Carl G. Jung: The Trouble With Self-Knowledge

Carl-Jung

jung“Most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities. Anyone who has any egoconsciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them. In this respect the psyche behaves like the body with its physiological and anatomical structure, of which the average person knows very little too. Although he lives in it and with it, most of it is totally unknown to the layman, and special scientific knowledge is needed to acquaint consciousness with what is known of the body…

In this broad belt of unconsciousness, which is immune to conscious criticism and control, we stand defenseless, open to all kinds of influences and psychic infections. As with all dangers, we can guard against the risk of psychic infection only when we know what is attacking us, and how, where and when the attack will come. Since self-knowledge is a matter of getting to know the individual facts, theories help very little in this respect. For the more a theory lays claim to universal validity, the less capable it is of doing justice to the individual facts. Any theory based on experience is necessarily statistical; that is to say, it formulates an ideal average which abolishes all exceptions at either end of the scale and replaces them by an abstract mean.

The statistical method shows the facts in the light of the ideal average but does not give us a picture of their empirical reality. While reflecting an indisputable aspect of reality, it can falsify the actual truth in a most misleading way. This is particularly true of theories which are based on statistics. The distinctive thing about real facts, however, is their individuality. Not to put too fine a point on it, one could say that the real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule, and that, in consequence, absolute reality has predominantly the character of irregularity.

These considerations must be borne in mind whenever there is talk of a theory serving as a guide to self-knowledge. There is and can be no self-knowledge based on theoretical assumptions, for the object of self-knowledge is an individual – a relative exception and an irregular phenomenon. Hence it is not the universal and the regular that characterize the individual, but rather the unique. He is not to be understood as a recurrent unit but as something unique and singular which in the last analysis can neither be known nor compared with anything else.

carl-jung2If I want to understand an individual human being, I must lay aside all scientific knowledge of the average man and discard all theories in order to adopt a completely new and unprejudiced attitude. I can only approach the task of understanding with a free and open mind, whereas knowledge of man, or insight into human character, presupposes all sorts of knowledge about mankind in general.

Now whether it is a question of understanding a fellow human being or of self-knowledge, I must in both cases leave all theoretical assumptions behind me. Since scientific knowledge not only enjoys universal esteem but, in the eyes of modern man, counts as the only intellectual and spiritual authority, understanding the individual obliges me to commit lèse majesté, so to speak, to turn a blind eye to scientific knowledge. This is a sacrifice not lightly made, for the scientific attitude cannot rid itself so easily of its sense of responsibility. And if the psychologist happens to be a doctor who wants not only to classify his patient scientifically but also to understand him as a human being, he is threatened with a conflict of duties between the two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive attitudes of knowledge, on the one hand, and understanding, on the other. This conflict cannot be solved by an either-or but only by a kind of two-way thinking: doing one thing while not losing sight of the other.”

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)

The Undiscovered Self

[download e-book in PDF]

Mead

Quite an unique quote, by Margaret Mead (1901-1988)

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I’m currently working on an original article about Jung’s seminar, from 1934 to 1939, about Nietzsche’s ZarathustraStay tuned… i’ll publish it here soon. He’s a taste of what’s to come: 

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“Nietzsche was in a sort of fighting position against the whole contemporary world and it gave him a peculiar feeling of inefficiency that his words reached nowhere – no echo anywhere. That really was the case; nobody cared, his was the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, and so naturally he would increase his voice instead of lowering it. (…) He needed strong language in order to overthrow that small fellow who was so overwhelmed by tradition.” (JUNG, Seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, 9 May 1934)

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Douglas Kellner: “The Hidden Curriculum of Education” [Video, 60 minutes]

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Douglas Kellner is George Kneller Chair in the Philosophy of Education at UCLA and is author of many books on social theory, politics, history, and culture, including Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film, co-authored with Michael Ryan, Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity, Jean Baudrillard: From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations (with Steven Best), Television and the Crisis of Democracy, The Persian Gulf TV War, Media Culture, The Postmodern Turn (with Steven Best), among many others. He can be reached on the web here and his e-mail is kellner@ucla.edu.

Read some articles by Douglas Kellner:

Download Kellner e-books at Library Genesis (libgen.org)

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You might also enjoy:

Kellner

# Dangerous Thoughts – Opinions on religion by Nietzsche, Epicurus, Voltaire, R. Dawkins, C. Hitchens, B. Franklin, Mark Twain, and others…

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Friedrich Nietzsche was a preacher’s son, brought up in the fear of the Lord. It is the ideal training for sham-smashers and freethinkers. Let a boy of alert, restless intelligence come to early manhood in an atmosphere of strong faith, wherein doubts are blasphemies and inquiry is a crime, and rebellion is certain to appear with his beard. So long as his mind feels itself puny beside the overwhelming pomp and circumstance of parental authority, he will remain docile and even pious. But so soon as he begins to see authority as something ever finite, variable and all-too-human – when he begins to realize that his father and his mother, in the last analysis, are mere human beings, and fallible like himself – then he will fly precipitately toward the intellectual wailing places, to think his own thoughts in his own way and to worship his own gods beneath the open sky. As a child Nietzsche was holy; as a man he was the symbol and embodiment of all unholiness. At nine he was already versed in the lore of the reverend doctors, and the pulpit, to his happy mother – a preacher’s daughter a well as a preacher’s wife – seemed his logical and lofty goal; at thirty he was chief among those who held that all pulpits should be torn down and fashioned into bludgeons, to beat out the silly brains of theologians.”


HENRY LOUIS MENCKEN (1880-1956).
The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
3rd Edition. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press, 2003.

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Some of Nietzsche’s works in e-book (free download):

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You might also enjoy these other delightful provocations (click to enlarge):

God-Is-Dead-Quotes

Nietzsche: In Praise of Wanderers (From “Human, All Too Human”, paragraph #638)

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“The wanderer above the sea of fog” – by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)

the-wanderer-o-viajante-e-sua-sombra-pg-31
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich. (1844-1900),
Human, All Too HumanAphorism 638.