QUESTION 5: Can I help the spirit of my dead father by trying to live in accordance with the demands of the unconscious?
Dr. Jung: Yes, provided—one must always add—that the spirit of the dead father [remains a living idea].
I call this idea hygienic, because when I think that way everything is right in my psychic life and when I don’t think that way everything goes wrong, then somewhere things don’t click, at least in the biological sense.
It’s as if I ate something that rationally considered is harmless but it doesn’t agree with me—I get the stomach ache.
But if I eat something that rationally considered is not good, it does agree with me so why shouldn’t I eat it?
It is even advisable to do so.
For instance, for many people there is no harm in drinking a glass of red wine, while for others it is sheer poison and can have very bad consequences, but that doesn’t mean that because it has bad consequences sometimes, one shouldn’t drink wine.
Rationally one can argue that the enjoyment of alcohol is harmful, but it is not true in general, only in certain cases.
So it is much better that we do what agrees with us than what does not agree with us.
It agrees with human beings to have ideas about things they cannot know.
And if they have these ideas that suit them, they are better off psychologically.
They feel better, they sleep better, have a better appetite, and that’s the only criterion we have.
It means a tremendous lot to people if they can assume their lives have an indefinite continuity; they live more sensibly, they don’t need to hurry any more.
They have centuries to waste, so why this senseless rush?
But of course one always wants to know whether it is really so—as if anyone knew whether it is really so! We know nothing at all.
Think of the physicists, they are the closest to reality, and yet they speak of models, of fields of probability.
That’s it, we just don’t know.
QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE: But the fact that such a need exists—We have many needs!
Yes, but just this one seems to indicate that something in the psyche proves that this idea—
Yes, but now go and ask a rationalist, he will say, Quite, quite!
And if you feel the need for a large income, what then ?—This need exists too, or to own a fine car, but that doesn’t prove he’ll get it.
We have many needs, you see.
The existence of a need proves only that it should be satisfied, and from that we deduce that we ought to have just those ideas which correspond to this need.
But for this need to arise, there must be something in it, like the psyche’s striving towards a goal.
Yes, but that still doesn’t prove anything.
It’s like when you have a patient who says, I simply must have a fine car, or else. So you tell him,
Then get one, go to it, work!
That is his reality, but it proves nothing.
Similarly, when someone says, I want to be immortal, that doesn’t make him immortal.
He has that need, but you can find many people who don’t admit to any such need.
And when you come to think of it, how frightful it would be to have to sit on a cloud for ten thousand years playing a harp!
Now the idea of the spirit of the dead father is a transcendent idea, but it serves a purpose and I would call it “reasonable.”
It is reasonable to think that way.
So supposing this spirit has a subjective existence, a consciousness of its own, then there also exists an ethical relation to what it is or what it wants or what it needs.
And if I live in such a way that it helps this spirit, it is a moral achievement from which I can expect satisfaction.
But the question we are being asked is: if I live in accordance with the demands of the unconscious.
That is too general.
In such a case I would say: What corresponds to the urgent need of the father should be compensated, not simply the unconscious—that’s going too far.
For instance, something the father has left unfinished.
Or the father appears to his daughter and tells her in a dream or in reality that he has buried a treasure somewhere which didn’t belong to him, but was stolen property and she should give it back.
These are situations that occur in reality.
Or he tells her that he had a philosophy which actually made him unhappy and so the daughter must think differently.
Only these specific relationships are really satisfactory.
They must fit the real character of the father, then the corresponding reaction can be expected, in so far as these transcendent ideas are any use at all.
This may be a quite ruthless question, but the real criterion is: Do they serve a purpose? Are they an advantage?
For if they accomplish nothing, why should I have these ideas?
But if I feel they are a positive advantage, then why shouldn’t I have them?
They cannot decide the issue one way or another, any more than we are in a position to understand actual reality and establish what it is: there are only fields of probability.
There are average predictable phenomena and there are just as many that are unpredictable—were it otherwise there would be no statistics! ~Carl Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 383-386.
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