“The Undiscovered Self ” by C.G. Jung
Filed Under: Media & Tech | Posted: 09/20/2012 at 9:32PM
Comments | Region: New York | United States
I liked this book better before I read it — the distinguished black cover, with its thought-provoking illustration: the profile of a man’s head, in white, with a smaller, multicolored profile inside, superimposed by a black labyrinth. It’s all so perfectly 1958 (the year The Undiscovered Self — a delighting title! — was released)! But the book itself is basically an acidulous, slightly paranoid attack on Communism, tinged with a faint apology for Jung’s onetime support of the Nazis.
In 1958, Science and Progress were unstoppable, creating a monolithic state. Opening the book at random:
Whereas the man of today can easily think about and understand all the "truths" dished out to him by the State, his understanding of religion is made considerably more difficult owing to the lack of explanations.
You can thank R.F.C. Hull for that flat-footed translation — or possibly the aging Carl Jung for the prose itself. (He died in 1961.) Incidentally, that passage I just quoted was highlighted in blue by the nameless previous owner of my copy (a nice Mentor paperback). This highlighting fool got started on the very first page, when the book is described, under the headline "Prescription for Salvation." She (or he) underlined:
Dr. Jung affirmed that the survival of our civilization might well depend upon closing the widening gulf between the conscious and unconscious aspects of the human psyche.
The problem is that — as that first, random quotation implied — the "unconscious" turns out to basically mean Christianity.
Jung was not much of a prophet. Ten years after this book, the vast and monolithic state began to wither, replaced by niche-marketing, Hippies, libertarian Republicans and Jesus freaks. The Age of Ideology was over, replaced by the Age of Entrepreneurial Snack Bars. No longer was this passage true:
The bigger the crowd the more negligible the individual becomes. But if the individual, overwhelmed by the sense of his own puniness and impotence, should feel that his life has lost its meaning — which, after all, is not identical with public welfare and higher standards of living — then he is already on the road to State slavery and, without knowing or wanting it, has become its proselyte.
Farewell, State slavery! Hello, Starbucks!