Table of Contents
This is class number 9 on the apocalypse archetype and the material assigned are chapters 19 and 20, but I’m going to spend practically all of my time on one image which comes up in chapter 20 starting with verse 11.
The image of the last judgement
"20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace.
20:12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of his throne, while the book of life was opened, and other books opened which were the record of what they had done in their lives, by which the dead were judged.
20:13 The sea gave up all the dead who were in it;
20:14 Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and every one was judged according to the way in which he had lived. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the burning lake. This burning lake is the second death;"
The image is the last judgement. It’s a central canon of the Christian creed. The first really formulated creed goes back to the 4th century, the so-called Apostles’ Creed, which lays out in a formulary fashion the essential content of the Christian myth and let me read it to you:
"I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son,
our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell; the third day
He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits at
the right hand of God the Father
almighty, from thence He shall come
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting.
That’s the creed, the essential dogmatic content of the Christian myth and the last judgement is an integral part of it, you see. Actually it’s an immensely important archetypal image in all the major religions. It’s not an invention of Christianity by any means. In Revelation and in the Christian myth itself this event, the event of the last judgement and what it signifies psychologically, is postponed just as about as long as it’s possible to postpone it. It’s projected into the end of the aeon. Most religions don’t go quite that far, they just project it into the afterlife, but it has the same effect, see, the individual is spared the experience during his lifetime anyway. When one sees that phenomenon demonstrated so consistently, you can be sure there’s good reason for it, because it’s a fearsome thing to contemplate.
There’s quite a good book on this subject that has gathered much of the relevant material from all the major religions. Unfortunately as so many good books it’s out of print. It’s by S. G. F. Brandon and titled: The Judgement of the Dead. He collects the relevant material from almost all of the major cultural contexts, including ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, the Hebrew religion, the Greco-Roman culture, Christianity, Islam, Persian religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, and also the religions of China and Japan. So that when this image comes up in empirical material, amplification material for it is immense. I’m going to confine myself to references to the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Greco-Roman culture and Egypt.
The evidence is quite clear that one of the phenomenological aspects of the activated Self is that it generates the experience, the Ego’s experience, of being judged as to how it lives its life and the psychological attitude with which it lives its life. I’m putting it that way because I want to include not only deeds, but the psychological facts that lie behind deeds, because deeds, you know, don’t always reveal the true psychology of an individual.
And that experience has been such a frightening one of the anticipations that it’s been projected as far away as possible. But the time has now come for depth-psychology to understand the imagery of the last judgement as a psychological experience available while one’s conscious and alive as the experience of a decisive encounter with the Self requiring a thorough assimilation of the Shadow, because that’s the feature that so much last judgement imagery is concerned about, the Shadow matters.
So let’s look at some of the phenomenology of this image as it appears in various places. There are many references to the last judgement in the Old Testament, but a particularly is found in the 3rd chapter of Malachi. I’m going to read you some of that.
It’s Yahweh’s speaking.
"3:1 Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says Yahweh Sabaoth.
3:2 Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali.
3:3 He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to Yahweh as it should be made.
3:4 The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by Yahweh as in former days, as in the years of old.
3:5 I mean to visit you for the judgement and I am going to be a ready witness against sorcerer, adulterer and perjurer, against those who oppress the wage-earner, the widow and the orphan, and who rob the settler of his rights-no need for you to be afraid of me, says Yahweh Sabaoth."
Then if you ever had need for material indicating that these texts have been edited and redacted and their impact mitigated you only need to read the final phrase here: after saying all that dash no need for you to be afraid of me says Yahweh. This is the passage that Handel (George Frideric Handel) uses in the 4th aria of the Messiah. I’ve brought it along, I may or may not play it, depending on whether or not we’re going to have enough time at the end. I’m not going to interrupt my momentum right now…
"3:1 Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says Yahweh Sabaoth.
3:2 Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali."
Those are the passages that Handel uses.
In the New Testament various terms are used for the image of the last judgement. Sometimes it’s called the “day of judgement”, sometimes it’s called the “last day”, sometimes it’s called the “coming”, often translated the “Parousia”, the Greek word (παρουσία) that literally means “presence”. See, as the creed puts it, after Christ’s Earthly sojourn and His ascension to Heaven, He’s going to come back, specifically for the purpose of judging, according to the creed. And this idea of the “coming back of Christ” merges with the image of the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of Heaven”. They are overlapping images signifying similar material. An important New Testament text considering the last judgement is found in the 25th chapter of Matthew, starting with verse 31, which I shall read.
"25:31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory."
Referring to the second coming.
"25:32 All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats.
25:33 He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.
25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome;
25:36 naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”
25:37 Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink?
25:38 When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you;
25:39 sick or in prison and go to see you?”
25:40 And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”.
25:41 Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
25:42 For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink;
25:43 I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.”
25:44 Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?”
25:45 Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me”.
25:46 And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’"
Puts it pretty starkly. And it’s the basis of all the medieval representations of the last judgement, running all the way up to Michelangelo’s magnificent fresco on the back wall of Sistine Chapel, showing the returning Christ as a kind of a traffic director, and one stream is going Heavenward and the other stream is going down to Hell. Now, in the medieval versions, practically all of them, have a clear-cut boundary line between Heaven and Hell. There is a definitive break in the picture between the upper and the lower. That’s the complication of Michelangelo’s picture, which is interesting as a symptom of the renaissance that strict line of dissociation was breaking down, but nonetheless all those representations are based primarily on this New Testament passage in Matthew 25.
Now, this text is pretty important psychologically in my opinion because it states so explicitly the psychological fact that the greater personality, the Self, is found in the least of psychological manifestations. In other words those aspects of the psyche that the Ego considers most worthy of neglect and most likely to be despised and most deprived in what the text speaks of “as the least” that it’s in that very spot that the Self resides. That’s kind of a paradox, that the personality in its transpersonal greater form should be manifest in the least, but it makes very good sense psychologically because the process of coming into awareness of one’s wholeness involves the acceptance and assimilation of all those Shadow aspects that one had previously considered the least and the most despicable. And therefore the way to the Self is through those Shadow least aspects. This theme comes up very specifically in the case that I report on in the “Living Psyche” and you can look it up if you’re interested, it’s on page 29 of the “Living Psyche” where this particular text is an association to one of the pictures.
But as I said, the last judgement is by no means an invention of Judeo-Christian mythology. For instance the judgement after death is pictured in a Platonic myth that Plato describes in the 10th book of the Republic. I’m gonna read part of it to you. Socrates if talking and he is describing the tale that a warrior by the name of “Er” had been slain in battle and had been left for dead and when the corpses were taken up on the 10th day his body was found to be still intact and when his corpse is brought home, he came back to life and he recounted what he had witnessed during his apparent death experience. Here’s what he had to say.
“He said that when his soul left the body he went on a journey with a great company, and that they came to a mysterious place at which there were two openings in the earth; they were near together, and over against them were two other openings in the heaven above.”
Two openings in the Earth and then two corresponding openings in the Heavens. And judges were sitting between these openings and after every judgement they bade the righteous journey to the right and upward to the Heaven – the souls, each soul passes through and gets the judgement. The righteous soul is directed to the right and upward to the Heaven with tokens attached to them in front of the judgement passed upon them and the unjust are directed to take the road to the left and downward, they too wearing behind signs of all that had befallen them. And when he himself, Er, drew near to the judges – he was about to pass through this judgement experience himself and when he drew near the judges told him that he should be the messenger to mankind to tell mankind about this other world.
“… and they bade him hear and see all that was to be heard and seen in that place.”
And then there’s further description of what took place that I won’t go into, it’ll take us too far afield, but one item I do wanna mention, because he is talking to various souls, souls that had come from Heaven and had come from Hades. And these souls told had told these stories to one another. The ones that had come from below the lamenting and wailing recalling what dreadful things they’ve suffered and seen in their journey beneath the Earth which journey lasted a thousand years. I put that in just to indicate that the millennium or the thousand years of Revelation also is not a new invention, you see, it’s plucked right out of Plato.
Now while we’re in the Greco-Roman period I must give you another example, because it’s so significant psychologically. This one is found in another dialog of Plato, the “Gorgias”. Socrates talking.
“Give ear then, as they say, to a right fine story, which you will regard as a fable, I fancy, but I as an actual account; for what I am about to tell you I mean to offer as the truth. By Homer’s account,1 Zeus, Poseidon, and Pluto divided the sovereignty amongst them when they took it over from their father. Now in the time of Cronos”
That was before Zeus.
“There was a law concerning mankind, and it holds to this very day amongst the gods, that every man who has passed a just and holy life departs after his decease to the Isles of the Blest, and dwells in all happiness apart from ill; but whoever has lived unjustly and impiously goes to the dungeon of requital and penance which, you know, they call Tartarus. Of these men there were judges in Cronos’ time, and still of late in the reign of Zeus—living men to judge the living upon the day when each was to breathe his last; and thus the cases were being decided amiss. So Pluto and the overseers from the Isles of the Blest came before Zeus with the report that they found men passing over to either abode undeserving. Then spake Zeus: “Nay,” said he, “I will put a stop to these proceedings. The cases are now indeed judged ill and it is because they who are on trial are tried in their clothing, for they are tried alive. Now many,” said he, “who have wicked souls are clad in fair bodies and ancestry and wealth, and at their judgement appear many witnesses to testify that their lives have been just. Now, the judges are confounded not only by their evidence but at the same time by being clothed themselves while they sit in judgement, having their own soul muffled in the veil of eyes and ears and the whole body. Thus all these are a hindrance to them, their own habiliments no less than those of the judged. Well, first of all,” he said, “we must put a stop to their foreknowledge of their death; for this they at present foreknow. However, Prometheus has already been given the word to stop this in them. Next they must be stripped bare of all those things before they are tried; for they must stand their trial dead. Their judge also must be naked, dead, beholding with very soul the very soul of each immediately upon his death, bereft of all his kin and having left behind on earth all that fine array, to the end that the judgement may be just. Now I, knowing all this before you, have appointed sons of my own to be judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthus, and one from Europe, Aeacus. These, when their life is ended, shall give judgement in the meadow at the dividing of the road, whence are the two ways leading, one to the Isles of the Blest, and the other to Tartarus. And those who come from Asia shall Rhadamanthus try, and those from Europe, Aeacus; and to Minos I will give the privilege of the final decision, if the other two be in any doubt; that the judgement upon this journey of mankind may be supremely just.”
Very interesting because what’s revealed in this story I think is countless years of folk wisdom reflecting on the archetype of the last judgement and crystalizing out in this particular legend that Socrates is recounting. And one of the things that’s particularly interesting is that Zeus has ordered that the last judgement must be done both in conditions of deadness and conditions of nakedness. Now I think those two images psychologically considered are related. You may recall that at the time of Jung’s near-death experience he described it as a painful stripping away of everything except his very essence. In other words the dying process itself is a stripping to nakedness so that the condition deadness and the condition of nakedness are symbolically analogous. The theme of nakedness reminds us of the Rosarium pictures of the coniunctio process which starts out with the two figures clothed but as they proceed they must be stripped of their clothing and then are left with the naked truth – as Jung calls it – of what they represent. And these experiential images of death and nakedness are the experiences that accompany the encounter with the apocalypse image, the image of being exposed to that unerring eye of God that sees you as you really are and requires then the assimilation of the consciousness of the Shadow that is generated by the experience.
Another example is found in the 6th book of the Aeneid. During his trip to the underworld Aeneas is told about the judgement in the afterworld. According to Dryden’s translation it’s told this way:
"These are the realms of unrelenting fate;
And awful Rhadamanthus rules the state.
He hears and judges each committed crime;
Enquires into the manner, place, and time.
The conscious wretch must all his acts reveal,
(Loth to confess, unable to conceal),
From the first moment of his vital breath,
To his last hour of unrepenting death.
Straight, o'er the guilty ghost, the Fury shakes
The sounding whip and brandishes her snakes,
And the pale sinner, with her sisters, takes."
Those Virginian images even show up in Michelangelo’s last judgement scenes, the snaky whips of the Fury.
Now working my way backwards, I arrived at the – probably at the – very earliest manifestation of the last judgement archetype in ancient Egypt. I’m gonna read you the way it’s described in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. And this description corresponds to a picture I brought along. I understand you won’t be able to see it where you are but you can come up afterwards and take a look. Or if you don’t wanna bother a smaller version of it is reproduced in the “Anatomy of the Psyche”, page 207. This goes back at least 5000 years ago and for all we know, maybe more, I conservatively say 5000 years ago. When the Egyptian died, he had to go through a series of ordeals and one of those was what was called “psychostasia” meaning “weighing the soul” of the deceased.
“When the deceased, thanks to the talismans placed on his mummy, and especially to the passwords written on the indispensable Book of the Dead, of which he was furnished, when the deceased had safely crossed the terrifying stretch of country between the land of the living and the kingdom of the dead, he was immediately ushered into the presence of his sovereign judge, either by Anubis or by Horus. After he had kissed the threshold, he penetrated into the hall of double justice, an immense room, at the end of which sat Osiris.”
Well, Osiris is removed from this picture. Osiris is sitting here at the very end.
“Osiris, redeemer and judge, who awaited his son who came from Earth. In the center was erected a vast scale, beside which stood Maat, goddess of truth and justice, who was ready to weigh the heart of the deceased. Meanwhile Ammit, the devourer, a hybrid monster, part lion, part hippopotamus, part crocodile, crouched nearby waiting to devour the hearts of the guilty. All around the hall to the right and to the left of Osiris sat 42 personages, 42 judges, corresponding each to a province of Egypt and each was charged to the duty of examining some special aspect of the deceased’s conscience. The deceased himself began the proceedings without hesitation recited what has been called the negative confession.”
Which is a lengthy affirmation listing all of the sins he has not committed.
“Then, following that, comes the weighing of his soul. In one of the pans of the balance the goddess Maat herself is represented by a feather, symbol of truth and in the other pan of the balance the heart of the deceased. And then the reading is carefully noted and written down. And if the two pans of the balance are in perfect equilibrium, then Osiris renders a favorable judgement, and Osiris says: ‘let the deceased depart victorious, let him go where ever he wishes to mingle freely with the gods and the spirits of the dead’. The deceased is thus justified. And was then lead into a life of eternal happiness in the kingdom of Osiris.”
If that was not the case, if the balance did not balance, then the heart was fed to the waiting monster and he went to Hell.
So you see how much of this imagery antedates by many thousands of years the Book of Revelation.
I want to say something more about the image of the balance. It occurs in the 5th chapter of Daniel. You will remember that Belshazzar was having a great feast and a handwriting appeared on the wall, spontaneously they saw a hand writing something on the wall and they couldn’t interpret it, so Daniel was called, and here’s what Daniel had to say about it. Quote:
"5:25 The writing reads: Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin.[*b]
5:26 The meaning of the words is this: Mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it;
5:27 Tekel: you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting;
5:28 Parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’"
And at that same night Belshazzar was murdered. Now those 3 words: mene, tekel, parsin – the philologists have expanded a lot of effort trying to determine what their meaning was, with reasonable certainty the word “mene” means “to measure”, the word “tekel” means to “weigh out” and the word “parsin” to “divide”, so measure, weigh and divide are the 3 basic terms which Daniel then elaborated and said that it’s your sovereignty that has been measured and a limit has been put on it, it’s you yourself that had been weighed in the balance and found wanting and your kingdom is going to be divided and broken up. Those terms are relevant because they’re part of the phenomenology of the last judgement archetype, that’s why I’m spelling them out so specifically.
Now, jumping to almost modern times to the 19th century, Emerson (Ralph Waldo Emerson) has a passage concerning the archetypal image of the balance that I’ve always thought was a particularly good example of his profound intuition into the nature of things. This passage comes from Emerson’s essay on “Compensation”. I quote:
“Experienced men of the world know very well that it is best to pay scot and lot as they go along, and that a man often pays dear for a small frugality. The borrower runs in his own debt. Has a man gained any thing who has received a hundred favors and rendered none? Has he gained by borrowing, through indolence or cunning, his neighbour’s wares, or horses, or money? There arises on the deed the instant acknowledgment of benefit on the one part, and of debt on the other; that is, of superiority and inferiority. The transaction remains in the memory of himself and his neighbour; and every new transaction alters, according to its nature, their relation to each other. He may soon come to see that he had better have broken his own bones than to have ridden in his neighbour’s coach, and that “the highest price he can pay for a thing is to ask for it.” A wise man will extend this lesson to all parts of life, and know that it is the part of prudence to face every claimant, and pay every just demand on your time, your talents, or your heart. Always pay; for, first or last, you must pay your entire debt. Persons and events may stand for a time between you and justice, but it is only a postponement. You must pay at last your own debt. If you are wise, you will dread a prosperity which only loads you with more. Benefit is the end of nature. But for every benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. He is great who confers the most benefits. He is base — and that is the one base thing in the universe — to receive favors and render none. In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. Beware of too much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt and worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some sort.”
And a little gap.
“The terror of cloudless noon, the emerald of Polycrates, the awe of prosperity, the instinct which leads every generous soul to impose on itself tasks of a noble asceticism and vicarious virtue”
Here’s the punchline:
“are the tremblings of the balance of justice through the heart and mind of man.”
The balance of justice you remember is what the personification of justice holds in her hands and it associates to being leveled, straight, fair, honest and balanced. And it’s an aspect of the Self which when the Self is activated imposes its objective standard on the Ego. I don’t think one ever escapes it. What I suspect happened is that those who have totally disregarded it in all their lives, probably have the experience at the time of death. At least the mythological material suggests that and I think it probably often happens.
Now practically all this material, you all had noticed, concludes with a more or less decisive split afterlife, separation of the sheep from the goats for instance, or between the blessed and the condemned. That amounts then to a dissociation in the collective psyche which I think the discoveries of depth-psychology now have found the basis for an ultimate healing or reconciliation of that split. Nothing in the near future, but nonetheless the basis for the healing of that dissociation I think has been discovered. And of course most important of all is that depth-psychology has transferred this crucial experience to the psyche and to the inner world of the individual, so that it now can be seen as potentially a conscious experience during one’s life on Earth. Jung gives us a description of one version of such an experience and I wanna read it to you. It’s found on page 345 of “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”. He’s talking about the encounter with the Self that begins by an irreconcilable conflict of duties. As long as one has a clear sense of duty in a given situation that gives him the moral guidance he needs as to how to proceed. But supposing he’s confronted simultaneously with two irreconcilable duties of equal weight, what then? Here’s what he says:
“But if a man faced with a conflict of duties undertakes to deal with them absolutely on his own responsibility, and before a judge who sits in judgment on him day and night, he may well find himself in an isolated position. There is now an authentic secret in his life which cannot be discussed—if only because he is involved in an endless inner trial in which he is his own counsel and ruthless examiner, and no secular or spiritual judge can restore his easy sleep. If he were not already sick to death of the decisions of such judges, he would never have found himself in a conflict. For such a conflict always presupposes a higher sense of responsibility. It is this very quality which keeps its possessor from accepting the decision of a collectivity. In his case the court is transposed to the inner world where the verdict is pronounced behind closed doors. Once this happens, the psyche of the individual acquires heightened importance. It is not only the seat of his well-known and socially defined ego; it is also the instrument for measuring what it is worth in and for itself.”
Measure – “Mene”.
“Nothing so promotes the growth of consciousness as this inner confrontation of opposites. Quite unsuspected facts turn up in the indictment, and the defense is obliged to discover arguments hitherto unknown. In the course of this, a considerable portion of the outer world reaches the inner, and by that very fact the outer world is impoverished or relieved. On the other hand, the inner world has gained that much weight by being raised to the rank of a tribunal for ethical decisions. However, the once unequivocal ego loses the prerogative of being merely the prosecutor; it must also learn the role of defendant. The ego becomes ambivalent and ambiguous, and is caught between hammer and anvil. It becomes aware of a polarity superordinate to itself.”
And that’s the Self. The polarity superordinate to the Ego is the Self. That’s enough to give you the gist. He goes on, but I want to point out particularly:
“In the course of this, a considerable portion of the outer world reaches the inner, and by that very fact the outer world is impoverished or relieved. On the other hand, the inner world has gained that much weight by being raised to the rank of a tribunal for ethical decisions.”
See that’s what we are doing, the very thing we are doing, in the psychological interpretation of these scriptures. These scriptures that have been enshrined as dogma for the collective psyche are part of the outer world. By understanding them psychologically and the reality that stands behind them we are impoverishing the scriptures of their content on the one hand, or relieving of the weight of their content, Jung uses those both words, and at the same time augmenting the weight and magnitude of the psyche. That’s the operation that’s going on.
Alright, I’m going to play us some music, about 4 minutes of music. This comes from Handel’s Messiah and the 4th aria of Handel’s Messiah takes its text from the 3rd chapter of Malachi. And the text is:
"3:1 Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says Yahweh Sabaoth."
That image refers to the coming of the Self, you see. The temple of the Self is the Ego, psychologically understood. And when that happens, when He enters His temple:
"3:2 Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali."
That’s the end of my subject matter tonight, but I have another item that I have a few minutes that I can address myself to about a communication that asked a question that isn’t exactly relevant to the subject matter of this course but it brings up questions of such genre the general relevance that I thought I would address it. Anyway.
I’m requested to comment on a passage in volume 18 of the Collected Works. Starting at paragraph 670 in which Jung is responding to a question by the bishop of Southwark, and the bishop asks:
“ What are we to do with the great majority of people we have to deal with who are not in any church? They say they are in the Church of England, but they don’t belong in any sense.”
And Jung responds in part:
“ I am afraid you can’t do anything with such people. The Church is there and is valid for those who are inside. Those who are outside the walls of the Church cannot be brought back into the Church by the ordinary means. But I wish the clergy would understand the language of the soul, and that the clergyman would be a directeur de conscience! Why should I be a directeur de conscience? I am a doctor: I have no preparation for that. It is the natural calling of the clergyman: he should do it. Therefore I wish that a new generation of clergymen would come in and do the same as they do in the Catholic Church: that they would try to translate the language of the unconscious, even the language of dreams, into proper language.”
Now I can understand how remarks of this sort and other remarks with quite different reference can confuse people due to the fact that Jung is quite extraordinary, in the fact that he always addresses the person he is talking to from the standpoint occupied by that person. He has an uncanny ability to sense – in some cases it doesn’t take very much ability, like in the case of the Anglican bishop, doesn’t take any ability to know where they stand, but nonetheless, Jung is very sensitive to – the psychological reality of the individual to whom he is speaking. And he makes every effort to speak to him from that reality. So, when he says: “I wish the clergyman would be a director of conscience, I’m a doctor, I have no preparation for that, you ought to do that” – he is talking to someone who is completely contained within the Church. Seems to me he had shown considerable restraint in saying no more than he did concerning this first question: “What are we to do with the great majority of people we have to deal with who are not in any church?”. Since when it is your business to do anything with it? You see the presumption behind that remark is just astounding, but Jung restrained himself. I’m afraid we can’t do anything with such people.
But I want to draw your attention concerning this matter of what Jung’s real standpoint is concerning religious dogma and metaphysical conviction. I want to draw your attention to the letter that those of you who attended the “New God-Image” seminar will remember we discussed. It’s the letter to Bernhard Lang and it’s found in the volume 2 of the Letters, starting on page 375 and here he very candidly describes what his basic position is regarding metaphysics and religious dogma. Let me just read you a few passages. I hope you will look it up and read it all for yourself because it’s one of the classic letters. He starts by saying, he speaks of the threshold which separates to epochs. That threshold the theory of knowledge whose starting point is Kant (Immanuel Kant):
“On that threshold minds go their separate ways: those that have understood Kant, and the others that cannot follow him.”
What about a believing person?
“He lives in the same world as me and appears to be a human being like me. But when I express doubts about the absolute validity of his statements, he expostulates that he is the happy possessor of a “receiver,” an organ by means of which he can know or tune in the Transcendent. This information obliges me to reflect on myself and ask myself whether I also possess a like receiver which can make the Transcendent, i.e., something that transcends consciousness and is by definition unknowable, knowable.”
“So when the believer assures me that I do not possess the organ he possesses, he makes me aware of my humanity, of my limitation which he allegedly does not have. He is the superior one, who regretfully points out my deformity or mutilation. Therefore I speak of the beati possidentes of belief, and this is what I reproach them with : that they exalt themselves above our human stature and our human limitation and won’t admit to pluming themselves on a possession which distinguishes them from the ordinary mortal.”
“Now in my estimation it would be more human, more decent, and altogether more appropriate if we carefully inquired beforehand what other people think and if we expressed ourselves less categorically. It would be more becoming to do this than to believe subjective opinions and to damn the opinions of others as fallacies. If we do not do this, the inevitable consequence is that only my subjective opinion is valid, I alone possess the true receiver, and everyone else is deformed”
And then comes his classic statement:
“I am sorry to say that everything men assert about God is twaddle, for no man can know God.”
That’s enough to give you the flavor of the letter. I’d urge you to read it for yourselves and whenever you think Jung is contradicting himself, please note the context within which he is speaking and remember the epigraph to “Psychology and Alchemy”, the passage from Isaiah that says:
"42:3 He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame. Faithfully he brings true justice;"
Which means that the psychologically weak individuals that he encounters with only a flickering light of consciousness, he’s going to treat gently, with what conscience and stability they do have and he’s not going to deprive them what supports they do have, when they are in no way capable of understand what he is talking about.
OK, that’s all for tonight.