[Carl Jung on the Phenomenon of God]

Here we have the whole weakness of the argument-that people will go on calling upon God when they look out upon distant seas.

They will say, “God, how wonderful!” just as the primitive Polynesians when they hear a gramophone say, “Mulungu,” meaning, “Is it not great!”

Whenever we are really astonished or overcome by something, whatever it is, either in a positive or a negative way, we exclaim, “God!”

And we swear by God; even people who do not believe in God swear and say “God damn you!”

A Frenchman says, “Oh, mon Dieu” on the slightest provocation, and a German says, “Ach Gott, lass mich in Ruhe,” or something of the sort.

Any Italian workman cries, “Per Dio” even when he is in a club of atheists or those Bolshevist clubs that try to kill God. It is so much in our language.

You will never find a single individual who says, “Oh Superman, what a fool you are!”-nobody will ever swear by the Superman.

So God is a natural phenomenon; it is the word that designates the thing that makes me.

You see, the word God has nothing to do with good; it comes from the root meaning “to beget.”

He is the begetter of things, the creator, the maker of things.

Anything that makes me, anything that creates my actual mood, or anything that is greater or stronger than myself-that is like my father that is called “God.”

When I am overcome by emotion, it is positively a god, and that is what people have always called “God,” a god of wrath, or a god of joy, or a god of love, for instance.

They have understood emotions as personalities in themselves.

Instead of getting angry, the demon of anger, an evil spirit, has entered my system, and makes me creates me-into an angry form, and therefore he is a god.

And that will be so forever as long as people are overcome by emotions, as long as they are not free.

Now Zarathustra, who is in a way the anticipation of the Superman, is overcome by all sorts of events: he gets angry, he weeps, he is the prey of his emotions exactly like Nietzsche.

Later, there is a very classical passage where you can see what happens when one thinks one is doing a thing which one is really not doing: when one thinks one is the creator of things, one is the victim of things.

So this primitive phenomenon which people call “God” is merely a statement of an overwhelming fact; there are parts of my psychical system which overwhelm me at times.

And since times immemorial, man has used such a figure of speech.

Of course there are certain idiots who have thought my conception of God was nothing but a human emotion; those are the idiots who think they know what an emotion is.

Now, I am not among them. I only know a phenomenon called “emotion,” but I could not tell you what it is because I don’t know what a psyche is-I have no idea what it is.

So when I say that phenomenon is called “God” I don’t give a definition of God.

I give a definition of that word and I leave it to him to manifest as he will; if he chooses to manifest through the worst sin that is his affair.

But those idiots who speak of emotion think they know what it is, or when I speak of the psyche they think they know what that is.

Ask a physicist what matter is. This is a hair-raising question.

So you never can really suppress the psychological fact of God through teaching the Superman, but it is of course a different question when it comes to the interpretation of Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman.

The definition we have made out as the probable or true one is that he really means the psychological concept of the self, but he makes the mistake of identifying with that idea; so the Superman becomes a sort of person within one’s reach more or less-that can be reached, say, in several generations.

You will see in the continuation of the text that though you may not now be able to create a Superman, your great grandson will perhaps be the Superman.

Now, inasmuch as the Superman is another term for the self, it is possible that the idea of a deity can transmigrate into another form, because the fact of God has been called by all names in all times.

There are, one could say, millions of names and formulations for the fact of God, so why not the self, quite easily?

You know that has already been done in the philosophy of the Upanishads and the Tantric philosophy for instance; they had that formulation long ago.

And the Christian conception of the Kingdom of Heaven within yourself contains all the symbolism of the self: the fortified city, the precious pearl, the stone, or the gold-there are plenty of symbols for the self.

It is also in Greek philosophy; Empedocles, for example, had the conception that the all-round being, the sphairos, was the eudaimonestatos theos, the most blissful God.”

Well, I think it must be rendered something like that: it must be one that is filled with the most blissful spirit and all-round like the Platonic primordial being, which is also the idea of the self.

So there are on all sides possibilities of identifying the idea of the divine factor with the self of man.

If you want to go a bit deeper into the definition of the self you must look up the literature; I should advise you, for instance, to read the Eranos of 1934 where Prof. Hauer has a very interesting article about the symbols of the self in the Upanishads and the Tantric philosophy.

Inasmuch, then, as you don’t identify the idea of the self with the person, with the subject, the ego man, it can be named a god just as well-that would be quite permissible-and it is quite apt to receive the substance of the divine factor.

I think this is the most valuable kernel in Nietzsche’s teaching, and it is the message to our time, in that it contains the doctrine of individuation, namely: that it is the duty of our
time to help to create the Superman, to prepare the way of the Superman.

But the moment you identify with the possible Superman or think that your grandson might be the Superman, you fall into the same trap that Nietzsche fell into-that he identifies with an intuition.

That is dangerous. If you can keep clear of that trap, it is really the answer of the whole psychological development throughout the Middle Ages.

It is the logical development out of Protestantism, for instance, inasmuch as Protestantism has deprived the church of its authority.

You see, the authority of the church is the authority of the dogma, and the authority of the dogma signifies or expresses the absolute authority of the divine factor, for the divine factor is then deprived of its subjectivity.

If you destroy the absolute authority of the church, the dogma, as Protestantism has done, you allow interpretations; and then naturally God becomes very relative to your interpretation.

Then you can say God is absolutely outside of yourself and you can pass judgment on him: he has no authority any longer.

You know that you hold one point of view and other people hold another; inasmuch as God is no longer guaranteed by the indisputable dogma of the church, he is a votre disposition; then you can model him, say things about him, like the famous modern Protestant Gogarten who says God can only be good.

He thinks he is saying something awfully nice about God but that is blasphemous. He deprives God of his possibilities.

He leaves him no choice. Think of the marvelous things you can do when you are also bad!

When you take the sayings of the Bible as the absolute authority, the word of God, it is just as if you were prohibiting a writer from publishing anything else.

For two thousand years God has been under the censorship of the priests.

He could not publish a new book, he could do nothing, because he had said in the Bible what he had to say and nothing could ever be changed.

That is a catastrophe because it is an encroachment upon divine rights, and moreover it is absolutely unpsychological inasmuch as the divine factor changes.

Inasmuch as the divine factor does not change, God remains the same and then the holy book is the absolute authority, the truth, because it catches the unconscious facts and expresses them.

You need nothing else-then it is absolute.

But the moment man changes, or the moment God changes, his truth is no longer his truth-it does not express him-and the authority of the hitherto prevailing notions comes to an end.

Then there will be a Protestant revolution, as was actually the case.

One can say that towards the end of the 15th century, God changed noticeably, or man changed noticeably.

You see the two must always be together; yet they are two, and you cannot say who changes first.

If you are a pious individual you will say God has changed, and if you are a worldly individual you will say man has changed and in order to suit man God was forced to say something new.

But it doesn’t matter which is older, the egg or the hen: the change came about and the old truth was no longer a truth.

So all that truth that made the church, that made the dogma, that made finally the eternally valid quality of the notion of God-all that has collapsed and is to be found nowhere apparently.

But nothing can get lost; all that authority is in the unconscious, and of course then you have it in your own body and you become all-important.

Then you begin to believe in individualism and such things, and the time of the great individuals begins.

That was in about the 16th century, we have certain confessions from those days which are highly interesting, the famous confession of Agrippa von Nettesheim, for instance, which I once quoted in my little biographical article about Paracelsus.

That was such an individualistic confession by a man for whom authority had completely collapsed, so that he himself became the authority: he was then identical with the absolutely divine uncertainty, with the creative uncertainty.

If you know a bit about medieval psychology you will be able to substantiate what I say-it was a most interesting time then, a tremendous time.

A certain megalomania that you find then in people is the God that came into man, and naturally in the first moment it had a great effect upon him.

He became very enthusiastic and the kingdom of heaven descended upon earth; but then instantly came all the consequences of such an inflation.

You know, after the Lutheran revolution immediately followed war, the terrible revolt of the peasants; it was an entirely mystical psychological movement but it was utterly
destructive and of course it caused Luther to restrict his innovations considerably.

Then came Protestantism, and there you see the interesting phenomenon that it has split up into about four hundred denominations, so its authority has gone utterly.

In Switzerland, for instance, practically every parson preaches his own gospel and it is not interesting at all. It is very personal, with no synthesis, no continuity; it is all subjectivized and there is not a trace of a church left.

And that is so practically everywhere, except in countries like England where there is a very strong tradition, but even there Protestantism is split up into all sorts of sects and denominations.

Only the Catholic church has kept the absolute form which guarantees the identity of God.

The ultimate outcome of that development will be that everybody will preach his own gospel.

If preachers will preach to themselves there will be exceedingly useful monologues because everybody will then tell himself what is the matter with himself.

Today they still tell other people what is the matter with them-they go on projecting.

Of course there are always fools enough who believe it, and it is probably all right because everybody makes mistakes, so it works quite well.

When you develop consistently as a true Protestant, of course you have to preach because God is in you, but do preach to yourself and then you are really on the way to the self.

Do what Nietzsche admonishes you to do, be a camel, load yourself and then preach to yourself.

I would say, don’t even write such a book as Zarathustra; that is a concession we must allow to Mr. Nietzsche as a gifted writer, but it would have been ever so much better for him if he had preached it to himself.

Of course if that moment should arrive, one would be absolutely alone. In all the millions of years before God created man, he had only his own society; if he talked at all he probably talked to himself.

That is expressed in the Upanishads as a particularly lonesome condition in which the creator found himself.

Therefore, he had to create an object and he created the world, the reason for the world was: that he might have an audience.

So if we should arrive at the condition of being our own audience, preaching to ourselves, we would be in a way small gods isolated in the universe, all-important because we would be our only object, but at the same time quite miserable because we would be so alone.

Many serious Protestants are probably isolated on account of that: the whole responsibility of the world rests upon them and they are alone with it.

If they repent, there is nobody to give them absolution; they depend perhaps upon the grace of God, but that conception of a god is very unsafe because they have to believe it.

When you ask how they arrive at the idea of God, they say one must believe it. But why should I believe such a thing?

Well, the word of God says so. But Paul did not believe in that kind of God at all; he persecuted the Christians, until on his way to Damascus he experienced God and then he knew.

That was pistis, the Greek word which means loyalty and confidence it has nothing to do with believing.

He trusted the fact that he had experienced something, because he had that experience he knew, and then he did not need to believe.

So when our parsons say you ought to believe, it is a mere confession of bankruptcy; either you know a thing and then you don’t need to believe it, or you don’t know it and then
why should you believe it?

That whole question, therefore, is linked up with the experience of the divine intercession; without that experience there is no need to believe.

Belief is good for the herd instinct.

Then you can make a community song together; you can sing, “We all believe!”-and that makes what we call a church or a community.

And there ceases the problem.

The problem with which Nietzsche is concerned cannot be even touched by people who are singing the community song, because they don’t need to bother with it-they remain a remnant of the Catholic church.

They did not develop as Protestants, but remained historical derelicts of the original Christian church.

But if they develop further as Protestants they will necessarily come to the tremendous problem to which Nietzsche came, namely, to the idea of the Superman, to the hitherto valid; they will then be concerned with what that is and what they should be in order to be able to deal with the terrible danger of inflation.

When one begins to preach to oneself, then, one is in danger of megalomania, or of being utterly crushed by an overwhelming feeling of inferiority.

You find both in modern man; on the one side, feelings of inferiority, and on the other side, a conviction of himself, an impertinent self-assertion or foolish megalomania.

And you find those two things also in Zarathustra. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 905-910.