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Carl Jung
Carl Jung
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Carl Jung’s Influences

Check out the books, authors, and Big Ideas that influenced this critic.

I love literature and mythology. I never got around to doing a full psychological analysis of a literary work myself, but I discovered some really great ideas in the literary world that influenced many of my own theories.

The Book of Job

God can get really dark, y'all. This is a very troubling Biblical fable. Yes, fable. The Bible is full of stories, not news reports. Anyway, God did a lot of nasty things to this dude and Job just took it, and was all like, God, you the man, what can I say? I think God was confused that Job wasn't more freaked out. Because in a way, Job experienced a higher human morality than God ever could, and God didn't like that.

Suffering and recognizing something bigger than yourself is what being human is all about. And God couldn't experience something bigger than Himself and He wanted a piece of that psychological action. So he decided to come pay us all a visit as Jesus. Not literally, but literarily. C'mon, guys. We're all just telling each other stories to keep ourselves from going bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

Faust

I read this Goethe book a lot for kicks when I was a young medical student. But the more I studied it, the cooler the devil, Mephistopheles, became. He says some really amazing things. So he kinda made me realize that we all love dark characters, and we get excited when they step into the story. Darkness and the devil are just as important to our lives as God and all that light-and-good crap. Especially because it's darkness that breeds transformation.

Mephistopheles suggests that what we call evil may not be bad, but necessary. Events we call evil are sometimes just things that need to happen for change to occur. There is no Luke Skywalker, the Jedi Knight, without the dark shenanigans of Darth Vader. Besides, the villains always get the best lines. And the best stage costumes.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

So, I mostly read this for fun too. I know; I'm a nerd. But this text ended up having a huge impact on me. In this book, you follow the adventures of this character Zarathustra, who is based on the prophet Zoroaster. Though Zarathustra mostly seems like a microphone that allowed Nietzsche to say all kinds of wild things to the literary and philosophical worlds. Like, "God is dead." And because Zarathustra is a fictional character, and this book is just a piece of fictional prose, Nietzsche was able to get away with such blasphemy.

Note that Zarathustra is a clear example of one of my archetypes, the hero. He's got "superior insight," seeing straight through the fallacies of religion and whatnot. In fact, given what I said above, I'm willing to bet that he's an expression of Nietzsche's hero archetype—he's Nietzsche on Steroids With a Super Powered Shield Against Social and Political Consequences.

The Divine Comedy

My man Dante wrote a real classic here. This epic, all about a journey through hell and back, gave me a lot of great examples of archetypes. Virgil is the wise old man, Beatrice is the anima or the inner female, the shadow is big, bad Satan, and God, well… God is God. But for me, God is not God, an actual person. God is the-deity-inside-you that you discover when you go on a serious self-discoverin' quest. And personally, I'd rather read and write stories to find the god-in-myself than traipse through Dante's seven circles of hell on my own two feet. So to me, The Divine Comedy is the world's greatest bedtime story. Grab your cookies and milk and get under the covers, Shmoopers. You're in for a long and wild ride with this one.

"Hiawatha"

In comparison to the stuff I read as a kid in Switzerland, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poems are pretty light reading. But this one contains many of the same archetypes (or character types) I uncovered in much, much older texts. Probably because this poem tells of the trials and tribulations of Hiawatha, a Native American hero.

So, in my theories, the hero is a symbol of the better aspects of the self. And the hero's journey is a symbol of the libido. Not the sexy-time libido Freud is so fond of, but the libido that stems from the desire to break free from the confinement of society. Thus, "Hiawatha" is a hero's journey tale, teaching us all about what we must go through in order to become our true selves.

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