Jung on Having Hope for the Future

Sue Mehrtens is the author of this and all the other blog essays on this site. The opinions expressed in these essays are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Jungian Center faculty or Board members.  Honesty, as well as professional courtesy, require that you give proper attribution to the author if you post this essay elsewhere.

 

 

Jung on Having Hope for the Future

 

 

“… much of the evil in the world comes from the fact that man in general is hopelessly unconscious, as it is also true that with increasing insight we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves in the same way that science enables us to deal effectively with injuries inflicted from without.”

Jung (1933)[1]

 

“… it is the task of humanity to endure this conflict until the time or turning-point is reached where good and evil begin to relativize themselves, to doubt themselves, and the cry is raised for a morality ‘beyond good and evil.’ … This only becomes possible with cooler assessment of the relative value of good and the relative non-value of evil…. The unspeakable conflict posited by duality resolves itself in a fourth principle, which restores the unity of the first and its full development.”

Jung (1948)[2]

 

“… the more the libido is invested – or, to be more accurate, invests itself – in the unconscious, the greater becomes its influence or potency: all the rejected, disused, outlived functional possibilities that have been lost for generations come to life again and begin to exert an ever-increasing influence on the conscious mind, despite its desperate struggles to gain insight into what is happening. The saving factor is the symbol, which embraces both conscious and unconscious and unites them.”

Jung (1949)[3]

 

“When the time is fulfilled a new orientation will irresistibly break through,… A thing unheard-of before.”

 

Jung (1953)[4]

 

“It seems to me that nothing essential has ever been lost, because its matrix is ever-present within us and from this it can be and will be reproduced if needed. But only those can recover it who have learned the art of averting their eyes from the blinding light of current opinions, and close their ears to the noise of ephemeral slogans.”

Jung (1960)[5]

 

“When the confusion is at its height a new Revelation comes, …”

Jung (1929)[6]

 

“Evil,” “unspeakable conflict,” “desperate struggles”–Jung certainly did not mince words when he considered the nature of our time and what we would be dealing with as the old Piscean Age gave way to the new Aquarian era. Yet, at the same time that he was honest in apprizing us of our challenges, he offers us comfort and encouragement to have hope. This essay examines both these issues–Jung’s understanding of our time, and his reasons for hope, along with his advice on the positive things we can do now to address the challenges of the transition.

 

Jung on Our Time

 

Transitions from one aeon to another are always “melancholy” times,[7] Jung felt. “Melancholy” comes from the Greek word for “black,”[8] reflecting the black moods and depressions that mark periods of major change, both in the individual and in the collective geist. There can be no change more major than a shift from one aeon to another: No aspect of life is unaffected,[9] and no person is unaware of ambient anxiety or unease. As Jung saw it “In the threatening situation of the world today, … people are beginning to see that everything is at stake,…”.[10] “Truly apocalyptic possibilities”[11] seem to confront us on all sides, tensions seem to increase by the day, and emotions seem to grow more intense with every news cycle.

Our erstwhile leaders offer no help; quite the contrary, they make it harder for individuals to gain insight into what is really going on:

“… 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.”[12]

In the face of the “monstrous forces”[13] that we face today, Jung saw “modern man [chilled] with fear and [paralyzed in] his faith in the lasting effectiveness of social and political measures…”.[14] When politicians seem unable to achieve any sort of compromise to legislate, and presidents focus their energies on personal aggrandizement and narcissistic rallies, how could anyone retain faith in the political process?

Jung would be utterly appalled at our current phenomenon of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” but he would not be surprised at the grave condition of our ethics, since he recognized that with “the decline of Christianity,… the metaphysical premises of morality are collapsing…”[15] Because “we have largely lost our gods… the actual condition of our religion does not offer an efficacious answer to the world situation in general….”[16] Far from offering hope or help, the religions of the world seem to be the source of many of the world’s conflicts: Sunnis vs. Shi’ites, Buddhists vs. Muslims, Muslims vs. Jews etc. Jung warned of the resurgence of a “worldwide Wotanistic experiment,”[17] recalling the horror of the previous manifestation of “Wotan” in Hitler’s Germany. To Jung, such an “experiment” meant “mental epidemics and war.”[18]

As he contemplated the shift from the era of Pisces to that of Aquarius, Jung repeatedly mentioned the Sibylline prophecy that “Luciferi vires accendit Aquarius acres.[19]–Aquarius sets aflame Lucifer’s harsh forces–and, because the Piscean era has been so unbalanced, seeing the Divine as only good, rather than including both good and evil, Jung felt there would been a “dramatic enantiodromia,”[20] entailing a global confrontation with the dark, evil Satanic/Luciferan side which Christianity has denied for thousands of years. What might this confrontation look like?  Jung felt that no longer will it “be possible to write off evil as the mere privation of good: its real existence will have to be recognized,”[21] and doing so presents “truly apocalyptic possibilities” before which “mankind shudders.”[22] Science and technology offer scant refuge, with daily reports of global warming, growing ineffectiveness of the antibiotic armamentarium, pandemic reports, and repeated instances of global cyberattacks.

 

Sources for Hope

 

On so many fronts our contemporary reality seems bleak, but Jung did not despair, because, in the midst of all the negatives, he saw positive developments too, e.g. the “rapid and worldwide growth of a psychological interest…”[23] which suggested to him that “modern man is turning his attention from outward material things to his own inner processes.”[24] in the expectation that “something from the psyche”[25] might help us deal with the challenges that beset us. These challenges, while unwanted and unpleasant, are working “fateful transformations” in us–changes that have a “numinous character,”[26] which “can take the form of conversions, illuminations, emotional shocks, blows of fate, religious or mystical experiences, or their equivalents.”[27] Often such experiences are hard to understand or talk about, but Jung felt that psychology can provide a “translation of the unconscious into a communicable language,”[28] and when this is successful, “it has a redeeming effect” by releasing the “driving forces locked up in the unconscious”[29] and “canalizing” them in productive directions. This might be why we have seen growing interest in Jung and his brand of psychology in recent years.

Jung also saw the interest in space exploration and reports of UFOs as indicators of a desire to transcend our mundane situation and “learn something essential about ourselves.”[30] Jung lived in the very beginning of the “space race” and did not live to see Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon,[31] but he understood the hopefulness embodied in the whole desire of “empirical man [to] extend beyond his conscious boundaries”[32] so as to give “his life and fate… far more than personal meaning.”[33] By questing into outer space we are attracting “the interests of ‘another world;’…”[34] and all the reports of UFO sightings seemed to Jung to be indicators of psychic developments characteristic of the aeonic shift.[35]

Jung saw hope in the universality of the archetypes. By “universality” Jung meant that an archetype–like the Self–is “identical with itself all ways and anywhere, [and] is influenced as a whole, i.e. simultaneously and everywhere.”[36] What this means, in terms of hope, is that “no matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you.”[37] We will know we are not alone, not singular in our concerns and values, and will gain comfort and security in this awareness.

Another source of hope lies in art. Jung knew that “all art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconscious,”[38] and so can help us prepare for the future. Artists of all types–painters, sculptors, writers, dramatists, composers–are attuned to societal energies in sensitive ways that anticipate psychic developments, as well as giving life to creative energies. Jung encouraged people’s creativity, especially in the form of creating more consciousness.[39] The more we can be conscious as we move more deeply into the transition, the more effectively we will be able to grapple with its challenges, and the more positive an impact we will have on our society.

As things fall apart and conditions get chaotic, no one will know “where a helpful solution is to come from.”[40] Jung knew such solutions would not come from the logical, rational analyses of scientists, technologists or “quants,”[41] but from “something greater”[42] than our ego minds. The ego is too limited, too left-brained, and too likely to be overwhelmed as “the symptoms of … disunity multiply and there is a growing danger of inundation and destruction…”.[43] Even now we are hearing bizarre suggestions from technologists and scientists about how to respond to global warming, e.g. “geoengineering.”[44]

Jung would not be impressed, for he understood that all the while, “the symbol is developing that is destined to resolve the conflict.”[45] But it would be the tertium non datur,[46] that is, the non-rational solution that comes from the Self, the “something greater” that the ego mind cannot foresee, command, “figure out,” or control. This new “Revelation”[47] or “orientation”[48] “embraces both conscious and unconscious and unites them.”[49] It resolves the tension of opposites and “expresses the whole man.”[50] On the collective level, it resolves conflicts and breaks through diplomatic impasses.

 

Jung’s Advice

 

So there’s no use trying to “figure out” our global dilemma. Does this mean we can do nothing in the face of our current situation? Not at all. Jung offers many suggestions on how we might usefully engage on both the personal and collective levels.

On the personal level. This was the most important level, according to Jung, for he recognized that the only thing we can change is ourselves, and only by changing ourselves can we hope to have a positive impact on the collective. We can’t look to philosophers, economists, or politicians for answers. Our “vision will become clear only when [we] can look into [our] own heart.”[51] and “avert [our] eyes from the blinding light of current opinions, and close [our] ears to the noise of ephemeral slogans.”[52] Our problems will be solved “… only by the individual human being, via his experience of the living spirit,…”[53] In response to individuals who wrote to Jung for advice on how to grapple with life, Jung was explicit: “… you must look at everything and think about it and communicate with the heaven that dwells deep within… and listen inwardly for a word to come. At the same time organize your outward life properly so that your voice carries weight.”[54] Jung was gratified to see “the rapid and worldwide growth of a psychological interest over the last two decades [which] shows unmistakably that modern man is turning his attention from outward material things to his own inner processes.”[55]

Such attention would make possible another recommendation Jung made to those who asked him what they might do to make a positive contribution to the world. He said: “‘Become what you have always been,’ namely, the wholeness which we have lost in the midst of our civilized, conscious existence, wholeness which we always were without knowing it….”[56]

Working toward our wholeness is one definition of Jung’s concept of “individuation,” and part of individuating involves taking back projections and integrating the shadow. Jung reminds us “that much of the evil in the world comes from the fact that man in general is hopelessly unconscious, as it is also true that with increasing insights we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves.”[57] So, while we stand aghast at some of the news coming out of Washington, we should look within and wise up to our own shadow side.

On the collective level. Even as he urged individuals to “find a new religious attitude,”[58] by which he meant “a new realization of our dependence upon superior dominance,”[59] Jung anticipated the call for a “secular ethics,” i.e. a “morality ‘beyond good and evil.'”[60] much like what the Dalai Lama has called for. Both the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu recognize that religions have not been playing a very positive role in our global life, and need not be the basis for a viable, global ethics.[61] Jung would encourage us to support such an ethics, and to handle “hot” issues (those that stir up powerful emotions) with “cooler assessment of the relative value of good and the relative non-value of evil…”[62]

Jung anticipated that conditions will worsen before they get better. As things deteriorate we would do well to stay in touch with our emotions,[63] rather than succumb to the temptation to deny or repress our fears and insecurities. This emotional awareness is part of what it means to be conscious, and Jung urged people not to repress the powerful emotions that are likely to arise amid “psychic epidemics.”[64] Rather, by keeping such emotions in consciousness, we can lessen their potential to take us over, or destroy us. Jung goes so far as to suggest that a powerful emotion might make us “whole,”[65] or provide us with a new “source of power.”[66]

 

Why Hope?

 

Why hold a hopeful attitude as things fall apart? We must remember the old adages that “Reality grows where attention goes” and “What you focus on, you get more of.” By being hopeful, rather than falling into despair, we choose a more positive response to life, and are likely to bring more positives into our lives than negatives.

Another reason to choose hope over despair is from Jung: “… be aware of the law of synchronicity. As the old Chinese saying goes: ‘the right man sitting in his house and thinking the right thought will be heard 100 miles away.’ Neither propaganda nor exhibitionist confessions are needed.”[67] “Thinking the right thought” means being hopeful, positive, sure in our trust in the Self, and confident that we will be guided by our inner wisdom, as we turn within and take the time to listen to it. While it might not seem very “activist” to sit at home and “think the right thought,” cutting-edge field theory[68] is proving that we can have a powerful impact on our world by the energies that we put out by our thoughts and meditations.[69]

 

Conclusion

 

As we move through the turbulent times ahead, we should remember that Jung foresaw this transitional time, with all its challenges. He knew we would face numerous crises, and that we would have powerful inner resources we could draw upon to become more conscious and more adept in addressing these crises. He also knew that we would not have to make the transition to the new age alone: We would be able to rely on higher wisdom, the Self, something greater than our ego minds, and he urged us to watch for and anticipate the appearance of the unifying, conflict-resolving symbol that would appear just when it is needed. How we might do this is the subject of the next essay.

 

Bibliography

 

Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu (2016), The Book of Joy. London: Hutchinson.

Edinger, Edward (1984), The Creation of Consciousness. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Jung, C. G. (1971), “Psychological Types,” Collected Works, 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press

________ (1960), ”The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche,” CW 8. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1959), ”The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,” CW 9i. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1959), “Aion,” Collected Works, 9ii. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1970), “Civilization in Transition,” CW 10. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1969), “Psychology and Religion: West and East,” CW 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1965), Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.

________ (1975), Letters, ed. Gerhard Adler & Aniela Jaffé. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Klein, Naomi (2014), This Changes Everything. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Liddell & Scott (1978), A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McTaggart, Lynn (2003), The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe. New York: Harper.

________ (2011), The Bond: How to Fix Your Falling-Down World. New York: Free Press.

Markopolos, Harry (2010), No One Would Listen. Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Taleb, Nassim (2007), The Black Swan. New York: Random House.

Van Eenwyk, John (1997), Archetypes and Strange Attractors. Toronto: Inner City Books.

________ (2013), Clinical Chaos: The Strange Attractors of Childhood Trauma. Toronto: Inner City Books.

[1] Collected Works 10, ¶166. Hereafter Collected Works will be abbreviated CW.

[2] CW 11 ¶258.

[3] CW 6 ¶446.

[4] “Letter to Victor White,” 24 November 1953; Letters, II, 137.

[5] “Letter to Miguel Serrano,” 14 September 1960; Letters¸ II, 595.

[6] “Letter to Walter Robert Corti,” 12 September 1929; Letters, I, 69-70.

[7] “Letter to Adolf Keller,” 25 February 1955; Letters, II, 229.

[8] The Greek is melas; Liddell & Scott (1978), 495.

[9] CW 11 ¶725.

[10] CW 10 ¶610.

[11] CW 11 ¶733.

[12] CW 8 ¶425.

[13] CW 10 ¶164.

[14] Ibid.

[15] “Letter to Walter Robert Corti,” 12 September 1929; Letters, I, 69-70. Jung was not the only analyst of our collective condition to recognize the connection between religion and morality: the Dalai Lama has also noted how, in the past, societies derived their moral principles from religious systems–systems which are now declining in both numbers of adherents and societal influence. This reality has led the Dalai Lama to advocate a “secular ethics” that requires no creedal foundation; Dalai Lama (1999), 27-28.

[16] “Letter to Miguel Serrano,” 14 September 1960; Letters, II, 594.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] CW 11 ¶733; cf. “Letter to Adolf Keller,” 25 February 1955; Letters, II, 229.

[20] CW 11 ¶733.

[21] CW 9ii ¶142.

[22] CW 11 ¶733.

[23] CW 10 ¶167.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid., ¶168.

[26] CW 11 ¶274.

[27] Ibid.

[28] CW 8 ¶595.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “Letter to Miguel Serrano,” 14 September 1960; Letters, II, 593.

[31] Jung died in June of 1961, eight years before Armstrong walked on the Moon.

[32] CW 10 ¶720.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid. ¶589.

[36] “Letter to Miguel Serrano,” 14 September 1960; Letters, II, 595.

[37] Ibid.

[38] CW 10 ¶167.

[39] Jung (1965), 326; cf. Edinger (1984).

[40] CW 10 ¶610.

[41] “Quant” is an abbreviation of “quantitative analyst,” and “quants” are the guys (almost always guys) who cooked up the complex investment instruments that nearly brought down the global economy in 2008. For interesting analyses by quants, cf. Taleb (2007) and Markopolos (2010).

[42] Ibid. ¶721.

[43] CW 6 ¶446.

[44] Klein (2014), 256-290 discusses the dangers of geoengineering in detail.

[45] CW 6 ¶446.

[46] Ibid. ¶68. The Latin means “the third thing not given,” i.e. not given by reason or logical analysis.

[47] “Letter to Walter Robert Corti,” 12 September 1929; Letters, I, 69-70.

[48] “Letter to Victor White,” 24 November 1953; Letters, II, 137.

[49] CW 6 ¶446.

[50] CW 10 ¶721.

[51] “Letter to Fanny Bowditch,” 22 October 1916; Letters, I, 33.

[52] “Letter to Miguel Serrano,” 14 September 1960;” Letters, II, 595.

[53] CW 9ii ¶142.

[54] “Letter to Walter Robert Corti,” 12 September 1929; Letters, I, 69-70.

[55] CW 10 ¶167.

[56] Ibid., ¶722.

[57] Ibid., ¶166.

[58] “Letter to Miguel Serrano,” 14 September 1960; Letters, II, 593.

[59] Ibid.

[60] CW 11 ¶258.

[61] Dalai Lama & Tutu (2016), 297.

[62] CW 11 ¶258. By the “non-value of evil” Jung is noting how the positive (good) is much more powerful than the negative (evil) as we see in kinesiology. Our English “value” comes from the Latin valere, meaning to be strong/well/healthy. Evil is not strong, well or healthy.

[63] CW 9i ¶179.

[64] CW 10 ¶721.

[65] Ibid., ¶722.

[66] CW 8 ¶595.

[67] “Letter to Miguel Serrano,” 14 September 1960; Letters, II, 593.

[68] Cf. McTaggart (2003) & (2011). Jung was way ahead of science in his recognition that archetypes generate fields; for illuminating examples of how Jungian psychology deals with fields cf. Van Eenwyk (1997) & (2013).

[69] Jung and ancient Chinese wisdom traditions are joined in this understanding by the Buddhist practice of tonglen, a form of meditation that takes in the negative and gives out the positive. For more on tonglen, and its relationship to hope and joy, see Dalai Lama & Tutu (2016), 324-327.

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