In a memorable interview, the late Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, one of the founders of psychiatry, tells:
“WHY I BELIEVE IN GOD”
On June 2, 1961. journalist Frederick Sands visited Carl Gustav Jung in Switzerland.
Jung, survivor of psychology’s ” Big Three” (the others, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler), spoke freely of life and death.
On June 6, Jung, 86, was dead.
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING believes that this interview with one of the founders of modern psychiatry, in the twilight of his life, has historic significance.
Brought up by his father to Le a good Christian in the traditional sense, Carl Gustav Jung, only son of a Swiss Reformed Church pastor of Basel, Switzerland, was told as a boy to “believe in God.”
But the more he tried, the more difficult he found it to “believe.”
He began to grope for something more. Instead of merely believing he wanted to know.
His quest for that certain knowledge led him, early in his life, lo a conviction of the existence of God.
A conviction arrived by means different from those of orthodox: religious thought, it was to remain his chief preoccupation until he died last June.
Speaking with the guttural accent of German-Swiss, but in idiomatically almost perfect English, Professor Jung told me, in his last interview:
“To this day, God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions then change the course of my life for better or worse.
“Without knowing it,” he added. ” man is always concerned with God. What some people call instinct or intuition is nothing other than God. God is the voice in side us which tells us what to do and what not lo do-in other words, our conscience.”
A Latin inscription is carved into the stonework above the door of Professor Jung’s house. It reads: “Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit”-Called or uncalled, God will be present.”
Dr. Jung and his wife, Emma, built their villa in 1908
Both of them- for until her death in 1955, Mrs. Jung also conducted considerable psychology practice-used spirit of that inscription in treating thou sands of patients over three generations.
Dr. Jung’s belief in God, his insistence that t religion is a prime human need is what has set him apart from the other men who, with him, did most to establish the science of psychology: Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler.
Freud argued that the sex urge, Adler that the drive for power, were the dominant forces governing all human behavior.
But Dr. Jung said:
“In this dark atomic age of ours, with lurking fear, man is seeking guidance. Unconsciously or consciously he is once more groping for God.”
Dr. Jung respected some of Freud’s and Adler’s theories but was adamant rejecting the suggestion that God is just another complex and it is this fundamental theory which gained him dominant respect ·not only among psychologists the world over but among clergymen, intellectuals and ordinary people.
He told me: ” All 1hat I have learned has led me step by step to an unshakable conviction in the existence of God. I believe in what I know. And that eliminates believing. Therefore I do not take His existence on belief- I know that He exists.”
And he added: ” I cannot tell you what His qualities are, or what He looks like.
I have only a human conception of how He appears to me.”
Over the more than sixty years that he practiced and developed his vast knowledge of the human mind Jung carefully refrained from ex pressing an opinion about the qualities of the Eternal Being other than as they appeared lo him from personal experiences.
“My scientific conscience, Dr. Jung told me “forbids me to say more than I can prove.
And as a scientist I draw my conclusions from facts.
So I would even consider ii intellectually immoral to indulge in the belief that my view of a god corresponds to the universal supernatural being of the religious confessions or philosophies.
Neither would I allow myself to make such a definite statement as God can on l)· be good.’
“Only my experience can be good-or evil but I know that the superior will is based upon a foundation which surpasses human imagination.”
Steadfastly he maintained that whatever man can say about God is no more than man’s own mind can conceive.
He will always remain a human view for we cannot prove that it is God himself who speaks.
It is the human being telling or trying to tell. about his experiences of what he assumes is God,” Dr. Jung said.
Every revelation or illumination such as we are told in the Sacred Books are mere formulations of man,
They are no more than translations of inner images and experiences told within the limitations of the human tongue.
Whatever the experience, it was that of a human being, and as such remains within the boundaries of human perception.”
For theologians the Bible is God’s word and so beyond human discussion.
But Jung says:
“We can do no more than tell about our own images, ideas, concepts, thoughts and experiences, all of which are products of the soul.”
Thus. in spite of his own convictions, Jung never attempted lo prove to anyone the existence of God.
He would not admit that he might know more about God than any other religious person.
Rather, he saw himself as the “discoverer of a new approach to the eternal question.”
His discovery: One of the most important qualities of the human soul is its religious function enabling man to come to peace with himself through understanding the superior force within him.
Once. in a radio talk on the B.B.C., Jung said: “I do not need lo believe in God- I know.”
This brought letters by the hundreds pouring into his home, all asking: “How do you know?”
Some people even surmised that Jung had seen God, and met Him somehow or somewhere and could say whether God is “really surrounded by millions of brilliant angels,” or whet her he is a ” flaming cloud.”
Others assumed Jung had direct communication with God and knowledge of His words.
Many hundreds of people came to Jung, asking: “Does God really exist?”
Jung made them understand that all the things which happen to them against their will are a superior force.
And he told me:
“They can call it God or Devil; that doesn’t mailer to me, as long as they realize that it is a superior force. God is nothing more than that superior force in our life. You can experience it every day:’
Today the number of people no longer able to believe in God is very large and ever- increasing, Jung said, because they have begun to ask questions unanswerable by the religion to which they belong.
And so they start to doubt.
“‘Take. for instance,” Jung said to me “the beginning of the world; Science has proved that the creation story, as told in the Bible is a myth. But even such contradictions between science and religion play little part in true feelings toward religion.”
“I know some foremost scientists, as well as simple people even children, who understand what God is-they have no trouble knowing.
“The problem begins with people with intellectual and philosophical minds. They have lost that knowledge and come to ask for rational. philosophical, theological or psychological proof.
“‘They have forgotten to be simple, open-minded and humble enough to know God and to feel Him. They are too much concerned with everyday events, and their personal affairs. ”
“When the primitive man sees the sun or the moon. when he becomes ill and recovers . when he is faced with a birth or death. he thinks immediately of God.
But the rational mind of intellectual people These people have lost their religious attitude toward life and arc looking for explanations like mathematical proof.
They cannot realize that to know God is not matter of explaining, but of a deep emotional experience which neither needs, nor can be put into, words.”
Although a Christian and a pious man, possessed of unusually passionate religious feeling, Jung told me:
.. I try hard to escape the internal contradictions of Christi-an concepts by taking into consideration the immense dark ness of the human mind.
The Christian idea proves its ‘Vitality by a continuous evolution, but our time demands some new thought in this respect.”
Thoughtfully, he added: “We cannot continue to think in an antiquated or medieval way when we enter the sphere of religious experience.”
ln his ceaseless probing into man’s relationship to God, Jung covered almost every field of research.
He explored yoga, alchemy, fairy tales, the tribal rites of the Pueblo Indians, the German romantic philosophers, Buddhism, extrasensory perception.
He “interpreted” more than 100,000 dreams.
He discovered patterns of experiences and feeling such as have reappeared in dream symbols and images since the beginning of mankind, and called these .. archetypes.”
He drew his most important conclusions from his studies of archetypal images of God-namely, that although these images are not God, they do point to an unseen and unknowable power behind creation and the universe, the very power which religion calls God.
Dreams in which such archetypal images occur had a special significance for Jung. as if they were “messages from God.”
An American minister recently devoted a sermon to Jung’s study of dreams, calling it “God’s Forgotten Language.”
Jung attributed the same importance to meaningful physical facts, whenever they confronted him, as he did to psychological facts like dreams, visions, fantasies and imagination.
Jung saw the hand of the superior force in each, although he admits readily that there are many things which cannot be explained by logical, earthly factors.
Did understanding and experience of Cod bring him greater happiness than men less possessed of this knowledge enjoy?
I put this question to Jung, and he said :
“If by happiness you mean a richer and more meaningful life, then my answer would be ‘ yes.’ But remember, a meaningful life never excludes suffering, just as knowledge in any given field imposes its corresponding responsibilities.
In the case of religion it seizes and controls the human being who is always its victim rather than his creator.”
A happy man of simple tastes who found delight in the most modest of pleasures, Jung enjoyed a glass of wine or a cigar.
Small, seemingly in significant events were as important to him-as material for psychological conclusions-as any major happening on the international scene.
He sought, and generally found a meaning in everything which crossed his path.
He was happiest of all when spring spread over the Alps and he could leave his villa near Zurich to go, all by himself, to what he called his “primitive country retreat.”
It was a remote little house, reminiscent of ,a medieval castle tower, which Jung helped to build with ·his own hands.
But it was more than a house.
To Jung it was a psychological experiment.
There were no telephone, no electricity.
There he did his own cooking over an open fire and fetched water from a spring.
The walls were exceptionally thick and let in no sound from the outside world.
The house was not only a psychological experiment.
It was a protest against what Jung regarded as the manifold distractions of modern life-the extreme speeds, the constant noise, the pressing worries and fears that monopolize so much of our daily lives and, in his opinion, reduce our “thinking power” to its lowest ebb.
“At my country retreat, I do as I please,” he told me. ” I write, I paint but I spend most of the time just drifting along with my thoughts.”
What were those thoughts?
Jung bluntly expressed the view that the mind of modern man is consciously or unconsciously becoming obsessed with an ever-increasing dread of utter physical, moral or mental destruction.
On the one hand is the threat of the hydrogen bomb; on the other, the threat of communism and all it implies.
“It seems to me we ·have reached the limit of our evolution-the point from which we can advance no further,” the, venerable psychologist declared.
“Man started from an unconscious state and has ever striven for greater consciousness.
The development of consciousness is the burden, the suffering and the blessing of mankind.
Each new discovery leads to greater consciousness, and the path along which we are going is merely an extension of it.
This inevitably calls for greater responsibility and enforces a great chance in ourselves.
We must draw conclusions from what we know and discover, and not take everything for granted.”
Man’s mind. Jung insisted, has not kept pace with modern technical advances or with unforeseen psychological changes, such as those caused by 1he systematic lies and deceptions of modern propaganda.
Thus a great gap has opened up between our conscious and our unconscious mind.
“Man has come to be man’s worst enemy.
It is a clash between man and Cod, in which man’s Lucifer-like genius has produced in the H-bomb the power to destroy better and more effectively than any ancient god could.”
Jn the opinion of Jung, the crucial question is whether we can become humble enough to produce a mind with which man can live in peace and without fear of his life.
When death came to Jung peacefully, as he was just short of his eight y-sixth birthday, he was prepared to regard it as new exploratory ground for his ever-inquiring mind.
Or, as he himself put it:
“For the time being I am still alive,
and say: ‘Let us do everything we can, here.’
” If, when I die, I find there is a new life, I shall say: ‘Now let us Jive once more.’ ” ~Carl Jung Interview, Good Housekeeping Magazine, Why I Believe in God, June 2, 1961