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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