[Carl Jung on “Metaphysical” ideas in the modern world.]
I regard these parallels as important because it is possible, through them, to relate so-called metaphysical concepts, which have lost their root connection with natural experience, to living, universal psychic processes, so that they can recover their
true and original meaning. In this way the connection is reestablished between the ego and projected contents now formulated as “metaphysical” ideas.
Unfortunately, as already said, the fact that metaphysical ideas exist and are believed in does nothing to prove the actual existence of their content or of the object they refer to, although the coincidence of idea and reality in the form of a special psychic state, a state of grace, should not be deemed impossible, even if the subject cannot bring it about by an act of will.
Once metaphysical ideas have lost their capacity to recall and evoke the original experience they have not only become useless but prove to be actual impediments on the road to wider development. One clings to possessions that have once meant wealth; and the more ineffective, incomprehensible, and lifeless they become the more obstinately people cling to them. (Naturally it is only sterile ideas that they cling to; living ideas have content and riches enough, so there is no need to cling to them.) Thus in the course of time the meaningful turns into the meaningless. This is unfortunately the fate o metaphysical ideas.
Today it is a real problem what on earth such ideas can mean. The world so far as it has not completely turned its back on tradition has long ago stopped wanting to hear a “message”; it would rather be told what the message means. The words that resound from the pulpit are incomprehensible and cry for an explanation.
How has the death of Christ brought us redemption when no one feels redeemed? In what way is Jesus a God-man and what is such a being? What is the Trinity about, and the parthenogenesis, the eating of the body and the drinking of the blood, and all the rest of it? What connection can there be between the world of such concepts and the everyday world, whose material reality is the concern of natural science on the widest possible scale?
At least sixteen hours out of twenty-four we live exclusively in this everyday world, and the remaining eight we spend preferably in an unconscious condition. Where and when does anything take place to remind us even remotely of phenomena like angels, miraculous feedings, benedictions, the resurrection of the dead, etc.?
It was therefore something of a discovery to find that during the unconscious state of sleep intervals occur, called “dreams,” which occasionally contain scenes having a not inconsiderable resemblance to the motifs of mythology. For myths are miracle tales and treat of all those things which, very often, are also objects of belief.
In the everyday world of consciousness such things hardly exist; that is to say, until 1933 only lunatics would have been found in possession of living fragments of mythology. After this date the world of heroes and monsters spread like a devastating fire over whole nations, proving that the strange world of myth had suffered no loss of vitality during the centuries of reason and enlightenment.
If metaphysical ideas no longer have such a fascinating effect as before, this is certainly not due to any lack of primitivity in the European psyche, but simply and solely to the fact that the erstwhile symbols no longer express what is now welling up from the unconscious as the end result of the development of Christian consciousness through the centuries.
This end-result is a true antimimon pneuma, a false spirit of arrogance, hysteria, woolly-mindedness, criminal amorality, and doctrinaire fanaticism, a purveyor of shoddy spiritual goods, spurious art, philosophical stutterings, and Utopian humbug, fit only to be fed wholesale to the mass man of today. That is what the post-Christian spirit looks like. ~Carl Jung, Aion, The Self, Page 34.