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)

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