Carl Jung Offers an Introduction to His Psychological Thought in a 3-Hour Interview (1957)

In the 1950s, it was fashionable to drop Freud’s name — often as not in pseudo-intellectual sex jokes. Freud’s preoccupations had as much to do with his fame as the actual practice of psychotherapy, and it was assumed — and still is to a great degree — that Freud had “won” the debate with his former student and friend Carl Jung, who saw religion, psychedelic drugs, occult practices, etc. as valid forms of individualizing and integrating human selves — selves that were after all, he thought, connected by far more than biological drives for sex and death.

Now Jung’s insights permeate the culture, in increasingly popular fields like transpersonal psychology, for example, that see humans as “radically interconnected, not just isolated individuals,” psychologist Harris L. Friedman argues. Movements like these grew out of the “counterculture movements of the 1960s,” psychology lecturer and author Steve Taylor explains, “and the wave of psycho-experimentation it involved, through psychedelic substances, meditation and other consciousness changing practices” — the very practices Jung explored in his work.

Indeed, Jung was the first “to legitimize a spiritual approach to the practice of depth psychology,” Mark Kasprow and Bruce Scotton point out, and “suggested that psychological development extends to include higher states of consciousness and can continue throughout life, rather than stop with the attainment of adult ego maturation.” Against Freud, who thought transcendence was regression, Jung “proposed that transcendent experience lies within and is accessible to everyone, and that the healing and growth stimulated by such experience often make use of the languages of symbolic imagery and nonverbal experience.”

Jung’s work became increasingly important after his death in 1961, leading to the publication of his collected works in 1969. These introduced readers to all of his  “key concepts and ideas, from archetypal symbols to analytical psychology to UFOs,” notes a companion guide. Near the end of his life, Jung himself provided a verbal survey of his life’s work in the form of four one-hour interviews conducted in 1957 by University of Houston’s Dr. Richard Evans at the Eidgenossische Technische Hoschschule (Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich.

“The conversations were filmed as part of an educational project designed for students of the psychology department. Evans is a poor interviewer, but Jung compensates well,” the Gnostic Society Library writes. The edited interviews begin with a question about Jung’s concept of persona (also, incidentally, the theme and title of Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 masterpiece). In response, Jung describes the persona in plain terms and with everyday examples as a fictional self “partially dictated by society and partially dictated by the expectations or the wishes one nurses oneself.”

The less we’re consciously aware of our public selves as performances in these terms, the more we’re prone, Jung says, to neuroses, as the pressure of our “shadow,” exerts itself. Jung and Evans’ discussion of persona only grazes the surface of their wide-ranging conversation about the unconscious and the many ways to access it. Throughout, Jung’s examples are clear and his explanations lucid. Above, you can see a transcribed video of the same interviews. Read a published transcript in the collection C.G. Jung Speaking, and see more Jung interviews and documentaries at the Gnostic Society Library.

Related Content: 

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

The Visionary Mystical Art of Carl Jung: See Illustrated Pages from The Red Book

How Carl Jung Inspired the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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