Because I have no formal training as a psychotherapist in analytical psychology, I am not able to call myself a Jungian. Even so, apart from Buddhism, no other school of psychology influences my thought and practice quite so deeply. So I call myself a crypto-Jungian to acknowledge my debt to Jung without claiming any credentials as a member of that elite guild. Yet, in spite of its great influence and wide renown, Jung himself remains a controversial figure who does not command universal respect. Many Freudian psychoanalysts, especially of earlier generations, could never forgive his break from Freud. But even to critics of other orientations, he is often regarded as little more than a crank whose spiritualistic views spoiled his claim to be a reputable psychological scientist. In fact, the early Jung was a ground breaking clinical psychologist whose research into psychological types is still used in such standard psychological tests as the Myers-Briggs. But after his split from Freud and suffering his creative illness (which was, in fact, nothing less than a psychotic breakdown) Jung seemed less the clinician and more of a visionary. This altered his reputation irrevocably and made him into the figure who still divides opinion so sharply. It isn't just that his ideas about archetypes and the collective unconscious took him into places that clinical psychology could not and dared not go. Nor is it his often unclear, sometimes even cryptic style of writing. It is also that his approach to the psychology of religion, which did take religion seriously, did not do so in terms that pleased many theologians or religious believers. Indeed, even in Religious Studies at Kent there were some members of the department who regarded Jung with scorn that matched any Freudian's. But none of this made Leon question Jung's genius. Like all Jungians I have known (my two psychotherapists were both Jungians), Leon was well apprised of Jung's faults and shortcomings.
It is now widely recognised that Jung was very much a man of his culture and times and his wide learning and sometimes narrow prejudices contributed to his world view. After nearly a century of critical scholarship, Jung's personal and professional shortcomings have been well documented. As a scholar and student of mythology, his science and anthropology now seem dated, as well as Eurocentric. Even worse, his questionable association with the Nazis before WW II showed his alarming willingness to dance with the devil. The idea, however, that Jung himself was a Nazi or that he had any admiration for Hitler or his movement is simply false (in an interview conducted in the 1930's, for example, he said that Hitler was a vacant personality who was leading Germany into the abyss). In fact, notwithstanding his somewhat racialist, if not racist views (the collective unconscious was, after all, first called the racial unconscious) Jung could be described as something of semitophile who, from the first, always had many Jewish admirers and followers (in fact, Leon himself was Jewish). There is also the troubling matter of Jung's rather complicated relationships with women, particularly his female patients, most notably Toni Woolf (who was involved in a menage a trois with Jung and his wife, Emma) and Sabina Spielrein. Having had affairs with both women, Jung claimed that they each matched his ideal anima and exerted an attraction that was as much spiritual, as it was romantic. In fact, both women possessed formidable intellects that Jung truly admired and Wolff in particular was an important collaborator in the development of many of his ideas. But Jung took liberties with his female patients that was no more acceptable then than it would be now. Yet, at least to his admirers, his achievements remain indisputable, no matter what his transgressions.
As a scholar, Leon had a somewhat different view of Jung than mine as a therapist. He was more interested in Jung's ideas about spiritual experience, whereas it is Jung's approach to psychotherapy and his understanding of individuation that has made him so important for me. The idea of individuation can be summarised easily enough. It is coming to terms with the unconscious forces and influences in one's life in an ongoing process of becoming oneself. But note that slippery word "unconscious" and the unfathomable depth that it conceals. One of my favourite quotes by Jung begins to suggest its depth of meaning: "The unconscious really is unconscious", he said in a famous interview with the BBC. What I think he meant by this is that unlike the Freudian idea of the unconscious, which regards it as a hidden mechanism of desire that has been made comprehensible by psychoanalytic theory, Jung saw the unconscious as progressively more unknowable the more deeply it is plumbed. At root, the unconscious connects to nothing less than the infinite mystery of being. But in the course of ordinary living we are scarcely aware of it and most of us may have little inkling that it influences us at all. Yet on the force of certain, usually traumatic experiences anyone can be plunged into an unconscious depth that reveals the provisional and constructed nature of conventional reality. Although this can be psychologically destabilising as well as terrifying, it also holds a potential for higher self development. Individuation, as Jung conceived it, must involve both psychological conflict and the discovery of the inner resources to deal with it. Discovering and developing such inner resources is much of what Jungian psychotherapy is all about.
In our last meeting together, I was trying to persuade Leon to start up a discussion group on Jung. "Let me think about it," he replied. Although he was enjoying the freedom his retirement was giving him, I thought that the prospect of having regular discussions on the subject to which he had devoted so much of his life would be irresistible to him. Moreover, it was in small groups of like-minded people where he seemed to express himself most freely. And I would have benefited from the stimulation that his conversation always gave me. When I first met Leon I had the feeling that he had been a friend long before I knew him. Now that he is gone, I will miss the deeper friendship that might have developed.