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Psychology and Religion: West and East (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11)

[Carl Jung on Ramakrishna and “The Holy Men of India.”]

The Eastern peoples are threatened with a rapid collapse of their spiritual values, and what replaces them cannot always be counted among the best that Western civilization has produced.

From this point of view, one could regard Ramakrishna and Shri Ramana as modern prophets, who play the same compensatory role in relation to their people as that of the Old Testament prophets in relation to the “unfaithful” children of Israel, Not only do they exhort their compatriots to remember their thousand-year-old spiritual culture, they actually embody it and thus serve as an impressive warning, lest the demands of the soul be forgotten amid the novelties of Western civilization with its materialistic technology and commercial acquisitiveness.

The breathless drive for power and aggrandizement in the political, social, and intellectual sphere, gnawing at the soul of the Westerner with apparently insatiable greed, is spreading irresistibly in the East and threatens to have incalculable
consequences. Not only in India but in China, too, much has already perished where once the soul lived and throve.

The externalization of culture may do away with a great many evils whose removal seems most desirable and beneficial, yet this step forward, as experience shows, is all too clearly paid for with a loss of spiritual culture.

It is undeniably much more comfortable to live in a well-planned and hygienically equipped house, but this still does not answer the question of tr/zo is the dweller in this house and whether his soul rejoices in the same order and cleanliness as the house which ministers to his outer life.

The man whose interests are all outside is never satisfied with what is necessary, but is perpetually hankering after something more and better which, true to his bias, he always seeks outside himself. He forgets completely that, for all his outward successes, he himself remains the same inwardly, and he therefore laments his poverty if he possesses only one automobile when the majority have two.

Obviously the outward lives of men could do with a lot more bettering and beautifying, but these things lose their meaning when the inner man does not keep pace with them. To be satiated with “necessities” is no doubt an inestimable source of happiness, yet the inner man continues to raise his claim, and this can be satisfied by no outward possessions. And the less this voice is heard in the chase after the brilliant things of this world, the more the inner man becomes the source of inexplicable misfortune and uncomprehended unhappiness in the midst of living conditions whose outcome was expected to be entirely different.

The externalization of life turns to incurable suffering, because no one can understand why he should suffer from himself. No one wonders at his insatiability, but regards it as his lawful right, never thinking that the one-sidedness of this psychic diet leads in the end to the gravest disturbances of equilibrium.

That is the sickness of Western man, and he will not rest until he has infected the whole world with his own greedy restlessness. The wisdom and mysticism of the East have, therefore, very much to say to us, even when they speak their own inimitable language.

They serve to remind us that we in our culture possess something similar, which we have already forgotten, and to direct our attention to the fate of the inner man, which we set aside as trifling.

The life and teaching of Shri Ramana are of significance not only for India, but for the West too.

They are more than a document “humain”: they are a warning message to a humanity which threatens to lose itself in unconsciousness and anarchy. It is perhaps, in the deeper sense, no accident that Heinrich Zimmer’s last book should leave us, as a testament, the life-work of a modern Indian prophet who exemplifies so impressively the problem of psychic transformation. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion; The Holy Men of India, Pages 584-586, Paragraphs 962-963.

Ramakrishna (1836–1886), also Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Indian mystic, born Ramkrishno Pôromôhongśo into a poor orthodox Bengali Brahmin family, became a devotee and priest of the goddess Kâlî at the Dakshineswar Kâlî Temple.

Ramakrishna had mystical experiences from his childhood days on and attracted many followers throughout his life, among them his wife Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda.

His quest for God was not confined to Hinduism, but led him to contemplate other religions such as Christianity and Islam.

He concluded that the realization of God was the ultimate goal for any spiritual path.

His legacy has lived on through the brotherhood known as Ramakrishna Math.

Though he himself did not write down his experiences and teachings, his disciple Mahendranâth Gupta noted down Ramakrishna’s conversations and published them under the pseudonym M. The Sri Râmakrishna Kathâmrita [The gospel of Ramakrishna] consists of five volumes transcribed between 1897 and 1932.

The first complete English translation by Swami Nikhilânanda was published in 1942 (Gupta, 1942).

In his introduction, the translator expressed his gratitude to Joseph Campbell and Margaret Woodrow Wilson, the daughter of the U.S. president, for their help. Jung’s library in Küsnacht contained the following books related to Ramakrishna: Life of Sri Ramakrishna.

Compiled from various authentic sources (1925) by Swami Madhavananda, Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna (1934), Worte des Ramakrishna (Pelet, 1930), and Romain Rolland’s La vie de Ramakrishna [The life of Ramakrishna] (1929). ~Psychology of Yoga and Meditation, Page 20, fn 136