Home » Metaphysics » A Note on Heidegger and C.G. Jung on Wholeness as the Telos of the Human Being

A Note on Heidegger and C.G. Jung on Wholeness as the Telos of the Human Being

Richard Capobianco
Stonehill College


Too much has been written about Heidegger and Freud (especially via Lacan), and too little has been written on Heidegger and Jung. Yet Heidegger and Jung, and especially the later Heidegger and Jung, is a far more congenial pairing. I have discussed a number similarities in their thinking in other places, but what I highlight here—and what I hope will spur further research and discussion—is how both had in view “wholeness” or completion as the telos (or aim) of the human being. They both offered what we might call a phenomenology of our unfolding toward wholeness. Jung named this unfolding path “individuation,” and he found the evidence in the manifold images of “wholeness” that are spontaneously generated by the human psyche. He referred to these images as “mandalas,” and their distinguishing feature is the Four or Quaternity, the square and the circle. The human psyche moves and strives toward wholeness and completeness—whether the conscious ego wants to or not. Something is happening to us even without us.

It is fair to say that the early Heidegger is far from such a view. With his early emphasis on the mood of Angst, he represented a phenomenology of fracture that, unfortunately, has come to prevail in most Continental philosophy ever since. But the later Heidegger is very different. In his later work, as I have illustrated in many places, Heidegger “turned” in his thinking to the theme of our way back “home” in our relation to Being and of “healing” our alienation from Being (see especially Chapters 3 and 4 of Engaging Heidegger, University of Toronto Press, 2010). Along this later path of thinking, he brought forth his own distinctive “mandalas” in his writings: Being as the Fourfold; Being as “sphere,” “circle,” “ring,” and “center”, and indeed the joyful “ring dance” or “round dance” in which all beings and things participate. For the later Heidegger, as for Jung, something is happening even without us—and for Heidegger, this is Being “calling” us “home” to ourselves and to our relation with all things. Both Jung and the later Heidegger took to heart the message of Homer’s Odyssey—a message almost completely lost in the present day—that we are making a journey, no matter how arduous, “home.”

As a psychologist, Jung was chiefly concerned with healing. Yet his understanding of the essence of therapeia differed fundamentally from Freud’s. In Jung’s view, quite apart from the resolution of unconscious personal conflicts, which was Freud’s concern, healing, that is, radical healing, comes with the ego’s re-cognition of the “overpowering,” “numinous” unconscious which is also “truth.” Jung often insisted that there was a religious dimension to therapy, but by this he meant principally that therapy was a matter of religion, re + ligare, a re-binding of consciousness with the unconscious process, a re-collection by consciousness of the “overpowering,” “numinous” unconscious [CW 11, paras. 8, 982, for example].

Although Heidegger’s concern was not precisely psychological, still his remarks on “healing” are in remarkable harmony with Jung’s. Jung named the unconscious process the “numinous,” and Heidegger, especially in his commentary on Hölderlin‟s poetry, often meditated upon Being as the Holy. Being as the Holy is the endless temporal unfolding process which is awesome, but also wholesome; and the human being who dwells in nearness to the Holy is made whole, is healed. With such healing, Heidegger added, comes joy, yet the joy that he spoke of is not the joy that is opposed to grief; it is the joy that comes in dwelling in nearness to the awesome unfolding of opposites—joy and grief, peace and turmoil, life and death—which is physis, aletheia, Logos, Being. In Heidegger’s words—words that also capture the very essence of Jung’s understanding of the relation of consciousness to the unconscious.

“The original essence of joy is becoming at home in nearness to the Source.” [“Remembrance of the Poet,” in Existence and Being, ed. Werner Brock (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1968), 261, modified.]

Richard is the author of two books, “Engaging Heidegger” and “Heidegger’s Way of Being” (University of Toronto Press). His books, papers, reviews, interviews and videos can be found here.

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