Carl Jung: 20th Century Visionary

The Holy Grail of the Unconscious by Sara Corbett

Henri Cartier-Bresson

This article is what I consider great journalism.  For one, Jung was a great thinker and so makes for a more than interesting subject.  Also, the research that went into this article was extremely thorough.  The author considers all of the people involved and paints a vivid picture of the Liber Novus which Jung seemingly considered a full accounting of his psyche, a direct expression of his soul.  I’ve never seen the thing myself, but I’d love to get my hands on a copy of it.

(Click here to see larger image.)

There are two reasons I’m writing a post about this.

First, this article is the type of thing that The New York Times does best.  Many articles about Jung have been written in that publication over the years, but this particular article is above average even for the New York Times.

More importantly, I simply want to recommend the article.  If you enjoy Jung and all things Jungian, then this is a must read.  Or if you’re just a curious person who enjoys intelligent writing, then this article probably will satisfy.  Jung isn’t for everyone, but he was one of the most influential men who lived in the 20th century.  You really can’t understand the world we live in without understanding one of the greatest visionaries of his time (and, I would add, without understanding the relationship between Freud and Jung and the flourishing of scholarship in the 19th century that influenced both).

For whatever reason, our culture at present doesn’t give much respect to visionaries.  The 19th century produced many visionaries, but the visionary as a respectable profession seems to have mostly died out in the middle of 20th century.

Even great thinkers influenced by Jung never quite live up to Jung’s greatness.  Jung covered massive intellectual territory, and did so with a creative flair and a depth of insight.  Some of my favorite thinkers such as Terrence McKenna and Philip K. Dick were influenced by Jung and they were innovative thinkers, but I doubt they’ll have the influence Jung had and continues to have.  Philip K. Dick probably comes the closest to Jung’s fearless explorations into madness and also Jung’s prolific output.  Sadly, though, thinkers like Philip K. Dick grew up in a time when visionaries were forced into the margins of society (science fiction in the case of PKD).

However, even Jung was marginalized by Freud’s fame.  Are all visionaries doomed to be only understood by mainstream society in retrospect?  Maybe so, but there do seem to be periods of history that create the right conditions that encourage the visionary profession.

I do hope that eventually the respect for visionaries will be renewed.  Present day visionaries are more of the flavor of Ken Wilber.  I appreciate Wilber’s scholarship but his visionary ability pales against that of Jung.  Joseph Campbell came closer to Jung’s level, but still fell short.  The world needs a new Jung.  So, who will be the visionary of the 21st century?