Book Review: Modern Man in Search of a Soul – Carl Jung

Modern Man in Search of a Soul is a book published in 1933 and is a comprehensive introduction to the thought of Carl Jung. While some reject religion altogether and look to science for a new age of reason, others look in hope towards a spiritual rebirth.

The book is composed of 11 essays. The first part of the book deals with dream analysis in its practical application, the problems and aims of modern psychotherapy, and also Jung’s theory of psychological types. The middle part addresses his beliefs about the stages of life and Archaic man. He also looks at the differences between his theories and those of Sigmund Freud.

In the last essays, Jung discusses psychology and literature, the basic postulates of analytical psychology as well as the spiritual problem of modern man, comparing psychotherapists and clergymen.

1. Dream Analysis in Its Practical Application

Starting with the first essay, Jung talks about dreams as facts for diagnosis. Almost half of our lives is passed in the nocturnal realm of the psyche and dreams give us invaluable insights about our inner life and hidden personality. As long as they remain undiscovered, they disturb our waking life.

There must be a conscious assimilation of unconscious contents, putting an end to the dissociation of the personality and to the anxiety that inspires the separation of the two realms of the psyche (consciousness and the unconscious), leading one step closer to individuation or self-realisation.

For this, one is to have a careful record of one’s dreams as well as one’s interpretations of them, focusing on the dream-images and patterns while renouncing all preconceived opinions.

2. Problems of Modern Psychotherapy

Jung calls his approach “analytical psychology”, inspired both by Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis) – who emphasises the pleasure principle, and Adler’s individual psychology, who emphasises a will to power arising from a sense of inferiority.

Jung’s analytical psychology is based on four stages: confession, explanation, education, and transformation.

The idea of sin made way for repressions to arise, for this reason – one has to go through a catharsis or cleansing. The stage of explanation restores unconscious contents to consciousness, while the stage of education is social adaptation. The last stage, that of transformation, depends on two types of people: those who are unsuccessful and strive to be “normal” and those who are “normal” and strive to lead an “abnormal” life.

“What sets one free is for another a prison.”

3. The Aims of Psychotherapy

Jung was interested in primitive psychology, mythology, archaeology, and comparative religion – giving rise to his idea of archetypes, which belong to what he called the collective unconscious.

These primordial images have been ingrained in man from time immemorial and make up the groundwork of the human psyche. Wisdom is a rediscovery of these archetypes.

“Man believes that he creates ideas, but in reality, they create him.”

4. A Psychological Theory of Types

In his psychological theory of types, Jung mentions two of his most famous terms: extraversion and introversion – closely related to the ideas of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition.

He also talks about his idea of complexes. These have a certain amount of autonomy in our psyche and influence our conscious intentions, though they arise from conflicts – they allow us to open new possibilities of achievement.

The very first complex one has is the parental complex (or what Freud calls the Oedipus complex) because the parents are the first reality with which the child comes into conflict.

5. The Stages of Life

Jung emphasises three major stages of life: puberty, youth, and middle life.

He does not speak of childhood as it is governed by impulse and one essentially lives in the unconscious, few or no problems are met with as one relies on his parents. He also leaves apart extreme old age, for we become again something of a problem for others.

It is only when the child grows and recognises that he has an ego, that he can start having doubts about himself.  The stage of puberty puts an end to the dream of childhood. However, if we remain fixated in a stage of instant gratification, we may develop a neurosis.

In the last stage, when we are around 35 years of age, a significant change in the human psyche is in preparation, here is where people may experience a midlife crisis.

Thus, to transform a human being into a new – a future – man, one must allow the old forms of life to die away.

6. Freud and Jung – Contrasts

There are various contrasts between Freud and Jung. Jung believes in the importance of religious and spiritual ideas, the collective unconscious, dreams as reflecting many different aspects of human life as well not having a one-sided notion of the pleasure principle.

Jung is often accused of mysticism. However, this is unjustifiable, as the human psyche has been developing through spiritual and religious ideas since time immemorial.

7. Archaic Man

Jung dedicates an essay on the Archaic Man, which refers to primitive mentality. However, every civilised human being is still an archaic man at the deeper levels of his psyche, as it is part of the collective unconscious.

Modern man is surrounded by a world that is obedient to rational laws. We resent the idea of invisible and arbitrary forces, for it is not so long ago that we made our escape from that frightening world of dreams, superstitions, and chance occurrences.

Primitive man, however, assumes that everything is brought about by invisible forces, which belong to their world of experience.

“Magic is the science of the jungle”.

When modern man who celebrates Easter is asked about the meaning of these idols and eggs, he does not know. He is just like primitive man.

“Archaic man does what he does – and only civilised man knows what he does.”

8. Psychology and Literature

In his essay on Psychology and Literature, Jung states that every creative person is both a human being with a personal life and an impersonal creative process. The art itself is a genuine primordial experience, a true symbolic expression that exists in its own right but is imperfectly known, through the artist.

“It is not Goethe who creates Faust, but Faust which creates Goethe”

9. The Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology

Jung was the first person to depart from “psychology without the psyche” and create a “psychology with the psyche”, which is the basic postulate of analytical psychology. It is, however, not a modern psychology, but rather one who turns back to the teachings of our forefathers, to the spirit as a life-force.

We only believe that we are masters in our own house to flatter ourselves. The unconscious is always there beforehand as a potential system of psychic functioning handed down by generations of man. Consciousness is a late-born descendant of the unconscious psyche.

The idea of psychic reality is the most important achievement of modern psychology, but scarcely recognised as such.

10. The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man

The spiritual problem of modern man is perhaps more relevant now than ever. The modern man is one who has outgrown the stages of consciousness belonging to the past, achieving a full consciousness of the present. The conscious, modern man, acknowledges the might of psychic forces.

“It is true that modern man is a culmination, but tomorrow he will be surpassed.”

Jung saw unfold the two World Wars, showing us how thin the walls are which separate a well-ordered world from chaos.

Much of the evil of the world is because man is hopelessly unconscious, with increasing insight we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves. Until then, we are essentially at war with ourselves, and the greatest danger is man’s psyche.

A fundamental law of life – enantiodromia – the reversal into the opposite, is what allows the reunion of the halves of one’s personality and bring the eternal war to an end. However, the acceptance of the shadow-side of human nature is a constant, and lifelong process.

The East is at the bottom of the spiritual change we are passing through today and it is from the depths of our own psychic life that new spiritual forms will arise. While we are overpowering the Orient from the outside, it is overpowering us from within.

We must reconcile ourselves with the mysterious truth that the spirit is the living body seen from within and the body the outer manifestation of the living spirit – the two really being one.

11. Psychotherapists or the Clergy

Many people suffer from meaninglessness as they remain in a spiritual stagnation. The future task of psychology, Jung states, is the investigation of the patient’s spiritual determinants.

Jung suggests that the clergyman which represents the medicine-man is the saviour of the body as well as the soul, and religions are systems of healing for psychic illness, they should join forces with the psychotherapist to meet this great spiritual task. Man can only be helped from his suffering by revelations of a wisdom greater than his own. It is this which lifts him out of his distress.

“Faith, hope, love, and insight are the highest achievements of human effort, and they are found given by experience.”

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Modern Man in Search of a Soul in 10 Minutes | Jung

Modern Man in Search of a Soul was published in 1933 and is a comprehensive introduction to the thought of Carl Jung. The writing covers a broad array of subjects such as gnosticism, theosophy, Eastern philosophy and spirituality in general.

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Modern Man in Search of a Soul – Carl Jung

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