Creative Man: Five Essays:
C. G. JUNG: 1955 *
Translated from the German by Eugene Rolfe
Bollingen Series LXI-2,
On July 26, the greatest psychologist of our time, C. G. Jung, will be eighty years old. Although Jung’s significance is still keenly debated, the influence of his work all over the world and in many cultural fields outside psychology - for example, in poetry, literary criticism, anthropology, mythology, etc. - is steadily increasing. To anyone who is fully acquainted with Jung’s work and has followed its development at close quarters during the last few decades, it will be obvious that the whole corpus of his later writings has scarcely begun to make its impact and that it still really belongs to the future. To some extent, this is due to the fact that Jung’s scientific investigations have never lost their dynamic character. With the spirit of an authentic revolutionary pioneer he has never ceased to make new and startling discoveries and gains throughout the varied phases of his career. Public acceptance of his work has therefore inevitably lagged behind.
You would not make yourself particularly popular with Jung if you were to tell him that he is a revolutionary. His conscious outlook in fact betrays a certain
* “C. G. Jung: Zum 8o. Geburtstag,”
tendency towards conservatism. For example, he regards Nature herself as
essentially a conservative force, so that to be rooted in nature is equivalent
to being linked with the world of the ancestors and of the origins of things.
He thinks and feels in terms of
natural relationships, just as he himself is linked personally with the Swiss
landscape and with his tower on
However, these obvious and basic traits must not blind us to the fact that, as we now know, Nature - in spite of what used to be said about her - is actually very fond of leaping, and one of her leaps is Jung himself. It is true that, in such a leap as this, Nature overcomes nature and reveals herself to us with a transparency we have never seen before. However, for the man who represents this leap in his own person, the process of learning to tolerate himself and of coming to terms with his own nature and with nature herself in general is a painful and arduous undertaking. It is only by continually questioning himself and the nature which he sees around him that such a man may finally acquire the ability to affirm himself in his own essential being.
In Jung’s case, we certainly gain the impression that he is constantly returning to nature, that he is passionately opposed to any kind of speculation, and that he is never tired of protesting that he is an empiricist. He is an empiricist, in fact, for he thinks nothing out for himself, yet at the same time, in a curious way he fails to recognize his own true quality and is all too easily inclined to forget that the experience on which he bases his empiricism is nothing humdrum or commonplace, but that in scope and content it transcends the experi
ence of his contemporaries to a quite extraordinary degree. It is for this reason that they regard it as “mystical” and will inevitably continue to see it in that light until they themselves graduate to that experience of a larger reality which is beyond their ken at the present time.
When Jung, as a young psychiatrist, joined forces with Freud in 1908 (during the period when Freud was still being ostracized) and became the leader of the international psychoanalytical movement, he was as far ahead of his time and his colleagues as he was five years later, when he parted company with Freud. We can only really understand the loneliness into which his path then led him, and to what extent - as the future will emphasize - he was to blaze new and unexplored trails for Western man, if we realize that today, more than forty years later, the view of the world held by the professional psychoanalysts and psychiatrists, who are still, by and large, very satisfied with themselves, roughly corresponds to the stage Jung left behind him in 1912. This was in fact the stage represented by personalistic depth psychology, which follows the destiny of the individual in the context of the events of his personal development and seeks to clarify and to change it by so doing.
The next leap, if that is the right word for a process that has been brewing for a long time and then suddenly bursts upon the discoverer with the abruptness of an invasion which forces him to mobilize every ounce of his powers, was the discovery of the collective unconscious, or in other words, of an unconscious psychic structure which is common to the entire human race. This discovery, which Freud first became aware of in
his late work Moses and Monotheism, and which is now gaining acceptance throughout the world of psychoanalysis in the form of the theory of “great” parental figures, finally shattered the narrow framework of an existence conceived of in purely bourgeois family terms.
What now emerged was the primal psychic world of mankind, the world of mythology, the world of primitive man and of all those myriad forms of religion and art in which man is visibly gripped and carried away by the suprapersonal power that sustains and nourishes all creative development. The human psyche stood revealed as a creative force in the here and now which plays a vital role as a source of meaning and synthesis in all sorts of diseases and in ongoing healing processes of every kind.
There is nothing mystical or complicated about those primordial images of the psyche that are known as archetypes. They are an expression of the simple fact that every human being comes into the world equipped not only with a typically human body and nervous system but with a psychic apparatus which is no less distinctive and characteristic of the human species. And just as every human being - in contradistinction to other forms of life - sees and hears in a typically human fashion, so too the way in which he experiences and interprets the world is decisively affected from the outset by the primordial images of the human psyche. These inner images are projected in experience, which means that they appear to primitive man, to children, and also largely to so-called modern man as “outer,” not as inner, realities. Among these “dominant” inner archetypal
images are to be found Father and Mother, Lover and Beloved, Hero, Wise Man, and many others. An archetype of this kind, such as, e.g., the image of the Great Mother, which in the history of civilization appears as a goddess, is normally triggered off by the experience of the personal mother, but the same primordial image is constitutionally present in every human being and frequently takes its course quite independently of the person who has triggered it off. For example, the cause of an illness in a given subject may be the “Terrible Mother,” even if the subject’s personal mother was by no means terrible; on the other hand, a poet may have a lifelong relationship with the Good Mother although his personal mother may have been insignificant and even apparently “negative.”
The significance of such archetypal images can scarcely be exaggerated. Archetypal dominants have played a vital if not a decisive role, not only in religion and art and so in the cultural life of mankind, but also in the psychic life (both normal and pathological) of human beings in all ages and of all nations.
The significance of Jung’s next basic discovery has remained largely unrecognized for historical reasons, since it is closely bound up with the complicated texts and images of medieval alchemy. Jung recognized both the possibility and the existence of a process of transformation within the personality in which the personal and the transpersonal layers and structures of the psyche both play an essential part. In an age of increasing collectivization, the historical significance of this discovery is really to be found in the rediscovery of the individual
as an essential nucleus of creative activity in human civilization. A collective attitude that regarded the psychological development of the individual almost as an individualistic vice and the agreement of the individual with the recognized collective values of the period as the highest and indeed the only imperative is here confronted by the revolutionary counterposition, which insists that a sound collective ordering of society is only possible when the individual is at liberty to realize his own inner creative freedom.
In the course of his research into the collective unconscious, which occupied a period of several decades, Jung did more than rediscover the world of primitive man as an essential part of the total personality. He encountered the ultimate foundation of the psyche itself, which in spite of all typological differences is the common ground between Western and Eastern man; and in so doing he created the basis for a new humanism.
In an epoch in which, a psychological preoccupation with those religious phenomena that have always stirred mankind to its depths has been mistakenly identified with mysticism, Jung has attempted to lay bare the universal psychic substrate which underlies Indian, Chinese, and Islamic texts, Gnostic and alchemical symbolism, and the dogma of the Catholic Church - that substrate by whose dynamism, whether consciously or unconsciously, the human race is ultimately motivated.
The record as I have described it so far would be sufficient in itself to constitute the supreme achievement of a creative lifetime. Jung, however, was not content to rest on his laurels. In his Answer to Job (written when
he was over 75), he struck a blow, which is still almost completely misunderstood, against the canon of the entire Western religious establishment. In a spirit of the profoundest religious compassion, harrowed by the evil and misery in the world, Jung leveled an accusation against the old divine image of the God of righteousness and wrath, which still survives in Christian consciousness in the form of the God of the Old Testament. He “calls God to witness against God,” with the same justification as Abraham and Moses when they strove to defend themselves against God’s arbitrary vengefulness.
There is indeed a justification for such a revolutionary act. It is not, however, to be found in theological scholarship, nor in some well-thought-out philosophical or scientific viewpoint, but rather in a justly merited claim to represent humanity against the suprapersonal powers.
Anyone who has spent a lifetime in contact with human beings and has consistently championed their interests has earned the right to represent their cause before - and against! - God.
There are two Hasidic stories that have always seemed to me to typify this kind of Jungian “vis-à-vis.” One says, we should always behave as if in every human being we speak to we are encountering God himself. The other requires of us that whenever we are confronted with a fellow mortal in need, we should act as if there were no God and we were alone in all the world with that particular person. In real life, it is of course axiomatic that no one can possibly fulfill these demands. Yet the fact that Jung comes so close to doing so - closer than any other human being I know - confirms his right as I see
it to represent suffering humanity before God, as he does in his Answer to Job.
It is scarcely to be expected that our contemporaries, who are usually without a clue, should understand what is really involved in resistance to this old God-image and in the passionate championing of a new, hitherto unknown manifestation of the godhead who continually reveals himself anew. But there are many people who are at least capable of grasping the fact that the increasing “lack of religion” of modern man is really no more than an unconscious process of turning away from the image of a God of righteousness which has lost all credibility and from the affect-laden, chauvinistic “love” of this God and towards a humanity which has been called upon to suffer beyond measure. That Jung still possessed the strength and courage, in spite of his old age and of the perennial misconception of him as a mystic, to incur the odium of a new and diametrically opposite misconception of ‘him as an atheist, is the most convincing proof of the inexhaustible, revolutionary power of his genius and of the profound seriousness of his sense of responsibility.
The most recent “leap” taken by the man who is eighty years old this year is also entirely characteristic of him. Although ostensibly unrelated to Answer to Job, it actually illustrates Jung’s inability to let anything apparently “negative,” such as his accusation against the God of Job, stand without some reference ‘to something positive. The paper “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle” is a scientific attempt to extend modern man’s view of the world by including in it the dis-
covery that certain “chance events” which are “acausally” or “noncausally” connected with each other are actually meaningful factors ‘that belong essentially to the totality of the world. This problem, which at first appears so remote and unintelligible, will prove to be of the greatest significance for modern man’s future view of the world. If the premise of synchronicity, to which Jung’s paper is a tentative contribution, can be validated, this would mean no more nor less than that phenomena which have hitherto been described in theological terms as “miracles” are in principle contained in the structure of our world.
It is typical of the quality of Jung’s genius that in extreme old age, when he was already in a sense beyond the good and evil represented by the moral judgment of his contemporaries, he dared not merely to shake the foundations of the traditional Christian image of God, but to open up at the same time a new and illuminating approach to the possibility of religious experience for modern man. Jung’s research has plainly shown that the concept of the self as the center of the self-regulating system of the psyche points beyond the purely psychic dimension. But the implications go further than that. The world in its turn produces certain strange and uncanny phenomena which, though acausal and scarcely definable in rational terms, are nevertheless observable events that tend to recur in certain contexts; such phenomena reveal a secret dimension of order and meaning which encroaches on the sphere of the human psyche.
It is still far too early for Jung’s contemporaries to apprecia.te the full scope of his significance. We live in an age of ever-increasing specialization. Knowledge is sub-
divided into the most minute compartments, within which more and more material is accumulated with antlike assiduity. This piling up of material goes hand in hand with a narrowing of mental horizons, as the distance which separates speciality from speciality and province from province steadily widens. On the other hand, world developments in our time, in spite of political splits and iron curtains, are moving in the direction of a universal humanism; the unity of mankind is becoming more and more obvious. Not only has C. G. Jung laid the scientific foundation for our understanding of the essential unity of human nature and human culture; he is also the first representative of a new type of humanity that unites East and West, the very modern and the primitive, science and religion, the collective and the altogether individual, in the universality of a single person.
C. G. Jung is the only really great man I have met in my life. As teacher and friend for more than three decades, he has constantly provided me with new and vital substance for both love and vexation - like Nature herself, the lover of leaping, ‘the superior of man. And when, in this man with all his weaknesses and all his greatness, I struck upon that which is greater than man, yet in which all human qualities are grounded - that was for me a decisive and profoundly orientative experience.
The most important thing about my encounter with Jung was not what I learned from him about myself, mankind, and the world - though without all this my life as it is would be inconceivable. Jung’s spontaneity was such that he would often at first sight give the im-
pression he had misunderstood me or that we were talking at cross-purposes . But what appeared to be his unrelated way of letting himself go and speaking about himself and the world in general was actually related to his vis-â-vis on a deeper level than could have been achieved by any willed effort of the head or the heart by themselves. Subsequently, often years later, it would dawn upon me how essentially right he had been, and how he had bypassed my ego, as it were, and had spoken directly to the center of my psyche. This utmost in relatedness, which so many people have experienced in Jung, is to my mind proof positive of the dynamic impact of his wholeness, working as it did beyond the range of his knowledge and of all purely rational understanding. If, against the background of his social environment, he often has the effect of a giant among dwarfs, who always has to stoop a little to make himself understood, this is only another way of saying that his real vis-â-vis is only to be found where man in his wholeness listens and responds. It was in this way, when I came to him as a young man, that he gave me, like a gift from a higher power, the courage to be myself. And later, too, when if he had been a lesser man differences in temperament and in circumstances would long ago have created misunderstandings between us, he remained - though at times closer and at times further away - always a central vis-à-vis in my life. For all these things, now as ever, I owe him the profoundest gratitude.