Psychology and Religion: West and East (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11)

[Carl Jung: Mankind as a whole is included in God’s human nature, which is why man is also included in the sacrificial act. (Referring to the Holy Communion of the Catholic Church.)]

Although this act is an eternal happening taking place within the divinity, man is nevertheless included in it as an essential component, firstly because God clothes himself in our human nature, and secondly because he needs the ministering co-operation of the priest and congregation, and even the material substances of bread and wine which have a special significance for man.

Although God the Father is of one nature with God the Son, he appears in time on the one hand as the eternal Father and on the other hand as a man with limited earthly existence.

Mankind as a whole is included in God’s human nature, which is why man is also included in the sacrificial act.

Just as, in the sacrificial act, God is both agens and patiens, so too is man according to his limited capacity.

The causa efficiens of the transubstantiation is a spontaneous act of God’s grace.

Ecclesiastical doctrine insists on this view and even tends to attribute the preparatory action of the priest, indeed the very existence of the rite, to divine prompting, rather than to slothful human nature with its load of original sin.

This view is of the utmost importance for a psychological understanding of the Mass.

Wherever the magical aspect of a rite tends to prevail, it brings the rite nearer to satisfying the individual ego’s blind greed for power, and thus breaks up the mystical body of the Church into separate units.

Where, on the other hand, the rite is conceived as the action of God himself, the human participants have only an instrumental or “ministering” significance.

The Church’s view therefore presupposes the following psychological situation: human consciousness (represented by the priest and congregation) is confronted with an autonomous event which, taking place on a “divine” and “timeless” plane transcending consciousness, is in no way dependent on human action, but which impels man to act by seizing upon him as an instrument and making him the exponent of a “divine” happening.

In theritual action man places himself at the disposal of an autonomous and “eternal” agency operating outside the categories of human consciousness si parva licet componere magnis in much the same way that a good actor does not merely represent the drama, but allows himself to be overpowered by the genius of the dramatist.

The beauty of the ritual action is one of its essential properties, for man has not served God rightly unless he has also served him in beauty.

Therefore the rite has no practical utility, for that would be making it serve a purpose a purely human category.

But everything divine is an end-in-itself, perhaps the only legitimate end-in-itself we know.

How something eternal can “act” at all is a question we had better not touch, for it is simply unanswerable.

Since man, in the action of the Mass, is a tool (though a tool of his own free will), he is not in a position to know anything about the hand which guides him.

The hammer cannot discover within itself the power which makes it strike. It is something outside, something autonomous, which seizes and moves him.

What happens in the consecration is essentially a miracle, and is meant to be so, for otherwise we should have to consider whether we were not conjuring up God by magic, or else lose ourselves in philosophical wonder how anything eternal can act at all, since action is a process in time with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

It is necessary that the transubstantiation should be a cause of wonder and a miracle which man can in no wise comprehend. It is a mysterium in the
sense of a secret that is acted and displayed.

The ordinary man is not conscious of anything in himself that would cause him to perform a “mystery.”

He can only do so if and when it seizes upon him.

This seizure, or rather the sensed or presumed existence of a power outside consciousness which seizes him, is the miracle par excellence, really and truly a miracle when one considers what is being represented.

What in the world could induce us to represent an absolute impossibility?

What is it that for thousands of years has wrung from man the greatest spiritual effort, the loveliest works of art, the profoundest devotion, the most heroic self-sacrifice, and the most exacting service? What else but a miracle?

It is a miracle which is not man’s to command; for as soon as he tries to work it himself, or as soon as he philosophizes about it and tries to comprehend
it intellectually, the bird is flown.

A miracle is something that arouses man’s wonder precisely because it seems inexplicable.

And indeed, from what we know of human nature we could never explain why men are constrained to such statements and to such beliefs. (I am thinking here of the impossible statements made by all religions.)

There must be some compelling reason for this, even though it is not to be found in ordinary experience.

The very absurdity and impossibility of the statements vouches for the existence of this reason.

That is the real ground for belief, as was formulated most brilliantly in Tertullian’s ” (And the Son of God is dead, which is
to be believed because it is absurd. And buried He rose again, which is certain because it is impossible).”

An improbable opinion has to submit sooner or later to correction. But the statements of religion are the most improbable of all and yet they persist for thousands of years.

Their wholly unexpected vitality proves the existence of a sufficient cause which has so far eluded scientific investigation. I can, as a psychologist, only
draw attention to this fact and emphasize my belief that there are no facile “nothing but” explanations for psychic phenomena of this kind. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 379.