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Symbolic Life

The lectures and essays contained in this volume owe their existence primarily to questions addressed to me by the public.

These questions are enough in themselves to sketch a picture of the psychological problems of our time.

And, like the questions, the answers have come from my personal and professional experience of the psychic life of our so remarkable era.

The fundamental error persists in the public that there are definite answers, “solutions,” or views which need only be uttered in order to spread the necessary light.

But the most beautiful truth—as history has shown a thousand times over-—is of no use at all unless it has become the innermost experience and possession of the individual.

Every unequivocal, so-called “clear” answer always remains stuck in the head and seldom penetrates to the heart.

The needful thing is not to know the truth but to experience it.

Not to have an intellectual conception of things, but to find our way to the inner, and perhaps wordless, irrational experience—that is the great problem.

Nothing is more fruitless than talking of how things must or should be, and nothing is more important than finding the way to these far-off goals.

Most people know very well how things should be, but who can point the way to get there?

As the title of this book shows, it is concerned with problems, not solutions.

The psychic endeavours of our time are still caught in the realm of the problematical ; we are still looking for the essential question which, when found, is already half the solution.

These essays may open the reader’s eyes to our wearisome struggle with that tremendous problem, the “soul,” which perhaps torments modern man in even higher degree than it did his near and distant ancestors.

As only one and a half years have gone by since the appearance of the first edition, there are no reasons for essential alterations in the text.

The collection of my essays therefore appears in unaltered form.

And as no fundamental objections or misunderstandings that might have provided occasion for an explanatory answer have become known to me, there is no need either of a longer foreword.

At any rate, the reproach of psychologism so often levelled at me would be no excuse for a long disquisition, for no fair-minded person will expect me to prefer the attitude of a metaphysician or a theologian in my own field of work.

I shall never stop seeing and judging all observable psychic phenomena psychologically.

Every reasonable man knows that this does not express any final and ultimate truth.

Absolute assertions belong to the realm of faith—or of immodesty.

Kusnacht-Zurich, July 1932 Italian New Edition (1959)

This book is a collection of lectures and essays which originated in the 1920’s and constitute volume III of my “Psychologische Abhandlungen.”

They are for the most part popular expositions of certain fundamental questions of practical psychology, which concerns itself not only with the sick but with the healthy.

The latter also have “problems,” the same in principle as those of the neurotic, but because practically everybody has them and knows them they are counted as “contemporary questions,” while in their neurotic form they appear rather as biographical curiosa.

The treatment of the neuroses has naturally confronted doctors with many questions they could not answer by medical means alone.

They had to resort to an academic psychology that had never concerned itself with living human beings, or only under restrictive experimental conditions which were a direct hindrance to the natural expression of the psyche as a whole.

Since the doctors received no help from outside (with the exception of a few philosophers like C. G. Carus, Schopenhauer, Eduard von Hartmann, Nietzsche), they saw themselves compelled to build up a medical psychology of real human beings.

The essays in this volume bear witness to these efforts. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 558-560