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Carl Jung: III Inaugural Address Upon Assuming the Chairmanship of the Zofingia Club

(Winter Semester 1897/98)

Zofingia Lectures

Dear Friends:

It is customary for the newly elected chairman to deliver an inaugural address which paves his way to Hell with good intentions.

Aware as I am of the arduous nature of my new office, I have come equipped with my own share of good intentions.

Will I be able to put them into practice? I don’t know, but let’s hope for the best!

It would be tedious indeed for me to tell you about my good intentions.

I believe that every one of us here respects every other so highly that he will automatically credit him with the intent to carry out his duties conscientiously.

There is another topic far more worthy of discussion, namely that which it is the chairman’s duty to represent: the Club. This is a subject whose dignity is second to


So let us ask: How is our Zofingia faring?

A superficial glance tells us that a group of fairly well-educated young men have formed a club, the Zofingia Club, which has branches in various Swiss towns. In this club we hear a lot about brotherhood, mutual understanding, allegiance to the club as a whole, the fact that we are making progress toward our common goals, and so on.

On suitable occasions, which occur at least once a semester, we set off a lot of patriotic fireworks, which we seem to think very uplifting.

From the outside the Zofingia looks solid and self-assured, a stone tower which, side by side with other stalwart towers that also serve an important function, is standing guard over a high-gabled old-world city.

Therein live the merchants called “historical necessities.”

But in the center of the city towers a magnificent cathedral, a place whither men of all times have made their pilgrimage.

It is called “the Idea.” We can see the stone tower from far away.

It is indeed solidly built, and many men without a country have banged their heads

against it in vain, trying to break down the door.

Let us show no mercy, let us take a closer look.

As we approach, our metaphor of the tower dissolves and blows away like mist, as all metaphors do.

In vain we reach out for new metaphors, trying to capture in a single image all the refractory and irreconcilable features we see.

But no metaphor fits, neither “whited sepulcher” nor that obstinate bundle of sticks which the goddess History has bound together with a red-and-white band.

Finding no appropriate metaphor, let’s see what the reality is like.

Let’s take a look at the constitution, the only common intellectual denominator, the

only thing that will rouse no opposition within the Club.

With a pleasurable sense of trepidation, we open the venerable document.

Alas, there on Page One, right beside Article 3, some German barbarian has left a dreadful inkblot!

We return to that elevated post from which we first gazed at the city. Indeed, it is not a bad view.

The shopkeepers have hung out a lot of dirty historical linen, and a lot of foul business is being carried on in the narrow streets.

But we see the roof of the pilgrims’ church shining in the sunlight, and see how the grey towers and walls all guard the One Thing at the center.

A thousand little fissures and cracks crisscross the masonry from the roof to the foundations, but the structure holds together.

We have found the right metaphor. All we were missing before was the “view from the top.” But let’s not get carried away.

Let’s come back to our own little club and see what’s going on here.

Are we too harboring, in our snug little hut, ill-concealed cracks where jackdaws and sparrows build their nests, which they seek to line to their own advantage?

We can deny this in all good conscience. We have suffered no major damage.

The floors here are a bit rotten, so that a number of people have already stumbled through and sprained their ankles.

The summer is not too hot, the winter not too cold; and in between there blow no bitter winds.

In short, we are in a position to offer a snug hostel to people who are not too particular.

And they often take us up on our offer of hospitality, so that one is inclined to feel that the tone of the place is almost a little too easygoing.

Let us beware, for there’s a raw wind blowing outside and life is not going to give us a free ride.

The Zofingia has set itself the task of forming its members into responsible citizens who work for progress in all areas of political and social life.

Born in an age of political storm and stress, maturing amid the manifold vicissitudes of political thought in the mid-nineteenth century, the Zofingia has now come to rest in the tranquil, perhaps even languid waves of a port: the port of political and philanthropic endeavor.

Now and then people point to some outstanding politician and say that the Zofingia Club has done its job well. I am inclined to doubt this.

We have not achieved the ideal we dreamed of.

Hundreds of alumni have left the active ranks of the Zofingia without ever having displayed the least enthusiasm for a political idea.

Among them were men of high reputation in Switzerland.

To be sure, it is a testament to our high-mindedness that we set ourselves an unattainable ideal, but the day may come when our members are compelled to soberly ask themselves: Is it really our mission to chase after some brightly-colored soap bubble called “historical necessity,” to capture a beautiful but unattainable rainbow?

The day may come when, aghast and filled with doubt, we will ask ourselves:

Ought we really to devote our most ardent enthusiasm

to the historical idea of a fatherland? Are we to place our greatest skills in the service of some political movement we have decided has merit? Now we can still dream of good times to come, but for how much longer can we do so?

Nowadays we don’t know what political upheavals are anymore.

The spring storm of political zeal has long since died away in the skies above our blasé age.

A terrifying lassitude is making itself felt everywhere, as is evident if we merely consider the miserable participation in our plebiscites.

What would a man like Abel Burckhardt have said to all this?

The newspapers are doing their part to heighten our lassitude, disgust, and ennui.

Unspeakably vile machinations, shabby intrigues, vilifications, imputations, the filthiest insinuations, the filthiest trash that a filthy journalist hack can invent: These are the stock-in-trade of the press, which daily stirs up the rabble and drives away the educated man.

This kind of thing takes place in every party, no matter how conservative.

Even if, out of consideration for the moral attitudes of readers, decent newspapers do not print what is downright vile, they manage to achieve the ultimate in sheer triviality.

That’s the way things are in our dear fatherland.

Outside Switzerland, in the realm of international politics, things are much the same, only it’s all done on a grander scale.

If a decent fellow from some planet where there is no such thing as politics, were suddenly to drop down on the earth and see what has been done to Crete and Greece; how all the world’s potentates are creeping to the Mongol prince on the Neva and trying to outdo each other in paying him honor a posteriori; and how the German Kaiser is cozying up to the wild boar of Turkey, he would heartily agree with the refreshing words of old Bircher: “They are damned bastards, those diplomats!”

The true nature of politics is becoming clearer all the time.

It is a desolate naked picture indeed, a grimace too sad to be amusing.

Where are those beings born of fire and the spirit, the champions of a creative idea? Where are those men who reach their mighty hands into the spokes of the universal wheel, and who carve new channels to guide the surge of half-formed ideas?

They are a thing of the past, and so are the inspired thoughts to which they gave birth.

No doubt a few optimists among us will protest and passionately maintain that modern man has not ceased to display a sacred zeal for political causes.

I admit that here and there we find little groups of two or three comrades who display genuine political enthusiasms.

But as a rule the mass enthusiasms of today are preeminently stupid affairs.

For example, just recall the sacred ardor of the Langenthal Radicals who, when asked to vote on the looting raid business, voted a thunderous “No” with great fanfare.

Or the edifying moments in our own marketplace when, because he was suffering from

a catarrh, Herr Brenner was unable to salute his loyal gymnasts’ and schoolmasters’ clubs.

As a rule there is always a newspaper reporter present on such occasions, and near him some venerable old man who, overcome by emotion, is compelled to wipe his eyes continually, and who solemnly deposes that he has never before experienced anything so beautiful and uplifting, even though he is already old and has lived through the separatist war and the Prussian negotiations.

Even more inane are the official displays of public enthusiasm in the pan-German Empire; but most inane of all are the French demonstrations of zeal regarding the Russians.

Only one of the splendid demonstrations of political conviction that we have witnessed in recent times is that which fired up the Greeks to fight the Turks.

It really warmed one’s heart to see it.

Then the official political rabble-rousers from all over Europe rushed to pluck the young eagle’s feathers in order to help ensure the victory of everything unlawful, vile, dissolute, stupid, and trivial.

The Zofingia demands that we send competent politicians out into this chaos.

What is a competent politician? Is he a homo politicus, a particular type of human being without soul and conscience?

Apparently that is the kind of politician we need if he is to be forced to wade through the river of political mud.

Fortunately such people cannot be made but are born, born out of the unfathomable

womb of time, two or three of them every century.

These men must do what they are born for.

The nations bless them and revere them as saints, or curse them as the scourges of God. The Zofingia cannot make such men.

It strives to make good citizens, homunculi politici (political men on a modest scale).

But these good citizens need to have a soul and a conscience, if only to provide a foil for the great men, they need to provide a source of friction against which the great can rub themselves as against pieces of flint until their spirits flame up and give off thunder and lightning.

And perhaps they are needed too to promote progress, to serve as the champions and propagators of new ideas.

The great man bombards the world with problems and tasks, indifferent as to whether these are productive or destructive.

But the Zofingia Club is here to help ensure that there will be human beings in the world to respond to new problems and tasks, human beings in the true sense of the word.

The Zofingia must form human, not political animals, human beings who laugh and weep, human beings conscious of their minds and wills, human beings 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.

A task like this is enough to drive one to despair, for it is nothing less than that of cleaning the Augean stables, trying to break down this towering mountain of rubbish

which has maliciously insinuated itself between man and man.

Let us take a really good look at this mission of ours!

It is sublime, for it embraces everything that we humans have to do on earth.

It is the task of raising up both ourselves and our neighbors.

There are many ways to achieve this goal.

I consider the noblest to be that of unsparing intellectual interchange, free from all prejudice and from all secondary motives; the way of learning to know man as man and not as some lovable form of social livestock.

Such genuine exchange will prevent us from judging by appearances, from judging by the surface.

It will enable us to forge bonds of friendship which do justice to the word amicitia in our motto.

It will pave the way to the litteris, to the education, which no university any longer supplies.

Oh if only things were still as they used to be, when men walked up and down in the cool courts of Athens ….

When we step out into the world of everyday life, we will find there a citizen who is able to live up to the motto of his student days: patriae.

As for drinking, that much-maligned and misconstrued pastime which has become the hallmark of the university student, can we not ennoble our drinking bouts and turn them into a real symposium?

It is your task and mine to promote intellectual communion.

This task is high but not beyond reach, and it is our duty to carry it out.

We should always do our duty.

For, Nietzsche notwithstanding, there is something to morality after all.

My “confession” is now at an end. Page 50-56