Could it be the case that Freud is the original unconscious source behind Jung’s exploration of the collective unconscious?


Image result for Carl Jung and Freud


Jung “was a brilliant scholar tenaciously engaged in the human sciences, comparative religion, philosophy, cultural anthropology, mythology, theosophy, and the mystical traditions of East and West.[1] Jung’s deep engagement with a wide range of topics, much like Freud, makes him one of the major figures of the twentieth century.


The take-up of his ideas has been widespread in the twentieth century intellectual landscape.  Many of the Jungian ideas, for example, archetypes and collective unconscious, have been taken up and applied to psychoanalysis and beyond. It self-evident that today few responsible figures in psychoanalysis would have any issue if analyst were to present views identical to Jung (Jordan Peterson, for example).


There are a number of psychoanalytic issues where Jung can be seen as a precursor of recent developments in psychoanalysis. For example, Jung offered a mother-centred psychology, contrary to Freud’s father-centred, which influenced the work of Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott and other theorists of the British Psychoanalytic Society. Similarly, Jung’s insight regarding the psyche inherent capacity to discern “what is good for it, a capacity to regulate itself, and even to heal itself” greatly influenced Christopher Bollas’s exposition of the “true self”.

Similarly, the resurgence of the inner-oriented spirituality in the modern world is fundamental to Jung’s work. So much so that “Many today still take their first steps on that voyage with Jung in hand.”[2]


Alongside, mainstream intellectuals, Jung also became part of the canon of the popular culture with his face appearing on the cover of the Beatles’ famous “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album”.


No doubt that Jung’s influence on mass culture puts him on par with Freud. In his early years, Jung was a great admirer of Freud. He first met Freud on 27 February 1907, although, “the two has been corresponding for a year and Jung had been applying Freudian concepts in his work since 1904.”[3]


Jung progressively became interested in and was greatly impressed by Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.[4] Their friendship continued until they visited America where “something occurred one day which ‘proved to be a severe blow to the whole relationship’”. [5] According to the letters exchanged, Freud told Jung about his dream. To interpret the dream Jung asked more information with regards to Freud’s private life. Freud responded with suspicion: “But I cannot risk my authority”.[6]  At this point, for Jung, Freud “lost his authority for placing himself above truth.

Their friendship ended in 1913 with Freud’s letter to Jung: “I propose that we abandon our personal relations entirely.” [7] Jung accepted the proposal to abandon their friendship and wrote back: “I accede to your wish that we abandon our personal relations, for I never thrust my friendship on anyone. You yourself are the best judge of what this moment means to you. ‘The rest is silence’.”[8]

However, Jung breaks his silence later, admitting that the study of Freud has provided him with a wealth of suggestion and stimuli. In his obituary on Freud in 1939 Jung adds that Freud’s “work was ‘epoch-making’ and ‘probably the boldest attempt that has ever been made to master the riddles of the unconscious psyche upon the apparently firm ground of empiricism. For us, then young psychiatrists, it was … a source of illumination, while for our older colleagues it was an object of mockery.’


Jung’s vocal critic led him to break with the Freudian psychoanalysis and develop his own unique theoretical orientation. In contrast to Freud, who stressed repressed unconscious and universal Oedipus complex arising from instinctual conflicts, Jung stressed a “collective unconscious” and universal “archetypes” as inherited forms of psychic functioning.  Similarly, while Freud considers symbols, for example, totem, pointing to repressed unconscious conflicts, Jung considers them as “the best expressions of unknowable processes” that include spirituality as much as materiality.


However, despite these differences, they do share some common grounds when it comes to their approach to religion. Like Freud, Jung too situates the roots of religious phenomenon in the realm of the unconscious psyche.  But, then, this is hardly surprising considering that Jung was an early admirer of Freud and they both had a common interest in the predominant role of the unconscious motivations in being the foundational force for all moral and ethics, and even spirituality. After reading Freud’s Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of His Childhood, Jung wrote to Freud saying: “Leonardo is wonderful. The transition to mythology grows out of this essay from inner necessity, actually it is the first essay of yours with whose inner development I felt perfectly in tune from the start.It may well be the case that Freud is the original unconscious source behind Jung’s exploration of the collective unconscious. For Jung’s agreement that mythology is rooted in the inner space indicates a Freudian influence on his theory of the unconscious.

However, a bit dissimilar to Freud, Jung’s collective unconscious – an integral part of the human psyche connecting all humanity in common archetypes –  is made up of not only personal contents but also of collective archetypes. Formed into the world of the individual unconscious, these archetypes are at the roots of religious experiences. In the Jungian body of work, a religious experience is the individual experience of the collective unconscious that all human beings are bound to have in some form.

But there is so much more to the Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious. As I delve deep into Jung’s oeuvre, I hope to expand on this post.  As for now I turn my gaze back to the “Collected Works of C.G. Jung”.


[1] Mills, Jon. “Jungs metaphysics.” International Journal of Jungian Studies 5, no. 1 (2013): 19-43. doi:10.1080/19409052.2012.671182. Pg. 1

[2] Lachman, Gary. Jung the mystic: the esoteric dimensions of Carl Jung’s life and teachings. New York: Tarcher, 2013. Pg. 14

[3] Casement, Ann. Carl Gustav Jung. London: SAGE Publications, 2001. Pg. 11

[4] Ibid, 11

[5] Ibid, 16

[6] Ibid, 16

[7] Ibid, 20

[8] Ibid, 20

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s