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Jung’s Seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra

Professor Jung:

I hope you realize that “The Happy Isles,” is a very intricate chapter, difficult and profound.

It contains problems of the greatest importance, and I must confess I feel a bit hesitant in commenting upon it because it leads us into depths which are difficult to deal with.

You remember we got as far as that paragraph where he speaks of the possibility of our being at least the great grandfathers of the Superman.

He [Neitzche] continues,

God is a conjecture: but I should like your conjecturing restricted to the conceivable. Could ye conceive a God?-But let this mean Will to Truth unto you, that everything be transformed into the humanly conceivable, the humanly visible, the humanly sensible! Your own discernment shall ye follow out to the end!

We are already acquainted with the fact that Nietzsche takes God as a human conjecture that is not even very commendable, and he also declares God to be dead.

Here we see a deeper reason for this particular attitude.

It is less a concession to the spirit of his age than a concession, one could say, to his own honesty; he doesn’t care to make a conjecture which goes beyond the reach of man.

This attitude was prepared by Kant; as you know, Kant has shown in an irrefutable way that one cannot make metaphysical assumptions.

The spirit of the age influenced Nietzsche to a great extent nevertheless in his assumption that God was a human conjecture; one could hold just as well that he was an
experience. Kant left it open: he clearly saw that his intellectual or philosophical criticism was just philosophical criticism and he did not touch upon the field of experience, particularly the experience of things which cannot be submitted to theological criticism.

You see, he lived at a time when to assume or even to explain the world through the existence of God was taken for granted. It was the truth.

It was considered quite reasonable then to think in such a way.

As late as the 18th century practically every scientific book began with the creation of the world by God, the six days’ work.

It was absolutely certain, with no discussion, that God had created the world and still maintained the functioning of the world.

But in the time of Nietzsche that former immediate certainty was lost sight of, so Nietzsche’s saying that God is a conjecture is not only a concession to the spirit of his time, but is also the conscientiousness of the critical philosopher which does not allow him to assume more than he can prove, or more than is within the human scope.

To assume, like the dogmatic Christian formulation, that God is the infinite or eternal one, or that he has any such quality, is an absolutely man-made assumption, and an
honest man will never make any statement which reaches beyond the limits of the human mind.

It is as if you promised to pay somebody one million francs after two hundred years; naturally in two hundred years you will no longer exist, and moreover you never will have such a sum at your disposal, so you have overreached yourself.

An honest and responsible thinker therefore will restrain himself and refrain from making such assumptions.

The fallacy is of course the assumption that God is only a conjecture, for he might be an experience, but the recognition of that possibility had completely disappeared, certainly from the field of Nietzsche’s vision.

You see, the assumption that the conception of God is really man-made is, as an assumption, perfectly all right-nobody can contradict it, just as a blind belief in the dogma cannot be discussed philosophically.

So he asks, “Could ye conceive a God?”

No, you cannot; you cannot conceive of something that is outside of human reach.

By saying a thing is infinite you have not created infinity, but have created a mere word.

Therefore Nietzsche says that it is the will to truth in man which forbids him to invent something which is not humanly conceivable, and that this attitude should be the regulation of one’s thought, in order that one may never assume more.

Also concerning the nature of the world you must not make any assumptions that overreach human limits; you must have the courage to create a world which is admittedly man-made and anthropomorphous.

In other words you must admit the anthropomorphous quality of all conceptions.

Now, this is an attitude which we meet every day, because we are still inclined to assume that our scientific truth is something more than man-made, that it has a certain objectivity, and is not relative only.

But as a matter of fact, whatever we touch or experience is within the scope of our psychology.

If I should say such a thing to a professor of philosophy he would kill me on the spot, because that means doing away with his assumption that his thinking is beyond psychology.

But the universal image of the world is a psychological fact or feature, though it is influenced, I admit, by something beyond our psychology.

What that is we don’t know.

There the physicist has the last word: he will inform us that it consists of atoms and peculiar things within the atoms, but that hypothesis is constantly changing, and there
we have clearly come to a certain end.

If he goes a bit further he begins to speculate, then he falls into the mind, and presumably he falls right into the collective unconscious, where he discovers the psychologist already at work.

The speculative modern physicist will surely come into very close contact with the psychologist, and as a matter of fact he already has.

~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 926-928. [Dr. Jung discusses “Will to Truth” on Pages 926-928 and Pages 1119-1121.]

[Nietzche] Your people would ye justify in their reverence: that called ye “Will to Truth,” ye famous wise ones!

[Dr. Jung] That is also quite obvious.

[Nietzche] And your heart hath always said to itself: “From the people have I come: from thence came to me also the voice of God.”

[Dr. Jung] Now this is a bit more serious-this is a terrifying truth really.

We have all come from the people-we are the people-and if the majority say; “I am the voice of God,” well then, this is a truth because it works.

The majority of the people establish it, and the greater part of myself is collective, made of entirely collective stuff.

The molecules of my body are chemically in no way different from the molecules of anybody else.

The making of my mind is absolutely the same as everybody else’s.

There is only a peculiar variation of the composition, the element in myself that accounts for my so-called individuality.

So to begin with, we are 99•99999 percent collective, and just a bit of unaccountable something is individual.

But that is the thumbling which is the maker of things, or the grain of mustard that becomes the whole kingdom of heaven.

This is a funny fact but it is so.

You see, there is a definite valid stand point that vox populi est vox Dei, “that the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

For instance, if you are convinced that humanity is a manifestation of the divine will, you must assume that the voice of humanity is a manifestation of the divine voice, and so you must own that the consensus gentium, the consent of the majority of human beings, establishes the truth.

And it is really so: a truth is a truth as long as it works.

We have no other criterion except in cases where we can experiment, but they are very few.

We cannot experiment with history or geology or astronomy for example.

There are few natural sciences in which we can experiment.

So this standpoint that the people’s voice is the voice of God, a superior overwhelming voice, is a very important psychological truth which has to be taken into consideration in every case.

You see, Nietzsche preaches that truth, but of course in an unconscious sense.

He blames them for having such a view, but it would be a redeeming truth to himself if he could only accept it.

For he is just the one who says that the voice of the people is nonsense, that there is only one truth and that an individual truth.

He believes that his truth is the only truth. But how can anyone say his truth is the only one?

Yet, that is the individualistic point of view, which leads people far afield and very often quite astray.

Of course it is necessary that a person should have his own individual point of view, but he should know that he is then in terrible conflict with the vox populi in himself and that is what we always forget.

We must never forget that our individual conviction is a sort of Promethean sin, a violence against the laws of nature that we are all fishes in one shoal and in one river; and if we are not, it is a presumption, a rebellion.

And that conflict is in ourselves.

But the individual thinks that the conflict is by no means in himself, and whatever individual feeling he has on account of an individual conception, he projects into others: they are against me because I have such a conception-entirely forgetting that he is against himself.

If ever you discover an individual truth, you will find that you are in a conflict about it.

You are contradicted by yourself and at every turn you meet an obstacle which you think other people have put in your way.

Inasmuch as you make individual opinions public naturally you will meet obstacles, and then you take it as a truth that you are persecuted; you develop a sort of paranoia.

Therefore whoever discovers an individual truth should discover at the same time that he is the first enemy of himself, that he is the one who has the strongest objection to his truth, and he should be careful not to project it or he will develop a paranoia. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 1119-1121.