Carl Jung and America (1875 - 1961)


Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud came to America in 1909 to lecture and receive honorary degrees at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.  As the ship entered the harbor, Freud is reported to have said to Jung: “If they only knew what we were bringing them!”  Jung answered: “Well, we will see in a moment what Americans do with it.”  It was Freud’s only visit to America, but the first of six for Jung. 

At Clark University Jung spoke about his word association tests—experiments which offered concrete evidence for Freud’s idea of the unconscious.  During the month he was in America, Jung had a whirlwind time, visiting Boston, Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, and New York City.  He was fascinated with the diversity of American culture and its technical sophistication.  The day he sailed for home, he wrote to his wife: “. . . the unconscious has a lot of work to do, putting in order all the things America has churned up in us.” 

While traveling to America Jung and Freud submitted their dreams to each other for analysis.  They also talked psychology and it was while traveling together that their relationship began to come apart.  From their first meeting two years earlier in Vienna, Jung had trouble taking Freud’s theory that psychological problems were all basically sexual problems.  The voyage to America only added to Jung’s doubts and then, to make matters worse, Freud broke off talking about his dreams, saying that if he continued he would “risk his authority.”  Jung said, “At that moment he lost it altogether.”

Jung was back in New York briefly in 1910 to look in on a wealthy American patient whose earlier “cure” in Zurich had brought Jung a steady supply of American patients.

In 1912 Jung traveled again to New York, this time to speak at Fordham University.  He gave 10 lectures in which for the first time he publicly distinguished his understanding of libido from Freud’s.  For Freud it was exclusively sexual desire, for Jung libido was psychic energy of any sort.  Freud had known of Jung’s divergent views for some time, but when the lectures issued in book-form as The Theory of Psychoanalysis, their differences became public and Jung soon lost his place as Freud’s chief colleague and successor.

After a period of inner uncertainty following his break with Freud, Jung developed his own theory of the unconscious mind.  From his self-analysis and from his work with patients, Jung began to see contents in the unconscious that were not entirely personal, that did not come from the repression of intimate material in one’s own individual life.  In his dreams and in the dreams of his patients Jung began to recognize stories and images found in the mythology and religious traditions of the whole human race.  By working with the contents of what he called the “collective unconscious” (to distinguish it from the personal unconscious) Jung was able to help people whose psychological troubles did not have to do with their personal sexual issues.  He was able to work with people who were not mentally ill so much as simply not living up to their full mental and spiritual potential.

Jung read ancient and medieval mythology to see how interior problems were dealt with in the past.  He also traveled to places where traditional shamans still practiced the arts of soul healing.  He traveled to North Africa, to Kenya and Uganda, and to India.  He also came to America for the fourth time—for a month-long visit in late 1924 and early 1925.  The most important part of his stay this time was a two week visit to the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico where he formed a friendship with a Hopi elder by the name of Ochwiay Biano or Mountain Lake.  Jung said that when he talked with Mountain Lake he felt like he was talking to an Egyptian priest who lived 1500 BC.  The two men talked about the mythology of the sun and Mountain Lake spoke of his people’s vocation to help the sun rise in the eastern sky.  Jung was impressed: what meaning such a vocation gave to life! 

Jung did not come to America again until 1936 when he came with his wife, Emma, on what he hoped would be a little vacation.  The occasion for the visit was Harvard University’s invitation for him to receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.  The University called him, “A philosopher who has examined the unconscious mind, a mental physician whose wisdom and understanding have brought relief to many in distress.”   After the Harvard ceremony, Jung went to Bailey Island, Maine where he met with a number of American practitioners of his increasingly popular “analytical psychology.”   There he lectured “Jungians” on what he called “individuation,” the process by which one became an undivided self and a whole person.

Jung came to America for the last time in 1937.  He came at the invitation of Yale University to deliver the Terry Lectures, a prestigious annual series devoted to the study of religion in the light of modern science.  Jung focused his lectures on religious symbols in the light of what he understood to be the work of the unconscious mind as it produced symbols spontaneously and with striking similarity everywhere and in all ages.  Among such symbols, he pointed out, was the square or “quaternity,” a symbol that represented wholeness and even divinity, and did so in many traditions.  One of the traditions he referenced in this connection was that of American Indians who attached great importance to myths and rituals that employed the four-sided and four-fold symbol.

50 years after his death, Jung presence in America is greater than ever.  Hundreds of Jungian analysts work with thousands of clients everywhere, from New York, to Asheville, to San Francisco.  Many more have read his best-selling memoirs, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.  Without knowing that the words were coined by him we all talk about “introverts” and “extroverts,” “thinking types” and “feeling types.”  100 years after he first came to America Jung continues to give Americans a helpful way to think about our individual and social lives—or to put it as he did, though in reverse: “. . . the unconscious has a lot of work to do, putting in order all the things Jung has churned up in us.”

Carl Gustav Jung Timeline:
(July 26, 1875 - June 6, 1961)

1900    Jung gets his MD from University of Basel and begins work at the Burgholzli Mental Hospital in Zurich.

1907    Jung meets Sigmund Freud.

1909    With Freud, Jung is invited to lecture at Clark University and receive an honorary doctorate.

1910    Jung makes a second brief visit to the US.

1912    Jung lectures for six weeks at Fordham University in New York City.

1913    Jung breaks with Freud and begins an independent school of analytic psychology.

1924-5    Jung travels to Taos Pueblo in New Mexico where he visits with Chief Mountain Lake.

1936    Jung returns to New York and New England to lecture and meet with a growing number of American followers.

1937    Jung gives the Terry Lectures “On the Psychology of Religion” at Yale; he travels to India.

1948    C. G. Jung Institute is founded in Zurich.



Carl Jung quotes:

“Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit.”  [Called or uncalled, God is present.] — Jung had this statement inscribed over the doorway of his house in Zurich, and on his tombstone.  It is actually a statement that Jung found in Erasmus.

“How can we become conscious of national peculiarities if we have never had the opportunity to regard our own nation from outside.”  —Memories, Dreams, Reflections

 “The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”  —The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man (1934)

“Reason alone does not suffice.”  —The Undiscovered Self (1958)

“Every civilized human being, whatever his conscious development, is still an archaic man at the deeper levels of his psyche.”  —Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933)

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”  —Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963)

“Aging people should know that their lives are not mounting and unfolding but that an inexorable inner process forces the contraction of life. For a young person it is almost a sin—and certainly a danger—to be too much occupied with himself; but for the aging person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself.” —Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933)

“The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium.” —Man and His Symbols

“Projections change the world into the replica of one's own unknown face.” —Aion (1955)

“My life is the story of the self-realization of the unconscious.”  —Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

“Although we human beings have our own personal life, we are yet in large measure the representatives, the victims and promoters of a collective spirit whose years are counted in centuries.”  —Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life.” —Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“Like an Old Testament prophet, Freud undertook to overthrow false gods, to rip the veils away from a mass of dishonesties and hypocrisies, mercilessly exposing the rottenness of the contemporary psyche.”  —Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend.”  —Memories, Dreams, Reflections

 “This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theater where the dreamer is at once scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic.” —The Theory of Psychoanalysis (1913)

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