Jung’s warning

Mighty powerful and important stuff in Carl Jung’s writings. The following is from “The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales,” part of The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.

Could anything make plainer the causes and consequences of unconsciousness in our cultural life? That unconsciousness and its consequences may yet be the death of us — but by and large people continue to put their faith in political solutions, when political solutions in the absence of wisdom can only make the situation worse. Although this material was published in 1948, its relevance today is only so much clearer.

“When we consider the spirit in its archetypal form as it appears to us in fairytales and dreams, it presents a picture that differs strangely from the conscious idea of spirit, which is split up into so many meanings. Spirit was originally a spirit in human or animal form, a daimonion that came upon man from without. But our material already shows traces of an expansion of consciousness which has gradually begun to occupy that originally unconscious territory and to transform those daimonia, at least partially, into voluntary acts. Man conquers not only nature, but spirit also, without realizing what he is doing. To the men of enlightened intellect it seems like the correction of a fallacy when he recognizes that what he took to be spirits is simply the human spirit and ultimately his own spirit. All the superhuman things, whether good or bad, that former ages predicated of the daimonia, are reduced to “reasonable” proportions as though they were pure exaggeration, and everything seems to be in the best possible order. But were the unanimous convictions of the past really and truly only exaggerations? If they were not, then the integration of the spirit means nothing less than its demonization, since the superhuman spiritual agencies that were formally tied up in nature are introjected into human nature, thus endowing it with a power which extends the bounds of the personality ad infinitum, in the most perilous way. I put it to the enlightened rationalist: has his rational reduction led to the beneficial control of matter and spirit? He will appoint proudly to the advances in physics and medicine, to the freeing of the mind from medieval stupidity and — as a well-meaning Christian — to our deliverance from the fear of demons. But we continue to ask: what have all our other cultural achievements led to? The fearful answer is there before our eyes: Man has been delivered from no fear, a hideous nightmare lies upon the world. So far reason has failed lamentably, and the very thing that everybody wanted to avoid rolls on in ghastly progression. Man has achieved a wealth of useful gadgets, but, to offset that, he has torn open the abyss, and what will become of him now — where can he make a halt? After the last World War we hoped for recent: we go on hoping. But already we are fascinated by the possibilities of atomic fission and promise ourselves a Golden Age — the surest guarantee that the abomination of desolation will grow to limitless dimensions. And who or what is it that causes all this? It is none other than that harmless (!), ingenious, inventive, and sweetly reasonable human spirit who unfortunately is abysmally unconscious of the demons that still clings to him. Worse, this spirit does everything to avoid looking itself in the face, and we all help it like mad. Only, Heaven preserve us from psychology — that depravity might lead to self-knowledge! Rather let us have wars, for which somebody else is always to blame, nobody seeing that our world is driven to do just what all the world flees from in terror.

“It seems to me, frankly, that former ages did not exaggerate, that the spirit has not sloughed off its demonisms, and that mankind, because of its scientific and technological development, has in increasing measure delivered itself over to the danger of possession. True, the archetype of the spirit is capable of working for good as well as for evil, but it depends upon man’s free — i.e., conscious — decision whether the good also will be perverted into something satanic. Man’s worst sin is unconsciousness, but it is indulged in with the greatest piety even by those who should serve mankind as teachers and examples. When shall we stop taking man for granted in this barbarous manner and in all seriousness seek ways and means to exorcize him, to rescue him from possession and unconsciousness, and make this the most vital task of civilization? Can we not understand that all the outward tinkerings and improvements do not touch man’s inner nature, and that everything ultimately depends upon whether the man who wields the science and the technics is capable of responsibility or not? Christianity has shown us the way, but, as the facts bear witness, it has not penetrated deeply enough below the surface. What depths of despair are still needed to open the eyes of the world’s responsible leaders, so that at least they can refrain from leading themselves into temptation?”

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