Jung on living close to the unconscious

Saturday April 1, 2006

Dr. Jung, I realize with great joy that I can discuss your books and your works with you, as I have so long wished I could! I just, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, read your statement how hard it is for most people to live close to the unconscious. Is that what I am doing, or do you mean something different?

Well, you know, one means different things depending on who is reading, and when in his life one reads it! At this time in your life it is open to you in a way that it was not, just a short time ago.

To live in close proximity – on neighborly terms, let us say – to the unconscious is to be very clear, very transparent, to the promptings of the spirit. It means, to not allow the conscious mind – the ego-bound mind – to tyrannize over the entire being, as if only it were the arbiter, the judge, and only its needs were to be considered and fulfilled. The conscious self, unbalanced by knowledge of the unconscious, easily comes to think itself the only thing in the world. You think “autistic” and although this is somewhat extravagant it is not without suggestive value.

To live on good terms with the unconscious is to live in the perpetual awareness of not being the center even of your own world, let alone the other world! And this people fear. Their external life already leaves them feeling insufficient and unnecessary. To add to that the feeling that internally, too, one is only a hanger-on, a bit player rather than the starring role, may be too much to bear.

In reality of course it is not that the conscious self, the ego self, is at all unnecessary. Without the ego self the soul would have no locus! Yet it may appear to the unprepared just that way.

You yourself live much less often on good terms with the surrounding unconscious than you sometimes believe, for often enough you close your access – as is your right – and find yourself isolated, directionless and depressed. This is the inevitable result of cutting oneself off from the mainsprings of one’s being. Yet, other times you do lead a more symbolic, undefined life in connection with you know not what. I would say that you do this working from an instinct that leads you to do much as I did in the tower, reducing the din of your contemporaries as your friend Henry Thoreau also did. This is a good thing to do, if not done in imitation because someone did it but because they sparked you with an idea which itself inspired you. Thus, building fires answers a need in you, and so heating your little house [stoking a wood stove] was a comfort and a quiet joy, rather than work as others would have found it. No TV, no radio except at odd moments, also reduces the distractions of the immediate moment. You must watch your appetite for the internet lest it overpower your central solitude but it does serve as a corrective, for you still need connection. In this, though, you are acting as intermediary rather than consumer, and this too is better. Caesar never read a newspaper – but if they had existed, would have. Napoleon read newspapers and would have listened to radio. Mussolini listened to radio and would have monitored television. It is balance, not any particular detail or prohibition, that is the goal.

Thank you. Assuming that this is not an annoyance to you, I look forward to asking many of the questions I have had, reading your books and re-reading them. Or – anyway – Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

If you pose honest sincere questions, they will be welcomed and answered. For the frivolous and dishonest, the dead have no time, nor for the self-deceiving, the self-flattering, the manipulators of others or the fat-headed logic choppers. Go in peace.

One thought on “Jung on living close to the unconscious

  1. Love this – and this is how it has unfolded for me: as soon as I can get a question formulated, the answer somehow comes to me. No personalities, just the answer. And only to real questions.

    Another thing, concerning the comments – is there any way to search the comments? I have not saved my comments anywhere, and now I think I’d like to check what I’ve written.

    Concerning the material and potential audience: it seems to be a time now when all methods of surviving the flood of stuff and stimulus being pushed to us are needed. How to navigate in the biblical flood of present time? Inner tools are really necessary.

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