C. G. Jung Writes About the European Mind and God
We are still as possessed by our autonomous psychic contents as if they were gods. Today they are called phobias, compulsions, and so forth, or in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but the solar plexus, and creates specimens for the physician’s consulting room, or disturbs the brains of the politicians and journalists who then unwittingly unleash mental epidemics.
If tendencies towards disassociation were not inherent in the human psyche, parts never would have been split off; in other words, neither spirits nor gods would ever have come to exist. That is the reason, too, that our time is so utterly godless and profane, for we lack knowledge of the unconscious psyche and pursue the cult of consciousness to the exclusion of all else. Our true religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it, coupled with a fanatical denial that there are parts of the psyche which are autonomous. But we differ from the Buddhist yoga doctrine in that we even deny that such autonomous parts are experienceable. A great psychic danger arises here, because the parts then behave like any other repressed contents: they necessarily induce wrong attitudes, for the repressed material appears again in consciousness in a spurious form. This fact, which is so striking in every case of neurosis, holds true also, for collective psychic phenomena. In this respect our time is caught in a fatal error: we believe we can criticize religious facts intellectually; we think, for instance, like Laplace, that God is a hypothesis which can be subjected to intellectual treatment, to affirmation or denial. It is completely forgotten that the reason mankind believes in the ‘daemon’ has nothing whatever to do with outside factors, but is due to simple perception of the powerful inner effect of the autonomous fragmentary systems. This effect is not nullified by criticizing its name intellectually, nor by describing it as false. The effect is collectively always present; the autonomous systems are always at work, because the fundamental structure of the unconscious is not touched by the fluctuations of a transitory consciousness.
If we deny the existence of the autonomous systems, imagining that we have got rid of them by a critique of the name, then their effect which nevertheless continues cannot be understood, and they can no longer be assimilated to consciousness. They become an inexplicable factor of disturbance which we finally assume must exist somewhere or other outside of ourselves. In this way, a projection of the autonomous fragmentary systems results, and at the same time a dangerous situation is created, because the disturbing effects are now attributed to bad will outside ourselves which of course is not to be found anywhere but at our neighbour’s—de l’autre cote de la riviere. This leads to collective delusions, ‘incidents’, war, and revolution, in a word, to destructive mass psychoses.
Insanity is possession by an unconscious content which, as such, is not assimilated to consciousness; nor can it be assimilated, since the conscious mind has denied the existence of such contents. Expressed in terms of religion, the attitude is equivalent to saying: ‘”We no longer have any fear of God and believe that everything is to be judged by human standards.’ This hybris, that is, this narrowness of consciousness, is always the shortest way to the insane asylum. I recommend the excellent presentation of this problem in H. G. Wells’ novel
Christina Alberta’s Father, and Schreber’s Denkwurdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken.
The enlightened European is likely to be relieved when it is said in the Hui Ming Ching that the ‘shapes formed by the spirit-fire are only empty colors and forms’. That sounds quite European and seems to suit our reason excellently. Indeed, we think we can flatter ourselves at having already reached these heights of clarity because we imagine we have left such phantoms of gods far behind. But what we have outgrown are only the word-ghosts, not the psychic facts which were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as possessed by our autonomous psychic contents as if they were gods. Today they are called phobias, compulsions, and so forth, or in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but the solar plexus, and creates specimens for the physician’s consulting room, or disturbs the brains of the politicians and journalists who then unwittingly unleash mental epidemics.
So it is better for Western man if at the start he does not know too much about the secret insight of Eastern wise men, for it would be a case of the ‘right means in the hands of the wrong man’. Instead of allowing himself to be convinced once more that the daemon is an illusion, the Westerner ought again to experience the reality of this illusion. He ought to learn to recognize these psychic forces again, and not wait until his moods, nervous states, and hallucinations make clear to him in the most painful way possible that he is not the only master in his house. The products of the disassociation tendencies are actual psychic personalities of relative reality. They are real when they are not recognized as such and are therefore projected; relatively real when they are related to the conscious (in religious terms, when a cult exists); but they are unreal to the extent that consciousness has begun to detach itself from its contents. However, this last is the case only when life has been lived so exhaustively, and with such devotedness, that no more unfulfilled obligations to life exist, when, therefore, no desires that cannot be sacrificed unhesitatingly stand in the way of inner detachment from the world. It is futile to lie to ourselves about this. Wherever we are still attached, we are still possessed; and when one is possessed, it means the existence of something stronger than oneself. (‘Truly from thence thou wilt ne’er come forth until thou hast paid the last farthing.’) It is not a matter of indifference whether one calls something a ‘mania’ or a ‘god.’ To serve a mania is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is decidedly more meaningful and more productive because it means an act of submission to a higher, spiritual being. The personification enables one to see the relative reality of the autonomous psychic fragmentary system, and thus makes its assimilation possible and depotentiates the forces of fate. Where the god is not acknowledged, ego-mania develops, and out of this mania comes illness.
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