A while ago I was listening to Jordan Peterson and he strongly recommended I read this book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul written by Carl Jung. I’ve heard of Carl Jung from my mentor, Wayne Dyer, and I know he was well respected by Wayne. So I decided to finally pick up and read this book. Modern Man in Search of a Soul is a book published in 1933 and is a comprehensive introduction to the thought of Carl Jung. While so many people at the time were rejecting religion, Carl Yung talks about the importance of the spiritual side of us. Some consider Jung’s ideas radical because they take into account the idea of spirit. I personally believe that the spirit exists. I know it’s impossible to prove it either way. Much of this book deals with the subconscious mind and how it is connected to spirit. Jung believed that until we can bring a balance between the two half of our minds, conscious and unconscious, we’ll suffer the spiritual decay that has become a cornerstone of modernity. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons that I learned from reading the book.
Key Lesson #1: We cannot live the afternoon of our life according to the program of our life’s morning
Jung says, “Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worst still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truth and ideas will serve us as hitherto but we cannot live the afternoon of our life according to the program of our life’s morning. For what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.” These words really resonate with me. Basically what he is saying is that, as we move into the meaning phase of our life, which is the afternoon of our life, we are taking the ideas and the rules and the guidelines that we learned in the morning of our life which is focused exclusively on ambition, and getting ahead and getting more and being better than everybody else. We take those same kinds of contracts into the afternoon of our life when meaning is far superior to ambition. But as he says we end up living a lie because what was true for us in the morning which is I have to get ahead, I have to win, I have to be most successful and so on, in the afternoon had become a lie. We don’t know how to move into the meaning phase of our life. And the meaning phase of our life is the time when we shift back to the time in our life when we were in our mother’s womb, in those first nine months. That’s the meaning phase when we have surrendered, or as Lao Tzu said, you’re doing nothing, you’re just being done. And we can find our meaning by trusting our nature, by recognizing that I am here to do more than just accumulate and be better than somebody else.
Key Lesson #2: Modern man deep down has a primitive mentality
Jung says that modern man despite the fact that he may look civilized, but in the deeper levels of the psyche, still has a primitive mentality. And attributes this to the collective unconsciousness. Modern man is surrounded by a world that is based on rational laws. Primitive man, however, assumes that everything is brought about by magic and invisible forces. A famous saying goes, “Magic is the science of the jungle”. We resent the idea of magic and invisible forces, for it is not so long ago that we made our escape from that frightening world of magic and superstitions. When a modern man who celebrates Easter is asked about the meaning of these idols and eggs, he does not know. He is just like a primitive man. Jung says, “Primitive man does what he does and only civilized man knows what he does.”
Key Lesson #3: The main problem of modern man is spiritual
The spiritual problem of modern man is perhaps more relevant now than ever. The modern man is one who has outgrown the stages of consciousness belonging to the past, achieving full consciousness of the present. The conscious, modern man, acknowledges the might of spiritual forces. Jung saw unfold the two World Wars, showing us how thin the walls are which separate a well-ordered world from chaos. He believes much of the evil of the world is because man is hopelessly unconscious. With increasing insight, we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves. Until then, we are essentially at war with ourselves, and the greatest danger is man’s psyche. Jung says we must reconcile ourselves with the mysterious truth that the spirit is the living body seen from within and the body the outer manifestation of the living spirit – the two really being one.
Modern Man in Search of a Soul combines elements of psychology, philosophy, religion, spirituality, and metaphysics. Jung keeps a complicated subject as straightforward as possible. I really liked the humility of this book. It invites conflicting points of view and inspires exploration into the unconscious for the good of humanity.