Table of Contents
Give me a moment while I prepare. Last night while I was watching “Punch and Judy” I had a few thoughts. One of them was: I was reminded of Jung’s definition of the theater. He described the theater as the place where we worked out our complexes collectively, and I thought I noticed that going on last night. That then led to further thoughts about the perils of being a performer, since one really is purposely trying to evoke projections, and projections come from complexes and as you know it used to be common that performers would be pelted with one thing or another flowers maybe, or rotten vegetables maybe, the very pelting signifying the projections – positive or negative – that they were evoking by the nature of their performance. But to a lesser degree I think speakers confront the same perils, getting either positive projections, if they take them seriously they tend to then help themselves up a bit and think that they may be more than they really are or alternatively negative projections in which the reverse takes place. So I wanted to mention this before I start because just possibly what I have to say may evoke some reactions in you. If they’re of some morphed positively or negatively I would remind you that they probably come from your own individual complexes rather then me. Even boredom is a symptom of touching a complex. So with those provisos I’m going to proceed.
It’s very true what Murray Stein said concerning the term “meaning”. “Meaning” I think that term is a kind of a symbol for me. I read somewhere that Kenneth Clark when he was initially approached by BBC to do a series on history of culture wasn’t at all interested in it. He turned it down. But then a second approach was made and at that time someone happened to use the word “civilization”. “We want you to give us something on civilization”. That word caught him. On the basis of the symbolic import of the word as we know it to a symbol is a transformer and transmitter of energies. Based on that symbolism that word carried for Kenneth Clark he produced those 13 sequences which are really quite impressive. “Meaning” to a lesser degree has the same effect on me. It’s a symbolic transformer of energy and that’s why I must use that word in this title, even though the title could do without it. As I proceed I think you will come to realize that another word that also carries a special symbolic import for me is the word “consciousness”. So to proceed.
The Mythlessness of Modern Man
History and anthropology teach us that human society cannot long survive unless its members are psychologically contained within a central living myth. Such a myth when it’s operating correctly provides the individual his reason for being, to the ultimate questions of human existence it provides answers which satisfy the most developed and discriminating members of the society. If the creative intellectual minority is satisfied and in a harmony with the prevailing myth then the other layers of society in all likelihood will follow its lead and may even be spared a direct encounter with that fateful question of the meaning of life.
I think it’s evident to thoughtful people that western society no longer has a viable functioning myth. Indeed all major world cultures are approaching to a greater or lesser extent the condition of mythlessness. I think of the breakdown of the central myth as like the shattering of a vessel containing a precious essence. The fluid is spilled out and drains away and is soak up by the surrounding undifferentiated matter. Meaning is lost. In its place primitive and atheistic contents are reactivated. Differentiated values disappear and are replaced by the elemental motivations of power and pleasure or else the individual is exposed to emptiness and despair. With the loss of awareness of a transpersonal reality, usually called God, the inner and the outer anarchies of competing personal desires take over. The loss of the central myth brings about a truly apocalyptic condition and this I think is the state of modern man. Our poets have long recognized this fact. Yeats gave it stark expression in his poem “The Second Coming”, which I want to read to you because I think it was a kind of modern scripture of the collective psyche.
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
This was first published in 1921. I think it’s astonishing in the way it succinctly strikes the major themes concerning the current state of the collective psyche. The magic circle of our mandala has broken and meaning has escaped. The falcon has lost the link with its creator, releasing primitive levels of the Unconscious from control and the ensuing chaos calls forth in compensation the birth of a new central psychic dominant. But what will it be? The Antichrist? The allusion to the sands suggests that we must once again face the riddle of the Sphinx and ask ourselves most seriously what is the meaning of life?
A New Myth is in the Making
It’s the loss of our containing myth which is the root cause of our current individual and social distress and nothing less than the discovery of a new central myth will solve the problem both for the individual and for society. In my view a new myth is in the making and Jung was keenly aware of that fact. One datum that indicates that idea is the following. A Jungian analyst once had this dream. The analyst is Max Zeller of Los Angeles.
"A temple of vast dimensions was in the process of being built. As far as I could see ahead, behind, right and left there were incredible numbers of people building on gigantic pillars. I too was building on a pillar. The whole building process was in its very beginning but the foundation was already there. The rest of the building was starting to go up and I and many others were working on it."
He took this dream to Jung and reports that Jung made the following remark about it:
"Jung said, “Ja, you know, that is the temple we all build on.
We don’t know the people because, believe me, they build in India and China and in Russia and all over the world.
That is the new religion. You know how long it will take until it is built?”
I said, “How should I know? Do you know?”
He said, “I know.”
I asked how long it will take.
He said, “About six hundred years.”
“Where do you know this from?” I asked.
He said, “From dreams. From other people’s dreams and from my own.
This new religion will come together as far as we can see.”"
Jung was the first to formulate the problem of modern man as mythlessness and as with so many of his discoveries he found it first of all in himself. In “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” he describes that after the publication of “Symbols of Transformation” in 1912, he had a moment of unusual clarity and thought:
"“Now you possess a key to mythology and are free to unlock all the gates of the unconscious psyche.” But then something whispered within me, “Why open all gates?” And promptly the question arose of what, after all, I had accomplished. I had explained the myths of peoples of the past; I had written a book about the hero, the myth in which man has always lived. But in what myth does man live nowadays? In the Christian myth, the answer might be, “Do you live in it?” I asked myself. To be honest, the answer was no. For me, it is not what I live by.” “Then do we no longer have any myth?” “No, evidently we no longer have any myth.” “But then what is your myth—the myth in which you do live?” At this point the dialogue with myself became uncomfortable, and I stopped thinking. I had reached a dead end."
But Jung later found his myth and it’s the thesis of this paper that just as Jung’s discovery of his own mythlessness paralleled the mythless condition of modern society so Jung’s discovery of his own individual myth will prove to be the first emergence of our new collective myth. In fact it’s my conviction that as we gain historical perspective it will become evident that Jung is an epical man. I mean by this a man whose life inaugurates a new age in cultural history. The epical man is the first to experience and fully to articulate a new mode of existence. His life thus takes on an objective impersonal meaning. Becomes a paradigm. The prototypical life of the new age and hence exemplary. Jung was aware of this fact concerning his own life. Speaking of his confrontation with the Unconscious he writes:
"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."
The fact that Jung’s life belongs to the generality was demonstrated by the uncanny parallelism between the critical episodes of his inner life and the collective crises of Western civilization. His first major confrontation with the Unconscious occurred simultaneously with the collective catastrophe of world war one. From 1914 to 1918 all the nations of Western Christendom were engaged in a brutal external conflict. Jung endured the inner equivalent of a world war. Withstanding and integrating the upheaval of the Collective Unconscious from within. Few years before William James had called for a moral equivalent of war. What Jung achieved was a psychological equivalent of war by which the conflict of the opposites was contained within the individual psyche. Again during world war two Jung had a supreme revelation of the Unconscious, his visions of coniunctio at the time of grave illness in 1944 and we’re told that at D-Day, June 6, 1944, although still hospitalized he was well into convalescence.
I think almost all the important episodes of Jung’s life can be seen as paradigmatic of the new mode of being which is the consequence of living by a new myth. This is not the place to explore that further however. Instead I want to consider the nature of the new myth which he discovered and which released him from his mythless condition. He got a glimpse of his new myth while visiting Pueblo Indians in South-Western United States in the early part of 1925. He succeeded in gaining the confidence of a chief of the Dallas Pueblo called Mountain Lake. In his memories Jung describes his conversation with Mountain Lake:
"Mountain Lake said: “The Americans want to stamp out our religion. Why can they not let us alone? What we do, we do not only for ourselves but for the Americans also. Yes, we do it for the whole world. Everyone benefits by it.”
I could observe from his excitement that he was alluding to some extremely important element of his religion. I therefore asked him: “You think, then, that what you do in your religion benefits the whole world?” He replied with great animation, “Of course. If we did not do it, what would become of the world?” And with a significant gesture he pointed to the sun.
I felt that we were approaching extremely delicate ground here, verging on the mysteries of the tribe. “After all,” he said, “we are a people who live on the roof of the world; we are the sons of Father Sun, and with our religion we daily help our father to go across the sky. We do this not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. If we were to cease practicing our religion, in ten years the sun would no longer rise. Then it would be night forever.”
I then realized on what the “dignity,” the tranquil composure of the individual Indian, was founded. It springs from his being a son of the sun; his life is cosmologically meaningful, for he helps the father and preserver of all life in his daily rise and descent."
This belief of the Pueblos that they help their father the Sun to rise each day and make his transit of the Heavens turns out to be a primitive naive version of what was to become Jung’s new myth. Later in 1925 on traveling in Africa Jung had another experience that crystallized the formulation of his myth more explicitly. I must quote it fairly thoroughly because it’s so important:
"From Nairobi we used a small Ford to visit the Athi Plains, a great game preserve. From a low hill in this broad savanna a magnificent prospect opened out to us. To the very brink of the horizon we saw gigantic herds of animals: gazelle, antelope, gnu, zebra, warthog, and so on. Grazing, heads nodding, the herds moved forward like slow rivers. There was scarcely any sound save the melancholy cry of a bird of prey. This was the stillness of the eternal beginning, the world as it had always been, in the state of non-being; for until then no one had been present to know that it was this world. I walked away from my companions until I had put them out of sight, and savored the feeling of being entirely alone. There I was now, the first human being to recognize that this was the world, but who did not know that in this moment he had first really created it.
There the cosmic meaning of consciousness became overwhelmingly clear to me. “What nature leaves imperfect, the art perfects,” say the alchemists. Man, I, in an invisible act of creation put the stamp of perfection on the world by giving it objective existence."
"My old Pueblo friend came to my mind. He thought that the raison d’être of his pueblo had been to help their father, the sun, to cross the sky each day. I had envied him for the fullness of meaning in that belief, and had been looking about without hope for a myth of our own. Now I knew what it was, and knew even more: that man is indispensable for the completion of creation; that, in fact, he himself is the second creator of the world, who alone has given to the world its objective existence—without which, unheard, unseen, silently eating, giving birth, dying, heads nodding through hundreds of millions of years, it would have gone on in the profoundest night of non-being down to its unknown end. Human consciousness created objective existence and meaning, and man found his indispensable place in the great process of being."
In “Answer to Job” he puts it more succinctly:
"Existence is only real when it is conscious to somebody. That is why the Creator needs conscious man even though, from sheer unconsciousness, he would like to prevent him from becoming conscious."
And one more quote, and another from another place:
"Man’s task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. Neither should he persist in his unconsciousness, nor remain identical with the unconscious elements of his being, thus evading his destiny, which is to create more and more consciousness. As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious."
These are some of the major statements about Jung concerning his discovery of the new myth.
The New Myth
I fear that to many especially those without personal experience of the Unconscious these statements my be hard to comprehend fully. The remainder of this paper will be an effort to make the new myth these statements allude to somewhat more understandable. The essential new idea is that the purpose of human life is the creation of consciousness. The key word is consciousness. But unfortunately it’s not all clear what the word means. As with all fundamental aspect of the psyche it eludes our grasp as soon as we try to define and contain it. The best I can do in approaching it is to use an oblique symbolic approach. For those of you that are interested I have treated the whole idea of consciousness more fully in a paper called “The Meaning of Consciousness” that was published in the quadrant journal of the C. G. Jung Foundation in fall 1975.
The etymology of the word is helpful. It derives from “con” or “cum” meaning “with” or “together” and “scire” – “to know” or “to see”, thus it has the same derivation as conscience. So the root meaning of both consciousness and conscience is “knowing with” or “seeing with another”. In contrast the word “science” which also derives from “scire” means “simple knowing”, that is, “knowing without witness”. We learn from this that the phenomenon of consciousness and conscience are somehow related and that the experience of consciousness is made up of the two factors knowing and witness. Knowing requiring the presence of another or in another words in a setting of twoness. Symbolically the number two refers to the opposites. We thus reach the conclusion that consciousness is somehow born out of the experience of the opposites and the same conclusion is reached by other means as well, as we shall see.
I understand consciousness to be a substance. A psychic material that is usually, but not always, invisible and intangible to the senses. The problem in understanding such things concerns the word “psyche” and “psychic”. So I can speak of a “psychic material” or a “psychic substance” and that won’t convey anything unless there’s some experience to be attached to the word “psyche”. Until one has experienced the reality of the psyche, he can follow this discussion no further. But given that experience of psychic reality then it’s not so hard to grasp the idea of a “psychic substance”. We can say that all psychic contents have substance if they’re experienced as objectively real.
What then distinguishes the psychic substance of consciousness? I would say that consciousness is psychic substance connected to an Ego or more precisely psychic contents which are potential entities, potential substances become actualized and substantial when they make connection with an Ego, that is, when they enter and individual’s conscious awareness and become an accepted item of that individual’s personal responsibility.
Let me say that again because it’s important. Psychic contents become actualized and substantial when they make connection with an Ego, that is, when they enter an individual’s conscious awareness and become an accepted item of that individuals personal responsibility.
The process whereby a series of psychic contents, complexes, archetypal images make connection with an Ego and thereby generate this psychic substance of consciousness this whole process is what’s called individuation. This process has as its most characteristic feature the encounter of opposites, usually first experienced as Ego as opposed to the Unconscious, the I as opposed to the not I, the subject as opposed to the object, myself as opposed to the other. What we can say from this that whenever one is experiencing the conflict between contrary attitudes or whenever his personal desire or idea is being contested by another, either from inside of from outside, the possibility of creating a new increment of consciousness exists. We can probably all recall experiences both inner or outer conflict which were resolved creatively and accompanied by a sense of satisfaction and life enhancement, after some period of estrangement from a friend or external antagonist or from one’s inner world and after serious efforts to confront and deal with that estrangement, if a resolution is achieved an enhancement of energy is characteristically a consequence. Such experiences I think would be examples of the creation of small increments of consciousness. Such encounters when they are sought deliberately and reflected upon systematically become an essential feature of the individuation process, which is a kind of continual “Auseinandersetzung” coming to terms or clashing with contrasting contents with another or an opposite to the given standpoint of the Ego. Because it’s certainly true that within the process of creating consciousness we are at first thrown back and forth between opposing moods and attitudes because each time the Ego identifies with one side of a pair of opposites the Unconscious, which can manifest either inside or outside, will confront him with its contrary and very gradually the individual if he sticks at it becomes able to experience opposite viewpoints simultaneously and with this capacity consciousness is created.
There are a number of mythological and symbolical ideas that refer quite specifically to the creation of consciousness. I want to mention just a few, briefly.
- For instance the Gnostic idea of light scattered in the darkness requiring laborious collection to be gathered together is an example of creation of consciousness.
- There is a variant Manichean image of the zodiac as a great light-wheel, it was thought of on the analogy of the water-wheel. The idea was that as this great wheel turns and dips under the Earth into the darkness it gathers whatever fragments of light has been lost in the darkness in its buckets and as it swings up it transfers those buckets of light to the Moon and onto the Sun. It’s a beautiful image of symbolically representing the creation of consciousness.
- The Kabbalah of Isaac Luria has profound symbolism of the same nature. According to this system at the beginning of creation God poured his divine light into bowls of vessels, but some of the vessels could not stand the impact of the light, they broke, the light was spilled. Salvation to the world will now require a recollection of that spilled light and a restitution of the broken vessels, again, an image of the creation of consciousness.
- The most outstanding symbolism pertaining to this whole theme is found in alchemy. Although the texts are confused and obscure, the basic idea of alchemy is quite simple. The idea was: the alchemist must find the right original material to start his work on, the so-called Prima Materia. He must then subject it the proper series of operations in the alchemical vessel and if he does so he will achieve his goal which is the production of the mysterious and powerful entity used to be called the Philosopher’s Stone. We now know that this symbolism is referring to the individuation process and the Philosopher’s Stone represents the realization of the Self, which can also be described as the consciousness of wholeness. A personal feature of the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone is that it is the union of opposites. It’s a product of a coniunctio often symbolized by the union of the Red King and the White Queen. These two figures standing for any or all of the pairs of opposites.
The alchemical myth tells us that consciousness is created by the union of opposites. We’ve got the same idea from examining the etymology of the word “consciousness” and we learned the same lesson from the dreams of individuals. For example, let me give you a dream of a middle-aged woman:
"The woman dreamed that she went into an underground cavern that was divided to rooms containing stills and other mysterious looking chemical apparatus. Two scientists were working on the final process of a prolonged series of experiments which they hoped to bring to a successful conclusion with her help. The end product was to be in the form of golden crystals which were to be separated from the mother-liquid resulting from the many previous solutions and distillations. While the chemists worked over the vessel, the dreamer and her lover laid together in an adjoining room, their sexual embrace supplying the energy essential for the crystallization of the priceless golden substance."
It’s quite interesting that there is an alchemical text that is an almost exact parallel to this dream, that reads as follows:
"Thee not see that the complexion of a man is formed out of a soul and body, thus also must he conjoin these, because the philosophers when they prepared matters and conjoined spouses mutually in love with each other, behold there ascended from them a golden water."
See in each case the basic image is that out of a sexual union a golden substance is produced, in one case forming crystals, in another case golden water. I think these golden crystals and golden water can be understood as the essence of consciousness, synonymous with the Self.
Now contrary to the implications of the erotic imagery in this dream and this text, the coniunctio of opposites is not generally a pleasant process, for often it follows a crucifixion. The cross can be thought of as a union of the horizontal and the vertical, two contrary directional movements. To be nailed to such a conflict can be a scarcely endurable agony. Augustine makes an amazingly explicit identification between the erotic coniunctio and Christ’s crucifixion. He writes:
"Like a bridegroom Christ went forth from his chamber, he went out with a presage of his nuptials into the field of the world. He came to the marriage bed of the cross and there in mounting it he consummated his marriage and he joined the woman to himself forever."
I think the union of opposites in the vessel of the Ego is the essential feature of the creation of consciousness. Consciousness is the third thing that emerges out of the conflict of twoness: out of the Ego as the subject versus the Ego as the object, out of the Ego as active agent versus the Ego as passive victim, out of the Ego that’s praiseworthy and good versus the Ego as damnable and bad, out of the conflict of mutually exclusive duties, of all such paralyzing conflicts can emerge the third transcendent condition which is a new quantum of consciousness. This way of putting it reveals the fact that the symbolism of the Trinity refers psychologically to the creation of consciousness. Father and Son, like God and Man, are opposites which collide on the cross. The Holy Spirit as the reconciling third emerges from that collision, proceeding from both the Father and the Son. Thus the Holy Spirit as Paraclete, can only come after the death of the Son, that is consciousness comes as the fruit of the conflict of twoness. Therefore Christ could say:
"16:7 … it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don't go away, the Counselor won't come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
16:8 When he has come, he will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment; …"
In another words He will make clear the nature of the opposites and their resolution. Understood psychologically these statements refer to the time when individual Egos will become potential vessels for the transpersonal value of consciousness. This is what Jung has to say on that subject:
"The future indwelling of the Holy Spirit amounts to a continuing incarnation of God. Christ, as the begotten son of God and pre-existing mediator, is a first-born and a divine paradigm which will be followed by further incarnations of the Holy Ghost in the empirical man."
The Biblical statements regarding the Paraclete thus anticipate the new myth which sees each individual, each individual Ego as potentially a vessel to carry transpersonal consciousness. What The Lord said about Paul may eventually apply to all: “he is a chosen vessel onto Me to bear My name”. The image of Ego as a vessel leads to the important idea of being a carrier of consciousness or in other words an incarnation of transpersonal meaning.
In my view there are two main archetypal figures that have represented this idea in the world-culture, namely Buddha and Christ. I think we’re fortunate to have two such figures. With two comes the possibility of comparison and objectivity. As long as there is but one figure embodying the supreme value he can only be worshiped but not understood. With the presence of two we can discover the separate third thing which they both share. Understanding and greater awareness then becomes possible. In my view what Christ and Buddha have in common is the idea of being a carrier of consciousness. Characteristically the image emerging in the West represents the standpoint of Ego and that deriving from the East speaks from the standpoint of the Self. Together they reveal a pair of opposites. On the one hand, the crucified Christ, on the other hand the meditating Buddha, representing consciousness as agony and consciousness as tranquil bliss. Total acceptance of the bondage to matter on the one hand and total transcendence of the world on the other. United they are a picture of the two sides of the carrier of consciousness.
The idea of the individual as a vessel for consciousness brings to mind the symbolism of the Holy Grail. As the container for Christ’s blood the grail carries the divine essence extracted from Christ by his ultimate experience of the opposites, the coniunctio of crucifixion. In many respects the blood of Christ corresponds symbolically to the Holy Spirit as Paraclete, because just as the Holy Spirit is to be incarnated in empirical man, so the blood of Christ is to find a containing vessel in the psyche of the individual thereby creating for itself a Holy Grail.
On the basis of our emerging knowledge of the Unconscious the traditional image of God has been enlarged. Traditionally God has been pictured as all-powerful and all-knowing. Divine providence was seen as guiding our things according to the inscrutable but benevolent divine purpose. The extent of divine awareness has not received much attention. The new myth enlarges the god-image by introducing explicitly the additional feature of the unconsciousness of God. His omnipotence, omniscience, and divine purpose are not always known to Him. He needs man’s capacity to know him in order to know himself. In one sense this indicates a renewed awareness of the reality of the less differentiated, jealous and wrathful God of the old Testament with whom man must remonstrate and with whom in the Old Testament many figures did remonstrate. The divine opposites that were separated by Christianity into the eternal antagonists Christ and Satan are now beginning to be reunited consciously in the vessel of the modern psyche.
The new myth postulates that the created universe and its most exquisite flower, man, make up a vast enterprise for the creation of consciousness and also that the sum total of consciousness created by each individual in his lifetime is deposited as a permanent addition in the collective treasury of the archetypal psyche. Jung alludes to this idea in the following passage where he is speaking of the psychotherapist:
"He is not just working for this particular patient who may be quite insignificant, but for himself as well and his own soul. And in so doing he is perhaps laying an infinitesimal grain in the scales of humanity's soul. Small and invisible as this contribution may be it is yet an opus magnum."
Certain mythical images seem to suggest that accomplishments in the personal earthly life are transferred to the divine or the archetypal realm. For instance, in early-Egyptian religion the dead were thought to be turn into stars or companions of the Sun. James Breasted writes as follows:
"In the splendor of the mighty heavens the Nile-dweller saw the host of those who had preceded him; thither they had flown as birds, rising above all foes of the air, and received by Re as the companions of his celestial barque, they now swept across the sky as eternal stars."
Similar imagery appears in Christian symbolism in which the righteous after resurrection will ascend to Heaven, thus Paul writes:
"15:51 I will tell you something that has been secret: that we are not all going to die, but we shall all be changed.
15:52 This will be instantaneous, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet sounds. It will sound, and the dead will be raised, imperishable, and we shall be changed as well,
15:53 because our present perishable nature must put on imperishability and this mortal nature must put on immortality."
Also, the figure of the apocalyptic Christ makes a similar promise in revelation:
"3:12 Those who prove victorious I will make into pillars in the sanctuary of my God, and they will stay there for ever; I will inscribe on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God in heaven, and my own new name as well."
Understood psychologically these texts refer to a transfer of translation from the temple of personal life of the Ego to the eternal archetypal realm. So presumably the essential accomplishments of egohood, its total of accumulated consciousness is deposited by means of a final sublimatio in the collective archetypal treasury of humanity’s soul. Jung seems to be saying the same thing when he describes the visions he had when on the verge of death:
"… I had the feeling that everything was being sloughed away; … Nevertheless something remained; it was as if I now carried along with me everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had happened around me. … I consisted of my own history, and I felt with great certainty: this is what I am."
Dreams sometimes refer to this idea of depositing the fruits of one’s effort in a treasury. I give you an example of such dream in “Ego and Archetype” if you’re interested you can look it up on page 218.
Based on the idea of the communion of saints Catholic theology has also elaborated a treasury image: the idea of a treasure of merits which have been accumulated by the lives of Christ and the saints. This treasure of merits is described as as follows by a Catholic theologian:
"Yet, merit properly so-called is not directly communicable between members of the Christian society, at least satisfaction can be transferred almost a man can pay a friend's debt. The infinite satisfaction of our Lord and the superabundant satisfaction of the Virgin Mary and the saints form a treasure which the Church guards and administers drawing upon it for the payment of the debts remitted to the faithful by indulgences."
This theological myth can now be understood as an early formulation of the historical process whereby the psychic accomplishments of individuals are transferred to the collective archetypal psyche. The new myth postulates that no authentic consciousness achieved by an individual is lost. Each increment augments the collective treasury. This would be the modern, more modest version of the idea of having an immortal soul.
Milton seems to be dealing with the same idea in these lines from “Lycidas” which were written when he was only 27 years old and I’ve never adjusted myself to that fact:
"Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with th'abhorred shears,
And slits the thin-spun life. "But not the praise,"
Phoebus replied, and touch'd my trembling ears;
"Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to th'world, nor in broad rumour lies,
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;
As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
Of so much fame in Heav'n expect thy meed.""
Fame as here used by Milton corresponds to those fruits of the Ego-life which are translated to the eternal realm and are deposited in the collective soul. Such a fame does not grow on mortal soil, in another words it does not depend on being known by other men, but it exists in Heaven, the archetypal realm. Fame of this sort would correspond to Milton’s description of a good book the precious life-blood of a master spirit embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.
The fact that our age in a time of death and rebirth for a central myth is indicated by the dreams and upheavals from the Unconscious of many individuals. Depth-psychotherapists who work with the products of the Unconscious are in a unique position to observe the turmoil of the collective psyche. Apocalyptic imagery is not uncommon. I want to present one remarkable example of such a dream. I give you no personal information about the dreamer because I consider it irrelevant in this context. I take it almost totally to be describing a collective reality. He is an effective and well-developed highly functioning person, I’ll say that much.
"I walking along what appears to be the Palisades overlooking all of New York city. I'm walking with an animal figure who is unknown to me. We're both being led by a man who is our guide. New York city is in a rubble. The world in fact has been destroyed. All of New York is just one heap of rubble. There are fires everywhere. Thousands of people are running in every direction frantically. The Hudson-river has overflowed many areas of the city. Smoke is billowing up everywhere. As far as I can see the land has been leveled. It was twilight, fireballs were in the sky heading for the Earth. It was the end of the world. Total destruction of everything that man and his civilization had built up. The cause of this great destruction was a race of giants. Giants who have come from outer space, from the far reaches of the universe. In the middle of the rubble I could see two of them sitting. They were casually scooping up people by the handful and eating them. All this was done by the same nonchalance that we have when we sit down at the table and eat grapes by the handful. The sight was awesome. Our guide explained that the giants came from different planets and live harmoniously and peacefully together. He said that the giants landed in flying saucers. The fireballs were the landings. In fact the Earth as we know it was conceived by this race of giants in the beginning of time. They cultivated our civilization like we cultivate vegetables in a hot-house. The Earth was their hot-house so to speak and now they have returned to reap the fruits they had sown . But there was a special occasion for this which I only learned of later. I was saved because I had slightly high blood pressure. If I had normal blood pressure of if my blood pressure was too high I would have been eaten like almost all the others. Because I have slightly high blood pressure I am chosen to go through this ordeal and if I pass the ordeal I would become like my guide, a savior of souls. We walked for an extraordinary long time witnessing all the cataclysmic destruction. Then, before me I saw a huge golden throne, brilliant as the Sun, impossible to view straight on. On the throne sat a king and his queen of the race of giants. They were the intelligences behind the destruction of our planet. The ordeal in addition to witnessing the world's destruction, the task I had to perform was to climb up this staircase until I was at their level, face to face with them. This was probably to be done in stages. I started climbing. It was long and very difficult, my heart was pounding very hard. I was frightened but I knew I had to accomplish this task. I woke up from the dream perspiring heavily. Later I have realized that the destruction of the Earth by the race of giants was a wedding-feast for the newly united king and queen. This was the special occasion and the extraordinary feeling I had about the king and queen."
I would suggest that dreams of this sort will go and make up the scriptures of the new myth. This is not a personal dream and should not be interpreted personalistically. It’s a collective dream expressing the state of the collective psyche.
Eight days before his death Jung spoke of having had a vision in which a large part of the world was destroyed, but he added, thank God, not all of it. Years before he had written:
"The mood of universal destruction and renewal that has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere. Politically, socially and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called καιρός - kairos, the right moment for a metamorphosis of the gods, of the fundamental principles and symbols."
The dream I presented portrays this mood Jung speaks of. Of universal destruction and renewal and strikingly it uses the same image of harvest as does Revelation where at one point we read one angel says to another:
"14:15 Then another angel came out of the sanctuary, and shouted aloud to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Put your sickle in and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe'[*h].
14:16 Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth, and the earth’s harvest was reaped."
Fourteenth chapter of Revelation. What does it mean to be eaten by giants or to be harvested by angels? It means I think that one has been swallowed up by archetypal non-human dynamisms. The autonomous Ego which maintains a separate stance over and against instinct and archetype, which is the sine qua non to consciousness, in such a case it has fallen into a fatal identification with the archetypes and been devoured by them. For the individual this will mean either psychosis or criminal psychopathy. For a society it means structural disintegration and general collective demoralization brought about by the loss of the central myth which had supported and justified the burdensome task of being human. It Yeats’ words:
"The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate of intensity."
in other words they’ve been swallowed up by giants. The dreamer was saved from this fate because he had slightly high blood pressure. Now this was not an external fact and there were no personal associations to it, so we are left with general symbolism. Blood is the life essence, but in particular it refers to the affect-life: desirousness, passion, intensity. Passionate intensity is dangerous as Yeats implies in his phrase: “The blood dimmed tide is loosed”. Blood-pressure has gotten high in other words. Too high blood pressure would perhaps indicate a greater intensity of primitive affect that can’t be assimilated by the Ego and such a person then would be consumed by the primitive archetypal energies of the giants as soon as he made contact with. Normal blood-pressure on the other hand would suggest a bland lack of reaction to abnormal times. We might say that it is correct, so to speak, for modern man to be disturbed, to have slightly high blood-pressure. It indicates that his inner alarm-system is still intact and there is still some chance for him, because his anxiety will spur him into reflection and effort that may be life-saving. On the contrary a complacent attitude lulls one into a false sense of security so that he then is completely unprepared for the encounter with the activated Collective Unconscious symbolized by the invasion of the giants.
The climbing of the staircase belongs to the alchemical symbolism of sublimatio. This operation involves the transfer of material from the bottom of the flask to the top through volatilization. Something is sublimated. Psychologically it refers to the process whereby personal particular problems, conflicts and happenings are understood from a height, seen from a larger perspective, under the aspect of eternity, so to speak. Once the staircase has been climbed the dreamer tells us that he will meet the enthroned king and queen face to face. This I think is a profound image of the process of encountering and enduring the union of opposites. The climbing of those stairs is a laborious task as the dream makes clear, but evidently it’s the only way to avoid being consumed by the activated archetypes. This experience of the opposites it’s always initially experienced as a very painful and paralyzing conflict. But if one patiently and perseveringly endures and works on such conflicts, climbing the steps one-by-one, this promotes the creation of consciousness and may eventually lead to the glimpse of the Self as a coniunctio, namely, the level of seeing the united king and queen face-to-face. As Jung says:
"All opposites are of God, therefore man must bend to this burden and in so doing he finds that God in his oppositeness has taken possession of him, incarnated Himself in him, he becomes a vessel filled with divine conflict. This is precisely the divine service which man can render to God."
And this is also, according to this dream, what is required for salvation.
Another feature of the new myth is its capacity to unify the various current religions of the world by seeing all functioning religions as living expressions of individuation symbolism that is the process of creating consciousness. The new myth provides an authentic basis for a true ecumenical attitude. The new myth will not be one more religious myth in competition with all the others for man’s allegiance, rather it will elucidate and verify every functioning religion by giving more conscious and comprehensive expression to its essential meaning. The new myth can be understood and lived in several different ways: within one of the great religious communities, such as Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or others. Or in some new community as yet to be created, or by individuals without specific community connections. This universal application in my view gives it a genuine claim to the term “catholic”. For the first time in history we now have an understanding of man so comprehensive and fundamental that it can be the basis for a unification of the world, first religiously and culturally and in time politically. When enough individuals are carriers of the consciousness of wholeness the world itself will become whole.
Let me summarize. The new myth tells us that each individual Ego is a crucible for the creation of consciousness and a vessel to serve as a carrier of that consciousness, that is a vessel for the incarnation of the Holy Spirit. The individual psyche is the equivalent of the Holy Grail. Consciousness is a psychic substance which is produced by the experience of the opposites suffered not blindly, but in living awareness. This experience is the Coniunctio, the Mysterium Coniunctionis that generates the Philosopher’s Stone symbolizing consciousness. Each individual to a greater or lesser extent is a participant in cosmic creation. Each one is one of the buckets of the great Manichean wheel of light who contributes his widow’s might to the cumulative treasury of the archetypal psyche realized. Every human experience to the extent that it is lived in awareness augments the sum-total of consciousness in the Universe. This fact provides the meaning for every experience and gives each individual a role in the ongoing world drama of creation.