Lecture 45 — A Myth for the Soul

by C G Jung

Contents List:

Wholeness Divided
Compensatory Symbolism
Inner Experience
The Linguistic Problem
Towards Higher Consciousness
Signs of the Times?
Towards a New World View

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Index to Hermetic System Lectures
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See also:

The Holy Spirit
Sleeping Christianity
Spiritual Law in the Scientific World

Wholeness Divided

A further development of myth might well begin with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, by which they were made into sons of God, and not only they, but all others through them and after them received the filatio — sonship of God — and thus partook of the certainty that they were more than autochthonous animalia sprung from the earth: that as the twice-born they had their roots in the divinity itself. Their visible physical life was on this Earth; but the invisible inner man had come from and would return to the primordial image of wholeness, to the eternal Father, as the Christian myth of salvation puts it.

Just as the Creator is whole, so His creature, His son, ought to be whole. Nothing can take away from the concept of divine wholeness. But unbeknowst to all, a splitting of that wholeness ensued; there emerged a realm of light and a realm of darkness. This outcome, even before Christ appeared, was clearly prefigured, as we may observe inter alia in the experience of Job, or in the widely disseminated Book of Enoch which belongs to immediate pre-Christian times.

In Christianity, too, this metaphysical split was plainly perpetuated: Satan, who in the Old Testament still belonged to the intimate entourage of Yahweh, now formed the diametrical and eternal opposite of the divine world. He could not be uprooted. It is therefore not surprising that as early as the beginning of the eleventh century the belief arose that the devil, not God, had created the world. Thus the keynote was struck for the second half of the Christian aeon after the myth of the fall of the angels had already explained that these fallen angels had taught men a dangerous knowledge of science and the arts. What would these old story-tellers have to say about Hiroshima?

The visionary genius of Jacob Boehme recognised the paradoxical nature of the God-image and thus contributed to the further development of the myth. The mandala symbol sketched by Boehme is a representation of the split God, for the inner circle is divided into two semicircles standing back to back.

Since dogma holds that God is wholly present in each of the three Persons, He is also present in each part of the outpoured Holy Spirit; thus every man can partake of the whole of God and hence of the filiation. The complexio oppositorum [complex of opposites — Ed.] of the God-image thus enters into man — and not as unity but as conflict, the dark half of the image coming into opposition with the accepted view that God is "Light". This very process is taking place in our own times, albeit scarcely recognised by the official teachers of humanity whose task, supposedly, is to understand such matters. There is the general feeling, to be sure, that we have reached a significant turning point in the ages, but people imagine that the great change has to do with nuclear fission and fusion or with space rockets. What is currently taking place in the human psyche is usually overlooked.

Compensatory Symbolism

In so far as the God-image is, from the psychological point of view, a manifestation of the ground of the psyche, and in so far as the cleavage in that image is becoming clear to mankind as a profound dichotomy which penetrates even into world politics, a compensation has arisen. This takes the form of circular symbols of unity which represent a synthesis of the opposites within the psyche. I refer to the worldwide rumours of Unidentified Flying Objects, of which we began to hear as early as 1945. These rumours are founded either upon visions or upon actual phenomena. The usual story about the UFOs is that they are some kind of spacecraft coming from other planets or even from the fourth dimension.

More than twenty years earlier (in 1918), in the course of my investigations of collective unconscious, I discovered the presence of an apparently universal symbol of a similar type — the mandala symbol. To make sure of my case, I spent more than a decade amassing additional data before announcing my discovery for the first time. The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or, to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate in man. In contrast to Boehme's mandala, the modern ones strive for unity; they represent a compensation of the psychic cleavage, or an anticipation that the cleavage will be surmounted. Since this process takes place in the collective unconscious, it manifests itself everywhere. The worldwide stories of the UFOs are evidence of that; they are the symptom of a universally present psychic disposition.

In so far as analytical treatment makes the "shadow" conscious, it causes a cleavage and a tension of opposites which in their turn seek compensation in unity. The adjustment is achieved through symbols. The conflict between the opposites can strain our psyche to breaking point if we take them seriously or if they take us seriously. The tertium non datur [no third alternative is given. — Ed.] of logic proves its worth: no solution can be seen. If all goes well, the solution, seemingly of its own accord, appears out of nature. Then and then only is it convincing. It is felt as "grace".

Since the solution proceeds out of the confrontation and clash of opposites, it is usually an unfathomable mixture of conscious and unconscious factors, and therefore a symbol — a coin split into two halves which fit together precisely. [One of the meanings of symbolon is the tessera hospitalitatis, the broken coin or tile which is shared between two parting friends.] It represents the result of the joint labours of consciousness and the unconscious, and attains the likeness of the God-image in the form of a mandala, which is probably the simplest model of a concept of wholeness and one which spontaneously arises in the mind as a representation of the struggle and reconciliation of opposites.

Inner Experience

Our psyche is set up in accord with the structure of the Universe, and what happens in the macrocosm likewise happens in the infinitesimal and most subjective reaches of the psyche. For that reason the God-image is always a projection of the inner experience of a powerful vis-ΰ-vis [face-to-face — Ed.]. This is symbolised by objects from which the inner experience has taken its initial impulse and which from then on preserve numinous significance, or else it is characterised by its numinosity and the overwhelming force of that numinosity. In this way the imagination liberates itself from the concretism of the object and attempts to sketch the image of the invisible as something which stands behind the phenomenon. I am thinking here of the simplest basic form of the mandala, the circle, and the simplest (mental) division of the circle, the quadrant or, as the case may be, the cross.

Such experiences have a helpful or, it may be, annihilating effect upon man. He cannot grasp, comprehend, dominate them; neither can he free himself or escape from them, and therefore feels them as overpowering. Recognising that they do not spring from his conscious personality, he calls them mana, daimon, or God. Science employs the term "the unconscious", thus admitting that it knows nothing about it, for it can know nothing about the substance of the psyche when the sole means of knowing anything is the psyche. Therefore the validity of such terms as mana, daimon, or God can be neither disproved not affirmed. We can, however, establish that the sense of strangeness connected with the experience of something objective, apparently outside the psyche, is indeed authentic.

We know that something unknown, alien, does come our way, just as we know that we do not ourselves make a dream or an inspiritation, but that it somwhow arises of its own accord. What does happen to us in this manner can be said to emanate from mana, from a daimon, a god, or the unconscious. The first three terms have the great merit of including and evoking the emotional quality of numinosity, whereas the latter — the unconscious — is banal, and therefore closer to reality. The latter concept includes the empirical realm — that is, the commonplace reality that we know so well. The unconscious is too neutral and rational a term to give much impetus to the imagination. The term, after all, was coined for scientific purposes and is far better suited to dispassionate observation which makes no metaphysical claims, whereas the transcendental concepts are controversial and therefore tend to breed fanaticism.

Hence I prefer the term "the unconscious", knowing that I might equally well speak of "God" or "daimon" if I wished to express myself in mythic language. When I do use such mythic language, I am aware that "mana", "daimon", and "God" are synonyms for the unconscious — that is to say, we know just as much or just as little about them as about the latter. People only believe they know much more about them — and for certain purposes that belief is far more useful and effective than a scientific concept [My emphasis. — Ed.]. The great advantage of the concepts "daimon" and "God" lies in making possible a much better objectification of the vis-ΰ-vis, namely a personification of it. Their emotional quality confers life and effectuality upon them. Hate and love, fear and reverence, enter the scene of confrontation and raise it to a drama. What has meerely been "displayed" becomes "acted". The whole man is challenged and enters the fray with his total reality. Only then can he become whole and only then can "God be born", that is, enter into human reality and associate with man in the form of "man". By this act of incarnation man — that is, his ego — is inwardly replaced by "God", and God becomes outwardly man, in keeping with the saying of Jesus: "Who sees me sees the Father".

The Linguistic Problem

It is at this point that the shortcomings of mythic terminology become apparent. The Christian's ordinary conception of God is of an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-merciful Father and Creator of the world. If this God wishes to become man, an incredible kenosis (emptying) is required of Him in order to reduce his totality to the infinitesimal human scale. Even then it is hard to see why the human frame is not shattered by the incarnation.

Theological thinkers have therefore felt it necessary to equip Jesus with qualities which raise him above ordinary human existence. [c.f. Superman — Ed.] Above all he lacks the macula peccati (stain of original sin). For that reason, if for no other, he is at least a god-man or a demigod. The Christian God-image cannot become incarnate in empirical man without contradictions — quite apart from the fact that man with all his external characteristics seems little suited to representing a god. [See, e.g. Spiritual Law in the Scientific World — Ed.]

The myth must ultimately take monotheism seriously and put aside its dualism which, however much repudiated officially, has persisted until now and enthroned an eternal dark antagonist alongside the omnipotent God. Room must be made for the philosophical complexio oppositorum of Nicholas of Cusa and the moral ambivalence of Jacob Boehme; only thus can the One God be granted the wholeness and the synthesis of opposites which should be His. It is a fact that symbols, by their very nature, can so unite the opposites that these no longer diverge or clash, but mutually supplement one another and give meaningful shape to life. Once that has been experienced, the ambivalence in the image of a nature-god or Creator-god ceases to present difficulties.

On the contrary, the myth of the necessary incarnation of God — the essence of the Christian message — can then be understood as man's creative confrontation with the opposites and their synthesis in the self, the wholeness of his personality. The unavoidable contradictions in the image of a Creator-god can be reconciled in the unity and wholeness of the self as the coniunctio oppositorum of the alchemists or as a unio mystica [mystical union. — Ed.]. In the experience of the self it is no longer the opposites "God" and "man" that are reconciled as previously, but rather the opposites within the God-image itself. That is the meaning of divine service, or the service which man can render to God, that light may emerge from the darkness, that the Creator may become conscious of His creation and man conscious of himself.

Towards Higher Consciousness

That is the goal, or one goal, which fits man meaningfully into the scheme of creation and at the same time confers meaning upon it. It is an explanatory myth which has slowly taken shape within me [and me! — Ed] in the course of the decades. It is a goal I can acknowledge and esteem, and which therefore satisfies me.

By virtue of his reflective faculties, man is raised out of the animal world, and by his mind he demonstrates that nature has put a high premium upon the development of consciousness. Through consciousness he takes possession of nature by recognising the existence of the world and thus, as it were, confirming the Creator. The world becomes the phenomenal world, for without conscious reflection it would not be. If the Creator were conscious of Himself, He would not need conscious creatures; nor is it probable that the extremely indirect methods of creation, which squander millions of years upon the development of countless species and creatures, are the outcome of purposeful intention. [My emphasis. — Ed.]

Natural history tells us of a haphazard and casual transformation of species over hundreds of millions of years of devouring and being devoured. The biological and political history of man is an elaborate repetition of the same thing. But the history of the mind offers a different picture. Here the miracle of reflecting consciousness intervenes — the second cosmogony. The importance of consciousness is so great that one cannot help suspecting the element of meaning to be concealed somewhere within all the monstrous, apparently senseless, biological turmoil, and that the road to its manifestation was ultimately found on the level of warm-blooded vertebrates possessed of a different brain — found as if by chance, unintended and unforeseen, felt and groped for out of some dark urge. [My emphasis. — Ed.]

Signs of the Times?

I do not imagine that in my reflections on the meaning of man and his myth I have uttered a final truth, but I think that this is what can be said in view of the aeon of the Fishes, and perhaps must be said in view of the coming aeon of Aquarius (the Water Bearer), who has a human figure and is next to the sign of the Fishes. This is a coniunctio oppositorum composed of two fishes in reverse.

The Water Bearer seems to represent the self. With a sovereign gesture he pours the contents of his jug into the mouth of Piscis austrinus [The constellation of the "Southern Fish". Its mouth is formed by Fomalhaut (Arabic for "mouth of the fish") below the constellation of the Water Bearer. — CGJ] which symbolises a son, a still unconscious content. Out of this unconscious content will emerge, after the passage of another aeon of more than two thousand years, a future whose features are indicated by the symbol of Capricorn: an aigokeros, the monstrosity of the Goat-Fish [The constellation of Capricorn was originally called the "Goat-fish". — CJG] symbolising the mountain and the depths of the sea, a polarity made up of two differentiated animal elements which have grown together. This strange being could easily be the primordial image of a Creator-god confronting "man", the Anthropos. On this question there is a silence within me, as there is in the empirical data at my disposal — the products of historical documents or of the unconscious of other people with which I am acquainted. If insight does not come by itself, speculation is pointless. It makes sense only when we have objective data comparable to our material on the aeon of Aquarius.

We do not know how far the process of coming to consciousness can extend, or where it will lead. It is a new element in the story of creation and there are no parallels we can look to. We therefore cannot know what potentialities are inherent in it. Neither can we know the prospects for the species Homo sapiens. Will it imitate the fate of other species which once flourished and are now extinct? Biology can advance no reasons why this should not be so.

Towards a New World View

The need for mythic statements is satisfied when we frame a view of the world which adequately explains the meaning of human experience in the cosmos, a view which springs from our psychic wholeness, from the co-operation between conscious and unconscious. Meaninglessness inhibits the fulness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable — perhaps everything. No science will ever replace myth, and a myth cannot be made out of any science. For it is not that "God" is a myth, but that myth is the revelation of a divine life in man. [My emphasis. — Ed.]

It is not we who invent myth; rather it is spoken to us as a Word of God. The Word of God comes to us and we have no way of distinguishing whether and to what extent it is different from God. There is nothing about this Word that could not be considered known and human except for the manner in which it spontaneously confronts us and places obligations upon us. It is not affected by the arbitrary operation of our will. We cannot explain an inspiration. Our chief feeling about it is that it is not the result of our own ratiocinations but that it came to us from elsewhere. If we happen to have a precognitive dream, how can we possibly ascribe it to our own powers? After all, we often do not even know until long afterwards that the dream represented foreknowledge, or knowledge of something that happened at a distance.

The Word happens to us; we suffer it, for we are victims of a profound uncertainty: with God as a complexio oppositorum, all things are possible in the fullest meaning of the phrase. Truth and delusion, good and evil, are equally possible. Myth is, or can be, equivocal, like a dream or the oracle of Delphi. We cannot and ought not to repudiate reason; but equally we must cling to the hope that instinct will hasten to our aid — in which case God is supporting us against God, as Job long ago understood.

Everything through which the "other will" is expressed proceeds from man — his thinking, his words, his images, and even his limitations. Consequently, when he begins to think in psychological terms, he has the tendency to refer everything to himself and decides that everything proceeds out of his intentions and out of himself. With childlike naivetι he assumes that he knows all his own reaches and knows what he is "in himself". Yet all the while he is fatally handicapped by the weakness of his consciousness and the corresponding fear of the unconscious. Therefore he is utterly unable to separate what he has carefully reasoned out from what has spontaneously flowed to him from another source. He has no objectivity towards himself and cannot yet regard himself as a phenomenon which he finds in existence and with which, for better or worse, he is identical. At first everything is thrust upon him, and it is only by great effort that he finally succeeds in conquering and holding for himself an area of relative freedom.

When, and only when, he has won his way to this achievement, he is in a position to recognise that he is confronting his instinctive foundations, given him from the beginning, which he cannot make disappear however much he would like to. His beginnings are not by any means mere pasts; they live with him as the constant substratum of his existence and his consciousness is as much moulded by them as by the physical world around him. [My emphasis. — Ed.]

These facts assail man from without and from within with overwhelming force. He has summed them up under the idea of divinity, has described their effects with the aid of myth, and has interpreted this myth as the "Word of God", that is, as the inspiration and revelation of the numen from the "other side".