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Carl Jung

In the early years of the 20th Century a group of Freud's friends and associates met regularly to discuss his ideas. This group was called the Vienna Circle.

Some members of the Vienna Circle accepted virtually all of Freud's theory. Others were highly skeptical.

The disagreements came to a head in 1911 when Freud insisted that all members of the Vienna Circle accept the sexual theory or leave the group. Carl Jung and seven others left in 1911.

portrait of Jung
Carl Jung

Carl Jung (pro­nounced Yoong) founded a distinctive personality theory of his own, which he called analytic psychology. Sex was hardly mentioned in it.

Freud became quite bitter about Jung's defection from the Vienna Circle. The two were enemies during the later parts of their careers.

In the beginning, Carl Jung admired Freud from a distance. Jung was already practicing as a psychiatrist in 1900 when he encountered Freud's book The Interpretation of Dreams.

At first Jung "laid the book aside" because, he said later, "I lacked the experience to appreciate Freud's theories." Three years later Jung read the book and was fascinated by it.

Jung published a paper on Freud's theory of neuroses. In 1906 the two men began corresponding. Their first meeting took place in 1907.

Jung wrote:

We met at one o'clock in the afternoon and talked virtually without pause for thirteen hours. Freud was the first man of real importance I had encountered...

There was nothing the least trivial in his attitude. I found him extremely intelligent, shrewd, and altogether remarkable. And yet my first impressions of him remained tangled; I could not make him out (Jung and Jaffe, 1965, p.149)

What did Jung think of Freud when they met?

Freud, in turn, recognized Jung's talents, singling him out as heir-apparent to the Freudian throne, like a Crown Prince, prepared to take over if the king dies. Jung was uncomfortable in this role.

Freud assumed that Jung, by publicly defending the Freudian concept of repression (as it existed in 1907, when it was defined as avoiding painful thoughts) was indicating a belief in all of Freud's theory. However, Jung had grave reservations about the sexual theory.

That was more than a petty disagree­ment. In Freud's eyes the sexual theory was crucially important.

It seemed to Jung that Freud was a bit irrational in defending the sexual theory. Freud seemed to treat the sexual theory as if it was a new religious dogma to be defended at all costs. Jung wrote:

There was no mistaking the fact that Freud was emotionally involved in his sexual theory to an extraordinary degree. When he spoke of it, his tone became urgent, almost anx­ious, and all signs of his normally critical and skeptical manner vanished. A strange, deeply moved expression came over his face, the cause of which I was at a loss to understand.

...I still recall vividly how Freud said to me, "My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing of all. You see, we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark."

He said that to me with great emotion, in the tone of a father saying, "And promise me this one thing, my dear son: that you will go to church every Sunday." (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.150)

What was odd about Freud's attitude toward the sexual theory, in Jung's view?

After Jung and several other members of the Vienna Circle split with Freud over the sexual theory in 1911, Jung went through a period of profound disorien­tation. He explored the depths of his own mind, re-enacting childhood fantasies, studying his memories and dreams, trying to figure out who he really was.

Jung's story makes bizarre and fascinating reading. His autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections was dictated to his personal private secretary Anelia Jaffe shortly before Jung's death in 1961. It is freely available on the internet.

Much of the book reports Jung's dreams and fantasies. To Jung, these were educational experiences. His own dreams and fantasies taught him about the unconscious mind.

Sometimes Jung would interact with human-like figures in his imagination, treating them as if they had an independent existence. One of his fantasy figures, a winged human named Philemon, told him that his thoughts had an independent existence.

Who was Philemon, and what did he teach Jung?

Philemon and the other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon repre­sented a force which was not myself.

In my fantasies I had conver­sations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I.

He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, "If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them."

It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, or the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought.

He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be used against me. (Jung, 1965, p.183)

How did Jung explore his fantasies?

Students sometimes conclude "Jung was crazy." But Jung knew he was having dreams and fantasies. His decision to explore them was a "scientific experiment."

As he wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (p.178), "I was sitting at my desk, and I just let myself drop." He would fall into something like a light REM sleep or self-induced trance.

In this state, Jung could interact with his fantasy figures. Then he would awaken and write out the exper­iences, which he referred to at various times as fantasies, visions, or dreams.

What was the advantage of treating products of your imagination as people, according to Jung?

Jung recommended personifying aspects of the unconscious the way he did with Philemon and other fantasy figures. The idea is to treat parts of the unconscious mind as if they are people.

That way, Jung believed, one could open up a line of communication to parts of the unconscious that were normally inacces­sible. Jungian therapists often encourage their patients to do something similar, inventing and conversing with fantasy figures as a way of exploring their own minds.


Jung, C. & Jaffe, A. (1963) Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Pantheon. (English edition.)

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