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Carl Jung: Before a fate such as this one can only bow one’s head.

Carl Jung Depth Psychology Facebook Group

76d94 1fate

208 Heroism

Note: The image caption is in error. The quotation appears in CW 7 and not CW 4.

We may allow that this view has a certain justification in so far as man is at all capable of marking out a definite line along which his life has to go.

But we know that there is no human foresight or wisdom that can prescribe direction to our life, except for small stretches of the way.

This is of course true only of the “ordinary” type of life, not of the “heroic” type.

The latter kind also exists, though it is much rarer.

Here we are certainly not entitled to say that no marked direction can be given to life, or only for short distances.

The heroic style of life is absolute—that is, it is oriented by fateful decisions, and the decision to go in a certain direction holds, sometimes, to the bitter end.

Admittedly the doctor has to do, in the main, only with human beings, seldom with voluntary heroes, and then they are mostly of a type whose surface heroism is an infantile defiance of a fate greater than they, or else a pomposity meant to cover up some touchy inferiority.

In this overpoweringly humdrum existence, alas, there is little out of the ordinary that is healthy, and not much room for conspicuous heroism.

Not that heroic demands are never put to us: on the contrary—and this is just what is so irritating and irksome—the banal everyday makes banal demands upon our patience, our devotion, perseverance, self-sacrifice; and for us to fulfil these demands (as we must) humbly and without courting applause through heroic gestures, a heroism is needed that cannot be seen from the outside.

It does not glitter, is not belauded, and it always seeks concealment in everyday attire.

These are the demands which, if not fulfilled, are the cause of neurosis. In order to evade them, many a man has dared the great decision of his life and carried it through, even if in the common human estimation it was a great error.

Before a fate such as this one can only bow one’s head.

But, as I say, such cases are rare; the others are in the vast majority.

For them the direction of their life is not a simple, straight line; fate confronts them like an intricate labyrinth, all too rich in possibilities, and yet of these many possibilities only one is their own right way.

Who would presume—even though armed with the completest knowledge of his own character—to designate in advance that single possibility?

Much indeed can be attained by the will, but, in view of the fate of certain markedly strong-willed personalities, it is a fundamental error to try to subject our own fate at all costs to our will.

Our will is a function regulated by reflection; hence it is dependent on the quality of that reflection. This, if it really is reflection, is supposed to be rational, i.e., in accord with reason.

But has it ever been shown, or will it ever be, that life and fate are in accord with reason, that they too are rational?

We have on the contrary good grounds for supposing that they are irrational, or rather that in the last resort they are grounded beyond human reason.

The irrationality of events is shown in what we call chance, which we are obviously compelled to deny because we cannot in principle think of any process that is not causal and necessary, whence it follows that it cannot happen by chance.

In practice, however, chance reigns everywhere, and so obtrusively that we might as well put our causal philosophy in our pocket.

The plenitude of life is governed by law and yet not governed by law, rational and yet irrational.

Hence reason and the will that is grounded in reason are valid only up to a point.

The further we go in the direction selected by reason, the surer we may be that we are excluding the irrational possibilities of life which have just as much right to be lived.

It was indeed highly expedient for man to become somewhat more capable of directing his life.

It may justly be maintained that the acquisition of reason is the greatest achievement of humanity; but that is not to say that things must or will always continue in that direction.

The frightful catastrophe of the first World War drew a very thick line through the calculations of even the most optimistic rationalizers of culture. ~Carl Jung, CW 7, Para 72