Carl Jung: Darwin of the Mind, by Thomas T. Lawson
Karnac Books, 9781855754683, 226 pp., 2008

Jung is often considered what of the greatest minds of the age, one of the founding fathers of psychology. Lawson seeks “to pull together the thought of Carl Jung and place it in a non-technical way within a contemporary context, so as to make it accessible to the general reader”1 as Jung never wrote much for the public. Rather than being a “Jung 101” book, or a dumbed down version of his writings, this book is an intelligent exploration of Jung’s ideas relying less on the professional language of psychology, focusing on the consciousness and unconsciousness as a direct product of evolution.

“we have a mechanism whereby conscious might evolve. The mechanism is directly analogous to genetic evolution and operates according to the basic formula of natural selection”2

Lawson compares Darwin’s model of evolution to a psychological model of much the same process, not only following a clear path from instincts, to archetypes, to unconscious and conscious, but even suggesting (perhaps rightly so) that there is much farther to go.

“If consciousness evolved in humans, there must have been a time where there was less of it. Moreover, there is no reason to assume that it is not continuing to evolve. That means that there is less of it now than perhaps there will be.”3

I rather enjoyed his sections on the collective unconsciousness, and grappling with the fact that we can’t understand how it works and follows generations, but that it seems to be something transcending our understanding of humanity. Without taking the step into a metaphysical realm (much as Jung tried to avoid doing), Lawson skirts Platonic forms in his explanation of archetypes. In much the same way he address synchronicity, focusing more on the meaningfulness of the events rather than hammering out a model that explains how and why they occur.

It wouldn’t be a fair review if I left out mentioning his section on Individuation. Following his framing of Jung’s theories from an evolutionary perspective, the idea of individuation is explored as a rise or evolution from instinct and unconsciousness into consciousness and awareness.

Lawson walks a fine line, between keeping his writing accessible, but not dropping down into the ranks of another introduction to Jung, but rather places his book out there as a thought-provoking work. A good read for fans of Jungian psychology, the mind and people just wanting to learn more about themselves and the world as Lawson posits:

“We cannot aspire to a comprehension of the objective world without some working knowledge of the internal world by which that comprehension is to be had.”4

  1. p. 3 []
  2. p. 8 []
  3. p. 1 []
  4. p. 83 []