Sunday, April 06, 2003

A key concept of Jungian Psychology is that of the "Self." Jung writes: "The self, in its efforts at self-realization, reaches out beyond the ego-personality on all sides; because of its all-emcompassing nature it is brighter and darker than the ego, and accordingly confronts it with problems which it would like to avoid. Either one's moral courage fails, or one's insight, or both, until in the end fate decides. The ego never lacks moral and rational counter-arguments, which one cannot and should not set aside so long as it is possible to hold on to them. For you only feel yourself on the right road when the conflicts of duty seem to have resolved themselves, and you have become the victim of a decision made over your head or in defiance of the heart. From this we can see the numinous power of the self, which can hardly be experienced in any other way. For this reason the experience of the self is always a defeat for the ego." [C.W., Vol. 14, Para. 778]

In our "Jung Readings" class this week, we talked about the reasons it is so difficult for the ego to fully apprehend and consider the demands of the Self, let alone respond to them. A full apprehension and consideration would require decisions and responsibilities that the individual is rarely fully prepared for. I found this quote which, I think, helps us understand why our ego development often lags behind the demands of the Self. Jung seems to imply that it is often, if not always the case, that the ego simply cannot keep up, that necessarily the ego must suffer defeat in order to have an experience of the Self. Another way of saying the same thing is that it is impossible to will oneself not to will, which is a precondition to experiencing a greater will.

Jung stresses the need for an ethical, moral responsibility toward the demands of the Self and the images of the unconscious that appear to us in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

"It is equally a grave mistake to think that it is enough to gain some understanding the the images and that knowledge can here make a halt. Insight into them must be converted into an ethical obligation. Not to do so is to fall prey to the power principle, and this produces dangerous effects which are destructive not only to others but even to the knower. The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man (sic). Failure to understand them, or a shirking of ethical responsibility, deprives him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life." [P. 192-3]

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