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Carl Jung on becoming whole and Holy


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Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

To Pater Lucas Menz

Dear Pater Lucas, 28 March 1955

Many thanks for your kind and illuminating letter.

It affords me an invaluable glimpse into the process of becoming whole and holy.

On the way back through the history of mankind we integrate much that belongs to us and, deep down, also something of brother animal, who is actually holier than us since he cannot deviate from the divine will implanted in him because his dark consciousness shows him no other paths.

On this way back-no matter where it is begun if only it is trodden in earnest-we fall into the fire or, as the logion says, come near to it: “He that is near me is near the fire. He that is far from me is far from the kingdom.”

The “taming of the beast,” as you call it, is indeed a long process and coincides with the dissolution of egohood.

What you call “deselving” I call “becoming a self”: what previously seemed to be “ego” is taken
up into a greater dimension which dwarfs and surrounds me on all sides, and which I cannot grasp in its totality.

In this connection you, like me, rightly quote Paul, who formulates the same experience.

This experience is a charisma on the one hand, for it is not vouchsafed to us nisi Deo concedente.

On the other hand it is vouchsafed only if we give up the ego as the supreme authority and put ourselves wholly under the will of God.

You yourself feel the need for a definition of “perfection.”

You define it as the “complete unfolding of nature on the level of holiness, brought about by surrendering to God.”

In so far as God is wholeness himself, himself whole and holy, man attains his wholeness only in God, that is, in self-completeness, which in turn he attains only by submitting to God’s will.

Since man in the state of wholeness and holiness is far from any kind of “perfection,” the New Testament rDtnv<; must surely be translated as “complete.”

For me the state of human wholeness is one of “completeness” and not of “perfection,” an expression which, like “holiness,” I tend to avoid.

You describe the ego (after the “taming of the beast”) as being “in complete possession of itself.”

Here I would say that the resistance coming from the psychic depths ceases if we can give up our egohood, and the self (consciousness + unconscious) receives us into its greater dimension, where we are then “whole,” and because of our relative wholeness we are near to that which is truly whole, namely God.

(This is discussed in chs. IV and V of Aion.)

Hence I would say that God is then “in complete possession of the ego and of myself” rather than stress the power of the ego.

I don’t know whether it is permissible, in our incompetence, to think on things divine.

I find that all my thoughts circle round God like the planets round the sun, and are as irresistibly attracted by him.

I would feel it the most heinous sin were I to offer any resistance to this compelling force.

I feel it is God’s will that I should exercise the gift of thinking that has been vouchsafed me.

Therefore I put my thinking at his service and so come into conflict with the traditional doctrine, above all with the doctrine of the privatio boni.

Again, I have asked various theologians in vain what exactly is the relationship of Yahweh to the God
of the Christians, since Yahweh, though a guardian of justice and morality, is himself unjust (hence Job 16:19ff.).

And how is this paradoxical being related to the Summum Bonum?

According to Isaiah 48:10-11 Yahweh torments mankind for his own sake : “Propter me, propter me faciam!”

This is understandable in terms of his paradoxical nature, but not in terms of the Summum Bonum, which by definition already has everything it needs for perfection.

Hence it has no need of man, unlike Yahweh.

I must question the doctrine of the Summum Bonum because the non-existence of evil deprives evil
of all substance and leaves over only the good or else nothing at all, which, since it is nothing, also effects nothing, i.e., cannot cause even the tiniest evil impulse.

And since it is nothing, it cannot come from man either.

Moreover the devil was there before man and was certainly not good.

But the devil is not nothing.

The opposite of the good is therefore not nothing but an equally real evil.

The depth of the psyche, the unconscious, is not made by man but is divinely created nature, which should on no account be reviled by man even though it causes him the greatest difficulties.

Its fire, which “refines” us “in the furnace of affliction,” is according to Isaiah 48:10 the divine will itself, i.e., the will of Yahweh, who needs man.

Man’s understanding and will are challenged and can help, but they can never pretend to have plumbed the depths of the spirit and to have quenched the fire raging within it.

We can only hope that God, in his grace, will not compel us to go deeper and let ourselves be consumed by his fire.

You have evidently offered him sacrifice enough by withstanding his fire until your egohood was sufficiently subdued.

In reality your ego is by no means in complete possession of itself but has been practically reduced to ashes, so that you have become capable of a measure of selfless love.

You could indeed rejoice over this did not your “joyfulness” crassly conflict with the suffering of the world and your fellow man.

Even the Redeemer on the Cross uttered no joyful cry despite his having been credited with completely overcoming the world and himself.

An “object” (as you put it), i.e., a human being who does not know that he has enkindled love in you does not feel loved but humiliated because he is simply subjected or exposed to your own psychic state in which he himself has no part.

Being loved in that way would leave me cold.

But you yourself say that inasmuch as one is oneself one is also the other.

Then his suffering will also affect you and detract from your joyfulness.

But when you go on to say that you “don’t need Creation any more” you give your fellow man (who is also part of Creation) to understand that he is superfluous for you, even though you “joyfully acclaim God through him.”

It falls to the lot of anyone who has overcome something or detached himself from something to bear in the same measure the burdens of others.

Generally they are so heavy that any shouts of joy die on one’s lips.

One is glad if only one can draw breath from time to time.

Much as I can go along with you in the process of “becoming whole and holy,” or individuation, I cannot subscribe to your statements about the “ego in complete possession of itself” and unrelated universal love, although they bring you perilously close to the ideal of Yoga: nirdvandva (free from the opposites).

I know these moments of liberation come flashing out of the process, but I shun them because I always feel at such a moment that I have thrown off the burden of being human and that it will fall back on me with redoubled weight.

You don’t need to change your standpoint in any way in order to gain a knowledge of the archetypes.

You are in the thick of it, even if you should take the view of the father confessor who told a student who came to him for advice on the study of psychology: “Don’t study anything that upsets you.”

As we have not yet reached the state of eternal bliss, we are still suspended on the Cross between ascent and descent, not only for our own but for God’s sake and mankind’s.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 235-238.