CW 18; The Symbolic Life

The Rules of Life

In reply to your kind enquiry about “rules of life,”

I would like to remark that I have had so much to do with people that I have always endeavoured to live by no rules as far as possible.

Non-observance of rules requires, of course, far less effort, for usually one makes a rule in order to repress the tendency in oneself not to follow it.

In psychology, above all, rules are valid only when they can be reversed.

Also, they are not without their dangers, since they consist of words and our civilization is largely founded on a superstitious belief in words.

One of the supreme religious assumptions is actually the “Word.”

Words can take the place of men and things.

This has its advantages but it is also a menace.

One can then spare oneself the trouble of thinking for oneself or making any effort, to one’s own advantage or disadvantage and that of one’s fellows.

I have, for instance, a tendency to make a principle of doing what I want to do or should do as soon as possible.

This can be very unwise and even stupid.

The same applies to practically all adages and “rules of life.”

Take, for example, the saying, “Quidquid id est, prudenter agas et respice finem” (Whatever it be, act prudently and consider the end).

But in this way, however praiseworthy the principle is, you can let a vitally important decision of the moment slip through your fingers.

No rules can cope with the paradoxes of life.

Moral law, like natural law, represents only one aspect of reality.

It does not prevent one from following certain “regular” habits unconsciously—habits which one does not notice oneself but can only discover by  making careful inquiries among one’s fellows.

But people seldom enjoy having what they don’t know about themselves pointed out to them by others, and so they prefer to lay down rules which are the exact opposite of what they are doing in reality. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Page 625