Thursday, July 31, 2008

The commission of C. G. Jung

During an interview by John Freeman of Carl Jung, which later aired on the BBC televison series "Face to Face" in 1959, he asked him about whether he believed a third world war was imminent. Keep in mind that this was during the climate of the then ongoing Cold War. Jung replied, in part:
"We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied, because we are the origin of all coming evil."
What did Jung mean when he used the word evil? According to Genesis, evil was brought into the world when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Christianity agrees that man is the source of evil in the world. But here the similarity begins to break. Christianity has a list of sins that I doubt Jung is as concerned about, especially when we consider the context of this statement. I like how Jung indicts all of man. It isn't just one segment of the population, or a few nations. In like manner, Christianity assents that all are guilty under the law. But, whereas Christianity provides a simple solution to the problem of evil freely available to anyone, Jung, however, leaves us with the problem and says the solution is to study human nature, and particularly the psyche of man, presumably to understand how to prevent the evil that may come from a lack of knowledge. In the final analysis, there isn't a simple solution, but Jung did recognize the problem.


Aratina said...

I think Jung and Freud would be very glad to see the progress we have made in studying the psyche.

One thing we can look at when defining evil is the way Nature works without humans in the picture.

We are left with a feeding frenzy, a relentless pursuit of energy at all levels, the innate drive for domination and power, the survival of the fittest. Then there is the other side, the love, the intelligence, the beauty, the stillness, the marvelous adaptions, and the partnerships.

When you put humans back in, they don't seem to make it that much different, and evil seems to be just a natural phenomenon.

Which makes me think, Jung might have been referring to our lack of willingness to change the nature of our situation using our intellect. We seem to be inept at continuing on a rational trajectory into the future.

Keir said...

Good points. The potential of humans to make a positive contribution to the background conditions of nature really hasn't been realized at all! Quite the opposite. And while the quality of life for some people has improved, for others it has not. Meanwhile nations think the best strategy for preserving the peace is an arms race... Mutually Assured Destruction. How far have we come since 1959?

I think we do not need to suppress human nature, but understand how to work with it. We are kind of like frustrated children who do not know how to get what they want.