Zarathustra Seminars

[Carl Jung and God as a “conjecture.”]

Prof. Jung:

Now we will go on with our text:

“God is a conjecture: but I do not wish your conjecturing to reach
beyond your creating will.” [Nietzsche’s Zarathustra]

We have often encountered the idea that God is a conjecture. It was a peculiar prejudice of that time, the second part of the 1gth century, when people began to flirt with a sort of hypothesis which in antiquity was known as euhemerism.

This term comes from the name of the Greek philosopher Euhemerus who had the idea that the gods were once human beings, that Zeus, for instance, had been a king or a powerful man like Heracles, and that afterwards people thought they were gods-legend made gods of them.

So all the other gods who populated Olympus were supposed to have been remarkable historical figures that had become legendary, and Osiris also had been just a man. One
finds practically the same idea in Carlyle’s famous book, Heroes and Hero Worship; he sympathizes with such euhemeristic views.

It is an attempt at rationalizing the existence of the concept of gods. Now in the later part of the century, they began to think that God or the gods were not even euhemeristic persons, but that the conception really dated from nowhere, that it was a mere invention which always had been made, a sort of hypothesis entirely man-made.

You know, the whole 19th century was a time when people became aware of what man was doing.

When some idea passed through a man’s head, when he found himself talking or thinking, he became aware that he was thinking it, and then he assumed that he was the
maker of his thinking.

And that looking-upon-what-he-was-doing was called “psychology”; psychology was understood to be a science of human behavior, a science of consciousness exclusively.

When something, an event, took place in man, the assumption was that he was the doer of that event or that process-of course only inasmuch as his so-called psychology was concerned.

If he developed a cancer or suffered from typhoid fever, it was not supposed that he had made up his mind to suffer from those diseases, because it was obvious that such things happened to him.

But when it was a matter of ideas or mental conditions he was made more or less responsible for the fact unless he was just crazy. It was assumed that one did not make a psychosis; a psychosis happened to one, like typhoid fever, from certain causes.

But in the beginning of the century, in the time of the first alienists-the alienist is an invention of that century-one still believed that people made even a psychosis, that they brought a psychosis upon themselves by a misdemeanor, by certain bad customs or habits, by bad management or immorality and so on.

There is a famous German textbook of those days which is entirely built upon that hypothesis that people are the makers of their insanity, which is about the same as assuming them to be the makers of their own typhoid fever. But we are not yet so far as to assume that our psychology, our mind, the mental processes with which we identify, happen to us; that still seems to be a most adventurous idea.

Yet as soon as the mind is a bit crazy, we are inclined to be human enough to think that it happened.

For instance, when you become acquainted with the extraordinary ideas of Nietzsche, you say, “Oh, that is insanity.

He was forced to say such things. It is a “symptom.”

But to him it was not so; that was what he wanted, it was his will to say such things.

It would of course have been ever so much better for him if he had been able to see that those things were happening to him; then he could have asked himself what they really meant and who was behind the screen making him say them.

Then he would have been able to detach from Zarathustra. But he couldn’t because he assumed that he was the maker of Zarathustra.

His unconscious behaved very fairly to him: it made him see that he and Zarathustra were two.

His bei. He paid no attention, however, because he thought that whatever man is or whatever he has done, he has done it, that the ego emanates such things based on its own proper will, that it is the creative will of the ego to bring them about.

And naturally, when one makes such an assumption, one has to take all the responsibility for the whole procedure on oneself.

Then I am the maker of God. I am the maker of Zarathustra.

I am quite alone. I am the creator of my own world-nothing is happening to me because whatever is, is myself. Nietzsche is absolutely in the position of the creator of a world.

A god could say, “I am the world. In every bit of the world I am-whatever happens is myself.

I am doing it. I am every kind of foolishness, every crime, every joy, every beauty. I am everything and there is nothing outside.”

You see, this identification with God is the trap into which the later part of the 1gth century eventually fell, because they did not see how much did happen to the mind. And mind you, in spite of the fact that science had already evolved so far that they did not take it as a particular sign of immorality when a man became mentally ill: it was a misfortune.

His father had been perhaps a drinker, or suffered from syphilis; and if there had been epileptics in the family, it was quite natural that a case of the same nature should occur, that children should be born with weak brains and might possibly become insane.

That was the beginning of a newer and truer conception.

One must go only a bit further to get rid of all that 19th-century prejudice, and then we would not consider ourselves exclusively responsible for what we think or do: we would know that things really happen to us.

We are not free, not creative centers who probably will create supermen. We are very poor.

Our free will is very limited. We are so dependent upon our surroundings, our education, our parents, because we are born with certain archetypes, or with certain disturbances.

And as we cannot make an insane person responsible for his insanity, so we cannot make Nietzsche responsible for the fact that he thought he could make or undo God, or that he could make the Superman or Zarathustra.

He could not avoid thinking like that, first of all because of his time-he was under the same prejudice.

He could not avoid thinking he produced Zarathustra, though he himself chose that name of the old prophet in order to denote the fact that Zarathustra had existed long before there was a Nietzsche.

The archetype of the wise old man has existed since times immemorial; you find it everywhere and it is by no means Nietzsche’s creation. Yet he thought he could create such things.

So he participated in the attitude of his time that had not developed enough along the lines of objective consciousness.

We in the 20th century begin now to extend an objective scientific point of view into the sphere of the so-called normal functioning of the mind; and we begin to understand that our mental processes are occurrences or events to a much higher degree than has ever been thought before.

And if you can join in such a conviction you have the possibility-which proves to be an exceedingly useful one-of detaching from such figures.

You can assume that they have life of their own and that they make themselves; and that you come in simply in the way of a perceiving eye, or that you suffer from it exactly as you suffer from the effect of a bad inheritance.

You see, when there is epilepsy in your family you might inherit epilepsy or at least a trace of it in your character, showing in emotionalism perhaps or in peculiar dreams, and naturally you are inclined to think you have surely made those dreams or emotions and that you are very bad.

Then you discover it is all inheritance, so how can you avoid it? You found yourself in a body which has such-and-such disadvantages, as you found yourself with such-and-such a brain which has its bad or good dispositions.

You see, if you don’t identify with your vices, you have no chance to identify with your virtues; as little as we are our inherited virtues are we our inherited vices.

But if we don’t identify, we have a chance to discover what this poor ego is and we can learn how to deal with the inherited factors of our mind. Then we have a chance to gain freedom.

As long as you assume that you are making the weather, what can you do?

You will try in vain to make good weather and you never will succeed, and because you are all the time angry at yourself for making rain, you never will invent an umbrella.

You will suffer from those hellish feelings of inferiority instead of inventing a good umbrella.

So inasmuch as Nietzsche assumed that God was a conjecture, it is quite logical when he says, “But I do not wish your conjecturing to reach beyond your creating will.”

In other words, you must not make conjectures which you are unable to fulfil because, he continues, Could ye create a God?-Then, I pray you, be silent about all Gods! But ye could well create the Superman.

Of course you cannot create a God, so why conjecture a God? This is of course based upon the assumption that such things only exist because man creates them. But if you leave open the possibility that God exists without man’s invention, this whole argument is naturally futile because man has nothing to do with it; God is or is not: he is beyond
man’s reach.

Sure enough, the idea of God or God’s image is very much influenced by the disposition of man in time and space, by his temperament and so on, but it is a universal fact that everywhere we encounter certain ideas which are equivalents of this basic experience of man: namely, that outside his own will, or beside his own will, there is still another will, whatever that is.

For instance, if he tries to be nice, he finds he is cross; if he wants to say something good, he says something bad; if he wants to tell the truth, he lies.

He is constantly interfered with by something which is not his own will. In this experience, he is as if possessed by ghosts or evil influences-or by God, the ultimate receptacle, one could say, of all the magic crossing of man’s individual purposes.

Now, this basic experience is not an invention of man, but simply a fact, a fact that is every day under your nose; and if you want to see how it came about that people called it finally “God,” study the life of the primitives.

Or study only the cases right under your eyes.

For instance, suppose you have something to do with a very temperamental person who easily becomes emotional and angry, and flies into one of his fits when you say something awkward.

Then you say to him, “But now look here, you are beside yourself; be yourself, be reasonable. I cannot understand what devil has gotten into you that makes you talk such foolish stuff.”

You treat that person as if he had been alienated from himself, as if a strange being had taken possession of him.

If you are living under primitive circumstances and using the terminology that is provided by your surroundings, you say, “Oh well, at times a bad spirit goes into that man,” and then you must try to eliminate it or wait until it has vanished and the man comes back to normality.

A primitive explains an ordinary fit of emotion as a magic fact; if you study the history of religions and carefully analyze what is at the back of all these ideas, you see it is a psychological non-ego that has an influence on man.

So if you are quite careful and really scientific you see that God is that which we have always observed; namely, that will which interferes with our own will, a tendency which crosses our own tendency, a thing clearly psychical as our consciousness is psychical.

Of the very same nature perhaps, showing traces of intelligence and reason or cunning-all sorts of human qualities-being obviously something like a psychical thing, like man; but not exactly like man because it is so cunning and devilish, or benign and benevolent, as man is not.

So certain peculiar non-human qualities or habits have always been attributed to that other will and it was imagined as not quite human in appearance-a helpful animal for instance, a doctor-animal, or a man endowed with extraordinary witchcraft, a sort of superman, either half animal below or half animal above.

Those were the very first symbols for the deity. And in history, even in the most advanced forms of the Christian religion, you find such ideas; Christ is symbolized as the lamb, and the Paraclete, the Comforter, the dove; God himself came down in the form of the dove in the baptismal mystery of Christ.

And the Evangelists are still symbolized as half animals or complete animals.

Angels are bird men, or only heads with two wings underneath and the body somehow gone.

These are all monstrous ideas of divine beings, exceedingly primitive but quite apt as expressions of the peculiar non-human nature of those psychological events which cross
our own ego-will.

Now, if Nietzsche had thought like that he would have asked about this figure which he must call “Zarathustra.”

He could have given him any other name but he chose “Zarathustra.” Of course he had a rational explanation for it, but if he had lived in our time, he most certainly would have asked himself what it meant.

He would have said, “Here appears a figure; have I made it? Did I premeditate it? Did I set out with the decision to create a figure called ‘Zarathustra’?”

Then he would have come to the conclusion that he never had dreamt of doing such a thing-it just happened. And he could not have avoided the discovery that here something had happened: I have not created it, it has created itself definitely; it is a magic experience, therefore I give it a name. I give it a form even.

Perhaps that figure talks, perhaps it has life of its own, for I have not invented it: it made itself. And then he would have landed with the conviction: if Zarathustra can come to life again, why not God? Is Zarathustra in any way different from a conception of God? Not at all.

God has been understood to be a conception of the wise old man, and if any demon or hero can come into life again, why not God?

So he would have discovered this tremendous error of his age, the idea that God was invented by man. But in the 19th century the conditions were particularly unfavorable because they labored under that fact of having assumptions about God.

You see, things cannot be left unregulated. Particularly must they be defined when it comes to making a state or an institution like the church; and since God is an object of worship, something definite must be said about him.

So the sayings of Jesus were used, for example that God was good, really the best thing in the world, and that he was a loving father.

Now, all these sayings are perfectly true, but there is also the standpoint of the Old Testament, the fear of God.

You cannot have the New Testament without the Old. The New Testament was the Jewish reformation of the Old Testament: it was Jewish Protestantism.

The Jews were absolutely under the standpoint of the fear of God and law-abiding behavior, and therefore the reformer had to insist that God was not only to be feared.

It was obvious from many passages and psalms that God was not only a law-giver and a policeman to punish the trespasser on the spot, but was also a loving father and really meant to be benevolent.

He was exceedingly wise and kind and would give them everything they wanted.

This Jewish Protestantism was then detached, and it was even a necessity to detach it, for the Gentiles to whom this Evangel was preached had no idea of a wrathful God.

Their idea of a God was a beautiful and terrible force of nature with a personal psychology, and no moral purposes connected with it whatever. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 911-917.