[Carl Jung on What is Spirit?]
Lecture X 26th January, 1940
In the last lecture we began to speak of Przywara’s meditation on the first word of the Fundamentum: “homo”.
We came up against the word “spirit” and I expressed a doubt as to whether spirit could be called intellect or consciousness.
Consciousness is becoming aware of, making an image or concept of something, and intellect is the ability to think.
Neither of these things is spirit.
So we came to the question what is spirit?
Or rather what psychic experience can be identified with or expressed by it?
In order to approach this question I spoke of the etymology of spirit, of the Greek words “pneuma” and “anemos”, the Latin word “spiritus” and so on.
Today we will examine the German word “Geist”, it corresponds to the English word ghost and is derived from the old Nordic word “geisa”, that is “wiiten”, (to rage, to be furious).
This brings in a new idea, by no means identical with the soft breath of spiritus and pneuma.
It indicates passion, fire, etc. It is related to the Germanic word “us-gaisjan”, to induce an emotional condition, to get someone out of himself.
And we say in Swiss German “‘s isch zum Ufgeischte”, meaning that a situation or person has become intolerable.
This corresponds to the English word aghast.
This peculiar quality is also visible in the metaphors which are used in connection with spirit: flame, fire, sparks, light, etc.
All these separate ideas, as you will remember, come together in the miracle of Pentecost.
A “rushing mighty wind” filled the house and “cloven tongues like as of fire” descended on each of the Apostles and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”.
The multitude outside were amazed and some said: “These men are full of new wine.”
This shows that they were in a condition which could be compared to drunkenness.
In every language alcohol is called spirit.
It is a spirit of a certain kind but evanescent in its effect.
The wine in the communion is called the spiritual blood and is a symbol of both blood and spirit, so that here also we find qualities of the spirit described.
As we saw, the words for spirit in the Latin, Greek and Semitic languages were connected with moving air.
So it is said that the Holy Ghost breathes between Father and Son.
He is the principle of life. This is the origin of the primitive idea that the soul leaves the body with the last breath.
The quality of moving air is also to be found in “wiiten “, (to rage) , we speak of a raging wind, for instance.
If we consider this aspect of ” Geist”, we shall see that it is a peculiar condition of man. That which is moved, as if blown away by the wind, that which is made alive, is called spirit.
It is, therefore, an increase of life.
The phenomenon of the spirit is always a sort of possession, primitive man can only describe it as a different soul, a spirit, which comes to my soul and possesses it.
The primitive wears a neck amulet in order to shelter the back of his neck, which is unconscious, in order to prevent the spirit sitting on him there and speaking through him.
This spirit can also enter by the fontanel.
People with an open fontanel are always regarded as somewhat peculiar, because the old channel of the soul is open and souls can get in and out.
In Tibet the soul is said to leave the body by the fontanel so, in the last prayer said over the dying, the Lama produces a high tone which causes the skull to open and allows the soul to leave the body.
We see, therefore, that possession by a breath-like being is a primeval conception of a spiritual condition.
The man who unexpectedly speaks from an exalted or peculiar state is mana or taboo, if he speaks paradoxically then he is surely a sorcerer.
All this shows us that the psychological phenomenon of the spirit is an exalted condition of life, or at least an unusual one, or, to formulate it still more carefully, it is a change in the personality.
You see it is something very different to the modern use of the word “Geist”, and I am convinced that these original forms are far nearer to its real nature.
We can only speak of it as a human condition; what it is in and for itself is a question which cannot be answered, we can only know how it is experienced.
This is equally true of the concept of matter or body.
We must say here that the body has nothing to do with matter.
Matter is an abstraction, nowadays it has become a philosophical and scientific concept, whereas body is the direct psychic experience of the body.
Here again there is danger of a misunderstanding.
If we ask modern man what is body, he describes the anatomical structure which he can see with his eyes.
But that is no psychic experience, it is scientific experience of the body.
Psychic experiences is the image of the body which is reflected in the psyche.
How I experience the body from within is a totally different question.
I am inside the body as a psyche.
If we investigate carefully what that means we come on a lot of extremely peculiar experiences which have given rise to many of the strangest symbols.
If you want to know how the body can be experienced psychically you must turn to eastern Yoga; medieval philosophy also knew something of the matter.
If you contemplate the body from the point of view of the psyche, you will be able to locate a mental sphere of consciousness in the head, another centre of consciousness in the heart and one in the abdomen.
Our medieval philosophers discovered these, and such centres are highly differentiated in India.
Anatomical knowledge does not tell us how we fill our own bodies but psychic experience does give us information on this point.
We fill our bodies as if through inner streams.
The Indian teaching of Prana formulates this, it makes people aware that they can, so to speak, stream into certain limbs and, if one experiments on these lines, one finds it is possible to achieve very peculiar results.
One can, for instance, warm cold limbs in this way and enervate certain muscles.
Yogins have many stunts of this kind which are based on psychological Prana experience and have nothing to do with mysticism.
It is by such paths that a psychic image of the body is obtained.
Prana conceives of the body as a sort of system of pipes, going into the limbs and connecting the centres.
These centres are not mystical but psychical centres of experience.
It is no wonder that eastern and western doctors cannot understand each other’s language.
Our modern doctors are beginning to understand that these centres are not anatomical but are psychological centres of activity.
We say that certain things take our breath away, others feel like a pressure on the breast or heart, and other things lie heavy on our stomach.
So when we say body, we really mean our psychic experience of the body.
This has only a distant relationship to the anatomical and physiological structure of the body and nothing whatever to do with matter.
One cannot prove a Prana pipe scientifically, so we say in the West that it is ridiculous.
But this simply means that we are ridiculous not to be able to understand such things.
The body, therefore, is also a psychological condition, a peculiar form of consciousness.
So when we think – we could just as well say function psychically – in the head, it is something quite different to doing the same thing with the heart.
These two things are so different that it is a tremendous discovery for a lot of people when they find they can understand something with the heart, for most people only function in the brain box.
A nigger has all his thoughts in his belly, he is only aware of the things which affect him down there.
And I have often told you of the Pueblo Indian who told me that the Americans were all mad because they thought in the head instead of the heart.
The old Greeks, on the contrary, lived in the diaphragm.
So we see that what we call spirit and body are psychic conditions, limited psychic functions, and the body tells us as little about what matter really is, as the spirit about the thing in itself which is behind the spiritual condition.
We only have our experiences of the spirit, we do not know what is behind these, what spirit is or whether it is a divine being, and we only have our own experiences of the body.
We perceive both with our consciousness.
We can really say, therefore, that Przywara’s meditation is incomplete, it goes no further than the conceptions of spirit and body.
There is not such a conflict in the soul itself, in a sense we make this conflict when we say: here above is the spirit, here below is the body, with a tremendous tension between them.
It is not eo ipso like that in us.
We can experience the body psychically, a prana-body, a subtle body, and there are certain exalted and ecstatic conditions in which we can experience spirit.
So what we experience of spirit and body are really psychic modalities.
But when Przywara says that man is a “medium formale materiale”, that is, a mediator between a formal and a material nature, we can again assent.
Man is a peculiar psychic unity of experience of body and spirit, torn in two pieces by the intellect.
We think that experience of the spirit is something of a totally different nature to experience of the body and then the rent is already there.
This does not mean that the split should not have occurred, to assert that would be to deny the whole mental development of man.
This contradiction had to occur, this chasm had to be torn open, or we should never have understood.
When black and white are together, one and the same thing, we cannot distinguish anything.
So Przywara says that man, as “medium formale materiale”, shows forth God who is the unity of everything in creation which has been torn into the opposites.
“If he (man ) as centre is the objective image of God, and subjectively there for the purpose of making God known as the absolute centre, he is only in so far effective as he, incapable of remaining fixed in himself, hangs wholly in God.”
He takes the expression “hanging in God” from the annotations of Ignatius himself: “adhaerere, inhaerere, cohaerere Deo” (hanging on, hanging in and hanging together with God). Przywara continues:
“He is man in as far as he is in God. He is the centre of body-spirit in as far as he is in God, Who in His essence is the adequate absolute centre : In Himself as the All-pervading.”
He says here that the unity, the coincidentia oppositorum, in the soul of man is an image, an allegory, so to speak, of God, because all opposites are reconciled in God.
Man is there in order (through the unity which is in him) to show forth the unity of God.
And in what condition does man find himself?
He has this likeness to the unity of God but, as a created being, he can do nothing out of · himself but depends entirely on God.
God is not only his pattern but his causa efficiens, his effective cause.
Man is entirely contained in God and this condition is described by Przywara as hanging in God.
To anticipate, this hanging means hanging on the cross.
There is no freedom, it is a condition in which man does not depend on himself but entirely on God, for God is absolute.
“Body and spirit are ‘right’ with one another in so far as man is ‘right’ in God.”
Body and spirit, thought of as two poles, combine correctly with each other if man depends correctly upon God, because they are reconciled through His unity.
This unity is guaranteed by Him because Przywara says:
God is the only “in sich selbst sein” (one who is in himself.)
This means that God is the Self and, in so far as man is a unity, he is an image of this Self.
We have here the teaching of “Atman” in a purely Catholic form.
God is the efficient cause, he IS.
He is the essential reason of existence and its guarantee, there is no existence outside him.
This is really exactly the same idea as the Indian: I am Atman, I am the world.
It is a Platonic idea that man is the image of God.
The Indians express it as the thumbling in man’s heart that is also the Atman which covers the whole earth and which contains everything.
So far there is complete harmony between the two, but whereas the Indian conceives of man as a free, natural, plant-like image of God, Przywara represents him as being in a condition of compulsion and torture; man is nailed up, so to speak, as an image of God.
Curiously enough, there was an antique mystery cult in which this idea was carried out concretely.
A pine tree was felled during the yearly festival of the cult of Attis and was carried into the cave of Cybele.
A picture of the God was fixed to the tree: the tree represented the God.
The tree was thus made the child of Cybele who is nature.
If we think in the Indian way, Attis is the pine tree and stands in the womb of nature and is nature, he is a pure expression or image of nature.
But when the image of Attis is fixed to the tree, then it is an expression of the “suspensio”, of the painful death of Attis who was, so to speak, given back to the mother as a corpse for re-birth, resurrection.
The symbol of the cave is naturally the symbol of the grave and life is buried like a grain of wheat in the womb of the earth and grows up again.
This is the mystical idea behind the mysteries of Eleusis, Attis, etc.
Przywara makes it even clearer when he says that man, as the reconciliation of the opposites, spirit and body, is a “Kreuzung” (intersection, crossing).
He uses the word “Kreuzung”, and this means that two different tendencies, the somatic and pneumatic, cross, so to speak, in man.
This is a condition of tension, the god is killed between the opposites.
We see this also in pictures where Mithras sits on the bull and, as matador, runs the sword into its throat.
The scene is flanked by torch bearers with torches held aloft and sunk to the ground.
This is the rising of the sun, Helios driving his horses up into the Heavens, and Luna driving down on the other side: day and night.
This represents the sacrifice as taking place at midday, between the opposites.
And you find exactly the same idea in the crucifixion, Christ was crucified between the two thieves, one went up to Paradise and the other down to Hell.
Man also is between these opposites, which is why Przywara calls him a “Kreuzung”, and the tension between the opposites he calls a “Riss” (rent) which is simply a conflict between the opposites.
This is something which you do not find in India, the conflict is called illusion in Buddhism and lies outside.
The Buddhist aims at Nirdvandva, freedom from the opposites, they are merely the concupiscentia.
When man sees that the world is illusion, he ceases to desire it and, when his knowledge is sufficient to recognise everything as illusion, the whole Nidana chain ceases to exist, for it only leads to death and suffering.
The Buddhist, to a great extent, refuses the conflict whereas it is all important in the West.
This expresses the western attitude which is extraverted.
The world seems beautiful and desirable to us; we grumble sometimes but are exceedingly optimistic about it and are always sure tomorrow will be better.
But the Indian says: it will never be different and has long given up the conflict about it, because it is outside him.
It is an inner conflict with us, and we also have long ceased to do anything about it as such, and so naturally we have to meet it outside, in other people.
And it gives us the greatest satisfaction to be able to locate it elsewhere.
We read, for instance, of a crime in the newspaper and feel delighted to think: “he has it, not I . ” ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 224-228.