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Zofingia Lectures

Carl Jung’s Zofingia Lectures, Marie-Louise Von Franz, Introduction

Although I believe that Jung himself would not have cared to publish these juvenilia, they are highly interesting, readable, and important.

They are lectures he gave to his fellow students at Basel University when he was between twenty-one and twenty-three years of age.

On the 18th of May 1895 he had joined the Basel section of the color-wearing fraternity “Zofingia,” in which it was a tradition for the members to give, from time to time, lectures about their special fields of interest.

The lectures were supposed to meet a high scientific standard and at the same time to express political and other opinions in an outspoken manner befitting a closed circle

whose members felt free of academic and social conventions.

The reader has to bear this in mind when reading the often sarcastic and strong  language that the young medical candidate, C. G. Jung, used in expressing his convictions.

It is a great advantage that the lectures Jung gave at the Zofingia may now be published (by permission of the Jung family, in whose possession they are preserved), because what we had known about them only from the recollections of Gustav Steiner, a co-member of the Zofingia, had given rise to misunderstandings.

Steiner commented on Memories, Dreams, Reflections, upon its publication after

Jung’s death.’ Jung himself had a double reaction toward his experiences in the Zofingia: his student days were “a good time,” he wrote, and a source of friendship and  intellectual exchange, but he also said how lonely he really was, because his fellow students failed to understand what he wanted to say.

To them he was full of exuberant, aggressive, youthful elan.

They had little idea of how much he suffered because, although they were duly impressed by his lectures, they obviously did not really take them as seriously as Jung hoped they would.

If one looks back today at what two wars and a general cultural decay have led to, one can better understand the aggressive urgency of his talks.

Steiner himself states that the students then lived in a purely materialist “sleepy” time which had nothing to offer to young people.

“We then experienced the catastrophe.”

Jung, seeing that catastrophe, the First World War, coming, was impelled to warn them urgently.

It disappointed him how little his companions reacted to it.

As a whole, however, the Zofingia was for Jung a positive experience.

When he joined, its Basel section had 120 members, So of whom were active.

They often met in smaller circles devoted to special interests, which Jung did not join, and, as his friend Albert Oeri tells us, he did not much care for the parties devoted to drinking and dancing.

Yet, in his paper, Oeri draws a lively, sympathetic picture of his young friend.

He was a cheerful comrade, “always prepared to revolt against the ‘League of Virtue.’ ”

He later discovered that he could dance quite well without having learned to.

His student name, incidentally, was Walze (barrel).

Jung was active mainly in the scientific discussions.

In spite of being an outsider in his views, he dominated and fascinated his audience, “luring them into speculative areas of thought which to the majority of us were an alien wonderland …. It was wonderful to let oneself be lectured to, as one sat with him in his room.

His little dachshund would look at me so earnestly, just as though he understood every word, and Jung did not fail to tell me how the sensitive animal would sometimes whimper piteously when occult forces were active.”

Often they sat until late in the night at the pub called “Breo.”

Jung did not like to walk home alone through the Nightingale Wood, so he told his friend such interesting stories that he came along with him without noticing it.

When he stayed out until it was already morning, Jung picked some flowers to soften his mother’s anger.

In the Zofingia Jung kept silent in the meetings for the first three semesters, but later took a leading role.

The motto of the Zofingia was Patriae, amicitiae, litteris (“For fatherland, friendship, and literature”).

The fraternity had been founded in 1820/21, more or less simultaneously with the German Burschenschaften, at first in sympathy with the latter but also, almost at once, in opposition to them, because the Germans wanted to integrate and absorb the Swiss into a pan-Germanic movement.

But from the beginning, the Zofingia stressed its purely Swiss independence.

It was the time after the Napoleonic Wars, when the survivors of the pre-Napoleonic era sought everywhere to abolish the republican order Napoleon had instituted.

The German student movement was, at that time, a romantic uprising characterized by patriotism and liberal ideals, fighting against all shades of absolutism, the prerogatives of certain classes, and (mostly in Switzerland)

the rule of the urban aristocracy over the country folk.

Although in a moderate way revolutionary, the Swiss movement firmly upheld the idea of a legal state, with the Swiss army as a means to defend the independence and neutrality of the nation.

However, events brought a split into the fraternity, and the more conservative group collided with the more liberal.

The latter even founded a separate fraternity called “Helvetia” or, in the thirties, “Neo-Zofingia.”

The split lasted until 1856, when the two groups were reunited as a new Zofingia, the society which Jung joined.

From his approval of the Langenthal episode, a quarrel between liberal and conservative students in which the liberals won, we can see that his feelings were not with the more conservative but with the liberal? tendencies within the reunited fraternity.

For this reunion, however, the Zofingia paid a price: from then on its members no longer identified with actual party politics but set up the ideal of supporting patriotism, friendship, and education only in a general way, leaving each member to join any party he liked (except the anarchists or other parties which worked for the overthrow of the Swiss state and its independence).

Although this saved the unity of the organization, it also led to the perils against which

Jung seems to warn in his presidential address, namely that the fraternity was in danger of becoming a peaceful, “sleepy,” young men’s club with no more spirit to fight for realistic goals.

But viewed as a whole, Jung’s relationship to the Zofingia was positive, because the fraternity helped him step out of his isolation and formulate the ideas churning in him at that stage of his life.

What makes these early ideas so interesting is that they not only show where Jung stood at that point, but also how consistent his views of that youthful time are with his later thought and which questions tortured him at that time–questions for which he found answers in later life.

In his first lecture, “The Border Zones of Exact Science” (November 1896), he begins with a vehement attack on the inertia, stupidity, and conventionality of most scientists and exposes contemporary materialistic society as a giant with feet of clay.

Although the views of physics that he criticizes are naturally outdated, it is

fascinating to see how Jung attacks just the weak points.

First he shows the absurdity of the concept of ether, which was generally believed.in then, until Albert Einstein showed, through his theory of relativity, that it is an unnecessary hypothesis.

The second problem that Jung raises is the explanation of gravitation, to which he wrongly attributed some “metaphysical” quality.

Science has since then advanced in its exploration, but it may be noted that gravitation is still the one force which on account of its extreme weakness cannot yet be included in a unified field theory, and its relativization in psychokinesis is still a matter of discussion.

Jung’s instinct thus went directly to certain weak points in the coarsely materialistic physical theories of his time, and although his thesis seen from the point of view of today’s knowledge-is outdated, modern physics has certainly not yet solved the riddles he touched upon.

Jung’s further attack is turned against the concept of a mechanical generation of life out of inorganic, i.e., “dead,” matter.

The vitalistic standpoint with which he sympathizes lost the battle in subsequent years, but today we approach a turning point again, where scientists begin to reconsider the possibility that acausal creative processes (synchronicity or “self-organization” by a spiritual agency) may lie at the beginning of life.”

If we can believe R. Ruyer’s report, in La Gnose de Princeton, there are even leading physicists, especially in the United States, who believe in “mind over matter” in a way which Jung himself-in my opinion-would judge as too one-sidedly spiritualistic.

It is remarkable how Jung at that time, when the rise of materialism in science had only begun, saw its weak points.

But what has he in mind as an alternative?

He speaks only at the end of his lecture of two “metaphysical principles” postulated by the mystery of gravitation and of the origin of life, two phenomena which, as he says, “are virtually a closed book.”

He means by this the possibility that an immaterial phenomenon might manifest materially, but he does not explain this further.

The first lecture stops short here with the criticism of materialism as “intellectual death” and only opens the door for what he really wants to say in his second lecture.

Thus the first lecture must be understood as a deliberate preparation of the way for showing what he had in mind, which he knew well-would be shocking for his audience.

The second lecture is entitled “Some Thoughts on Psychology” (May 1897).

It opens with a quotation from Kant which emphasizes that morality is essential in science and that all philosophical investigations into concepts of God and of “the other world” would be worthless without morality.

This brings in an important point, to which I will return only later.

The text then continues with quotations from David Strauss, Schopenhauer, and Kant, stressing the existence of “spirits” or “immaterial natures” beyond the bodies, and of” another world” with which our soul is linked already during our lifetime.

Then Jung adds to these quotations the idea of the existence of a non-physiological “intellectual being” or “life force” which some contemporary vitalistic physiologists also postulated.

This life-principle, i.e., the soul, he says, “extends far beyond our consciousness”-here Jung first mentions indirectly the idea of an unconscious psyche.

This soul is intelligent (purposeful in its acts) and independent of space-time.

These three aspects of the psyche are concepts that Jung retained throughout his life.

To validate this view Jung then brings in a wealth of spiritualistic documentation about materialization phenomena, telekinesis, the “double,” telepathy, clairvoyance, prophetic dreams, etc.

We can see how the “reality of the psyche”-this basic concept of later Jungian psychology-is understood at that time and find in it also the background for Jung’s dissertation, “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena.”

At the end of his lecture Jung returns to his first point: the need to bring morality back into science as a counterforce against the materialism that “poisons our morality and induces the moral instability of the educated classes.”

He specially mentions experiments involving “the cruel torture of animals which is a mockery of all human decency …. No truth obtained by unethical means has the moral right to exist.”

This point, which I want to stress, has not won out in our time.

The immorality of science has only increased since then.

The widespread opposition nowadays against atomic plants and against vivisection is still belittled as “unreasonable” and “unscientific,” just as if a moral or feeling reaction had no right to exist.

Then follows, in Jung’s lecture, an attack against the representatives of religion and their ineffectualness, because they deny themselves what for Jung is the very essence of religion: the reality of mystery and of the “extrasensory realm.”

Here again we meet a point of view that Jung never gave up and that-so it seems to me-will be a problem for future generations.

Most modern theologians still try to discredit the irrational aspects of religion and use the most tortuous ratiocinations in order to “defend” religion, which they actually help to destroy.

The third lecture, Jung’s inaugural address as chairman of the fraternity in 1897/98, needs no comment; it is understandable in itself. It shows mainly Jung’s positive criticisms and postulates at that time.

Much of it is as true today as it was then. Jung remained all his lifetime a “liberal” (in a nonpolitical sense) and voted seldom for the conservative Freisinnige Partei in Zurich, but rather for the Landesring der Unabhangigen (which since his time has changed in its policies).

For me, there is in the early formulations of this address a “heroic” undertone, an admiration or call for great political leaders, which the later Jung would not have maintained.

The turning point in this respect came to him in December 1913, when he dreamed that he shot down the hero-figure of Siegfried.

Until then, I believe, he harbored the conviction that one could do something for mankind, or at least for European culture, that one could find new answers for our problem in external activities.

The sacrifice of Siegfried put an end to this.

From then on he let the primitive man who trusts the unconscious lead the way.

All will to power, all temptation toward outer action was definitely given up,

and Jung turned to his only task-the one he formulates himself at the end of this third lecture: namely that the Zofingia should “form human, not political animals, human beings who laugh and weep … who know that they are living among other human beings and that they must all put up with each other because they are all condemned to be human.”

How far are we still from this goal?

It was probably the Siegfried image in Jung’s psyche that Freud sensed when he wanted to make him his crown prince and leader of the psychoanalytic movement, and that induced the later Jung to take steps to save the International General Medical Society of Psychotherapy, only leading him into trouble.

When he sacrificed “Siegfried” he was in accord with what the I Ching says, in hexagram, about the great man: “Wavering flight over the depths. No blame.”

And the commentary follows: “A place of transition has been reached, and free choice can enter in. A twofold possibility is presented to the great man: he can soar to the heights and play an important part in the world, or he can withdraw into solitude and develop himself. He can go the way of the hero or that of the holy sage who seeks seclusion.”

Jung chose the second way and gave up his youthful idealistic postulates concerning outer reality.

The fourth lecture, “Thoughts on the Nature and Value of Speculative Inquiry” (Summer 1898), is a fascinating philosophical presentation.

Some of its points perhaps call for comment today.

After a discussion of the aims and meaning of science and the senselessness of external success, Jung sets two goals that seem to lead man to happiness: first, the fulfillment of Kant’s categorical imperative, which would mean to follow one’s innermost ethical conscience, and secondly, what Jung then called (following Eduard von Hartmann) the “causal instinct,” by which he means “the gratification of the causal instinct.”

The words “causal” and “causality” have today assumed a different meaning.

What Jung there calls the “causal instinct” is in fact an individual urge to understand outer and inner reality, an innate passion, as he later called it in Memories, which he confesses to have been “the strongest element in my nature.”

He even calls it the possible reason for his birth on earth.

“This insatiable drive toward understanding has, as it were, created a consciousness in order to know what is and what happens, and in order to piece together mythic conceptions from the slender hints of the unknowable.”

In days, Jung would have called this urge not a “causal instinct” but a drive towards the discovery of meaning.

But that this idea was already present in the back of his mind is revealed by the fact that later in the lecture he calls this causal instinct the search for the truth and states that it inevitably leads to religion.

the present, he continues to describe this search for knowledge as “drawing inferences about the unknown, in accordance with the principle of sufficient reason,” on the basis of real experience, and not drawing inferences about the inner world on the basis of the outer or denying external reality by affirming only the inner world.

This is, in so many words, Jung’s scientific credo, to which he remained loyal throughout his life and upon which basis he called himself an empirical scientist.

In the next passage Jung explains why he uses the term (causal) instinct for this drive toward understanding-namely, because of its purposefulness, which is motivated “by a purposeful idea which is unknown to us.”

The causal instinct is “an ardent desire for truth” and a Faustian longing.

Thus all philosophy develops finally into religion.

The ultimate causes toward which we advance our scientific questioning are always unknown or transcendental postulates, what Kant called the Ding an sick.

But here Jung consciously describes Kant’s Ding an sick in a completely new light.

For him it belongs to “a world of the invisible and incomprehensible, a continuation of material nature into the incalculable, the immeasurable, and the inscrutable.”

Kant has shown that our mind is limited by certain inborn a priori categories, such as space, time, number, etc., and thus cannot recognize any Ding an sich, any absolute object.

Jung accepted this view and thus for him the Ding an sich became the unknowable, whether an outer material or an inner psychic object.

Kant’s Ding an sich thus becomes, in his view, the same as that which Jung later called the background of the collective unconscious or the unus mundus (in his late work Mysterium Coniunctionis).

It is neither material nor inner psychic, but transcends our consciousness as something definitely unknowable.

God in Himself and the background of the outer universe are such unknowable facts.

Later in the lecture it becomes clear that our unconscious hypothesis is also such an unknown factor, which, when it becomes conscious or known, ceases to be a Ding an sich.

Here we can see a foreshadowing of Jung’s later formulation of the archetype.

It is an unconscious structure, unknowable in itself, which we can observe only in its manifestations as archetypal images, ideas, and emotions.

An archetypal symbol, according to the later Jung, is dead and obsolete as soon as its content is known and can be intellectually formulated.

Otherwise it contains a wealth of unknown aspects.

The same is true for any scientific archetypal model or hypothesis-which Jung, in this lecture, calls principle.

Toward these principles or this principle (for they are a manifold One), science advances in a never-ending process.

But this poses the question of whether there are one or two (or more) such principles.

Jung first points out that Schopenhauer’s basic principle, the Will, is an evolved interpretation of Kant’s Ding an sich.

It is unconscious because it created a world full of suffering, which Schopenhauer explains by the Will’s blindness and Hartmann by saying that the Ding an sich, i.e., the transcendental ground of existence, is unconscious.

They both come to this conclusion because they have feeling hearts for human suffering.

This is, to my knowledge, the place where Jung first and with strong emotion formulated the problem of opposites.

What in the observer is a conflict between monistic thinking and a feeling experience of the discord in life is in the general outer and inner world a play of opposites.

Jung here stands up for a pessimistic dualistic view of the world, and he quotes Ecclesiasticus 33: 15-16 and Jacob Boehme.

The latter part of the lecture, dealing with physics, is outdated in its details.

What Jung seems to aim at is a double aspect of reality as being active, alive, creative versus passive, inert, and dead, a kind of opposition that strongly reminds one of the Yang-Yin philosophy of China (unknown to Jung then), with a one-sidedly positive aspect

on the Yang principle.

It is this one-sidedness of a purely masculine outlook on life that he later shot down in the dream-image of Siegfried.

It was only after this that he could open himself up to the feminine principle and thus came, through his discovery of alchemy and his studies of it, to the concept of a coniunctio oppositorum, instead of holding to his pessimistic view of the world as a tragic and unending strife between the opposites.

It was-as we can read here-the deep pity for the suffering of mankind that motivated his pessimistic view of life at that time and probably also motivated his becoming a doctor.

From these early torturing questions, which Jung poses in this lecture, we can also realize what a powerful experience the meeting with alchemy must have meant for Jung later, because alchemy is (as he himself has shown) a prescientific undercurrent that tries to reconcile and unite the cosmic and intra-human opposites that the Christian outlook has torn apart.

The blind Will of Schopenhauer and the unconsciousness of Hartmann’s transcendental ground of existence thus lead a direct line to Jung’s conviction that God, or the Background of Existence, is unconscious and needs man in order to become conscious (cf. Answer to Job and the chapter “Late Thoughts” in Memories).

The last lecture of this series January 1899), leading into theological areas, is a direct continuation of what has been said before: it leads to religion.

Just as Kant, after having stated the logical self-limitation of rational philosophical thinking, turned to the “starry sky above us and the ethical imperative within”-to a defense, that is, of religion-Jung was convinced that our deepest longing for

consciousness is religious.

We know now from his Memories that from earliest youth he had had deeply numinous religious experiences, but that he avoided talking about them because they seemed to frighten and estrange others.

The contemporary trend, even in theology, was clearly against all mysterious, supernatural, and numinous aspects of religion.

We know that Jung’s own father’s religious convictions were in his later life undermined by contemporary materialistic doubts, a fact that led to many fruitless discussions between father and son.

Jung chose in his lecture to criticize the theologian Albrecht Ritschl in order to make his point.

First he assembled a collection of Biblical sayings of Jesus, on which he based what he then wanted to convey, namely that Jesus was a godman and as such a mysterious phenomenon that cannot be rationally explained.

Such men “are their own idea, untrammeled and absolute among the minds of their age …. They have not evolved from any historical foundation, but know that in their inmost natures they are free of all contingency.”

It is noteworthy that Jung speaks here in the plural, that Christ for him was not the only god-man as Christian doctrine maintains.

We know from his later writings that the Buddha was for him also such a god-man.

Then Jung branches out to show how, since the Renaissance, philosophy began to develop the idea of a “normal man” to which all epistemological results are tacitly referring and by which philosophers and theologians also began to “measure” the image of Christ.

Later Kant regarded God as a “purely negative limiting concept”-all feeling has thus vanished from his concept of God and all possibility of a living experience of Him.

And from there Jung goes into the details of Ritschl’s “explanation” of Christ and

Christianity. In themselves, Ritschl’s views (which, by the way, influenced

Karl Barth) are no longer of much interest, but the unfeeling ratiocinations of most theologians today are still in the same vein.

When in a lecture some years ago I spoke of the resurrection of Christ, I was superciliously informed by a theologian that naturally the resurrection of Christ is not “true” as it is told in the Gospels, it is only a speech-image to describe Christ’s continuing effectiveness in the world.

Such ideas, Jung says, only satisfy the urge “to get a human slant” on Christ, a criticism he repeats in extenso in a letter to Upton Sinclair about his book A Personal Jesus, in 1952.

Other theologians nowadays follow Nietzsche’s idea that “God is dead” or Freud’s biological explanation of religion.

Viewed from this angle, Jung’s criticism of Ritschl is still worth reading, for theology today is also poisoned with crypto-materialistic reductive thinking.

Any immediate experience of Christ or God, any unio mystica, is thus eliminated, and deadly boredom invades all our so-called religious life.

But Jung goes on to say that it does not seem right on this account to throw away our whole Christian tradition.

We “must accept the supramundane nature of Christ, no more and no less,” and even more we must accept the “mystery,” the world of metaphysical ideas to which Christ belongs and from which springs all religious life.

But then-and here Jung touches in the end upon the great remaining problem-this would mean a return to the Middle Ages and a “concomitant disintegration of the existing order of nature.”

Because, Jung means, our civilizing achievement visa-vis nature would again be all undone.

The lecture thus ends with an unanswered question, a question with which Jung struggled all his lifetime.

In 1912 he came to the conclusion that he personally could not return to the medieval or original Christian myth and set his foot on the path of finding his own myth by a form of meditation that he later called “active imagination.”

The world of images he discovered on this path seemed to him to be subjective and “strange” until, to his relief, he found their collective historical amplification: the world of alchemy.

And there he also found how this world of alchemical religious symbols relates in a

compensatory (but not opposite[) way to medieval Christianity, as he sets forth in his introduction to Psychology and Alchemy.

This leads then in a direct line to what Jung sums up in the chapter “Late Thoughts” as his real credo, where he expresses the idea that Christianity should not be discarded, but that its myth should be “dreamt on,” evolved in order to answer the questions that medieval Christianity left unanswered: i.e., the integration of the feminine principle, as Nature or matter, into the too one-sidedly spiritualistic Christian symbolism and doctrine, and also an honest confrontation with the problem of evil, in the way he describes it in Answer to Job.

Jung once said to me that he would like to rewrite all of his books again, except Answer to job; that book could stay as it is, word for word. ~Marie-Louise Von Franz, Introduction Zofingia Lectures, Page xii -xxv