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The Undiscovered Self by C.G. Jung

Even though Jung is a psychologist I decided to place this book under philosophy because Jung shares in these seven chapters his philosophical view about the dilemma of the individual in modern society.

Jung starts by addressing the plight of the individual in chapter one. He explains that most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities, but that the ego knows only its own contents not the unconscious and it contents, the real psychic facts that are for the most part hidden from them. That causes problems because we are defenselessly open to all kinds of influences. In Jung’s opinion there can be no self-knowledge based on theoretical assumptions, for the object of self-knowledge is an individual – a relative exception and an irregular phenomenon. If we want to understand an individual human being, we must lay aside all scientific knowledge and discard all theories and understand him as a human being because the individual is the true and authentic carrier of reality, the concrete man as opposed to the unreal ideal to whom the scientific statements refer. He warns of the psychological effects of the statistical world picture because it displaces the individual in favor of anonymous units that pile up to mass information.

Instead of moral and mental differentiation of the individual, you have public welfare and the raising of the living standard. The goal and meaning of individual life, which is the only real life, no longer lie in individual development but in the policy of the State. The individual is increasingly deprived of the moral decision as to how he should live his own life, and instead is ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit, accommodated in the appropriate housing unit, and amused in accordance with the standards that give pleasure and satisfaction to the masses. Under these circumstancesCompare with Your Own Identity an Laws of Destiny under Psychology it is small wonder that individual judgment grows increasingly uncertain of itself and that responsibility is collectivized as much as possible.

He addresses the issue of religion in the next two chapters and predicts – correctly – that Communism will collapse from within. He points out that the West has considerable industrial power and defense potential, but that the biggest guns and the heaviest industry with its relatively high living standard are not enough to check the psychic infection spread by religious fanaticism.  The Churches stand in Jung’s opinion for traditional and collective convictions, which are no longer based on inner experiences but on unreflecting belief, which can disappear with time and under certain circumstances. Therefore belief is no adequate substitute for inner experience.

He ends chapter 3 with the conclusion, that common to the materialistic and the collectivist system is, that both lack the very thing that expresses and grips the whole man, namely, an idea which puts the individual human being in the center as the measure of all things. That is because both systems are comprised of hierarchical structures where the individual counts for nothing. Indeed, the self-knowledge or individualization that would produce true men and women capable of standing up to the hierarchy is actively discouraged.

In chapter four he explains that there would be no world without consciousness because the world exists as such only in so far as it is consciously reflected and consciously expressed by a psyche.  Consciousness is a precondition of beingCompare with Quantumphysics under Science. Thus the psyche is endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, which philosophically and in fact gives it a position coequal with the principle of physical being. The carrier of this consciousness is the individual, who does not produce the psyche on his own volition but is preformed by it and nourished by the gradual awakening of consciousness. He reiterates that the individual psyche is always an exception to the statistical rule.

Jung points out that the psychic situation of the individual is menaced by advertisement, propaganda and other influences; and that for the individual it is often difficult to act on his own insight instead of simply copying convention that agrees with the collective opinion.  He explains that people go on blithely organizing and believing in the sovereign remedy of mass action, without the least consciousness of the fact that the most powerful organizations can be maintained only by the greatest ruthlessness of their leaders and the cheapest of slogans. In this context he reminds us that Christ never called his disciples to him at a mass meeting and that Jesus and Paul are prototypes of those, who trusting their inner experience, have gone their own individual ways, disregarding public opinion.  The infantile dream state of the mass is so unrealistic that people never think to ask who is paying for everything.  The balancing of accounts is left to a higher political and social authority, which welcomes the task, for its power is thereby increased.

At the same token Jung warns that only the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself can affect resistance to the organized mass.

He further points out that it is not Christianity, but our conception and interpretation of it, that has become antiquated in the face of the present world situation.

In chapter five he addresses the rupture between faith and knowledge and explains that it is a symptom of the split consciousness, which is so characteristic of the mental disorder of our day. It is as if two persons were making statements about the same thing, each from his own point of view, or as if one person in two different frames of mind were sketching a picture of his experience. If for “person” we substitute “modern society”, it is evident that the latter is suffering from a mental dissociation, e.g. a neurotic disturbance. In view of this, it does not help matter at all if one party pulls obstinately to the right and the other to the left.  A relationship with both sides has to be established instead.

In this chapter he also addresses the specific achievement of the Christian epoch: the supremacy of the word, of the Logos, which stands for the central figure of our Christian faith. No one seems to notice the veneration of the word has a perilous shadow side. The moment the word, as a result of centuries of education, attains universal validity; it severs its original link with the divine person. Thus the word, originally announcing the unity of all men and their union in the figure of the one great Man, has in our day become the source of suspicion and distrust of all against all. In this context he also points out that people think they have only to “tell” a person that he “ought” to do something in order to put him on the right track. But whether he can or will do it is another matter.

Separation from his instinctual nature inevitably plunges civilized man into the conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith, a split that becomes pathological the moment his consciousness is no longer able to neglect or suppress his instinctual side. The forlornness of consciousness in our world is due primarily to the loss of instinct, and the reason for this lies in the development of the human mind over the past aeon. The more power man had over nature, the more his knowledge and skill went to his head,  the deeper became his contempt for the merely natural and accidental.

He starts chapter six about self-knowledge by stating that in order to answer the question if we have an immediate relation to God which will keep us from dissolving into the crowd we have to fulfill the demands of rigorous self-examination and self-knowledgeCompare with To Know Yourself under Spiritual Development. He reminds us of all the atrocities that have happened over the last decades and explains that men don’t deny that terrible things have happened and still go on happening, but it is always “the others” who do them.  But none of us stand outside humanity’s black collective shadow and we have to possess some “imagination in evil”, for only the fool can permanently neglect the conditions of his own nature and that this negligence is the best means of making us an instrument of evil. What is even worse, our lack of insight deprives us of the capacity to deal with evil. In Jung’s opinion people are largely unconscious of the fact that every individual is a cell in the structure of various international organisms and is therefore causally implicated in their conflicts.

In the last chapter Jung explains that the very fact that through self-knowledge, i.e. by exploring our own souls, we come upon the instincts and their world of imagery should throw some light on the powers slumbering in the psyche, of which we are seldom aware so long as all goes well. He tells us that the spiritual transformation of mankind follows the slow tread of the centuries and cannot be hurried or held up by any rational process of reflection, let alone brought to fruition by one generation. What does lie in our reach, however, is the change in individuals who have, or create an opportunity to influence others of like mind in their circle of acquaintance. Jung does not meant by persuading or preaching –he is thinking of the well-known fact that anyone who has insight into his own action, and has thus found access to the unconscious, involuntarily exercises an influence on this environment.

He concludes with stating that happiness and contentment, equitability of soul and meaningful of life – these can be experienced only by the individual and not by a State.