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on 12 September 2010
... so says the author, Anthony Stevens, about our man Jung; psychiatrist, psychotherapist, cultural critic and part-time guru.

Now this Very Short Introduction is divided into eight sizeable chapters, which include a beefy biography, a run-down of Jung's most prominent theories, their relation to therapeutic involvement, and then some tailings on how Jung's legacy stands today. The biographical detail in the first chapter is pretty full, which given the complexity of Jung's upbringing and adult life is pretty handy, though presumably the following quote, "In my life No.2 has been of prime importance, and I've always tried to make room for anything that wanted to come from within", has been included for its comedy value alone.

In comparison to the VSI to Freud, Jung has less of a tangible narrative, and although his own work is known for its obscurity, perhaps breaking down the chapters further to make them lighter and easier to reflect upon would have helped. But, chewing through the chapters on Archetypes, the Stages of Life, and Psychological Types does give you a basic sense of the major texts, which Stevens sums up as Jung's "attempt to compensate for his sense of personal oddity and isolation."

I'm a big fan of Jung, certainly of his requirement for Individuation through meditative reflection and self-exploration, and the best thing to be said for this volume is how well it contrasts him as an individual against the prevalent cultural and academic trends of his time; as part Western academic, part Eastern mystic. It's a reasonable summary, but I'd say if you want a real sense of the man and his perspective before delving into the deeper stuff, give `The Undiscovered Self' a read first.
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on 19 January 2010
This superb little book is the perfect introduction/overview to the life and work of Jung. It is eminently accessible and doesn't presuppose any prior knowledge on the reader's part, yet it avoids both oversimplification and confusion. It begins by tracing the development of Jung's ideas in the context of his life and then moves on to examine the major themes such as archetypes and personality types, and Jung's approach to dreams and to therapy. In each instance, the author skilfully places Jung's work within the thinking of his time, including (but by no means limiting himself to) abundant comparisons and contrasts with the work of Freud, and then goes on to examine the validity and relevance of Jung's work today. Stevens doesn't ignore Jung's interest in for example alchemy or mysticism but rather relates these interests to Jung's overall perspective, thus revealing their ultimately practical applications while giving the reader a vivid picture of Jung's world-view. The author finishes by outlining the arguments of Jung's critics and responding to them. The definitive introduction, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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on 3 June 2001
Anthony Stevens' Very Short Introduction is a must for everybody who is interested in the life and work of Carl G. Jung and psychoanalysis and psychodynamic theory in general. With this little book, Stevens deals with the most simple aspects of Jungs insights (such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, complexes...) as well as explaining the more difficult sides, such as alchemy, eastern philosophy, and the much overlooked relationship between Jungs psychology and the ideas of some new disciplines like Evolutionary Psychology and Lorenz' Ethology. A big thumbs up for Stevens: Jung was indeed a brilliant thinker, but far from an excellent writer...
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Jung: A very short introduction by Anthony Stevens, Oxford, 1994, 192 ff.

The mind according to Jung
By Howard A. Jones

This is another in the now well established series of introductory monographs produced by Oxford University Press, deservedly respected for their scholarship and readability. The author here is a well-known Jungian psychotherapist. After presenting a brief biography of Jung in Chapter 1, this book focuses on all the most important aspects of Jung's psychology that are accessible to a lay readership.

Jung's family had associations with theology, with medicine or had an interest in the occult, so the formative influences on Jung's future career and outlook are all here. From his own readings Jung was attracted to the ideas of Heraclitus on a world of constant change, which was also compatible with eastern mysticism; so was the philosophy of Schopenhauer on Will as a determining factor in the material world, and the theology of Meister Eckhart with his idea of the Seelenfunklein, the spark of God wihin us as soul. Out of these disparate concepts Jung forged his key ideas of the collective unconscious and the archetypes to which they gave rise.

For six years Jung corresponded with Freud and Stevens points out a difference between the two in that Freud, thinking of himself as a scientist, was always looking backwards for causes while Jung, the mystic, looked forward to the potential that lay in any mental disorder. Jung's idea of individuation, development of the fulfilled Self, has been developed by other psychologists in the twentieth century. Jung's synchronicity concept has influenced the writings of Peter Russell and James Redfield. Stevens gives us an insight into the role of Jung's alter ego, Philemon, and illustrates the resemblance of this character to the faravahar of Zoroastrianism - the archetypes in action.

This is the best summary of Jung's psychology I have read and is highly recommended.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.

An Introduction to Jung's Psychology (Penguin psychology)
The Portable Jung (Viking portable library)
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on 10 November 2004
With so many "introduction" books flooding the market these days it can be difficult to know where the best place is to even start when interested in difficult subject. In my experience it has been the Very Short Introduction series that offers the most effective presentation of key ideas to particular thinkers. The modesty of these books (unwilling to claim that they are going to introduce you to anything more than an absolute basic) is not to be misunderstood, this series is far more effective than Icons more popular Introducing... series, there are no cartoons here and it's written in a traditional chapter, sub-section style of an academic text book. The books though are so readable and clear, there is a totally unpretentious quality to them and clear examples and elaborations of key ideas. I read the Introducing Jung sometime ago and it sparked an interest, I even bought some of his books but still I found them difficult to grasp, this book however left a much clearer imprint of Jungian ideas and I can now tackle some of his original works. The series only drawback is it lacks some topics available in icons range, I would dearly love to see a Very Short Introduciton to Lacan, or Levi-Strauss, hopefully in yhe near future. I whole heartedly recommend these books, you learn more as the 150 so pages are pretty much text instead of drawings and text bubbles and yet the readability means while they take more time to just read through (most say they read an Introducing book in an hour, it might take you two or three to read these) you actually grasp the ideas more quickly.
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on 26 July 2011
An excellent introduction to Jung's life and work. Makes a great companion volume to Jung's autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Flamingo) as it covers most of its content in a succinct manner, with many quotations from the vast Collected Works. Stevens' fascination with Jung comes across in the most infectious manner, suggesting great depth of personal experience. Has enthused me to read more Jung!
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on 17 January 2010
As a layman; understanding Jung is proving to be a very elusive ambition. The academic has the advantage of a lecturer to explain difficult bits; the layman has to figure it out for himself. The problem with Jung books is that they do not function as stand-alone. They are riddled with buzz-words invented by Jung. You need numerous other books to find explanations of the specialised terminology. This is where a book like this is essential: it contains detailed explanations of these specialised buzz-words which allows you to concentrate on the strange content of Jung's books.
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on 3 May 2011
I am studying hypnotherapy and found this book concise, interesting and informative. It is easy to read and covers all of Jung's main concepts and psychotherapeutic approaches, as well as discussing the history of the man, which I found very interesting indeed. In making Jung's personality and history accessible to the reader the author succeeds in presenting a three dimensional view rather than just delivering another dry academic menu of Jungian psychoanalytical theories. Really enjoyed reading it.
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on 21 October 2011
I have studied various works by Jung and, as most of us have, had heard many concepts and quotes attributed to him.

I found this introduction to be very enlightening because it focused as much on the man - his upbringing, family, education, and the context of teachers and teachings within which he operated. This gave me a much clearer understanding of where his quotes, ideas and concepts came from - and how revolutionary many of htem were.

The way the book swings from the macro of the zeitgeist within which his ideas were birthed, to the personal issues and struggles of the sage himself, helped me to identify with a man who was sure he was on a journey - and had a resposibility to share what he had learned.

What was also very enlightening was the way that a couple of Jung's most significant personal dreams were described and interpreted.

I love the way Jung is described as one who didn't lock things down as 'the truth' but was always open to refinement, augmentation and even plain correction. It's also clear that under all his psycho-analysings, he had a strong concept of a personal God - but equally felt that God's logic was somewhat flawed and could do with man's help on the couch. (Ok, I know....Jung never used couches in his sessions, but it's an interesting idea.)
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on 13 October 2015
It would not be an exaggeration to describe the encounter with Jung's ideas as utterly transmogrifying. This not insubstantial book is extremely well-written, and a delight to read. It manages to perfectly couple anecdotes and major biographical information with the ideas developed by Jung. A key focus in the book is how Jung came into a relationship with Freud but later developed courage enough to part ways. Jung's well-known confrontation with his consciousness followed, and he afterward found new clarity in developing his magnificent theories of psychology, psychoanalysis and treatment, and the book also explains Jung's revolutionary approach to patient care and analysis.

The explanations of archetypes, persona, the shadow and Jung's exegesis of dreams and myths are stunningly clear. Yet throughout, the author does not compromise on academic rigour of language and style, providing large numbers of quotes from the collected works of Jung, and others. The author confronts all the common objections to Jung's ideas, making reference to his correspondence and life events. The book comes full circle in relating aspects of Jung's own personality and childhood experiences to his breakthroughs.

I wholeheartedly recommend this wonderful book as an excellent summary of Jung.
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