Jung: The individual is a vessel of life


From an interview of CG Jung by Georg Gerster conducted on June 7, 1960, for broadcast on the Swiss radio network, as found in the book CG Jung speaking.

G: “When I asked you earlier about a critique of our civilization I… was thinking of the problem of our time, as they say. There must have been periods when man’s relations with the unconscious through various other channels of communication were infinitely more alive than they are today.”

J: “Yes, there is no doubt that it was only the 19th century that broke with this tradition and became increasingly intellectual, with the result that a lot of vitally necessary things have become obsolete. Just think of the crisis of Christianity we are passing through today — it simply means that we have lost all sense of its necessity. We no longer know what it is good for. In earlier times people knew, in a way. Naturally they had faith, but this faith was rooted in the feeling that the Christian tradition was ‘satisfactory,’ it was something self-evident, part of the picture. Even with scientific books, you need only think of old Scheuchzer, of Zürich who began his scientific works with the story of Creation!”

“Do you see any chance for psychology to do something here? I mean you can’t put the clock back.”

“No, that’s impossible.”

“On the other hand, as a psychologist with these insights, you can’t let the world go its own sweet way!”

“Yes, but what is the voice of a single individual? These things are evidently so difficult to understand that you just can’t talk to people about them. It is amazing how little people understand of such matters. They don’t think about them at all. Naturally, a very great deal could be said in this respect. But, you see, it concerns the individual so very much that it is far too boring for people! Of course, if I knew a remedy that could be injected into 10,000 people at one go, that would be popular, especially if one didn’t have to do anything about it oneself. But the very idea that you should begin with yourself, that is totally out of the question! One must always have something that is good for 100,000, for a million people, but not for the individual, he is far too uninteresting.

“We have been so convinced by science how nugatory a human life is, and contemporary history has indeed demonstrated before our eyes how human lives count for nothing. And the individual is so utterly convinced of his nothingness that he makes no effort to get anywhere with himself, to develop himself inwardly in any way. It is too hopeless, the individual is nothing, and is naturally a false view that the individual is nothing. The individual is a vessel of life. Every individual is the bearer of life, and life is worn only by individuals. It does not exist in itself, there is no life of the millions. That is nonsense, but millions of individuals are vessels of life and for each of them the problem of the individual is the whole problem. And then they say: ‘Yes, but look at So-and-so, that’s no vessel of life!’ The individual is banalized, you see. Most people get discouraged.

“The theologians surely ought to be convinced that the individual soul is the vessel of life, and the thing of greatest importance. Yet a theologian told me himself: ‘We must get through to the masses. If we tried to treat every single individual we would never get anywhere!’ I said: ‘Well, how did Christianity conquer the world in the first place? It always went from individual to individual.’

“…. But taking yourself seriously is considered improper, you’re an eccentric, putting on self-important airs, etc. Everywhere you come up against this depreciation of the human psyche. Of course when you say ‘the human psyche’ everyone thinks it’s fine, it is someone else’s affair, but I myself and what I do are not considered at all. If nobody bothers about his own psyche, then there is nothing you can do from the psychological angle, you can only say how things are and make yourself unpopular!”


Legitimate Suffering and Mental Illness

I included this exchange in my forthcoming  Hemingway on Hemingway.

Legitimate Suffering and Mental Illness

Sunday, August 8, 2010, 5 AM. Just spent most of an hour posting [on my website] a couple of conversations from May…. It was interesting to read the pieces from May 24 and 25. I had forgotten that it was from Carl Jung that I first got the concept that Hemingway represented a complete man, that his great attractiveness to people stemmed from his wholeness. Obviously that didn’t prevent him from experiencing and ultimately succumbing to serious personality problems, but it does change the picture. All right, so here we go. Dr. Jung, I have been using a quotation of yours as a part of my signature in e-mails for some time, but only yesterday — at your prompting? — did it occur to me that I didn’t quite understand it. It rings true intuitively but it could do with some explanation. “The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.” What is “legitimate suffering,” and for that matter what is mental illness, and how are they thus so intimately connected?

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Hemingway book finished

I feel like saying, “here I am again, back from the dead!” More to the point, I’m back from last revisions (I hope!) to Hemingway on Hemingway: Afterlife Conversations on His Life, His Work and the Myth, my seventh book, which is to be published later this year by Rainbow Ridge Books, the imprint owned by Bob Friedman, my old partner at Hampton Roads.

I  suppose the easiest way to explain what I’m doing is just to append the Introduction.

Continue reading Hemingway book finished

Physical and non-physical

By way of Intuitive Linked Communication (ILC), this discussion with Carl Jung earlier this week. Sometimes you play with an idea for some time, thinking you understand it, and suddenly realize (with a little help from your friends) that it’s bigger and more important than you had thought it.

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Jung: Our needs and desires are always active

A. I. Allenby visited Carl Jung soon after World War II. This excerpt from his description of his visit is from the book C. G. Jung Speaking, page 158.

Another time Jung reverted to the problem of self-doubt, using a further example by way of illustration. “Our needs and desires are always active,” he said. “Trouble occurs only if they are active in the unconscious, if we do not take them consciously in hand so as to give them a definite form and direction. If we refuse to do this we are dragged along by them to become their victim. Then they are like a sledge rushing downhill snow, with no one at the steering-ropes. You must place yourself firmly at the steering-ropes, not hang on at the back or, worse, be unwilling to take the ride at all — that only lands you in panic. Our unconscious energies give momentum to our journey through life and, if we direct our course, our actions will have strength; we may even sense that God is behind us.”

Why it’s hard to change after we die

Thursday, May 5, 2011

8 AM. Well, guys, it occurs to me that what you are giving me applies to interpersonal relationships in the body, no less. We all deal with a certain combination of factors that we elicit, and someone else dealing with that person elicits a slightly different combination – or even a radically different combination. If I and a woman are in love, I may never experience the sharp side of her tongue that others experience all too often – until suddenly I do, and the honeymoon is over.

The analogy is close enough to be instructive, provided that you realize that she herself is not dealing with an unchanging unit. People in bodies, especially – but out of bodies, too – tend to think themselves exceptions to rules that govern everyone else. Or rather, they don’t think of the rules when thinking of themselves. It isn’t that they consciously decide “I’m different.” Rather, they never put themselves into a context in which “they” themselves disappear and reappear, according to mood and circumstance, like illusions on celluloid.

Good to see that we don’t become any more perfect on the other side. That’s a tendency I had, and many others still have – to think, once out of the body, perfection.

No, but it’s more like, once out of the body, what you are is a hell of a lot harder to change than when in the body.

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Conversations May 25, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5 AM. All right, Papa, I am ready if you are. Michael thanks you for your reading on things. I take it you had more to say about sex, as opposed to the relations between the sexes.

Huge subject. If I were trying to write my autobiography from this perspective — which I am not — I’d have a lot I’d need to say about sex and my lifetime, for of course it was an important thing for me, but — as you might ask yourself about yourself, or ask anybody about themselves — why?

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