Jung the Man: Part I

Jung the Man:

Part I: Some Key Events in Jung’s Life


“Jung was such an extraordinary man, surely one of our time’s great geniuses.”

Charles Lindbergh, 1959[1]


            The focus of most of the previous essays on this blog site has been on Jung’s ideas. Now the focus shifts to Jung himself. Why the shift? As with so many of the earlier postings, the subject for this multi-part essay arose from interactions with students. I was talking with a student and discovered that she had an attitude toward Jung that could only be termed “veneration.” As Charles Lindbergh recognized, when he met Jung in 1959, Jung wasa genius, one of the stellar figures of the 20th century, whose reputation is likely to be burnished as we move into the future.[2] But for all his genius, Jung was still a human being, and a fairly flawed one at that. Jung could have been speaking of himself when he wrote

Great gifts are the fairest, and often the most dangerous, fruits on the tree of humanity. In most cases… the gift develops in inverse ratio to the maturation of the personality as a whole, and often one has the impression that a creative personality grows at the expense of the human being. Sometimes, indeed, there is such a discrepancy between the genius and his human qualities that one has to ask oneself whether a little less talent might not have been better.[3]

In this set of essays we will consider Jung’s “human qualities,” so as to put some flesh on the bones of the ideas and concepts we have dealt with in earlier essays. To paint a portrait of this “iconic figure,” we will consider the basics: first, the key events in his life; then, in Part II, his appearance, tastes, interests and his ensouled reality. Part III takes up Jung’s type, personality and character, as described by the wide array of individuals who knew, met, worked or crossed swords with him. Part IV turns the lens of analysis on to Jung’s own psyche, to examine his complexes, shadow side and personal history, in so far as it informed his personality. In Part V we will examine his closest personal relationships, his marriage and family life and his activities (or lack thereof) as a parent. In the final section, one of the most debated topics will be considered: Jung’s behavior and attitudes toward women.


Key Events in Jung’s Life


Carl Gustav Jung (“say gay” to his friends)[4] was born on July 26, 1875 to a country parson in the Swiss Reformed Church, and his first decade of life was lived in the country.[5] He was an only child for his first 9 years[6]—years when he learned to play by himself,[7] relating to animals and Nature. Like most Swiss children, he grew up with local tales of saints and national heroes and the life of the saintly Brother Klaus, who lived in a hut with little more than books, a table and a fire tripod for soup could have been the inspiration for Jung’s later life at Bollingen.[8]

His early years were not easy: He set off for school at 7AM each day, many times with only a cup of milk in his stomach, as his family was very poor. He often fainted in school before lunch time, probably due to hunger.[9] He also recalled years later the trauma of a sexual assault by a man he had trusted.[10] His school friends were “mostly… shy boys of simple origins.”[11]

The poverty of his family became obvious to him when he graduated to the gymnasium in nearby Basel.[12] There Jung encountered boys from much wealthier families, and his shoes full of holes and his threadbare trousers stood in stark contrast to their prosperity.[13] While he was generally competent academically (his father had taught him to read Latin at age 4),[14] he was “an idiot in mathematics,”[15] and he told Barbara Hannah many decades later that math ruined the experience of school for him.[16]

Somehow his father found the money to send him to the University of Basel, although Jung had to live at home to save expenses.[17] Two years into his college studies his father died, leaving an estate of only ₤200.[18] His mother was not good at household economizing and his future looked precarious until several relatives offered help. One aunt told him he could sell her antique furniture and keep some of the money as a commission.[19] This gave Jung an opportunity to “cure his childishness about money.”[20] But while this allowed him to finish school, it did not provide much. He was so poor in college that he had only one pair of pants and two shirts.[21] While he didn’t have the money to be a carouser with his fellows, he did join the student fraternity and became more extraverted,[22] able to stand up for his intellectual interests,[23] which even then departed from the mainstream.

When he decided to specialize in psychiatry, both his professors and his friends looked askance at his choice.[24] Psychiatry was very new, not highly respected, and job prospects were uncertain. But Jung felt called to it and was undeterred by what others thought. This independence of thought was a trait he was to carry throughout his life.

In December 1900, very shortly after passing the exams granting him a medical license, he took a job at the Burghölzli clinic, one of the most prestigious mental hospitals in the world.[25] But even here financial strictures cramped his social life, as he had to send most of his salary to support his mother and sister.[26] When he went to Paris for the winter of 1902/3 to study with the famous French psychiatrist Pierre Janet he had so little money he sometimes could afford only roasted chestnuts for his dinner.[27]

His financial fortunes took a major turn for the better after he married Emma Rauschenbach in 1903.[28] Emma was the second-richest woman in Switzerland,[29] the daughter of the owner of a prosperous watch factory. Over the next 10 years, Jung and Emma had 5 children, 4 daughters and a son.[30] With finances no longer an issue, in 1909 Jung was able to leave the Burghölzli and set up a private practice in depth psychology.[31]

He did so initially with the support and influence of Sigmund Freud, whom he met in 1907.[32] Jung and Freud had 6 turbulent years working together—turbulent because Freud looked to Jung as his heir apparent, and expected Jung to carry the leadership and administration of the International Association that Freud was forming—a task for which the introverted Jung was quite unsuited.[33] In addition, Freud and Jung both had their complexes[34] and this unconsciousness stirred the pot of their relationship. Freud also misjudged Jung’s temperament, which was anything but docile. Ultimately Jung was far too independent to submit to Freud’s authority or his sexual theory.[35] The rupture in their relationship came in 1913.[36]

This led to a “breakdown”[37] of 4 years, a period when Jung was disoriented and, in response, turned within, to give his attention to the unconscious. Years later Jung would regard this as the most significant and fertile time in his life, when most of the key ideas of his psychology appeared and developed,[38] but at the time it was a very difficult interval. He regarded his family, his practice, and his identity as a doctor as toeholds on reality, which he balanced against the pull of the unconscious.[39] He would spend his days seeing patients, and nights confronting his inner characters, recording his experiences in his black books and the Red Book.[40]

His excursions into the unconscious he did not share with his wife Emma. In 1910, while Emma was pregnant with their fourth child, he took up with a younger woman, Toni Wolff, who became what Jung called his “other wife.”[41] He was matter-of-fact about this, recognizing that Emma served as wife, mother to his children and the manager of his household, while Toni was his muse and intellectual companion. For 43 years Jung maintained this extraordinary triangular relationship quite openly,[42] appearing at meetings of the Psychology Club with Emma on one arm, Toni on the other.

During the first 3 decades of the 20th century Jung’s international reputation grew and he attracted patients from afar, especially from England and the United States. One patient, Edith Rockefeller McCormick (daughter of John D. Rockefeller, the oil magnate, and wife of Harold McCormick, heir to a Chicago newspaper empire),[43] endowed the Psychology Club and linked Jung up with her son, Fowler, who was to become a reliable traveling companion for Jung in the future.[44] Other wealthy patients from America came through the inter-war years, e.g. Paul and Mary Mellon, who provided a subvention to set up the Bollingen Foundation to translate and publish Jung’s works in English.[45] When these patients couldn’t come to him, he went to them: he made multiple trips to America in the first two decades of the 20th century,[46] receiving honorary degrees from several universities in addition to seeing patients. By the end of his life he had been honored by Clark and Harvard Universities in the U.S., Oxford University, and the universities in Benares, Calcutta and Allahabad in India.[47]

Jung traveled not only to see patients. He went to Africa in 1920 and 1925[48] and India in 1938,[49] eager to explore the local customs, myths and legends of these foreign cultures, to see if his ideas around the collective unconscious were accurate. He made a point to meet and engage shamans, medicine men,[50] and other native peoples and draw them out about their myths and tribal stories. On his trip to India a severe case of dysentery laid him up in an Indian hospital and Barbara Hannah felt that he never fully recovered from this health crisis.[51]

World War II put an end to his global travels. Jung found the war years isolating and difficult.[52] He got embroiled in great controversy for his efforts to keep together the international psychological community, being accused of consorting with the Nazis as a result.[53] His sympathies certainly were with the Allies, and he was code-named “Agent 488” by the Office of Strategic Services. Its Central European head, Allen Dulles, met frequently with Jung during the War to discuss the psychology of various leading Nazi figures.[54]

In 1944 Jung suffered a serious heart attack and lay close to death for several weeks.[55] He later looked back on this event as one of the most momentous of his life, a time when he experienced the mysterium coniunctionis, and it led to the most creative period of his life (1945-52), when most of his pioneering alchemical works were written.[56] In these years Jung was in his 70’s, the time of life when many people retire, but Jung never really retired. Even in his last year of life he was seeing people daily.

In his last decade his life turned inward and in 1953 he suffered a loss when Toni Wolff died suddenly.[57] Two years later he lost Emma to cancer.[58] His final years were filled with creative activities around his beloved Bollingen, as he carved stone memorials to both Toni and Emma, and painted murals on the walls of the tower.[59] By his 85th birthday in 1960, in the big celebration the Swiss always have to mark major birthdays, it was obvious to all that age was finally slowing him down. In May 1961, he had a slight stroke which slurred his speech,[60] followed by a more serious stroke later in the month that sent him to bed.[61] He died at his home in Kusnacht on June 6, 1961, a few weeks shy of his 86th birthday.[62]




Bair, Deirdre (2003), Jung: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Brome, Vincent (1978), Jung. New York: Atheneum.

Hannah, Barbara (1976), Jung: His Life and Work, A Biographical Memoir. New York: G.P. Putnam.

Jung, C.G. (1954), “The Development of Personality,” CW17. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1965), Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.

Lindbergh, Charles (1977), “A Visit from Lindbergh,” Jung Speaking, eds. William McGuire & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Oeri, Albert (1977), “Some Youthful Memories,” Jung Speaking, eds. William McGuire & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.



[1] Lindbergh (1977), 409.

[2] I say this because over the 50 years since his death so many of his intuitions, visions or assessments of our time have proven accurate, e.g. his sense of the direction of frontier science; his concept of the collective unconscious; the dangers of mass movements; and the useful application of astrology in psychology.

[3] Jung, “The Development of Personality,” Collected Works, 17, ¶244. As has been the convention in these blog essays, Collected Workswill hereafter be abbreviated CW.

[4] This is the German pronunciation of CG; Bair (2003), 251.

[5] Born in Kesswil, Jung experienced several moves in his youth, as his father changed parishes, first at Laufen, when Carl was 6 months old, then to Kleinhüngen, when he was 3-and-a-half. All of these places were country villages; ibid., 19,24.

[6] His only sibling, a sister Johanna Gertrud (Trudi) was born on July 17, 1884; ibid., 27.

[7] The parents of the other children in the area kept their children away from him because his parents were so peculiar; ibid., 22.

[8] Brome (1978), 58.

[9] Bair (2003), 31.

[10] Ibid., 71.

[11] Brome (1978), 44.

[12] Ibid., 29.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 26.

[15] This was the recollection of his childhood friend, Albert Oeri; Oeri (1977), 4.

[16] Hannah (1976), 41.

[17] Bair (2003), 37.

[18] Brome (1978), 61.

[19] Bair (2003), 40.

[20] Hannah (1976), 75.

[21] Bair (2003), 59.

[22] Ibid., 44.

[23] Hannah (1976), 75.

[24] Bair (2003), 52-3.

[25] Ibid., 53.

[26] Ibid., 54, 59.

[27] Brome (1978), 82.

[28] Bair (2003), 69, 81.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Agathe (1904), Anna/Gret (1906), Franz (1908), Marianne (1910) and Emma Helene (1914); Brome (1978), 84.

[31] Bair (2003), 158.

[32] Ibid., 114.

[33] Ibid., 209.

[34] Jung’s complexes will be examined in Part IV of this essay.

[35] Bair (2003), 215, 233.

[36] Ibid., 238.

[37] Brome (1978), 200.

[38] Jung (1965), 192, 199.

[39] Ibid., 189; cf. Bair (2003), 244-5.

[40] Ibid., 188.

[41] Bair (2003), 248, 266.

[42] Ibid., 557.

[43] Ibid., 158.

[44] He accompanied Jung on trips to Africa, the American Southwest, Maine and India; see ibid., 341-7,422,426 and 428.

[45] Ibid., 504.

[46] Brome (1978), 119.

[47] Ibid., 239

[48] He made a trip to North Africa in 1920 with his friend Hermann Sigg, and another to Kenya in 1925; ibid., 186, 201-211.

[49] Ibid., 229.

[50] E.g. Mountain Lake, a Pueblo Indian; Jung (1965), 247.

[51] Hannah (1976), 256.

[52] Brome (1978), 236-7.

[53] This most controversial aspect of Jung’s life is well covered in Bair (2003), 431-63.

[54] Ibid., 486, 492.

[55] Hannah (1976), 256, 277.

[56] Ibid., 279.

[57] She died on March 21, 1953; Bair (2003), 557.

[58] She died on November 27, 1955; ibid., 564.

[59] Hannah (1976), 327, 331.

[60] Ibid., 346.

[61] Ibid., 347.

[62] Ibid., 348.