For many years I have had a great interest in the work of CG Jung. This originated in my 20s, when I became inteersted in comparative mythology, and read the book ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ by Joseph Campbell. His references to archetypes in common myth of the hero greatly influenced my thinking, and to this day I regard the day I picked up his book as a great day in my intellectual development.
From here I went to look at archetypes directly, and it wasn’t long before I encountered Jung, and the stage was set for my life-long engagement with Jungian ideas. And, an interest in Jung helped me get soem of the ‘in jokes’ in TV’s ‘Frasier’. 🙂
“One memorable scene had Niles filling in for Frasier on Frasier’s call-in radio program, in which Niles introduces himself as the temporary substitute saying, “…and while my brother is a Freudian, I am a Jungian, so there’ll be no blaming Mother today.”
Anyway…the books. How I came to have three books about Jung ‘on the go’ at once, so to say, is a short story in istelf. My previous Bus Book was about the Knight’s Templar, and I happened to remember that Jung once had a dream about a Templar showing up in a contemporary city. Digging out the reference to it led me to look through the three books I had about Jung, and I decided that a revision of my knowledge was in order. So here we are.
At some point I may blog Jung’s own ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’ here, but for now it’s books about the man, not by him.
The books are:
These are all good books. The two by Stevens obviously cover similar ground, and I have a great liking for the ‘A Very Short Introduction’ series. If you ever need a good ‘crash course’ on anything that these books cover, start your education with the relevant book in this series.
Starting with the Teach Yourself Book – this is a nice, snappy, introduction to Jung doen in the usual ‘TY’ style. Pleasantly and non-intrusively illustrated with relevant cartoons, each Chapter follows the useful ‘Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, tell’ em, tell ’em you’ve told ’em’ model of educational writing and it works nicely. It’s a very nice introduction, and can easily be read and assimilated in a a day or so – I would recommend it for anyone ‘fresh on the trail’. It is a little incomplete; by the nature of the series, TY books are an introduction, but I would ahve expected to see something more on Jung’s alleged anti-semitism, and the accusations of Nazi-sympathies for his Presidency (starting in 1933) of ‘The Medical Society for Psychotherapy’. These accusations are utter nonsense, but still get bandied around occasionally. It would have been nice to see an introductory work tackle them head on. I found the glossary in this book most useful – keeping on top of terminology is critical in a field like this, and this is a good glossary indeed!
I’ll look at the two Stevens books together, as I think that the ‘A Very Short Introduction’ book is best regarded as a later and enhanced edition of the ‘Past Masters’ book. These are both fine books; the ‘Past Masters’ one was the first book on Jung I bought, a good many years ago, and it’s still a fine read. However, I prefer the ‘A Very Short Introduction’ one. Both are solid, academic introductions to Jung’s life and work from an acknowledged expert in the field, and cover the areas that the TY book does, as well as looking in to the anti-semitism and Nazi allegations skipped by that book. Oddly enough, neither has a glossary- something of an oversight in my opinion – but both are well indexed and, like the TY book, have good lists of further reading.
So…which do I prefer? My favourite is the ‘A Very Short Introduction’. If I was pointing someone with a ‘lay’ interest in Jung at a book, I would, however, point them at teh Teach Yourself book first. If it were soemone with a basic understanding of psychology and psychological terminology, then I would have no problems with telling them to jump straight in to the ‘A Very Short Introduction’.