Jung: And the Story of Our Time

by Laurens van der Post
Pantheon, $10.00
For one who like myself, regards C. G. Jung (1875-1961) as not only the most humane and compassionate of psychotherapists, but one of the prophetic figures of this century, each new book about him gives rise to anxiety. It’s a perplexing fact: one hundred years after his birth, the prolix, profound author of Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Answer to Job.Memories. Dreams, Reflections, and The Undiscov-ered Self is still too slippery for commentators and biographers to get a grip on.
Laurens van der Post knew Jung well for the last sixteen years of his life, saw him often, talked with him intimately, and became his interlocutor in a memorable BBC film. In this book. Van der Post explores and explains the development of Jung’s thoughts, rightly, I think, emphasizing his place as a thinker and discoverer of symbols rather than his clinical work as an analyst. His book is intelligent, truthful, subtle, persuasive, wordy, and relentless in its praise. Intended for the layman, it could help those concerned with historical problems of symbol and affect, could alter the minds of those rapt by the eternal enigmas of self-discovery.
It could, that is, if it were better written. The author’s rhetorical recital of Jung’s virtues suggests he may unwittingly have elevated the Old Man into an archetypal niche—a dangerous spot. Like other writers. Van der Post strikes a defensive posture and omits illumination of the “shadow" side of Jung’s life or thought, thus doing an injustice to both. Hero worship takes many strange forms, as the shadow side of many recent biographies attests. Jung would have understood why the biographers most heavily laden with piety are best at making their heroes dull.
Peter Davison