We moderns are faced with the necessity of rediscovering the life of the spirit; we must experience it anew for ourselves.
Few psychologists have proven to be both as enduring and simultaneously maligned by the scientific community than Carl Gustav Jung. He remains to this day one of the most misunderstood intellectuals in modern history, despite the widespread and popular every day use of many of his concepts, not least the relevance of archaic symbols and archetypes, the collective unconscious and the introverted/extraverted psychological types. Much of his Collected Works are imposing affairs intended for other professionals, and as a result a broader understanding of his ideas can be difficult for the layman to grasp. Modern Man in Search of a Soul is a concise, readable book which goes some way to rectifying this.
Whereas Sigmund Freud remained firmly rooted in his psychological theory of sexuality, infantile pleasure and incest, Jung took an altogether more universal approach when analyzing the contents of the unconscious mind, one completely at odds with the behaviouristic model adopted by mainstream psychology in the twentieth century which, with its consideration of the role of mythology and spirituality – both Eastern and Western – led to accusations of Jung being something of a “mystic”. But Jung’s analysis of psychic life in the context of metaphysical considerations may yet turn out to be far more prescient than his detractors ever realised.
Modern Man in Search of a Soul outlines the basic theories as detailed in his Collected Works, including his approach to the analysis of dreams, the problems and aims of modern psychotherapy (at the time of publication, 1931, when psychology was still in its infancy), his psychological types model and the spiritual problems wrought upon modern man in a world of overwhelming rationalism with no room for soul-searching. He paints a disturbing picture of mankind tackling an infinite variety of neurosis brought about by social and cultural conditions which refuse to form a connection with the past and consequently are destined to remain unresolved, or at best, misinterpreted.
But Jung sees a way through this psychological quagmire through the adoption of a broad-ranging approach to understanding the psyche. For one, he recognises the imperfection of the scientific method – so strictly adhered to in psychology even today – which goes some way to explaining why his theories still reside on the margins. After all, his exploration of the significance of mandalas, alchemical processes of transformation and a unifying approach to religion and spirituality isn’t something which can be measured in a laboratory and therefore is rejected a priori as irrelevant to understanding the mind.
In an age where modern psychiatry all too often submits to the alleged efficacy of pharmaceutical drugs – and the inherent problems of abuse, addiction and psychological malaise which accompanies this – perhaps only the integration of a Jungian approach to understanding the “soul” (however one might define it) will bring us towards the numinous and allow us to break free of the increasing feeling of dislocation and despair faced by modern man.