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Reply To: The Sacredness of Rituals,” by Kristina Dryža”

Robert Juliano

Kristina, thank you so much for this wonderful essay. Some thoughts:

From January 30, 1916 to February 8, 1916, a figure of great importance in C. G. Jung’s confrontation with the unconscious delivered seven Sermons. That figure was named Philemon whom we might see as Jung’s inner teacher. Your discussion of the one who individuates only for oneself reminds me of Philemon’s fifth Sermon which is, in part, about holy community. Here, Philemon discusses the advantages of and the demands on the individual by the community, and the need for balance between the two:

Man is weak, and community is therefore indispensable. … Absence of community is suffering and sickness. Community in everything is dismemberment and dissolution. Differentiation leads to singleness. Singleness is opposed to community. But because of man’s weakness with regard to the Gods and daimons and their invincible law, community is necessary, not for man’s sake, but because of the Gods. The Gods drive you to community. Insofar as the Gods impose community upon you, it is necessary; more is bad. In the community every man shall submit to others, so that the community be maintained, for you need it. In singleness every man shall place himself above the other, so that every man may come to himself and avoid slavery. Abstention shall hold good in community, extravagance in singleness. Community is depth, singleness is height. Right measure in community purifies and preserves. Right measure in singleness purifies and increases. Community gives us warmth, singleness gives us light.

My comments on this Sermon in a set of notes I wrote on the Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (Seven Sermons to the Dead) included the following: When one is on the path of conscious individuation, in many ways, 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.”

There is a wonderful ritual which is described in the Black Books. On February 2, 1928, Jung’s Soul takes him to the abyss and tells him to describe what he sees. Jung sees an elongated building with a white cupola behind it, and he sees a long procession being led by an old man along a curvy path to the building. In the building, they enact a ritual centering on an “octagonal basin with blue water in the middle, directly below the opening of the dome.” Jung describes some of the ritual – “No images, no inscriptions—yet opposite below the colonnade, sitting, a life-size statue of a middle-aged man— ancient? Looks like a Roman. The train of people move in circles around the basin—singing —what do they sing? ‘Praise the water’?” Then, the following dialogue between Jung and his Soul takes place:

Soul: “Do you recognize the old man?”

Jung: “Yes, it is Philemon.”

Soul: “The Roman is Antonius Pius, the Caesar.”

Jung: “This is incredible. What should I make of this?”

Soul: “Undoubtedly a religious service.”

Jung: “But where? What country? What religion?”

Soul: “Your land, your religion, water instead of wine, bread instead of flesh, silence instead of speech.”

Jung goes on to describe more of the ritual, but two things stood out for me. Jung says that “they hold each other by the shoulder” and that “the water is calm like a mirror and each sees his face in it.” This reinforces, in my opinion, two essential qualities of the new religion: community and at the same time uniqueness of experience and revelation. Earlier, 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.” Dr. Shamdasani wrote in a footnote embedded in this description that in the July 1923 seminar Jung delivered at Polzeath, Cornwall, this theme was discussed and Jung said “When we make individual relationships we lay the foundations for an invisible church.”

This balance between individual striving on their own path and community is beautifully embodied in Jungian analyst Max Zeller’s dream of a new temple which he shared with Jung:

A temple of vast dimensions was in the process of being built. As far as I could see—ahead, behind, right and left—there were incredible numbers of people building on gigantic pillars. I, too, was building on a pillar. The whole building process was in its very beginnings, but the foundation was already there, the rest of the building was starting to go up, and I and many others were working on it.

Max Zeller then recounted his subsequent conversation with Jung:

Jung: “Ja, you know, that is the temple we all build on. We don’t know the people because, believe me, they build in India and China and in Russia and all over the world. That is the new religion. You know how long it will take until it is built?” 

Zeller: “How should I know? Do you know?” 

Jung: “I know.” 

Zeller asks how long it would take.

Jung: “About six hundred years.”

Zeller: “Where do you know this from?”

Jung: “From dreams. From other people’s dreams and from my own. This new religion will come together as far as we can see.”