Jan 8, 2023

Extract | C.G. Jung Letters, vol. 1

Book Extracts

Psychologist C.G.Jung writes about with the ‘shadow’ personality, which has much in common with the Bull (emotional energies) that Zen practitioners also work with.



Dear Mr. Martin,

It is a very difficult and important question, what you call the technique of dealing with the shadow. There is, as a matter of fact, no technique at all, inasmuch as technique means that there is a known and perhaps even prescribable way to deal with a certain difficulty or task. It is rather a dealing comparable to diplomacy or statesmanship.

There is, for instance, no particular technique that would help us to reconcile two political parties opposing each other. It can be a question of good will, or diplomatic cunning or civil war or anything. If one can speak of a technique at all, it consists solely in an attitude. First of all one has to accept and to take seriously into account the existence of the shadow. Secondly, it is necessary to be informed about its qualities and intentions. Thirdly, long and difficult negotiations will be unavoidable.

Nobody can know what the final outcome of such negotiations will be. One only knows that through careful collaboration the problem itself becomes changed. Very often certain apparently impossible intentions of the shadow are mere threats due to an unwillingness on the part of the ego to enter upon a serious consideration of the shadow. Such threats diminish usually when one meets them seriously. Pairs of opposites have a natural tendency to meet on the middle line, but the middle line is never a compromise thought out by the intellect and forced upon the fighting parties. It is rather a result of the conflict one has to suffer.

Such conflicts are never solved by a clever trick or by an intelligent invention but by enduring them. As a matter of fact, you have to heat up such conflicts until they rage in full swing so that the opposites slowly melt together. It is a sort of alchemistic procedure rather than a rational choice and decision. The suffering is an indispensable part of it. Every real solution is only reached by intense suffering. The suffering shows the degree in which we are intolerable to ourselves. “Agree with thine enemy” outside and inside! That's the problem! Such agreement should violate yourself as little as your enemy. I admit it is not easy to find the right formula, yet if you find it you have made a whole of yourself and this, I think, is the meaning of human life.

Sincerely yours,
C. G. Jung

(Jung Letters, vol. 1, p. 233)

Nigredo the first stage of the Magnum Opus programme, introducing the journey into the unconscious and the engagement with the shadow, closes for registration this Sunday (the 8th) at midnight (Pacific).

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