chapter  1
11 Pages

Jung and the ethologists

With hindsight one can see that Jung suffered ostracism by the academic establishment not because he was a mystic but because his ideas ran counter to the intellectual currents of his time. The academic psychologists insisted that the behavioural repertoire of human beings was infinitely plastic, almost completely subject to the vicissitudes of the environment, and relatively uninfluenced by innate or predetermined structures, whereas Jung persisted all his life in advancing the opposite view. For Jung, a science of psychology could not be founded on the study of a seemingly infinite variety of individual differences: it was necessary, first of all, to establish the ways in which human beings are all psychologically similar. The question which seems to have been perennially at the back of his mind was, what are the archetypal features of human nature? What are the behavioural and psychological characteristics that are specific to us as a species? To him, there were no fundamental incompatibilities between man’s spiritual attainments and his lowly biological origins, and pondering such matters induced in him no such feelings of existential nausea as seemed to afflict the academics. On the contrary, he was greatly excited by them, and the vision that these two aspects of human life-the biological and the spiritual-could be united in one scientific theory provided the impetus that drove him to become a psychiatrist in the first place.