The Most Significant Stimulus Derived From C.G. Jung by Barbara Hannah

As has been repeatedly pointed out in the press since the death of C. G. Jung, the most striking thing about him was that he was never content to leave any idea as a mere idea, but always tried it out in his own life, so that he himself was his own living psychology.

Therefore every contact with him was a challenge and a stimulus which revealed one-often very painfully-to oneself.

Nevertheless, I welcomed the question: ‘What is the most significant stimulus that each contributor has derived from C. G. Jung?’ for it forced one to reflect on these stimuli and on where they had had the most far-reaching effect.

Looking back, I see the strongest stimulus for myself in something he said in a lecture in 1938.

Jung was speaking on a Tibetan text, ‘Shri-Chakra-Sambhara Tantra’, where, after the Yogin’ s statement: ‘I am Buddha’ (meant, as Jung pointed out, in the sense of: ‘I as the Eternal
Being am Buddha’), the senses and emotions rise up to contradict the Yogin angrily.

The Yogin must meditate on these as five male Devatas: delusion, anger, greed, miserliness, and jealousy.

Jung showed several pictures where such situations are depicted in the form of small figures coming out of the Yogin’ s head.

He then pointed out what a high degree of culture such a picture revealed: the ability to objectify and personify the chaotic emotions in a form where it was then possible to have it out, and even to come to terms, with them.

He added that this culture was entirely unknown in the West.

Back in 1930, Mrs. Jung had drawn my attention to the fact that it was possible to come to terms with negative emotions and to find a value in them.

They should not be repressed but rather related to and given a voice, in order that we should learn what it was they really wanted (cf. Jung, 1916).

I realized the importance of this point of view and tried-without much success-to apply it.

But when Jung spoke of this Eastern culture, I felt that it rang a bell which was heard by all the different parts of my psyche, and that now a conscious effort, to find a Western equivalent to this Eastern culture, might meet with co-operation, instead of as before with opposition, from the unconscious.

Of course, Jung had already found a Western equivalent in the method of active imagination; however, just as he was never content to leave an idea in the head without integrating it in his life, we cannot afford to take over his ideas ready-made, but must experiment with and suffer from them until we find a form to which our own unconscious will respond.

I had already done a lot of active imagination before this far-reaching stimulus occurred, but evidently in too imitative a way, for, though it had made a lot of sense on the upper levels, so to speak, it had left the foundation such basic unruly things as rage, resentment, ambition, and jealousy-untouched.

They had just moved their quarters, as it were, and gone into new hiding-places, but fundamentally they were quite unmoved.

It was the idea that the East had actually built up a culture on the objectivation of those negative inner emotions and senses, which Christianity dismissed as unworthy and sinful, that opened up a new possibility to me.

I knew it was no longer effective in the East-except in a few exceptional individuals-just as the Christian method of resisting sin is no longer effective in the West.

I had long since despaired of the latter being in any sense my way; but what if one tried the former?

Not indeed as the East did-for its dogma is always too far from our Western make-up-but subjectively, encouraged by the fact that the East had found this way of dealing with the negative so effective that it had founded a kind of dogma on it.

This felt much more hopeful than the Western denial of sin, and the fact that I knew I could not imitate the East encouraged me to have it out with my own unconscious and to search for an individual form of active imagination which would appeal to the negative as well as the positive side of my unconscious.

The original stimulus in 1938 was greatly strengthened about ten years later by something which Jung said in a discussion at the Psychological Club in Zurich.

He was asked if he thought that the atom bomb would be used, and replied that he thought it would depend on how many people could stand the tension of the opposites in themselves.

If enough could stand this tension, he thought atomic war might just be avoided ( on the principle of the rainmaker of Kiaochow (cf. Read, 1960)).

But if that were not the case and the atom bomb were to be used on a large scale, he had little doubt that our culture would be entirely destroyed.

It is obvious that, to stand the tension of the opposites, it is necessary to know both of them in ourselves, and, because of nearly 2,000 years of the Christian point of view towards evil
( which is written in our blood, however much or little Christian teaching we may have received in our youth), the negative pole usually seems the most difficult to realize.

Ever and again it projects itself beyond the Iron Curtain and we see ourselves

merely as its helpless victims. But as Jung says in the Psychology of the Transference (1946, C.W.,16, p.302): ‘Can we ever really endure ourselves? “Do unto others … “-this is as true of evil as of good.’

The threat of atomic war is far more acute today than it was in the late ‘forties, and outwardly most of us are only able to wait passively to see what happens.

But Jung’s suggestion, that if enough of us can stand the tension of the opposites in ourselves the situation might yet be saved, gives us an impetus and a chance to lay ‘an infinitesimal grain in the scales of humanity’s soul’, as Jung himself expressed it in another connection (Jung, 1946, C.W., 16, p. 234). ~Barbara Hannah, Contact with Jung, 129-130