Carl Jung

The Rub

To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub.
W. Shakespeare

I was sitting on the veranda, the winter sun high enough to warm me. I closed the book I was reading – a kindle edition of Stephen King's The Green Mile – and looked into the small forest which began about thirty yards from where I was sitting. I saw a face there within the green. It was unclear, unfocused, so to speak. A cloud-like formation crept from the right to cover it, but then dissipated. I tried to determine who it was, but could not. I thought of Jesus, whom I had had occasion to meet some years ago in a dream. He was in modern informal dress accompanied by a young woman. They were holding hands approaching us, me and my friend John Rogan, walking on the water! That's how I knew he was Jesus. I mean who else walks on water? It seemed logical that the girl was Mary Magdalene, but I didn't really know, just assumed it.

So, was that face watching me now Jesus again, or someone else? It was hazy enough to be either male or female. But if it was Jesus of Nazareth it would have been inconsistent, not to mention ungentlemanly, to appear to me without Mary of Magdala.

The other possibility, although it's not really a different possibility where identity is concerned, only a viewpoint: that my eyes weren't open at all, that I had fallen asleep, perchance to dream. I guess there's the rub, but not necessarily. If Jesus wanted to appear to me it would be easier, more convenient that is, to appear in a dream than in waking life when I could have got all excited and started yelling or fainting or calling the media for an interview.

On the other hand, doesn't Jesus have better things to do than have tea with me? I can't believe he'd be so disorganized. I used to work as a management consultant specializing in organization development (OD). One of my dogmas concerned the need to share responsibility. Jesus is at least second (well, maybe third) in command of a huge organization comprising every person who ever lived; animals, as he once pointed out, are the Father's responsibility. Therefore the angels who, according to those who claim to know, are in charge of influencing individuals and their karma, are divinely organized to make the best of an until now chaotic and often cruel human nature. Some Russian once said that most people are dissatisfied with the suffering of life, but are afraid of death. That's actually what Hamlet meant, for he was talking about the dream that is death. Remember that the speech starts with To be or not to be.


I went back to my chair on the veranda the next day and stared out at the same place in the little forest (bosquecito in Spanish), but did not see the previous visitor or any other one. I closed my eyes in an attempt to determine whether what I'd seen the day before was seen through a glass (eyelid) darkly. No such luck, but I was visited by a myriad of other weird stuff, mostly memories of past mistakes and joyous occasions. If you think I'm talking like a chump (antiquated word for asshole), I suggest and urgently request that you stop reading because it's going to get worse.

In the nineteen-twenties Carl Gustav Jung published an essay titled The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man. While reading it and nodding in agreement, I couldn't help thinking that the problem Jung so eloquently described almost 100 years ago is not only still with us, but has become increasingly so.

Jung wrote after the First World War, but saw no hope that it would really be “the war to end all wars” as prophesied by cynically optimistic politicians. It is the modern human being who, by the very fact of being modern and thus looking into his own unconscious (something he had never done before) is so bereft of meaning that he is capable of anything and everything. “Psychology”, even 100 years ago, had become sufficiently popular to make at least the educated person wonder what the hell was going on in his own interior, in his own psyche. The official religions had lost their authority once it became obvious that they had as little knowledge of what life and death meant as a Doctor of Philosophy or Charlie Chaplin.

Today the churches with their perverted priests, pastors and dogmas, are even more degenerate than they were then. They disgust rather than inspire. Even the sincere clerics can do no more than preach about the necessity of having faith. In what? In what they are told by the interpreters of the holy writs. So this leaves us forced to face the existential dilemmas of human life without the helpful crutch of religious dogma.

Jung: “How totally different did the world appear to medieval man! For him the earth was eternally fixed and at rest in the centre of the universe…Men were all children of God under the loving care of the Most High, who prepared them for eternal blessedness; and all knew exactly what they should do and how they should conduct themselves in order to rise from a corruptible world to an incorruptible and joyous existence. Such a life no longer seems real to us, even in our dreams.”

In place of religious dogma, scientific materialism has codified its own dogma. The Darwinian theory of evolution has certainly become dogma in its dictionary definition: a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

Darwin's theory is true as far as it goes, but who or what is the authority that deems it incontrovertibly true? Scientific materialism itself of course. My only argument is not directed against its observable facts but the benediction: natural selection: “The process where organisms with favorable traits are more likely to reproduce. In doing so, they pass on these traits to the next generation. Over time this process allows organisms to adapt to their environment.” Therefore Nature selects the favorable traits likely to reproduce. And who, may I ask, is “Nature”, by definition capable of considering the advantages of certain traits and deciding which to select to infiltrate the next generation. Nobody decides anything, say the scientists; it's a random process. This dogma is very much alive.

Then there is the Marxian theory of social development. Here the motivational principle is again automatic: economic interests defined by social classes. This theory suffered a blow in 1989 that put it into intensive therapy: the fall of the Berlin Wall and eventually the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, economic growth or lack of it remains the criterion of our times – whether it takes place in a democratic or authoritarian political scenario. The human being, lost in this labyrinth, has lost his individuality and become a mere abstract number in the bureau of statistics. He can only play the role of an interchangeable unit of infinitesimal importance, a speck of matter in a random cosmos. The effect for many, perhaps for the majority, is that life has no meaning.

However, Jung saw an increasing interest in psychology, at least among the western educated classes, and considered it not only positive but necessary. He meant not only the work of Freud and others, but also such psychic phenomena as astrology, Theosophy and parapsychology. He compares it to gnostic thought in the first and second centuries after Christ.

“The spiritual currents of our time have, in fact, a deep affinity with Gnosticism. […] The most impressive movement numerically is undoubtedly Theosophy, together with its continental sister, Anthroposophy; these are pure Gnosticism in Hindu dress. […] What is striking about these Gnostic systems is that they are based exclusively on the manifestations of the unconscious.”

Well, yes and no. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, eventually put aside his Hindu dress and donned instead German philosophical idealism, Christianity and a black bow tie. Luckily however, he retained his strong belief in reincarnation and karma.

“Such movements,” Jung goes on, “have a genuinely religious character, even when they pretend to be scientific. It changes nothing when Rudolf Steiner calls his Anthroposophy spiritual science, or when Mrs Eddy invents a Christian Science. […] The fact that all the movements I have mentioned give themselves a scientific veneer is not just a grotesque caricature or a masquerade, but a positive sign that they are actually pursuing 'science', i.e., knowledge instead of faith. […] Modern man abhors faith and the religions based upon it. He holds them valid only as far as their knowledge-content seems to accord with his own experience of the psychic background, He wants to know – to experience for himself.”

Gnosis is Greek for wisdom or knowledge; science is Latin for knowledge. Anthroposophy is English (and German) for knowledge of man. It seems that Anthroposophy is closer to Gnosticism than even Rudolf Steiner realized, not having had access to the Gnostic Gospels and documents discovered after his death.

All this doesn't tell me who was looking at me from the woods in front of my porch or whether the experience was interior or exterior. But it at least tells me that I'm not alone and that many things are happening both inside and outside – or perhaps they are one. It reminds me of Rudolf Steiner's meditation meant for students of his Esoteric School, back in 1924, about the time Carl Jung was writing his essay about The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man.

O man, know thyself!
So resounds the Cosmic-Word.
You hear it strong in soul,
You feel it firm in spirit.

Who speaks with such cosmic might?
Who speaks with such depth of heart?

Does it work through distant radiant space
Into your senses' sense of being?
Does it ring through weaving waves of time
Into your life's evolving stream?

It's you yourself who,
In feeling space, in experiencing time,

Create the Word, feeling foreign
In the soulless void of space
Because you lose the force of thought
In time's destructive flow.