Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011.01.01 — Analytical Psychology Re-Read: Jung on Chinese Science and Philosophy

On December 26th I took myself to my local emergency to have my badly inflamed and extremely painful ears looked at by a doctor.

Because there was a great likelihood I would be waiting for a while, I took with me, after some dithering, Jung's Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice. I think I've read this twice before, so one of my motivations to pick this was to bring something familiar, but my unconscious was connecting it with a correspondence I've been having with a new friend. And it is providing an endless supply of fushigis, which I won't elaborate here. But the latest was quite profound, and so I made the effort to transcribe from the book a substantial amount of text, which I would like to share with the world. (Yes, it is a copyright violation, but in my defense I will say that I am providing an advertisement and, I hope, a spark to the imagination of people new to Jung's thinking.)


C.G. Jung.

Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice. (The Tavistock Lectures.)
New York: Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, 1970.
Foreword by E.A. Bennet. (Out of print as of today's date.)

So, some Jung on the failure of Chinese science to be a 'real' science:
... These things really are obscure. I had to speak in terms of the basic mind, which thinks in archetypal patterns. When I speak of archetypal patterns those who are aware of these things understand, but if you are not aware you think, 'This fellow is absolutely crazy because he talks of mastodons and their difference from snakes and horses'. 1 should have to give you a course of about four semesters about symbology first so that you could appreciate what I said.

That is the great trouble: there is such a gap between what is usually known of these things and what I have worked on all these years. If I were to speak of this even before a medical audience I should have to talk of the peculiarities of the niveau mental, to quote Janet, and I might as well talk Chinese. For instance, I would say that the abaissement du niveau mental sank in a certain case to the level of the manlpura chakra(1), that is to the level of the navel. We Europeans are not the only people on the earth. We are just a peninsula of Asia, and on that continent there are old civilizations where people have trained their minds in introspective psychology for thousands of years, whereas we began with our psychology not even yesterday but only this morning. These people have an insight that is simply fabulous, and I had to study Eastern things to understand certain facts of the unconscious. I had to go back to understand Oriental symbolism. I am about to publish a little book on one symbolic motif only(2) and you will find it hair-raising. I had to study not only Chinese and Hindu but Sanskrit literature and medieval Latin manuscripts which are not even known to specialists, so that one must go to the British Museum to find the references. Only when you possess that apparatus of parallelism can you begin to make diagnoses and say that this dream is organic and that one is not. Until people have acquired that knowledge I am just a sorcerer. They say it is un tour de passe-passe. They said it in the Middle Ages. They said, 'How can you see that Jupiter has satellites?' If you reply that you have a telescope, what is a telescope to a medieval audience?

I do not mean to boast about this. I am always perplexed when my colleagues ask: 'How do you establish such a diagnosis or come to this conclusion?'I reply: 'I will explain if you will allow me to explain what you ought to know to be able to understand it'. I experienced this myself when the famous Einstein was Professor at Zurich. I often saw him, and it was when he was beginning to work on his theory of relativity. He was often in my house, and I pumped him about his relativity theory. I am not gifted in mathematics and you should have seen all the trouble the poor man had to explain relativity to me. He did not know how to do it. I went fourteen feet deep into the floor and felt quite small when I saw how he was troubled. But one day he asked me something about psychology. Then I had my revenge.

Special knowledge is a terrible disadvantage. It leads you in a way too far, so that you cannot explain any more. You must allow me to talk to you about seemingly elementary things, but if you will accept them I think you will understand why I draw such and such conclusions. I am sorry that we do not have more time and that I cannot tell you everything. When I come to dreams I have to give myself away and to risk your thinking me a perfect fool, because I am not able to put before you all the historical evidence which led to my conclusions. I should have to quote bit after bit from Chinese and Hindu literature, medieval texts and all the things which you do not know. How could you? I am working with specialists in other fields of knowledge and they help me. There was my late friend Professor Wilhelm, the sinologist; I worked with him. He had translated a Taoist text, and he asked me to comment on it, which: I did from the psychological side(3), I am a terrible novelty to a sinologist, but what he has to tell us is a novelty to us. The Chinese philosophers were no fools. We think the old people were fools, but they were as intelligent as we are. They were frightfully intelligent people, and psychology can leam no end from old civilizations, particularly from India and China. A former President of the British Anthropological Society asked me: 'Can you understand that such a highly intelligent people as the Chinese have no science?' I replied: "They have a science, but you do not understand it. It is not based on the principle of causality. The principle of causality is not the only principle; it is only relative'

People may say: What a fool to say causality is only relative! But look at modem physics! The East bases its thinking and its evaluation of facts on another principle. We have not even a word for that principle. The East naturally has a word for it, but we do not understand it. The Eastern word is Tao. My friend McDougall(4) has a Chinese student, and he asked him: 'What exactly do you mean by Tao?' Typically Western! The Chinese explained what Tao is and he replied: 'I do not understand yet'. The Chinese went out to the balcony and said: 'What do you see?' I see a street and houses and people walking and tram-cars passing'. 'What more?' There is a hill'. 'What more?' Trees'. 'What more?' The wind is blowing'. The Chinese threw up his arms and said: 'That is Tao'.

There you are. Tao can be anything. I use another word to designate it, but it is poor enough. I call it synchronicity. The Eastern mind, when it looks at an ensemble of facts, accepts that ensemble as it is, but the Western mind divides it into entities, small quantities. You look, for instance, at this present gathering of people, and you say: 'Where do they come from? Why should they come together?' The Eastern mind is not at all interested in that. It says: 'What does it mean that these people are together?' That is not a problem for the Western mind. You are interested in what you come here for and what you are doing here. Not so the Eastern mind; it is interested in being together.

It is like this: you are standing on the sea-shore and the waves wash up an old hat, an old box, a shoe, a dead fish, and there they lie on the shore. You say: 'Chance, nonsense!' The Chinese mind asks: 'What does it mean that these things are together?' The Chinese mind experiments with that being together and coming together at the right momenta and it has an experimental method which is not known in the West, but which plays a large role in the philosophy of the East. It is a method of forecasting possibilities, and it is still used by the Japanese Government about political situations; it was used, for instance, in the Great War. This method was formulated in 1143 B.C.(5) (p74-7).
1 [Cf. supra, p. 10, n. I.]
2 [The mandala motif, in a lecture, *Traumsymbole des Individuarionsprozesses', that Jung delivered a few weeks previously at the Eranos Tagung. It was published the next year in Eranos-Jahrbuck 1935; in translation, as 'Dream Symbols of the Process of Individuation', The Integration of the Personality, 1939; revised as Part II of Psychologie und Alchemie, 1944(=C.W.,vol. 12). See also infra, p. 197.]
 3 The Secret of the Golden Flower. [The Chinese text was translated by Richard Wilhelm. The commentary by Jung is contained in Alchemical Studies, (C.W.,vol.i3).]
4 [William McDougall (1871-1938), American psychiatrist. Cf. Jung's 'On the Psychogenesis of Schizophrenia" (C.W., vol. 3), par. 504, and 'The Therapeutic Value of Abreaction' (C.W., vol. 16), par. 255.]
5 [Cf. The I Ching, or Book of Changes, tr. Wilhelm/Baynes, 3rd edn., introduction, p. liii.] 77.
I think that this is interesting. In particular his reference to the problem of specialization, and the relativity of objectivity.


  1. *Loved* this post. (inadequate word? maybe :) Although, I would *love* to go further into this...I think we have at our hands further tools into the explanation of similarities between the Westerner's view and the Easterner's. I'm going to have to go buy this book, as it seems I would connect with it greatly, and have something add (shocked face, no disrespect Jung! Simple case of being born later than you). I am excited.

    Also: I thought you might enjoy this reminded me of you.

    Thank you for sharing, it sold me the book. In case anyone from the government is reading, it really did. :)

  2. I am glad you enjoyed the post enough to buy the book! (If you can't find a copy, let me know — I have 3 copies in my library right now.)

    Please, I would love to see what you have to add! And I am sure Jung would be excited too at that!! (Intriguing — simply being born later than me ... verrrrrrry interesting.)

    And I enjoyed Bowles' story of his life with parrots. (But how did it remind you of me? Talks in LOUD burst in garbled and largely unintelligible language?) ;-)