Wake Up Calls!

“Unhistorical”—No longer contained in a tradition; his individual identity is no longer propped up by unconscious containment in a religious, cultural, or ethnic identification.  He’s alone and when this happens to a large number of people it creates a problem for society as a whole.

Edward Edinger: "Individuation: A Myth for Modern Man"
January 20, 1988 – Presented by the San Diego Friends of Jung
The audio version of this talk is here 

“Unhistorical”—No longer contained in a tradition; his individual identity is no longer propped up by unconscious containment in a religious, cultural, or ethnic identification.  He’s alone and when this happens to a large number of people it creates a problem for society as a whole.

In all patients over 35, they did not achieve a real cure unless they found a religious attitude to life.  This has nothing to do with allegiance to a creed.

Religion:  “The attitude peculiar to a consciousness which has been changed by the experience of the numinosum.  Religion is a consequence of an experience.  Numinosum is the religion creating archetype in the psyche; the god image.  If you have an experience of it, it generates a religious attitude, just by the experience.  You don’t have to have faith.  You don’t have to strain to sacrifice your intellect or your doubts.  If you have the experience, that’s the demonstration.

Modern man is obliged to seek this experience just because he’s lost the [psychological] orientation provided by traditional religion.  Because he’s lost his [psychological] containment in these old myths, he’s in urgent need for a new one.  [Containment seems to equal psychological orientation.]

The Myth for Modern Man. 


What is Modern Man?  ¶¶149-150 of Volume 10 of the Collected Works of C.G. Jung.  [Partially quoted here.

“To be unhistorical is the Promethean Sin.  In this sense the Modern Man is sinful.  The higher level of consciousness is like a burden of guilt.”  Must be proficient to gain the next higher levels of consciousness.

“Unhistorical”—No longer contained in a tradition; his individual identity is no longer propped up by unconscious containment in a religious, cultural, or ethnic identification.  He’s alone and when this happens to a large number of people it creates a problem for society as a whole. 

The Christian Myth has presaged this.  Has the Enantiodromia built into it; a turning into its opposites.  Revelation 12:12.  It predicts that the figure of Christ will be followed by Satan, the Antichrist.  Aion ¶68.  The Apocalypse is filled with expectations of terrible things that will happen at the end of time.  

“The Christian Soul has the sure knowledge not only of the existence of an adversary [Satan; Devil], but also of his future usurpation of power.”

The spirit of antichrist enters history about 1500 A.D.  The legend of Faust arose.  The same symbolism of antichrist.  Dr. Faustus, a very learned physician became bored with his empty life, and he communicates with the Devil, sells his Soul to the Devil in return for magical knowledge, pleasure and power.  He’s granted the power to evoke the powers of Greek Mythology.  Devil allows him to have Helen of Troy as his paramour.  When time passes, he has to pay the Piper, and he’s dragged into Hell.   

During the past 500 years that story has been told again and again and again.  One scholar identified 50 different versions in detail.  Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus of 1592, Goethe’s Faust of 1832, and Thomas Mann’s novel Dr. Faustus, based on the life of Nietzsche.  

Behind the Christian Myth stands the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth.  Behind the Faust Myth stands Dr. John Faustus, a real personality.  Lived 1480 to 1540.  Died in a demo of flying.  Legendary material obscured his actual life.   

Contemporary of: Martin Luther; Leonardo da Vinci; Paracelsus (Alchemist), Columbus, Erasmus, Copernicus, Vesalius (anatomist), and Machiavelli (pioneer of objective statecraft).  All of them partake of the Faust legend. 

Looking back we can see that the god-image fell out of Heaven and into the human psyche.  In the course of that fall out of metaphysical status, God-image undergoes an Enantiodromia.  It turns from Christ to the antichrist.  Was predicted in Revelation 12:12.  From standpoint of Jungian Psychology, this is what happened in the 16th Century.  

Of course, all of the artists and scientists thought they were in  “The Enlightenment.” They didn’t consider their experience as devilish or deriving from antichrist.  Certainly not!  They all thought of themselves as good Christians.  They were excited by the expansion of human knowledge and energy.  They thought that was perfectly compatible with containment in the Christian religion.  But they were wrong.  

History looks different from the standpoint of the unconscious.  Because what the unconscious does at this time is throw up the compensating dream—the Faust legend.  Informs us that what’s going on is dealings with the Devil--dealings with antichrist.

However, no one noticed until about the 19th century, when a few sensitive souls understood there was something wrong in the psyche of man.  Wordsworth confesses to a feeling of forlornness, and regresses to pagan nature worship.  Matthew Arnold, 1851, “Dover Beach”.  Classic 19th Century lament for our lost religious myth.  

Many young lovers of [Edinger’s] generation recited it to one another in seriousness.  But this solution to the problem won’t work. 

And we are here as though on a darkling plain,
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night. 

A Love relationship cannot stand up to the pressures.

That’s a dramatic image of the activated opposites.  It is the problem of the man who has lost his containing myth.  The activated god-image appears as a pair of opposites.  Mephistopheles opened the problem of opposites; Adam and Eve get it by eating the apple.   

Nietzsche announced unequivocally, “God is dead.”  Jung said, “When Nietzsche said ‘God is Dead,’ he uttered a truth that is valid for the greater part of Europe.  People were influenced by it not because he said so, but because it stated a widespread psychological fact, and the consequences were not long delayed.  After the fog of isms, the catastrophe.”

In the 20th Century, it’s a terrifying psychic fact for an increasing number of individuals.   


1. About 1500, the God-image fell out of Heaven and into the human psyche.  It was withdrawn from metaphysical projection, and became available for conscious experience.  This event had a two-fold effect.  On one hand it greatly increased available energy to the individual ego, promoting investigation of previously forbidden areas.  On the other hand, it had the delayed effect of alienating the ego from its transpersonal connection…from its sense of having divine guidance.  It led to the progressive realization that man is an orphan in a meaningless universe.   

2.  This revelation:  Increased power and energy for the ego together with a lost relation to God constitutes a psychological state of inflation and/or despair.  

3.  The collective view is that the last 500 years has been a time of great progress and advancement, and so it has.  But the unconscious as indicated by myth and legend, characterizes this time as a time of the antichrist.  The realization of man’s desperate condition began to emerge in the 19th Century, and reached major proportions in the 20th century.  

4.  It is in this context that Jung and his discovery of individuation emerges.  What had been going on in the collective psyche since 1500, the descent of the god-image into empirical man, came into full consciousness in C.G. Jung.  And that happened specifically during his “confrontation with the unconscious” beginning December 12, 1912 to 1918.  [The Red Book period.]  This period enabled Jung to discover the collective unconscious.  It followed his realization that he had no myth.  This experience was his first step in his discovery of his new myth. [He needed a new psychic container.]

5.  We can now say that what happened to Jung is typical.  The discovery of a new myth or the revitalization of an old one requires that the individual have a direct experience of the collective unconscious.  That’s what will do the job.  

6.   There is a hitch.  It’s dangerous.  It can destroy as well as heal.  It opens up the opposites and the individual can be torn apart by the opposites, unless the imagery emerges that unites them.  The symbols of the Self.  Individuation—encounters the Self and establishes an inner relationship with it.  The lost god-image is rediscovered within.  The word Jung uses is Self.  … Highly ambiguous endeavor individuation is. Self reminds us of selfishness, reminds us of self-centered narcissim, solipsistic megalomania.  Very ambiguous.  Not a good odor in contemporary useage.  

7.  Jung—Individuation is the continuing incarnation of God.  Jesus said, “I said you are gods.” In 10th Chapter of John.   Sounds like pretty dangerous doctrine.  Sounds very similar to Faust’s experiment with the Devil.  Initially a good man; exposed himself to Evil (opposites); and starts himself on the dangerous journey of Individuation.  “What we do when we take the unconscious seriously.”   Jung puts it in very stark terms in ¶41 of Psychology and Alchemy, Volume 12.

“There have always been people who, not satisfied with the dominants of conscious life, set forth—under cover and by devious paths, to their destruction or salvation—to seek direct experience of the eternal roots, and, following the lure of the restless unconscious psyche, find themselves in the wilderness where, like Jesus, they come up against the son of darkness.”

The obvious danger in this operation is that the ego will identify with the Self and succumb to an atheistic inflation.  In fact, that’s a very grave danger of Modern Man.

The contrary danger is that of alienation, a state of disconnection from the Self, causing despair.

They’re really two sides of the same phenomenon. Between this Scylla and Charybdis [i.e. having to choose between two evils; “on the horns of a dilemma”; rock and a hard place] between the two lies the possibility of Individuation, in which the Ego consciously connects with the Self, but does not identify with it.  

It leads immediately to the problem of the opposites, which expose one to severe inner conflict.  If one can endure the conflict of these activated opposites, usually the unconscious will generate symbols of what we call “the coniunctio”, namely symbols of reconciliation; symbols of marriage between the opposites. [i.e. The Woman’s March of 1/21/17 in which people of all perspectives participated.]  

This is what happened in the Faust legend, because the central theme of the Faust story in its developed form [Goethe’s version] the coniunctio theme is the central theme of the legend.  Part I the union of Faust and Gretchen; Part II Faust and Helen of Troy—an archetypal figure.  

“Goethe’s Faust is an opus alchemicum in the best sense.  As in alchemy the mystery of the coniunctio runs through the whole of Faust.  I have devoted a special work to this problem, Mysterium Coniunctionis.  It contains everything which forms the historical background, insofar as this is alchemical.  These roots go very deep and explain much of the numinous affect that emanates from Goethe’s main work.”

Jung’s work, Mysterium Coniunctionis, can be considered as the culmination of the Faust legend, and Jung himself can be considered the ultimate Faustian man.  The book … is an exhaustive discussion of the symbolism of the coniunctio in alchemy and other material.  He saw that as the crucial one which is able to provide the healing for modern man.  The mystery of the coniunctio is the mystery of Individuation itself.   

It poses the terrible question, “How can the individual consciously experience the opposites without being torn apart by them?”  It answers this question by the symbolic imagery of the coniunctio.  The Self in its capacity as reconciler of the opposites.  

On the level of individual psychology:

The most crucial and terrifying opposites are good and evil.   The very survival of the Ego depends on how it relates to this matter.  In order to survive, the Ego must experience itself as more good than bad.  This explains the creation of the Shadow in childhood.  The young Ego can tolerate very little experience of its own badness without succumbing to demoralization.  This accounts for the universal phenomenon we see all around us; the phenomenon which obliges us to locate Evil.  

Whenever something Evil happens, its cause or blame, the responsibility for it, if at all possible must be located.  Somebody must carry the burden of that Evil.  

With maturation of Ego in the process of Individuation this changes somewhat.  The individual becomes able, a little bit anyway, to take on himself the task of being the carrier of Evil, rather than locating it outside of himself for his own survival.  He becomes capable of carrying the opposites.  To the extent he is capable of carrying the opposites, he is thereby promoting the coniunctio in the collective psyche.  

In an early phase of the recognition of the opposites is the “pendulum phase.” The individual is cast back and forth between different moods; moods of guilty inferiority and unworthiness on the one hand and on the other a sense of competence and personal worth.  It’s as though he experiences darkness and lightness one after the other. 

¶206 of Mysterium Coniunctionis:  The one-after-another is a bearable prelude to the deeper knowledge of the side-by-side, for this is an incomparably more difficult problem. Again, the view that good and evil are spiritual forces outside us, and that man is caught in the conflict between them, is more bearable by far than the insight that the opposites are the ineradicable and indispensable preconditions of all psychic life, so much so that life itself is guilt.

May help you understand why Mysterium Coniunctionis is not a very popular book.  But it might give you some understanding what a grave matter it is to really understand seriously the problem of the opposites.  

I think it can be fairly stated that an understanding of the problem of the opposites is a key to the psyche.  Once you become familiar with the phenomenon of the opposites, you’ll see it everywhere.  The operation of the conflict of the opposites in the collective psyche is exposed everywhere.  

Every war; every contest between groups; every dispute between political factions; even every game is an expression of the opposites striving toward a coniunctio.  Whenever an individual falls to an identification of one side of a pair of warring groups or factions, he loses the possibility of being a carrier of the opposites.   

At such times, he locates the enemy, the opposite, the Evil, he locates it on the outside, and in the course of the exteriorization of one half of himself, he becomes a mass man.

Jung puts it this way, ¶425 of Volume 8 of The Collected Works of C.G. Jung,

“If the subjective consciousness prefers the ideas and opinions of collective consciousness and identifies with them, then the contents of the collective unconscious are repressed.  The repression has typical consequences: the energy-charge of the repressed contents adds itself, in some measure, to that of the repressing factor, whose effectiveness is increased accordingly.  The higher its charge mounts, the more repressive the attitude acquires a fanatical character and the nearer it comes to conversion into its opposite, i.e. an Enantiodromia.  And the more highly charged the collective consciousness, the more the ego forfeits its practical importance.  It is, as it were, absorbed by the opinions and tendencies of collective consciousness, and the result of that is a mass man, the ever-ready victim of some wretched “ism.” The ego keeps its integrity only if it does not identify with one of the opposites, and if it understands how to hold the balance between them. This is possible only if it remains conscious of both at once.  However, the necessary insight is made exceedingly difficult not by one’s social and political leaders alone, but also by one’s religious mentors.  They all want decision in favor of one thing, and therefore the utter identification of the individual with a necessarily one-sided ‘truth’.  Even if it were a question of some great truth, identification with it would still be a catastrophe, as it arrests all further spiritual development.  Instead of knowledge one then has only belief, and sometimes that is more convenient and therefore more attractive.” 

Let’s carry it a step further. How can one become conscious of the opposites?  Assuming that you aren’t to start with.  I can make a very explicit suggestion.

You will find the opposites by examining carefully whatever you LOVE or HATE.  Socrates long ago said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  That’s a great motto for the process of Individuation. 

You find the opposites by carefully examining whatever you love or hate.  This is an exceedingly difficult procedure because the inclination to examine does not usually accompany the passions of love and hate.  But, it is in our loves and our hates that the opposites reside.  

The very first sentence of Mysterium Coniunctionis reads this way, and it is the essence of the whole book:

“The factors which come together in the coniunctio are conceived as opposites, either confronting one another in enmity or attracting one another in love.”

So the coniunctio as an archetype is operating as much in fights as well as in loves--by hatreds or by attractions.  Whenever we take too concretely the urge to love or hate, the coniunctio is exteriorized, and the possibility of a conscious experience of the coniunctio is destroyed.   

If we are gripped by a strong attraction to a person or a thing, we should reflect on it.

Jung says, 

“Unless we prefer to be made fools of by our illusions, we shall by carefully analyzing every fascination; extract from it a portion of our own personality, like a quintessence; and slowly come to recognize that we meet ourselves time and again, in a thousand disguises, on the path of life.

“And similarly with our antipathies, they must be subjected to full analytic scrutiny.  We must ask ourselves, “What persons do I hate?  What groups or factions do I fight against?  Whatever they are they are a part of me.  I am bound to that which I hate as surely as I am bound to that which I love. 

“Psychologically, the important thing is where one’s libido is lodged, and not whether he is for or against a given thing.” 

If you pursue such reflections diligently, you will gradually collect your scattered psyche from the outer world, and it this kind of work, which is the work of Individuation, which creates the coniunctio and in the process promotes a net increase in consciousness in the world.  

To conclude:

The world is torn asunder by the strife between the opposites; a state of affairs that’s grown progressively worse in the last 500 years.  This strife between the opposites, what Jung calls “the wretched isms.”  Emerson says, “All men plume themselves on the improvement of society and no man improves.”

As Jung puts it, “If the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption.”  

Jung:  “If only a worldwide consciousness could arise that all division and all fission are due to the splitting of opposites in the psyche, then we should know where to begin.  What does lie within our reach is the change of individuals who have or create for themselves an opportunity to influence others of like mind.  I do not mean by persuading or preaching.  I’m thinking rather of the well-known fact that anyone who has insight into his own actions, and has thus found access to the unconscious, involuntarily exercises an influence on his environment.” ¶583 of Volume 10.

These are the ones who have experienced the coniunctio; who are aware of the fact that the opposites go to make up the psyche itself, and therefore go to make up one’s own psyche, and therefore they become carriers of the opposites rather than exteriorizers of the opposites.

If society is to be redeemed, it will be done by the cumulative effect of such individuals.  When enough individuals can carry the consciousness of wholeness, the world itself will become whole.

Questions (inaudible) and Answer Period:

1.  Guilt is specifically associated with the opposites of good and evil.  The question: understood that anxiety is aroused when one attempts to contain the opposites, but why is guilt aroused?   Guilt is associated with the experience of oneself as Evil.  Inevitably there is going to be a sense of guilt when good and evil are carried, and not deposited in the other person.   

2.  Sword of Islam program—comment on the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and what affect it may have psychologically:  I consider it a very interesting and profoundly significant phenomenon—Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorism that it breeds.  We very badly need a psychological understanding of that phenomenon.  [He was saying this in 1988.]  

It’s a religious phenomenon, even though it is manifesting in the political arena.  That means then that the individuals who are living out the terrorism of Islamic fundamentalism are truly living out with identification with the god-image.  They are sacrificial martyrs for their vision of God.  This has a long history to it in Islam.  You can go back many centuries to the Assassins, who would offer themselves for suicide missions to serve as agents of Allah--Personifications of the avenging angel of Yahweh, offering themselves as a religious sacrifice.  It’s as though the god-image lost by western civilization re-emerges in the opponents of western civilization.  Then the West becomes identified with Satan.  

It’s one more example of how the whole world is constellating into the opposites that are crying out for the coniunctio.  American-Russian; Arab-Israeli; Muslim-West is still another.   All of those derive from the opposition within the god-image.  The agony of the unconscious deity is living itself out in world history.  

3. When the Self unifies the opposites, how does it do it?  It’s very difficult to describe abstractly what constitutes the experience itself.  It happens in different ways in different people under different circumstances.  Our psychological data demonstrates that when an individual falls into a grave conflict, if you pay attention to the unconscious responses—dreams and fantasies—very often symbols of wholeness and reconciliation emerge.  If they’re recognized and taken hold of and given attention to one finds they have the effect of shifting one to another level of understanding and takes them beyond a conflict that was unendurable beforehand.  This is just a matter of empirical experience. This is what happens in those circumstances. 

It’s necessary for the Ego to play a role in this process.  If the unconscious throws up a compensating image, but if the Ego doesn’t take hold of it and recognize what it is it can go by unrealized.  That’s why understanding of this symbolism can be so important.  As one pays attention to those emerging images, the very attention has the effect of bringing it into reality, so the Ego and the Unconscious become mutual partners in the enterprise.  The Ego has to work on it and assimilate it.  It’s a mutual effort.  

4.  What’s the distinction between God and god-image?  I suppose by God you mean the God of the theologians; the metaphysical God.  I don’t know anything about that God.  The only thing I know anything at all about is the god-image, which we have access to by psychological empiricism. [experience]

5.  If one is carrying Evil, what keeps us from murder or from acting out the Evil propensity?  Consciousness is what does it. 

6.  What about the capacity to forgive oneself?  We also need to be able to forgive ourselves.  Yes!  

You see it’s a very grave matter.  It’s easy to talk about abstractly, but to be conscious of participating in Evil is very dangerous psychologically, because if it’s overbalanced, one has an inclination to rid the world of this despicable worthlessness.  

That’s what’s behind a lot of suicide.  There was a very apt image of the Individuation process, which I often have occasion to recall.  It’s the image of a fisherman out in his boat fishing.  He catches fish, contents from the unconscious, pulls them up out of the depths, and he carries them consciously.  But, what if he hooks a fish heavier than his boat.  If he tries to pull that up into his boat the whole thing can be pulled down.  That can happen psychologically.  Moby Dick. You can hook a fish in the unconscious that’s bigger than you are, and when that happens you have to cut that line pretty quick and let that fish get away.  

That great fish that swims in the sea is the god-image.  That’s what happened to Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.  That’s the way it can work psychologically.  

7.   Good and bad are just as good words as good and evil.

8.  Norse mythology had built into it its own destruction—the twilight of the gods.  There may very well be others.  [Inaudible talking about Revelation.]  Jung goes into considerable detail in Aion in talking about the fact that the advent of Christ had the effect of splitting Yahweh into his two irreconcilable sides—his good son Christ, and his bad son Satan.  

The Jewish symbolism could very easily incorporate those two sides of Yahweh in the single image--his right hand of mercy and his left hand of justice.  The advent of Christ split those two sides apart.  For those contained in the Christian myth, they identified with the good spiritual side, and repressed the opposite.  But then, as we know psychologically the repressed always returns sooner or later, and the repressed started returning about 1500 A.D.

9.  Prognosis as to our secular civilization.  I’m no prophet, but I don’t mind speculating.  I have a definite sense that is no more than my individual sense. The long-range prognosis is very good.  The degree of latent consciousness that has now become possible for the human race to experience is an absolutely magnificent prospect for the future.  But the short-range prospects are very bad indeed.  

10.  How does the matriarchal psyche contribute to Individuation?  Masculine-feminine are examples of the same polarity.  Western civilization on a conscious level has a distinctly patriarchal emphasis during the present eon…. Recording ends.  

Tags: Collective Unconscious = Objective Psyche = Archetypal Psyche













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