Visionary Rumors and the Symbolism of the Psychoanalytic Movement

The work of historians might be viewed as providing pinpricks of light in a great sea of darkness. The areas of light are those past events and periods of time that are well-understood and where other historians have travelled before.

The work of historians might be viewed as providing pinpricks of light in a great sea of darkness. The areas of light are those past events and periods of time that are well-understood and where other historians have travelled before. When venturing back into time, it is common to gather around these points of light like moths around yellow summer lights. Only a rare few venture out beyond the light into the darkness. These few are the true heroic explorers of the past.

C.G. Jung presents a unique challenge for those bravely venturing back in time, attempting to understand one of our century's greatest men and the movement he created. Many of the lights illuminating his past are placed in the wrong places, while the important and critical periods yet remain in shadow, Consequently, there is glaring light turned on that point in his life marking his split with Freud and the years following. But the years between Jung's relationship with Otto Gross in 1908 and the founding of the Psychological Club in 1916 have remained relatively hidden.

Problems even arise when attempts are made to examine the illuminated areas of Jung's past. In many cases the pinpricks of light have been imbued by disciples through the years with a special reverence so that they glow with a radiance as if they were sacred, holy objects in a great Jungian cathedral. Approaching these "sacred objects" seems an impossible challenge for many biographers, who instead simply yield to the accepted "meaning" these signifying artifacts have expressed to others in the past.

"In effect, the flying saucer phenomenon could be viewed as the recurrence of an ancient archetype dressed in modern clothing."

Yet if one takes heart and determinedly embarks on the quest, what initially appears dark and inaccessible turns luminous and clear. Late in Jung's life, when he was 83 years old, he wrote a remarkable book called Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. Published by the Bollingen Foundation, it is one of Jung's last works and represents one of the few applications of the Jungian method to the investigation of modern phenomena. In this book Jung noted that the worldwide "rumor'' about flying saucers presents a problem that challenges the psychologist for many reasons. For Jung, the primary question was whether the UFO phenomena is real or fantasy. If a product of fantasy, Jung asked "Why would such a rumor exist?"

In Flying Saucers Jung explored the fantasy aspect of flying saucers and speculated that there must be a desire in the general population to believe in them. Furthermore, he noted that this hypothesis had been voiced in an article appearing in a German magazine in 1954, in which Jung was misquoted as believing in flying saucers. The article was discovered and circulated by the world press in 1958. When Jung told journalists he had been misquoted in the original story, the press ignored his disclaimers. Jung recalled, "This time, the wire went dead; nobody took any notice, except for one German newspaper."

Jung concluded that "news affirming the existence of UFOs is welcome, but that skepticism seems to be undesirable. . .to believe that UFOs are real suits the opinion, whereas disbelief is to be discouraged.... There is a tendency all over the world to believe in saucers and to want them to be real, unconsciously helped along by a press that otherwise has no sympathy with the phenomenon." Jung then asked a most incisive question: "Why should it be more desirable for saucers to exist than not?"

For Jung, the "desirability" of UFO existence relates to a psychic need and is connected with signaling the end of one era and the beginning of another. It was not a new phenomenon but, rather, one that manifested the change of archetypes that constellate around the end of one age and the beginning of another. As he wrote in the introduction to Flying Saucers: "It is not presumption that drives me, but my conscience as a psychiatrist that bids spare those few who will fulfill my duty and prepare those few which are in accord with the end of an era."

Jung found precedence for these archetypal harbingers of change in preceding periods of history that involved the collective psyche:

As we know from ancient Egyptian history, there are manifestations of psychic changes which always appear at the end of one Platonic month and at the beginning of another. Apparently they are changes in the constellations of psychic dominants, of the archetypes, or "gods" as they used to be called, which bring about, or accompany, long-lasting transformation of the collective psyche.

The changes in archetypes seem to have a connection to major movements in astrological houses. "This transformation," noted Jung, "started in the historical era and left its traces first in the passing of the aeon of Taurus into that of Aries, and then of Aries into Pisces, whose beginning coincides with the rise of Christianity. We are now nearing that great change which may be expected when the spring-point enters Aquarius."

In Flying Saucers Jung distinguished between "ordinary rumors" and "visionary rumors." The first type, with which we are most familiar, is nothing more than "popular curiosity" and "sensation mongering." In contrast, the basis for visionary rumors involves "unusual emotions"—emotions that Jung related to the crises humankind experienced in the form of two world wars and the threat of totalitarianism.

The visionary rumor during this particular time period expressed a desire for intervention from supernatural powers. A popular manifestation of this desire in the late 1930s was the mass hysteria generated by Orson Wells' radio broadcast "War of the Worlds," which expressed "latent emotions connected with the imminence of war." As Jung observed, "The present situation is calculated as never before to arouse expectations of a redeeming, supernatural event."

"For Jung tire UFO phenomenon was not new but, rather, manifested the changes in archetypes that constellate around the end of one age and beginning of another. "

Analyzing UFOs in dreams of this period, Jung noted: "The message which the UFO brings to the dreamer is a time problem that concerns us all. The signs appear in the heavens so that everyone shall see them. They bid each of us to remember his own soul and his own wholeness, because this is the answer the West should give to the danger of massmindedness."

In effect, the flying saucer phenomena could be viewed as the recurrence of an ancient archetype dressed in modern clothing. The archetype is the mandala symbol which, Jung noted, can be found "in all epochs and in all places, always with the same meaning, and it appears time and again, independently of tradition, in modem individuals as the 'protective' or apotropaic circle." It is an archetype that has "always expressed order, deliverance, salvation, and wholeness [and] encompasses, protects, and defends the psychic totality against outside influences and seeks to unite the inner opposites." In short, the mandala is an "individuation symbol." For Jung, it is characteristic of modern times that the archetype takes the form of an object or a "technical construction" in order to avoid the "odiousness of mythological personification" because "everything that looks technical goes down without much difficulty with modern man."

The appearance of the psychoanalytic movement represents a modern phenomenon in some ways as mysterious as the appearance of the UFO. Investigators might gain new insights into the deeper meaning of the psychoanalytic movement by utilizing Jung's symbolic perspective for viewing the UFO phenomenon.


Jung repeatedly reminds readers that everyone is born into a particular historical context which shapes the specific conflicts played out in the individual psyche. As is the case with the UFO phenomenon, the origins of psychoanalysis can also be viewed as an outward expression of the psyche of the time. The two movements were not so much created by Freud and Jung as they were outward manifestations of an inner symbolic process. They mirrored the spirit of the times. In this respect, Freud and Jung become mediums for receiving transmissions rather than creators sending transmissions.

Indeed, though many might be tempted to characterize Jung as a prophet, one first must consider if a prophet is the originator of the power or the means of its expression. For instance, in broad cultural terms, the Beatles represent one of the greatest phenomenon of the twentieth century and can legitimately lay claim to the status of prophet. But even the martyred leader of the Beatles, John Lennon, tended to view himself and his band as mediums rather than as prophets, translators rather than creators. When once asked to explain the Beatles' success long after "Beatle-mania" had crested and ebbed, Lennon offered, "Whatever wind was blowing at the time moved the Beatles. I'm not saying we weren't flags on top of a ship; but the whole boat was moving. Maybe the Beatles were in the crow's nest, shouting, 'Land ho,' or something like that, but we're all in the same damn boat....We tuned in to the message." And as is true of the Beatles and other great powers in society, Jung served as a channel for many of the spiritual forces (Weltanschauung) of his age.

Inherent in analytical psychology is Jung's perspective of duality. Jung saw "the play of opposites" in everything and derived his basic conception of psychic energy from this opposition. Freud, who viewed sexuality as the only psychic driving power, never gave this duality the importance Jung did. "Only after my break with him [Freud],'' wrote Jung, "did he grant an equal status to other psychic activities as well."

For Jung, duality is one of the primary and original aspects of our world of matter and also one of the primary psychological tensions within the individual. Jung's interest in alchemy, the study of the separation and synthesis of physical opposites, laid the groundwork for Mysterium Coniunctionis, which explores the separation and synthesis of psychic opposites.

One of the first expositions of Jung's concept of duality appears in a little known booklet, Septem Serrnones ad Mortuos (Seven Sermons to the Dead), published privately in 1916. Jung gave copies to friends, but later described the booklet as a "sin of his youth" and something he regretted. Septem Sermones provides a glimpse of what he went through during the critical years between his split with Freud in 1912 and the founding of the Psychological Club in 1916. One of the main focuses in the booklet was the polaristic nature of physical life, the psyche, and all psychological statements. The underlying polarity of life remained a vivid reality for Jung to the very end of his life. In a letter to Joseph Rychlak in 1959, Jung summarized his perspective:

Since neurosis consists in a dissociation of personality, one is always confronted with an opposite....Moreover the science of all moving as well as living bodies is based on the concept of energy. Energy itself is a tension between opposites. Our psychology is no exception to the principle that embraces the whole of natural science.

Perhaps this basic duality was given symbolic expression in the psychoanalytic movement through the opposition between the Freudian and Jungian systems. Perhaps Jung and Freud represented basic dualities of the collective unconscious that found expression around the turn of the century. Certainly there were a number of fundamental differences between Freud and Jung that suggest a dual system of symbols at work. Apart from their specific theories, there was a significant difference in their linguistic styles which mirrored major differences in perspective. Jung's was a language of ambiguity; Freud's, a language of precise description. In a 1952 letter to Professor Werblowsky, Jung explained the need for this ambiguity:

The language I speak must be ambiguous, must have two meanings, in order to do justice to the dual aspect of our psychic nature. I strive consciously and deliberately for ambiguity of expression, because it is superior to unequivocalness and reflects the nature of life. My whole temperament inclines me to be very unequivocal indeed. This is not difficult, but it would be at the cost of truth. I purposely allow all the overtones and undertones to be heard, partly because they are there anyway, and partly because they give a fuller picture of reality. Unequivocalness makes sense only in establishing facts but not in interpreting them; for "meaning" is not a tautology but always includes more in itself than the concrete object on which it is predicated.

Gerhard Adler, commenting on this passage in his preface to the Selected Letters, observed:

Here we have a description which enables us to grasp the fundamental difference between Freud's clear, systematic, technical way of thinking, but in his clarity also relatively limited, and Jung's deliberately vague but more comprehensive approach. [The differences between the two men can be] put into a pattern of complementarity in which each of them finds his appropriate place and value.

Jung wrote about many of his differences with Freud. One of the more interesting places he wrote about this was in Modern Man in Search of a Soul published in 1933. Here in the essay "Freud and Jung—Contrasts," Jung characterizes as a capstone aspect of Freudian psychology its need to be taken as a science. He goes on to say that this is an impossibility and we "can't make statements about psyche today which are true and correct....[The] best we can achieve is true expression. . .which consists of giving form to what is observed." Every psychology, Jung observed, "has the character of a subjective confession." For Jung, the psychology of Freud was not a psychology of the healthy mind because it generalized facts relevant only to neurotic states of mind.

The symbolic duality between Freud and Jung can be shown in the concepts of repression and expression, two words central to the understanding of their theories. In the above essay, Jung found an analogy in Freud's views on sexual repression, which Freud likened to water piled up behind a great dam. As Jung noted, for Freud, being caught in old resentments against parents causes a "damming-up of life energies." However, for Jung, repression recedes as soon as the way to development is opened. Self-development within the Freudian system seemed to Jung like "paddling about in a flooded country." What is the use of this, asked Jung?

One of Jung's major works, Psychological Types, explored how opposites manifest in personality traits and temperaments. The major oppositions and attitudes toward life are between those of introversion and extroversion. In a broad sense, one can view Jung and Freud as symbolically representing the conflicts of Jung's introverted personality opposing Freud's extraverted personality. In fact, Jung was himself involved in showing that the main trends of the psychology of his age regarding the Freudian and Adlerian schools were based on these opposites. For Jung, Adler's system was founded on introverted attitudes and Freud's on extroverted ones. As the famous scholar C.A. Meier noted in Soul and Body, "Jung believed, and I think he was correct, that the Freudian and Adlerian points of view actually can be explained on this principle of extroversion and introversion."

The greatest symbolic duality for Jung was that between consciousness and unconsciousness. It is between these two polarities that the components of analytical psychology find their true correspondences within symbolism's Theory of Correspondences. "All consciousness separates," Jung said in Civilization in Transition, "but in the dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night." It is within this perspective of consciousness separating from unconsciousness that the split of Jung from Freud needs to be revisited. Once this basic underlying duality becomes a context for viewing the psychoanalytic movement, perhaps the symbolic meaning of psychoanalysis will fully emerge.

The above article appeared in Psychological Perspectives. Issue 31, 1995

John Fraim J.D., is Marketing Manager for a national corporation headquartered in Ohio and President & Publisher of The GreatHouse Company, a general trade publisher. GreatHouse received the 1997 Small Press Award for Best Biography and publishes in the area of popular culture, media, psychology, biography and symbolism. GreatHouse is searching for articles and books in the area of symbolism and popular culture. If interested, please contact the publisher at the following address:

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Adler, Gerhard (Ed.). (1953) Selected Letters of C.G. Jung. 1909-1967. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

de Laszlo, Violet (Ed.). (1959). "From Psychological Types." The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. New York: Random House.

Jung, C.G. (1933). "Freud and Jung—Contrasts." Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Translated by W.S. Dell & C F. Baynes. San Diego: Harvest/HBJ Book.

Jung, C.G. (1955). Mysterium Coniunctionis. Vol. 74. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung Translated by R. F.C. Hull. Bollingen Series XX. London: Kegan Paul.

Jung, C.G. (1964). Civilization in Transition. Vol. 10. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. Bollingen Series XX. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press .

Jung, C.G. (1964). Flying Saucers. A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. Vol. 10 & 18. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. Bollingen Series XX. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Meier, C.A. (1986). Soul and Body: Essays on the Theories of C.G. Jung. Santa Monica & San Francisco: Lapis Press.

Copyright 1995 Psychological Perspectives.