“A momentous shift in values is taking place today. Dwarfed by the fascination with technology, the wisdom of the soul sinks under the weight of concrete knowledge. Science and religion have become adversaries; the individual, a mere tool for powerful interest groups. Our dual natures are increasingly brought into relief by ideological and political conflicts, the split in our personalities reflected back to us as in a mirror.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.
In his, Psychological Types, Jung traced the symbolic aspects of religious and philosophical ideas to illustrate the historical opposition between two ways of relating to the world: extraverted and introverted. The primary value placed on the outer world of people and objects describes the extravert’s perspective, and the accent on the inner responses to them orients the introvert. While Jung’s description of the types problem in this example is presented as a projection of the poet’s own inner conflict, the cultural parallels are unmistakable.
Carl Spitteler’s, Prometheus and Epimetheus, shows how closely intertwined the processes of individuation and cultural transition are. Jung described the image formed in the poet’s imagination as a uniting symbol, a product of unconscious fantasy aimed at reconciling opposing tendencies. Only a profound existential conflict creates it.
The ancient Pandora bears the magic symbol: “… Pandora’s heavenly gift brings evil to the country and its inhabitants, just as in the classical myth diseases streamed forth to ravage the land when Pandora opened her box.” This is the perceived ‘disease’ of unconscious nature — a far deeper reality than the artificial persona of conscious ideals:
“To understand why this should be so we must examine the nature of the symbol. The first to find the jewel were the peasants… They turned it about in their hands “until… they were utterly dumbfounded by its bizarre, immoral, illicit appearance.” When they brought the jewel to Epimetheus for examination, “his conscience… hid itself under the bed in great alarm...
“Like a crab goggling wickedly and malevolently brandishing its crooked claws, Conscience peered out… and the nearer Epimetheus pushed the image the further Conscience shrank back with gesticulations of disgust. And so it sulked there silently, uttering not a word… in spite of all the king’s entreaties…” Jung:
“Conscience evidently found the new symbol acutely distasteful. The king… bade the peasants bear the jewel to the priests.” Spitteler: “But hardly had Hiphil-Hophal [the high priest] glanced at the face of the image than he shuddered with disgust, and crossing his arms over his forehead as though to ward off a blow, he shouted: Away with this mockery! For it is opposed to God and carnal in its heart and insolence flashes from its eyes.
“The peasants then brought the jewel to the academy, but the professors found it lacked “feeling and soul, and moreover it wanted in gravity, and above all had no guiding thought.” In the end the goldsmith found the jewel to be spurious and of common stuff. On the marketplace, where the peasants tried to get rid of it, the police descended on the image and cried out:
“Is there no heart in your body and no conscience in your soul? How dare you expose… this stark, shameless, wanton piece of nakedness?… And now, away with you at once! And woe betide you if the sight of it has polluted our innocent children and lily-white wives!“
Jung’s interpretation was weighty, indeed: “The symbol is described by the poet as bizarre, immoral, illicit, outraging our moral feelings of the spiritual and divine; it appeals to sensuality, is wanton, and liable to endanger public morals by provoking sexual fantasies. These attributes define something that is blatantly opposed to moral values and aesthetic judgment because it lacks the higher feeling values, and the absence of a “guiding thought” suggests the irrationality of its intellectual content… Although it is nowhere stated, it is obvious that the “image” is of a naked human body — a “living form.” It expresses the complete freedom… and also the duty to be what one is… a symbol of man as he might be, the perfection of moral and aesthetic beauty moulded by nature and not by some artificial ideal.“
Note Jung’s reference to the “higher feeling values” of collective consciousness as distinct from the primal emotions driving the natural psyche: the affliction of civilized man from the unconscious viewpoint is the disease of consciousness, an anticipation of wholeness which lies at the heart of projected conflict. Jung:
“To hold such an image before the eyes of present-day man can have no other effect than to release everything in him that lies captive and unlived. If only half of him is civilized and the other half barbarian, all his barbarism will be aroused, for a man’s hatred is always concentrated on the thing that makes him conscious of his bad qualities…”
Five thousand years of civilization, two millennia of Christian moral ideals, and a century of objective science have barely touched the barbarian in us. He is our connection with the spirit of nature, with earthly reality and all its inhabitants. As we destroy them for our own desires, we also destroy ourselves.