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Carl Jung on Life Anthology


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Analysis, thus understood, is by no means a therapeutic method of which the medical profession holds a monopoly.

It is an art, a technique, a science of psychological life, which the patient, when cured, should continue to practise for his own good and for the good of those amongst whom he lives.

If he understands it in this way, he will not set himself up as a prophet, nor as a world reformer; but, with a sound sense of the general good, he will profit by the knowledge he has acquired during treatment, and his influence will make itself felt more by the example of his own life than by any high discourse or missionary propaganda. Carl Jung, CW 7, Para 502

It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them. Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 794

Psychic development cannot be accomplished by intention and will alone; it needs the attraction of the symbol, whose value quantum exceeds that of the cause.

But the formation of a symbol cannot take place until the mind has dwelt long enough on the elementary facts, that is to say until the inner or outer necessities of the life-process have brought about a transformation of energy. Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 47.

Do we ever understand what we think?

We only understand that kind of thinking which is a mere equation, from which nothing comes out but what we have put in.

That is the working of the intellect.

But besides that [Intellect] there is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the histor- ical man, which are inborn in him from the earliest times, and, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still make up the groundwork of the human psyche.

There is a widespread prejudice that analysis is something like a “cure,” to which one submits for a time and is then discharged healed.

That is a layman’s error left over from the early days of psychoanalysis.

Analytical treatment could be described as a readjustment of psychological attitude achieved with the help of the doctor.

Naturally this newly won attitude, which is better suited to the inner and outer conditions, can last a consider- able time, but there are very few cases where a single “cure” is permanently successful.

It is true that medical optimism has never stinted itself of publicity and has always been able to report definitive cures.

We must, however, not let ourselves be deceived by the all-too-human attitude of the practitioner, but should always remember that the life of the unconscious goes on and continually produces problematical situations.

There is no need for pessimism; we have seen too many excellent results achieved with good luck and honest work for that.

But this need not prevent us from recognizing that analysis is no once-and-for-all “cure”; it is no more, at first, than a more or less thorough readjustment.

There is no change that is unconditionally valid over a long period of time. Life has always to be tackled anew.
There are, of course, extremely durable collective attitudes which permit the solution of typical conflicts.

A collective attitude enables the individual to fit into society without friction, since it acts upon him like any other condition of life.

But the patient’s difficulty consists precisely in the fact that his individual problem cannot be fitted without friction into a collective norm; it requires the solution of an individual conflict if the whole of his personality is to remain viable.

No rational solution can do justice to this task, and there is absolutely no collective norm that could replace an individual solution without loss.

The new attitude gained in the course of analysis tends sooner or later to become inadequate in one way or

another, and necessarily so, because the constant flow of life again and again demands fresh adaptation. Adaptation is never achieved once and for all.

One might certainly demand of analysis that it should enable the patient to gain new orientations in later life, too, without undue difficulty.

And experience shows that this is true up to a point.

We often find that patients who have gone through a thorough analysis have considerably less difficulty with new adjustments later on.

Nevertheless, these difficulties prove to be fairly frequent and may at times be really troublesome.

That is why even patients who have had a thorough analysis often turn to their old analyst for help at some later period. In the light of medical practice in general there is nothing very unusual about this, but it does contradict a certain misplaced enthusiasm on the part of the therapist as well as the view that analysis constitutes a unique “cure.”

In the last resort it is highly improbable that there could ever be a therapy that got rid of all difficulties. Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.What concerns us here is only an excessive amount of them. Carl Jung, CW 8, Paras 142-143.

The nearer we approach to the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal attitudes and social positions, the more it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of behaviour.

For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid, and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them.

We overlook the essential fact that the social goal is attained only at the cost of a diminution of personality. Many—far too many —aspects of life which should also have been experienced lie in the lumber-room among dusty memories; but sometimes, too, they are glowing coals under grey ashes. Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 772

Wholly unprepared, we embark upon the second half of life.

Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world?

No, thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto.

But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie. Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 784

The ego-conscious personality is only a part of the whole man, and its life does not yet represent his total life.

The more he is merely “I,” the more he splits himself off from the collective man, of whom he is also a part, and may even find himself in opposition to him.

But since everything living strives for wholeness, the inevitable onesidedness of our conscious life is continually being corrected and compensated by the universal human being in us, whose goal is the ultimate integration of conscious and unconscious, or better, the assimilation of the ego to a wider personality. Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 557.

The psyche is part of the inmost mystery of life, and it has its own peculiar structure and form like every other organism. Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 187.

I am of the opinion that the psyche is the most tremendous fact of human life. Indeed, it is the mother of all human facts; of civilization and of its destroyer, war. Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 206.

The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understand- ing that we can never know what evil may not be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, and what good may very possibly lead to evil. Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 397
The alchemist saw the union of opposites under the symbol of the tree, and it is therefore not surprising that the unconscious of present-day man, who no longer feels at home in his world and can base his existence neither on the past that is no more nor on the future that is yet to be, should hark back to the symbol of the cosmic tree rooted in this world and growing up to heaven—the tree that is also man.

In the history of symbols this tree is described as the way of life itself, a growing into that which eternally is and does not change; which springs from the union of opposites and, by its eternal presence, also makes that union possible.

It seems as if it were only through an experience of symbolic reality that man, vainly seeking his own “existence” and making a philosophy out of it, can find his way back to a world in which he is no longer a stranger. Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 198

How often in the critical moments of life everything hangs on what appears to be a mere nothing! Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 408

I say to the young psychotherapist: Learn the best, know the best—and then forget everything when you face the patient.

No one has yet become a good surgeon by learning the text-books off by heart.

Yet the danger that faces us today is that the whole of reality will be replaced by words. This accounts for that terrible lack of instinct in modern man, particularly the city-dweller. He lacks all contact with the life and breath of nature.
He knows a rabbit or a cow only from the illustrated paper, the dictionary, or the movies, and thinks he knows what it is really like-and is then amazed that cowsheds “smell,” because the dictionary didn’t say so.

It is the same with the danger of making a diagnosis.

One knows that this disease is treated by So-and-so in chapter seventeen, and one thinks that this is the im-

portant thing.

But the poor patient goes on suffering. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 882

No man can begin with the present; he must slowly grow into it, for there would be no present but for the past.

A young person has not yet acquired a past, therefore he has no present either. He does not create culture, he merely exists.
It is the privilege and the task of maturer people, who have passed the meridian of life, to create culture. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 272

In the neurosis is hidden one’s worst enemy and best friend.

One cannot rate him too highly, unless of course fate has made one hostile to life.

There are always deserters, but they have nothing to say to us, nor we to them. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 359

Hidden in the neurosis is a bit of still undeveloped personality, a precious fragment of the psyche lacking which a man is condemned to resignation, bitterness, and everything else that is hostile to life.

A psychology of neurosis that sees only the negative elements empties out the baby with the bath-water, since it neglects the positive meaning and value of these “infantile”—i.e., creative—fantasies. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 355

The more a man or woman is unconsciously influenced by the parental imago, the more surely will the figure of the loved one be chosen as either a positive or a negative substitute for the parents.

The far-reaching influence of the parental imago should not be considered abnormal; on the contrary, it is a very normal and therefore very common phenomenon.

It is, indeed, very important that this should be so, for otherwise the parents are not reborn in the children, and the parental imago becomes so completely lost that all continuity in the life of the individual ceases.

He cannot connect his childhood with his adult life, and therefore remains unconsciously a child—a situation that is the best possible foundation for a neurosis.

He will then suffer from all those ills that beset parvenus without a history, be they individuals or social groups. It is normal that children should in a certain sense marry their parents. This is just as important, psychologically, as the biological necessity to infuse new blood if the ancestral tree is to produce a good breed.

It guarantees continuity, a reasonable prolongation of the past into the present. Only too much or too little in this direction is harmful. So long as a positive or negative resemblance to the parents is the deciding factor in a love choice, the re-

lease from the parental imago, and hence from childhood, is not complete.

Although childhood has to be brought along for the sake of historical continuity, this should not be at the expense of further development.

Woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and loosener, whereas from ancient times the ruling principle ascribed to man is Logos.

The concept of Eros could be ex pressed in modern terms as psychic relatedness, and that of Logos as objective interest. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 255

The great events of world history are, at bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual.

This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations first take place, and the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately spring as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals.

In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its suffer- ers, but also its makers. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 315.

Unlived life is a destructive, irresistible force that works softly but inexorably. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 252 Human imperfection is always a discord in the harmony of our ideals. Unfortunately, no one lives in the world as we desire it, but in the world of actuality where good and evil clash and destroy one another, where no creating or building can be done without dirtying one’s hands. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 263

No one can make history who is not willing to risk everything for it, to carry the experiment with his own life through to the bitter end, and to declare that his life is not a continuation of the past, but a new beginning.

Mere continuation can be left to the animals, but inauguration is the prerogative of man, the one thing he can boast of that lifts him above the beasts. Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 268

Whatever man’s wholeness, or the self, may mean per se, empirically it is an image of the goal of life spontaneously produced by the unconscious, irrespective of the wishes and fears of the conscious

It stands for the goal of the total man, for the realization of his wholeness and individuality with or without the consent of his will.

The dynamic of this process is instinct, which ensures that everything which belongs to an individual’s life shall enter into it, whether he consents or not, or is conscious of what is happening to him or not.

Obviously, it makes a great deal of difference subjectively whether he knows what he is living out, whether he understands what he is doing, and whether he accepts responsibility for what he proposes to do or has done. Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 745.

A dogma is always the result and fruit of many minds and many centuries, purified of all the oddities, short- comings, and flaws of individual experience.

But for all that, the individual experience, by its very poverty, is immediate life, the warm red blood pulsating today.

It is more convincing to a seeker after truth than the best tradition. Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 88 No one can know what the ultimate things are.

We must therefore take them as we experience them.

And if such experience helps to make life healthier, more beautiful, more complete and more satisfactory to yourself and to those you love, you may safely say: “This was the grace of God.” Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 167.

Above all, we know desperately little about the possibilities of continued existence of the individual soul after death, so little that we cannot even conceive how anyone could prove anything at all in this respect.

Moreover, we know only too well, on epistemological grounds, that such a proof would be just as impossible as the proof of God.

Hence we may cautiously accept the idea of karma only if we understand it as psychic heredity in the very widest sense of the word.

As is shown by the texts and their symbolism, the alchemist projected what I have called the process of individuation into the phenomena of chemical change.

A scientific term like “individuation” does not mean that we are dealing with something known and finally cleared up, on which there is no more to be said.

It merely indicates an as yet very obscure field of research much in need of exploration: the centralizing processes in the unconscious that go to form the personality.

We are dealing with life-processes which, on account of their numinous character, have from time immemorial provided the strongest incentive to the formation of symbols.

These processes are steeped in mystery; they pose riddles with which the human mind will long wrestle for a solution, and perhaps in vain.

For, in the last analysis, it is exceedingly doubtful whether human reason is a suitable instrument for this purpose.

Not for nothing did alchemy style itself an “art,” feeling—and rightly so—that it was concerned with creative processes that can be truly grasped only by experience, though intellect may
give them a name.

The alchemists themselves warned us: “Rumpite libros, ne corda vestra rumpantur” (Rend the books, lest your hearts be rent asunder), and this despite their insistence on study.

Experience, not books, is what leads to understanding. Carl Jung, CW 12, Para 564

Now and then it happened in my practice that a patient grew beyond himself because of unknown potentialities, and this became an experience of prime importance to me.

In the meantime, I had learned that all the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble.

They must be so, for they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system. They can never be solved, but only outgrown. Carl Jung, CW 13, Para 18.
The East teaches us another, broader, more profound, and higher understanding—understanding through life. “Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower” (1929), CW 13, § 2.

Science is the tool of the Western mind, and with it one can open more doors than with bare hands.

It is part and parcel of our understanding, and it obscures our insight only when it claims that the understanding
it conveys is the only kind there is.

The East teaches us another, broader, more profound, and higher understanding—understanding through life. Carl Jung, CW 13, Para 775

Nothing exerts a stronger psychic effect upon the human environment, and especially upon children, than the life which the parents have not lived. Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 4

Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.

The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its
purposes through him.

As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “man” in a higher sense—he is “collective man,” a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind.

That is his office, and it is some times so heavy a burden that he is fated to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being. Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 157

Nothing exerts a stronger psychic effect upon the human environment, and especially upon children, than the life which the parents have not lived. Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 4

Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.

The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him.

As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “man” in a higher sense—he is “collective man,” a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind.

That is his office, and it is some times so heavy a burden that he is fated to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being. Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 157

The artist’s relative lack of adaptation turns out to his advantage; it enables him to follow his own yearnings far from the beaten path, and to discover what it is that would meet the unconscious needs of his age.

Thus, just as the one-sidedness of the individual’s conscious attitude is corrected by reactions from the
unconscious, so art represents a process of self-regulation in the life of nations and epochs. Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 131

The creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image, and in elaborating and shaping this image into the finished work.

By giving it shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present, and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life.

Therein lies the social significance of art: it is constantly at work educating the spirit of the age, conjuring up the forms in which the age is most lacking.

The unsatisfied yearning of the artist reaches back to the primordial image in the
unconscious which is best fitted to compensate the inadequacy and one-sidedness of the present.

The artist seizes on this image, and in raising it from deepest unconsciousness he brings it into relation with conscious values, thereby transforming it until it can be accepted by the minds of his contemporaries according to their powers. Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 130

Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him his instrument.

The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its
purposes through him.

As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “man” in a higher sense—he is “collective man,” a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind.

That is his office, and it is sometimes so heavy a burden that he is fated to sacrifice
happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being. Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 157

In its primary “unconscious” form the animus is a compound of spontaneous, unpremeditated opinions which exercise a powerful influence on the woman’s emotional life, while the anima is similarly compounded of feelings which thereafter influence or distort the man’s understanding (“she has turned his head”).

Consequently the animus likes to project himself upon “intellectuals” and all kinds of “heroes,” including tenors, artists, sporting celebrities, etc.

The anima has a predilection for everything that is unconscious, dark, equivocal, and unrelated in woman, and also for her vanity, frigidity, helplessness, and so forth. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 521.

The doctor knows—or at least he should know—that he did not choose this career by chance; and the psychotherapist in particular should clearly understand that psychic infections, however superfluous they seem to him, are in fact the predestined concomitants of his work, and thus fully in accord with the instinctive disposition of his own life. This realization also gives him the right attitude to his patient. The patient then means something to him personally, and this provides the most favourable basis for treatment. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 365.

All beginnings are small.

Therefore we must not mind doing tedious but conscientious work on obscure individuals, even though the goal towards which we strive seems unattainably far off.

But one goal we can attain, and that is to develop and bring to maturity individual personalities.

And inasmuch as we are convinced that the individual is the carrier of life, we have served life’s purpose if one tree at least succeeds in bearing fruit, though a thousand others remain barren.

Anyone who proposed to bring all growing things to the highest pitch of luxuriance would soon find the weeds—those hardiest of perennials—waving above his head.

I therefore consider it the prime task of psychotherapy today to pursue with singleness of purpose the goal of individual development.

So doing, our efforts will follow nature’s own striving to bring life to the fullest possible fruition in each individual, for only in the individual can life fulfil its meaning—not in the bird that sits in a gilded cage. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 229.

If man cannot exist without society, neither can he exist without oxygen, water, albumen, fat, and so forth.

Like these, society is one of the necessary conditions of his existence. It would be ludicrous to maintain that man lives in order to breathe air. It is equally ludicrous to maintain that the individual exists for society. “Society” is nothing more than a term, a concept for the symbiosis of a group of human beings. A concept is not a carrier of life.

The sole and natural carrier of life is the individual, and that is so throughout nature. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 224.

The united personality will never quite lose the painful sense of innate discord.

Complete redemption from the sufferings of this world is and must remain an illusion.

Christ’s earthly life likewise ended, not in complacent bliss, but on the cross. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 400

Individuation has two principal aspects: in the first place it is an internal and subjective process of integration, and in the second it is an equally indispensable process of objective relationship.

Neither can exist without the other, although sometimes the one and sometimes the other predominates. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 448

The goal is important only as an idea; the essential thing is the opus which leads to the goal: that is the goal of a lifetime. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 400

All the life which the parents could have lived, but of which they thwarted themselves for artificial motives, is passed on to the children in substitute form.

That is to say, the children are driven unconsciously in a direction that is intended to compensate for every- thing that was left unfulfilled in the lives of their parents.

Hence it is that excessively moral-minded parents have what are called “unmoral” children, or an irresponsible
wastrel of a father has a son with a positively morbid amount of ambition and so on. Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 328 The middle period of life is a time of enormous psychological importance. The child begins its psychological life within very narrow limits, inside the magic circle of the mother and the family.

With progressive maturation it widens its horizon and its own sphere of influence;
its hopes and intentions are directed to extending the scope of personal power and possessions; desire reaches out to the world in ever-widening range; the will of the individual becomes more and more identical with the natural goals pursued by unconscious motivations.

Thus man breathes his own life into things, until finally they begin to live of themselves and to multiply; and imperceptibly he is overgrown by them.

Mothers are overtaken by their children, men by their own creations, and what was originally brought into being only with labour and the greatest effort can no longer be held in check.

First it was passion, then it became duty, and finally an intolerable burden, a vampire that battens on the life of its creator. Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 331A.

Our personality develops in the course of life from germs that are hard or impossible to discern, and it is only our deeds that reveal who we are.

We are like the sun, which nourishes the life of the earth and brings forth every kind of strange, wonderful, and evil thing; we are like the mothers who bear in their wombs untold happiness and suffering.

At first we do not know what deeds or misdeeds, what destiny, what good and evil we have in us, and only the autumn can show what the spring has engendered, only in the evening will it be seen what the morning began. Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 290

Personality is a seed that can only develop by slow stages throughout life. There is no personality without definiteness, wholeness, and ripeness.
These three qualities cannot and should not be expected of the child, as they would rob it of childhood. Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 288

Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being.

It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self-determination. Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 289

It is an almost regular occurrence for a woman to be wholly contained, spiritually, in her husband, and for a husband to be wholly contained, emotionally, in his wife.

One could describe this as the problem of the “contained” and the “container.” Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 331C Creative life always stands outside convention.

That is why, when the mere routine of life predominates in the form of convention and tradition, there is bound to be a destructive outbreak of creative energy.

This outbreak is a catastrophe only when it is a mass phenomenon, but never in the individual who consciously submits to these higher powers and serves them with all his strength. Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 305

You see, man is in need of a symbolic life—badly in need.

We only live banal, ordinary, rational, or irrational things—which are naturally also within the scope of rationalism,otherwise you could not call them irrational. But we have no symbolic life.

Where do we live symbolically?

Nowhere, except where we participate in the ritual of life.

But who, among the many, are really participating in the ritual of life? Very few. Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 18

Her life makes sense, and makes sense in all continuity, and for the whole of humanity.

That gives peace, when people feel that they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama.

That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it.

A career, producing of children, are all maya compared with that one thing, that your life is meaningful. Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 630

My intuition consisted in a sudden and most unexpected insight into the fact that my dream meant myself, my life and my world, my whole reality as against a theoretical structure erected by another, alien mind for reasons and purposes of its own. Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 490

It is my practical experience that psychological understanding immediately revivifies the essential Christian ideas and fills them with the breath of life.

This is because our worldly light, i.e., scientific knowledge and understanding, coincides with the symbolic statement of the myth, whereas previously we were unable to bridge the gulf between knowing and believing. Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 1666

The utterances of the heart— unlike those of the discriminating intellect—always relate to the whole.

The heartstrings sing like an Aeolian harp only under the gentle breath of a mood, an intuition, which does not drown the song but listens.

What the heart hears are the great, all-embracing things of life, the experiences which we do not arrange ourselves but which happen to us. Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 1719

Death has laid its hand upon our friend.

The darkness out of which his soul had risen has come again and has undone the life of his earthly body, and has left us alone in pain and sorrow.

To many death seems to be a brutal and meaningless end to a short and meaningless existence. So it looks, if seen from the surface and from the darkness.
But when we penetrate the depths of the soul and when we try to understand its mysterious life, we shall discern that death is not a meaningless end, the mere vanishing into nothingness—it is an accomplishment, a ripe fruit on the tree of life.

Nor is death an abrupt extinction, but a goal that has been unconsciously lived and worked for during half a lifetime.

In the youthful expansion of our life we think of it as an ever increasing river, and this conviction accompanies us often
far beyond the noonday of our existence.

But if we listen to the quieter voices of our deeper nature we become aware of the fact that soon after the middle of our life the soul begins its secret work, getting ready for the departure.

Out of the turmoil and error of our life the one precious flower of the spirit begins to unfold, the four-petaled flower of
the immortal light, and even if our mortal consciousness should not be aware of its secret operation, it nevertheless does its
secret work of purification. Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 1705-7