On Mythology

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Princeton University Press, 1998 - Psychology - 275 pages
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At least three major questions can be asked of myth: what is its subject matter? what is its origin? and what is its function? Theories of myth may differ on the answers they give to any of these questions, but more basically they may also differ on which of the questions they ask. C. G. Jung's theory is one of the few that purports to answer fully all three questions. This volume collects and organizes the key passages on myth by Jung himself and by some of the most prominent Jungian writers after him: Erich Neumann, Marie-Louise von Franz, and James Hillman. The book synthesizes the discovery of myth as a way of thinking, where it becomes a therapeutic tool providing an entrance to the unconscious.

In the first selections, Jung begins to differentiate his theory from Freud's by asserting that there are fantasies and dreams of an "impersonal" nature that cannot be reduced to experiences in a person's past. Jung then asserts that the similarities among myths are the result of the projection of the collective rather than the personal unconscious onto the external world. Finally, he comes to the conclusion that myth originates and functions to satisfy the psychological need for contact with the unconscious--not merely to announce the existence of the unconscious, but to let us experience it.

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About the author (1998)

Carl Gustav Jung was born in Switzerland on July 26, 1875. He originally set out to study archaeology, but switched to medicine and began practicing psychiatry in Basel after receiving his degree from the University of Basel in 1902. He became one of the most famous of modern psychologists and psychiatrists. Jung first met Sigmund Freud in 1907 when he became his foremost associate and disciple. The break came with the publication of Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious (1912), which did not follow Freud's theories of the libido and the unconscious. Jung eventually rejected Freud's system of psychoanalysis for his own "analytic psychology." This emphasizes present conflicts rather than those from childhood; it also takes into account the conflict arising from what Jung called the "collective unconscious"---evolutionary and cultural factors determining individual development. Jung invented the association word test and contributed the word complex to psychology, and first described the "introvert" and "extrovert" types. His interest in the human psyche, past and present, led him to study mythology, alchemy, oriental religions and philosophies, and traditional peoples. Later he became interested in parapsychology and the occult. He thought that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) might be a psychological projection of modern people's anxieties. He wrote several books including Studies in Word Association, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, and Psychology and Alchemy. He died on June 6, 1961 after a short illness.

Robert A. Segal is professor of Theories of Religion at the University of Lancaster, U.K. He is the author of "The Poimandres as Myth, Religion and the Social Sciences, Explaining and Interpreting Religion", and "Theorizing about Myth", and editor of "The Gnostic Jung, The Allure of Gnosticism", and "The Myth and Ritual Theory". He is at work on an intellectual biography of William Robertson Smith.

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