Psychology and Religion: West and East (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11)
[Westerners cannot slap Eastern spirituality on top of a western ego and expect enlightenment. ~Carl Jung]
Chinese yoga philosophy bases itself upon the fact of this instinctive preparation for death as a goal, and, following the analogy with the goal of the first half of life, namely, begetting and reproduction, or the means towards perpetuation of physical life, it takes as the aim of spiritual existence, the begetting and perpetuation of a psychic spirit-body “subtle body” which ensures the continuity of the detached consciousness.
It is the birth of the pneumatic man, known to the European from antiquity, but which he seeks to produce by quite other symbols and magical practices, by faith and Christian way of life.
Here again we stand on a basis quite different from that of the East.
Again the text sounds as though it were not very far from Christian ascetic morality, but nothing would be further from the truth than to assume that it is actually dealing with the same thing.
Behind our text is a culture thousands of years old, one which has been developed out of, and beyond, primitive instincts, and which, therefore, knows nothing about the brutal morality suited to us as recently civilized, barbaric Teutonic peoples.
For this reason, there is lacking to the Chinese that impulse toward violent repression of the instincts which makes our spirituality hysterical exaggerated and poisonous. Whoever lives his instincts can also separate from them, and in just as natural a way as he lived them.
Any idea of heroic self-conquest would be entirely foreign to the sense of our text, but it would inevitably amount to that if we followed the Chinese instructions literally.
We must never forget our historical premises.
Only a little more than a thousand years ago, we stumbled from the crudest beginnings of polytheism into the midst of a highly developed, oriental religion which lifted the imaginative minds of half-savages to a height which did not correspond to their degree of mental development.
In order to keep to this height in some fashion or other, it was unavoidable that the sphere of the instincts should be thoroughly repressed.
Therefore, religious practice and morality took on an outspokenly brutal, almost malicious, character.
The repressed elements are naturally not developed, but vegetate further in the unconscious and in their original barbarism.
We would like to climb the heights of a philosophical religion, but are, in fact, incapable of it.
The best we can do is to grow up to it.
The Amfortas wound and the Faustian conflict in the Germanic man are not yet healed; his unconscious is still loaded with contents which must first be made conscious before he can be free of them.
Recently I received a letter from a former patient which pictures the necessary transformation in simple but expressive words.
She writes :
“Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and hand in hand with that, by accepting reality-taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be-by doing all this, rare knowledge has come to me, and rare powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before. I always thought that, when we accept things, they overpower us in one way or another. Now this is not true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can define an attitude toward them. So now I intend playing the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow that are forever shifting, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me. What a fool I was! How I tried to force everything to go according to my idea!”
Only on the basis of such an attitude, which renounces none of the values won in the course of Christian development, but which, on the contrary, tries with Christian charity and forbearance to accept the humblest things in oneself, will a higher level of consciousness and culture be possible.
This attitude is religious in the truest sense, and therefore therapeutic, for all religions are therapies for the sorrows and disorders of the soul.
The development of Western intellect and will has lent us the almost devilish capacity for imitating such an attitude, apparently with success too, despite the protests of the unconscious.
But it is only a matter of time when the counter position always forces recognition of itself with an even harsher contrast.
A more and more unsafe situation comes about by reason of this crass imitation, and, at any time, can be overthrown by the unconscious.
A safe foundation is only found when the instinctive premises of the unconscious win the same recognition as the view-points of the conscious.
No one will deceive himself as to the fact that this necessary recognition of the unconscious stands in violent opposition to the Western Christian, and especially to the Protestant, cult of consciousness.
Despite the fact that the new is always hostile to the old, a deep desire to understand cannot fail to discover that, without the more serious application of our acquired Christian values, the new can never gain ground. ~Carl Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower.