Legendary Psychologist Carl Jung on Human Nature (Rare 1959 Interview)
Carl Gustav Jung was a prominent psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.
He coined popular psychological concepts including the collective unconscious, and extraversion and introversion personality types.
In 1959, BBC’s Face to Face TV series aired a 40-minute interview with Carl Jung at the old age of 84 years old—18 months before his death.
During the interview—filmed in Switzerland at his lakeside home near Zurich—Carl Jung discusses his early life, human nature, consciousness, personality types, death, religion, and the future of the human race.
Here are 5 important ideas on human nature from Jung’s rare BBC interview with Freeman.
1. Consciousness Is “I Am”
Freeman: Now, can I take you back to your own childhood? Do you remember the occasion when you first felt consciousness of your own individual self?
Jung: That was in my eleventh year. There I suddenly was on my way to school I stepped out of a mist. It was just as if I had been in a mist, walking in a mist, and I stepped out of it and I knew, “I am.” “I am what I am.” And then I thought, “But what have I been before?” And then I found that I had been in a mist, not knowing how to differentiate my self from things. I was just one thing among many (other) things.
2. Personality Isn’t Permanent—It’s Always Changing
Freeman: Have you concluded what psychological type you are yourself?
Jung: Naturally I have devoted a great deal of attention to that painful question, you know! And reached a conclusion? Well, you see, the type is nothing static. It changes in the course of life.
3. The Only Real Danger that Exists Is Man Himself
Freeman: During the nineteen-thirties, when you were working a lot with German patients, you did, I believe, forecast that a second world war was very likely. Well now, looking at the world today, do you feel that a third world war is likely?
Jung: I have no definite indications in that respect…We are so full of apprehensions, fears, that one doesn’t know exactly to what it points. One thing is sure. A great change of our psychological attitude is imminent. That is certain.
Freeman: And why?
Jung: Because we need more — we need more psychology. We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied, because we are the origin of all coming evil.
4. Belief Follows Evidence
Jung: Well, I can’t say. You see, the word belief is a difficult thing for me. I don’t believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it — I don’t need to believe it. I don’t allow myself, for instance, to believe a thing just for the sake of believing it. I can’t believe it. But when there are sufficient reasons for a certain hypothesis, I shall accept . . . naturally. I should say: “We had to reckon with the possibility of so and so” — you know.
5. Man Cannot Stand A Meaningless Life
Freeman: As the world becomes more technically efficient, it seems increasingly necessary for people to behave communally and collectively, now do you think it’s possible that the highest development of man may be to submerge his own individuality in a kind of collective consciousness?
Jung: That’s hardly possible. I think there will be a reaction — a reaction will set in against this communal dissociation. You know, man doesn’t stand forever, his nullification. Once, there will be a reaction, and I see it setting in, you know, when I think of my patients, they all seek their own existence and to assure their existence against that complete atomization into nothingness or into meaninglessness. Man cannot stand a meaningless life.
Subscribe to the newsletter
Get thought-provoking ideas on technology, habits, and entrepreneurship.