Spiritual Thinkers: Carl Jung

Sigmund Freud has become synonymous with psychology – you know, lying on a chair and dishing out your life story to a therapist. But lesser known Swedish psychologist Carl Jung – who actually collaborated with Freud for 6 years – was just as instrumental as Freud and crafted many concepts in the spiritual community.

Collective unconscious
Have you ever experienced déjà vu? Or maybe you have succumbed to love at first sight? Jung referred to these experiences as the collective unconscious – your global psychic inheritance if you will. When Jung was a small boy, he was solitary and introverted – mainly due to the absence of his mother who suffered from depression and was often hospitalized. To find peace he had an odd ritual of writing messages in a secret language and hiding them in a special case. Years later, he realized this ritual of his childhood was starkly similar to the totems in the Native cultures of Australia. Instances such as this and the prophetic nature of his dreams (he had dreams that foretold the First World War) led him to believe that the history of humanity – experiences, mythos, religions, etc. – influences our emotional behavior. We are not consciously aware of it, but it is a knowledge we are each born with.

Another of his famous concepts is that of synchronicity – what many might think of as coincidences. Synchronicity in layman’s terms is the occurrence of two events that are not necessarily linked – but are meaningfully related. Have you ever thought about someone only to find that they are calling you at the exact same moment? Maybe you foresaw something in a dream, such as a bad accident and it happened the next day. It was Jung’s belief that these “coincidences” were proof that we are all connected through our collective unconscious.

Freud and Jung
So what’s the difference between these great psychological thinkers? Whereas Freud believed that everything could be boiled down to something that had been repressed in a person’s individual unconscious, Jung believed that this view was negative and incomplete. He believed that archetypes – an unlearned tendency to experience things a certain way, such as our dependence on our mothers – are the organizing principle of the collective unconscious and our common religions, experiences and myths were the underlying groundwork.

Also tantamount to Jung’s beliefs was the idea that a balance between our rational minds and spiritual fulfillment is a necessary component of achieving psychological harmony. His beliefs have influenced schools of thought in psychology, spirituality and are a fixture in popular culture – from the TV show Frasier to the literature of James Joyce and even the music of The Police, Jung’s ideas offer a window into our idea of ourselves and our interconnected world.

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