Jung's Cultural Legacy
By the time he appeared on the cover of Time in 1955, Carl G. Jung was an icon in his profession and in popular culture. During the 1940s and 1950s, Americans in the fields of depth psychology, the arts, and comparative religions embraced Jung’s ideas. His concepts of the “archetype” and the “collective unconscious”—ideas that grew out of Jung’s experiences during his creation of the Red Book—had particular power.
According to Jung, archetypes are patterns of behavior or symbolic imagery present in the minds of all individuals. Archetypes inform cultural themes and images that express significant human concerns—such as birth, love, death, family, and survival. They create a psychological registry of universal experience that Jung named the “collective unconscious,” which forms a treasury of powerful, shared images and symbols that are expressed in dreams, art, fairy tales, stories, myths, and religious motifs from across widely different times and cultures.
These Jungian concepts were attractive to artists, including “abstract expressionists” like Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), who referenced myth and primal symbols in their work. Jung’s concepts also inspired numerous writers, musicians, filmmakers, theologians, and mythologists, including those featured in this section: dancer and choerographer Martha Graham (1894–1991), filmmaker Federico Fellini (1920–1993), author Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) and mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904–1987).
Other examples of Jung’s continuing influence are the Jungian archetypes that appear in popular media, such as the films of George Lucas (b. 1944), video games, and television programs. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1962), based on Jung’s description of introversion and extroversion and personality types, is commonly used in education, business, and industry. And Jung’s explorations of non-Christian sources of spirituality, such as gnosticism, alchemy, and Eastern contemplative traditions inform various “New Age” philosophies.
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