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Human Nature Does Not Yield Easily To Idealistic Advice


The Symbolic Life: Miscellaneous Writings (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 18)

There is little to criticize in Mr. Roberts’ article since its author is obviously a man of good will and optimistic enthusiasm.

Moreover, he points in the right direction, and he gives proper value to man’s mental and moral attitude.

He hopes and believes, it seems to me, that saying the right and good thing will be enough to produce the desired effect.

Unfortunately, human nature is a bit more complicated and does not yield to a well-meaning hint or to idealistic advice.

It always has been and still is the great question how to get the ordinary human to the point where he can make up his mind to draw the right conclusion and to do the right thing, or how to make him listen at all.

His moral and mental inertia and his notorious prejudices are the most serious obstacle to any moral or spiritual renaissance.

If he had been inclined to resist the overwhelming impact of his emotional entanglements, passions, and desires, and to put a stop to the haste and rush of his daily activities, and to try at least to get out of his lamentable yet cherished unconsciousness about himself, the world and its sad history of intrigue, violence, and cruelty would have reached a state of peace and humanity long before Christ-—in the time of Buddha or Socrates.

But to get him there, that’s just the trouble.

It is perhaps a good idea to liberate man from all inhibitions and prejudices that hamper, torment, and disfigure him.

But the question is less to liberate from something, than rather, as Nietzsche asked, to which end?

In certain cases it looks as if in getting rid of one’s inhibitions and burdens, one had “thrown away one’s best.”

Liberation can be a good or a very bad solution.

It largely depends upon the choice of one’s further goal whether the liberation has been a boon or a fatal mistake.

I don’t want to go further into the complexities of this problem, and moreover it would be unfair to criticize the author for something he obviously is not aware of, viz., the fact that this formulation of the problem dates from about forty years ago.

Since that time, a voluminous literature thoroughly dealing with the point in question has come into existence.

I don’t know which circumstances have prevented the author from informing himself about the more modern developments in the discussion between religion and psychology.

In view of Freud’s notorious inability to understand religion, the reader would have welcomed, if not expected, a summary at least of the main work done along this line during the past four decades. \Goodwill and enthusiasm ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 634-635