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Friday, December 11, 2015

Carl Jung on the “Problem of the pairs of Opposites"





Lecture 10

Dr. Jung: Is there any particular way you would like to approach the problem of the pairs of opposites?

Dr. de Angulo: I would like to begin with them as they appear in nature and work up to them as they appear in man.

Dr. Jung: That would be beginning at the roof inasmuch as, in a certain sense, the notion of the pairs of opposites is a projection upon nature.

For that reason it is better for us to begin with our psychological experience of the pairs of opposites, for we are not at all sure of the objectivity of the world.

Thus, for example, there is the widespread theory of monism, which is a denial of the dualistic aspect of the world—that is, it insists on our oneness and the world’s oneness.

If you hold the theory of the pairs of opposites, you can hold both monism and dualism which will then become a pair of opposites, but here you will find yourself once more in the magic circle of your own personality.

You cannot get out of your skin until you become an eternal ghost.

There is a written question from Miss Hincks which takes us into the philosophical aspect of the problem, from which side I think we will find the best approach.

Miss Hincks’ question: “In treating the opposites in analysis, do you consider them as psychological, or as biological phenomena from which the elements of opposition can be removed, in contradistinction to the philosophical viewpoint where they are qualities logically opposed and therefore irreconcilable?”

Dr. Jung: The idea of the pairs of opposites is as old as the world, and if we treated it properly, we should have to go back to the earliest sources of Chinese philosophy, that is to the I Ching oracle.

Curiously enough, the pairs of opposites do not appear as such in Egyptian thought, but they are a basic part of both Chinese and Indian philosophy.

In the I Ching, they appear as an ever-recurring enantiodromia, through the action of which one state of mind leads inevitably to its opposite.


This is the essential idea of Taoism, and the writings of both Lao-tse and Confucius are permeated with this principle.

We have the I Ching, the source of Chinese philosophy, in the form given it by King Wên and the Duke Chou, who employed a prison term, so it is said, in working out an intuitive interpretation of the I Ching oracle.

Some of you know the technique of the I Ching.

The arrangement is in the form of hexagrams symbolizing the enantiodromia to be expressed.

It might be called a contradiction psychology, that is, while the a principle is increasing, its opposite the b principle is decreasing, but there always comes a point where b imperceptibly begins increasing until it is the dominant.

This same conception is involved in the symbol of Tao, where the opposing principles are represented by white and black spiral divisions of a circle.

They are thought of as the male and female elements respectively.

The white portion, or masculine principle, contains within it a black spot, and the black portion, or female principle, contains a white spot.

Thus Yang the masculine principle, when at its full, generates Yin the feminine, and vice versa.

The Tao Tê Ching is also founded on these principles of the opposites, though expressed in a somewhat different way. I

t is possible that the author of the Tao Tê Ching, Lao-tse, was in some way in connection with the philosophy of the Upanishads, as there is a similarity between the two.


Perhaps among the books of the king whom he served as librarian there were to be found Brahmanic texts, or perhaps the contact was made through travelers.

In Lao-tse the idea of the opposites is expressed in this way:

High rests upon Low, Great Good and Great Evil, that is to say, nothing exists save by virtue of a balancing opposite.

It is the same notion Nietzsche voices when he says the greater the spread of the tree, the deeper the roots.

The philosophical position of India with respect to the opposites is more advanced.

There the teaching is, “Be free of the pairs of opposites, don’t pay attention to High and Low.”

The perfect man must be above his virtues as well as above his vices.

It is again the same idea that Nietzsche expresses when he says, “Master your virtues as well as your vices.”

So in the Upanishads, in contrast to the Chinese viewpoint, the emphasis is not on the opposites as such, but on the peculiar creative process between them.

One could say therefore that the general point of view of the Upanishads is monistic.

Atman is the central thing between the opposites; they themselves are almost taken for granted. Lao-tse on the other hand, as we have seen, stresses the opposites, although he knows the way between the two, Tao, and accepts it as the essence of life.

Still he is always concerned with the pedagogic aspect of the problem; it is his intention that his pupils never are to forget that they are in the way of oppositions, and he has to teach them the things that will lead them along that way.

The Brahman pupil, on the other hand, does not have to be taught these things; he knows them.

Perhaps this grows out of the fact, in the case of the Brahman, [that] it is a matter of the wisdom having been handed down through the caste.

The knowledge of the opposites was a possession of this priestly caste and did not need to be taught.

The Brahman pupil, in a word, stood on a certain philosophical niveau by virtue of his birth and was ready for the next step, namely the thing between the pairs of opposites, whereas the people whom Lao-tse addressed were on no such aristocratic level, spiritually speaking; they were the people of average intelligence.

The legend about Lao-tse’s writing down his wisdom before his retirement into solitude is an example of what I mean.

Lao-tse is said to have left his home on the slope of the mountain and to have wandered west.

When he reached the gate in the Great Wall, the guard recognized him at once and would not let him pass through the gate until he had written down his wisdom.

He wrote it then in the book of five thousand words, the Tao Tê Ching.

This legend would show that the book was meant for the generally learned, not just for a priest class.

The Upanishads appeal to people who are beyond the pairs of opposites.

If you are free of illusion, life is worthwhile and not worthwhile to an almost equal degree, but such people could only be frequent in a class specially devoted to philosophical training.

In those times, what philosophers thought was nature itself.

It was not very intentional; rather, thought happened to people in a strangely direct and immediate way so as to give the impression of being given to the mind rather than made by it.

Of course, innumerable examples of this sort of thing occur to us if we begin to think of great discoveries and works of art.

Mayer’s conception of energy came this way, as though from heaven.

So also the Devil’s Sonata of Tartini.

Raphael’s Madonna (now in Dresden) was the result of a sudden vision, as was Michelangelo’s Moses.9

When a thought or a vision comes to a man in this way, it is with an overwhelming power of conviction.

This, as I say, is the type of original thought.

Today we have lost to a great extent this sense of the immanence of thought, as one might put it, and have instead the illusion of making our thoughts ourselves.

We are not convinced that our thoughts are original beings that walk about in our brains, and we invent the idea that they are powerless without our gracious creative act; we invent this in order not to be too much influenced by our thoughts.

We are in relation to our thoughts a little bit like Chanteclair with the sun: convinced that the sun could not rise without his crowing, he was persuaded once to make the experiment,
but just as the sun came up, so great was his mistrust of its powers, that he crowed, making sure thereby, that the world would not be without the sun that day.

Of course it is quite useful to us to have the idea that our thoughts are free expressions of our intentional thinking, otherwise we would never be free from the magic circle of nature.

After all, we really can think, even if not with an absolute independence from nature; but it is the duty of the psychologist to make the double statement, and while admitting man’s power of thought, to insist also on the fact that he is trapped in his own skin, and therefore always has his thinking influenced by nature in a way he cannot wholly control.


As I said, this original thinking is immediately convincing.

When you have such a thought, you are sure it is true—it comes as a revelation.

This is no more beautifully shown than in a projection; you simply know it to be true, and you are inclined to resent any suggestion of error connected with it.

This is especially true with women, where the projection may not even be conscious.

The unconscious has power to influence our thinking in incredible ways.

Thus I remember once reading a passage in one of Lamprecht’s books to the effect that it is quite evident that man has passed through an age of incest.

I accepted this as I read it, but then I said to myself, “Why is it evident that man has passed through an age of incest?”—and the more I thought of it, the less evident it became.

Lamprecht was no doubt guided in his assumption by the unconscious acceptance of the Adam and Eve myth.

So there is a certain kind of thinking gripping us all the time, and these unconscious ideas act as the players of marionettes.

Insofar as natural thinking carried with it the conviction of natural fact, the early philosophers when thinking about nature had some such sudden revelation, as we would say, come to them, and they took it for granted that nature herself had spoken to them and that they were in possession of a truth of nature, indisputably true. It never occurred to them that it might be a projection, and without foundation in the world of fact.

Thus it was with the principle of the opposites; it was held by the early philosophers to have been given to man by nature.

The legend says of the I Ching that a horse came up out of the Yellow River bearing on his back the trigrams out of which the symbols are built up.

The sages copied it and it was known as the River Map.


We do not think thus, and so we no longer take our thoughts as nature; the very way thought processes work in us keeps us from the notion that nature has spoken to us when we have thought.

But these people allowed their minds to work without control, and inasmuch as the brain is also a phenomenon of nature, it is a true product of nature and therefore contains the result of the action of the forces of nature.

The fruit of the brain is a natural product and as such must be assumed to contain the general principles of nature.

A very wise man could construct the whole world from one apple.

He could tell you the climate that made it possible, the tree that bore it, the animals that eat it, in short everything about it, for all is related to all.

Why then should it not be supposed that the brain could produce a perfectly natural fruit which would reproduce all nature?

Obviously there is no law to prove that this is so, but we cannot assume that the products of our brains do not derive from nature; therefore I see no reason why we would not find
astonishingly true things in the thought of the ancient sages, such as the I Ching represents.

Confucius is said to have regretted not having spent his whole life in the study of the I Ching, and to have said that it only failed him once as a guide in his actions.

Since the earliest times, then, the pairs of opposites have been the theme of men’s thoughts.

The next important philosopher we have to consider in connection with them is Heraclitus.

He is singularly Chinese in his philosophy and is the only Western man who has ever really compassed the East.

If the Western world had followed his lead, we would all be Chinese in our viewpoint instead of Christian.

We can think of Heraclitus as making the switch between East and West.

After him, the next person in history to become deeply and seriously concerned with the problem of the pairs of opposites is Abelard, but he has stripped off all connection with nature and has intellectualized the problem entirely.

The most recent resurrection of the problem is through analysis.

Freud has a great deal to say about the pairs of opposites as they present themselves in pathological psychology.

In a case of sadism, masochism is always to be found in the unconscious, and vice versa.

A man who is a miser on one side is a spendthrift on the other.

We all know the cruelty possible in excessively good people, and that respectable people are so often blessed with hellions as sons.

In the works of both Freud and Adler there is a continuous play of this principle of above and below.

I also approached the problem from the pathological side, first in sexual psychology, and then with respect to the character as a whole.

I formulated it as a heuristic principle always to seek for the opposite of every given trend, and all along the line the principle worked.

Extreme fanaticism I found to rest on a concealed doubt. Torquemado, as the father of the Inquisition, was as he was because of the insecurity of his faith; that is, he was unconsciously as full of doubt as he was consciously full of faith.

So in general any excessively strong position brings forth its opposite.

I traced this phenomenon down to the fundamental split in the libido, by virtue of which split we can never crave anything violently without at the same time destroying it.

A very vivid example of this took place with a patient of mine.

She was a young woman who was engaged to a man whom she could not marry because of financial hardships.

Finally he went away to Japan and stayed three years.

She wrote him the most beautiful love letters all during this time and could scarcely live from day to day so great was her yearning for him.

Then he sent for her and they were married.

Almost immediately she became completely insane and had to be sent home.

So when you say “Yes” you say at the same time “No.”

This principle may seem a hard one, but as a matter of fact there must be this split in the libido or nothing works and we remain inert.

Life is never so beautiful as when surrounded by death.

Once I had a very wealthy patient who on coming to me said, “I don’t know what you are going to do with me, but I hope you are going to give me something that isn’t grey.”

And that is exactly what life would be if there were no opposites in it; therefore the pairs of opposites are not to be understood as mistakes but as the origin of life.

For the same thing holds in nature.

If there is no difference in high and low, no water can come down.

Modern physics expresses the condition that would ensue were the opposites removed from nature by the term entropy: that is, death in an equable tepidity.

If you have all your wishes fulfilled, you have what could be called psychological entropy.

I found, then, that what I had thought to be a pathological phenomenon is in fact a rule of nature.

We are part of the general energic process, and it is psychology looked at with this fact in mind that I have tried to present in the Types.

When I was beginning Types, I had a letter from a French editor who wanted me to contribute a book in a series he was arranging on oppositions.

He sent me a long list of these opposites to consider: action and inaction, spirituality and materialism, etc., but I avoided all these derived or subordinate oppositions and occupied
myself with tracing them down to something fundamental.

I started with the primitive idea of the flowing out and the flowing in of energy, and from this I constructed the theory of the introverted and extraverted types.

As you remember from a previous lecture, I had come upon this notion of a split in the libido at the time

I was working on the Psychology of the Unconscious, but the phrase “split in the libido” could lead to a misconception.

The libido is not split in itself; it is a case of a balancing movement between opposites, and you could say that libido is one or that libido is two according as you concentrate now on the flow, now on the opposing poles between which the flow takes place.

The opposition is a necessary condition of libido flow, and so you may say that by virtue of that fact one is committed to a dualistic conception of the world; but you can also say that the “flow”—that is, the energy—is one, and that is monism. If there is no high and low, no water flows; if there is high and low and no water, nothing happens; thus there is at the same time duality and oneness in the world, and it is a matter of temperament which viewpoint you choose to assume.

If you are a dualist like Lao-tse, and concerned chiefly with the opposites, all you will find to say about what is between might go into his words, “Tao is so still.”

But if, on the other hand, you are monistic like the Brahmans, you can write whole volumes about Atman, the thing between the opposites.

Thus monism and dualism are psychological problems without intrinsic validity.

What we are more nearly concerned with is the existence of the pairs of opposites.

To us, in a way, it is a new discovery that all things are in opposition; we are still reluctant to accept the bad of our good, and the fact that our ideals are based on things far from ideal.

We have to learn with effort the negations of our positions, and to grasp the fact that life is a process that takes place between two poles, being only complete when surrounded by death.

We are really in the position of Lao-tse’s pupils and need to say of the Tao, “It is so still,” for it is not loud to us.

But when we become aware of the opposites we are driven to seek the way that will resolve them for us, for we cannot live in a world that is and is not, we must go forward to a creation that enables us to attain a third point superior to the pairs of opposites.

We could adopt Tao and Atman as our solutions, possibly, but only on the assumption that these terms have meant to their originators what our philosophical ideas mean to us.

But that is not so; Tao and Atman grew, Atman out of the lotus, while Tao is the still water.

That is to say, they were revelations, while to us they are concepts and leave us cold.

We cannot assimilate them as did the men in those days.

To be sure, the theosophists attempt it, with the result, however, of going up in the air like so many windbags, and with all connections with reality severed.

These revelations happened to those people, they grew out of them just as the apple grows from the tree.

For us, they give great satisfaction to the intellect, but for uniting the pairs of opposites they serve nothing.

Suppose a patient comes to me with a great conflict and I say to him, “Read the Tao Tê Ching” or “Throw your sorrows on Christ.”

It is splendid advice, but what does it mean to the patient in helping his conflict? Nothing.

To be sure, the thing for which Christ stands does work for Catholics and partly for Protestants, but it does not work for everybody; and nearly all my patients are people for whom the traditional symbols do not work.

So our way has to be one where the creative character is present, where there is a process of growth which has the quality of revelation.

Analysis should release an experience that grips us or falls upon us as from above, an experience that has substance and body, such as those things occurred to the ancients.

If I were going to symbolize it I would choose the Annunciation.

Swedenborg had an experience of this immediate and challenging character.

He was in London at an inn, and after having had a very good dinner, later in the evening he suddenly saw the whole floor covered with snakes and toads.

He was greatly frightened, and still more so when there appeared before him a man in a red mantle.

You imagine, no doubt, that this apparition spoke weighty words to Swedenborg, but what he said was, “Don’t eat so much!”

Thus did Swedenborg’s thought take on bodily form, and because of being so objective, it had a tremendous effect on him.

He was shaken to the depths by it.

Another similar case comes to my mind, that of a man who drank.

One evening he came home after a very fine carouse, dead drunk.

He heard people upstairs having a great feast, and that he enjoyed.

At five o’clock he went to the window to see what the great noise was.

He lived in an alley with some sycamore trees outside his window.

There he saw a cattle fair in progress, but with all the pigs in the trees.

He raised a great shout to call attention to them, and then the police took him to the insane asylum.

When he came to a realization of what had happened to him, he had finished with drinking.

In both these cases, nature produced a great terror, and though the examples are grotesque, nonetheless they illustrate the point I was making to the effect that the representation that liberates must have an ancient character, then it is convincing.

It must be organically true, that is, in and of our own being.

We know there is no method by which we can force these events, but the world is full of methods to produce states of mind that facilitate contact with immediate truth.

Of these methods, yoga is the most conspicuous example.

There are several different kinds of yoga, those that have to do with breathing, exercises, fasting, etc., and again others such as Kundalini yoga, which is a sort of sexual training somewhat obscene in character.

Sexuality is taken because it is an instinctive condition and therefore liable to induce states in which these immediate experiences can take place.

All these yoga methods, and practices similar to them, will bring about the desired condition, but only if God be willing, so to speak; that is to say, there is another factor involved which is necessary, but the nature of which we do not know.

All kinds of primitive practices are to be understood as an effort on the part of man to make himself receptive to a revelation from nature. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Lecture 10, Pages 79-88

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