Alan Watts Reads “One of the Greatest Things Carl Jung Ever Wrote”

Carl Jung found­ed the field of ana­lyt­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy more than a cen­tu­ry ago, and many ref­er­ence his insights into the human mind and con­di­tion still today. Alan Watts cer­tain­ly did his bit to keep the Jun­gian flame alive, what­ev­er the out­ward dif­fer­ences between a Swiss psy­chi­a­trist and an Eng­lish inter­preter of Tao­ism, Hin­duism, and Bud­dhism, espe­cial­ly of the Zen vari­ety. Both men believed in cast­ing a wide spir­i­tu­al net, all the bet­ter to expose the com­mon core ele­ments of seem­ing­ly dis­parate ancient tra­di­tions. And in so doing they could hard­ly afford to ignore the reli­gious under­pin­nings of the Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion, broad­ly speak­ing, from which they emerged. In fact, Watts became an ordained Epis­co­pal priest at the age of 30 — though, owing to the com­plex­i­ties of his beliefs as well as his per­son­al life, he resigned the min­istry by age 35.

But Watts’ invest­ment in cer­tain tenets of Chris­tian­i­ty endured, and he named as one of Jung’s great­est writ­ings a lec­ture deliv­ered to a Swiss cler­gy group. “Peo­ple for­get that even doc­tors have moral scru­ples and that cer­tain patient’s con­fes­sions are hard even for a doc­tor to swal­low,” begins the speech as Watts reads it aloud in the video above. “Yet the patient does not feel him­self accept­ed unless the very worst in him is accept­ed too. No one can bring this about by mere words. It comes only through reflec­tion and through the doctor’s atti­tude towards him­self and his own dark side.” To help anoth­er per­son, in oth­er words, one must first accept that per­son as he is; but to accept anoth­er per­son as he is first requires tak­ing one­self straight, less-than-admirable qual­i­ties and all.

Accord­ing to Watts, Jung him­self demon­strat­ed this rare self-aware­ness. “He knew and rec­og­nized what I some­times call the ele­ment of irre­ducible ras­cal­i­ty in him­self,” says Watts in a talk of his own pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. “He knew it so strong­ly and so clear­ly, and in a way so lov­ing­ly, that he would not con­demn the same thing in oth­ers, and would there­fore not be led into those thoughts, feel­ings, and acts of vio­lence towards oth­ers which are always char­ac­ter­is­tic of the peo­ple who project the dev­il in them­selves upon the out­side, upon some­body else, upon the scape­goat.” As Jung puts it to his cler­i­cal audi­ence, “In the sphere of social or nation­al rela­tions, the state of suf­fer­ing may be civ­il war, and this state is to be cured by the Chris­t­ian virtue of for­give­ness and love of one’s ene­mies.”

What Chris­tian­i­ty holds as true of the out­er world goes just as well, Jung argues, for the inner one. “This is why mod­ern man has heard enough about guilt and sin. He is sore­ly beset by his own bad con­science and wants, rather, to know how he is to rec­on­cile him­self with his own nature, how he is to love the ene­my in his own heart and call the wolf his broth­er.” He “does not want to know in what way he can imi­tate Christ, but in what way he can live his own indi­vid­ual life, how­ev­er mea­gre and unin­ter­est­ing it may be.” Only by being allowed to fol­low this “ego­ism” to its con­clu­sion of “com­plete iso­la­tion” can he “get to know him­self and learn what an invalu­able trea­sure is the love of his fel­low beings”; it is only “in the state of com­plete aban­don­ment and lone­li­ness that we expe­ri­ence the help­ful pow­ers of our own natures.” With­out know­ing our own natures, we can hard­ly expect even the most time-test­ed belief sys­tems to put an end to the civ­il wars inside us.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Zen Mas­ter Alan Watts Explains What Made Carl Jung Such an Influ­en­tial Thinker

Carl Jung Explains His Ground­break­ing The­o­ries About Psy­chol­o­gy in a Rare Inter­view (1957)

Alan Watts On Why Our Minds And Tech­nol­o­gy Can’t Grasp Real­i­ty

Face to Face with Carl Jung: ‘Man Can­not Stand a Mean­ing­less Life’ (1959)

The Wis­dom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Pro­vok­ing Ani­ma­tions

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (3)
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  • WW says:

    A valu­able les­son for all to take-to-heart, and spread.

  • Nick says:

    Inter­est­ing arti­cle, but I don’t think any­one can state Jung “found­ed pscho­analy­sis” with­out first acknowl­edg­ing Jung him­self start­ed as Freud’s stu­dent.
    Jung took the field in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion, but imo was not the founder of the field.

  • Expresiopia says:

    Hi Rick, it does­n’t say “found­ed pscho­analy­sis”, the text says: “Carl Jung found­ed the field of ana­lyt­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy”, which is cor­rect because “Ana­lyt­i­cal Psy­chol­o­gy” is not the same as “Psy­cho­analy­sis”.

    “Ana­lyt­i­cal Psy­chol­o­gy” (or Deep Psy­chol­o­gy, Com­plex Psy­chol­o­gy, etc) is one of the names of that diver­gent direc­tion Jung took and you men­tion.


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