Carl Jung, part 7: The power of acceptance
The seventh of my posts on Jung has just gone up at the Guardian's Cif. A taster:
Jung believed that we are psychosomatic creatures who must attend to matters of the spirit as well as the body. Further, our psyche is not just our own. It is connected to others, both those with whom we visibly interact, and those who have come before us, via the dynamic he called the collective unconscious. Life goes well when these links are open. Flow brings a sense of purpose. Conversely, blockages can lead to ill-health with possibly physical and psychological manifestations. "A psychoneurosis must be understood, ultimately, as the suffering of a soul which has not discovered its meaning," Jung wrote, in an essay wittily entitled "Psychotherapists or the Clergy".
Other observers of the human condition make similar remarks. Bertrand Russell, who could hardly be different from Jung in terms of his spiritual outlook, nonetheless averred that the happy individual feels himself "part of the stream of life, not a hard separate entity like a billiard ball, which can have no relation with other such entities except that of collision". Such a person knows themselves as a "citizen of the universe".
Jung preferred overtly religious language – instead of the universe talking of the "soul of the world" or anima mundi – and this was more than a question of taste. He believed spiritual connectedness was fundamental to being human and that, wary of religiosity, modern consciousness was struggling to take it seriously. The default image of secular individuality was, indeed, the billiard ball. Notions such as the stream of life, let alone the soul or the collective unconscious, tend to be treated as poetic fictions, at best, with damaging implications for human wellbeing.