The Way to the Self
In 1918, Jung wrote a paper entitled “On the unconscious,” where he noted that all of us stood between two
worlds: the world of external perception and the world of perception of the unconscious.
This distinction depicts his experience at this time. He wrote that Friedrich Schiller had claimed that the approximation of these two worlds was through art.
By contrast, Jung argued, “I am of the opinion that the union of rational and irrational truth is to be found not so much in art as in the symbol per se; for it is the essence of the symbol to contain both the rational and irrational.”
Symbols, he maintained, stemmed from the unconscious, and the creation of symbols was the most important function of the unconscious.
While the compensatory function of the unconscious was always present, the symbol-creating function was present only when we were willing to recognize it.
Here, we see him continuing to eschew viewing his productions as art. It was not art but symbols which were of paramount importance here.
The recognition and recuperation of this symbol-creating power is portrayed in Liber Novus.
It depicts Jung’s attempt to understand the psychological nature of symbolism and to view his fantasies symbolically.
He concluded that what was unconscious at any given epoch was only relative, and changing.
What was required now was the “remolding of our views in accordance with the active forces of the unconscious.”
Thus the task confronting him was one of translating the conceptions gained through his confrontation with the unconscious, and expressed in a literary and symbolic manner in Liber Novus, into a language that was compatible with the contemporary outlook.
The following year, he presented a paper in England before the Society of Psychical Research, of which he was an honorary member, on “The psychological foundations of the belief in spirits.”
He differentiated between two situations in which the collective unconscious became active.
In the first, it became activated through a crisis in an individual’s life and the collapse of hopes and expectations.
In the second, it became activated at times of great social, political, and religious upheaval.
At such moments, the factors suppressed by the prevailing attitudes accumulate in the collective unconscious.
Strongly intuitive individuals become aware of these and try to translate them into communicable ideas.
If they succeeded in translating the unconscious into a communicable language, this had a redeeming effect.
The contents of the unconscious had a disturbing effect. In the first situation, the collective unconscious might replace
reality, which is pathological.
In the second situation, the individual may feel disorientated, but the state is not pathological.
This differentiation suggests that Jung viewed his own experience as falling under the second heading—namely, the activation of the collective unconscious due to the general cultural upheaval.
Thus his initial fear of impending insanity in 1913 lay in his failure to realize this distinction.
In 1918, he presented a series of seminars to the Psychological Club on his work on typology, and was engaged in extensive scholarly research on this subject at this time.
He developed and expanded the themes articulated in these papers in 1921 in Psychological Types. As regards the working over of themes of Liber Novus, the most important section was chapter 5, “The type problem in poetry.”
The basic issue discussed here was how the problem of opposites could be resolved through the production of the uniting or reconciling symbol.
This forms one of the central themes of Liber Novus.
Jung presented detailed analysis of the issue of the resolution of the problem of opposites in Hinduism, Taoism, Meister Eckhart, and, in present times, in the work of Carl Spitteler.
This chapter can also be read in terms of a meditation on some of the historical sources that directly informed his conceptions in Liber Novus.
It also heralded the introduction of an important method. Rather than directly discussing the issue of the reconciliation of opposites in Liber Novus, he sought out historical analogies and commented upon them.
In 1921, the “self” emerged as a psychological concept. Jung defined it as follows:
Inasmuch as the I is only the center of my field of consciousness, it is not identical with the totality of my psyche, being merely a complex among other complexes. Hence I discriminate between the I and the self, since the I is only the subject of my consciousness, while the self is the subject of my totality: hence it also includes the unconscious psyche. In this sense the self would be an (ideal) greatness which embraces and includes the I. In unconscious fantasy the self often appears as the super-ordinated or ideal personality, as Faust is in relation to Goethe and Zarathustra to Nietzsche.
He equated the Hindu notion of Brahman/Atman with the self.
At the same time, Jung provided a definition of the soul.
He argued that the soul possessed qualities that were complementary to the persona, containing those qualities that the conscious attitude lacked.
This complementary character of the soul also affected its sexual character, so that a man had a feminine soul, or anima, and a woman had a masculine soul, or animus.
This corresponded to the fact that men and women had both masculine and feminine traits.
He also noted that the soul gave rise to images that were assumed to be worthless from the rational perspective.
There were four ways of using them:
The first possibility of making use of them is artistic, if one is in any way
gifted in that direction; a second is philosophical speculation; a third is quasi-religious, leading to heresy and the founding of sects; and a fourth way of employing the dynamis of these images is to squander it in every form of licentiousness.
From this perspective, the psychological utilization of these images would represent a “fifth way.”
For it to succeed, psychology had to distinguish itself clearly from art, philosophy, and religion.
This necessity accounts for Jung’s rejection of the alternatives.
In the subsequent Black Books, he continued to elaborate his “mythology.”
The figures developed and transformed into one another.
The differentiation of the figures was accompanied by their coalescence, as he came to regard them as aspects of underlying components of the personality.
On January 5, 1922, he had a conversation with his soul concerning both his vocation and Liber Novus:
[I:] I feel that I must speak to you. Why do you not let me sleep, as I am tired? I feel that the disturbance comes from you. What induces you to keep me awake?
[Soul:] Now is no time to sleep, but you should be awake and prepare important matters in nocturnal work. The great work begins.
[I:] What great work?
[Soul:] The work that should now be undertaken. It is a great and difficult work. There is no time to sleep, if you find no time during the
day to remain in the work.
[I:] But I had no idea that something of this kind was taking place.
[Soul:] But you could have told by the fact that I have been disturbing your sleep for a long time. You have been too unconscious for a long time. Now you must go to a higher level of consciousness.
[I:] I am ready. What is it? Speak!
[Soul:] You should listen: to no longer be a Christian is easy. But what next? For more is yet to come. Everything is waiting for you. And you? You remain silent and have nothing to say. But you should speak. Why have you received the revelation? You should not hide it. You concern yourself with the form? Is the form important, when it is a matter of revelation?
[I:] But you are not thinking that I should publish what I have written? That would be a misfortune. And who would understand it?
[Soul:] No, listen! You should not break up a marriage, namely the marriage with me, no person should supplant me . . . I want to rule alone.
[I:] So you want to rule? From whence do you take the right for such a presumption?
[Soul:] This right comes to me because I serve you and your calling. I could just as well say, you came first, but above all your calling comes
[I:] But what is my calling?
[Soul:] The new religion and its proclamation.
[I:] Oh God, how should I do this?
[Soul:] Do not be of such little faith. No one knows it as you do. There is no one who could say it as well as you could.
[I:] But who knows, if you are not lying?
[Soul:] Ask yourself if I am lying. I speak the truth.
His soul here pointedly urged him to publish his material, at which he
Three days later, his soul informed him that the new religion
“expresses itself only in the transformation of human relations. Relations do not let themselves be replaced by the deepest knowledge. Moreover a religion does not consist only in knowledge, but at its visible level in a new ordering of human affairs. Therefore expect no further knowledge from me. You know everything that is to be known about the manifested revelation, but you do not yet live
everything that is to be lived at this time.”
Jung’s “1” replied,
“I can fully understand and accept this. However, it is dark to me, how the knowledge could be transformed into life. You must teach me this.” His soul said, “There is not much to say about this. It is not as rational as you are inclined to think. The way is symbolic.”
Thus the task confronting Jung was how to realize and embody what he had learned through his self-investigation into life.
During this period the themes of the psychology of religion and the relation of religion to psychology became increasingly prominent in his work, starting from his seminar in Polzeath in Cornwall in 1923.
He attempted to develop a psychology of the religious-making process. Rather than proclaiming a new prophetic revelation, his interest lay in the psychology of religious experiences.
The task was to depict the translation and transposition of the numinous experience of individuals into symbols, and eventually into the dogmas and creeds of organized religions, and, finally, to study the psychological function of such symbols.
For such a psychology of the religion-making process to succeed, it was essential that analytical psychology, while providing an affirmation of the religious attitude, did not succumb to becoming a creed.
In 1922, Jung wrote a paper on “The relation of analytical psychology to poetic art works.”
He differentiated two types of work: the first, which sprang entirely from the author’s intention, and the second, which seized the author.
Examples of such symbolic works were the second part of Goethe’s Faust and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.
He held that these works stemmed from the collective unconscious. In such instances, the creative process consisted in the unconscious
activation of an archetypal image.
The archetypes released in us a voice that was stronger than our own:
Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthrals and overpowers . . . he transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.
The artist who produced such works educated the spirit of the age, and compensated the one-sidedness of the present.
In describing the genesis of such symbolic works, Jung seemingly had his own activities in mind.
Thus while Jung refused to regard Liber Novus as “art,” his reflections on its composition were nevertheless a critical source of his subsequent conceptions and theories of art.
The implicit question that this paper raised was whether psychology could now serve this function of educating the spirit of the age and compensating the one-sidedness of the present. From this period onward, he came to conceive of the task of his psychology in precisely such a manner. ~Sonu Shamdasani, The Red Book, Page 210-212