Saturday 10 January 2015

CG Jung - the psychopathic genius

CG Jung is unusual among geniuses, in that he was dishonest about his own work and its implications.

That he was a genius I think is correct; he made numerous discoveries and conceptual breakthroughs  - and he is an unseen but pervasive influence behind vast areas of modern culture including psychology, psychiatry, therapy and (especially) that vast and vague phenomenon called the New Age movement (almost everything about the New Age has a Jungian lineage - even when this is not generally known or acknowledged).

But that Jung was a thoroughly-dishonest and deceptive man is something equally undeniable. Jung was never plain and honest when that was inexpedient - Jung was not driven by a pure pursuit of truth; because truth was readily and repeatedly sacrificed when the consequences were unwanted by Jung.

He craved respectability as a Professor, psychiatrist, scholar, scientist - and would trim his published views to ensure this. He wanted wealth, status, admiration - and patients were charmed, strung-along and generally exploited to ensure this.

Jung wanted to be regarded as an unworldly sage - but worked to create an organization dedicated to his own self-promotion. He was a wholesale sexual seducer of his patients and trainees right into old age; and had a long-term live-in mistress who functioned as a second wife (while being unmentioned in his autobiography - he also used his personal magnetism to maintain a household of handmaidens to dote upon and serve him.


The point is that Jung's many compromises, deceptions, evasions, and lies are so consistently dedicated to his own comfort, convenience and gratification that the picture is one of a highly charming and dominant; but heartless, manipulative and selfish psychopath.


So far, Jung is the precursor of the modern intellectual - the 'tenured radical', the charismatic bureaucrat, the bourgeois bohemian, the alpha-male academic, the medical research project manager, the therapist-entrepreneur, the charity CEO, the self-help/ help-yourself guru, the sexual healer...

But this could be put aside as mere hypocrisy - and that is something of which we are all guilty (it would be hypocritical to pretend otherwise). But Jung's dishonesty went even deeper than that, to invade his primary achievement.

Because Jung's work is incoherent at the very deepest level - and this incoherence has afflicted his legacy. And this incoherence was not the result of confusion, but the result of dishonesty.


An example is the idea of synchronicity; which has become an extremely influential cultural idea - but which is deployed in a way that makes no sense. And this incoherence is not due to misunderstanding Jung, but comes directly from Jung's written contradictory accounts and evasions of the implications of his own insight.

Colin Wilson exposed this in his marvelously insightful short study: Lord of the Underworld: Jung and the twentieth century (1984); especially the chapter the Sage of Kusnacht, where Wilson goes through the writings on synchronicity with a fine toothed comb, and tries to pin down what Jung really believed, or meant - and comes up against a mass of obfuscation and self-refutation: of giving with one hand and taking back with the other.

Jung's last recorded words from his death bed seem appropriate: "Let's have a really good red wine tonight." The final statement of a man whose personal gifts were astonishingly great - but who consistently and successfully deployed them for his own comfort, convenience and glory.



John K said...

I admit I knew virtually nothing about Jung, but assumed (i.e., up until reading your comments about him) that he was less of a fraud than Freud (alliteration intended). What I find particularly interesting is that he likely was less of a fraud than Freud, yet combined they seemed to have pulled the collective wool over the eyes of many people for much of a century, and probably still to this day. I had just assumed that because Freud was so over marketed by the same evil people that infest mainstream media and academia that, that is at least by my perception, Jung was not as harmful, by definition. In short, I may have to dramatically modify my assumption concerning his negative impact on society relative to Freud. 'Freudian' psychology I consider to be one of the greatest hoaxes and evil non-sciences marketed as science perpetrated upon modern mankind along with such things as 'anthropomorphic global warming' and 'equality' (probably the forced and enforced claim that all groups and people are 'equal' being the greatest and most harmful of all).

Bruce Charlton said...

@JK - Well, there is a difference. I think Freud was just wrong about almost everything; but Jung actually had numerous important insights on many subjects. However, they are extremely hard to extract from his writings, and mixed up with nonsense and obfuscation. I have read quite a lot of Jung - but hardly any of it made an impression, and I found it extremely difficult to maintain concentration on the writing (the 'autobiography' - which he didn't actually write, is the best thing by far) - and I have read a great deal *about* Jung - treatments of his ideas, biographies, memoirs, analyses, extensions... all sorts of stuff.

I would say that Jung certainly did some good - for example Alcoholics Anonymous was set up by an ex-patient using Jungian insights. And he really was a genius.

But the extent to which he was dishonest, deceptive, untrustworthy etc. is quite astonishing, yet somehow difficult to focus upon until it is recognized what kind of man he was. He was one of those people who say one thing to one audience, and the opposite to another (according to expedience) - but with such conviction that you end up doubting your own memory; or assuming there is some deep level (beyond your comprehension) which reconciles it all.

For example, Jung was sometimes a National Socialist, and sometimes opposed to the Nazis. What he 'really' thought about it, who knows? In fact, I assume what he 'really' thought about the Nazis at any given moment depended on the usual criterion of: 'What's in it for me?' As that changed with circumstances, so did his attitude.

ted said...

Often where one stands is based on where one sits. And this is an affront to one's integrity.

John K said...

BC: Thank you for the clarification.