Robert Clarke on the spiritual significance of Christmas


My old friend Robert Clarke, author of five books investigating modern culture in light of Jung’s discoveries, wrote this letter to his local newspaper and sent me a copy. I came across it just now, and i want to share it. Robert was a lovely man, who died that same year.

Absence of carol singers is evidence of spiritual malaise
Tuesday, January 06, 2009, 09:20
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NO carol singers came to my door before or at Christmas, though children wearing monster masks knocked all night at Halloween. Last year, I had two sets of children come at Christmas, first a group of young boys then a group of girls who were a little older. All both groups could sing was We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and when I asked them to sing a carol they replied they didn’t know any.
I could only shake my head in sadness; this was yet another sign of the soul-sickness of our modern so-called culture. Children singing carols at Christmas go together like milk and honey – we certainly loved singing them at school back in the 1940s and ’50s. Watch a street scene at Christmas in any old movie and you will see a group of children carrying a lantern singing carols from door to door.
The absence of religion in many schools today fits in with the prejudice felt against religion generally, which means children do their learning in the street about drugs, drink and sexual perversions their grandparents never dreamt existed.
Yet as the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung discovered, the human psyche does not consist merely of ego-consciousness. The psyche is actually attached to what the East calls the Self, the Atman, what certain early Christians called the Logos, borrowing the term from the Greek Mysteries. This is the higher immortal to which we are all attached, which disperses itself into mankind and perhaps all of nature, and which ultimately is part of God. An example of the Logos is Christ, with the man Jesus representing the human side. Logos means Word, and Christ is the Word in the Gospel of John.
Jung said myths and religious teachings are not fiction, but rather express archetypal processes of the spirit coming through the collective unconscious to mankind, which is why the symbolism in the world’s myths is often very similar. For example, the Star of Bethlehem appears with Christ, but a star appearing in the heavens heralding the birth of a saviour is actually known worldwide. Horus in ancient Egypt has his star, as does the Chinese Kwan Shai Yin, while at the birth of the Persian Zarathustra a magical star shines over the village for three days and nights. In Polynesia, the god Vatea has his special star, and the Wichita Indians of North America tell of a star that falls to earth to become a human saviour. As I say, the symbolism is known worldwide, connected with the descent of the Self as saviour through the collective unconscious into the soul of a human individual – thus the divine birth.

There are many such comparative symbols to be found in mythology and religion because experience of the birth of the Self is a universal phenomenon.
Jung tells us that, because the birth of the divine child expresses a definite sacred occurrence, albeit through the unconscious, when consciousness accepts it as an outer event in a religion it still works, because consciousness is coming into harmony with the workings of the unconscious/spirit. When it is entirely rejected, however, then consciousness is going the opposite way to the unconscious/spirit, and this, Jung stresses, means psychic/spiritual dissociation, which in the end causes neurosis.
The Christian version of the birth of the divine child is a particularly beautiful one, and children singing carols to express this means they are in harmony with the sacred workings through the unconscious.
This is not merely the best way to bring up children but really the only true way to bring harmony to the psyches of adults. Christianity is not just a matter of a faith and a creed, it is a healing system, because it heals the split in our psyches. This applies to all genuine religions.
It seems, however, that modern educators see fit to deny children the benefit of religion, and more specifically of Christmas carols, so that not only does neurosis then become a powerful danger to the growing child, but also all the things of chaos rush in to fill the gap in the psyche.
To quote Jung: “Does (man) know that he is on the point of losing the life-preserving myth of the Inner Man that Christianity has treasured up for him? Does he realise what lies in store should this catastrophe ever befall him? Is he even capable of realising that this would in fact be a catastrophe?”

3 thoughts on “Robert Clarke on the spiritual significance of Christmas

  1. Initially this seemed out of context, or at least coming off season.

    It could be read as an elegant plea or a remembering of a simpler time, children singing Christmas carols door-to-door, as I once did.

    Speaking for myself however, the symbols Robert discusses were present, but the meaning was not. As a child, I knew not of Jung. Even growing up as a youth attending church and as an adult taking our own children to church, I new not of Logos, much less the nature of reality as I know it now. In my opinion, I would never have gained this knowledge through my church or any church I know.

    So on one hand this reminds me of the yearning for the “old days” that often occurs when change is moving us away from our previous habits.

    I do not see the Church or religion as it has been practiced world wide as bad. It has of course been misused, but what institution has not been misused?

    I do see religion as limiting. Limiting ideas keep us in a place, inhibit our natural flow. Organized religion can still serve as a launching pad for some; nevertheless, it behooves us to move on, with reverence. There are greater forces at work now as there were 2000 years ago.

  2. Loss of innocence is always sad. Unfortunately the mono-religions tend not to see their symbology as metaphor, but as holy writ and boy does that cause problems.

  3. Thanks for sharing this article…reminds me of a kind of silly poem I wrote last year, nearing the holiday season, about how I still delight in Christmas light displays, and lamented all the fighting between “those who would interpret scripture literally, and those who’d just as soon throw it all out.”

    Indeed, w/ so much changing, in 3D theatre, so rapidly, I feel, often, in need of a “rock to stand on”. Maybe that’s a false idea, but I can see that my “rock” is constantly changing, a dynamic process, as I explore those exciting and wondrous “worlds within”. So perhaps my “rock of stability” is my “spiritual journey”, w/ its changing ideas, and new questions. I know, personally, that I can neither go back to “the old-time religion” (I tried this, years ago, but found it too full of limiting dogma, though I enjoyed the fellowship, and the “sense of Something Greater” than “just little me”), nor force myself back into the “boxes of Materialism”.

    …a “Third Way”, as I explore new territory w/ a few rough maps, and a good flashlight…


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