Development of Personality

One of the most shining examples of the meaning of personality that history has preserved for us is the life of Christ.

In Christianity, which, be it mentioned in passing, was the only religion really persecuted by the Romans, there rose up a direct opponent of the Caesarean madness that afflicted not only the emperor, but every Roman as well: civis Romanus sum.

The opposition showed itself wherever the worship of Caesar clashed with Christianity.

But, as we know from what the evangelists tell us about the psychic development of Christ’s personality, this opposition was fought out just as decisively in the soul of its founder.

The story of the Temptation clearly reveals the nature of the psychic power with which Jesus came into collision:

it was the power-intoxicated devil of the prevailing Caesarean psychology that led him into dire temptation in the wilderness.

This devil was the objective psyche that held all the peoples of the Roman Empire under its sway, and that is why it promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth, as if it were trying to make a Caesar of him.

Obeying the inner call of his vocation, Jesus voluntarily exposed himself to the assaults of the imperialistic madness that filled everyone, conqueror and conquered alike.

In this way he recognized the nature of the objective psyche which had plunged the whole world into misery and had begotten a yearning for salvation that found expression even in the pagan poets.

Far from suppressing or allowing himself to be suppressed by this psychic onslaught, he let it act on him consciously, and assimilated it.

Thus was world-conquering Caesarism transformed into spiritual kingship, and the Roman Empire into the universal kingdom of God that was not of this world.

While the whole Jewish nation was expecting an imperialistically minded and politically active hero as a Messiah, Jesus fulfilled the Messianic mission not so much for his own nation as for the whole Roman world, and pointed out to humanity the old truth that where force rules there is no love, and where love reigns force does not count.

The religion of love was the exact psychological counterpart to the Roman devil-worship of power.

The example of Christianity is perhaps the best illustration of my previous abstract argument.

This apparently unique life became a sacred symbol because it is the psychological prototype of the only meaningful life, that is, of a life that strives for the individual realization—absolute and unconditional—of its own particular law.

Well may we exclaim with Tertullian: anima naturaliter Christiana!

The deification of Jesus, as also of the Buddha, is not surprising, for it affords a striking example of the enormous valuation that humanity places upon these hero figures and hence upon the ideal of personality.

Though it seems at present as if the blind and destructive dominance of meaningless collective forces would thrust the ideal of personality into the background, yet this is only a passing revolt against the dead weight of history.

Once the revolutionary, unhistorical, and therefore uneducated inclinations of the rising genera􀢢on have had their fill of tearing down tradition, new heroes will be sought and found.

Even the Bolsheviks, whose radicalism leaves nothing to be desired, have embalmed Lenin and made a saviour of Karl Marx.

The ideal of personality is one of the ineradicable needs of the human soul, and the more unsuitable it is the more fanatically it is defended. Indeed, the worship of Caesar was itself a misconceived cult of personality, and modern Protestantism, whose critical theology has reduced the divinity of Christ to vanishing point, has found its last refuge in the personality of Jesus.

Yes, this thing we call personality is a great and mysterious problem.

Everything that can be said about it is curiously unsatisfactory and inadequate, and there is always a danger of the discussion losing itself in pomposity and empty chatter.

The very idea of personality is, in common usage, so vague and ill-defined that one hardly ever finds two people who take the word in the same sense.

If I put forward a more definite conception of it, I do not imagine that I have uttered the last word.

I should like to regard all I say here only as a tentative attempt to approach the problem of personality without making any claim to solve it.

Or rather, I should like my attempt to be regarded as a description of the psychological problems raised by personality.

All the usual explanations and nostrums of psychology are apt to fall short here, just as they do with the man of genius or the creative artist.

Inferences from heredity or from environment do not quite come off; inventing fictions about childhood, so popular today, ends—to put it mildly—in unreality; explanations from necessity—”he had no money,” ”he was a sick man,” etc.—remain caught in externals.

There is always something irrational to be added, something that simply cannot be explained, a deus ex machina or an asylum ignorantiae, that well-known sobriquet for God.

The problem thus seems to border on the extra human realm, which has always been known by a divine name.

As you can see, I too have had to refer to the ”inner voice,” the vocation, and define it as a powerful objective psychic factor in order to characterize the way in which it functions in the developing personality and how it appears subjectively.

Mephistopheles, in Faust, is not personified merely because this creates a better drama􀢢c or theatrical effect, as though Faust were his own moralist and painted his private devil on the wall.

The opening words of the Dedication—”Once more you hover near me, forms and faces”—are more than just an aesthetic flourish.

Like the concretism of the devil, they are an admission of the objectivity of psychic experience, a whispered avowal that this was what actually happened, not because of subjective wishes, or fears, or personal opinions, but somehow quite of itself.

Naturally only a numskull thinks of ghosts, but something like a primitive numskull seems to lurk beneath the surface of our reasonable daytime consciousness. Carl Jung, The Development of Personality, Pages 180-182.