Sum it up for me

Encounters with the Greater Personality by Edward Edinger


Source: Edward Edinger – Encounters with the Greater Personality


The Ego’s encounter with the Self, or the greater personality, follows a distinct pattern: encounter, wounding, perseverance, and revelation. I’m going to talk about 4 examples of this theme: Jacob and the angel of Yahweh; Arjuna’s encounter with Krishna; Paul’s encounter with Christ; and Nietzsche’s encounter with Zarathustra.

Table of Contents


Let’s see if I can make you forget the heat. I was here four years ago and at that time I talked about the Book of Job with special emphasis on placing engravings for that book and what I have to say tonight is a logical continuation of that previous subject. It’s the same theme basically, namely the theme of the Ego’s encounter with the Self. You know this is the one basic feature of Jungian psychology: the Ego and how it relates to reality itself. Jungian psychology is the only psychological standpoint that operates out of an awareness that there are two centers in the psyche. Some other psychologies some other analytic approaches have an awareness that there are two entities in the psyche, there is an Unconscious, there is a second entity but no other psychological standpoint operates out of the awareness that there are two centers. That’s unique to Jungian psychology. Since there are two centers if that comes into conscious realization then those two centers must collide, they must have an encounter with each other and that’s what happens when the Ego which is the little center has an encounter with the Self which is the big center. You know all analysis is no more the prelude to this experience, the encounter with the Self. Here’s how Jung put it in his 1925 seminar, he says this, quote:

"Analysis should release an experience that rips us or fall upon us as from above. An experience that has substance and body such as those things which occurred to the ancients. If I were going to symbolize it, I would choose the annunciation."

Now it very well may happen that this crucial experience although is prepared for by analysis does not take place during the regular analysis at all. May very well take place many years after the termination of a very good analysis. In such a case one is very grateful for his conscious knowledge of Jungian psychology. He’s got a roadmap so to speak that helps him get his bearings when this experience falls on him from above. He can say with Job then, that “previously I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear but now my eye sees thee”. That’s what happens when this experience falls on one. It can also occur without a benefit of any analysis at all. Can happen without any particular preoccupation with the Unconscious and for these reasons this is why I consider it vitally important to talk about the Self in public, because one can never know when he is speaking to an individual who has had or is going to have the experience I’m talking about. Such an individual now or later my recall what has been spoken about and may find it immensely helpful in his time of need. I know that for a fact that such things do happen.

So we’re going to be talking about the Self tonight. OK, but what is it?

So we’re going to be talking about the Self tonight. But what is it? As I said it’s the second center of the psyche, the Ego being the first. To say a little more about it one could say that it’s the objective center as opposed to the subjective center. It’s the transpersonal center. It’s the center and connector with the totality that includes both Conscious and Unconscious. It’s not a theory, it’s a fact. One has to use words to describe facts but I assure you what we’re talking about is a fact that is verified by the experience of many people in and subsequent to analysis.

The Self is extremely difficult to describe. This is because it’s a transcendent entity that is larger than the Ego. That means it cannot be grasped, it cannot be totally embraced by the Ego and therefore it cannot be defined. What can be defined has to be smaller than the Ego doing the defining. It’s contradictory and paradoxical so far as the Ego’s categories of understanding are concerned. Like the Philosopher’s Stone of the alchemists it has many different synonyms which express different facets of its complex reality. One of those synonyms that Jung has proposed for the Self is “the greater personality” and that’s the particular entity I’m going to be talking tonight. He introduces this term “the greater personality” in his essay concerning rebirth which is in Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 1. In that place he speaks of individuation quote as a “long drawn-out process of inner transformation and rebirth into another being” and concerning that other being he writes, quote:

"[235] This other being is the other person in ourselves that larger and greater personality maturing within us. It's the inner friend of the soul that's why we take comfort whenever we find the friend and companion depicted in the ritual. For example the friendship between Mithras and to Sun God. It's a representation of a friendship between two man which is simply the outer reflection of an inner fact. It reveals our relationship to that inner friend of the soul into whom nature herself would like to change us. That other person who we also are and yet can never attain to completely. We are that pair of Dioscuri, one of whom is mortal and the other immortal and who though always together it can never be made completely one. The transformation process tries to approximate then to one another but our consciousness is aware of resistances because the other person seems strange and uncanny and because we cannot get accustomed to the idea that we are not absolute mater in our own house. We shall always prefer to be I and nothing else but we are confronted with that inner friend or foe and whether he is our friend or a foe depends on ourselves."

That’s where he first introduces the term “greater personality”. But in that same essay he describes the Ego’s encounter with the greater personality in these very important words. This is especially important quotation in my opinion. Quote:

"[217] When a summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges, then, as Nietzsche says, “One becomes Two,” and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser personality with the force of a revelation. He who is truly and hopelessly little will always drag the revelation of the greater down to the level of his littleness, and will never understand that the day of judgment for his littleness has dawned. But the man who is inwardly great will know that the long expected friend of his soul, the immortal one, has now really come, “to lead captivity captive”; that is, to seize hold of him by whom this immortal had always been confined and held prisoner, and to make his life flow into that greater life—a moment of deadliest peril!"

This final phrase comes as a shock. After preparing a beautiful description of the Ego’s encounter with the greater personality we learn only at the very end that the encounter is dangerous, deadly dangerous. This danger refers to the wounding effect that the Self has on the Ego on first encounter. At the worst the meeting of Ego and Self can set off an overt psychosis. Even at best the Ego’s first decisive meeting with the Self brings about a painful humiliation and a demoralizing sense of defeat. As Jung puts it in another place: “the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the Ego”. This experience of wound of defeat is part of what I have spoken of as the Job archetype. I used that term because the story of Job is a particularly apt example of the pattern. Chief features of this pattern are four. This is going to be the subject of my talk tonight and to give examples of this pattern, so get these four features:

  1. There is an encounter between the Ego and the greater personality represented as God, angel, or superior being of some kind.
  2. There is a wound or a suffering of the Ego as a result of this encounter.
  3. In spite of the pain the Ego perseveres and endures the ordeal and persists and scrutinizing the experience in search of its meaning.
  4. As a consequence of that perseverance there is a divine revelation by which the Ego is rewarded by some insight into the transpersonal psyche.

So to repeat the four:

  1. There’s an encounter.
  2. There’s a wounding.
  3. There’s perseverance.
  4. There’s revelation.

I’m going to talk about 4 examples of this theme. The examples vary, each example emphasizes one particular aspect and by taking them all together you get a broader picture of the nature of the phenomenon but each individual who has this experience, has it uniquely, so that his experience will not be exactly Job’s, will not be exactly Jacob’s, it will not be exactly Arjuna’s, it will not be exactly the apostle Paul’s and it will not be exactly Nietzsche’s. Having familiarity with various examples of the species will help you to recognize it when you encounter it for yourself.

I’m going to talk about 4 tonight, but there are more than that. Quite the list I think could be culled out of the cultural history of man but just to give you a brief list, here’s a few:

As I said I shall confine myself to 4:

In making this kind of overview you must forgive the summary way in which I treat each example. It’s really quite unfair to treat it so briefly, such profound episodes in the cultural history of the human race but my justification for it is to give you a sense of the archetype and I don’t know any better way of doing that then to present you briefly with individual examples of the archetype and that can give you a sense of the underlying general symbolic image that operates within individual variations.

Jacob and the angel of Yahweh

So first, Jacob and the angel of Yahweh. This account is found in the 32nd chapter of Genesis. You’ll recall that Jacob tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright and then conspiring with his mother Rebecca he stole his father’s blessing by fraud, the blessing going to Esau, the elder one.
He then had to flee the country to escape his brother’s vengeance. Many years later having acquired two wives and considerable wealth the time had come when he had to return to the land he’d fled from. So he returned to his own country but that return meant that he must now meet Esau the brother he had wronged in many years previously and naturally he was afraid. We are always afraid of the person we have wronged. On the night prior to the meeting with Esau he met the angel of Yahweh at the ford of the river Jabbok. The Jerusalem Bible gives the following account of this event:

"32:26 And there was one that wrestled with him until daybreak who, seeing that he could not master him, struck him in the socket of his hip, and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with him.
32:27 He said, ‘Let me go, for day is breaking’ But Jacob answered, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’.
32:28 He then asked, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob’, he replied.
32:29 He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have been strong[*b] against God, you shall prevail against men’.
32:30 Jacob then made this request, ‘I beg you, tell me your name’, but he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there.
32:31 Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘Because I have seen God face to face,’ he said ‘and I have survived’.
32:32 The sun rose as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip."

See this story contains all 4 of the features that I’ve spoke of. There’s an encounter with a superior being, there’s a wounding, there’s a perseverance, and there’s a divine revelation. The divine revelation in this case is the blessing first of all and secondly the investment with a new name. So a second identity, Jacob’s collective identity is revealed because now he becomes the ancestor of Israel.

What’s particularly interesting psychologically about this example is that it illustrates that an encounter with the greater personality may come at the same time as an encounter with the Shadow. Jacob experienced the encounter with Esau very much as an encounter with God. Esau became a kind of a stand-in for God for him that’s because Jacob’s guilty consciousness imbues Esau with divine power. The scripture specifically says when Jacob meets Esau he says to him: “I have seen my face as though I had seen the face of God”, so that Esau and God overlapped. See this means psychologically that the Shadow which one is unrelated to may activate the Self and if one had wronged the Shadow than what’s activated is the Self in its avenging aspect. Now this motif can operate either internally or externally. If you don’t understand this after I’ve explained it, please inquire during the question period because I want to try to make this clear to everybody.

In an outer, external sense if I commit a wrong against another person I will fear that person’s desire for revenge. I know that he’s even entitle to revenge because I’ve wronged him and that condition then constellates the Self. “Vengeance is mine, says The Lord.” The whole phenomenon of vengeance belongs to the transpersonal center of the psyche, it belongs to the Self. If an individual has been wronged in any serious way it activates a defensive response from the Self and if one has set the Self against you, you’re at a sizable disadvantage.

In a similar way if I have wronged the Shadow within, if I have violated the inner figure that constitutes my Shadow in some serious way, it’s a violation of totality which again can arouse the vengeance of the Self against the Ego and all sorts of things might happen then: I may cut myself on my electric saw, or they have an accident with the car. Anything of that sort can happen if that constellation has been set up.

Now, what Jacob is obliged to do in this situation is to encounter the reaction that has been constellated, endure it without succumbing either to defensive hostility or to despair. If he succeeds that would correspond to a successful wrestling with the angel. One way of thinking of it is that perhaps Jacob had to wrestle with his rage at Esau before he can arrive at conciliatory attitude. He did arrive at a conciliatory attitude, he sent Esau gifts and it worked. But he could not do that until he had overcome his power reaction. The power reaction could express itself either in rage against Esau for causing him trouble or in cringing fear of Esau because he knew he had a legitimate complaint against him. Jung makes a very profound observation here, these things are scattered throughout his works. This is especially important and can be found in paragraph 524 of volume 5. He says this, quote:

"[524] … he (God) appears at first in hostile form, as an assailant with whom the hero has to wrestle. This is in keeping with the violence of all unconscious dynamism. In this manner the god manifests himself and in this form he must be overcome. The struggle has its parallel in Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at the ford Jabbok. The onslaught of instinct then becomes an experience of divinity, provided that man does not succumb to it and follow it blindly, but defends his humanity against the animal nature of the divine power. It is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” …"

What he is saying there is that intense accepts are the manifestations of the greater personality. One should never take personal responsibility for an intense affect. One doesn’t crank up something like that, it falls on him or it roars up from the depths, it’s a manifestation of the Self, any intense affect. The onslaught of instinct. If one can relate to it in understanding than it becomes an experience of divinity. This is what was achieved by Jacob’s wrestling with the angel.

Another aspect of such an encounter is mentioned in this remark of Jung’s. This comes from Memories, he says, quote:

"A contemporary Jacob, telling such a tale, would be treated to meaningful smiles. He would prefer not to speak of such matters, especially if he were inclined to have his private views about the nature of Yahweh’s messenger. Thus he would find himself willy-nilly in possession of a secret that could not be discussed, and would become a deviant from the collectivity."

This corresponds to the fact that an encounter with the greater personality is necessarily a secret. One can’t talk about it. Can’t talk about it in its particulars anyway. It’s a secret that both creates the individual as something separate from the collective and at the same time it’s a wound that painfully separates and alienates him from the collective, so it has both a positive and a negative aspect.

The striking example of this phenomenon is the figure in Greek myth Philoctetes. Philoctetes inherited the bow and arrow of Heracles. Heracles is the greater personality and Philoctetes was an ordinary person like the rest of us. He couldn’t handle these weapons and he injured himself with one of the poisoned arrows of Heracles in the garden and it became an incurable wound and its stench was so horrible, nobody could stand being around him. So he was abandoned on an island and yet the time came when an oracle said that the Trojan war could not be won by the Greeks unless they get the help of Philoctetes. So they had to go back and apologize for ostracizing him and lure him back into the collectivity. It’s a beautiful example of a certain aspect of the phenomenon what happens. One’s alienated and becomes an objectionable stink to the collective and yet he is needed by the collective.

Arjuna and Krishna

Alright, I’m turning now to another example. Arjuna and Krishna. This is a magnificent example of an encounter with the greater personality that’s recorded in the Bhagavad-gita. Like the Book of Job its central feature is a dialog between a grief-stricken man and a personification of a deity. I have no scholarly knowledge concerning the Gita, I know it’s obviously a composite document that grew into its present form by a series of accretions, but I think just considering it psychologically that it’s not at all impossible that is might have originated, just as I think Job did, in one individual’s actual experience of the greater personality. However that may be, in its present form it’s certainly one of the world’s finest examples of this experience.

The story begins with the despair of Prince Arjuna before a battle, a battle he does not want to fight, because it’s a battle against his kinsmen. As he expresses his anguish the god Krishna replies to him through the figure of his chariot driver. Let me give you just a few brief tastes of this event with apologies to Robert Johnson who is an expert on this subject.

First Arjuna speaks:

"Oh Krishna seeing these my kinsmen gathered here desirous to fight
My limbs fail me
My mouth is parched
My body shivers
My hair stands on end
My bow slips from my hand
My skin is burning

Oh Krishna I'm not able to stand upright
My mind is in whirl
And I see adverse omens

Neither do I see any good in slaying my own people in this strife
I desire no victory nor kingdom or pleasures

I do not wish to kill these warriors even though I'm killed by them"

Krishna replies:

"Thou hast been mourning for those who shall not be mourned for
These bodies are perishable
The truly wise mourn not either for the dead nor for the living
The dwellers in these bodies are eternal, indestructible and impenetrable
Therefore fight oh descendant of Bharata
He who considers this Self as a slayer or he who thinks that this Self is slain
Neither of these knows the truth
For it does not slay nor is it slain
This Self is never born nor does it die
Or after one's having been doesn't go into non-being
The Self is unborn, eternal, changeless, ancient
It's never destroyed even when the body is destroyed
Therefore Arjuna be resolved to fight
Regarding a life of pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat
Fight thou the battle thus sin will not stain thee"

Now characteristically the greater personality has presented an attitude that is too large for the Ego to understand. Arjuna is confused because what he is presented with is an attitude beyond the opposites and in this case the motif of wounding is represented by his confusion. You see the wounding is not prominent in this Eastern story as it is in the Western story of Job and that I think says something about the difference between the Eastern and the Western psyche. Anyhow, Arjuna replies:

"Oh Krishna if to thy mind the path of wisdom is superior to the path of action
then why art thou engaging me in this terrible action?
By these seemingly conflicting words thou art bewildering my understanding"

See, that’s the wounding.

"Therefore tell me with certainty that by one of these, by following them I can attain the highest"

And then Krishna proceeds with what could be called a very patient explanation. I imagine him beginning with a sigh.

"In this world twofold is the path already described by me
The path of wisdom is for the meditative and the path of work is for the active
Man does not attain freedom from action by non-performance of action
Nor does he attain to perfection merely by giving up action
He who restraining the organs of action sits holding thoughts of sense objects in his mind,
that self-deluded one is called a hypocrite
But oh Arjuna he who controlling the senses of the mind
follows without attachment the path of action with his organs of action
he is esteemed
Do thou therefore perform right and obligatory actions for action is superior to inaction
This world is bound by actions except when they are performed for the sake of religious worship
Therefore oh son of Kunti do thou perform action without attachment"

This is then followed by a magnificent length description of the religious way of life. Particularly noteworthy is Krishna’s description of his own nature. Now I remind you, that from psychological standpoint what we are listening to is the Self describing its nature to the Ego, so this is not just a story that of a remote event. It’s an account of an experience that can befall any one of us. Here is how Krishna describes himself, in part:

"I am the origin and the dissolution of the Universe"

That’s the line that flashed into Robert Oppenheimer’s mind when he witnessed the first atomic explosion.

"There's non else existing higher than I
Like pearls on a thread all this Universe is strung in me
I am the taste in waters and the radiance in Sun and Moon
I am the sacred syllable Ohm in the Vedas
Sound in the ether
Self-consciousness of mankind
I am the sacred fragrance in the earth and the brilliance in fire
I am the life in all beings and austerity in ascetics
Know me as the eternal sea of all beings
The intellect of the intelligent and the prowess of the powerful
Oh Arjuna I know the past, present and future of all beings but no one knows me"

Now I would remind you, that what’s being expressed here is the nature of the Self, what the individual psyche can encounter. This is the way it talks about itself, this is its phenomenology, that the Self which has as its only available manifestation of consciousness, an individual incarnation. Each individual Self to the extent that it comes into visibility talks like that. The way Krishna describes himself to Arjuna has some similarity to the way Yahweh speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. But it is quite different to, see the whole style is different. It’s much calmer, much more objective, there’s no whirlwind here. One might say it’s more civilized. It’s more psychological. The West is a barbarian psychologically in comparison to the East. What Krishna does then is to explain patiently to Arjuna in his calm, objective way the difference between the Ego and the Self, thereby acquainting him with the nature of the greater personality. This revelation happened because like Job, Arjuna persevered and questioned Krishna.

Paul and Christ

Another example: Paul and Christ. Here again we will turn to the scriptures of another world religion. The only texts are found chiefly in the Book of Acts, and I’m going to read you a compilation of the essential accounts. I think it’s better to hear it first hand rather than have it summarized. This is Paul speaking:

"26:9 ‘As for me, I once thought it was my duty to use every means to oppose the name of Jesus the Nazarene.
26:10 This I did in Jerusalem; I myself threw many of the saints into prison, acting on authority from the chief priests, and when they were sentenced to death I cast my vote against them.
26:11 I often went round the synagogues inflicting penalties, trying in this way to force them to renounce their faith; my fury against them was so extreme that I even pursued them into foreign cities.
26:12 ‘On one such expedition I was going to Damascus, armed with full powers and a commission from the chief priests,
26:13 and at midday as I was on my way, your Majesty, I saw a light brighter than the sun come down from heaven. It shone brilliantly round me and my fellow travellers.
26:14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you, kicking like this against the goad.”[*a]
26:15 Then I said: Who are you, Lord? And the Lord answered, “I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me.
26:16 But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this reason: to appoint you as my servant and as witness of this vision in which you have seen me, and of others in which I shall appear to you."
"9:6 Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.’
9:7 The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one.
9:8 Saul got up from the ground, but even with his eyes wide open he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand.
9:9 For three days he was without his sight, and took neither food nor drink."

Paul was initially absolutely shattered by his encounter with the greater personality. He was blind for 3 days and according to certain traditions and other accounts there’s reason to believe that he had to retreat and recuperate for 3 years in Arabia. I think that’s very likely. The Biblical account doesn’t say that exactly, but there are traditions that imply that, but it was very likely indeed.

Paul’s encounter with the greater personality, who he had identified it with Christ, you see, and that’s the origin of the Christian Church, as we know it anyway.

<…> maybe violently resisted by the conscious Ego. As witness of the persecution of the Christians that Saul engaged in before his vision. This is a psychological phenomenon that is well documented, we can see that not so infrequently. Certainly in Paul’s case it’s very understandable in view of the fact that the awareness that was brought to him by his encounter with the greater personality imposed very rigorous requirements on his life. You see in the case of Paul he was obliged to sacrifice his personal life totally. He had no personal life after his encounter with the greater personality. He was turned into a slave of Christ. He begins his letters to the Romans and to the Philippians by calling himself “Paul the slave of Jesus Christ”. He begins his letter to Philemon with the words “from Paul a prisoner of Christ Jesus”. And that’s what he was literally.

Paul’s experience has given us some of the clearest statements that we possess as to how it feels to have had a major encounter with the greater personality. The state of being captive to the greater one is summed up very well in the 2nd chapter of Galatians, where Paul says:

"2:19 In other words, through the Law I am dead to the Law, so that now I can live for God. I have been crucified with Christ,
2:20 and I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake."

Jung made a statement that is not too far from that same feeling in his Memories. After with his encounter with the Unconscious and with the personification of the greater personality, which was called Philemon, he says this:

"It was then that I ceased to belong to myself alone, ceased to have the right to do so. From then on, my life belonged to the generality."
"It was then that I dedicated myself to service of the psyche."

To Jung the service of the psyche is analogous to Paul’s service of Christ. They’re two different terms for the same phenomenon actually that are appropriate to the context of their different cultural and psychic backgrounds.

Nietzsche and Zarathustra

Alright, just one more. I’m now going to make a leap of 2000 years into modern times and talk about Nietzsche. Nietzsche and Zarathustra. Preceding Jung’s example this is the outstanding modern example of an encounter with the greater personality which led to a literary production. We don’t know how many encounters, anonymous encounters of this nature had been made then that the individual was narrowly able to integrate it sufficiently to give it formulation and transmit it to a larger view. The experience dies on the scene, you see. But Nietzsche was able to do that.

Jung makes a remark that

"it's only the tragedies of Goethe's Faust and Nietzsche's Zarathustra which mark the first glimmerings of a breakthrough of total experience in our Western hemisphere."

What he means by “Western hemisphere” is “Western civilization”. And the term “breakthrough of total experience” would be synonymous with “encounter with the greater personality”. He’s telling us that only Goethe’s Faust and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra bear witness in modern times to this encounter with the larger center of the psyche.

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is vastly more important in my opinion, psychologically, because the author lived it totally. Goethe did not. Goethe remained in a sort of Olympian-stance above the experience that he has described in Faust. Nietzsche lived out his experience totally to the bitter end. It’s the first real encounter of a modern Ego with the greater personality that left a record of the experience. He perished in that encounter. But how could have it been otherwise? Since he was the first to tread this unknown region and of course would be ignorant of its dangers. Can’t know about the dangers until they already encompassed you, they already got you.

I think we owe an immense debt to Nietzsche. We know more from his experience. He learned a tremendous amount. I’m convinced that without Nietzsche’s examples Jung might very likely had been a fatality. In his memories Jung writes about the discovery of Nietzsche in 1898. Here’s what he says:

"I was curious, and finally resolved to read him. Thoughts Out of Season was the first volume that fell into my hands. I was carried away by enthusiasm, and soon afterward read Thus Spake Zarathustra. This, like Goethe’s Faust, was a tremendous experience for me. Zarathustra was Nietzsche’s Faust, his No. 2, and my No. 2 now corresponded to Zarathustra—though this was rather like comparing a molehill with Mount Blanc. And Zarathustra—there could be no doubt about that—was morbid. Was my No. 2 also morbid? This possibility filled me with a terror which for a long time I refused to admit, but the idea cropped up again and again at inopportune moments, throwing me into a cold sweat, so that in the end I was forced to reflect on myself. Nietzsche had discovered his No. 2 only late in life, when he was already past middle age, whereas I had known mine ever since boyhood. Nietzsche had spoken naïvely and incautiously about this άρρητον - arrheton - the unspeakable, this thing not to be named, as though it were quite in order. But I had noticed in time that this only leads to trouble."
"That, I thought, was his morbid misunderstanding: that he fearlessly and unsuspectingly let his No. 2 loose upon a world that knew and understood nothing about such things. He was moved by the childish hope of finding people who would be able to share his ecstasies and could grasp his “transvaluation of all values.”"
"… he did not understand himself when he fell head first into the unutterable mystery and wanted to sing its praises to the dull, godforsaken masses. That was the reason for the bombastic language, the piling up of metaphors, the hymnlike raptures—all a vain attempt to catch the ear of a world which had sold its soul for a mass of disconnected facts. And he fell—tightrope-walker that he proclaimed himself to be—into depths far beyond himself."

Now actually we have data that demonstrates that Nietzsche encountered the greater personality for the first time in early adolescence. Jung was not familiar with that data. Not very many people are. After Nietzsche had his breakdown in 1889, he was hospitalized in a mental hospital and was considered insane for the rest of his life, the next 11 years. He was unable to express himself in any kind of coherent way. However his internal psychological function was much more intact than his outer appearance would indicate it.

He wrote a manuscript while in the mental hospital and smuggled it out with a patient who was leaving. He had to get passed the watchful eyes of his sister who would have destroyed it. This is a highly dramatic significant event. He succeeded in smuggling it out and it was eventually published and it’s available in translation, but nobody knows about it. The reason is that the Nietzsche scholars are involved in a conspiracy of silence against it because what he talks about are the psychological facts of his life and those facts, the Nietzsche philosophers imagine, belittle Nietzsche the philosopher. What they do is they enlarge Nietzsche the human being. This work has been published under the title of “My Sister and I”. A very unfortunate title, but the title wasn’t chosen by Nietzsche, it was chosen by his publisher’s to capitalize on the more scandalous aspect of this work which talks about the incestuous relations between Nietzsche and his sister since childhood. So needless to say that it did had to be smuggled past the sister. Anyway it’s a marvelous psychological document because Nietzsche has realizations in his experience of total defeat which apparent insanity of course would be for a person of such vast intellectual brilliance. He is fulfilled as a human being and this is all communicated in this work. Someday someone is going to do a full psychological case history of Nietzsche and his full work and take his place as the first depth psychologist. Anyway this is a preface to a quote I’m going to make from this work. Here’s what he tells us:

"Of all the hooks in the Bible, First Samuel, especially in the opening passages, made the profoundest impression on me. In a way, it may he responsible for an important spiritual element in my life. It is where the Lord three times wakes the infant prophet in his sleep, and Samuel three times mistakes the heavenly voice for the voice of Eli asleep near him in the temple. Convinced, a after the third time, that his prodigy is being called to higher services than those available to him in the house of sacrifices, Eli proceeds to instruct him in the ways of prophecy. I had no Eli (not even a Schopenhauer) when a similar visitation darkened the opening days of my adolescence. I was all of twelve when the Lord broke in on me in all His glory, a glaring fusion of the portraits of Abraham, Moses and the Young Jesus in our family Bible. In His second visitation He came to me not physically hut in a shudder of consciousness in which good and evil both clamored before the gates of my soul for equal mastery. The third time He seized me in front of my house in the grasp of a terrible wind. I recognized the agency of a divine force because it was in that moment that I conceived of the Trinity as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Devil . . ."

We’re talking about an adolescent, you see. This indicates that Nietzsche’s prophetic function was born at the age of 12. These particular revelations with their emphasis on the conflict of the opposites indicate that the Self in its modern phenomenology, the way we are acquainted with it, had been constellated in him so that the core issue for him became the polarity between Christ and Anti-Christ. When you read his works carefully you can see that be the basic underlying issue. Consciously Nietzsche sided with Anti-Christ, he literally identified himself with Anti-Christ. But unconsciously he identified with Christ. After his breakdown he signed some of his letters with: “The Crucified One”. Either way you see, he lived his life out of a profound religious attitude. The way Jung puts it is that the tragedy of Zarathustra is that because his God died, Nietzsche himself became a god and this happened because he was no atheist. He was of too positive a nature to tolerate the urban neurosis of atheism. It seems dangerous for such a man that God is dead. He than certainly becomes the victim of inflation.

Nietzsche was very important to Jung. A further evidence of that surely the fact that he conducted a lengthy seminar on Zarathustra over a period of 5 years the notes of which are accumulated in 10 volumes, that ought to suffice to demonstrate the fact that he was seriously concerned with Nietzsche. I want to read you just a couple of small excerpts from those notes from the Zarathustra seminar.

"He was born in 1844, and he began to write Zarathustra in 1883, so he was then 39 years old. The way in which he wrote it is most remarkable. He himself made a verse about it. He said : "Da wurde eins zu zwei und Zarathustra ging an mir vorbei," which means : "Then one became two and Zarathustra passed by me," meaning that Zarathustra then became manifest as a second personality in himself. That would show that he had himself a pretty clear notion that he was not identical with Zarathustra. But how could he help assuming such an identity in those days when there was no psychology? Nobody would then have dared to take the idea of a personification seriously, or even of an independent autonomous spiritual agency. 1883 was the time of the blooming of materialistic philosophy. So he had to identify with Zarathustra in spite of the fact that he felt, as this verse proves, a definite difference between himself and the old wise man. Then his idea that Zarathustra had to come back to mend the faults of his former invention, is psychologically most characteristic; it shows that he had an absolutely historical feeling about it."
"it filled him with a peculiar sense of destiny:"
"Of course such a feeling is most uplifting to an individual; no wonder then that Zarathustra was the Dionysian experience par excellence. In the latter part, that Dionysian ekstasis comes in."
"In one of his letters to his sister he gives a most impressive description of the ekstasis in which he wrote Zarathusra."
"He says about his way of writing that it simply poured out of him, it was an almost autonomous production; with unfailing certainty the words presented themselves, and the whole description gives us the impression of the quite extraordinary condition in which he must have been, a condition of possession where he himself practically no longer existed. It was as if he were possessed by a creative genius that took his brain and produced this work out of absolute necessity and in a most inevitable way."

I want to give you an example. This will do much better then any talk can do about the kind of ecstasy that Nietzsche could fall into. He describes it in this following passage from his book “Ecce Homo”. This is Nietzsche speaking:

"Does anyone, at the end of the nineteenth century, have a clear idea of what poets in strong ages called inspiration? If not, then I’ll describe it.— With the slightest scrap of superstition in you, you would indeed scarcely be able to dismiss the sense of being just an incarnation, just a mouthpiece, just a medium for overpowering forces. The notion of revelation—in the sense that suddenly, with ineffable assuredness and subtlety, something becomes visible, audible, something that shakes you to the core and bowls you over—provides a simple description of the facts of the matter. You hear, you don’t search; you take, you don’t ask who is giving; like a flash of lightning a thought flares up, with necessity, with no hesitation as to its form—I never had any choice. A rapture whose immense tension is released from time to time in a flood of tears, when you cannot help your step running on one moment and slowing down the next; a perfect being-outside-yourself * with the most distinct consciousness of myriad subtle shudders and shivers right down to your toes; a depth of happiness where the most painful and sinister things act not as opposites but as determined, as induced, as a necessary colour within such a surfeit of light; an instinct for rhythmic conditions that spans wide spaces of forms—length, the need for a rhythm with a wide span is practically the measure of the power of the inspiration, a kind of compensation for its pressure and tension… Everything happens to the highest degree involuntarily, but as if in a rush of feeling free, of unconditionality, of power, of divinity… The involuntariness of images and analogies is the most remarkable thing; you lose your sense of what is an image, what an analogy; everything offers itself as the nearest, most correct, most straightforward expression. It really seems—to recall a phrase of Zarathustra’s—as though the things themselves were stepping forward and offering themselves for allegorical purposes (—‘here all things come caressingly to your discourse and flatter you: for they want to ride on your back. On every allegory you ride here to every truth. Here the words and word-shrines of all Being spring open for you; all Being wants to become word here, all Becoming wants to learn from you how to talk—’*)."

Well he is describing the experience of the Unconscious in its creative rush of a meaningful image and very few people can describe it so well because he had such superpowers of expression. See most of “Thus spake Zarathustra” was written in this ecstatic state of mind. It poured directly out of the Unconscious and in this book the greater personality is the figure of Zarathustra, the reincarnation of the ancient prophet. This figure announces a new morality and a whole new worldview. What he announces in truth is the harbinger of depth-psychology. Zarathustra is an absolutely remarkable psychological document. The way it describes the collective shadow of modern man is breathtaking. It abounds in brilliant psychological truths but it’s also a dangerous poison. It can make you sick. I cannot read very much of Zarathustra, it makes me ill. Literally. It’s because its transcendent insights have not been assimilated by the whole man and therefore they hadn’t been demonized and that makes them evil and destructive and they can kill. But that’s the nature of the greater personality you see, that’s part of what it is, that’s why we talk about wounding. It doesn’t exist within the categories of the Ego, of human decency. It bursts those categories on both sides. On the good side and on the evil side. But as a phenomenon it’s absolutely remarkable. Many of the ideas that we are familiar with from Jungian psychology show up in Nietzsche. For instance I’m going to read you a short section which is an explicit description of the Self. See if you don’t agree that it sounds familiar. This comes from “Thus spoke Zarathustra”, part 1, section 4:

"“I” you say and are proud of this word. But what is greater is that in which you do not want to believe – your body and its great reason. It does not say I, but does I. What the sense feels, what the spirit knows, in itself that will never have an end. But sense and spirit would like to persuade you that they are the end of all things: so vain are they. Work- and plaything are sense and spirit, behind them still lies the self. The self also seeks with the eyes of the senses, it listens also with the ears of the spirit. Always the self listens and seeks: it compares, compels, conquers, destroys. It rules and is also the ruler of the ego. Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, stands a powerful commander, an unknown wise man – he is called self. He lives in your body, he is your body. There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom. And who knows then to what end your body requires precisely your best wisdom? Your self laughs at your ego and its proud leaps. “What are these leaps and flights of thought to me?” it says to itself. “A detour to my purpose. I am the leading strings of the ego and the prompter of its concepts.” The self says to the ego: “Feel pain here!” And then it suffers and reflects on how it might suffer no more – and just for that purpose it is supposed to think. The self says to the ego: “Feel pleasure here!” Then it is pleased and reflects on how it might feel pleased more often – and for that purpose it is supposed to think!"

See, Nietzsche was an intuitive type. As the Self associated with inferior function, namely, sensation which is represented by the body, so the Self is the body to him. That’s generally true of intuitives, if you look around your friends who are particularly interested in body work they’re almost all intuitives. We sensation types don’t have to pay that much attention to the body, we do not have to deify it. The remarkable point in this account is the explicit description of the Self as a second center of the personality and as a center that’s superordinate to the Ego. Nietzsche knows that about the Self only because he has had the experience. It wasn’t all assimilated at the time he wrote it, but he had the experience. It did get assimilated in the mental hospital. That’s the great worth of the posthumous document that demonstrates that.

I want to put in a few words of homage to Nietzsche. I see him as a martyr in the cause of emerging depth psychology. If one reads him carefully one gets definite hints that he deliberately chose the way of inflation in order to learn what lies on the other side. He was a man of immense psychological courage, immense psychological rations, more than courage, but courage to although he was pushed over the brink of psychosis by syphilitic brain disease in some sense he also seemed to choose it. Here’s what he says in his posthumous autobiography:

"The legend-makers saw Empedocles plunging into the belching flames of Aetna, but this fate was reserved not for the great pre-Socratic but for me alone. Having been separated from the love of my life, lose Salome, the love that made me human, I made my desperate plunge into the fires of madness, hoping like Zarathustra to snatch faith in myself by going out of my mind and entering a higher region of sanity - the sanity of the raving lunatic, the normal madness of the damned!"

And in the same posthumous work Nietzsche writes these moving words from his room in the madhouse:

"Is my honor lost because women have betrayed me to weakness or I have betrayed my own strength seeking the power of true knowledge which alone can save us from approaching Doom? Am I completely damned because I am crushed beneath the Athenian dead on the plain of Marathon? Let Demosthenes, the eloquent defender of Athenian honor, deliver his funeral oration over me: "No, you have not failed, Friedrich Nietzsche! There are noble defeats as there are noble deaths - and you have died nobly. No, you have not failed.' I swear it by the dead on the plain of Marathon.""

I think now with this final work of Nietzsche’s available to us we can see his life in its entirety as a heroic tragedy, a sacrifice which inaugurated the age of depth psychology and which first brought the greater personality to the awareness of modern man. After Nietzsche’s experience the way was now prepared for Jung.


So, in conclusion: you will have noticed and it sure is evident that 3 of the 4 cases I have discussed are to be found in the scriptures 3 major world religions and there was a 4th example that was not discussed, that story of Moses and Al-Khidr, which is found in the holy book of Islam. What this indicates is that the experience of the greater personality is of such a numinosity that is may sometimes bring into being a whole new religion. But now for the first time in what I call the Jungian-era we are in the position to begin to understand scientifically and generally these psychological entities that generate religions. This influx of new knowledge is pouring into the modern psyche. Of course it pours into individuals first of all but it’s also pouring into the modern psyche as a collective entity. This influx presents both a great opportunity and a great danger. It’s as if collectively we are about to encounter the greater personality which as Jung says can make our life flow into that greater life but which is also a moment of deadliest peril. Seems to me that our best chance to be spared a collective catastrophe resides in the possibility that enough people will have individual conscious encounters with the greater personality and thereby will contribute to the process of immunizing the ‘body social’ against mass-atheistic inflation. If each individual can work towards that end by diligently assimilating his projections and seeking his own unique individual encounter then he will contribute to that immunizing process to the extent that it can take place in the arena of the individual psyche it will not have to take place in that dreadful arena of the collective psyche. In the words of Jung with which I will close he says this in paragraph 512 of ‘Mysterium Coniunctionis’:

"[512] He must celebrate a Last Supper with himself, and eat his own flesh and drink his own blood; which means that he must recognize and accept the other in himself."
"[512] Is this perhaps the meaning of Christ’s teaching, that each must bear his own cross? For if you have to endure yourself, how will you be able to rend others also?"

Tank you!

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