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Reply To: THERE and BACK AGAIN,” with MythBlast author Stephen Gerringer”

Robert Juliano

From 1913-1932, Jung engaged in what he called the “confrontation with the unconscious.” During that ‘confrontation’, he witnessed and participated in many things, and encountered many figures, some emphasizing to Jung that they were not symbols, but were real. The Septem Sermones ad Muortos (“Seven Sermons to the Dead”) in the beginning of 1916 comes from this ‘confrontation’ delivered by the figure of Philemon, in many ways Jung’s spiritual guide. Largely from 1916-1922, Jung learns of the “new religion,” and that his role was to accomplish its proclamation. In this “new religion,” community is essential.

On January 8, 1922, Jung’s Soul emphasized the importance of establishing community, “otherwise the religion will not become actual. And it should become actual. But it expresses itself visibly only in the transformation of human relations. Relations do not let themselves be replaced even by the deepest human knowledge. Moreover a religion doesn’t consist only in knowledge, but at its visible level in a new ordering of human affairs.” In the Black Books, we see two important qualities to the “new religion”: community and at the same time uniqueness of experience and revelation. Thus, being true to our experiences and revelations, in the ancient notion of ‘religion’ as ‘relegere‘ – careful observation, gathering, collecting, recovering the numinous, and then conscientious reflection on what one has gathered. This is our contribution to ourselves and to the community.

Furthermore, the importance of community is discussed in Philemon’s fifth Sermon. This would come to be incorporated into Jung’s notion of conscious individuation. In many ways, while on this path of individuation, one leaves the community, though, not necessarily physically. Jung found that such a path is often accompanied by guilt. He wrote “Individuation cuts one off from personal conformity and hence from collectivity. That is the guilt which the individuant leaves behind him for the world, that is the guilt he must endeavour to redeem.” Jung saw guilt as relating the pair of opposites of community and individuation, and in order for the individuant to redeem his/her guilt, he/she must successfully bring back “values which are an equivalent substitute for his absence in the collective personal sphere.” This is because “what society demands is imitation or conscious identification, a treading of accepted, authorized paths. Only by accomplishing an equivalent is one exempted from this.” Failure to successfully bring back equivalent values makes individuation immoral. I believe that Jung attempts to strike a good and fair balance between individuation and community by recognizing the importance of both. There are times when individuation might seem to have the highest value, but this is compensated by the recognition that “the existing society is always of absolute importance as the point of transition through which all world development passes, and it demands the highest collaborative achievement from every individual.”

Jung wrote in his Red Book that his task of tasks was to “Give birth to the old in a new time.” He would return from his ‘confrontation’ and proclaim the “new religion,” but do so in a way that was amenable to the thinking and academics of his time. Thus, what he brings back is thoughtfully and reflectively massaged into a form that the community can digest and, thus, is shaped specifically with the community in mind.