The title of Chapter XIV of Liber Secundus, the second part of The Red Book, is Divine Folly. Jung* finds himself in a library, where he engages in a dialogue with a librarian. He summarizes the atmosphere as “troubling-scholarly ambitions-scholarly conceit-wounded scholarly vanity,” which are the very values he has tried to leave behind by engaging with the unconscious in The Red Book.
Jung wants to borrow a fourteenth-century devotional book called The Imitation of Christ. He says this particular book is written from the soul while scientific works leave him empty and sick. The librarian derides his “old-fashioned” choice and says that Christian dogmatic is a thing of the past. Jung protests by saying that there is more to Christianity than we see. The librarian suggests reading Nietzsche instead as a substitute for the religion that has collapsed. Jung replies:
“Perhaps from your standpoint you’re right, but I can’t help feeling that Nietzsche speaks to those who need more freedom, not to those who clash strongly with life, who bleed from wounds, and who hold fast to actualities.”
While Nietzsche glorifies superiority by criticizing Christianity with its shackles of morality and its attempts at keeping people down, Jung states: “I know men who need inferiority; not superiority.” For Jung, liberation from Christianity is delusion.
Jung’s words here are strongly reminiscent of the Beatitudes, which are the eight blessings Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the Earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I am currently reading a wonderful book written by Eugene Drewermann, a former Catholic priest, who integrates Christianity with depth psychology. The book Worte der Freiheit: Die Seligpreisungen Jesu (Words of Freedom: The Beatitudes of Jesus) proposes that the eight blessings capture the true beauty and the true spirit of Christianity. To be poor in spirit means to free oneself from the trap of superiority and acknowledge one’s limits, humility and weakness. The terror of efficiency and the constant busyness mask our inner emptiness and existential void. At the same time of us are hungry and thirsty to start a real, proper life, says Drewermann in his book.
Jung ponders in this chapter what it truly means to imitate Christ, who himself emulated no one, and comes up with a paradox:
“If I thus truly imitate Christ, I do not imitate anyone, I emulate no one, but go my own way, …”
Sanford L. Drob reminds us that Jung has written extensively on imitation. (1) In CW 7 (Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, par. 242) Jung wrote:
“Human beings have one faculty which, though it is of the greatest utility for collective purposes, is most pernicious for individuation, and that is the faculty of imitation. Collective psychology cannot dispense with imitation, for without it all mass organizations, the State and the social order, are impossible. Society is organized, indeed, less by law than by the propensity to imitation, implying equally suggestibility, suggestion, and mental contagion. But we see every day how people use, or rather abuse, the mechanism of imitation for the purpose of personal differentiation: they are content to ape some eminent personality, some striking characteristic or mode of behaviour, thereby achieving an outward distinction from the circle in which they move. We could almost say that as a punishment for this the uniformity of their minds with those of their neighbours, already real enough, is intensified into an unconscious, compulsive bondage to the environment. As a rule these specious attempts at individual differentiation stiffen into a pose, and the imitator remains at the same level as he always was, only several degrees more sterile than before. To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.”
Imitating Christ means for Jung not imitating any sterile and lifeless social structures but “to return to simple life.” The humble and everyday life right beneath our feet can solve more than thinking can.
(1) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012, pp. 132-133
* Throughout the series I refer to the “I” of The Red Book as Jung, though it is not completely accurate to equate the narrator of The Red Book with Jung.
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