Edward Edinger: Encounters with the Greater Personality - Transcript
September 19, 1984 – Presented by the San Diego Friends of Jung
The audio version of this talk is here
The way you can tell [Ego] is drowned is when one lives and functions and speaks in a non-human way. When he’s lost his limited human dimensions. And we all have a good instinct to tell us when we encounter that sort of thing. You don’t have to learn it with your head. An instinct tells you! There’s something that smells bad. When Jung read Nietzsche he knew right away. “It’s morbid.”
Religion Archetype; God-Image Archetype
What I have to say tonight is a logical continuation of my previous subject [4 years earlier about the Book of Job]. It’s the same theme basically, namely:
The Ego’s Encounter with the Self
This is the one basic feature of Jungian Psychology, the Ego and how it relates to the reality of the Self. Jungian Psychology is the only psychological standpoint, which operates out of an awareness that there are two centers in the Psyche. Some other psychologies and analytic approaches, have an awareness that there are two entities in the Psyche, but no other psychological standpoint operates out of the awareness that there are two centers. That is 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 one another. That’s what happens when the Ego, which is the little center, has an encounter with the Self , which is the big center.
All analysis is no more than a prelude to this experience, the Encounter with the Self. Here’s how Jung put it in his 1925 seminar. “Analysis should release an experience that rips us or falls upon us as from above, an experience that has substance and body, such as those experiences, which happened to the ancients. If I were going to symbolize it, I would choose The Annunciation.”
Now it might very well happen that although this crucial experience, although it is prepared for by analysis, does not take place during the period of analysis at all. It may take place many years after termination of the analysis.
In such a case, one is very grateful for his conscious knowledge of Jungian Psychology. He has a roadmap, so to speak, which helps him get his bearings when this experience falls on him from above. He can say with Job then, “Previously I heard of Thee by the hearing of my ears, but now my eye sees Thee.”
That’s what happens when this experience falls on one. It can also occur without benefit of any analysis at all. It can happen without any particular preoccupation with the Unconscious. For these reasons I consider it vitally important to talk about the Self in public. Because one can never know whether he is speaking to an individual who has had or is going to have the experience I’m talking about. And such an individual may recall what has been spoken about, and 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 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 is the objective center rather than the subjective center. It is the trans-personal center. It’s the center and connector with the totality, which includes both conscious and unconscious. It’s not a theory, it’s a fact. One has to use words to describe a fact, but I assure you what we’re talking about is a fact that is verified by the experience of many people subsequent to analysis.
But the Self is exceedingly difficult to describe. This is because it is 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.
And, like the philosopher’s stone of the alchemists, it has many different synonyms, which describe different facets of its complex reality. And one of those synonyms, which Jung has proposed, is the Greater Personality. That’s the particular entity I’m going to be talking about tonight. He introduces this term, “Greater Personality,” in his essay “Concerning Rebirth,” in Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9i. In that place he speaks of Individuation “as a long drawn out process of rebirth into another being.” And concerning that other being he writes:
“This other being is the other person within ourselves--that larger and Greater Personality maturing within us. It is the inner friend of the Soul. That’s why we take comfort whenever we find that inner friend depicted in a ritual. For example, the friendship between Mithras and the Sun god.
”It’s the representation of a friendship between two men, 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 diascury, one of whom is mortal, and the other immortal. And who, though always together, can never be made completely one.
“The transformation process strives to approximate them 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 master in our own house. We should 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 foe depends on our Selves.”
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 an especially important quotation, in my opinion.
“When the 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 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 his Greater down to the level of his littleness, and will never understand that the Day of Judgment for his littleness has dawned.
“But the who is inwardly Great knows that the long expected friend of his Soul, the immortal one, has now really come to leap captivity captive. That is, to seek hold of him, by who this immortal had always been confined. Held prisoner; and to make his life flow into that Greater life—the moment of deadliest peril.”
This final phrase comes as a shock after hearing this 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 can bring on 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 or defeat is part of what I have spoken of as the Job Archetype. I use that because the story of Job is a particularly apt example of the pattern. The chief features of this pattern are four, and this is going to be the subject of my talk tonight, to give you 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 in scrutinizing the experience in search of its meaning; and
4. As a consequence of that perseverance, there is Divine Revelation, by which the Ego is rewarded by some insight into the transpersonal Psyche.
So to repeat the four: There’s an encounter; there’s a wounding; there’s perseverance; and there’s revelation.
I’m going to talk about four 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 his experience will not be exactly Job’s, it will not be exactly Paul'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, but having familiarity with various examples of the species will help you when you encounter it for yourself.
I’m going to talk about 4 tonight, but there are more than that. Quite a list could be culled out of the cultural history of man, but just to give you a brief list here are a few: Jacob and the angel of Yahweh, which I shall talk about; Arjuna’s encounter with Krishna, which I will talk about; Paul’s encounter with Christ; Moses in the Koran’s Al Khidr, which you can find in the 18th Sura of the Koran; Faust’s encounter with Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust; Captain Ahab’s encounter with Moby Dick, in Melville’s work; Nietzche’s encounter with Zarathustra, which I shall talk about; and finally the closest to us of all, Jung’s encounter with Philemon, in his confrontation with the unconscious. I shall confine myself to four: Jacob, Arjuna, Paul, and Nietzsche.
In making this kind of overview, you must forgive the summary way in which I treat each example. It’s really unfair to treat each 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 than to present you briefly with individual examples of the Archetype. That can give you a sense of the underlying general symbolic image that operates within individual variations.
First, Jacob and the angel of Yahweh. This account is found in the 32nd Chapter of Genesis. You will 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 belonging to Esau. 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 came when he had to return to the land from which he fled. So he returned to his own country.
But that return meant that he must now meet Esau, brother he had wronged 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:
“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. He said, ‘Let me go for day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
“He then asked, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he replied. He said your name shall no longer be Jacob but Israel, because you have been strong against God. You shall prevail against men. And he blessed him there. Jacob named the place Pe-nu-el, because I have seen God face-to-face and have survived. The sun rose as he left Pe-nu-el, limping because of his hip.”
[20:10 of the audio.]
This story contains all four of the features I spoke of. There’s an encounter with a superior being; there’s a wounding; there’s a perseverance; and there’s a divine revelation—in the form of the blessing, first of all, and secondly the investment with a new name. Jacob’s collective identity is revealed, because he now becomes the ancestor of Israel.
What’s particularly interesting psychologically in this example is 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 stand in for God for him, because Jacob’s guilty conscience imbues Esau with a kind of divine power. The scripture explicitly says, when Jacob meets Esau he says to him, “I have seen thy face as though I had seen the face of God, so Esau and God overlap.
This means psychologically that the Shadow which one unrelated to may activate the Self, and if one has wronged the Shadow what’s activated is the Self in its avenging aspect. This motif can operate either internally or externally.
If you don’t understand this after I have explained it, please inquire. 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 will know that he’s entitled 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, then you are at a sizeable disadvantage. [laughter in audience]
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 the violation of totality, which again can arouse the vengeance of the Self against the Ego. All sorts of things may happen then. I may cut myself with an electric saw; or I may have an accident with the car. Anything like that can happen if that constellation has been set up.
What Jacob is obliged to do in this situation is encounter the reaction that has been constellated, endure it without succumbing to defensive hostility or despair. If he succeeds that would correspond with a successful wrestling with the angel. One way of thinking about it might be Jacob had to wrestle with his rage at Esau, before he could arrive at a conciliatory attitude. He did arrive at a conciliatory attitude. He sent gifts, and it worked, but he could not do that until he had overcome his Power reaction. It could have constellated either as rage against Esau for causing him trouble, or with cringing fear of Esau because he knew he had a legitimate complaint against him.
[Reminds me of the time I was confronted with the unexpected arrival home of my girlfriend’s parents, while we were “making out,” and I ran away, with her father shouting at me from the back door, silhouetted against the light of the kitchen. Then I wrestled with my conscience, and had to admit my wrongdoing to her father the next day. In penance, I had to go to a holy-roller service, because they were fundamentalists. That must have occurred in the spring of 1963, and I haven’t thought of it for quite a while!]
Jung makes a very profound observation here. These things are scattered throughout his works. This one is especially important. It can be found in ¶524 of Volume 5 of the Collected Works.
“The 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, [‘If you really get this you’ve got the main thing.’] 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…” [Who comes to mind?]
What he’s saying there is that intense affects are 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 out of Heaven, or it roars up from the depths. It’s a manifestation of the Self; any intense affect--the onslaught instinct; and if one can relate to it with that understanding, then it becomes and 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, Dreams, Reflections. He says,
“A contemporary Jacob would find himself willy-nilly in possession of a secret, and would become a deviant from the collectivity.”
This corresponds to the fact that the encounter with the Greater Personality is necessarily a secret. One cannot talk about it; cannot talk about it in its particulars anyway. The secret that both creates the individual as being something separate from the collective, and at the same time is a wound that painfully separates and alienates him from the collective. So it has both a positive and a negative aspect.
A striking example of this phenomenon is the figure in Greek Myth, Philoctetes, who inherited the bow and arrow of Pericles. Pericles was the Greater Personality. Philoctetes was an ordinary person like all of the rest of us. He couldn’t handle these weapons, and he injured himself on one of the poison arrows of Pericles, and it became an incurable wound. The stench was so bad no one could stand to be 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 without the help of Philoctetes, so they had to go back and apologize for ostracizing him, and lure him back into the collectivity, you see. It’s a beautiful example of a certain aspect of the phenomenon. One’s alienated; becomes an objectionable stink to the collective; and yet he’s needed by the collective. [Who could this be in 21st Century America?]
All right I’ll turn to another example. Arjuna and Krishna.
This is a magnificent example of an Encounter with the Greater Personality, which is recorded in the Bhagavad Gita. Like the Book of Job, its central feature is a dialogue between a grief stricken man and a personification of 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 that just considering it psychologically, that it’s not at all impossible that it 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 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 am not able to stand upright. My mind is in a whirl and I see adverse omens. Neither do I see any good in slaying my own people in this strife. I desire neither kingdom nor victory nor pleasures. I do not wish to kill these warriors even though I am killed by them.”
“Krishna replies, ‘Though has been mourning for those who should not be mourned for. These bodies are perishable. The truly wise mourn not for the dead or for the living. The dwellers in these bodies are eternal, indestructible, and impenetrable.
“‘Therefore fight oh descendent of Harada. He considers himself as a slaver, or he who thinks of himself as the slain, neither of these knows the Truth. For he does not slay nor is he slain. This Self is never born, nor does it die, nor does it having been does it go into non-being.
“’What is unborn, eternal, changeless, ancient is never destroyed even when the body is destroyed. Therefore, Arjuna, be resolved to fight. Regarding a life, pleasure, and pain; gain or loss; victory or defeat—fight thou the battle. Thus [inaudible] will not stain me.’”
Characteristically, the Greater Personality has presented an attitude that is too large for the Ego to understand. Arjuna doesn’t understand, because what has been presented to him is an attitude beyond the opposites. In this case, the motif of wounding is represented by his confusion. The wounding is not so prominent in this eastern story as it is in the western story of Job. And that, I think, says something about the difference between eastern and western Psyche.
Anyhow, Arjuna replies:
“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.” [Thus the wounding.] Therefore tell me with certainty that by one of these I can attain the highest.”
And then Krishna proceeds with what can only be called a very patient explanation. I imagine him beginning with a sigh [laughter]:
“In this world two-fold is the path already described by Me. The path of wisdom is for the meditative, and the path of action is for the active. Man does not attain freedom from action by non-performance of action; nor does he attain 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 though therefore perform right and obligatory actions, for action is superior to inaction. This world is bound by actions, except when they are performed by religious worship. Therefore, oh son of Kunti, do thou perform action without attachment.”
This then is followed by a magnificent description of the religious way of life. And particularly noteworthy is Krishna’s description of his own nature. Now I remind you that from the psychological standpoint, what we are listening to is the Self describing its nature to the Ego. So this is not just a story of a remote event. It’s an account of an experience that can befall any one of us. And here’s how Krishna describes himself, in part, terribly abbreviated:
“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—the origin and dissolution of the Universe.] There is naught else existing higher than I. Like pearls on a thread, all of this universe is strung in Me.
“I am the taste in waters and the radiance in the sun and moon; I am the sacred soul, “Ohm” in all the Vedas—sound in the ether; self-consciousness in mankind; I’m the sacred fragrance in the earth and brilliance in fire; I am the life of all beings and austerity in ascetics.
“Know me as the eternal as seat 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 will 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.
It has some similarity, the way Krishna describes himself, to the way Yahweh speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. But it is quite different too. You see the whole style is different. It’s much calmer; much more objective. There’s no whirlwind here. One might say more civilized here. It’s more psychological. The west is barbarian psychologically compared to the east.
What Krishna does then is explain to Arjuna, in this calm objective way, the difference between the Ego and the Self, thereby acquainting him with the nature of the Greater Personality. And this revelation happened because, like Job, Arjuna persevered in questioning the Greater Personality [Krishna].
Another example: Paul and Christ. Here again we return to the scriptures in another world religion. The relevant texts are found chiefly in the Book of Acts, and I’m going to read to you a compilation of the essential accounts. I think it’s better to hear it first hand rather than have it summarized. [41:47 of the audio.] This is Paul speaking:
“I once thought it was my duty to use every means to oppose the name of Jesus, the Nazarene. This I did in Jerusalem. I myself threw many of the saints into prison acting on authority from the Chief Priest. And when they were sentenced to death, I cast my vote against them. I often went around to synagogues inflicting penalties--trying in this way to get them to renounce their faith. My fury against them was so extreme that I often pursued them into foreign cities.
“On one such expedition I was going to Damascus armed with full powers and a commission from the Chief Priest. And at mid-day as I was on my way I saw a light bright as the sun come down from Heaven. It shown brilliantly around me and my fellow travelers. 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 goa.”
“And I said, “Who are you Lord?”
The Lord replied, “I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Now get up and stand on your feet, for I have come to you for this reason. To appoint you as my servant, and as witness to this vision, in which you have seen me, and of others in which I shall appear to you. Get up now and go into the city and you will be told what you have to do.”
“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one. 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. For three days he was without sight and took neither food nor drink.”
Paul was initially absolutely shattered by his encounter with the Greater Personality. He was blind for three days, and according to certain traditions and certain accounts, there’s reason to believe that he had to retreat for three years into Arabia. I think that’s very likely. I think it’s very likely indeed.
Paul’s encounter with the Greater Personality, he identified with Christ, you see, and that’s the origin of the Christian Church, as we know it anyway. May be violently resisted by the conscious Ego, as witness the persecutions of the Christians that Saul engaged in before his vision. This is a psychological phenomenon that is well documented. And 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, “From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” At that’s what he was literally.
Paul’s experience gives us some of the clearest statements we possess as to how it feels to have had a major encounter the Great Personality. The state of being captive to the greater one is summed very well in the 2nd chapter of Galacians, where Paul says,
“I’ve been crucified with Christ and now I live now not with my own life, but with the life of Christ who lives in me.”
Jung made a statement that is not so far from that in his Memories, Dreams, Reflections. After his encounter with the unconscious and with the personification of the Greater Personality, which was called Philemon, he says, “It was then that I ceased to belong to myself alone; ceased to have the right to do so. Ceased to have the right to do so. From then on my life belonged to the generality. It was then that I dedicated my life to the service of the Psyche.” The Psyche is analogous to Paul’s experience with Christ. They’re two different terms for the same phenomenon actually, that are appropriate to the contexts of their different cultural and collective Psyche faculties.
Alright there’s one more. I’m now going to make the leap of 2,000 years and talk about Nietzche and Zarathustra. Preceding Jung’s example, this is the outstanding modern example, which led to a literary production. We don’t know how many anonymous encounters of this nature there may have been, but the individual was never able to integrate sufficiently to give it formulation and transmit it larger audiences, and the experience died unseen. But Nietzche was able to do that.
Jung makes the remark that, “It is 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 “breakthrough of total experience” will be synonymous with the Greater Personality. 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 an Olympian stance above the experience of Faust. Nietzsche lived out his experience totally to the bitter end. It’s the first real encounter of the modern Ego with the Greater Personality that left a record of the experience. He perished in that encounter.
But how could it have been otherwise, since he was the first to tread this unknown region—and of course to be ignorant of its dangers. You can’t know of dangers until they’ve compassed you about; until they’ve already got you. I think we owe a tremendous debt to Nietzche. Jung learned from his experience. He learned a tremendous amount. I’m convinced that without Nietzsche’s example, Jung might very likely have been a fatality.
In his memoirs Jung wrote about discovering Nietzsche in 1898. Here’s what he said,
“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 after read Thus Spake Zarathustra. This like Goethe’s Faust was a tremendous experience for me. Zarathustra was Neitzche’s Faust. Number 2 personality, and my number 2 now corresponds to Zarathustra, and Zarathustra was morbid. Was my number 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.
“Nietzche had discovered his No. 2 only late in life, when he was already past middle age, whereas I have known mine ever since boyhood. Nietzsche spoke naively and incautiously about this secret, 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 loosed upon a world that knew and understood nothing about such things. He was moved by the childish hope of finding people who could share his ecstasies and could grasp his trans-valuation 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 god forsaken masses. That was the reason for the bombastic language, the piling up of metaphors, the hymn like 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, to depths far beyond himself.”
[53:16 of the audio.]
Now actually we have data that demonstrates that Nietzche encountered the Greater Personality for the first time in early adolescence. But Jung was not familiar with this source. Not very many people are.
After Nietzsche had his breakdown in 1889, he was hospitalized in a mental hospital, and he 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 indicated.
He wrote a manuscript while in the hospital, and smuggled it out with another patient. He had to get it out past the watchful eyes of his sister, who would have destroyed it. This is a highly dramatic and significant event. He succeeded in smuggling it out, and it was eventually published, and its available in translation, but nobody knows about it; and the reason is that the Nietzsche scholars are involved in conspiracy of silence against it, because what he talks about are the psychological facts of his life.
The Nietzsche philosophers imagine that they belittle Nietzsche the philosopher. What they do is enlarge Nietzsche the human being. This work has been published under the unfortunate title of My Sister and I. It’s a very unfortunate title, but it wasn’t chosen by Nietzsche. It was chosen by his publishers to capitalize on the most scandalous aspect of this work, which talks about the incestuous relations between Nietzsche and his sister since childhood. So needless to say that did have to be smuggled out past the sister. [Laughter]
Anyway, it is 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 fulfilled as a human being, and this is all communicated in that book. Someday someone will do a full psychological case history of Nietzsche, and he’ll then take his place as the first depth psychologist.
Anyway, this is all a preface to a quote I’m going to read from this work. Here’s what he tells us:
“Of all of the books of the Bible, 1st Samuel made the profoundest impression on me. In a way it may be 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 nearby in the temple. Convinced after the third time that his prodigy was being called to higher services than those available to him in the house of sacrifices, Eli proceeds to instruct him on the ways of prophecy.
“I had no Eli,” says Nietzche, “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 a second visitation he came to me not physically, but 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 the 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 here 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 the core issue for him had been the polarity of Christ and the antichrist. If you read his works carefully, you can see that to be the basic underlying issue.
Consciously, Nietzsche sided with antichrist, he deliberately identified himself with antichrist. But unconsciously he identified as Christ, so that after his breakdown he signed some of his letters “The Crucified One.” But either way, he lived his life out of a profound religious attitude.
The way Jung puts it, “the tragedy of Zarathustra is because his god died, Nietzsche became a god.” And this happened because he was no atheist. He was of too positive a nature to tolerate the neurosis of atheism. It’s dangerous for such a man to assert that “God is dead.” He instantly becomes the victim of an inflation.
Nietzsche was very important to Jung. If you need any further evidence on that, surely the fact that he conducted a lengthy seminar on Zarathustra over a period of five years the notes of which are accumulated in 10 volumes ought to suffice to demonstrate 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 it in 1883, so he was 39 years old. The way he wrote it is most remarkable. He himself wrote a verse about it [in German]. Which means, “Then one became two and Zarathustra passed by me.”
That means that Zarathustra then became manifest as a second personality within himself. That would show that he had a pretty clear notion that he was not identical with Zarathustra. But how could he accept assuming such an identity in those days when there was no psychology. Nobody then would have dared taken the idea of a personification seriously. Or even of an independent and autonomous spiritual entity.
1883 was a time of a booming materialistic philosophy. So he had to identify with Zarathustra, in spite of the fact, as this verse proves, a definite difference between himself and the old wise man. Then the idea that Zarathustra had to come back and mend the faults of his former invention is psychologically most characteristic. He had an absolutely historical feeling about it. It filled him with a particular sense of destiny. Of course, such feeling is most uplifting and it was the Dionysian experience par excellence.
In one of his letters to his sister he gives the most impressive description of the ecstasis in which he wrote Zarathustra. He says about this way of writing, that it simply poured out of him, it was almost an 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. It was as if he was possessed by a creative genius that took his brain and produced this work out of absolute necessity.
I want to give you an example. This will do it much better than any talk can do of the kind of ecstasis that Neitzsche could fall into.
[1:04:37 of the audio.]
He describes it in this book, Ecce Homo. This is Nietzsche speaking:
“Has anyone at the end of the 19th Century had any idea of what poets have called inspiration? If not, I will describe it. If one has the slightest residue of superstition left in one’s system, one could hardly reject altogether the idea that one is merely incarnation; merely mouthpiece; merely a medium of overpowering forces.
“The concept of revelation in the sense suddenly of indescribable certainty and subtlety; something becomes visible, audible; something that shakes one to the last depths and throws one down; that really describes the facts. One hears one does not seek; one accepts; one does not ask ‘who gives’; like lightning a thought flashes up; from necessity without hesitation regarding its form. I never had a choice.
“A rapture, whose tremendous tension occasionally discharges itself in a flood of tears. Now the pace quickens involuntarily; now it becomes slow; one is altogether beside oneself with a distinct consciousness of subtle shudders and of ones skin creeping down to one’s toes; depth of happiness in which even what is most painful and gloomy does not seem something opposite but rather conditioned.
“Everything happens involuntarily to the highest degree and a gale of feeling of freedom; of absoluteness of power; of divinity; the involuntariness of image and metaphor the strangest of all. One no longer has no notion of what is an image or metaphor; everything offers itself as the nearest and most obvious simplest expression. Here all things come caressingly to your discourse, and flatter you, for they want to ride on your back. On every metaphor you ride to every truth.
“The words and word shrines of all beings open up before you; here all being wishes to become word; all becoming wishes to learn from you how to speak.”
Well, he’s describing the experience of the unconscious in this creative rush of meaningful image. Very few people can describe it so well, because he had such super powers of expression. Most of Thus Spake Zarathustra was written in this ecstatic state of mind. It poured directly out of the unconscious.
In this book, the Greater Personality is the figure of Zarathustra, the reincarnation of the ancient prophet. And 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 he 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.
Because its transcendent insights have not been assimilated by the whole man, that makes them evil and destructive. And they can kill. But that’s the nature of the Greater Personality. That’s 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’re 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 this sounds familiar. This comes from Thus Spake Zarathustra, Part I Section 4:
“I, you say, and are proud of the word. But greater is that in which you do not want to have faith; your body and its great reason. That does not say I; that does I. What the sense feels, what the spirit knows never has an end in itself. But sense and spirit would persuade you that they are the end of all things. That’s how vain they are.
“Instruments and toys are sense and spirit, behind them still lies the Self. The Self also seeks with the eyes of the senses; it also listens with the ears of the spirit. Always the Self listens and speaks. It compares; overpowers, conquers; destroys. It controls. And it is control of the Ego too! Behind your thoughts and feelings my brother there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage whose name is Self. In your body he dwells. He is your body. There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom, and who knows why your body needs precisely your best wisdom.
“Your Self laughs at your Ego; that is its bold leaps. “What are these leaps and flights of thoughts to me?” It says to itself; “A detour to my end. I am the leading strains of the Ego and the prompter of its concepts. The Self says to the Ego, “Feel pain here.” Then the Ego suffers and thinks how it might suffer no more. And that is why it’s made to think. The Self says to the Ego, “Feel pleasure here.” Then the Ego is pleased and thinks how it might often be pleased again. And that is why it is made to think.”
You see, Nietzsche was an intuitive type; Intuitive and how! Has the Self affiliated with the 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 at your friends who are particularly interested in bodywork, they’re almost all Intuitives. We Sensation types don’t have to pay much attention to the body. We don’t have to deify it. [Think of the significance of the Type Theory here—MBTI.]
But 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 is super ordinate to the Ego. Nietzsche knows that about the Self only because he’s 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; it 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 find out what lies on the other side.
He was a man of immense psychological courage—immense psychological rashness more than courage, but courage too. 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 Empeticles [sp?] plunging into the belching flames of Etna. But this fate was reserved not for the great pre-Socratic, but for me alone. Having been separated from the love of my life, Lou 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 Frederick 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.” [This brings tears to my eyes.]
I think now with this final work of Nietzsche’s available to us we can see that 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. And after Nietzsche’s experience, the way was now prepared for Jung.
So, in conclusion, you will have noticed and it’s surely significant that three of the cases I have discussed are to be found in the scriptures of three of the worlds great religions. And there was a fourth example, that was not discussed, that of Moses and El Kidr, which is found in the Holy Book of Islam.
What this indicates is that the experience of the Greater Personality is of such numinosity that it sometimes might bring into being a whole new religion. But now for the first time, in what I would call the Jungian era, we are in a position to begin to understand scientifically and generally these psychological entities, which 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. And this influx creates both a great opportunity and a great danger. It’s as if collectively we’re are about to encounter the Greater Personality, which as Jung says can make life flow into that greater life, BUT WHICH IS ALSO A MOMENT OF DEADLIEST PERIL.
It 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 a mass atheistic inflation
If each individual can work toward that end by diligently assimilating his projections, and seeking his own 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 close, he says this in ¶512 of Mysterium Coniunctionis,
“One must celebrate a last supper with oneself, and eat his own flesh and drink his own blood. Which means that he must accept the Other in himself. 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?”
Thank you! [1:21:36 of the audio.]
Questions and Answers:
1. I have already had the question asked 3 times, so I’d better address myself to it. One person formulated it this way. There are no women on your list. Is that because their documents do not exist? How would it be different for a woman to encounter the Greater Personality?
--Well, I haven’t thought this through very much, but several women immediately come to mind, so I’ll mention them as examples. In Greek Myth of course there are a number of examples of the feminine encounter with the deity. Outstanding examples are Semele, the mother of Dionysus; Danae the mother of Perseus; Mary’s encounter with the angel of the Annunciation is another example.
--I haven’t thought this through so it’s something we can all reflect on. It’s my impression that when the feminine entity has the encounter with the Greater Personality has somewhat different quality to it. We don’t hear about wrestling. Sometimes we hear about fleeing. But we don’t hear about wrestling. [Is this a masculine/feminine distinction for the flight or fight instinct?]
--Certainly wounding may be a part of it, when the feminine entity is the operative one. An outstanding example is Semele, who through her own insistence, but also she was goaded by Hera into it, so it’s not only the Ego, it’s an archetypal that goads him into a stupid action. Semele insists on Zeus appearing to her in his full glory, and she was consumed by the fire that the lightning created.
--In the mythological material, whether it is a feminine figure or masculine figure that encounters the Greater Personality, I don’t think should be too rigorously translated into the experience of women and men specifically. You must remember that each individual as a masculine/feminine components—this is one of the pairs of opposites. To the extent that we are dealing with authentic Individuation symbolism, then the question of is it a man or is it a woman recedes in importance, because one is holding both the opposites.
--We’re living in a time when women are realizing their need to realize adequately their feminine reality, their feminine dimension, and therefore are seeking models and images and myths, which speak to the feminine experience. That is all appropriate, but strictly speaking that does not refer to the Individuation process; that speaks to a prelude to the Individuation process. But certainly there are examples of feminine figures having that encounter, and there are a lot more. And of course the Homeric Psyche story is a splendid example too, not to mention Hades and Persephone.
2. Is the Self personal or impersonal? Such questions are not answered theoretically; they’re answered experientially on the basis of what the accumulated data indicates, and the accumulated data indicates that it’s both. It’s personal and its impersonal. In individual cases, one or the other might predominate. In cases where the Ego is very much in need of succor, sustenance, the personal aspects of the Self might take special prominence. One sees that phenomenon, for example, with the birth of Christianity. The image of the Christian God that emerges is a loving, personal God, but that is not the whole picture of the psychological entity. It’s one part of it. So that what emerges from the unconscious tends to compensate the conscious situation, and what tends to be evoked is what’s needed, or what’s being reflected.
3. Regarding the use of the term “Jungian,” wouldn’t “Jungian” refer to the psychology of Carl Jung the man? The Ego self of Carl Jung the man doesn’t strike me that we should concentrate on that. Would you shed some light on that.
--No. No light. I’ll let that stand as a comment. I won’t say anything about it.
4. On immunization of the social body by the Individuation of many individuals:
--If I had a blackboard I’d try to illustrate what I mean. I would draw on the blackboard a great circle, and then at the circumference of that circle I would draw a lot of little tiny circles, each of which intersected by the great circle. Some of them are a little more below the line and some a little above the line to illustrate different levels of consciousness. I would use that image to visualize for you how I perceive the nature of the collective psyche.
--It is made up of the sum total of individual human psyches, and we are all therefore connected by virtue of our lower psychological depths with the collective psyche and with each other individual in that collective psyche. We are all part of the larger organism. That can be demonstrated. It’s not very difficult. You only need for someone to run into this room under the influence of some intense affect and we’ll all have it. We may not all act on it, but we’ll all have it. We’ll all feel it. It demonstrates the fact that we are all cells of one great organism.
--We’re affected not only by things we’re conscious of but we’re affected by things we are not conscious of. If someone on the other side of the planet is having some serious affect, it might show up in our dreams, for instance. So this is what the nature of the collective psyche is. Once you see it – as I describe it to you it probably sounds like a theory, but you have a body of experience it’s not a theory any more it’s a fact. And once that is recognized as a fact then it’s evident that the way one – if one hopes to do anything at all to alter the great collective organism, he has to do it by cultivating that part of the collective psyche that is available to him, and that’s his own psyche. It’s not somebody else’s psyche it is his own psyche. And as you cultivate that little spot of land that is your own, you are influencing infinitesimally the greater organism.
5. What’s the importance of the Ego? The Ego is the carrier of consciousness, and to the extent that consciousness is valuable in a cosmic sense, and it is, supremely valuable, it requires an Ego to manifest—to be the vessel to carry it.
6. Jung faced the Greater Self and remained sane, but Nietzsche went insane. Do you have any idea why Nietzsche went insane but Jung didn’t?
--Yes, I do have an idea. Do you want me to tell it? [Laughter]
--They both had the experience of the encounter with the Greater Personality, with the overwhelming archetypal psyche. Jung integrated his experience, and Nietzsche during his working life didn’t, as I suggested, he did integrate it in my opinion in his final silent last years. But as far as his known experience is concerned it was not integrated, but Jung integrated it.
--What does it mean to integrate it? It means to having achieved a sizeable enough Ego that it doesn’t drown. The way you can tell it’s drowned is when one lives and functions and speaks in a non-human way. When he’s lost his limited human dimensions. And we all have a good instinct to tell us when we encounter that sort of thing. You don’t have to learn it with your head. An instinct tells you! There’s something that smells bad. When Jung read Nietzsche he knew right away. “It’s morbid.”
And when you’re in good connection with your instinct, when you read Thus Spake Zarathustra, and you feel sick, you know there’s something wrong. Of course, if you’re not in good touch with your instinct, then you won’t. But we’ve got built in the equipment about what’s good for us and what’s poisonous. The difference is the development of the Ego that’s able to have the experience and relate to it without identifying with it. If one succeeds in that, then one becomes an initiated one when one comes; one becomes a privileged participant in a level of the psyche that isn’t generally available. One doesn’t go around spouting out that fact, because preaching about it is just an expression of the identification with it.
7. Speaking about drug and alcohol addiction. It’s a concrete misapplication of the hunger for connection with the autonomous psyche.
8. Could you give an example of the violation of the Shadow? Let’s talk about Nietzsche. Someone has brought up that event in his life where he had the image of a toad on his hand, that he was obliged to eat. You get a variation of that in Zarathustra where a snake crawled into the mouth of the shepherd. Jung’s thought about that was that it was probably an image of his syphilis that needed to be assimilated. My notion is that it was probably an image of his incest experience that needed to be assimilated.
There’s a lot of talk in Zarathustra of what Nietzsche calls “the ugliest man.” In Zarathustra the ugliest man is rejected. He isn’t accepted. So Nietzsche is an excellent example of the very question, because he did not at least in his working life. That’s what makes this final document so important. It redeemed him psychologically, but it damned him philosophically, so the philosophers will have nothing to do with it. But it redeemed him psychologically. But so far as his working is concerned, he did not assimilate the Shadow. He committed a crime against the Shadow; he was inflated; horribly inflated. You read such things as Ecce Homo and you’re shocked. And therefore the vengeance of the Self has destructive effect. That’s the first example that comes to me on that question. [My personal image of a small evil train coming toward me on the bed at nap time—very fearful—when I was 4 or 5? This comes to mind.]
9. Jacob and Paul were assimilated. Nietzche is the modern example. I think of Nietzsche and Jung like Saul and David. Saul was the first king of the Hebrew kingdom and he was a failure. He was rejected by God and the spirit of God was taken away from him. David was given; he couldn’t do anything wrong. That’s an archetype that Saul-David conjunction. Nietzsche-Jung combination is somewhat analogous.
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