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

[Carl Jung on Shamanism, The Mass, Osirification and Mystery Religions.]

The numinous experience of the individuation process is, on the archaic level, the prerogative of shamans and medicine men; later, of the physician, prophet, and priest; and finally, at the civilized stage, of philosophy and religion.

The shaman’s experience of sickness, torture, death, and regeneration implies, at a higher level, the idea of being made whole through sacrifice, of being changed by transubstantiation and exalted to the pneumatic man in a word, of apotheosis.

The Mass is the summation and quintessence of a development which began many thousands of years ago and, with the progressive broadening and deepening of consciousness, gradually made the isolated experience of specifically gifted individuals the common property of a larger group.

The underlying psychic process remained, of course, hidden from view and was dramatized in the form of suitable “mysteries” and “sacraments” these being reinforced by religious teachings, exercises, meditations, and acts of sacrifice which plunge the celebrant so deeply into the sphere of the mystery that he is able to become conscious of his intimate connection with the mythic happenings.

Thus, in ancient Egypt,we see how the experience of “Osirification,” originally the prerogative of the Pharaohs, gradually passed to the aristocracy and finally, towards the end of the Old Kingdom, to the single individual as well.

Similarly, the mystery religions of the Greeks, originally esoteric and not talked about, broadened out into collective experience, and at the time of the Caesars it was considered a regular sport for Roman tourists to get themselves initiated into foreign mysteries.

Christianity, after some hesitation, went a step further and made celebration of the mysteries a public institution, for, as we know, it was especially concerned to introduce as many people as possible to the experience of the mystery.

So, sooner or later, the individual could not fail to become conscious of his own transformation and of the necessary psychological conditions for this, such as confession and
repentance of sin.

The ground was prepared for the realization that, in the mystery of transubstantiation, it was not so much a question of magical influence as of psychological processes a
realization for which the alchemists had already paved the way by putting their opus operatum at least on a level with the ecclesiastical mystery, and even attributing to it a cosmic significance since, by its means, the divine world-soul could be liberated from imprisonment in matter.

As I think I have shown, the “philosophical” side of alchemy is nothing less than a symbolic anticipation of certain psychological insights, and these to judge by the example of Gerhard Dorn were pretty far advanced by the end of the sixteenth century.

63 Only our intellectualized age could have been so deluded as to see in alchemy nothing but an abortive attempt at chemistry, and in the interpretative methods of modern psychology a mere “psychologizing,” i.e., annihilation, of the mystery.

Just as the alchemists knew that the production of their stone was a miracle that could only happen “Deo concedente,” so the modern psychologist is aware that he can produce no more than a description, couched in scientific symbols, of a psychic process whose real nature transcends consciousness just as much as does the mystery of life
or of matter.

At no point has he explained the mystery itself, thereby causing it to fade.

He has merely, in accordance with the spirit of Christian tradition, brought it a little nearer to individual consciousness, using the empirical material to set forth the individuation process and show it as an actual and experienceable fact.

To treat a metaphysical statement as a psychic process is not to say that it is “merely psychic,” as my critics assert in the fond belief that the word “psychic” postulates
something known.

It does not seem to have occurred to people that when we say “psyche” we are alluding to the densest darkness it is possible to imagine.

The ethics of the researcher require him to admit where his knowledge comes to an end.

This end is the beginning of all wisdom. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Pages 294-296, Para 448.