Quotes from; The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature

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JUNG, C. G. (1967). Spirit of Man in Art and Literature. London: ROUTLEDGE.

On the relation of analytical psychology to poetry

  • Only that aspect of art which consists in the process of artistic creation can be a subject for psychological study, but not that which constitutes it’s essential nature. The question of what art is in itself can never be answered by the psychologist, but must be approached from the side of aesthetics. p65
  • If a work of art is explained in the same way as a neurosis, then either the work of art is a neurosis or a neurosis is a work of art. p67
  • The golden gleam of artistic creation – the original object of discussion – is extinguished as soon as we apply to the same corrosive method which we use in analyzing the fantasies of hysteria. p69
  • Instead of investigating it’s typical human determinants, he will inquire first of all into its meaning, and will concern himself with its determinants only in so far as they enable him to understand more fully. p71
  • Indeed, the special significance of a true work of art resides in the fact that it has escaped from the limitations of the personal and has soared beyond the personal concerns of its creator. p71
  • But a work of art is not transmitted or derived – it is a creative reorganization of those very conditions to which a causalistic psychology must always reduce it. p72
  • One might also describe it as a living being that uses man only as a nutrient medium, employing his capacities according to its own laws in shaping itself to the fulfillment of it’s on create a purpose. 72
  • Well his conscious mind stands amazed and empty before this phenomenon, he is overwhelmed by a flood of thoughts and images which he never intended to create and which his own will could never have brought into being. p73
  • Unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature that achieves its end either with tyrannical might or with the subtle cunning of nature herself, quite regardless of the personal fate of the man who is its vehicle. The creative urge lives and grows in him like a tree in the earth from which it draws its nourishment. p75
  • A symbol remains a perpetual challenge to our thoughts and feelings. That probably explains why a symbolic work is so stimulating, why it grips us so intensely, but also why it seldom affords us a purely aesthetic enjoyment. A work that is manifestly not symbolic appears much more to our aesthetic sensibility because it is completely in itself and fulfills it’s purpose. p77
  • But for the purpose of cognitive understanding we must detach ourselves from the creative process and look at it from the outside only; then does it become an image that expresses what we are bound to call ‘meaning.’
  • There in lies the autonomy of the complex: it appears and disappears in accordance with its own interest tendencies, independently of the conscious well. p78
  • Every typical attitude that is to some extent differentiated shows a tendency to become an autonomous complex, and in most cases it actually does. Again, every instinct has more or less the character of an autonomous complex. p79
  • The autonomous complex thus develops by using the energy that has been withdrawn from the conscious control of the personality. p79
  • The collective unconscious is not to be thought of as a self-sufficient entity; it is no more than a potentiality handed down to us from primordial times in a specific form of the mnemonic images or inherited in the anatomical structure of the brain. There are no inborn ideas, but there are inborn possibilities of ideas that set bounds to even the boldest fantasy and keep our fantasy activity within certain categories: a priority ideas, as it were, the existence of which cannot be ascertained except from their effects. p81
  • The primordial image, or archetype, is a figure – be at a demon, a human being, or a process – that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears whenever creative fantasy is freely expressed. Essentially, therefore, it is a mythological figure. p81
  • He transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every pearl and to outlive the longest night. p.82
  • The unsatisfied yearning of the artist reaches back to the primordial image in the unconscious which is best fitted to compensate the inadequacy and one-sidedness of the present. The artist seizes on this image, and in raising it from deepest unconsciousness he brings it into relation with conscious values, thereby transforming it until it can be excepted by the minds of his contemporaries according to their powers. p.83

Psychology and literature

  • My observations should be taken as nothing more than points of view by which a psychological approach to poetry might be oriented in a general way. p85
  • The personal psychology of the artist may explain many aspects of his work, but not the work itself. And if ever it did explain his work successfully, the artists creativity would be revealed as a mere symptom. This would be detrimental both to the work of art and to its repute. p86
  • Psychology and aesthetics will always have to turn to one another for help, and the one will not invalidate the other. It is an important principle of psychology that any given psychic material can be shown to derive from causal antecedents; it is a principle of aesthetics that a psychic product can be regarded as existing in and for itself. Whether the work of art or the artist himself is in question, both principles are valid and spite of their relativity. p87
  • For the sake of clarity I would like to call the one mode of artistic creation psychological, and the other visionary. p89
  • In dealing with the psychological mode of creation, we need never ask ourselves what the material consist of or what it means. But this question forces itself upon us when we turn to the visionary mode. We are astonished, confused, bewildered, put on our guard or even repelled; we demand commentaries and explanations. p91
  • It is strange that a deep darkness surrounds the sources of the visionary material. p92
  • This would account for the perforation of monstrous, demonic, grotesque, and perverse figures, which all act as substitutes for that “unacceptable” reality and at the same time conceal it. p92
  • The reduction of the vision to a personal experience makes it something unreal and unauthentic – a mere substitute, as we have said. p93
  • It is certainly much more difficult to believe that a visionary experience can be real, for it has all the appearance of something that does not fall to the ordinary a lot of man. p93
  • Poets are humans to, and what they say about their work is often far from being the best word on the subject. It seems as if we have to defend the seriousness of the visionary experience against the personal resistance of the poet himself. p94
  • The creator of this kind of art is not the only one who is in touch with the night – side of life; profits and seers are nourished by it too. p95
  • It would, incidentally, be an interesting subject for research to investigate how far are recently invented fear of superstition and our materialistic outlook are derived from, and are a further development of, primitive magic and the fear of ghosts. p96
  • On the contrary, the primordial experience is the source of his creativeness, but it is so dark and amorphous that it requires the related mythological imagery to give it form. p96
  • What is of particular importance for the study of literature, however, is that the manifestations of the collective unconscious are compensatory to the conscious attitude, so that they have the effect of bringing a one – sided, unadapted, or dangerous state of consciousness it back into equilibrium. p.98
  • Whenever the collective unconscious becomes a living experience and is brought to bear upon the conscious outlook of an age, this event is a creative act which is of importance for a whole epoch. p98
  • On epoch is like an individual; it has its own limitations of conscious outlook, and therefore requires a compensatory adjustment. This is affected by the collective unconscious when a poet or seer lends expression to the unspoken desire of his times and shows the way, by word or deed, to it’s fulfillment – regardless whether this blind collective needs results in good or evil, and the salvation of an epoch or its distraction. p98
  • Essence of a work of art is not to be found in the personal idiosyncrasies that creep into it – indeed, the more there are of them, the less it is a work of art – but and it’s rising above the personnel and speaking from the mind and heart of the artist to the mind and heart of mankind. p101
  • He is in the highest degree objective, and impersonal, and even inhuman – or superhuman – four as an artist he is nothing but his work, and not a human being. p101
  • Every creative person is a duality or synthesis of contradictory qualities. p101
  • The artist is not a person endowed with free well who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize it’s purpose through him. p101
  • Person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire. p101
  • The creative process has a feminine quality, and the creative work arises from unconscious that – we might truly say from the realm of the mothers. p103
  • Whenever conscious life becomes one–sided or adopts a false attitude, these images “instinctively” rise to the surface in dreams and in the visions of artist and seers to restore the psychic balance, whether of the individual or of the epoch. p104
  • Being essentially the instrument of his work, he is subordinate to it, and we have no right to expect him to interpret it for us. p104
  • This re–immersion in the states of participation mystique is the secret of artistic creation and of the effect which great art has upon us, for at that level of experience it is no longer the weal or woe of the individual that counts, but the life of the collective. p105


  • Among patients, two groups may be distinguished: the neurotics and the schizophrenics. The first group produces pictures of it sympathetic character, with a pervasive and unified feeling–tone. When they are completely abstract, and therefore lacking the element of feeling, they are at least definitely symmetrical or convey an unmistakable meaning. The second group, on the other hand, produces pictures which immediately reveal their alienation from feeling. At any rate they communicate no unified, harmonious feeling–tone but, rather, contradictory feelings or even a complete lack of feeling… The picture leave one cold, or disturbs one by its paradoxical, unfeeling, and grotesque unconcern for the beholder. This is the group to which Picasso belongs. p182
  • Picasso and his exhibition are a sign of the times, just as much as the twenty–eight thousand people who came to look at his pictures. p139
  • With the first group, one can define what they are trying to express; but the second, what they are unable to express. p138
  • Journey through the psychic history of mankind has its object the restoration of the whole man, by awakening the memories and the blood. p140