Psychology and Religion

[Carl Jung on the nature of Sacrifice]

When, therefore, I give away something that is “mine,” what I am giving is essentially a symbol, a thing of many meanings; but, owing to my unconsciousness of its symbolic character, it adheres to my ego, because it is part of my personality.

Hence there is, explicitly or implicitly, a personal claim bound up with every gift. There is always an unspoken “give that thou mayest receive.”

Consequently the gift always carries with it a personal intention, for the mere giving of it is not a sacrifice.

It only becomes a sacrifice if I give up the implied intention of receiving something in return. If it is to be a true sacrifice, the gift must be given as if it were being destroyed.

Only then is it possible for the egoistic claim to be given up.

Were the bread and wine simply given without any consciousness of an egoistic claim, the fact that it was unconscious would be no excuse, but would on the contrary be sure proof of the existence of a secret claim.

Because of its egoistic nature, the offering would then inevitably have the character of a magical act of propitiation, with the unavowed purpose and tacit expectation of purchasing the good will of the Deity.

That is an ethically worthless simulacrum of sacrifice, and in order to avoid it the giver must at least make himself sufficiently conscious of his identity with the gift to
recognize how far he is giving himself up in giving the gift.

In other words, out of the natural state of identity with what is “mine” there grows the ethical task of sacrificing oneself, or at any rate that part of oneself which is identical with the gift.

One ought to realize that when one gives or surrenders oneself there are corresponding claims attached, the more so the less one knows of them.

The conscious realization of this alone guarantees that the giving is a real sacrifice.

For if I know and admit that I am giving myself, forgoing myself, and do not want to be repaid for it, then I have sacrificed my claim, and thus a part of myself.

Consequently, all absolute giving, a giving which is a total loss from the start, is a self-sacrifice.

Ordinary giving for which no return is received is felt as a loss; but a sacrifice is meant to be like a loss, so that one may be sure that the egoistic claim no longer exists.

Therefore the gift should be given as if it were being destroyed. But since the gift represents myself, I have in that case destroyed myself, given myself away without expectation of return.

Yet, looked at in another way, this intentional loss is also a gain, for if you can give yourself it proves that you possess yourself.

Nobody can give what he has not got.

So anyone who can sacrifice himself and forgo his claim must have had it; in other words, he must have been conscious of the claim.

This presupposes an act of considerable self-knowledge, lacking which one remains permanently unconscious of such claims.

It is therefore quite logical that the confession of sin should come before the rite of transformation in the Mass.

The self-examination is intended to make one conscious of the selfish claim bound up with every gift, so that it may be consciously given up; otherwise the gift is no sacrifice.

The sacrifice proves that you possess yourself, for it does not mean just letting yourself be passively taken: it is a conscious and deliberate self surrender, which proves that you have full control of yourself, that is, of your ego.

The ego thus becomes the object of a moral act, for “I” am making a decision on behalf of an authority which is supraordinate to my ego nature. I am, as it were, deciding
against my ego and renouncing my claim.

The possibility of self-renunciation is an established psychological fact whose philosophical implications I do not propose to discuss.

Psychologically, it means that the ego is a relative quantity which can be subsumed under various supraordinate authorities.

What are these authorities? They are not to be equated outright with collective moral consciousness, as Freud wanted to do with his superego, but rather with certain psychic conditions which existed in man from the beginning and are not acquired by experience.

Behind a man’s actions there stands neither public opinion nor the moral code, but the personality of which he is still unconscious. Just as a man still is what he always was, so he already is what he will become.

The conscious mind does not embrace the totality of a man, for this totality consists only partly of his conscious contents, and for the other and far greater part, of his unconscious, which is of indefinite extent with no assignable limits.

In this totality the conscious mind is contained like a smaller circle within a larger one.

Hence it is quite possible for the ego to be made into an object, that is to say, for a more compendious personality to emerge in the course of development and take the ego into its service.

Since this growth of personality comes out of the unconscious, which is by definition unlimited, the extent of the personality now gradually realizing itself cannot in practice be limited either.

But, unlike the Freudian superego, it is still individual.

It is in fact individuality in the highest sense, and therefore theoretically limited, since no individual can possibly display every quality. (I have called this
process of realization the “individuation process”)

So far as the personality is still potential, it can be called transcendent, and so far as it is unconscious, it is indistinguishable from all those things that carry its projections in other words, the unconscious personality merges with our environment in accordance with the above-named participation mystique.

This fact is of the greatest practical importance because it renders intelligible the peculiar symbols through which this projected entity expresses itself in dreams.

By this I mean the symbols of the outside world and the cosmic symbols.

These form the psychological basis for the conception of man as a microcosm, whose fate, as we know, is bound up with the macrocosm through the astrological components of his character. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Pages 256-259; Para 390-391.