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 Enlightenment: West and East


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Lecture V 1st December, 1939

We spoke in the last lecture of the line: “Passion of Christ, strengthen me” and I emphasised that the attitude to suffering was one of the great differences between East and West.

The difference is one of psychological temperament.

The Easterner says: Through enlightenment I become Atman and Buddha.

Essential life, on the other hand, lies in the autonomous figure of Christ for the Westerner and he beseeches Christ to penetrate and even to conquer him.

It is curious that the East has such a negative attitude to suffering, that it regards it merely as an illusion to be overcome, whereas to us it is the path par excellence to Christ, to the Self.

We grow into Christ through suffering, individuation can only be reached through it.

God suffers as man, it is not my personal suffering but the suffering of a God.

We could also say that it is projected into a divine figure.

In the East,on the contrary, man escapes from suffering through enlightenment, it is dissolved as Maya.

The peculiar attitude of the West means therefore, that the perfect figure, the future being, something infinitely superior to everyday man, is a God, so to speak, who becomes man and thus accepts suffering.

One could reverse this and say: in that man wishes to reach a divine state he must go through a stage of suffering.

This suffering is human suffering, my suffering, but this is only secondary for it is simply a repetition of Christ’s suffering.

The essential thing is that it is eternal suffering which is always present and ever taking place.

This is a very difficult idea which you also find in the psychology of the Mass.

The sacrifice of Christ is not a repeated sacrifice but an eternal sacrifice, it happened out of space and time, it was, so to speak, from the beginning and ever more shall be.

But it is not only the sacrifice and suffering which are eternal but also the Glorification, the Resurrection and Christ’s Ascension to his divine state as the second person in the Trinity.

This formulation of a suffering god must somehow fit the temperament of western man or the formulation would be different.

Antiquity would undoubtedly have been shocked by such an idea, yet it has fascinated western man for over fifteen hundred years.

It is gradually losing that fascination now, and at the same time our whole understanding for such ideas is collapsing, which spells a great loss.

I must go somewhat further into the Christian attitude for it is vitally important in order to understand the exercitia spiritualia.

You know Protestant conceptions are by no means at one over such ideas as the dogma of the Trinity for instance.

Perhaps you read the discussion which appeared lately in the “Neue Zucher Zeitung” about the Divinity of Christ.

It was a piece of medieval spiritual history, a discussion as to whether Christ was divine or not and many voices claimed that one could not admit a doctrine which claimed Christ as God.

This shows you the attitude in Protestant circles.

Christ himself said he was the Son of God, but this is no longer unanimously admitted.

This doctrine has always played a very important role and you will remember it was resented even in Christ’s lifetime.

In the tenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel we read that “the Jews took up stones again to stone him” because “thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

Jesus answered them: Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?”

But the Jews went on insisting that Christ had blasphemed in saying: “I am the Son of God.”

Jesus was quoting the 82nd Psalm which says: “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”

This is a very peculiar and obscure idea and has roused a lot of speculation.

One can only conclude that the actual words mean a kinship between man and God.

And there are other passages in the New Testament which show that Christ’s words were taken literally.

In II Corinthians XIII. 5, St. Paul says: “Know ye not in your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” and in Gal. II. 20: “Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

Certain Protestant Theologians who have re-translated the Bible, have translated in you as among you, so as to repress the thought that Christ could mean an inner Christ and the idea of kinship between man and God.

There is a parallel in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus, which belongs to the first century, A. D.

This gospel seems to have consisted of a sort of collection of anecdotes about Christ.

In this Papyrus we find the passage: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” as: “Wheresoever there are (two, they are not without) God: and where there is one alone I say I am with him”

This would seem to have been changed for it is obvious that two or three form a congregation, a Church; whereas one individual is not a Church in spite of Coleridge’s saying that he was a member of the only true Church and at the moment its only member!

You see what consideration was at work, consideration for the Church.

This was clearly directed against the efforts of the individual and against individual grace.

In my opinion such an attitude forced the translators to cheat in order to uphold it.

For it is not among you but in you.

Even St. Paul himself does not live, Christ lives, the human being is an appendage.

There is a passage in the Acts of the Apostles: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” (Acts XVII, 28.)

So we are the offspring of God.

But this idea was not developed, the idea of an autonomous Christ developed, and the human being was turned empty away, so to speak. In the East the individual can say: I am Atman.

But in the West the individual has no divine right, he is only recognised as a member of a congregation, a Church, and he has to wait for the Grace of the Church.

This prepared the ground and, when God disappeared, what was man?

The Church as an effective force has disappeared too, and what is left?

The mob, the State, the man-made State, a mere ant heap of individuals.

This is not only a spiritual catastrophe but a human catastrophe of the direst kind.

We are in danger of being delivered over to mass-phenomena and of sinking to the level of collective man.

In the mob personality disappears, it cannot make itself heard.

I am afraid that the historical responsibility for this state of things belongs to the Church: it did not emphasize the metaphysical significance of the individual and taught its members to deify the Church, the institution.

Our culture, which is threatened today, is primarily a Christian culture, if it had not been for the Roman Catholic Church, we should still be barbarians.

But we stopped at the institution of the Church, it was erected for the welfare of mankind and the divine germ of the individual was neglected and repressed, to such an extent that we have no understanding for the East and depreciate its teaching as megalomania.

We were all taught to depend on the walls of the Church, not on God in ourselves.

How many of you even know that Christ said: “Ye are gods”? Have you ever heard a sermon on this text?

I have not.

But there are many passages in the New Testament which are never preached upon.

I must call your attention to a further passage in the New Testament.

In the second chapter of Acts we read of the coming of the Comforter, of the Paraclete (the Holy Ghost), promised to the disciples by Christ: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

The tongues of fire did not fall among them but on each.

Each individual could say the Paraclete has entered me, I am the dwelling, another aspect of God.

That is simply the logical fact, but it was never allowed to come true on account of the institution for, if God can speak through the individual, it opens the door to arrant heresy.

This was proved practically during the Reformation, the so-called “Schwarm Geister” crumbled the walls of the Church.

We must, therefore, be human and not judge the Church too hardly, for it was really impossible for her to tackle this problem.

The problem is an eternal truth but it only becomes acute when the Church is no longer able to control the situation and its walls spring apart.

Then we are forced to remember such texts.

They are no empty words but basic truths, and we have no foothold in the shifting ground of contemporary problems without them.

We fall captive to the herd animal if we cannot reach the individual divinity in ourselves.

If we think this means the ego, we are rightly condemned as individualists and egotists, but to remember our primeval divinity, that is a totally different thing.

Such passages spring from the deepest roots of man, they refer to the Self.

Not the human being, not the ego, is God but the Self is God in man, and it is superior to human consciousness, just as the whole is superior to a part.

We hear next to nothing of the Self in Christian philosophy because it has been left in the hidden truths.

But we should have heard of it if the Church had been able, while it was still strong and powerful, to develop the religion of the Holy Ghost.

That is, if the Church had gone beyond the historical figure of Christ, as he himself intended when he promised that the Holy Ghost should descend on each, as it had descended upon him at his baptism.

He said he was the Son of God, and called others the children of God, by which he recognised them as brothers and sisters.

But this thought was too difficult, it is still too difficult for the Church.

It is, however, impossible for us to recognise our relationship to eastern ideas, or to assimilate these, unless we realise our own Christian background and that such ideas were expressed in the original documents of our own faith.

We suffer from a certain “development arrete”, our spiritual development stopped short, whereas that of the East is hypertrophic.

This is because they had and have no institution in the East which can be compared with the Roman Catholic Church. Buddhism, in this sense, is far from being a Church.

I should like to read you a passage from an author who wrestled with this problem and suffered deeply from the fall of the Church, of historical Christianity, a fall which unfortunately we cannot deny.

There are optimists who believe they can still deny it but, if we count the multitude who stand extra ecclesiam today, we have to admit that the Church is in a very bad way.

The author I speak of is Nietzsche.

He expressed it as “God is dead” and he did not realise that in saying this he was still standing within the dogma, for Christ’s death is one of the secret mysteries of Christianity.

Why we can hear in every sermon that “God is dead”.

But Nietzsche did not realise this, he meant God has come to an end.

Nietzsche thought that as God was dead and had no successor, something very unusual had happened to the world.

And he did not realise that he was God’s successor!

When his psychosis overcame him he signed his letters: The Crucified, Dionysos, or Zagreus who was also a dismembered God, he, Nietzsche, fulfilled this fate himself.

And he prophesied his own fate when Zarathustra said to the ropedancer: “Thy soul shall be dead even sooner than thy body.”

We cannot be surprised that in his most essential deepest work, his confession, “Zarathustra”, there are many intensely Christian passages, where he moves in a wholly Christian

Whether he did so consciously is difficult to say, but he had a western psychology and had to remain in its standpoint and think on in its categories.

So the motif of Zarathustra is that of the suffering god, and I should like to read you some passages from the “Drunken Song” at the end as a “document humain”.

Please pay attention to the peculiar symbolis m which Nietzsche uses:

“God’s woe is deeper, thou strange world! Grasp at God’s woe, not at me! What am I? . . . Thou grape-vine! Why dost thou praise me? Have I not cut thee!
I am cruel, thou bleedest-: what meaneth thy praise of my drunken cruelty?

‘Whatever hath become perfect, everything mature – wanteth to die!’ so sayest thou. Blessed, blessed be the vintner’s knife! But everything immature wanteth to live: alas!”

What is the grape vine that has come to maturity and wants to die? And who holds the knife? Nietzsche himself holds that knife and Christ is the bloody sacrifice.

“Woe saith: ‘Hence! Go! Away, thou woe!’ But everything that suffereth wanteth to live, that it may become mature and lively and longing.”

We come here to the other side of western man, the concupiscentia.

” – Longing for the further, the higher, the brighter. ‘I want heirs,’ so saith everything that suffereth, ‘I want children, I do not want myself’. – Joy, however, doth not want heirs, it doth not want children, – joy wanteth itself, it wanteth eternity, it wanteth recurrence, it wanteth everything eternally-like-itself.

. . . Pain is also a joy, curse is also a blessing, night is also a sun, – go away! or ye will learn that a sage is also a fool.

Said ye ever Yea to one joy? 0 my friends, then said ye Yea also unto all woe. All things are enlinked, enlaced and enamoured. –

  • Wanted ye ever once to come twice; said ye ever: ‘Thou pleasest me, happiness! Instant! Moment!’ then wanted ye all to come back again!

  • All anew, all eternal, all enlinked, enlaced and enamoured, Oh, then did ye love the world, –

  • Ye eternal ones, ye love it eternally and for all time: and also unto woe do ye say: Hence! Go! but come back! For joys all want – eternity! All joy wanteth the eternity of all things, it wanteth honey, it wanteth lees, it wanteth drunken midnight, it wanteth graves, it wanteth gravetears’ consolation, it wanteth gilded evening-red –

  • What doth not joy want! it is thirstier, heartier, hungrier, more frightful, more mysterious, than all woe: it wanteth itself, it biteth into itself, the ring’s will writheth in it, –

  • It wanteth love, it wanteth hate, it is over-rich, it bestoweth, it throweth away, it beggeth for someone to take from it, it thanketh the taker, it would fain be hated, –

  • So rich is joy that it thirsteth for woe, for hell, for hate, for shame, for the lame, for the world, – for this world, Oh, ye know it indeed! Ye higher men, for you doth it long, this joy, this irrepressible, Blessed joy – for your woe, ye failures! For failures, longeth all eternal joy. For joys all want themselves, therefore, do they also want grief!”

This is a confession in which you can observe the peculiar swing over from the Christian psychology of the suffering God to pagan and so-called profane “Lust”.

It lusts after itself in the last resort.

“Wanting themselves” is not wanting the ego but the Self.

We will turn now to the next line in the “Anima Christi”:

“0 good Jesu, hear me.”

This is again an invocation and exhorts the figure of Christ to undertake autonomous activity.

How does Przywara react to this?

He says he knows that Christ is listening to him and that he may tell him everything.

Meditation, according to the Jesuit point of view, is based on Christ’s activity, and though the words themselves ask Christ to listen, Przywara meditates as if He had been listening from the beginning.

He says further:

“Whatever I say to Him, whatever He hears, whatever I declare, whatever He hears in Himself, it is I.”

He means to say that he brings his ego to Christ and delivers it completely to the figure of Christ that he has invoked.

This thought is continued even more plainly in the next invocation:

“Within Thy wounds, hide me.”

This is a generally Christian idea, the wounds of Christ are thought of as a protection for mankind, man can, so to speak, sink into them.

But think of that concretely, an open wound and tiny human beings being hidden in it.

Przywara uses the simile: “as a grain of wheat sinks unnoticed into the earth.”

So the body of Christ is regarded as the earth which is ploughed, opened for the purpose of letting us in.

This idea played a considerable role and reached its summit in the mysticism of Zinzendorf in the eighteenth century.

The wound in the side of Christ is treated obscenely, any innocent school child could see that Zinzendorf regarded it as the maternal genital organ in which man must seek rebirth.

This is not a bad joke of mine but a fact.

And we find the same idea in Przywara, more aesthetically expressed, as a furrow in the earth.

There are Etruscan ploughs shaped like the phallus and the old custom of the peasant embracing his wife in a ploughed field for the fertility of the ground and many other primitive fertility customs originate in the same idea.

It is curious, Christ having a man’s body, that such ideas should be attached to him.

But according to the Catholic interpretation Christ was not merely masculine but feminine as well.

Take for instance, the passage in Revelation, (XIV. 4): “These are they which were not defiled with women for they are virgins.”

This refers to the Saints, who were, so to speak, celibate priests, men yet virgins, women.

And the same quality is ascribed to Christ.

It goes back to the passage in Genesis where Eve is taken out of the side of Adam.

That was apparently another wound, which was the gateway to the birth of Eve.

That is, so to speak, the ecclesiastical archetype for the birth of the Church from the wound in the side of Christ, so that this wound really has a maternal significance. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 194-199