Archives for posts with tag: richard wilhelm

Worldly people lose the roots and cling to the tree-tops.

. . .

As I see it, the psyche is a world in which the ego is contained. Perhaps there are also fishes who believe that they contain the sea. We must rid ourselves of this habitual illusion of ours if we wish to consider metaphysical statements from the standpoint of psychology.

. . .

It is a question of a change in inner feeling similar to that experienced by a father to whom a son has been born; it is a change also known to us through the testimony of the Apostle Paul: ‘Not I (live), but Christ liveth in me.’

The symbol ‘Christ’ as the ‘son of man’ is an analogous psychic experience: a higher, spiritual being of human form is invisibly born in the individual, a spiritual body, which is to serve us as a future dwelling, a body which, as Paul expresses himself, is put on like a garment.

Obviously it is always a difficult thing to express, in intellectual terms, subtle feelings which are, none the less, infinitely important for the life and well-being of the individual. In a certain sense, the thing we are trying to express is the feeling of having been ‘replaced,’ but without the connotation of having been ‘deposed.’ It is as if the direction of the affairs of life had gone over to an invisible centre.

Nietzsche’s metaphor, ‘in most loving bondage, free,’ would be appropriate here. Religious speech is full of imagery picturing this feeling of free dependence, of calm and devotion.

In this remarkable experience I see a phenomenon resulting from the detachment of consciousness, through which the subjective ‘I live’ becomes the objective ‘It lives me.’ This state is felt to be higher than the earlier one; it is really as if it were a sort of release from compulsion and impossible responsibility which ar ethe inevitable results of participation mystique.

This feeling of liberation fills Paul completely. It is the consciousness of being a child of God which frees one from the spell of the blood. It is also a feeling of reconciliation with all that happens, and that is the reason that, according to the Hui Ming Ching, the glance of one who has attained fulfillment returns to the beauty of nature.

Among the great religious problems of the present is one which has received scant attention, but which, in fact, is the main problem of our day: the problem of the progress of the religious spirit.

If we are to discuss it, we must emphasize the difference between East and West in their treatment of the ‘jewel,’ that is, the central symbol. The West emphasizes the human incarnation, and even the personality and historicity of Christ, while the East says: ‘Without beginning, without end, without past, without future.’

In accordance with his conception, the Christian subordinates himself to the superior, divine person in expectation of His grace; but the Eastern man knows that redemption depends on the ‘work’ the individual does upon himself.

The Tao grows out of the individual. The imitatio Christi has this disadvantage: in the long run we worship as a divine example a man who embodied the deepest meaning of life, and then, out of sheer imitation, we forget to make real our own deepest meaning–self-realization.

By understanding the unconscious we free ourselves from its domination. This is really also the purpose of the instructions in our text. The pupil is taught to concentrate on the light of the inmost region and, while doing so, to free himself from all outer and inner entanglements. His life-impulse is guided towards a consciousness without content which none the less permits all contents to exist. The Hui Ming Ching says about this detachment:

‘A halo of light surrounds the world of the law.

We forget one another, quiet and pure, altogether powerful and empty.

The emptiness is irradiated by the light of the heart of heaven.

The water of the sea is smooth and mirrors the moon in its surface

The clouds disappear in blue space; the mountains shine clear.

Consciousness reverts to contemplation; the moon-disk rests alone.’

How did this effect come about? To understand or explain the detachment described in the text, our mentality requires a somewhat roundabout approach. There is no use in our miicking Eastern sensibility; for nothing would be more childish than to wish to aestheticize a psychic condition such as this.

This detachment is something I am familiar with in my practice; it is the therapeutic effect par excellence, for which I labour with my students and patients, that is, the dissolution of participation mystique. With a stroke of genius, Levy-Bruhl has established participation mystique as being the hallmark of primitive mentality. As described by him it is simply the indefinitely large remnant of non-differentiation between subject and object, still so great among primitives that it cannot fail to strike European man, identified as he is with the conscious standpoint. In so far as the difference between subject and object does not become conscious, unconscious identity prevails. The unconscious is then projected into the object, and the object is introjected into the subject, that is, psychologized.

Plants and animals then behave like men; men are at the same time themselves and animals also, and everything is alive with ghots and gods. Naturally, civilized man regards himself as immeasurably above these things. Instead, often he is identified with his parents throughout his life, or he is identified with his affects and prejudices, and shamelessly accuses others of the things he will not see in himself.

In a word, even he is afflicted with a remnant of primal unconsciousness, or non-differentiation between subject and object. By virtue of this unconsciousness, he is held in thrall by countless people, things, and circumstances, that is, unconditionally influenced. His mind, nearly as much as the primitive’s, is full of disturbing contents and he uses just as many apotropaeic charms. He no longer works the magic with medicine bags, amulets, and animal sacrifices, but with nerve remedies, neuroses, ‘progress,’ the cult of the will, and so forth.

But if the unconscious can be recognized as a co-determining quantity along with the conscious, and if we can live in such a way that conscious and unconscious, or instinctive demands, are given recognition as far as possible, the centre of gravity of the total personality shifts its position. It ceases to be in the ego, which is merely the centre of consciousness, and instead is located in a hypothetical point between the conscious and the unconscious, which might be called the self. If such a transposition succeeds, it results in doing away with participation mystique, and a personality develops that suffers only in the lower stories, so to speak, but in the upper stories is singularly detached from painful as well as joyful events.

The creation and birth of this superior personality is what is meant by our text when it speaks of the ‘holy fruit,’ the ‘diamond body,’ or refers in other ways to an indestructible body. These expressions are psychologically symbolical of an attitude which is out of reach of intense emotional involvement and therefore safe from absolute shock; they symbolize a consciousness detached from the world.

I have reasons for believing that this sets in after the middle of life and is actually a natural preparation for death. To the psyche death is just as important as birth and, like it, is an integral part of life. What happens to the detached consciousness in the end is a question the psychologist cannot be expected to answer. Whatever theoretical position he assumed, he would hopelessly overstep the boundaries set him by science. He can only point out that the views of our text with respect to the timelessness of the detached consciousness are in harmony with the religious thought of all times, and with the thought of the overwhelming majority of mankind. A person thinking differently would stand outside the human order in some way, and therefore would be suffering from a disturbed psychic equilibrium.

If viewed correctly in the psychological sense, death is not an end but a goal, and therefore life towards death begins as soon as the meridian is passed.

Feminine psychology contains an element analogous to the anima of man. Primarily, it is not of an affective nature but is a quasi-intellectual element best described by the word ‘prejudice.’ The conscious side of woman corresponds to the emotional side of man, not to his ‘mind.’ Mind makes up the ‘soul,’ or better, the ‘animus’ of woman, and just as the anima of the man consists of inferior relatedness, full of affect, so the animus of woman consists of inferior judgements, or better said, opinions.

The animus of woman consists in a plurality of preconceived opinions, and is therefore not so susceptible of personification by one figure, but appears more often as a group or crowd.

. . .

Eros is an interweaving; logos is differentiating knowledge, clarifying light; eros is relatedness; logos is discrimination and detachment. Thus the inferior logos in the woman’s animus appears as something quite unrelated, and therefore as an inaccessible prejudice, or as an opinion which, irritatingly enough, has nothing to do with the essential nature of the object.

I have defined the anima in man as a personification of the unconscious in general, and have therefore taken it to be a bridge to the unconscious, that is, to be the function of relationship to the unconscious. There is an interesting point in our text in this connection. T he text says that consciousness (that is, personal consciousness) comes from the anima. Since the Western mind is based wholly on the standpoint of consciousness, it must define anima in the way I have done, but the East, based as it is on the standpoint of the unconscious, sees consciousness as an effect of the anima!

Without a doubt, consciousness originally arises out of the unconscious. This is something we forget too often, and therefore we are always attempting to identify the psyche with consciousness, or at least attempting to represent the unconscious as a derivative, or an effect of the conscious (as, for example, in the Freudian repression theory). But for the reasons discussed above, it is essential that nothing be taken away from the reality of the unconscious, and that the figures of the unconscious should be understood as active quantities.

The person who has understood what is meant by psychic reality need have no fear that he has fallen back into primitive demonology. If indeed the unconscious figures are not taken seriously as spontaneously active factors, we become victims of a one-sided faith in the conscious mind, which finally leads to a state of over-tension. Catastrophes are then bound to occur, because, despite all our consciousness, the dark psychic powers have been overlooked. It is not we who personify them; they have a personal nature from the very beginning. Only when this is thoroughly recognized can we think of depersonalizing them, that is of ‘subjugating the anima,’ as our text expresses it.

Here again we find a great difference between Buddhism and our Western attitude of mind, and again there is a dangerous semblance of agreement. Yoga teaching rejects all fantasy contents and we do the same, but the East does it on quite different grounds. In the East, conceptions and teachings prevail which express the creative fantasy in richest measure; in fact, protection is required against the excess of fantasy. We, on the other hand, look upon fantasy as valueless, subjective day-dreaming.

Naturally the figures of the unconscious do not appear as abstractions stripped of all imaginative trappings; on the contrary, they are embedded and interwoven in a web of fantasies of extraordinary variety and bewildering abundance. The East can reject these fantasies because long ago it extracted their essence and condensed it in profound teachings. But we have never ever experienced these fantasies, much less extracted their quintessence. Here we have a large portion of experience to catch up with, and only when we have found the sense in apparent nonsense can we separate the valuable from the worthless.

We may rest assured that what we extract from our experiences will differ from what the East offers us today. The East came to its knowledge of inner things in relative ignorance of the external world. We, on the other hand, will investigate the psyche and its depths supported by a tremendously extensive historical and scientific knowledge. At this present moment, it is true, knowledge of the external world is the greatest obstacle to introspection, but the psychological distress will overcome all obstructions. We are already building up a psychology, that is, a science which gives us a key to things to which the East has found entrance, only through abnormal psychic states.

1. The Disintegration of Consciousness

If tendencies toward disassociation were not inherent in the human psyche, parts never would have been split off; in other words, neither spirits nor gods would ever have come to exist. That is the reason, too, that our time is so utterly godless and profane, for we lack knowledge of the unconscious psyche and pursue the cult of consciousness to the exclusion of all else.

Our true religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it, coupled with a fanatical denial that there are parts of the psyche which are autonomous. But we differ from the Buddhist yoga doctrine in that we even deny that such autonomous parts are experienceable. A great psychic danger arises here, because the parts then behave like any other repressed contents: they necessarily induce wrong attitudes, for the repressed material appears again in consciousness in a spurious form.

This fact, which is so striking in every case of neurosis, holds true also for collective psychic phenomena. In this respect our time is caught in a fatal error: we believe we can criticize religious facts intellectually; we think, for instance, that God is a hypothesis which can be subjected to intellectual treatment, to affirmation or denial. It is completely forgotten that the reason mankind believes in the ‘daemon’ has nothing whatever to do with outside factors, but is due to simple perception of the powerful inner effect of the autonomous fragmentary systems.

This effect is not nullified by criticizing its name intellectually, nor by describing it as false. The effect is collectively always present; the autonomous systems are always at work, because the fundamental structure of the unconscious is not touched by the fluctuations of a transitory consciousness.

If we deny the existence of the autonomous systems, imagining that we have got rid of them by a critique of the name, then their effect which nevertheless continues cannot be understood, and they can no longer be assimilated to consciousness. They become an inexplicable factor of disturbance which we finally assume must exist somewhere or other outside of ourselves.

In this way, a projection of the autonomous fragmentary systems results, and at the same time a dangerous situation is created, because the disturbing effects are now attributed to bad will outside ourselves which of course is not to be found anywhere but at our neighbor’s.  This leads to collective delusions, ‘incidents,’ war, and revolution, in a word, to destructive mass psychoses.

The enlightened European is likely to be relieved when it is said in the Hui Ming Ching that the ‘shapes formed by the spirit-fire are only empty colours and forms.’ That sounds quite European and seems to suit our reason excellently. Indeed, we think we can flatter ourselves at having already reached these heights of clarity because we imagine we have left such phantoms of gods far behind. But what we have outgrown are only the word-ghosts, not the psychic fact which were responsible for the birth of the gods.

We are still as possessed by our autonomous psychic contents as if they were gods. Today they are called phobias, compulsions, and so forth, in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but the solar plexus, and creates specimens for the politicians and journalists who then unwittingly unleash mental epidemics.

So it is better for Western man if at the start he does not know too much about the secret insight of Eastern wise men, for it would be a case of the ‘right means in the hands of the wrong man.’ Instead of allowing himself to be convinced once more that the daemon is an illusion, the Westerner ought again to experience the reality of this illusion. He ought to learn to recognize these psychic forces again, and not wait until his moods, nervous states, and hallucinations make clear to him in the most painful way possible that he is not the only master in his house.

The products of the disassociation tendencies are actual psychic personalities of relative reality. They are real when they are not recognized as such and are therefore projected; relatively real when they are related to the conscious (in religious terms, when a cult exists); but they are unreal to the extent that consciousness has begun to detach itself from its contents.

However, this last is the case only when life has been lived so exhaustively, and with such devotedness, that no more unfulfilled obligations to life exist, when, therefore, no desires that cannot be sacrificed unhesitatingly stand in the way of inner detachment from the world. It is futile to lie to ourselves about this.

Wherever we are still attached, we are still possessed; and when one is possessed, it means the existence of something stronger than oneself. (‘Truly from thence thou wilt ne’er come forth until thou hast paid the last farthing.’)

It is not a matter of indifference whether one calls something a ‘mania’ or a ‘god.’ To serve a mania is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is decidedly more meaningful and more productive because it means an act of submission to a higher, spiritual being. The personification enables one to see the relative reality of the autonomous psychic fragmentary system, and thus makes its assimilation possible and depotentiates the forces of fate. Where the god is not acknowledged, ego-mania develops, and out of this mania comes illness.

The teaching of yoga takes acknowledgement of the gods for granted. Its secret instruction is therefore intended only for him whose light of consciousness is on the point of disentangling itself from the powers of fate, in order to enter into the ultimate undivided unity, into the ‘centre of emptiness,’ where ‘dwells the god of utmost emptiness and life,’ as our text says. ‘To hear such a teaching is difficult to attain in thousands of aeons.’

Clearly the veil of maya cannot be lifted by a mere decision of reason, but demands the most thoroughgoing and persevering preparation consisting in the full payment of all debts to life. For as long as unconditional attachment though cupiditas exists, the veil is not lifted and the heights of a consciousness free of contents and free of illusions are not reached; nor can any trick nor any deceit bring this about.

It is an ideal that can be completely realized only in death. Until then there are real and relatively real figures of the unconscious.

The ‘enclosure,’ or circumambulatio, is expressed in our text by the idea of a ‘circulation.’ The ‘circulation’ is not merely motion in a circle, but means, on the one hand, the marking off of the sacred precinct, and, on the other, fixation and concentration.

The sun wheel begins to run; that is to say, the sun is animated and begins to take its course, or, in the other words, the Tao begins to work and to take over the leadership. Action is reversed into non-action; all that is peripheral is subjected to the command of what is central.

Therefore it is said: ‘Movement is only another name for mastery.’

… in content [The Secret of the Golden Flower] is a living paralel to what takes place in the psychic development of my patients, none of whom is Chinese.

In order to make this strange fact more intelligible to the reader, it must be pointed out that just as the human body shows a common anatomy over and above all racial differences, so, too, the psyche possesses a common substratum transcending all differences in culture and consciousness. I have called this substratum the collective unconscious.

This unconscious psyche, common to all mankind, does not consist merely of contents capable of becoming conscious, but of latent dispositions towards certain identical reactions. Thus the fact of the collective unconscious is simply the psychic expression of the identity of brain-structure irrespective of all racial differences.

This explains the analogy, sometimes even identity, between various myth-motifs, and symbols, and the possibility of human beings making themselves mutually understood. The various lines of psychic development start from one common stock whose roots reach back into all the strata of the past. This also explains the psychological parallelisms with animals.

Taken purely psychologically, it means that mankind has common instincts of imagination and of action. All conscious imagination and action have been developed with these unconscious archetypal images as their basis, and always remain bound up with them. Especially is this the case when consciousness has not attained any high degree of clarity, that is, when, in all its functions, it is more dependent on the instincts than on the conscious will, more governed by affect than by rational judgement.

This condition ensures a primitive health of the psyche, which, however, immediately becomes lack of adaptation as soon as circumstances arise calling for a higher moral effort. Instincts suffice only for the individual embedded in nature, which, on the whole, remains always the same. An individual who is more guided by unconscious than by conscious choice tends therefore towards marked psychic conservatism.

This is the reason the primitive does not change in the course of thousands of years, and it is also the reason why he fears everything strange and unusual. It might lead him to maladaptation, and thus to the greatest of psychic dangers, to a kind of neurosis in fact.

A higher and wider consciousness, which comes about only through assimilation of the unfamiliar, tends toward autonomy, towards revolution against the old gods who are nothing other than those powerful, unconscious, archetypal images which have always held consciousness in thrall.

The more powerful and independent consciousness, and with it the conscious will, become, the more the unconscious is forced into the background. When this happens, it is easily possible for the conscious structures to detach themselves from the unconscious archetypes. Gaining thus in freedom, they break the chains of mere instinctiveness, and finally arrive at a state that is deprived of, or contrary to, instinct.

Consciousness thus is torn from its roots and no longer able to appeal to the authority of the archetypal images; it has Promethean freedom, it is true, but also a godless hybris. It  does indeed soar above the earth, even above mankind, but the danger of an upset is there, not for every individual, to be sure, but collectively for the weak members of such a society, who then, again like the Prometheus, are chained to the Caucasus by the unconscious.

The wise Chinese would say in the words of the I Ching: When yang has reached its greatest strength, the dark power of yin is born within its depths, for night begins at midday when yang breaks up and begins to change yin.

. . .

Similar cases of one-sided exaggeration in the conscious standpoint, and of the corresponding yin reaction of the unconscious, form no small part of the practice of psychiatrists in our time, which so overvalues the conscious will as to believe that ‘where there is a will there is a way.’

Not that I wish to detract in the least from the high moral value of conscious willing; consciousness and will may well continue to be considered the highest cultural achievements of humanity. But of what use is a morality that destroys the human being? To bring will and capacity into harmony seems to me to be a better thing than morality.

Morality à tout prix is a sign of barbarism–more often wisdom is better–but perhaps I look at this through the professional glasses of the physician who has to mend the ills following in the wake of an exaggerated cultural achievement.

. . .

And here we come to the path traveled by the East from time immemorial. Quite obviously, the Chinese owes the finding of this path to the fact that he was never able to force the opposites in human nature so far apart that all conscious connection between them was lost.

The Chinese has such all-inclusive consciousness because, as in the case of primitive mentality, the yea and the nay have remained in their original proximity. None the less, he could not escape feeling the collision of the opposites, and therefore he sought out that way of life in which he would be what the Hindu terms nirdvandva, free of the opposites.

. . .

I always worked with the temperamental conviction that fundamentally there are no insoluble problems, and experience justified me in so far as I have often seen individuals simply outgrow a problem which had destroyed others.

This ‘outgrowing,’ as I formerly called it, on further expression was seen to consist in a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through this widening of his view the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a new and stronger life-tendency. It was not repressed and made unconscious, but merely appeared in a different light, and so did indeed become different. What, on a lower level, had led to the wildest conflicts and to panicky outbursts of emotion, viewed from the higher level of the personality, now seemed like a storm in the valley seen from a high mountain-top.

This does not mean that the storm is robbed of its reality, but instead of being in it, one is now above it. However , since we are both valley and mountain with respect to the psyche, it might seem a vain illusion to feel oneself beyond what is human. One certainly does feel the affect and is shaken and tormented by it, yet at the same time one is aware of a higher consciousness, which prevents one from becoming identical with the affect, a consciousness which takes the affect objectively, and can say, ‘I know that I suffer.’

What our text says of indolence: ‘Indolence of which a man is conscious and indolence of which he is unconscious are a thousand miles apart,’ holds true in the highest degree of affect also.

I had learned in the meanwhile that the greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble. They must be so because they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system. They can never be solved, but only outgrown. I therefore asked myself whether this possibility of outgrowing, that is, further psychic development, was not the normal thing, and therefore remaining stuck in a conflict was what was pathological. Everyone must possess that higher level, at least in embryonic form, and in favourable circumstances must be able to develop this possibility.

When I examined the way of development of those persons who quietly and, as if unconsciously, grew beyond themselves, I came to them out of obscure possibilities either outside or inside themselves; they accepted it and developed further by means of it. It seemed to me typical that some took the new thing from outside themselves, others from within; or rather that it grew into some persons from without, and into others from within. But the new thing never came exclusively either from within or from without. If it arose from outside, it became a deeply subjective experience; if it arose from within, it became an outer event. In no case was it conjured into existence through purpose and conscious willing, but rather seemed to be borne on the stream of time.

If one is successful in overcoming the initial difficulties, criticism is still likely to start in afterwards and attempt to interpret the fantasy, to classify, to aestheticize, or to depreciate it. The temptation to do this is almost irresistible. After complete and faithful observation, free rein can be given to the impatience of the conscious mind; in fact it must be given, else obstructing resistances develop. But each time the fantasy material is to be produced, the activity of the consciousness must again be put aside.

In most cases the results of these efforts are not very encouraging at first. They usually consist of webs of fantasy which yield no clear knowledge of their origin or goal. Also, the way of getting at the fantasies is individually different. For many people it is easiest to write them; others visualize them, and others again draw and paint them with or without visualization. In cases of a high degree of conscious cramp, oftentimes the hands alone can fantasy; they model or draw figures that are often quite foreign to the conscious mind.

These exercises must be continued until the cramp in the conscious mind is released, or, in other words, until one can let things happen, which was the immediate goal of the exercise. In this way a new attitude is created, an attitude which accepts the non-rational and the incomprehensible, simply because it is what is happening.

This attitude would be poison for a person who had already been overwhelmed by things that just happen, but it is of the highest value for one who chooses, with an exclusively conscious critique, only the things acceptable to his consciousness from among the things that happen, and thus is gradually drawn out of the stream of life into stagnant backwater.

At this point, the way traveled by the two types mentioned above seems to be separate. Both have learned to accept what comes to them. (As Master Lu-tsu teaches: ‘When occupations come to us we must accept them; when things come to us we must understand them from the ground up.’) One man will chiefly take what comes to him from without, and the other what comes from within, and, according to the law of life, the one will have to take from the outside something he never could accept before from outside, and the other will accept from within things which would always have been excluded before.

This reversal of one’s being means an enlargement, heightening, and enrichment of the personality when the previous values are retained along with the change, provided, of course, that these values are not mere illusions. If the values are not retained, the individual goes over to the other side, and passes from fitness to unfitness, from adaptation to the lack of it, from sense to nonsense, and even from rationality to mental disturbance.

The way is not without danger. Everything good is costly, and the development of the personality is one of the most costly of all things. It is a question of yea-saying to oneself, of taking one’s self as the most serious of tasks, of being conscious of everything one does, and keeping it constantly before one’s eyes in all its dubious aspects–truly a task that taxes us to the utmost.

The Chinese can fall back upon the authority of his entire culture. If he starts on the long way, he does what is recognized as being the best of all the things he could do. But the Westerner who wishes to start upon this way, if he is truly serious about it, has all authority against him–intellectual, moral, and religious.

This is why it is infinitely easier for a man to imitate the Chinese way, and desert the troublesome European, or else to seek again the way back to the medievalism of the Christian Church, and build up once more the European wall intended to separate true Christians from the poor heathen and the ethnographic curiosities dwelling outside.

Aesthetic or intellectual flirtations with life and fate come to an abrupt end here. The step to higher consciousness leads us out and away from all rear-guard cover and from all safety measures. The individual must give himself to the new way completely, for it is only by means of his integrity that he can go further, and only his integrity can guarantee that his way does not turn out to be an absurd adventure.

Commentary by C. G. Jung

Science is not, indeed, a perfect instrument, but it is a superior and indispensable one that works harm only when taken as an end in itself. Scientific method must serve; it errs when it usurps a throne. It must be ready to serve all branches of science, because each, by reason of its insufficiency, has need of support from the others. Science is the tool of the Western mind and with it more doors can be opened than with bare hands. It is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.

The East has taught us another, wider, more profound, and higher understanding, that is, understanding through life. We know this way only vaguely, as a mere shadowy sentiment culled from religious terminology, and therefore we gladly dispose of Eastern ‘wisdom’ in quotation marks, and relegate it to the obscure territory of faith and superstition.

But in this way we wholly misunderstand the ‘realism’ of the East. This text, for instance, does not consist of exaggerated sentiment or overwrought mystical intuitions bordering on the pathological and emanating from ascetic cranks and recluses. It  s based on the practical insights of highly evolved Chinese minds, which we have not the slightest justification for undervaluing.

This assertion may seem bold, perhaps, and is likely to be met with disbelief, but that is not surprising, considering how little is known about the material. Moreover, the strangeness of the material is so arresting that our embarrassment as to how and where the Chinese world of thought might be joined with ours is quite understandable.

When faced with this problem of grasping the ideas of the East, the usual mistake of Western man is like that of the student in Faust. Misled by the Devil, he contemptuously turns his back on science, and, carried away by Eastern occultism, takes over yoga practices quite literally and becomes a pitiable imitator. (Theosophy is our best example of this mistake.)

And so he abandons the one safe foundation of the Western mind and loses himself in a mist of words and ideas which never would have originated in European brains, and which can never be profitably grafted upon them.

An ancient adept has said: ‘If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.’ This Chinese saying, unfortunately all too true, stands in sharp contrast to our belief in the ‘right’ method irrespective of the man who applies it. In reality, in such matters everything depends on the man and little or nothing on the method. The way he acts is the true expression of his nature.

If it ceases to be this, then the method is nothing more than an affectation, something artificially added, rootless and sapless, serving only the illegitimate goal of self-deception. It becomes a means of fooling oneself and of evading what may perhaps be the implacable law of one’s being.

This is far removed from the earth-born quality and sincerity of Chinese thought. On the contrary, it is the denial of one’s own being, self-betrayal to strange and unclean gods, a cowardly trick for the purpose of usurping psychic superiority, everything in fact which is profoundly contrary to the meaning of the Chinese ‘method.’

For these insights result from a way of life that is complete, genuine, and true in the fullest sense; they are insights coming from that ancient, cultural life of China which has grown consistently and coherently from the deepest instincts, and which, for us, is forever remote and impossible to imitate.

We should do well to confess at once that, fundamentally speaking, we do not understand the complete detachment from the world of a text like this, indeed, that we do not want to understand it.

Have we, perhaps, an inkling that a mental attitude which can direct the glance inward to this extent can bring about such detachment only because these people have so completely fulfilled the instinctive demands of their natures that little or nothing prevents them from viewing the invisible essence of the world? Can it be, perhaps, that the premise of su9ch vision is liberation from those ambitions and passions which bind us to the visible world, and does not this liberation result from the sensible fulfillment of instinctive demands, rather than from the premature or fear-born repression of them? Is it that our eyes are opened to the spirit only when the laws of earth are obeyed?

Anybody who knows the history of Chinese culture, and has also carefully studied the I Ching, that book of wisdom which for thousands of years has permeated all Chinese thought, will not pass over these questions lightly. He will now, moreover, that the views set forth in our text are nothing extraordinary from the Chinese point of view, but are actually inescapable, psychological conclusions.

In our Christian culture, spirit, and the passion of the spirit, were for a long time the greatest values and the things most worth striving for. Only after the decline of the Middle Ages, that is, in the course of the nineteenth century, when spirit began to degenerate into intellect, did a reaction set in against the unbearable dominance of intellectualism. This movement, it is true, at first committed the pardonable mistake of confusing intellect with spirit, and blaming the latter for the misdeeds of the former.

Intellect does, in fact, harm the soul when it dares to possess itself of the heritage of the spirit. It is in no way fitted to do this, because spirit is something higher than intellect in that it includes not only the latter, but the feelings as well. It is a direction, or principle, of life that strives towards shining, supra-human heights.  In opposition it stands to the dark, the feminine, the earth-bound principle (yin), with its emotionality and instinctiveness that reach far back into the depths of time, and into the roots of physiological continuity.

Without a doubt, these concepts are purely intuitive insights, but one cannot very well dispense with them if one is trying to understand the nature of the human soul. China could not do without them because, as the history of Chinese philosophy shows, it has never gone so far from central psychic facts as to lose itself in a one-sided over-development and over-valuation of a single psychic function. Therefore, the Chinese have never failed to recognize the paradoxes and polarity inherent in what is alive. T he opposites always balanced one another–a sign of high culture.

One-sidedness, though it lends momentum, is a mark of barbarism. The reaction which is now beginning in the West against the intellect in favour of feeling, or in favour of intuition, seem to me a mark of cultural advance, a widening of consciousness beyond the too narrow limits of a tyrannical intellect.

I have no wish to undervalue the tremendous differentiation of Western intellect; measured by it, Eastern intellect can be described as childish. (Obviously this has nothing to do with intelligence.) If we should succeed in elevating another, or even a third psychic function to the dignity accorded intellect, then the West might expect to surpass the East by a very great margin.

Therefore it is sad indeed when the European departs from his own nature and imitates the East or ‘affects’ it in any way. The possibilities open to him would be so much greater if he would remain true to himself and develop out of his own nature all that the East has brought forth from its inner being in the course of the centuries.

As long as the heart has not attained absolute tranquility, it cannot move itself. One moves the movement and forgets the movement; this is not movement in itself.

Therefore it is said: If, when stimulated by external things, one moves, it is the impulse of the being. If, when not stimulated by external things, one moves, it is the movement of heaven. The being that is placed over against heaven can fall and come under the domination of the impulses. The impulses are based upon the fact that there are external things. They are thoughts that go on beyond one’s own position. Then movement leads to movement.

But when no idea arises, the right ideas come. That is the true idea. When things are quiet and one is quite firm, and the release of heaven suddenly moves, is this not a movement without purpose? Action through non-action has just this meaning.

. . .

‘When the right man (white magician) makes use of the wrong means, the wrong means work in the right way.’

By this is meant the bodily union of man and woman from which spring sons and daughters. The fool wastes the most precious jewel of his body in uncontrolled lust, and does not know how to conserve his seed-energy. When it is finished, the body perishes. The holy and wise men have no other way of cultivating their lives except by destroying lusts and safeguarding the seed. The accumulated seed is transformed into energy, and the energy, when there is enough of it, makes the creatively strong body. The difference shown by ordinary people depends only upon how they apply the downward-flowing way or the backward-flowing way.

By concentrating the thoughts, one can fly; by concentrating the desires, one falls.

. . .

Indolence of which a man is conscious, and indolence of which he is unconscious, are a thousand miles apart. Unconscious indolence is real indolence; conscious indolence is not complete indolence, because there is still some clarity in it.

Distraction omes from letting the mind wander about; indolence comes from the mind’s not yet being pure. Distraction is much easier to correct than indolence.

. . .

Only breathing serves to overcome indolence. Although the breath that flows in and out through the nose is not the true breath, the flowing in and out of the true breath takes place in connection with it.

While sitting, one must therefore always keep the heart quiet and the energy concentrated. How can the heart be made quiet? By the breath. Only the heart must be conscious of the flowing in and out of the breath; it must not be heard by the ears. If it is not heard, then the breathing is light; if light, it is pure.

If it can be heard, then the breath-energy is rough; if rough, then it is troubled; if it is troubled, then indolence and lethargy develop and one wants to sleep. That is self-evident.