Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist, influential thinker, and founder of Analytical Psychology, a form of Depth Psychology. Jung’s unique and broadly influential approach to psychology emphasizes understanding the psyche through exploring the worlds of dreams, art, mythology, world religion and philosophy. Although he was a theoretical psychologist and practicing clinician for most of his life, much of his life’s work was spent exploring other realms, including Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, sociology, as well as literature and the arts.
Jung has had an enduring influence on psychology as well as wider society. Some of his most notable contributions include:
Jung emphasized the importance of balance and harmony. He cautioned that modern humans rely too heavily on science and logic and would benefit from integrating spirituality and appreciation of the unconscious realm.
Jung’s work on himself and his patients convinced him that life has a spiritual purpose beyond material goals. Our main task, he believed, is to discover and fulfill our deep-innate potential, much as the acorn contains the potential to become the oak, or the caterpillar to become the butterfly. Based on his study of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Taoism, and other traditions, Jung perceived that this journey of transformation is at the mystical heart of all religions. It is a journey to meet the self and at the same time to meet the Divine.
In addition to analytical work with his many patients, Jung lectured internationally and wrote extensively. Twenty volumes of his work have been published, now known as the Collected Works of C. G. Jung. His inner experiences, however, retained for him the greatest value.
The following is an excerpt from Memories, Dreams, Reflections, written in the last years of his life:
In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one. That is why I speak chiefly of inner experiences, among which I include my dreams and visions. These form the prima materia of my scientific work. They were the fiery magma out of which the stone that had to be worked was crystallized.
Inner experiences also set their seal on the outward events that came my way and assumed importance for me in youth or later on. I early arrived at the insight that when no answer comes from within to the problems and complexities of life, they ultimately mean very little. Outward circumstances are no substitute for inner experience. Therefore my life has been singularly poor in outward happenings. I cannot tell much about them, for it would strike me as hollow and insubstantial. I can understand myself only in the light of inner happenings. It is these that make up the singularity of my life, and with these my autobiography deals.
Since his death in 1961, just before his 86th birthday, Jung’s work has become widely known. The first institutes for the training of Jungian analysts were founded in the early 1940’s in San Francisco and in 1948 in Zürich. There are now training institutes throughout the world.