Friday, 26 August 2016

Jung interview from 1959 - CG Jung at his best!

I thought I had already watched this interview, but if I really had then I had forgotten: it is excellent.

I have read a lot of Jung up to about eight years ago and even more (purportedly) about Jung - but this is the best and clearest and most impressive I have ever seen.

Reading Jung is mostly an exercise in boredom and frustration; and most of the books about him don't get him right, or focus on some of the many things wrong with the man and his life. In his writing he seems paralysed by the "Germanic Professorial" mode of defensive prose - so that nothing is ever said clearly because there is so much qualification that it amounts to obfuscation; and this sometimes reaches the point of dishonesty, where Jung is often deliberately misleading the reader about his own more 'outlandish' views.

Anyway, in this interview done near the end of Jung's long and vigorous life, Jung seems to have set-aside his self-defeating caution, and is very open and candid in his answers, despite using his second language - and reveals himself to be a theist, living in sure expectation of continued existence beyond mortal death, and indeed a mystical Christian of solid conviction (he says he knows, not 'believes' such things - something which is very hard to be sure of, in the writings).

The interview is interesting in its form. The interviewer (John Freeman - who was also a left-wing professional politician) comes across as a typically modernist and materialistic journalist - whose personal interest is more Freudian than Jungian (Freeman asks Jung Freudian questions about his childhood, and probes the relationship with Freud); but he listens respectfully and patiently to Jung's more dsitinctive and significant spiritual and religious discussions, and does not distort the final cut to suit his own prejudices.

The result is a vivid personal portrait - which made me recogise for the first time how impressive Jung was 'face to face' and verbally; and how this must have been the primary basis of his reputation; as was also the case for Coleridge, for example - or Charles Williams. How fortunate that we have this interview to show us what could otherwise only have been assumed about Jung - and how such an interview might have been to help us understand some geniuses of the more remote past, who gave their best in speaking rather than writing.

If you wish to try reading Jung, the only two things I could recommend are the spiritual autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections which was written from dictation by Aniela Jaffe; and another late piece: The Undiscovered Self.

Ultimately, I think that Jung did not succeed in solving the fundamental problems of modernity - either in theory or in practice. What he was advocating, in the search for meaning and purpose - amounted to an alternation between public life as a normal mainstream alienated modern 'official' consciousness; and regenerating, therapeutic interludes of something like the immersive consciousness (ie. Barfield's Original Participation) of childhood and tribal Man - including the visionary, divinatory and animistic life of those modes.

Jung did not - as did his older contemporary and Swiss neighbour Rudolf Steiner (or his younger contemporary Owen Barfield) perceive a way beyond this dichotomy. Nonetheless Jung provided an accurate 'diagnosis' and a partially-helpful therapy for the modern condition.


Old fogey said...

Many thanks for posting this interview and recommending Jung's most accessible books.

Nicholas Fulford said...

I have always had a soft spot for Jung, so seeing him interviewed in the latter years was a great joy.

Thanks Bruce.