Sunday, July 9, 2017

Something I Ready #20 – Carl Jung

I began re-reading though Jung's works a few weeks ago. Don't be surprised if he shows up here a few more times.

"The sun breaks from the mists of the horizon and climbs to undimmed brightness at the meridian. Once this goal is reached, it sinks down again towards the night. This process can be allegorized as a gradual seeping away of the water of life: one has to bend ever deeper to reach the source. When we are feeling on top of the world we find this exceedingly disagreeable; we resist the sunset tendency, especially when we suspect that there is something in ourselves which would like to follow this movement, for behind it we sense nothing good, only an obscure, hateful threat. So, as soon as we feel ourselves slipping, we begin to combat this tendency and erect barriers against the dark, rising flood of the unconscious and its enticements to regression, which all too easily takes on the deceptive guise of sacrosanct ideals, principles, beliefs, etc. If we wish to stay on the heights we have reached, we must struggle all the time to consolidate our consciousness and its attitude. But we soon discover that this praiseworthy and apparently unavoidable battle with the years leads to stagnation and desiccation of soul. Our convictions become platitudes ground out on a barrel-organ, our ideals become starchy habits, enthusiasm stiffens into automatic gestures. The source of the water of life seeps away. We ourselves may not notice it, but everybody else does, and that is even more painful. If we should risk a little introspection, coupled perhaps with an energetic attempt to be honest for once with ourselves, we may get a dim idea of all the wants, longings, and fears that have accumulated down there – a repulsive and sinister sight. The mind shies away, but life wants to flow down into the depths. Fate itself seems to preserve us from this, because each of us has a tendency to become an immovable pillar of the past. Nevertheless, the daemon throws us down, makes us traitors to our ideals and cherished convictions – traitors to the selves we thought we were. That is an unmitigated catastrophe, because it is an unwilling sacrifice. Things go very differently when the sacrifice is a voluntary one. Then it is no longer an overthrow, a 'transvaluation of values,' the destruction of all the we held sacred, but transformation and conservation. Everything young grows old, all beauty fades, all heat cools, all brightness dims, and every truth becomes stale and trite. For all these things have taken on shape, and all shapes are worn thin by the working of time; they age sicken, crumble to dust – unless they change. But change they can, for the invisible spark that generated them is potent enough for infinite generation. No one should deny the danger of the descent, but it can be risked. No one need risk it, but it is certain that some one will. And let those who go down the sunset way do so with open eyes, for it is a sacrifice which daunts even the gods. Yet every descent is followed by an ascent; the vanishing shapes are shaped anew, and a truth is valid in the end only if it suffers change and bears new witness in new images, in new tongues, like a new wine that is put into new bottles."
– Carl Jung, Symbols of Transformation (356-57)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Something I Read #19 – Carl Jung

Jung on scientific rationalism and traditionalism (which, I argue, is but another form of rationalism):

When we see how much trouble Jesus took to make the symbolical view of things acceptable to Nicodemus, as if throwing a veil over the crude reality, and how important it was -- and still is -- for the history of civilization that people whould think in this way, then one is at a loss to understand why the concern of modern psychology with symbolism has met with such violent disapprobation in many quarters. It is as necessary today as it ever was to lead the libido away from the cult of rationalism and realism -- not, indeed, because these things have gained the upper hand (quite the contrary), but because the guardians and custodians of symbolical truth, namely the religions, have been robbed of their efficacy by science. Even intelligent people no longer understand the value and purpose of symbolical truth, and the spokesmen of religion have failed to dliver an apologetic suited to the spirit of the age. Insistence on the bare concretism of dogma, or ethics for ethics' sake, or even a humanization of the Christ-figure coupled with inadequate attempts to write his biography, are singularly unimpressive. Symbolical truth is exposed undefended to the attacks of scientific thought, which can never do justice to such a subject, and in face of this competition has been unable to hold its ground. The truth, however, still remains to be proved. Exclusive appeals to faith are a hopeless _petitio principii_, for it is the manifest improbability of a symbolical truth that prevents people from believing in it. Instead of insisting so glibly on the necessity of faith, the theologicans, it seems to me, should see what can be done to make this faith possible. But that means placing symbolical truth on a new foundation -- a foundation which appeals not only to sentiment, but to reason. And this can only be achieved by reflecting how it came about in the first place that humanity needed the improbability of religious statements, and what it signifies when a totally different spiritual reality is superimposed on the sensuous and tangible actuality of this world.

[. . .]

[. . .] Some people profess to be very shocked when I do not shrink from bringing even the sublimest spiritual ideas into relation with what they call the 'subhuman.' My primary concern, however, is to _understand_ these religious ideas, whose value I appreciate far too deeply to dispose of the with rationliastic arguments. What do we want, anyway, with things that cannot be understood? They appeal only to people for whom thinking and understanding are too much bother. Instead, we ask for blind faith and parise it to the skies. But that, in the end, only means educating ourselves to thoughtlessness and lack of criticism. What the 'blind faith' so long preached from the pulpit was ablt to do in Germany, when that country frinally turned its back on Christian dogma, has been bloodily demonstrated before our eyes by contemporary history. The really dangerous people are not the great heretics and unbelievers, but the swarm of petty thinkers, the rationalizing intellectuals, who suddenly discover how irrational all religious dogmas are. Anything not understood is given short shrift, and the highest values of symbolic truth are irretrievably lost.

[. . .]

'Legitimate' faith must always rest on experience. There is, however, another kind of faith which rests exclusively on the authority of tradition. This kind of faith could also be called 'legitimate,' since the power of tradition embodies and experience whose importance for the continuity of culture is beyond question. But with this kind of faith there is always the danger of mere habit supervening -- it may so easily degenerate into spiritual inertia and a thoughtless compliance which, if persisted in, threatens stagnation and cultural repression. This mechanical dependence goes hand in hand with a psychic regression to infantilism. The traditional contents gradually lose their real meaning and are only believed in as formalities, without this belief having any influence on the conduct of life. There is no longer a living power behind it. The much-vaunted 'child-likeness' of faith only makes sense when the feeling behind the experience is still alive. If it gets lost, faith is only another word for habitual, infantile dependence, which takes the place of, and actually prevents, the struggle for deeper understanding. This seems to be the position we have reached today.

Symbols of Transformation (1956; 226-27, 229, 232)