Memories, Dreams, Reflections
In the spring of 1957, when he was eighty-one years old, C. G. Jung undertook the telling of his life story. At regular intervals he had conversations with his colleague and friend Aniela Jaffe, and collaborated with her in the preparation of the text based on these talks. On occasion, he was moved to write entire chapters of the book in his own hand, and he continued to work on the final stages of the manuscript until shortly before his death on June 6, 1961. This edition of Memories, Dreams, Reflections includes Jung's "VII Sermones ad Mortuos." It is a fully corrected edition.… (more)
|Recently added by||TurningPointLibrary, Unngenant, SwatiRavi, Andrei109, Umide, judepais, vedanthms, Bubear|
|Legacy Libraries||Gillian Rose, Terence Kemp McKenna, Graham Greene, Ralph Ellison, Robert Ranke Graves , Jackie Gleason, Walker Percy|
Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.
No current Talk conversations about this book.
» See also 33 mentions
Belongs to Publisher Series
Is contained in
Was inspired by
|Original publication date
|Awards and honors
He looked at his own Soul with a Telescope. What seemed all irregular, he saw and shewed to be beautiful Constellations; and he added to the Consciousness hidden worlds within worlds. -- Coleridge, Notebooks
Prologue -- My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. Everything in the unconscious seeks outward manifestation, and the personality too desires to evolve out of its unconscious conditions and to experience itself as a whole. I cannot employ the language of science to trace this process of growth in myself, for I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem.
When I was six months old, my parents moved from Kesswil on Lake Constance to Laufen, the castle and vicarage above the Falls of the Rhine.
Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, “If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them.” It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be directed against me.
It is of course ironical that I, a psychiatrist, should at almost every step of my experiment have run into the same psychic material which is the stuff of psychosis and is found in the insane. This is the fund of unconscious images which fatally confuse the mental patient. But it is also the matrix of a mythopoeic imagination which has vanished from our rational age. Though such imagination is present everywhere, it is both tabooed and dreaded, so that it even appears to be a risky experiment or a questionable adventure to entrust oneself to the uncertain path that leads into the depths of the unconscious. It is considered the path of error, of equivocation and misunderstanding. I am reminded of Goethe's words: "Now let me dare to open wide the gate/Past which men's steps have ever flinching trod." The second part of Faust, too, was more than a literary exercise. It is a link in the Aurea Catena which has existed from the beginnings of philosophical alchemy and Gnosticism down to Nietzsche's Zarathustra. Unpopular, ambiguous, and dangerous, it is a voyage of discovery to the other pole of the world.
The psyche is distinctly more complicated and inaccessible than the body. It is, so to speak, the half of the world which comes into existence only when we become conscious of it. For that reason the psyche is not only a personal but a world problem, and the psychiatrist has to deal with an entire world.
Nowadays we can see as never before that the peril which threatens all of us comes not from nature, but from man, from the psyches of the individual and the mass. The psychic aberration of man is the danger. Everything depends upon whether or not our psyche functions properly. If certain persons lose their heads nowadays, a hydrogen bomb will go off.
The psychotherapist, however, must understand not only the patient; it is equally important that he should understand himself. For that reason the sine qua non is the analysis of the analyst, what is called the training analysis. The patient’s treatment begins with the doctor, so to speak. Only if the doctor knows how to cope with himself and his own problems will he be able to teach the patient to do the same. Only then. In the training analysis the doctor must learn to know his own psyche and to take it seriously. If he cannot do that, the patient will not learn either. He will lose a portion of his psyche, just as the doctor has lost that portion of his psyche which he has not learned to understand.
I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears. For that reason the idea of development was always of the highest importance to me.
The majority of my patients consisted not of believers but of those who had lost their faith. The ones who came to me were the lost sheep. Even in this day and age the believer has the opportunity, in his church, to live the “symbolic life.” We need only think of the experience of the Mass, of baptism, of the imitatio Christi, and many other aspects of religion. But to live and experience symbols presupposes a vital participation on the part of the believer, and only too often this is lacking in people today. In the neurotic it is practically always lacking. In such cases we have to observe whether the unconscious will not spontaneously bring up symbols to replace what is lacking. But then the question remains of whether a person who has symbolic dreams or visions will also be able to understand their meaning and take the consequences upon himself.
Among the so-called neurotics of our day there are a good many who in other ages would not have been neurotic—that is, divided against themselves. If they had lived in a period and in a milieu in which man was still linked by myth with the world of the ancestors, and thus with nature truly experienced and not merely seen from outside, they would have been spared this division with themselves. I am speaking of those who cannot tolerate the loss of myth and who can neither find a way to a merely exterior world, to the world as seen by science, nor rest satisfied with an intellectual juggling with words, which has nothing whatsoever to do with wisdom.
These victims of the psychic dichotomy of our time are merely optional neurotics; their apparent morbidity drops away the moment the gulf between the ego and the unconscious is closed. The doctor who has felt this dichotomy to the depths of his being will also be able to reach a better understanding of the unconscious psychic processes, and will be saved from the danger of inflation to which the psychologist is prone. The doctor who does not know from his own experience the numinosity of the archetypes will scarcely be able to escape their negative effect when he encounters it in his practice. He will tend to over- or underestimate it, since he possesses only an intellectual point of view but no empirical criterion. This is where those perilous aberrations begin, the first of which is the attempt to dominate everything by the intellect. This serves the secret purpose of placing both doctor and patient at a safe distance from the archetypal effect and thus from real experience, and of substituting for psychic reality an apparently secure, artificial, but merely two-dimensional conceptual world in which the reality of life is well covered up by so-called clear concepts. Experience is stripped of its substance, and instead mere names are substituted, which are henceforth put in the place of reality. No one has any obligations to a concept; that is what is so agreeable about conceptuality—it promises protection from experience. The spirit does not dwell in concepts, but in deeds and in facts. Words butter no parsnips; nevertheless, this futile procedure is repeated ad infinitum.
In my experience, therefore, the most difficult as well as the most ungrateful patients, apart from habitual liars, are the so-called intellectuals. With them, one hand never knows what the other hand is doing. They cultivate a “compartment psychology.” Anything can be settled by an intellect that is not subject to the control of feeling—and yet the intellectual still suffers from a neurosis if feeling is undeveloped.
From my encounters with patients and with the psychic phenomena which they have paraded before me in an endless stream of images, I have learned an enormous amount—not just knowledge, but above all insight into my own nature. And not the least of what I have learned has come from my errors and defeats. I have had mainly women patients, who often entered into the work with extraordinary conscientiousness, understanding, and intelligence. It was essentially because of them that I was able to strike out on new paths in therapy.
A number of my patients became my disciples in the original sense of the word, and have carried my ideas out into the world. Among them I have made friendships that have endured decade after decade.
My patients brought me so close to the reality of human life that I could not help learning essential things from them. Encounters with people of so many different kinds and on so many different psychological levels have been for me incomparably more important than fragmentary conversations with celebrities. The finest and most significant conversations of my life were anonymous.
As I delved into all these matters the question of the historical person, of Jesus the man, also came up. It is of importance because the collective mentality of his time—one might also say: the archetype which was already constellated, the primordial image of the Anthropos—was condensed in him, an almost unknown Jewish prophet. The ancient idea of the Anthropos, whose roots lie in Jewish tradition on the one hand and in the Egyptian Horus myth on the other, had taken possession of the people at the beginning of the Christian era, for it was part of the Zeitgeist. It was essentially concerned with the Son of Man, God’s own son, who stood opposed to the deified Augustus, the ruler of this world. This idea fastened upon the originally Jewish problem of the Messiah and made it a world problem.
It would be a serious misunderstanding to regard as “mere chance” the fact that Jesus, the carpenter’s son, proclaimed the gospel and became the savior of the world. He must have been a person of singular gifts to have been able so completely to express and to represent the general, though unconscious, expectations of his age. No one else could have been the bearer of such a message; it was possible only for this particular man Jesus.
In those times the omnipresent, crushing power of Rome, embodied in the divine Caesar, had created a world where countless individuals, indeed whole peoples, were robbed of their cultural independence and of their spiritual autonomy. Today, individuals and cultures are faced with a similar threat, namely of being swallowed up in the mass. Hence in many places there is a wave of hope in a reappearance of Christ, and a visionary rumor has even arisen which expresses expectations of redemption. The form it has taken, however, is comparable to nothing in the past, but is a typical child of the “age of technology.” This is the worldwide distribution of the UFO phenomenon (unidentified flying objects).
Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components. Body and soul therefore have an intensely historical character and find no proper place in what is new, in things that have just come into being. That is to say, our ancestral components are only partly at home in such things. We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend. Nevertheless, we have plunged down a cataract of progress which sweeps us on into the future with ever wilder violence the farther it takes us from our roots. Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motion. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilization and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the light of the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will at last bring the proper sunrise. We refuse to recognize that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is canceled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.
Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est—all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.
Reforms by retrogressions, on the other hand, are as a rule less expensive and in addition more lasting, for they return to the simpler, tried and tested ways of the past and make the sparsest use of newspapers, radio, television, and all supposedly timesaving innovations.
In this book I have devoted considerable space to my subjective view of the world, which, however, is not a product of rational thinking. It is rather a vision such as will come to one who undertakes, deliberately, with half-closed eyes and somewhat closed ears, to see and hear the form and voice of being. If our impressions are too distinct, we are held to the hour and minute of the present and have no way of knowing how our ancestral psyches listen to and understand the present—in other words, how our unconscious is responding to it. Thus we remain ignorant of whether our ancestral components find an elementary gratification in our lives, or whether they are repelled. Inner peace and contentment depend in large measure upon whether or not the historical family which is inherent in the individual can be harmonized with the ephemeral conditions of the present.
I felt that we were approaching extremely delicate ground here, verging on the mysteries of the tribe. “After all,” he said, “we are a people who live on the roof of the world; we are the sons of Father Sun, and with our religion we daily help our father to go across the sky. We do this not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. If we were to cease practicing our religion, in ten years the sun would no longer rise. Then it would be night forever.”
I then realized on what the “dignity,” the tranquil composure of the individual Indian, was founded. It springs from his being a son of the sun; his life is cosmologically meaningful, for he helps the father and preserver of all life in his daily rise and descent. If we set against this our own self-justifications, the meaning of our own lives as it is formulated by our reason, we cannot help but see our poverty. Out of sheer envy we are obliged to smile at the Indians’ naiveté and to plume ourselves on our cleverness; for otherwise we would discover how impoverished and down at the heels we are. Knowledge does not enrich us; it removes us more and more from the mythic world in which we were once at home by right of birth.
If for a moment we put away all European rationalism and transport ourselves into the clear mountain air of that solitary plateau, which drops off on one side into the broad continental prairies and on the other into the Pacific Ocean; if we also set aside our intimate knowledge of the world and exchange it for a horizon that seems immeasurable, and an ignorance of what lies beyond it, we will begin to achieve an inner comprehension of the Pueblo Indian’s point of view. “All life comes from the mountain” is immediately convincing to him, and he is equally certain that he lives upon the roof of an immeasurable world, closest to God. He above all others has the Divinity’s ear, and his ritual act will reach the distant sun soonest of all. The holiness of mountains, the revelation of Yahweh upon Sinai, the inspiration that Nietzsche was vouchsafed in the Engadine—all speak the same language. The idea, absurd to us, that a ritual act can magically affect the sun is, upon closer examination, no less irrational but far more familiar to us than might at first be assumed. Our Christian religion—like every other, incidentally—is permeated by the idea that special acts or a special kind of action can influence God—for example, through certain rites or by prayer, or by a morality pleasing to the Divinity.
The ritual acts of man are an answer and reaction to the action of God upon man; and perhaps they are not only that, but are also intended to be “activating,” a form of magic coercion. That man feels capable of formulating valid replies to the overpowering influence of God, and that he can render back something which is essential even to God, induces pride, for it raises the human individual to the dignity of a metaphysical factor. “God and us”—even if it is only an unconscious sous-entendu—this equation no doubt underlies that enviable serenity of the Pueblo Indian. Such a man is in the fullest sense of the word in his proper place.
We did not sit down, since there was nowhere to sit except on the dusty ground, which was covered with chicken droppings and goat pellets. The conversation moved in the conventional framework of semi-familial drawing-room talk, revolving around family, children, house, and garden. Her elder co-wife, whose property bordered on hers, had six children. The boma of this “sister” was some eighty yards away. Approximately halfway between the two women’s huts, at the apex of a triangle, stood the husband’s hut, and behind that, about fifty yards away, a small hut occupied by the first wife’s already grown son. Each of the two women had her own shamba. My hostess was obviously proud of hers.
I had the feeling that the confidence and self-assurance of her manner were founded to a great extent upon her identity with her own wholeness, her private world made up of children, house, small livestock, shamba and—last but not least—her not-unattractive physique. The husband was referred to only in an allusive way. It seemed that he was sometimes here, sometimes not here. At the moment he was staying at some unknown place. My hostess was plainly and unproblematically the embodiment of stability, a veritable pied-à-terre for the husband. The question did not seem to be whether or not he was there, but rather whether she was present in her wholeness, providing a geomagnetic center for the husband who wandered over the land with his herds. What goes on in the interior of these “simple” souls is not conscious, is therefore unknown, and we can only deduce it from comparative evidence of “advanced” European differentiation.
I asked myself whether the growing masculinization of the white woman is not connected with the loss of her natural wholeness (shamba, children, livestock, house of her own, hearth fire) ; whether it is not a compensation for her impoverishment; and whether the feminizing of the white man is not a further consequence. The more rational the polity, the more blurred is the difference between the sexes. The role homosexuality plays in modern society is enormous. It is partly the consequence of the mother-complex, partly a purposive phenomenon (prevention of reproduction).
In India I was principally concerned with the question of the psychological nature of evil. I had been very much impressed by the way this problem is integrated in Indian spiritual life, and I saw it in a new light. In a conversation with a cultivated Chinese I was also impressed, again and again, by the fact that these people are able to integrate so-called “evil” without “losing face.” In the West we cannot do this. For the Oriental the problem of morality does not appear to take first place, as it does for us. To the Oriental, good and evil are meaningfully contained in nature, and are merely varying degrees of the same thing.
I saw that Indian spirituality contains as much of evil as of good. The Christian strives for good and succumbs to evil; the Indian feels himself to be outside good and evil, and seeks to realize this state by meditation or yoga. My objection is that, given such an attitude, neither good nor evil takes on any real outline, and this produces a certain stasis. One does not really believe in evil, and one does not really believe in good. Good or evil are then regarded at most as my good or my evil, as whatever seems to me good or evil—which leaves us with the paradoxical statement that Indian spirituality lacks both evil and good, or is so burdened by contradictions that it needs nirdcandva, the liberation from opposites and from the ten thousand things.
The Indian’s goal is not moral perfection, but the condition of nirdcandva. He wishes to free himself from nature; in keeping with this aim, he seeks in meditation the condition of image-lessness and emptiness. I, on the other hand, wish to persist in the state of lively contemplation of nature and of the psychic images. I want to be freed neither from human beings, nor from myself, nor from nature; for all these appear to me the greatest of miracles. Nature, the psyche, and life appear to me like divinity unfolded—and what more could I wish for? To me the supreme meaning of Being can consist only in the fact that it is, not that it is not or is no longer.
After the illness a fruitful period of work began for me. A good many of my principal works were written only then. The insight I had had, or the vision of the end of all things, gave me the courage to undertake new formulations. I no longer attempted to put across my own opinion, but surrendered myself to the current of my thoughts. Thus one problem after the other revealed itself to me and took shape.
Something else, too, came to me from my illness. I might formulate it as an affirmation of things as they are: an unconditional “yes” to that which is, without subjective protests—acceptance of the conditions of existence as I see them and understand them, acceptance of my own nature, as I happen to be. At the beginning of the illness I had the feeling that there was something wrong with my attitude, and that I was to some extent responsible for the mishap. But when one follows the path of individuation, when one lives one’s own life, one must take mistakes into the bargain; life would not be complete without them. There is no guarantee—not for a single moment —that we will not fall into error or stumble into deadly peril. We may think there is a sure road. But that would be the road of death. Then nothing happens any longer—at any rate, not the right things. Anyone who takes the sure road is as good as dead.
On Life After Death
WHAT I HAVE to tell about the hereafter, and about life after death, consists entirely of memories, of images in which I have lived and of thoughts which have buffeted me. These memories in a way also underlie my works; for the latter are fundamentally nothing but attempts, ever renewed, to give an answer to the question of the interplay between the “here” and the “hereafter.” Yet I have never written expressly about a life after death; for then I would have had to document my ideas, and I have no way of doing that. Be that as it may, I would like to state my ideas now.
Even now I can do no more than tell stories—“mythologize.” Perhaps one has to be close to death to acquire the necessary freedom to talk about it. It is not that I wish we had a life after death. In fact, I would prefer not to foster such ideas. Still, I must state, to give reality its due, that, without my wishing and without my doing anything about it, thoughts of this nature move about within me. I can’t say whether these thoughts are true or false, but I do know they are there, and can be given utterance, if I do not repress them out of some prejudice. Prejudice cripples and injures the full phenomenon of psychic life. And I know too little about psychic life to feel that I can set it right out of superior knowledge. Critical rationalism has apparently eliminated, along with so many other mythic conceptions, the idea of life after death. This could only have happened because nowadays most people identify themselves almost exclusively with their consciousness, and imagine that they are only what they know about themselves. Yet anyone with even a smattering of psychology can see how limited this knowledge is. Rationalism and doctrinairism are the disease of our time; they pretend to have all the answers. But a great deal will yet be discovered which our present limited view would have ruled out as impossible. Our concepts of space and time have only approximate validity, and there is therefore a wide field for minor and major deviations. In view of all this, I lend an attentive ear to the strange myths of the psyche, and take a careful look at the varied events that come my way, regardless of whether or not they fit in with my theoretical postulates.
Unfortunately, the mythic side of man is given short shrift nowadays. He can no longer create fables. As a result, a great deal escapes him; for it is important and salutary to speak also of incomprehensible things. Such talk is like the telling of a good ghost story, as we sit by the fireside and smoke a pipe.
What the myths or stories about a life after death really mean, or what kind of reality lies behind them, we certainly do not know. We cannot tell whether they possess any validity beyond their indubitable value as anthropomorphic projections. Rather, we must hold clearly in mind that there is no possible way for us to attain certainty concerning things which pass our understanding.
We cannot visualize another world ruled by quite other laws, the reason being that we live in a specific world which has helped to shape our minds and establish our basic psychic conditions. We are strictly limited by our innate structure and therefore bound by our whole being and thinking to this world of ours. Mythic man, to be sure, demands a “going beyond all that,” but scientific man cannot permit this. To the intellect, all my mythologizing is futile speculation. To the emotions, however, it is a healing and valid activity; it gives existence a glamour which we would not like to do without. Nor is there any good reason why we should.
Parapsychology holds it to be a scientifically valid proof of an afterlife that the dead manifest themselves—either as ghosts, or through a medium—and communicate things which they alone could possibly know. But even though there do exist such well-documented cases, the question remains whether the ghost or the voice is identical with the dead person or is a psychic projection, and whether the things said really derive from the deceased or from knowledge which may be present in the unconscious.
At the time of this dream the lady was afraid of death and did her best to fend off any thoughts about it. Yet death is an important interest, especially to an aging person. A categorical question is being put to him, and he is under an obligation to answer it. To this end he ought to have a myth about death, for reason shows him nothing but the dark pit into which he is descending. Myth, however, can conjure up other images for him, helpful and enriching pictures of life in the land of the dead. If he believes in them, or greets them with some measure of credence, he is being just as right or just as wrong as someone who does not believe in them. But while the man who despairs marches toward nothingness, the one who has placed his faith in the archetype follows the tracks of life and lives right into his death. Both, to be sure, remain in uncertainty, but the one lives against his instincts, the other with them.
The figures from the unconscious are uninformed too, and need man, or contact with consciousness, in order to attain to knowledge. When I began working with the unconscious, I found myself much involved with the figures of Salome and Elijah. Then they receded, but after about two years they reappeared. To my enormous astonishment, they were completely unchanged; they spoke and acted as if nothing had happened in the meanwhile. In actuality the most incredible things had taken place in my life. I had, as it were, to begin from the beginning again, to tell them all about what had been going on, and explain things to them. At the time I had been greatly surprised by this situation. Only later did I understand what had happened: in the interval the two had sunk back into the unconscious and into themselves—I might equally well put it, into timelessness. They remained out of contact with the ego and the ego’s changing circumstances, and therefore were ignorant of what had happened in the world of consciousness.
The maximum awareness which has been attained anywhere forms, so it seems to me, the upper limit of knowledge to which the dead can attain. That is probably why earthly life is of such great significance, and why it is that what a human being “brings over" at the time of his death is so important. Only here, in life on earth, where the opposites clash together, can the general level of consciousness be raised. That seems to be man’s metaphysical task—which he cannot accomplish without “mythologizing.” Myth is the natural and indispensable intermediate stage between unconscious and conscious cognition. True, the unconscious knows more than consciousness does; but it is knowledge of a special sort, knowledge in eternity, usually without reference to the here and now, not couched in language of the intellect. Only when we let its statements amplify themselves, as has been shown above by the example of numerals, does it come within the range of our understanding; only then does a new aspect become perceptible to us. This process is convincingly repeated in every successful dream analysis. That is why it is so important not to have any preconceived, doctrinaire opinions about the statements made by dreams. As soon as a certain “monotony of interpretation” strikes us, we know that our approach has become doctrinaire and hence sterile.
Although there is no way to marshal valid proof of continuance of the soul after death, there are nevertheless experiences which make us thoughtful. I take them as hints, and do not presume to ascribe to them the significance of insights.
One night I lay awake thinking of the sudden death of a friend whose funeral had taken place the day before. I was deeply concerned. Suddenly I felt that he was in the room. It seemed to me that he stood at the foot of my bed and was asking me to go with him. I did not have the feeling of an apparition; rather, it was an inner visual image of him, which I explained to myself as a fantasy. But in all honesty I had to ask myself, “Do I have any proof that this is a fantasy? Suppose it is not a fantasy, suppose my friend is really here and I decided he was only a fantasy—would that not be abominable of me?” Yet I had equally little proof that he stood before me as an apparition. Then I said to myself, “Proof is neither here nor there! Instead of explaining him away as a fantasy, I might just as well give him the benefit of the doubt and for experiment’s sake credit him with reality.” The moment I had that thought, he went to the door and beckoned me to follow him. So I was going to have to play along with him! That was something I hadn’t bargained for. I had to repeat my argument to myself once more. Only then did I follow him in my imagination.
Since the unconscious, as the result of its spatio-temporal relativity, possesses better sources of information than the conscious mind—which has only sense perceptions available to it—we are dependent for our myth of life after death upon the meager hints of dreams and similar spontaneous revelations from the unconscious. As I have already said, we cannot attribute to these allusions the value of knowledge, let alone proof. They can, however, serve as suitable bases for mythic amplifications; they give the probing intellect the raw material which is indispensable for its vitality. Cut off the intermediary world of mythic imagination, and the mind falls prey to doctrinaire rigidities. On the other hand, too much traffic with these germs of myth is dangerous for weak and suggestible minds, for they are led to mistake vague intimations for substantial knowledge, and to hypostatize mere phantasms.
One widespread myth of the hereafter is formed by the ideas and images centering on reincarnation. In one country whose intellectual culture is highly complex and much older than ours—I am, of course, referring to India—the idea of reincarnation is as much taken for granted as, among us, the idea that God created the world, or that there is a spiritus rector. Cultivated Hindus know that we do not share their ideas about this, but that does not trouble them. In keeping with the spirit of the East, the succession of birth and death is viewed as an endless continuity, as an eternal wheel rolling on forever without a goal. Man lives and attains knowledge and dies and begins again from the beginning. Only with the Buddha does the idea of a goal emerge, namely, the overcoming of earthly existence.
The mythic needs of the Occidental call for an evolutionary cosmogony with a beginning and a goal. The Occidental rebels against a cosmogony with a beginning and mere end, just as he cannot accept the idea of a static, self-contained, eternal cycle of events. The Oriental, on the other hand, seems able to come to terms with this idea. Apparently there is no unanimous feeling about the nature of the world, any more than there is general agreement among contemporary astronomers on this question. To Western man, the meaninglessness of a merely static universe is unbearable. He must assume that it has meaning. The Oriental does not need to make this assumption; rather, he himself embodies it. Whereas the Occidental feels the need to complete the meaning of the world, the Oriental strives for the fulfillment of meaning in man, stripping the world and existence from himself (Buddha).
I would say that both are right. Western man seems predominantly extraverted, Eastern man predominantly introverted. The former projects the meaning and considers that it exists in objects; the latter feels the meaning in himself. But the meaning is both without and within.
The figure of the yogi, then, would more or less represent my unconscious prenatal wholeness, and the Far East, as is often the case in dreams, a psychic state alien and opposed to our own. Like the magic lantern, the yogi’s meditation “projects” my empirical reality. As a rule, we see this causal relationship in reverse: in the products of the unconscious we discover mandala symbols, that is, circular and quaternary figures which express wholeness, and whenever we wish to express wholeness, we employ just such figures. Our basis is ego-consciousness, our world the field of light centered upon the focal point of the ego. From that point we look out upon an enigmatic world of obscurity, never knowing to what extent the shadowy forms we see are caused by our consciousness, or possess a reality of their own. The superficial observer is content with the first assumption. But closer study shows that as a rule the images of the unconscious are not produced by consciousness, but have a reality and spontaneity of their own. Nevertheless, we regard them as mere marginal phenomena.
The aim of both these dreams is to effect a reversal of the relationship between ego-consciousness and the unconscious, and to represent the unconscious as the generator of the empirical personality. This reversal suggests that in the opinion of the “other side,” our unconscious existence is the real one and our conscious world a kind of illusion, an apparent reality constructed for a specific purpose, like a dream which seems a reality as long as we are in it. It is clear that this state of affairs resembles very closely the Oriental conception of Maya.
Unconscious wholeness therefore seems to me the true spiritus rector of all biological and psychic events. Here is a principle which strives for total realization—which in man’s case signifies the attainment of total consciousness. Attainment of consciousness is culture in the broadest sense, and self-knowledge is therefore the heart and essence of this process. The Oriental attributes unquestionably divine significance to the self, and according to the ancient Christian view self-knowledge is the road to knowledge of God.
The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. Thus we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted. In our relationships to other men, too, the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness is expressed in the relationship.
The feeling for the infinite, however, can be attained only if we are bounded to the utmost. The greatest limitation for man is the “self”; it is manifested in the experience: “I am only that!” Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious. In such awareness we experience ourselves concurrently as limited and eternal, as both the one and the other. In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination—that is, ultimately limited—we possess also the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite. But only then!
We do not know how far the process of coming to consciousness can extend, or where it will lead. It is a new element in the story of creation, and there are no parallels we can look to. We therefore cannot how what potentialities are inherent in it. Neither can we know the prospects for the species Homo sapiens. Will it imitate the fate of other species, which once flourished on the earth and now are extinct? Biology can advance no reasons why this should not be so.
The need for mythic statements is satisfied when we frame a view of the world which adequately explains the meaning of human existence in the cosmos, a view which springs from our psychic wholeness, from the cooperation between conscious and unconscious. Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable—perhaps everything. No science will ever replace myth, and a myth cannot be made out of any science. For it is not that “God” is a myth, but that myth is the revelation of a divine life in man. It is not we who invent myth, rather it speaks to us as a Word of God. The Word of God comes to us, and we have no way of distinguishing whether and to what extent it is different from God. There is nothing about this Word that could not be considered known and human, except for the manner in which it confronts us spontaneously and places obligations upon us. It is not affected by the arbitrary operation of our will. We cannot explain an inspiration. Our chief feeling about it is that it is not the result of our own ratiocinations, but that it came to us from elsewhere. And if we happen to have a precognitive dream, how can we possibly ascribe it to our own powers? After all, often we do not even know, until some time afterward, that the dream represented foreknowledge, or knowledge of something that happened at a distance.
The Word happens to us; we suffer it, for we are victims of a profound uncertainty: with God as a complexio opposetorum, all things are possible, in the fullest meaning of the phrase. Truth and delusion, good and evil, are equally possible. Myth is or can be equivocal, like the oracle of Delphi or like a dream. We cannot and ought not to repudiate reason; but equally we must cling to the hope that instinct will hasten to our aid—in which case God is supporting us against God, as Job long ago understood. Everything through which the “other will” is expressed proceeds from man—his thinking, his words, his images, and even his limitations. Consequently he has the tendency to refer everything to himself, when he begins to think in clumsy psychological terms, and decides that everything proceeds out of his intentions and out of himself. With childlike naiveté he assumes that he knows all his own reaches and knows what he is “in himself.” Yet all the while he is fatally handicapped by the weakness of his consciousness and the corresponding fear of the unconscious. Therefore he is utterly unable to separate what he has carefully reasoned out from what has spontaneously flowed to him from another source. He has no objectivity toward himself and cannot yet regard himself as a phenomenon which he finds in existence and with which, for better or worse, he is identical. At first everything is thrust upon him, everything happens to him, and it is only by great effort that he finally succeeds in conquering and holding for himself an area of relative freedom.
Only when he has won his way to this achievement, and then only, is he in a position to recognize that he is confronting his instinctive foundations, given him from the beginning, which he cannot make disappear, however much he would like to. His beginnings are not by any means mere pasts; they live with him as the constant substratum of his existence, and his consciousness is as much molded by them as by the physical world around him.
If anyone is inclined to believe that any aspect of the nature of things is changed by such formulations, he is being extremely credulous about words. The real facts do not change, whatever names we give them. Only we ourselves are affected. If one were to conceive of “God” as “pure Nothingness,” that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact of a superordinate principle. We are just as much possessed as before; the change of name has removed nothing at all from reality. At most we have taken a false attitude toward reality if the new name implies a denial. On the other hand, a positive name for the unknowable has the merit of putting us into a correspondingly positive attitude. If, therefore, we speak of “God” as an “archetype,” we are saying nothing about His real nature but are letting it be known that “God” already has a place in that part of our psyche which is pre-existent to consciousness and that He therefore cannot be considered an invention of consciousness. We neither make Him more remote nor eliminate Him, but bring Him closer to the possibility of being experienced. This latter circumstance is by no means unimportant, for a thing which cannot be experienced may easily be suspected of non-existence. This suspicion is so inviting that so-called believers in God see nothing but atheism in my attempt to reconstruct the primitive unconscious psyche. Or if not atheism, then Gnosticism—anything, heaven forbid, but a psychic reality like the unconscious. If the unconscious is anything at all, it must consist of earlier evolutionary stages of our conscious psyche. The assumption that man in his whole glory was created on the sixth day of Creation, without any preliminary stages, is after all somewhat too simple and archaic to satisfy us nowadays. There is pretty general agreement on that score. In regard to the psyche, however, the archaic conception holds on tenaciously: the psyche has no antecedents, is a tabula rasa, arises anew at birth, and is only what it imagines itself to be.
Consciousness is phylogenetically and ontogenetically a secondary phenomenon. It is time this obvious fact were grasped at last. Just as the body has an anatomical prehistory of millions of years, so also does the psychic system. And just as the human body today represents in each of its parts the result of this evolution, and everywhere still shows traces of its earlier stages—so the same may be said of the psyche. Consciousness began its evolution from an animal-like state which seems to us unconscious, and the same process of differentiation is repeated in every child. The psyche of the child in its preconscious state is anything but a tabula rasa; it is already preformed in a recognizably individual way, and is moreover equipped with all specifically human instincts, as well as with the a priori foundations of the higher functions.
On this complicated base, the ego arises. Throughout life the ego is sustained by this base. When the base does not function, stasis ensues and then death. Its life and its reality are of vital importance. Compared to it, even the external world is secondary, for what does the world matter if the endogenous impulse to grasp it and manipulate it is lacking? In the long run no conscious will can ever replace the life instinct. This instinct comes to us from within, as a compulsion or will or command, and if—as has more or less been done from time immemorial—we give it the name of a personal daimon we are at least aptly expressing the psychological situation. And if, by employing the concept of the archetype, we attempt to define a little more closely the point at which the daimon grips us, we have not abolished anything, only approached closer to the source of life.
It is only natural that I as a psychiatrist (doctor of the soul) should espouse such a view, for am primarily interested in how I can help my patients find their healthy base again. To do that, a great variety of knowledge is needed, as I have learned. Medicine in general has, after all, proceeded in like manner. It has not made its advances through the discovery of some single trick of healing, thus phenomenally simplifying its methods. On the contrary, it has evolved into a science of enormous complexity—not the least of the reasons being that it has made borrowings from all possible fields. Hence I am not concerned with proving anything to other disciplines; I am merely attempting to put their knowledge to good use in my own field. Naturally, it is incumbent upon me to report on such applications and their consequences. For certain new things come to light when one transfers the knowledge of one field to another and applies it in practice. Had X-rays remained the exclusive property of the physicist and not been applied in medicine, we would know far less. Then again, if radiation therapy has in some circumstances dangerous consequences, that is interesting to the physician; but it is not necessarily of interest to the physicist, who uses radiation in an altogether different manner and for other purposes. Nor will he think that the physician has poached upon his territory when the latter points out certain harmful or salutary properties of the invisible rays.
In my effort to depict the limitations of the psyche I do not mean to imply that only the psyche exists. It is merely that, so far as perception and cognition are concerned, we cannot see beyond the psyche. Science is tacitly convinced that a non-psychic, transcendental object exists. But science also knows how difficult it is to grasp the real nature of the object, especially when the organ of perception fails or is lacking, and when the appropriate modes of thought do not exist or have still to be created. In cases where neither our sense organs nor their artificial aids can attest the presence of a real object, the difficulties mount enormously, so that one feels tempted to assert that there is simply no real object present. I have never drawn this overhasty conclusion, for I have never been inclined to think that our senses were capable of perceiving all forms of being. I have, therefore, even hazarded the postulate that the phenomenon of archetypal configurations—which are psychic events par excellence—may be founded upon a psychoid base, that is, upon an only partially psychic and possibly altogether different form of being. For lack of empirical data I have neither knowledge nor understanding of such forms of being, which are commonly called spiritual. From the point of view of science, it is immaterial what I may believe on that score, and I must accept my ignorance. But insofar as the archetypes act upon me, they are real and actual to me, even though I do not know what their real nature is. This applies, of course, not only to the archetypes but to the nature of the psyche in general. Whatever it may state about itself, it will never get beyond itself. All comprehension and all that is comprehended is in itself psychic, and to that extent we are hopelessly cooped up in an exclusively psychic world. Nevertheless, we have good reason to suppose that behind this veil there exists the uncomprehended absolute object which affects and influences us—and to suppose it even, or particularly, in the case of psychic phenomena about which no verifiable statements can be made. Statements concerning possibility or impossibility are valid only in specialized fields; outside those fields they are merely arrogant presumptions.
Prohibited though it may be from an objective point of view to make statements out of the blue—that is, without sufficient reason—there are nevertheless some statements which apparently have to be made without objective reasons. The justification here is a psychodynamic one, of the sort usually termed subjective and regarded as a purely personal matter. But that is to commit the mistake of failing to distinguish whether the statement really proceeds only from an isolated subject, and is prompted by exclusively personal motives, or whether it occurs generally and springs from a collectively present dynamic pattern. In that case it should not be classed as subjective, but as psychologically objective, since an indefinite number of individuals find themselves prompted by an inner impulse to make an identical statement, or feel a certain view to be a vital necessity. Since the archetype is not just an inactive form, but a real force charged with a specific energy, it may very well be regarded as the causa efficiens of such statements, and be understood as the subject of them. In other words, it is not the personal human being who is making the statement, but the archetype speaking through him. If these statements are stifled or disregarded, both medical experience and common knowledge demonstrate that psychic troubles are in store. These will appear either as neurotic symptoms or, in the case of persons who are incapable of neurosis, as collective delusions.
Archetypal statements are based upon instinctive preconditions and have nothing to do with reason; they are neither rationally grounded nor can they be banished by rational arguments. They have always been part of the world scene—représentations collectives, as Lévy-Bruhl rightly called them. Certainly the ego and its will have a great part to play in life; but what the ego wills is subject in the highest degree to the interference, in ways of which the ego is usually unaware, of the autonomy and numinosity of archetypal processes. Practical consideration of these processes is the essence of religion, insofar as religion can be approached from a psychological point of view.
Knowledge of processes in the background early shaped my relationship to the world. Basically, that relationship was the same in my childhood as it is to this day. As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know. Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible. The loneliness began with the experiences of my early dreams, and reached its climax at the time I was working on the unconscious. If a man knows more than others, he becomes lonely. But loneliness is not necessarily inimical to companionship, for no one is more sensitive to companionship than the lonely man, and companionship thrives only when each individual remembers his individuality and does not identify himself with others.
It is important to have a secret, a premonition of things unknown. It fills life with something impersonal, a numinosum. A man who has never experienced that has missed something important. He must sense that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated. The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world. Only then is life whole. For me the world has from the beginning been infinite and ungraspable.
In fact it seems to me as if that alienation which so long separated me from the world has become transferred into my own inner world, and has revealed to me an unexpected unfamiliarity with myself.(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (11)
In the spring of 1957, when he was eighty-one years old, C. G. Jung undertook the telling of his life story. At regular intervals he had conversations with his colleague and friend Aniela Jaffe, and collaborated with her in the preparation of the text based on these talks. On occasion, he was moved to write entire chapters of the book in his own hand, and he continued to work on the final stages of the manuscript until shortly before his death on June 6, 1961. This edition of Memories, Dreams, Reflections includes Jung's "VII Sermones ad Mortuos." It is a fully corrected edition.
No library descriptions found.
Melvil Decimal System (DDC)150.1954092
— Philosophy and Psychology
Psychology Psychology Theory And Instruction Systems, schools, viewpoints Psychoanalytic systems Jungian system