Carl Gustav Jung - the Man Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Carl Gustav Jung - the Man

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To Carl Gustav Jung, life was so ephemeral, so insufficient, that he likened it to a plant that lived on its rhizome - its true life being invisible, hidden in the rhizome. What we see is the blossom, which passes. He thus considered the outer events of his life as hollow and insubstantial, understanding himself only in the light of inner happenings. Having mixed feelings about writing his memoir, Jung maintained that what he had to say was to be found in his works, and that he was incapable of recording 'truths' about himself. At best, he could recount his personal myth, only 'tell stories'. It was well known that Jung had a distaste for exposing his personal life to public scrutiny. Consequently, what we know of Jung the person is mainly anecdotal.

For those who knew Jung, he was an intensely human person, with the capacity to enjoy nature, good food and good company. Physically, he was tall, broad-shouldered, strong, and healthy looking, with a cheerful disposition. He was a mountain climber and expert sailor, and - gripped by the imagination of water from an early age - always lived next to a river or lake. He was a good listener and conversationalist, but did not suffer fools gladly. He had a keen sense of humour that was equalled, perhaps, by his quick temper. His power of concentration was prodigious, as his many detailed paintings and encyclopedic knowledge and profuse writings testify.

Jung's Women

A disproportionately large number of Jung's patients and followers were women, being powerfully attracted to him and gathered round him to form a sizeable coterie, known somewhat irreverently as the Jungfrauen. Indeed, this 'cult of women' (including Aniela Jaffé, Jolanda Jacobi, Marie-Louise Von Franz, Barbara Hannah, Esther Harding, Liliane Frey-Rohn et al) played a key role in the advancement of Jung's career, becoming practitioners and taking positions of power in both the Analytical Psychology Club (founded 1916) and the CG Jung Training Institute (founded 1948). American women, such as Edith Rockefeller McCormick and Mary Mellon, had a strong influence on the early movement, with large donations helping to finance the translation and publication of Jung's Collected Works.

Such an attraction can be attributed to the high value Jung placed on 'feminine consciousness,' at a time when women were generally treated as second-class citizens. His vitality and charismatic authority did not threaten them, but merely added to their attachment to him. Through their experiences of Jung as a person, an analyst and a 'spiritual father', they found a channel for their own strength and intellectual ambitions, and a closed society that accepted them. On the other hand, many men found him an overwhelming figure, whose force of personality made them feel unimportant1.

Jung was always fascinated with woman and the role she played in man's psyche. In childhood, he had a powerful attachment to a young maid charged with his care while his mother was hospitalised. He later came to identify the attraction as a personification of the 'anima.' The anima is an inner feminine figure that plays a typical, or archetypal, role in the man's unconscious. The contrasexual figure operating in the woman's unconscious he called the 'animus'. These 'soul-images' manifest themselves most typically in dreams and fantasies (eg 'dream lover'), through the mechanism of projection, or in the irrationalities of a man's 'feeling' and a woman's 'thinking'. As regulators of behaviour, and functioning as a bridge leading to the collective unconscious, Jung saw the anima and the animus as two of the most influential archetypes.

Though devoted to his wife and family, Jung confessed to having 'polygamous components' in his nature, with unfulfilled 'anima longings' which caused him to be attracted to other women. It is said that he became intimately involved with several of his patients. Jung made such a mess in one relationship (to the Russian, Sabina Spielrein) he even asked Freud to sort it out for him. In 1911, he became captivated by a former patient and assistant called Toni Wolff2, who was then aged 23. In her Jung found his 'anima type' and femme inspiratrice, and a 'creative relationship' developed that was to last some 40 years until her death in 1952. Though Toni Wolff helped Jung come to terms with his own 'anima problem', the strain on his marriage to Emma was evident, no doubt contributing to his 'breakdown' in 1913. Whether he could have survived this difficult life transition without the dedicated support of both Emma and Toni is questionable.

Biographies of Jung

AuthorTitleYear of PublicationPublisher
Vincent BromeJung: Man and Myth1978MacMillan, London
Ann CasementCarl Gustav Jung2001Sage Publications, London
Vivienne CrowleyJung: A Journey of Transformation: Exploring His Life and Experiencing2000Quest Books
Barbara HannahJung: His Life and Work1981Perigee Books, New York
Ronald HaymanA Life of Jung2001WW Norton and Company
Aniela JafféFrom the Life and Work of CG Jung1971Harper and Row, New York
Frank J McLynnCarl Gustav Jung: A Biography1998St Martins Press, London
Anthony StevensOn Jung1990Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England
Laurens Van Der PostJung and the Story of our Time1976Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England
Marie-Louise Von FranzCarl Gustav Jung: His Myth in Our Time1998Inner City Books, Toronto, Canada
1See M Anthony (1990) The Valkyries: The Women Around Jung, Element Books, Shaftesbury, Dorset.2As well as becoming a gifted analyst and president of the Zürich Psychological Club, Toni Wolff also wrote some excellent papers and lectures. In one paper entitled Structural forms of the feminine psyche (Zürich, 1951), she identified four forms, naming them: mother, hetaira (or companion), amazon, and medial woman. All express relatedness to men - the mother to her child or husband, the hetaira to her consort, the amazon to the world of work and external, objective goals. The medial woman acts as a bridge between personal and collective forces, modulating the dynamic between consciousness and the unconscious. As such, she is the personification of (a man's) anima.

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