The Reading Corner
seminar talk given by Carl Jung in 1939 to the Guild for Pastoral
see, man is in need of a symbolic life - badly in need. We only
live banal, ordinary, rational, or irrational things . . . but
we have no symbolic life. Where do we live symbolically? Nowhere
except where we participate in the ritual of life. . . .
Have you got a corner somewhere in your house where you perform
the rites, as you can see in India? Even the very simple houses
there have at least a curtained corner where the members of the
household can perform the symbolic life, where they can make their
new vows or their meditation. We don't have it; we have no such
corner. We have our own room, of course, - but there is a telephone
that can ring us up at any time, and we always must be ready.
We have no time, no place.
We have no symbolic life, and we are all badly in need of the
symbolic life. Only the symbolic life can express the need of
the soul - the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people
have no such thing, they can never step out of this mill - this
awful, banal, grinding life in which they are "nothing but."
. . . Everything is banal; everything is "nothing but,"
and that is the reason why people are neurotic. They are simply
sick of the whole thing, sick of that banal life, and therefore
they want sensation. They even want a war; they all want a war;
they are all glad when there is a war; they say, "Thank heaven,
now something is going to happen - something bigger than ourselves!"
These things go pretty deep, and no wonder people get neurotic.
Life is too rational; there is no symbolic existence in which
I am something else, in which I am fulfilling my role, my role
as one of the actors in the divine drama of life.
I once had a talk with the master of ceremonies of a tribe of
Pueblo Indians, and he told me something very interesting. He
said, "Yes, we are a small tribe, and these Americans, they
want to interfere with our religion. They should not do it,"
he said, "because we are the sons of the Father, the Sun.
He who goes there" (pointing to the sun) -- "that is
our Father. We must help him daily to rise over the horizon and
to walk over heaven. And we don't do it for ourselves only; we
do it for America; we do it for the whole world. And if these
Americans interfere with our religion through their missions,
they will see something. In ten years Father Sun won't rise anymore
because we can't help him any more."
Now, you may say, that is just a sort of mild madness. Not at
all! These people have no problems. They have their daily life,
their symbolic life. They get up in the morning with a feeling
of their great and divine responsibility; they are the sons of
the Sun, the Father, and their daily duty is to help the Father
over the horizon - not for themselves alone, but for the whole
world. You should see these fellows; they have a natural fulfilled
dignity. And I quite understand when he said to me, "Now
look at these Americans; they are always seeking something. They
are always full of unrest, always looking for something. What
are they looking for? There is nothing to be looked for!"
That's perfectly true. You can see them, these traveling tourists,
always looking for something, always in thee vain hope of finding
something. On my many travels I have found people who were on
their third trip around the world - uninterruptedly. Just traveling,
traveling; seeking, seeking. I met a woman in central Africa who
had come up alone in a car from Cape Town and wanted to go to
Cairo. "What for?" I asked. "What are you trying
to do that for?" And I was amazed when I looked into her
eyes -- the eyes of a hunted, a cornered animal -- seeking, seeking,
always in the hope of something. I said, "What in the world
are you seeking? What are you waiting for? What are you hunting
after?" She is nearly possessed; she is possessed by so many
devils that chase her around. And why is she possessed? Because
she does not live the life that makes sense. Hers is a life utterly,
grotesquely banal, utterly poor, meaningless, with no point in
it at all. If she is killed today, nothing has happened, nothing
has vanished - because she was nothing! But if she could say,
"I am the daughter of the Moon. Every night I must help the
moon, my Mother, over the horizon" - ah, that is something
else! Then she lives; then her life makes sense, and makes sense
in all continuity, and for the whole of humanity. That gives peace,
when people feel that they are living the symbolic life, that
they are actors in the divine drama. That gives the only meaning
to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it.
A career, producing of children, are all maya compared with that
one thing, that your life is meaningful
I have spoken of is, alas, to a great extent the past. We cannot
turn the wheel backwards; we cannot go back to the symbolism that
is gone. No sooner do you know that this thing is symbolic than
you say, "Oh, well, it presumably means something else."
Doubt has killed it, has devoured it. So you cannot go back. .
. . My psychological condition wants something else. I must have
a situation in which that thing becomes true once more. I need
a new form. When one has had the misfortune to be fired out of
a church, or to say, "This is all nonsense," and to
quit it - that has no merit at all. But to be in it and to be
forced, say, by God to leave it - well, then you are legitimately
extra ecclesiam. But extra ecclesiam nula salus; then things really
become terrible because you are no more protected, you are no
more in the consensus gentium, you are no more in the lap of the
all-compassionate Mother. You are alone and you are confronted
with all the demons of hell. That is what people don't know. Then
they say you have an anxiety neurosis, nocturnal fears, compulsions
- I don't know what. Your soul has become lonely; it is extra
ecclesiam and in a state of no-salvation. And people don't know
it. They think your state is pathological, and every doctor helps
them to believe it. And, of course, when they say, and everybody
holds, that this is neurotic and pathological, then we have to
talk that language. I talk the language of my patients. When I
talk with lunatics, I talk the lunatic language, otherwise they
don't understand me. And when I talk with neurotics, I talk neurotic
with them. But it is neurotic to talk when one says that this
is a neurosis. As a matter of fact it is something quite different;
it is the terrific fear of loneliness. It is the hallucination
of loneliness, and it is a loneliness that cannot be quenched
by anything else. You can be a member of a society with a thousand
members, and you are still alone. That thing in you which should
live is alone; nobody touches it, nobody knows it, you yourself
don't know it; but it keeps on stirring, it disturbs you, it makes
you restless, and it gives you no peace.
my observations I learned that the modern unconscious has a tendency
to produce a psychological condition which we find, for instance,
in medieval mysticism. You find certain things in Meister Eckhart;
you find many things in Gnosticism; that is a sort of esoteric
Christianity. You find the idea of the Adam Kadmon in every man
- the Christ within. Christ is the second Adam, which is also,
in exotic religions, the idea of the Atman or the complete man,
the original man, the "all-round" man of Plato, symbolized
by a circle or a drawing with circular motifs. You find all these
things in medieval mysticism; you find them all through alchemical
literature, beginning with the first century after Christ. You
find them in Gnosticism, you find many of them in the New Testament,
of course, in Paul. But it is an absolutely consistent development
of the idea of the Christ within; and the argument is that it
is absolutely immoral to allow Christ to suffer for us, that he
has suffered enough, that we should carry our own sins for once
and not shift them off onto Christ - that we should carry them
all. Christ expresses the same idea when he says, "I appear
in the least of your brethren"; and what about it . . . if
the least of your brethren should be yourself - what about it
then? Then you get the intimation that Christ is not to be the
least in your life, that we have a brother in ourselves who is
really the least of our brethren, much worse than the poor beggar
whom you feed. That is, in ourselves we have a shadow; we have
a very bad fellow in ourselves, a very poor man, and he has to
be accepted. What has Christ done - let us be quite banal about
it - what has Christ done when we consider him as an entirely
human creature? Christ was disobedient to his mother; Christ was
disobedient to his tradition; . . .[but] he carried through his
hypothesis to the biter end. How was Christ born? In the greatest
misery. Who was his father? He was an illegitimate child - humanly
the most miserable situation: a poor girl having a little son.
That is our symbol, that is ourselves; we are all that. And if
anyone lives his own hypothesis to the bitter end (and pays with
his death, perhaps), he knows that Christ is his brother.
That is modern psychology, and that is the future. That is the
true future, that is the future of which I know but, of course,
the historical future might be quite different. . . . But I do
not care for a historic future at all; I am not concerned with
it. I am only concerned with the fulfillment of that will that
is in every individual. My history is only the history of those
individuals who are going to fulfill their hypotheses. That is
the whole problem; that is the problem of the true Pueblo: that
I do today everything that is necessary so that my Father can
rise over the horizon. That is my standpoint.
(C.G. Jung, CW 18, The Symbolic Life, Chapter III. "The
Symbolic Life," § 625 - 630, 632, 638, & 639.)
truly religious person . . . knows that God has brought all sorts
of strange and inconceivable things to pass and seeks in the most
curious ways to enter a [person's] heart. He therefore senses
in everything the unseen presence of the divine will. This is
what I mean by "unprejudiced objectivity." It is a moral
achievement on the part of the doctor who ought not to let himself
be repelled by sickness and corruption. We cannot change anything
unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate; it oppresses.
I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and
fellow sufferer. I do not mean in the least to say that we must
never pass judgment when we desire to help and improve. But if
the doctor wishes to help a human being, he must be able to accept
him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already
seen and accepted himself as he is.
Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always
the most difficult. In actual life it requires the greatest art
to be simple, and so acceptance of oneself is the essence of the
moral problem and the acid test of one's whole outlook on life.
That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love
my enemy in the name of Christ - all these are undoubtedly great
virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto
Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them
all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders,
yea the very fiend himself - that these are within me, and that
I myself stand in need of my own kindness, that I myself am the
enemy who must be loved - what then? Then, as a rule, the whole
truth of Christianity is reversed: there is no more talk of love
and long-suffering; we say to the brother within us, "Raca,"
and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world;
we deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves,
and had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable
form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single
cock had crowed.
(C.G. Jung, CW 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East,
Chapter V, "Psychotherapy or the Clergy," § 519-520)
"Dream Analysis" in Modern Man in Search of a Soul
the direct expression of unconscious psychic activity (p. 2).
The dream gives a true picture of the subjective state, while
the conscious mind denies that this state exists, or recognizes
it only grudgingly (p. 5).
It is the way of dreams to give us more than we ask (p. 5).
[B]ringing to light the parts of the personality that were previously
unconscious and subjecting them to conscious discrimination .
. . is . . . a call to arms that must be answered by the whole
personality (p. 10).
The dream is specifically the utterance of the unconscious. .
. . It is imperative that we do not pare down the meaning of a
dream to fit some narrow doctrine (p. 11).
Dreams give information about the secrets of the inner life and
reveal to the dreamer hidden factors of [the dreamer's] personality.
. . . There must be a thorough-going, conscious assimilation of
unconscious contents. By "assimilation" I mean a mutual
interpenetration of conscious and unconscious contents (p. 16).
The psyche is a self-regulating system that maintains itself in
equilibrium, as the body does. Every process that goes too far
immediately and inevitably calls forth a compensatory activity.
Without such adjustments a normal metabolism would not exist,
nor would the normal psyche. . . . The relation between conscious
and unconscious is compensatory. This fact . . . affords a rule
for dream interpretation. It is always helpful, when we set out
to interpret a dream, to ask, "What conscious attitude does
it compensate?" (p. 17).
The dream content is to be taken in all seriousness as something
that has actually happened to us. . . . Every dream is a source
of information and a means of self-regulation; . . . dreams are
our most effective aids in building up the personality (p. 18).
Theoretically, there do exist relatively fixed symbols . . . .
If there were no relatively fixed symbols, it would be impossible
to determine the structure of the unconscious (p. 21).
I . . . regard the symbol as the announcement of something unknown,
hard to recognize, and not to be fully determined (p. 22).
It is only through comparative studies in mythology, folk-lore,
religion, and language that we can determine these symbols in
a scientific way. The evolutionary stages through which the human
psyche has passed are more clearly discernible in the dream than
in consciousness. The dream speaks in images and gives expression
to instincts that are derived from the most primitive levels of
nature. Consciousness all too easily departs from the law of nature,
but it can be brought again into harmony with the latter by the
assimilation of unconscious contents. By fostering this process,
[one comes to] the rediscovery of the law of one's own being (p.
Lionel Corbett's, The Religious Function of the Psyche
of this book, based on clinical practice, is that any emotional
difficulty is seen as an attempt of the Self to draw the individual
toward greater Self-consciousness. One way to the experience of
the Self is by means of our psychopathology, since an archetypal
strand of the Self is found within it (p. 110).
We can carry
our own wounds with the realization that they both derive from
the Self and are healed by the Self. Our struggle now is for conscious
participation in this process rather than for vicarious sacrifice;
each individual must make his or her own sacrifice as demanded
by the Self (p. 111).
soul, and body can be considered to be different aspects of consciousness
that are experienced at different intensities and with different
degrees of familiarity. The soul is then an aspect of consciousness
that extends, or incarnates, into the human being; consciousness
as spirit extends far beyond the individual. Much of our therapy
carries with it the implicit assumption that, not only does spirit
manifest itself within and by means of the human body and psyche,
it also seeks its own continuing development therein (p. 118).
From the intrapsychic perspective [of Job's problem], Satan, or
the dark side of the Self in the story of Job, can be regarded as
a severe neurosis that persecutes Job and colors his image of divinity.
Job has developed a depression; his superficially righteous behavior
actually belies a serious unconscious problem. His situation exemplifies
the idea that, because of the overpowering numinosity of the archetype
at the center of a painful complex, emotional disturbance is an
important manifestation of the divine for the sufferer (p. 130).
psyche (or that of the collective consciousness he represents),
the unconscious, dark side of the Self (personified as Satan)
causes inexplicable suffering, like any complex that is autonomous
and unintegrated. Of crucial importance, Job maintains his own
orientation to his suffering and ignores the collective approaches
personified by his "comforters." He seeks to understand
what has happened and develops the belief that his misfortunes
must have some transpersonal meaning and are not random or necessarily
the result of some unacknowledged sin. He is eventually rewarded
in this position by a new vision of consciousness of the divine
- that is, a new Self image, or a more conscious God (p. 131).
Function of the Psyche, published by Brunner-Routledge (1991),
is available through Amazon (e.g.), used and new, from $11.65.
the Religious Function of the Psyche
no longer any gods whom we can invoke to help us. The great religions
of the world suffer from increasing anaemia because the helpful
numina have fled from the woods, rivers, mountains, and animals,
and the God-men have disappeared underground into the unconscious.
There we suppose they lead an ignominious existence among the
relics of the past, while we remain dominated by the great Déesse
Raison, who is our overwhelming illusion.
. . . . . . .
We are so captivated by and entangled in our subjective consciousness
that we have simply forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks
chiefly through dreams and visions.
. . . . . . .
Whatever else the unconscious may be, it is a natural phenomenon
that produces symbols, and these symbols prove to be meaningful.
. . . . . . .
At a time when all available energy is spent in the investiga-tion
of nature, very little attention is paid to the essence of [human-kind],
which is psyche, although many researches are made into its conscious
functions. But the really unknown part, which produces symbols,
is still virtually unexplored. We receive signals from it every
night, yet deciphering these communications seems to be such an
odious task that very few people in the whole civilized world
can be bothered with it. [Humankind's] greatest instrument, psyche,
is little thought of, if not actually mistrusted and despised.
This modern standpoint is surely onesided and unjust. It does
not even accord with the known facts. Our actual knowledge of
the unconscious shows it to be a natural phenomenon, and that,
like nature herself, it is at least neutral. It contains all aspects
of human nature - light and dark, beautiful and ugly, good and
evil, profound and silly. The study of individual as well as collective
symbolism is an enormous task, and one that has not yet been mastered.
But at last a beginning has been made. The results so far gained
are encouraging, and they seem to indicate an answer to many of
the questions perplexing present-day [hu]mankind.
-CW 18, § 598, 601, 603, 605, 607