C. G. Jung has become the most beloved of the original giants of psychoanalysis in the minds of the general public, but his fate in academic circles has been much less impressive. Scientists have generally ignored his contributions, accepting the official Freudian judgment that his theories are mystical and anti-Semitic. For many decades Freud seemed to be the “scientific” psychoanalyst, and views about Jung were based less on fact than on his reputation as the Crown Prince of Psychoanalysis who strayed too far into the realm of superstition to be taken seriously.
Two developments in the last forty years, however, have uncovered a different and truer Jung. The first of these was Henri Ellenberger’s publication in 1970 of The Discovery of the Unconscious, where Freud, Jung, Adler, and Janet were placed in historical context, and it came out that Jung had always belonged more to the French-English-Swiss-American tradition in psychology that paid attention to natural and “artificial” (i.e., hypnotic) dissociations in the human psyche. They were the so-called “French School” of psychology that Jung had always claimed to belong to, investigators who were fascinated by the discovery (a) that all of us have simultaneous conflicting sub-personalities; (b) that each subpersonality lives in a different world, remembers a different past and strives for a different future; and (c) that some of these subpersonalities seem capable of knowing things that appear to be impossible (telepathy, clairvoyance, etc.).
Ellenberger was a tremendous inspiration for me, and I began to study the works of Pierre Janet, Theodore Flournoy, Morton Prince and the other dissociationists (all cited by Jung) who were experimenting with hypnosis a century and more ago. New aspects of Jung’s lifework opened up to me, and my concept of the psyche expanded marvelously.
Still, however, I was not sure how “scientific” any of this work was, and I remained skeptical about whether Jung’s insights would ever be appreciated by the mainstream of Western thought. At that point, in the late 1990’s, I became aware of the new field of Evolutionary Psychology, founded by the husband and wife team of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby. Here were researchers who accepted Jung’s view that the human psyche is the product of evolution and that something very much like the archetypes (now called “mental modules”) had become the center of discussion.
Here, I thought, were people carrying on the work of Jung — even though they never mentioned his name. As I studied their work, however, I found their ideas more rigid than Jung’s and a bit too dogmatic. I began reading the sources that they were citing, and a whole new world opened up for me. What I discovered and how it affects my understanding of C. G. Jung’s lifework is the subject matter of Jung in the 21st Century.
Volume One, Evolution and Archetype, presents a coherent and unified perspective on Jung’s lifework as an out growth of the dissociation school of a century ago, with special attention to how the essence of his theories has been rediscovered by contemporary evolutionary science. The nature of the archetypes, the complexes, the role of dreams, relationship between ego and self, the transcendent function — all of these deeply “Jungian” concepts are actually supported by what brain science, the science of animal behavior, paleontology and similar fields have discovered. Working out the details in all of this really does give us a Jung for the 21st Century, one whose views are dependable, not only because Jungian analysts say they are effective in the consulting room, but also because laboratory work links them solidly with the biology of the human organism.
Volume Two, Synchronicity and Science, takes up Jung’s critique of science for failing to investigate certain matters that it finds to be impossible or embarrassing: the practical value of altered states of consciousness, the reality of parapsychological experiences and the like. In 1896 Jung urged the members of his college debating society to take up the challenge of these things that lie in the “border zones of exact science” and discover what the truth really is. A half century or so later, in dialogue with Wolfgang Pauli, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, he offered a new vision of the cosmos — of reality in general — one in which life, intentionality (striving for the future) and parapsychology are not embarrassing exceptions to reality as we know it but just as deeply real as everything that we naively take to be self evident. There is substantiation, too, from physics and biology that Jung’s speculations in this realm enjoy a good deal of support.
The Jung described in these two volumes may be a more radical critic of Western culture but more a cautious and astute theorist than many have guessed.