The prevailing archetype in the West for the past century has been “God against God”. The contradictions will not hold, and a new myth is needed. What Jung saw in Christianity was its potential for the concept of God to evolve. In the Book of Job, God is played against Himself. Christianity, following Judaism, proposes a “metamorphosis in the divine”, and also a terminal paradox – the serpent, the source of evil, offers humankind “increased conscious knowledge”. The paradox of Christianity is thus – the object of religious thinking is to become more conscious of the divine, but the principle of increasing consciousness is attributed to the devil.
Linear, serpentine evolutions in our conscious understanding fall under the purview of materialist science. The reduction of human beings to use value, or mechanical function, has been the direction of Western civilization since the birth of modern science. Now, the techno-A.I. accelerationist wave of the digital era seems on the surface to offer a new myth, but it, as an outgrowth of Enlightenment reductionism, is merely the continuation of the degradation of human beings into infinitely interchangeable machines. It is the completion of Rene Descartes’ dualist science, to exorcize spirit, consciousness and privacy itself from matter and uplift matter alone, without subjectivity, as the final truth of existence. This belief is a deep delusion, but it is at the root of all the modern wisdom, from A.I. to the dehumanizing notion that sex robots could replace actual people. The logic of mechanism is quite simple – it extinguishes the inner life and reduces human beings to machines. It is the psychological incarnation of the “false prophet”.
Carl Jung, at 81 years old, in the now quaint and simple year of 1957, published his autobiography, “Memories, Dreams and Reflections”. The final pages of the book, organized under the chapter of “Late Thoughts”, visits the aged Jung at the endpoint of all his theorizing. He writes of the complexico oppositorum, and the need for an evolution in the Christian mythos. For Jung, the “complexico oppositorum” is simply the reality that evil, or the shadow, cannot be dismissed as a mere side-effect of the good. Evil is a fundamental component of existence. This fact alone places chaos and evil inside the order of God’s cosmos – and produces unfathomable madness and uncertainty among the spiritually inclined.
The Gnostic and Luciferian forces, the chaotic and Dionysian element of existence, along with the feminine, was condemned by traditional Christianity. But there is nothing traditional about Jung’s interpretation – he viewed the Christian relationship to evil to be deeply incomplete and contradictory. Satan is “the diametrical and eternal opposite of the divine world. He could not be uprooted”. Jung writes that “The old question posed by the Gnostics, “Whence comes evil?” has been given no answer by the Christian world, and Origen’s cautious suggestion of a possible redemption of the devil was termed a heresy.” Jung is remorseless toward so-called ‘Christian nations’: “Their Christianity slumbers and has neglected to develop its myth further in the course of the centuries…a myth is dead if it no longer lives and grows.”
The Catholic mystic Valentin Tomberg was astute on some of these questions. He held that a final redemption awaited all burning in hell on the final day – Christ’s mercy, at the end of all matter, the final evolution of terrestrial Earth, is absolute. Tomberg writes fondly of both Jung and Origen, and bases a schema of understanding Catholic symbolism in the cards of the Tarot. The implication of the Tarot’s value is that genuine knowledge of the internal symbolic order of human consciousness is not limited to Christianity alone. Rather, the spirit of Christianity is the development of an eternal myth. The pre-Christian Greek logos and Platonic forms are integrated into Christianity. Aristotelian metaphysics is a basis for much Catholic theology. The Rig Vedas and the Upanishads, as well as the notion of the Bodhisattva, are integrated into Christian symbolism. Christianity did not emerge from nothing – it was a synthesis of all ancient mystical systems. It developed out of the Old Testament and Jewish mysticism.
But today, where does that synthesis stand? Christ supposedly redeemed us two-thousand years ago and yet nothing on Earth has actually been redeemed. Tomberg attributes this fact to the Tenth Arcanum of the Tarot, or “secret”, the principle of Fortune. Fortune is the key to understanding the natural world. It operates by chance, genetic and evolutionary chaos, market failure, rewarding evil and demolishing good with amoral causality and splendor. The world is a giant casino of faceless, depersonalized amorality because it is fallen. The wheel of fortune crushes saints and exalts sinners. The fallen world of materiality, and by consequence, the evolutionary and economic markets that organize the conditions of materiality, are by no means pure – they ultimately answer to the serpent. Success on Earth is ultimately success of the serpent. This, symbolically, is why Christ was crushed and crucified. He did not conquer Rome, the Romans buried him. In this world, he was destroyed. Only in the “other world”, the Kingdom of Heaven, does he have power.
And the “other world” still beckons. No matter how explanatory and powerful materialist-reductionist science becomes, it remains a brute fact of existence that the human mind has experiences which are utterly incoherent when we conceive of the mind as simply an evolutionary tool. Synchronicities, or curious alignments of coherence and order out of total chaos, remain a mystery. The emergence of conscious beings who theorize the Good remains a mystery. The emergence of consciousness and biological life is itself a kind of synchronicity. The laws of the material universe which permit these words to be written is a synchronicity. Everywhere, bizarre alignments of us low animals with the highest ideals of cosmic order are real facets of the empirical world. The fact of mathematics attests to a deep harmony between the human mind and the deepest objective superstructures of the world. Yet, thus far, use value is the only thing that rational enterprise has pulled out of the mind. The wisdom of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis is a tautology – we survive in order to survive. We have minds in order to survive. Yet, survival alone is not the aim of the Christian ideal. Self-sacrifice and resurrection are the features of Christ as a symbol, not Darwinian survival. At least, not in any straightforward understanding. Christ fathered no children. From an evolutionary perspective, he failed.
Jung knew that he grew from “Christian soil”, not secular, demystified soil. Christianity has shaped Western culture. It is at the center of the conscious, subjective, logos-inspired individual of the West. Theodor Adorno, a critical theorist and critic of Western Enlightenment, understood that the categorizing impulse of abstracted rationality is the myth of the patriarchal father, God producing the “Word” out of the void, couched in secular terminology. In a purely materialist and secular cosmology, there is no reason to believe in the coherence of the cosmos as it relates to the human pursuit of truth. An additional spark was needed to create the modern individual, the link between subjective consciousness and the coherence of the cosmos, which we have named the “divine”.
So is the myth not still alive? Of course it is. It courses through the agency that writes these words. What will become of it, no one knows. Carl Jung would be the first to declare his ignorance on the topic. His final thoughts consisted in recognizing deep contradictions and paradoxes in the nature of existence, and admitting that he ultimately was a stranger to his own amassed knowledge, dying a confused seeker. I do not have the hubris to suggest my outcome in dabbling in these matters will be any different. But as the hero’s journey, and the circle of Samsara, and the symbol of the Oroborous all indicate the cyclical nature of life, I have no right to complain. The beginning of wisdom is realizing that the end and the beginning are the same location – and yet, the journey is still worth taking.
Brilliant, loved your article
I enjoyed this well written article. Though as someone who has read Jung extensively, I think saying he died ‘a confused seeker’ grossly misrepresents the man’s intellect and soul.
How would one know he was confused? All indications from his late work, lectures, and interviews tell me he knew exactly who he was, and had experiential knowledge of his spiritual inclinations and his place in the cosmos.
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