly parts and claiming that he was a great man and that silly parts are actually deep an meaningful does not a wonderful article make. I would actually call this article a disservice to Jung’s name – without even having to number the worst points, such as the thinly-veiled attempt to use Jung in order to promote Christianity.

    1. why do you think so many christians gravitate towards psychology?

      you can FEEL like you are accurate/right without actually having to BE accurate/rightful.

      they love it… psychology and religion are a match made it heaven.

      make shit up, and just run with it, and say
      “it’s just theory”
      or some other thing that skews the concept of empiricism and the scientific method.

      well over 50% of psychology is just opinion and guessing with little to no actually proofs/testing to back it.

  3. Jung! I’ve only come to his stuff quite late – my schooling was much more on the cognitive side (as you’d expect from a Mindhacker) but I’m glad I have, as I’m finding much to appreciate.

    Alex C, from the excerpt, doesn’t seem so much takedown as opinion. I’m dipping in and out of Modern Man In Search of Soul and it’s as clear as I would want. “he would never say anything clearly when obfuscation would do” is just nonsense.

    Just skimming through the article reminds me of which I’m meaning to read – the blog is pretty good. Not sure if this has come up on Mind Hacks before Vaughan?


  4. I like this blog – thank you.
    There was a time when I was really excited by Jung and his works, but was not sure what to do with his ideas on synchronicity and the occult. I later stumbled upon a book called Jung Cult: Origins of a charismatic movement. The book consolidated my sense of Jung as someone that is revered as a kind of transcendental scientist. The idea of him being a scientist gave his mystical ideas a kind of legitimacy. But I’m not sure that his work was scientific in any sense. That doesn’t mean his views are incorrect, but they perhaps shouldn’t be given special status as coming from an enlightened scientist.

  5. When critics like Pragmatist and Alex C’s quoted source make categorical statements including lots of nevers, evers, etc., as in ‘none of them ever attempt to prove’ or ‘he would never say anything clearly’, it’s quite obvious to those with some lingering rags of objectivity that they are not making scientific statements but wielding knives and axes. Some of Freud’s work is supported by good observation–the ‘subconscious’ content of jokes and ‘Freudian slips’, for instance; and some of Jung’s basic work as well: his idea of an axis of introversion/extraversion is relatively testable, for instance.

    Bluster only shows that one is … blustering.

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