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Karl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)

Deemed by many the most original, creative, broadly educated and philosophical of the depth psychologists, Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) inhabited a specific era whose scientific thought and popular culture formed the fundamental principles out of which analytical psychology developed. Jung created his theory and practice at a particular moment in history by synthesizing a wide variety of disciplines (especially Romantic philosophy and psychiatry, depth psychology and occult philosophy, alchemical, religious and Western and Eastern mystical thought) through the filter of his own personal psychology.

Jung believed that all psychological theories reflect the personal history of their creators, declaring in a quite post-modern way that “our way of looking at things is conditioned by what we are” (CW 4, § 773). The personal equation is a starting point in building any psychological concept or theory, since they “will always be a product of the subjective psychological constellation of the investigator” (CW 6, § 9).

In 1913, the year when Jung left the psychoanalytic movement, he coined the term ‘analytical psychology’ to identify what he called a new psychological science seen by him as having evolved out of “depth psychology” primarily developed by Freud and Adler. He always claimed that his psychology is empirically based science, which embraces original theory and method, writing and research as well as psychotherapeutic practice.

One may find “pre-modern” and “modern” ideas and perspectives in Jung’s psychology, however his entire attitude toward the psyche was “post-modern”: its pivotal metaphor is a dialogue between consciousness and theunconscious as well as interplay between subject and object, I and Thou, or soul and matter. The central metaphor of Jung’s psychology must be soul, since it is psychologist’s job to provide a meaningful narrative for psyche, to furnish soul with a fitting story of itself.  

For Jung, the soul is a multifaceted entity: 

fluid, alive, erratic, multi-dimensional, and capable of creative development. He identified the image with the psyche (“image is psyche” – CW 13, § 75) and this maxim is elaborated to mean that the soul is composed of images.

His “post-modern” view of the psyche could be seen in his statement: “Every psychic process is an image and an ‘imagining’, otherwise no consciousness could exist … “ (CW 11, § 889). So to speak, image is construing experience, and an image is the world in which experience unfolds. Even more, he forged radically new perspective of images as the very source of human sense of psychic reality. For Jung and the analytical psychology, the world of psychic reality is not a world of things, neither is it a world of being, it is a world of image-as-such. No longer is reality based on god, truth, eternal ideals, or matter but on imaginative ability of soul. The experience of reality is a fruit of the soul’s capability to image. “The psyche creates reality every day. The only expression I can use for this activity is fantasy … Fantasy, therefore, seems to me clearest expression of the specific activity of the psyche “ (CW 6, § 78).

Psychic images and imagination are, according to Jung, medium through which the opposites may unite. At the same time this medium is a “place” where the inner and outer world of a human subject come together, giving him/her a vital sense of a living bond to both worlds. At the core of Jung’s view of the psyche lies his vision ofdialectical interplay between intrapsychic, somatic and interpersonal phenomena with the world, the analytic process and life as such. He always maintained the fact of the reality of the psyche per se: psychic phenomena are related but not reducible to other levels of experience such as DNA, neurons or synapses and they should be investigated as they are experienced. The soul is an objective psychological fact, irrespective of scientific proof of its existence. It can never be entirely repressed, exhausted or emptied through analysis – it’s analysis is a never-ending process. What changes is the nature of the discourse. 

Jung’s entire work on theory and method of analytical psychology is compiled and available in twenty and more volumes of the Collected Works along with collections of correspondence, remembrances and interviews, as well as biographical writings. 

Some of the main ideas of analytical psychology, apart from those already mentioned such as psyche, image, fantasy, soul, are: 

  • psychic energy (has its source in the instincts, otherwise being comparable to and governed by the same principles as physical energy, with the exception that psychic energy has not only a cause but also an aim),
  •  unconscious (mental contents which are inaccessible to the ego, with its own character, laws and functions),
  • consciousness (activity which maintains the relation of psychic contents to the ego), 
  • archetypes (the inherited part of the psyche; structuring patterns of psychological performance linked to instinct; a hypothetical entity irrepresentable in itself and evident only through its manifestations), 
  • symbols (always presuppose that the chosen expression is the best possible description or formulation of a relatively unknown fact, which is nonetheless known to exist or is postulated as existing),
  • complexes (collection of images and ideas, clustered round a core derived from one or more archetypes and characterized by a common emotional tone), 
  • Self (the totality of the psyche as such, an archetypal image of man’s fullest potentials and the unity of the personality as a whole).

There are by now three main schools of analytical psychology: the classical, developmental and archetypal school.

The classical school aims on the whole to work in a way consistent with what is known about Jung’s own methods of work. But this should not be understood as implying that the approach has ceased to develop.

The developmental school unites several features of contemporary psychoanalysis such as a stress on the importance of early experience and on paying attention to the details of transference and countertransference in the analytical session with the basics of analytical psychology.

The archetypal school is perhaps no longer strictly a clinical group. Its principal writers give value to the Jung’s key concept of the archetype, using it as a base from which to explore the depth dimensions of all kinds of imaginal experiences.