Carl Jung & Buddhism Part II Jung’s Attitude Toward the East
‘Why is psychology the youngest of the empirical sciences? Why have we not long since discovered the unconscious and raised up its treasure-house of eternal images? Simply because we had a religious formula for everything psychic – and one that is far more beautiful and comprehensive than immediate experience. Though the Christian view of the world has paled for many people, the symbolic treasure rooms of the East are still full of marvels that can nourish for a long time to come the passion for show and new clothes. What is more, these images – be they Christian or Buddhist or what you will – are lovely, mysterious, and richly intuitive.’ (CG Jung – Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious)
The examination of Jung’s opinion regarding Eastern culture is a tour de force in the observation of mind processes as they evolve toward an ever greater insight. This insight is two-fold, as it simultaneously demonstrates an enhanced understanding of itself (i.e. the mind), as well as an advancing knowledge regarding the subject matter at hand (i.e. the East). This development can not be ignored with regard to the work of Jung, as it constitutes the entire basis that ‘individuation’ is premised upon. Jung is never afraid to state what he considers to be the truth of the matter. This process can be painfully honest at times – as it is a form of confession – that leads the seeker of psychological wholeness toward that goal of greater light in the mind. The assessment of this work in relation to the East is cathartic in its own right, and readers are advised to be aware of this fact. Jung advised, after-all, that what we find irritating in others, teaches us the most about our own minds. Jung is unique in that he saw through to the essence of history, whilst still acknowledging that he was very much a product of history. He managed to transcend history whilst remaining very much a part of it. This is not surprising as he believed that humanity is the sum total of the historical (and therefore psychological) experiences of that culture the individual is born within. Carl Jung is often viewed in popular spiritual literature as something of a mystic operating in tune with both Western and Eastern religious traditions. It is true that if his work is read in a certain way, this attitude can be justified, and it is a testament to his genius that such an opinion actually exists about him. However, that being said and acknowledged, the viewpoints expressed in many of his works on the East, by and large run surprising counter to this perspective. This paradox seems to be a deliberate ploy by Jung himself to initiate psychological growth in the individual who encounters his work. It is as if Jung encoded an apparently contradictory message in his work that the reader is left to ’integrate’ in his mind and so facilitate spiritual growth. Whatever the actual case of the matter, the reader is advised that Jung’s statements are both literal and transcendent – similar to the Ch’an masters of Tang dynasty China – and that it falls upon the reader to meet Jung half-way as it were, and in so doing create a totality of vision.
Jung’s assessment of the East constitutes a very small and almost insignificant segment of the 20 volumes that comprise his collecte works. Indeed, when the key texts are gathered into the single volume entitled ‘Psychology of the East’ (Routledge Classics 2008), the content amounts to just 239 pages of material – which includes an introductory Editorial Note. Of course, this volume does not include everything that Jung wrote about the East, as that material, by and large, is spread throughout Jung’s other volumes, but it does offer a core of Jungian thinking relevant to various times in his life. Included in this other work on the East is Jung’s extensive interest in the psychological meaning of the mandala as found within Tibetan Buddhism;
‘The Sanskrit word mandala means “circle.” It is the Indian term for circles drawn in religious rituals… The best and most significant mandalas are found in the sphere of Tibetan Buddhism.’ (CG Jung – The Archetypes and the Collectives Unconscious)
The subject matter contained within Jung’s work on the East is disparate and much of it is the consequence of reviewing books written in the West, about what may be broadly described as Eastern religion and spirituality. This subject is described as ‘disparate’because the Eastern countries included in this study – i.e. India, China, and Tibet – although residing geographically in the East, nevertheless, have highly distinctive spiritual and temporal cultures that differ substantially from one another. Therefore an assessment of one spiritual aspect from a particular country may not be relevant to another spiritual aspect from another country – even if both countries are described as ‘Eastern.’ More than this, however, the spiritual traditions can vary greatly, such as in the case of Chinese Buddhism and Indian Buddhism, etc, even if they may be considered a variant upon a theme. Jung had a very difficult job to do when assessing Eastern thought from a Western perspective.
Jung was not an anthropologist, and possessed little or no actual experience of Asian culture when he was asked to assess Asian spirituality. As a consequence, he was very much an outsider looking in onto a subject that was viewed as ‘obscure’ in the West. Jung by-passed this problem of experience, and substituted an innate insight into the workings of Eastern spirituality – as if viewing it from the inside – with a purely objective psychological perspective. This could happen because Jung viewed his theory of analytical psychology as revealing certain underlying ‘universalist’ principles that were considered ‘true’regardless of actual knowledge or experience of the outer structures of the subject under investigation. Therefore Jung could intellectually assess a phenomenon from afar, so to speak, and in so doing reveal specific and profound meanings that were not reliant upon the one-sided practice or theoretical acceptance of the phenomenon itself. Jung could study Eastern religions and philosophies and produce a meaningful commentary for the Western mind to intellectually absorb, without ever having to practice or agree with the premise of those specific endeavours originating within other cultures. This allowed Carl Jung to comment favourably upon the subject of Buddhism, whilst warning against its actual practice as a religion by Westerners, whom he considered were not psychologically equipped to handle its inherently different inner psychic structures. Jung commented upon the East, but remained aloof from its exotic allure. He explains the origination of his interest in Buddhism in this way;
‘It was neither the history of religion nor the study of philosophy that first drew me to the world of Buddhist thought, but my professional interests as a doctor. My task was the treatment of psychic suffering; and it was this that impelled me to become acquainted with the views and methods of that great teacher of humanity whose principal theme was the “chain of suffering, old age, sickness, and death.” …So if, as a doctor, I acknowledge the immense help and stimulation I have received from Buddhist teachings, I am following a line which can be traced back some two thousand years in the history of human thought.’ (From Jung’s Statement ‘On The Discourses of the Buddha')
Buddhism is afforded a special category in Jung’s analysis of the East as a purely psychological manifestation. As a consequence, Jung has no interest in it as a religion, as he perceives it as being of no relevance to the Western mind in that perspective. However, when it is stripped of its religiosity, the essence of Buddhism, that is the ability to radically induce ‘thought reform’ becomes for Jung, a very important demonstration of certain psychological truths. Jung’s psychological analysis of Buddhism lifts it out of its Brahmanic origins and brings if firmly into the realms of Western, secular intelligentsia. In this model, Western man might benefit from the principle of thought reform as demonstrated by the Buddha, but only through psychological methods relevant to his mind. After studying Jung’s view of the East, and understanding the general incompatibility of Eastern modes of spiritual development for the West, it is easier to appreciate the respect that Jung held for the Buddha. He views the Buddha’s achievement of enlightenment – i.e. as Jung defines as the transformation of gods into ideas – as being completely ‘ahistorical.’ Jung views Buddhism as not being entirely in touch with the historical and philosophical trends of its time, and that the Buddha, through a sheer act of will, broke through the historical and psychological barrier of conditioning that defined his culture at the time he was born within it. Jung views this occurrence – which he never doubts as occurring – as extraordinary and bordering on the miraculous. The Buddha’s achievement is not typical of the spiritual level of evolution prevalent at his time of birth, and Jung justifies the ‘ahistorical’ nature of Buddhism as a religion by explaining that Buddhism died out in India. In other words, Buddhism was eventually subsumed by the prevailing and historically correct Brahmanic traditions, traditions that truly represented the state of mind development for the peoples of India. Buddhism was integrated (and reduced) to an aspect of Brahmanism, by making the Buddha an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. This process of integration effectively ended the superior intellectualism of Buddhism and made it conform to the philosophical standards of prevailing, historical conditions. Jung asserts that this is the primary reason why Buddhism died out in India as it was fundamentally incompatible to the development of the Indian mind at the time of its inception. Jung seems to be suggesting that through an act of will, the Buddha broke free of the conditioning factors of historical materialism. As all psychological growth is a matter of focused will, Jung found the Buddha’s example to be very important with interesting ramifications for self-development. As Buddhism originated in India, it is important to understand how Jung generally viewed Asia and Asian culture.
A careful reading of Carl Jung’s collected works reveals that he was very interested in the East, which for him primarily meant India, Chinaand Tibet, and held the religions and philosophies that originated there in high regard. He saw in sacred texts the working of the unconscious and conscious, and this material, not originating in the West, provided non-indigenous literature through which Jung could test his theory of the collective unconsciousness and search for the presence of archetypes. Obviously, if Jung’s theory of mind in its universal aspect was to hold any water, it would be able to define and explain the spiritual outpourings of other, unfamiliar cultures, with a measured ease. In many ways this was a crucial step not only in proving his theory, but in also distinguishing it from the work of his former mentor and friend, the famous early pioneer of the mind, Sigmund Freud. This process involved Jung sitting down and intensely studying whichever Eastern text was of interest to him, reading early translations usually in German. Jung discovered in these texts the unconscious mind, the archetypes, and processes that involved the integration of the unconscious content into the conscious mind, thus creating a psychic middle ground that encompassed two extremes. For Jung, religion and spirituality were expressions of the human psyche, a psyche that was usually in a continuous state of flux, and that through certain situations, experiences, and special teachings were able to facilitate the integration of fundamental, but diametrically opposed, paired attributes such as good and evil, male and female, and light and dark, etc. The essentially introverted cultures of the East provided vital and ample input for Jung to analyse through the intellectual filter of his psychological theory. This research need happened to coincide with the slow blossoming of Western interest in Eastern thought, as Jung is known to have made a study of this kind of material primarily between 1920 and 1940.
The Theosophy movement was an attempt to bring Eastern thought into the West, and in so doing make available otherwise obscure texts and teachings. Theosophy wasn’t the only movement interest in Eastern religion, as academics such as Max Muller and Samuel Beal had been translating Buddhist texts as early as the 19thcentury, an interest shared by the German philosopher Schopenhauer, but it was for a time a major force in Europe and the USA. Carl Jung was friends with Richard Wilhelm, and it is through this association that he came into contact with the Chinese texts entitled ‘I Ching’(Book of Changes), and the ‘Tai I Chin Hua Tsang Chih’ (The Secret of the Golden Flower), both translated into German from Wilhelm who spent a considerable amount of time living in China. Jung would write a commentary for the Golden Flower and a Foreword for the I Ching. He also wrote a psychological commentary for The Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated into English by Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup and edited by Dr Evans-Wentz, as well as a Foreword to DT Suzuki’s ‘Introduction to Zen Buddhism.’ His work regarding the East included an analysis of yoga, and an article entitled ‘What India Can Teach Us.’ The list goes on and includes ‘The Psychology of Meditation’, and a short essay entitled ‘On The Discourses of the Buddha.’ Needless to say, such a full body of work upon the East is a remarkable achievement for a European psychologist who was of the opinion that his theory of the mind was purely scientific in nature, and that it was not reliant in any way upon superstitious or primitive belief.
Indeed, it is this apparent familiarity with the East that has led many to assume that Jung believed that Eastern philosophy was not only important for his developing theory of psychology, but that it contained an inherent perennial wisdom that was directly relevant to Western Man’s mental and spiritual development. Or that Eastern thought, be it Buddhist, Hindu, or Daoist, offered a new avenue of approach for personal and transpersonal growth. A particular aspect of Jung’s work that has to be recognised is that it evolved throughout his lifetime, and that statements he made near to his death were not necessarily in agreement with statements he made in his younger years. His theory never actually changed in its foundational structure once it was fully formulated, but his thinking about his theory, experienced a considerable evolution. Jung stresses time and again the incompatibility between psycho-spiritual modes of the East and the West. The two traditions are incompatible, Jung believes, because they are produced by two entirely different paths of historical development. These two distinct paths have created the introverted Easterner, and the extroverted Westerner. Jung assumes that the human mind is the same throughout humanity, but explains that different historical experience selects different archetypes that are cemented into place by the development and perpetuation of a specific culture and language, etc. This conditioning of the mind (through environmental experience) leads to a particular frequency of psyche that a priori perceives the world in a specific manner. Once this conscious perspective is set in place, the mind can only be accessed and developed via a distinct set of circumstances. Jung considered any attempt to practice an unknown method originating from a different culture to be potentially dangerous. Jung is of the opinion that yoga, Indian or Chinese, or the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism are so alien to the Western mind that they have nothing to offer on a developmental path of self-discovery. Jung says these things whilst continuously praising the merit of Eastern civilisations and their respective religious-spiritual traditions.
It seems odd that such an opinion would manifest from a man highly respected by those who produced very good translations of Chinese and Indian texts. Jung always emphasised that he was writing only from a purely psychological perspective, and that it was not his job to propagate foreign religious teachings in the West. In other words, he assessed the translations of Eastern spiritual texts only from the perspective of his analytical psychology. What the translators of these texts thought about Jung’s comments are unknown, but the fact that he was repeatedly asked to provide them is a testimony to their popularity. Even the famous Japanese Zen academic – DT Suzuki – has Jung providing a Foreword to one of his pivotal books about Zen. The irony of Jung’s collective comments on Eastern texts is that they are placed in books that purport to convey an important spiritual message to the general reader, only to have Jung use his authority in the field of psychology to negate any actual relevance the text might have to individual spiritual practice in the West. Philosophies such as Buddhism were useful from an analytical, psychological perspective, but Jung warned Westerners not to get caught up in practices from the East that he considered incompatible with the peculiarities of the Western mind. The basis for this analyse appears to lie in the fact that Jung lived in the time of modernity, and to a certain extent this affected and defined the boundaries of his theory. Modernistic theories are premised upon the notion of the ‘long narrative’. This is a theory that is created to encompass the entirety of history from the past up to the present point in time, and in so doing assume the authority to explain all phenomena from its own unique perspective. The modernistic age began with industrialisation and theories were developed based upon the underlying notion of a universe that ran like clockwork. This perspective embraced the analysis of matter as a scientific duty, and amongst many other examples created theories like Marxism and Darwinism. The creating of ‘long narrative’ theories was an attempt to describe and explain all of existence without referring to theology or divine intervention. As such these theories tended to embrace gross materialism; even psychiatry – Jung’s original scientific subject as a medical doctor – explained the mind as the functioning (or dysfunctioning) of the nervous system in its early days. Psychiatry would go on to develop the theory that all human thought and emotion is reducible to chemical reactions in the brain, etc.
It is very much to his credit that Jung moved away from the gross materialist perspective, but he did state that the unconscious mind that his theory postulated, should be accepted as an empirical fact, even though it could not actually be proven to exist in the usual, material manner. In other words, dissecting a human brain would not reveal a specific physical structure that could be identified as that which creates the unconscious. Nevertheless, Jung’s theory of mind followed definite modernistic trends. He assumed that people living in different parts of the world, had inherently different psychological processes, but he never subscribed to the theory of ‘biological racism’ by asserting that all human beings shared exactly the same physical structure, denoting a common origin. The psychological differences, once developed through populations existing in isolated regions throughout the world, effectively ‘separated’ each group from one another, and manifested in distinctive and very different cultures. Jung interpreted this to mean that different cultures were deterministic entities that excluded all outsiders from benefitting from their unique psycho-social structures. He assumed that the collective mind of the West was premised entirely upon Christian theology, and that the East, as a non-Christian civilisation, was premised on other exotic philosophies such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism, etc. This reasoning led Jung to make statements such as:
‘The spiritual development of the West has been along entirely different lines from that of the East and has therefore produced conditions which are the most unfavourable soil one can think of for the application of yoga… In the course of the centuries the West will produce its own yoga, and it will be on the basis laid down by Christianity.’ (CG Jung ‘Yoga and the West’)
Jung, in his commentaries on the East, whilst stating that they are entirely psychological in nature, often alludes to thinking processes conditioned over centuries through the presence of Christian theology. He was, of course, born into a devout Christian family, but through his research into the secular study of psychology, and as his understanding of the mind developed, he moved ever further away from a simple theology based entirely upon blind faith. However, throughout his early work he is very much of the opinion that all Westerners are influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, and assumes that the presence and dominance of Christianity ‘civilised’the Western world. Jung often discusses the pre-Christian ancient and classical Western world, but tends to avoid the issue of Christianity being originally a ‘foreign’ religion from the Middle East that was imposed upon Europeans - primarily (although not exclusively) through military invasion. The logical implication of this is that the Western psyche could well be based also upon pre-Christian beliefs that were held for thousands of years before the arrival of Christianity in the West. These are the beliefs of the Celtic, and other indigenous peoples of Europe that by and large appear to have more in common with Asian thought, than with Christian theology, that is, after all, a re-interpretation (and distortion) of Classical Greek philosophy. Jung warns, nevertheless, that the abandoning of familiar psychological patterns in pursuit of the unknown is inherently and potentially dangerous for the mental health of the Western aspirant;
‘The usual mistake of a Western man when faced with this problem of grasping the ideas of the East is like that of the student in Faust. Misled by the devil, he contemptuously turns his back on science and, carried away by Eastern occultism, takes over yoga practices word for word and becomes a pitiable imitator. (Theosophy is our best example of this.) Thus he abandons the one sure foundation of the Western mind and loses himself in a mist of words and ideas that could never have originated in European brains and can never be profitably grafted upon them.’ (CG Jung – Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower)
For those who are of the opinion that Jung’s psychological theory represents a sympathetic holistic approach toward Eastern thought may well be disappointed by such statements. However, Jung lived in a time that was still very much dominated by the Christian religion in the West, and as a consequence, Jung recognised that in many of his patients, (which did not include Indian or Chinese people), the shadow of Christian theology loomed large, and it is in this light that such statements, and similar statements must be interpreted. Jung is talking about psychic structures that he has found to be most evident within the minds of the people that he has analysed as a psychotherapist. It is important to remember that Jung is presenting the abstract ‘East’ as it appears to the Western mind influenced psychologically by the presence of Christian theology. As a psychologist, however, Jung is neither agreeing nor disagreeing with this ‘fact’, but merely presenting it empirically to the reader of his work. It represents a psychological experience for Jung that simply can not be ignored. This is why Jung further clarifies this issue when he states;
‘The Eastern attitude violates the specifically Christian values, and it is no good blinking this fact. If our new attitude is to be genuine, i.e. grounded in our own history, it must be acquired with full consciousness of the Christian values and of the conflict between them and the introverted attitude of the East.’ (CG Jung – Psychological Commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation)
Jung believed that the Western world had only been civilised for a mere thousand years. This theology subsumed indigenous European psychology and culture, and in so doing created a specific and deterministic psychology that operated through the Western mind. The psychological consequences of this exposure to Christian theology, Jung believed, was superior to any psychological-cultural state that had preceded it. Jung appears to be of the opinion that the development and propagation of monotheism is inherently superior to that of polytheism. This is directly relevant to Eastern religion, as many such traditions advocate a staunch belief and acceptance of polytheism. Through Jung’s interpretive theory, this places the Eastern mind at a lower, pre-Christian (i.e. ‘pre-monotheistic’) level of development. In the West, monotheism was brought into contact with polytheistic Europeans, through the conquering Roman Empire. These indigenous Europeans were subjected to the culture shock of superior Roman organisation, and eventually the monotheism of Christianity, which became entwined and indistinguishable from Roman culture itself. The psychological model of evolution presented by Jung suggests that the human mind develops from a state of primitive polytheism, in which there are many gods existing ‘external’ to the perceiver, into that of monotheism, where all the many gods merge into one distinct entity; and then into a fully rounded, complete mind that has re-integrated the aspects of its own functioning that it once viewed as‘external’ to itself. Asia, by and large, has remained polytheistic (with the exception of the development of Buddhism), despite the Western imperialist incursion and the inevitable wake of Christian missionaries. Here, Jung describes what he considers to be the Indian mentality, and how although it may appear primitive, it is not;
‘He resembles the primitive in this respect. I do not say that he is primitive, but that the process of his thinking reminds me of the primitive way of thought-production. The primitive’s reasoning is mainly an unconscious function, and he perceives its results… Our Western evolution from a primitive level was suddenly interrupted by the invasion of a psychology and spirituality belonging to a much higher level of civilisation. Our case was not so bad as that of the Negroes or the Polynesians, who found themselves suddenly confronted with the infinitely higher civilisation of the white man, but in essence it was the same. We were stopped in the midst of a still barbarous polytheism, which was eradicated or suppressed in the course of centuries and not so very long ago. I suppose that this fact has given a peculiar twist to the Western mind.’ (CG Jung – What India Can Teach Us)
Considering the times within which Carl Jung lived, it is remarkable that he saw anything of value originating in cultures outside of Europe. He definitely did not subscribe to the gross pseudo-science of racial hierarchy in his work or private life, but his use of the German and English language (as he also wrote in English), sometimes presents to the contemporary reader a stark manner of expression that is no longer generally familiar to those residing in multicultural societies. Jung never envisioned the post-modern, multicultural society that the European inhabits today. He had no way of knowing that in the years following his death, examples of world culture would be living side by side, sharing a single geographical space, and that the inhabitants would be openly sharing different and distinct cultures with one another. He also had no way of knowing that many people would be directly or indirectly influenced by different cultures and psychologies, and fully integrate these experiences into their individual psyches. This is augmented by the fact that as diverse cultures have routinely mixed in relationship and marriage, there is now a considerable amount of people who have inherited the biological structures from parents of different ethnic groups, and in a sense become a blend of differences brought up within one, unifying culture, such as that found in Great Britain, and USA, etc. However, even if direct mixing does not occur, a close proximity coupled with education, usually provides a fertile ground for the meaningful exchange of diverse cultural ideas and belief systems. Carl Jung lived within a world where there was a vast distance between different peoples and places. Everything was separated into disconnected pockets of information typical of the modernistic thinking, and studied as existing in isolation. As a consequence, the ‘Easterner’ was viewed as being very different from the ‘Westerner’, usually to the detriment of the former. The transition into the post-modern condition has literally ripped apart the old certainties associated with the ‘long narrative’ of modernistic thinking, and rendered the isolatory and one-sided interpretation of non-European culture as being redundant. Jung’s work, despite its historical setting is perennial in its relevance and insight and is of immense value, as it is shot-through with incisive knowledge, wisdom, and on occasion wit;
‘A Chinese can always fall back on the authority of his whole civilisation. If he starts on the long way, he is doing what is recognised as being the best thing he could possibly do. But the Westerner who wishes to set out on this way; if he is really serious about it, has all authority against him - intellectual, moral, and religious. That is why it is infinitely easier for him to imitate the Chinese way and leave the troublesome European behind him, or else seek the way back to the medievalism of the Christian Church and barricade himself behind a wall separating true Christians from the poor heathen and other ethnographic curiosities encamped outside.' (CG Jung - Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower)
The embracing of any Eastern spiritual path by a Westerner, be it Buddhist, Hindu, or Daoist, was thought of by Jung as being merely the imitation of the surface structures only, with no real psychological appreciation of the underlying reality of the Eastern thought that created it. The Western mind could not penetrate the unfamiliar ideas and concepts that had developed throughout an entirely different cultural history. Examples of this superficial practice of Eastern modes of development can be seen in any fitness Taijiquan class, or yoga studio throughout the Western world, where teachers and instructors use the physical movements of these arts to make a living, but actually do not understand the true and inherent cultural basis of the activity they sell. In this respect Carl Jung is absolutely correct. Many Westerners are drawn to yoga or Taijiquan simply as a way of making money; they have no interest or reason to learn the philosophy of the East. Students pay to learn the physical movements and never think to enquire about the underlying Eastern thought. This detriment is one of commerce as well as an innate psychological incompatibility. However, this reality is not true of all Westerners today, as many practice Eastern arts, and do penetrate the philosophies of these arts to a very high degree, just as there are many Easterners intensely interested in European football, Shakespeare, and perhaps Jungian psychology. The world is no longer separated into isolated camps and this psychological shift is augmented by the instant communication that the internet provides.
Jung has a special liking for Buddhism because he sees the Buddha as freeing the Indian mind from a dependence upon polytheism. He does not recommend Buddhist meditation to Westerners, but does recommend an academic study of the subject. It is not so much the path of the Buddha that Jung admires, but rather the final achievement, the enlightenment, that Jung perceives (amongst other things) as transforming the notion of external gods into pure thought;
‘…the gods become philosophical concepts. Buddha, a spiritual pioneer for the whole world, said, and tried to make it true, that the enlightened man is even the teacher and redeemers of his gods… How Buddha himself could obtain such insight without losing himself in a complete mental inflation borders on a miracle. (But any genius is a miracle.)
Buddha disturbed the historical process by interfering with the slow transformation of the gods into ideas. The true genius nearly always intrudes and disturbs. He speaks to a temporal world out of a world eternal.’ (CG Jung – What India Can Teach Us) 
This is a startling insight in its own right, and seems very close the wisdom espoused by the Buddha himself, as is typical of the kind of output of the mature Carl Jung. The study of Jung’s work is very much the observation of the personal growth of Carl Jung himself. His early work appears clinical, clean cut, and straight to the point – exhibiting a manner much like a medical doctor – but as he got older his viewpoints became more inclusive and of a broader interpretive meaning. His comments to Miguel Serrano and Charles Luk regarding Chinese Ch’an Buddhism, amongst many others, are testimony to this fact. Although Jung appears rather harsh in his early treatment regarding the practice of Buddhism and other Eastern traditions, it is evident that this ‘harshness’ definitely transformed into a more understanding perspective that allowed for the possibility of inner change through unknown or obscure methods. Of course, he always had a theoretical soft spot for Buddhism, and as he got older it seems that the idea that the mind of the West might well be related directly to the mind of the East started to formulate;
‘Long experience with the products of the unconscious has taught me that there is a very remarkable parallelism between the specific character of the Western unconscious psyche and the “manifest” psyche of the East. Since our experience shows that the biological role which the unconscious plays in the psychic economy is compensatory to consciousness, one can venture the hypothesis that the mind of the Far East is related to our Western consciousness as the unconscious is, that is, as the hand to the right.’ (CG Jung – Foreword from The Mind of East Asia)
Jung, both as a psychiatrist and a psychologist that founded his own school, was use to viewing the mind as an object and a subject. He could study the behaviour of others and through the recording of this behaviour; ascertain how the minds of the patients were functioning. With regard to his own theory of psychology, however, Jung had to use his own mind as the study ground, a habit and method of introspection that was even utilised by his early mentor Sigmund Freud. This switch in emphasis – from the purely objective to that of the complete immersion in the subjective – required Jung to look within his own mind and observe the psychic patterns of processes as they unfolded. When Jung developed this method of exploring his mind, he was effectively using his perceptual awareness to view its own functioning. Obviously when he applied his theory of the mind to others, as a psychotherapist, he did the ‘looking’ for them and reported back to them what he had discovered in their minds. This is because most people are unable to perceive their own mind functions and merely exist as the product of how their mind happens to work. Through being made aware of the functioning of their mind from an external source – i.e. the therapist – the individual is able to moderate thought and change behavioural habits. As Jung was a pioneer of the scientific exploration of the mind, he had to explore his own psychic processes on his own, and in so doing formulate a theory whilst simultaneously applying that theory to what he found. This may be considered a very remarkable achievement in any culture and as a distinct ability, comes very close to the general methods of meditation that are prevalent in the East. In other words, Jung appears to have been ‘meditating’ upon the functions of his own inner processes of the mind, using his own mind as both subject and object. In his writings, Jung never seems to make this connection between his introverted method of self-observation, and the Eastern paths of meditation. He continuously assumes that Eastern meditation is ‘religion’ rather than psychology, and that as such it must be compared with religion from the West;
‘This strange antithesis between East and West is expressed most clearly in religious practice. We speak of religious uplift and exaltation, for us God is the Lord of the universe, we have religion of brotherly love, and in our heaven-inspiring churches there is a high altar. The Indian, on the other hand, speaks of dhyana, of self-immersion, and of sinking into meditation; God is within all things and especially within man, and one turns away from the outer world to the inner. In old Indian temples the altar is sunk six to eight feet deep in the earth, and what we hide most shamefacedly is the holiest symbol to the Indian. We believe in doing, the Indian in impassive being. Our religious exercises consist of prayer, worship, and singing hymns. The Indian’s most important exercise is yoga, an immersion in what we would call an unconscious state, but which he praises as the highest consciousness.’ (CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation)
Jung’s view of the East is not straightforward, as his statements are designed to be rather fluid rather than set in stone. Jung’s exploration of the mind was one of continuous discovery, with each new step of recognition a springboard to further understanding. Jung looked upon the East with a curious eye, and the cultures and traditions he saw probably appeared very unfamiliar to him. This fact should not be surprising, as within Jung’s primarily Germanic cultural milieu, there was nothing to compare with it. Nothing within the European culture at its time could prepare a pioneer of the mind with the differences encountered in the East. This situation was compounded by the official and casual racism practiced by European colonialists who dominated their non-European subjects through application of a rigid and continuously demeaning attitude. The non-European was always presented as the inferior ‘other’ from whom nothing was considered worth learning. European domination of the East relied upon the enforced conversion to Christianity, and the abandonment of Asian cultural norms of behaviour. This was very much an attempt to eradicate the psychological differences between East and West, and place the converted Easterner at a permanent inferior position to that of the civilising European. Jung rejected this racism, and in so doing always observed the Eastern mind as it was, with no embellishments or alterations. In this manner, and through his work, Jung does a great service to the East as he refuses steadfastly to reduce the East to a state of Christian psychology, or view Easterners as inherently inferior. This is not to say that he did not compare the East to West, far from it, his entire research in this area is premised on such a comparison, but he remained true in his analysis of psychological ‘difference’ – perhaps the most difficult of all subjects relating to the human mind. His early work is obviously dichotomised, but as he matured, Jung’s rhetoric softened dramatically as he started to consider a psychological compatibility between East and West;
‘The goal of Eastern religious practice is the same as that of Western mysticism: the shifting of the centre of gravity from the ego to the self, from man to God. This means that the ego disappears in the self, and man to God.’ (CG Jung – The Holy Men of India)
Jung felt that Freud was mistaken when he defined the unconsciousness as an ‘appendage’ of the conscious mind. Freud’s attitude was based upon the fact that he believed that he was following a strictly scientific path when analysing the human mind. This premise is essentially materialistic in nature – as all science necessarily is – with consciousness being defined as a by-product or function of chemical reactions within the human brain. In this model, conscious, although unique, is not mystical or spiritual in any way. It is the product of a physical organ in the body. Freud felt that he was pioneering a materialist and therefore logical presentation of the human mind and its functioning, and for a time viewed Carl Jung as his natural successor. However, the more in depth Jung looked into the mind, the less convinced of Freud’s stance he became;
‘My method, like Freud’s, is built up on the practice of confession. Like him, I pay close attention to dreams, but when it comes to the unconscious our views part company. For Freud it is essentially an appendage of consciousness, in which all the individual’s incompatibilities are heaped up. For me the unconscious is a collective psychic disposition, creative in character. This fundamental difference of viewpoint naturally produces an entirely different evaluation of the symbolism and the method of interpreting it. Freud’s procedure is, in the main, analytical and reductive. To this I add a synthesis which emphasises the purposiveness of unconscious tendencies with respect to personality development. In this line of research important parallels with yoga have come to light, especially with kundalini yoga and the symbolism of tantric yoga, Lamaism, and Taoistic yoga in China. These forms of yoga with their rich symbolism afford me invaluable comparative material for interpreting the collective unconscious.’ (CG Jung – Yoga and the West)
This demonstrates that it is through the theory of the collective unconsciousness that Jung can analyse many different psychological states, and bring meaning to those states. The collective unconscious is the means through which Jung examined the modes of Eastern thought that he came into contact with, and it is a process that continually unfolded for Jung throughout his life. His example demonstrates that through contact with the unknown or otherwise unfamiliar, integration of psychic elements occur within the mind that render that which was once strange, into an understandable concept, related to all other concepts. When analysing Jung’s writings on the East it is important not to judge one particular aspect as being representative of the whole. Jung often makes what appear to be concrete statements, only to contradict those statements elsewhere. This is indicative of a developing insight toward the East, which in Jung’s case is best summed up by his opinions in his older age, particularly in the last weeks of his life. On the other hand, his earlier opinions represent a person trying to come to terms with an entirely unfamiliar subject, and in so doing often present startling observations and otherwise incisive comment, which are important for unlocking the mind of the individual. Where Freud’s materialist notions reject spirituality, Jung’s method allows for spirituality to exist and be a part of the new science of the human mind that he was developing, and continues to be developed today through the various Jungian institutes and establishments around the world.
Carl Jung’s Collected Works Cited – Routledge (UK) Series:
Volume 9i - The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: Published in England 1959 Volume 10 – Civilisation in Transition: Published England 1964. Volume 11 – Psychology of Religion - West and East: Published England 1958. Volume 13 – Alchemical Studies: Published England 1968. Volume 18 – The Symbolic Life - Miscellaneous Writings: Published England 1976.
Note: For volumes 10, 11, 13 and 18 of Jung’s collected works; I have accessed the 1986 Routledge Classic edition entitled ‘Psychology and the East’ which contains the following texts;
Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower Psychological Commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead Yoga and the West The Dreamlike World of India What India Can Teach Us Psychological Commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation Foreword to Suzuki’s Introduction to Zen Buddhism The Psychology of Eastern Meditation The Holy Men of India Foreword to Abegg, Ostosien denkt anders Foreword to the I Ching On the Discourses of the Buddha
Other Works Cited:
Laszlo De, Staub, Violet –The Basic Writings of CG Jung, The Modern Library Edition, 1993.
 The Basic Writings of CG Jung: Edited by Violet Staub De Laszlo, Modern Library Edition (1993) – Page 364.  The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: By CJ Jung, Pages 355-356.  Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – On The Discourses of the Buddha - Pages 236-239. Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – Yoga and the West - Pages 291. Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – Commentary On The Secret of the Golden Flower – Page 6.  Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – Psychological commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation – Page 121.  Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – What India Can Teach Us – Pages 106-107. Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – Commentary On The Secret of the Golden Flower – Page 18. Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – What India Can Teach Us – Pages 104-105. Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – The Mind of East Asia – Pages 211.  Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation – Pages 179.  Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – The Holy Men of India– Pages 204.  Psychology and the East: By CG Jung – Yoga and the West – Page 90.
'Licchavi Vimalakirti came to the foot of that tree and said to me, ’Reverend Sariputra, this is not the way to absorb yourself in contemplation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that neither body nor mind appear anywhere in the triple world. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest all ordinary behavior without forsaking cessation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest the nature of an ordinary person without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature.' Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra