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from A Walk With A White Bushman, Laurens van der Post (In conversation with Jean-Marc Pottiez), 1986, pp.64-86.
You speak of life and destiny as if they were a chart or a map. You have just now made a parallel between the Earth and the human spirit, as if it were a landscape. How much part of the world and the cosmic forces are we? All I can say in that regard is that I do feel that whatever is represented in the universe around us tangibly and visibly, whether it is the Milky Way, black holes, suns or movements of stars, all are somehow duplicated within, reproduced within. Somehow I feel there is a very profound intercommunion. We may not be able to put it into words. It is beyond words but there is something in me which tells me we too, every human being, is a universe with these phenomena inside. It is also an enormous responsibility because in the beginning things always start as feelings, intuitive feelings, as an intuitive groping after a very fugitive sort of idea; so this need to make metaphors is already a way of beginning to grope with the framing and expression of the great mystery of a new area of human awareness. I think we are all poets and artists and astronomers when we are searching for our true self and trying to express it. Do you think there's nothing new under the sun and everything has been said in the past? No, I do not think everything has been said and rightly said. I do not think we could say that, because in my opinion the story has hardly started. If you look into the great statements of life, the things which you think have been truly said, and then look at them again in fifteen years' time, suddenly you say, `But it means something else! Something was said there which I haven't seen before! So this to me is the element of surprise that always comes later and is always present in great truth. It is never fully grasped and it is something one is always climbing up, or going down into, or working at -- you never come to the end of it. And I think here one is entering an area of the unknown where one follows. I feel very much with Guillaume Apollinaire where he says, `Pitié pour nous qui combattons toujours aux frontières de l'illimité et de l'avenir'. . . (`Have pity on us who always fight on the frontiers of the infinite and the future'). If these `frontiers of the infinite and the future' are difficult to look at and to describe, how can we at least experience them? This mystery of mysteries, what is it? God and love. `God is love.' And for me nothing more beautiful and nothing truer has been written since what St Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians, particularly the thirteenth chapter. I can only tell you that, ever since I was a little boy when I first read this thirteenth chapter of Corinthians -- and that to me is almost supernatural because I am the thirteenth child in the family, I was born on the 13th December (and I am sure if there had been a thirteenth month I would have been born in that) -- it has been to me the most important thing written in the Bible. And it had also a special significance for Jung too. That's right, yes. Could you quote him? I think it's in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, isn't it? It's quite a long quote but I can read it to you certainly. I think it's very beautiful because the whole meaning of life is there:
` . . . the fact forces itself on my attention that beside the field of reflection there is another equally broad if not broader area in which rational understanding and rational modes of representation find scarcely anything they are able to grasp. This is the realm of Eros. In classical times, when such things were properly understood, Eros was considered a god whose divinity transcended our human limits, and who therefore could neither be comprehended nor represented in any way. I might, as many before me have attempted to do, venture an approach to this daimon, whose range of activity extends from the endless spaces of the heavens to the dark abysses of hell; but I falter before the task of finding the language which might adequately express the incalculable paradoxes of love. Eros is a kosmogonos, a creator and father-mother of all higher consciousness. I sometimes feel that Paul's words -- "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love" -- might well be the first condition of all cognition and the quintessence of divinity itself. Whatever the learned interpretation may be of the sentence "God is love", the words affirm the complexio oppositorum of the Godhead. In my medical experience as well as in my own life I have again and again been faced with the mystery of love, and have never been able to explain what it is. Like Job, I had to "lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer" (Job 40:4f). Here is the greatest and smallest, the remotest and nearest, the highest and lowest, and we cannot discuss one side of it without also discussing the other. No language is adequate to this paradox. Whatever one can say, no words express the whole. To speak of partial aspects is always too much or too little, for only the whole is meaningful. Love "bears all things" and "endures all things" (I Cor. 13:7). These words say all there is to be said; nothing can be added to them. For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic "love". I put the word in quotation marks to indicate that I do not use it in its connotations of desiring, preferring, favouring, wishing, and similar feelings, but as something superior to the individual, a unified and undivided whole. Being a part, man cannot grasp the whole. He is at its mercy. He may assent to it, or rebel against it; but he is always caught up by it and enclosed within it. He is dependent upon it and is sustained by it. Love is his fight and his darkness, whose end he cannot see. "Love ceases not" -- whether he speaks with the "tongues of angels", or with scientific exactitude traces the life of the cell down to its uttermost sources. Man can try to name love, showering upon it all the names at his command, and still he will involve himself in endless self-deceptions. If he possesses a grain of wisdom, he will lay down his arms and name the unknown by the more unknown, ignotum per ignotius -- that is, by the name of God. That is a confession of his subjection, his imperfection, and his dependence; but at the same time a testimony to his freedom to choose between truth and error.'And I find in this the key to all Jung's seeking, to all his work. From beginning to end it was a labour of love. Love is a mystery and ultimately, for us men especially, it is a feminine mystery for our guide, our way to it, is always through the great objective feminine. I have always said that as a natural scientist Jung made the journey which Dante undertook as a poet in The Divine Comedy. At the end of both journeys, as they both were in the presence of God, they experience what all the traffic and travail of life and creation has been about -- this love, which for Dante joins intellect and feeling and reveals itself as that which `moves the sun and the moon and all the other stars' and for Jung it is the divine gift of God to man, the awesome freedom to choose between truth and error. Dante's guide was a beautiful feminine face -- Jung's the rejected, the despised, the suppressed, the metaphorically `dirty and ugly and averted face of woman'. By looking for the meaning in the fantasies of a certain permanently alienated Miss Miller, or of Babette, committed to an asylum whom Freud dismissed as an `ugly old woman', as well as in the lives of hundreds of others, he was led into and safely through the depths of his own hell, to become, like Dante, a freeman of creation and, as Dante had done, reintegrated for the future the scattered and neglected, trampled and bruised fragments of the life of our disintegrated time. This was Jung's ultimate achievement that, like Dante, he achieved a condition within himself of a total objective love. The totality is proved in that it included the ugly as well as the beautiful. Dante followed a beautiful feminine face, and that is perhaps the easy way for a man; but Jung followed the face of a woman of whom Freud said he could not understand how Jung could waste his time with such a disagreeable person. That is one measure of the innate distance between the two men. Jung thought that to understand was `beauty' of a transcendent kind because from the beginning his nature had so predisposed him that he had to live his life in love, in search of a cosmogonic love that included all, and I for one believe he found it not only for himself but for us all and showed us the way and means to do likewise for ourselves and our time. Now also in the same chapter Jung refers to St Paul, who wrote, `When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away childish things.' And that seemed so true because as a boy I knew that one day, very soon, I too would have to put away childish things. And this concept of love, of which a lot of people have a sentimental idea, is to me not sentimental but the most heroic of all concepts, because it is a call to battle. I am sure you still hear Jung's voice ringing in your ears. What do you think his tone would be if he were reading this instead of writing it? Would it be a sad tone? No, it was quite different. When Jung talked about these things you felt the weight of the mystery in him. His voice would get very deep, and he always tended to talk as a person who is on the frontiers of our world and our knowledge where these things weighed very deeply and where anything could happen at any moment. On the whole, was he an enlightened pessimist or a sober optimist? No, neither. He was different, you see. I think he summed it up, as he would, very modestly. He said that he thought on the whole that life was on the side of meaning as opposed to meaninglessness. He believed in life and he certainly was not despairing. I do not think he would have done what he did in his life if he had been motivated by despair. On the contrary, one of the things about hope is that hope fears all things but at the same time hope ceases not. In Jung, you see, the hope was strong because love is hope. Love is the hope that ceases not, and ultimately love is certainty. At this stage of human evolution what do you think will be the next big event, the next encounter between God and man? Well, I don't know -- one's got some inkling about it -- I believe very profoundly myself that I can see it at this stage -- the feeling comes to me in the following way. I hear people everywhere saying that the trouble with our time is that we have no great leaders any more. If we look back we always had them. But to me it seems there is a very profound reason why there are no great leaders any more. It is because they are no longer needed. The message is clear. You no longer want to be led from the outside. Every man must be his own leader. He now knows enough not to follow other people. He must follow the light that's within himself, and through this fight he will create a new community. You see, wherever I go in the world, this to me is a general trend. I am aware of the fact there are already people in existence today -- take us -- who really belong to a community which does not exist yet. That is, we are the bridge between the community we've left and the community which doesn't exist yet. In this future community, how shall we be ruled and governed? By a group of wise men? I do not think it can be that. It has got to come through the creation of more and more individuals who will take upon themselves the task of leading themselves, and to the extent to which we can lead ourselves properly and decently other men will follow. It cannot come collectively, it cannot come through groups; not yet, if ever. You say that as if you were not quite sure. That `if ever' seems to strike an almost pessimistic note, compared with what you have been saying. No, it is not that. I am never in doubt when I think about the wider plan of life. If I have any doubts at all they are, as it were, tactical; but never in the strategic outcome of life. No, it was merely that I have been thinking about the extraordinary feelings of fear and helplessness that I encounter increasingly on the collective level as I go around the world. I think it was characteristic of the generation into which I was born that we were just as afflicted by doubt over the values and condition of our societies. We too felt that the world was in many ways terribly, terribly wrong; but at the same time we had a sort of instinctive feeling that we could go out and change it; and I have never wavered in that feeling. If anything, it has gathered pace and force in new dimensions. But now I meet many groups of people who five in a kind of dumb despair and state of helplessness, and it seems so unnecessary: if only people would stop cutting themselves off from their natural instincts and intuition, and increasing the divide between themselves and their own predisposed natures. But this really rounds the whole circle and brings us back to our discussion about God; I feel the theme needs orchestration, even at the cost of repeating some of the basic notes. I am certain that if only man could increase his awareness and renew his relationship with this whole pattern in himself, which theologians call `God', all that feeling of helplessness would go. May I illustrate it from something else that happened to me in the last war? I was standing at nightfall looking out of my prison. It was what I believed to be my last night alive, and I had fully accepted that I would be executed by the Japanese in the morning. An enormous thunderstorm had broken outside and the heavy rain -- which always, in my drought-conditioned African senses, brings feelings of relief and music -- was falling. The lightning and the thunder was almost continuous. I thought I had never seen lightning more beautiful -- it was almost as if I were in the workshop of creation where lightning is made -- and it was so charged and intense that it seemed to overflow its own zig-zag thrust at the jungle and come more like a great stream of fire out of the sky and make a delta of flame in the black. But there were also great purple sheets of lightning in between, that swept like archangelic wings over my prison. But it was the thunder which meant most of all. I had never heard the voice so loud, so clear and so magisterial. And suddenly, quite unbidden, a great feeling of relief came over me. `That's it!' I thought. `The Japanese are ultimately not in overall command. There is witness of a power greater than man which, in the end, will decide all.' I express it very badly because the experience was totally beyond the capacity of words and is one of the most overwhelming emotions I have ever experienced; and in that moment all anxiety left me and I was, in the deepest sense of the words, no more troubled. Through nature outside I had been reconnected with a kind of powerhouse inside myself of which I had been unaware. Mind you, I do not want to imply that these feelings of helplessness and fear are not understandable. The world is full of the most terrible, awful and awesome happenings and portents. For the first time in human history every portion of the world is, simultaneously with all the others, in a state of profound crisis and increasingly in the grip of national and international outbreaks of violence on a scale that it may never have known in the past. Confronted with this, people not only feel helpless but they are also troubled because they do not understand what and why it is all happening to them in an age of so-called progress and enlightenment. It is as if the modern spirit is moving increasingly into an atmosphere of deepening gloom, and people do not see any certainty, let alone a glimmer of light, by which to guide themselves. The dominants in their respective philosophies, the dominants in religion, in art, and ethics, all seem to have vanished or to be vanishing. It is not only that churches and temples are almost empty, it is also that all the great tributaries, all the great streams of creation which contributed to religion, and from which humanity had derived its greatest meaning, have run dry. It sometimes would seem that the brightness of our age is an illusion, and that we are living not in the vast cities and palaces of the mind which St Augustine knew so well, but in some lonely outposts at sundown on the fringes of what had once been a certain and forward-moving world. Out there in the darkness there is a horrendous tread and a reverberating thumping on the gate. There is something trying to enter but we are afraid to open the gate because of all the horror we have witnessed in our time. It does not seem to occur to us that all this emptiness, all this evidence of breakdown, all this decline in values, this diminishing awareness and sharpened sense of insecurity despite the obvious proliferation of material security in our lives -- that all this might be the messenger or the forerunner of something new, and what is knocking at the door should be invited in. I have a suspicion that these tributaries I spoke of as running dry because the waters, the energies, that had been at their disposal are no longer directed at maintaining what has already been established, all are massing ready to bring the future in, to bring something new into our midst. And this all seems to me evidence of a state of mind and heart which has always presided over great moments of transition: transitions which, if not accomplished freely with all that we have of awareness and wholeness in ourselves, would lead to a total destruction and blackout of all that has gone before. This constitutes the greatest of all challenges that face not only the individual, but his society and its institutions, since they have, in a sense, to die in certain aspects of themselves in order to live again. They have to renew themselves, not by abolishing what has been in the past -- this is the classical heresy of the revolutionary who, in order to add a new storey to the house that he has inherited, begins by pulling out the foundations on which the house is built -- so much as reappraising the past in the light of what is coming, and so giving it a contemporary and immediate meaning. This is the highest task of man, to preserve the continuity of creation, to preserve what is true of life in the past as far back as the twilit area where his consciousness disappears with the first light of the beginning. The present has to be made a bridge to the future, when fear will go out of the window and the gates and door are open so that the future can come in, however problematical, as an honoured guest. Somehow we should learn to know that our problems are our most precious possessions. They are the raw materials of our salvation: no problem -- no redemption. And it is only by bringing to our problems the whole of ourselves -- which means all that we have rejected in these specialized aspects of ourselves we call civilization -- that life can be renewed in a greater dimension of itself. But these in-between moments are frightening; and they are the moments that the first people of Africa, who feared them most, attributed to `a loss of soul'. Now the question is, what do you yourself mean by this `loss of soul? I ask not in the spirit common in modern argument, which would be to ask you to define your terms, but I would like you to say more about it. The `first people of life', as I prefer to call the primitive, had a lively sense of what we call soul, and feared the loss of it as the greatest calamity that could befall them. I would like to enlarge on it through telling a story of theirs, because that speaks directly to the sense of creation that man has deep within himself where nothing, ultimately, is impossible, because for hundreds of years now all understanding of the spirit has been narrowed and restricted to what can be rationally expressed about `the spirit'. The spirit is no longer seen as a gift that we hold in trust from life but as something that is narrowed to a conscious, wilful, rational egoism. The spirit is not only reason -- although it includes reason; it is not only feeling -- and of course it includes feeling as well: but it is for me, above all, intuition, which is a profound compass, bearing on our origin and our destination. And this is ultimately what religion is about: `origin and destination'. The result has been that the spirit has lost, for the moment, what made it one of the greatest of all human passions. So it has abandoned the human being in his narrowed, rational state, indulging the greatest pastime and speciality of our time, which is finding first-rate reasons for doing partial and wrong things. This truly is one of the most marked characteristics of modern man; hence this babel of voices and tumult within and without each one of us. Every man has tended to become, as it were, a walking piece of organized chaos, incapable of communicating any more in a total way with his fellow human beings. So I have to turn to the story, from a time when life was young, and which talks through images and symbols even to the man behind the bars of his clinical intellectualism. The story is very simple; it is the story of a man who lived on his own, a primitive man who lived on the edge of `The Forest of the Night', and he lived by keeping cattle. It was a wonderful herd because the cattle were a roan of black and white which, among the people who told me the story, had a profound symbolic meaning. You remember the great Chinese symbol of wholeness which is a black whale with a white eye, curled up, and a white whale likewise beside it with a black eye, enclosed in a perfect circle. As a symbol of wholeness black and white are both necessary in the imagery of the first people of the world to constitute both life and a means of living. Now this man lived very happily with his cattle until one morning he went to milk them and found that they had no milk to give; in other words, the story is telling us he had arrived at a moment in his own life when the life he was leading had no more sustenance to give him in the old way. He thought, `This is very strange, because I have given them everything I could possibly have of the knowledge of grazing to make them produce milk and I shall take particular care today that they are properly fed.' So he took them to one of the better grazing grounds and fed them well and he thought, `Tomorrow morning I shall get a wonderful lot of milk.' But next morning they still had no milk to give. He did this repeatedly until at last he thought, `No, there is something more to it than mere grazing; something else must be happening.' So he kept watch on the cattle in their kraal, and in the middle of the night he saw a cord come down from the stars and down this cord came a number of very beautiful young women, of the people of the stars; and they ran with containers to his cattle and started milking them. In other words the nourishment, the food, was already being withdrawn from him in the context in which he lived towards the stars where the light of the future comes from. Well, he ran out, and the star people scattered immediately and ran up the cord as fast as they could, but he managed to catch hold of one of the girls and pull her back: he succeeded, in other words, in catching a portion of the future to live with him and become his wife. She had, of course, her container with her still, and she said to him, `I am happy living with you and I will work for you but only on one condition: that you will never look in this container without my permission.' And he promised her that. This went on happily for some months. He went out to look after the cattle by day; she went out to work in the fields and they met at night and he apparently was perfectly content with that portion of meaning that had come down from the stars. Then one day when she was out and it was very hot he came back and was very thirsty and had a drink of water; he then saw this container and was suddenly very irritated by it and thought: `This is ridiculous. Why should I not look in it?' He went and took the lid off, looked inside, put it back and laughed. That evening when they met again the woman gave him one look and exclaimed, `You have looked in my contained' `Yes, I have,' he answered, and added, `You silly creature! Why did you make such a fuss about the container when the container all the time was empty?' `Empty?' she uttered, distressed. `Yes, empty!' And at once she became very sad, turned her back on him, walked straight into the sunset and was never seen again on earth. It did not matter him breaking his word so much. What really mattered was that he could not see anything in the container, the other things which she had brought from the stars for both of them. This is an image of the terrifying moment in our own lives when we can no longer see what we have naturally in the container, which is soul. It is not that we have not got a container full of starlight, as it were, but that we have lost the capacity to look into it and see what nature has put there of new meaning when that which has fed us can feed us no longer. That for the first man of life was a loss of soul and implied a living death thereafter. The story is very moving, I see and feel very much the tremendous sense of loss that it leaves behind in the listener. But is that really a complete image of that is meant in the modern sense by a loss of soul? It is in the story essentially a feminine loss, and is it not therefore a partial representation of what is meant by a loss of soul? No, it is not, because throughout in the story the masculine and the feminine elements of life are closely interwoven and dependent, even totally complementary to each other. It is possible that if a woman told a story about the same tragic deprivation in her own spirit, she would use a different imagery and the man would play a different role. But in the first place the story -- although often told and elaborated upon by the woman, particularly the mother -- issued from the man. In the beginning the woman acted out and lived her portion of the soul and it tended to the man; while the man was far more consciously concerned in the implications for his life and the future through following the images and symbols evoked in his imagination. Also we must not forget how, in western civilization, our great compass stories have come from men -- men, moreover, writing in the context of what until now has been largely dominated by the spirit and will of men. And for man all the evidence tends to show that the soul is feminine. I could therefore easily have drawn on myths and legends from our own, Western past which portray this loss also through the loss and abandonment of the woman in man. You just have to think, for instance, of Ariadne abandoned on a rock in a sea of her own tears; an image of the feminine so imperative in the imagination of one of the greatest of Renaissance men, Leonardo da Vinci, that he was inspired by it to paint one of the most moving portraits of the mother of Christ as a virgin on the rocks. And long before that there was the legend of Orpheus and the shattering tragedy of the loss of the Eurydice that was the image of his own feminine soul. And do not forget Dante who, in his meeting with the Mother of Christ, greeted the manifestation of the feminine element in Christ which mothered his spirit of infinite love, with that unforgettable salutation, `Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son.' When you think back there are countless other examples to the same effect and you realize how the loss of the woman in this, the primitive story, is dealing with something which proves to have been true for man not only in the beginning, not only in the world of Greece when the gods themselves walked in the streets with common men and women and inhabited the forests and the streams and conveyed their presence and message for men through humble shepherds and mountain folk, but also today in a world where the gods have vanished into the heavens beyond the Milky Way and the whole meaning which was conveyed by a total acceptance of the reality of a creator called God is increasingly denied. From early on I found myself wondering why I was more interested in Greek than in Roman civilization, and the answer, in a sentence, was that at its greatest period the Greek spirit acknowledged the feminine as much as the masculine, while the Roman civilization was entirely dominated by the man of mind, out of touch with its feminine self. The Renaissance for me was precisely so significant an event in world history because in it the Greek totality of masculine and feminine, particularly its feminine inspiration, was brought back into a world dominated by its Roman inheritances. But since the Renaissance all the caring, feeling, loving values, which the sense of the feminine in man promotes in life, have diminished until only an arid, rational, masculine intellectualism and a power-obsessed urge have taken over, and the moment of the container in the story, when its lid is lifted by the man and he declares it to be empty, is upon us. What I think is so significant in the imagery of the story is the fact that this man in his clearing in the Forest of the Night lives by the milk from his herd of numinous cows who, in their uniform of skin which is both black and white, represent a living partnership between feminine and masculine -- yin and yang as the Chinese would put it. The cow, after all, is an image of the primal feminine in life and this man, in living by this primal feminine, and caring for it, is obviously doing something of universal significance; this is established in the story by the fact that what feeds him also is needed as nourishment for the stars, hence the raid on his herd by the women of the people of the stars. There comes a moment, however, when this primal nourishment is not enough and it needs transformation into a less collective and more individual evolution of the feminine in man. This, I think, is the meaning of his capture of the most beautiful of the women who have come down from the stars to draw on his own primal feminine element. This is a sort of Jacob's ladder situation in the imagination, a proof of the reciprocity between the life of man on earth and the forces of creation in Heaven. It is interesting that when I first came to read Dante and Wordsworth for myself, the story immediately came vividly to my mind as it has done since on so many other occasions. The Dante association was just this: that his Divine Comedy begins the fateful descent into Hell, which has to precede the ascent to Heaven, with the lines, `Midway through my life I found myself on a path through a dark wood.' Dante too had his forest of duka-duk. Wordsworth seemed to give me an answer why it was a woman from the stars who was allotted a special role in the story. I quote the lines from his `Intimations of Immortality':
You can see also the profound logic of the true symbolism of meaning which makes it inevitable that it was a star in Heaven which led the shepherds to Bethlehem. At the risk of sounding flippant I would say that I believe you, but thousands wouldn't. How do you answer people who would say, `Yes, this of course may well be so spiritually, but we are practical people, and what has all that got to do with our practical lives? We have heard all this before and it seems to us to make very little practical difference to how people behave.' Modern people who so pride themselves on being practical and realistic are really not being practical at all. They express a partial state of being as if it were a whole, and express an extremely narrow condition of consciousness. Man is not realistic and practical unless he first acknowledges the immense importance of realizing that pragmatism begins in the human spirit, and unless man is spiritually pragmatic as well, however successful he may appear in the short term, he is impractical to the point of destruction in the long run. It all begins with the pragmatism of the spirit and with as great an awareness as possible in this dimension of himself wherein all that we mean by religion is experienced. If you read Jung's case histories you will find that almost every one of the disoriented and alienated spirits who turned to him for help were sick because they had failed to be aware of this dimension, and the pragmatic role of its reality in their own lives. Jung said, over and over again, that he had never effected a cure in a human being without restoring in them a capacity for this sort of spiritual experience we have been discussing. I think this, in a backhand sort of way, is proved throughout history by all the peoples who have overthrown whole cultures and civilizations. They have done so first by denying in themselves the god or gods who represent the highest value of the civilization or society they seek to overthrow. They proceed then to attack and destroy, before they do anything else, the contract of trust and faith which the men of that society have with this value in themselves. It is not for nothing that in the French Revolution, God had to be the first casualty, and a Goddess of Reason be enthroned in Paris in his place. It is not for nothing that you cannot be a member of the Communist Party of Soviet Russia without being an avowed atheist. And that one of the stock Russian questions asked of astronauts in Moscow when they have returned from outer space is, `Did you see any sign of God and heaven up there?' -- and the mocking reply, always to a roar of laughter, is of course that they did not. So what we have been discussing is of the greatest and most immediate importance and urgency. But we have to realize that we cannot recover for modern man the capacity for this sort of experience and awareness by the kind of exhortation he has had to endure for centuries and still endures in the churches of today. It can only come to him with the reawakened sense of the myth which is already stirring in his dreaming self. That is the reason why one of Jung's most important books is called Modern Man in Search of a Soul, and this is all that a life of meaning is about. All this brings me to the part of the pattern of creation and continuity of creation which I call to myself something like the `evolution of God', not in a Darwinian sense but in the sense of what evolution means in the ordinary English language. It is an overwhelming feeling that God himself evolves through a continuing process of creation and re-creation in which we are chosen instruments and partners, and that in measure through an increase of our awareness of this partnership, through accepting, as it were, divine obligations in our life on earth, we help and speed the evolution of God and His act of creation. It is perhaps what distinguishes our western Hebraic, Roman, Greek and Christian culture from that of the great cultures of the East, such as that of India, where the creator, creation, the infinite, is a kind of unchangeable absolute and man has to adjust and conform to an absolute pattern -- for good or evil. But whether we go to church or not, whether we are believers or not, we are part of a culture which has had at its centre a completely and totally different concept. There has been an effort among fundamentalists to deny this -- and in all religions this has had a transitory validity -- wherein creation is an absolute and mankind has to conform; as if creation is an act which is totally behind us and men just have to find their way towards whoever created us and all that has gone before. But Homeric stories at the beginning of our civilization, like the Iliad and the Odyssey, and of course the New Testament, already hint at a different kind of searching of the human spirit. But this fundamentalism, which still persists, inflicted a totally different view of life on us which imposed a kind of static absolute on the culture to which we belong. We may have to start off, therefore, with the concept of a creator who said, `Let there be Light', and there was light, and this creator, for a period anyway, in various ways gave the man he had created, as it were, his marching orders, and all man had to do was to march. And if he did not march according to the way he was told to, he was definitely in trouble. But there came a very great moment when this God ceased to be one who merely gave orders and he revealed the change -- one of those mysterious and inexplicable leaps forward that defy orderly evaluation and scientists call mutation -- and it came in the form of a dream. For the first people of the world, like the owner of the numinous cattle, the dream itself is a manifestation of God; if you act from the area of the dream you are in the area where one experiences what theologians call `God'; where one experiences a sense of origin and direction, and you have inserted in life a kind of radar, an inbuilt ability to discover direction towards new and greater meaning. I refer, of course, to the dream of Jacob's ladder; perhaps the greatest dream that has ever been dreamed in the history of man because it is a dream which conveys both its own message and at the same time tells us what dreaming is. And the dream, it says clearly, is a ladder between man and God, a ladder where angels descend and ascend. `Angelos' is the old Greek word for messenger. Jacob has apparently broken all the moral canons of people, clan and family; has sinned, betrayed his brother, stolen his heritage, and betrayed his own manhood by flight from the consequences of his deed, and is there helpless in the wilderness on the way to a strange land, on the way to an unknown future, as we here are lost in a strange land on our way to the future. At this moment there comes the dream to comfort and reassure him, and profoundly alter the relationship between man and the creator. The creator said, `Through this dream I tell you henceforth there will be communication between you and me. As I communicate to you through this dream, you, through your prayers and obedience to your dreams, can communicate with me. What you say and what you do henceforth can also make a difference to me, your God and your creator. Together we shall transform creation and life on earth.' It is an immense leap forward in human meaning, because God has taken man into partnership and commands that as man conforms to the act of creation he will be blessed. The implications of this are enormous and of infinite possibilities, for in this totality of creation God submits himself, like every thing and creature in creation, to the laws of his own creation. Through this leap forward, life is instantly more dynamic. For man is no longer a thing merely to be ordered about. He is not just left to his own stumbling and to a kind of blind-man's-bluff way of life. He has now the opportunity of placing all his natural energies at the disposal of creation, and a new sense of conscious, discriminating direction which he did not have before to help him on his way. Yet like all meaningful changes, the revelation in the dream has to be lived before it can be fully understood and served. There is an apprenticeship of centuries to be served. There are still long, painful years in which this partnership has to be developed, for it is still lacking in certain things. God is still unpredictable, and is held responsible for strange disasters and undeserved catastrophes, not to mention afflictions on people -- even people who are dedicated, or try to be dedicated; and so by human standards at times God is frightful, cruel and unjust, and therefore more of a dilemma to man in partnership. This dilemma is expressed in that unforgettable and as yet totally inadequately understood Book of Job, where God's greatest servant on earth is inflicted with the most appalling catastrophes. If the story has any meaning at all it is that, if one stands fast in the midst of the fumblings and gropings in which we are involved, there is an answer because there is a portion which is the justice of God; a paradoxical sense of justice which, through this act of divine injustice, comes alive not only in life on earth, but comes alive in the overall process of creation. Through it the act of creation has a kind of new lawfulness restored to it; there is a kind of divine intercession born and a new kind of advocacy in heaven where God takes the part of man, as it were, against the God he was. Another great stage in the evolution has been reached, and from that moment comes the feeling that God is increasingly dedicating a portion of himself to represent man in the divine course -- until the greatest revelation which we have not understood properly yet: the incarnation of the Son of God, the element which is his future self. Christ became man to put himself at the disposal of man, and with him came the great, transforming power of the universe -- the love of God, which has not yet figured so prominently on the scene. So already we can see it is more than just a question of communication between the creator and man. If we read the message of the coming of Christ truly as it is, what is happening is that the creator is relegating ever more significant elements of his own creativity and divine power to man. He is making it possible for man alone, man living on his own in the heart of himself, to be a portion of what is ultimate and divine in the agony and glory of performing what has hitherto been solely a divine function. And the emphasis is as much on the agony as the glory, as so uncomfortably portrayed and symbolized in the crucifixion: no agony -- no glory: no sacrifice and suffering -- no transformation or renewal. Now we know that suffering is the lot of God and hence also the lawful lot of his partner. It is bearable always because it is divinely shared, and, in the measure in which man freely shares it, it is transformed into the love which transcends all and is the light of darkness that leads man and God to the final wisdom. So when this great figure, who has brought such good tidings of great sorrow, has been resurrected and has ascended and been withdrawn, there is something else that we are given clearly, to take man and creation another great step forward. The New Testament rightly calls it `the Holy Spirit', but it has many names. For Blake and Coleridge it was the imagination, but whatever the name, man now has a clear and certain guide: he only has to follow it. It leads to a pattern of spirit within himself which puts infinite energies of transformation and creation at his disposal. Starting as a kind of sergeant-major-God, it has led man to a God partner who has made man responsible for some of his powers, clearly implying that man, and what he does, is of the utmost importance to creator and creation, and his own evolution is bound and interdependent with the whole movement of creation. Would we but allow ourselves to know what is already known in creation about us, renewal and greater new meaning is ours and life full of power which no longer corrupts but reintegrates our infinite diversities for another mutation we cannot yet discern, but whose promise and existence sings in the congregation of our blood. How sad, how irreligious that, just here, the churches established for the promotion of creation step in and, almost as if they forget the Holy Spirit, they say, `This is the final revelation; this is the final act; this is all that we need to know about God and creation; there is nothing more to know. All we have to do is to imitate and copy Christ and that is all there is to living' -- leaving out the tremendous way we have come and the fact that it was Christ himself who said, `And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free', attaching so much importance to truth that one believes that, if he were here now, he would say: `I was the revelation, I was true revelation, but even so only revelation on the way. There is more revelation to come.' It is this absolutism of dogma and rule of establishment that have caused the spirit and the Holy Ghost to leave us; evolution, to the point where God sent his own son down to become a man, to show that he also -- and we too after his example -- could be men in the divine image, has been arrested. A cold and arrogant despotism of reason has frozen over the process in us. This is the moment at which we stand; and contemporary man does not realize what the coming of Christ meant, and will fail it in a blind imitation of what Christ himself was. I think for me one of the most profound things Jung ever said was that human beings believe that they have to live their lives as if they were mere imitations and copies of the life of Christ, whereas if they truly sought the meaning of the coming of Christ, they would realize that they had to live their own seeking lives, their portion of the Holy Spirit of imagination which is in their keeping, their own true selves -- just as Christ had lived himself without deviation, in a way that had never been seen before, to the end for which he had been born. And this is the reappraisal which confronts us if we are to evolve with God. We often ask ourselves: why is there no religious leader appearing to deliver us from stagnation and retrogression with some shattering new revelation? Why is there no great statement of cosmic intent which we can all try to follow? What has happened to all those great minds and leaders who used to guide people in the past? The answer is clear: the stage of great leaders has irrevocably gone and the task, the responsibility, is tossed on to each one of us. We are in our own theatre alone. We have to make our sense of what is collective individual, and live as individuals following the truth as our own natures predispose us. And how should we do that? Where should we turn to take the first step? We should turn as always to this ancient ladder Jacob found in his dream, pitched between the great wasteland of himself and his creator. Our responsibility now is to know ourselves and to determine what is good and what is evil. This is the debt that we owe to the Holy Spirit which is irrevocably conferred on us in our lives; and we are condemned in the cause of renewal and enlargement of creation to follow it as truthfully and utterly as Christ did. We now are bound to decide for ourselves consciously what is good and what is bad: to make what is meaningful take precedence over what is meaningless. It is the sense of this power, this sense of responsibility that we share with our creator; this sense of belonging to the universe that we have lost and that we must rediscover and embrace in a lasting act of remembrance of our origin to set ourselves and our societies once more on course. It may be that there are other worlds with forms of being, with a greater awareness of this responsibility than we have, but this is what is on our doorstep and knocking so powerfully to be allowed in. For the moment this is our unique role. We have already got power enough to destroy the whole of human life; but we have not yet got the moral obligation, the sense of good and bad, to match it and follow it as our instrument of metamorphosis. We have not yet accepted that every act of knowledge, every increase of knowledge, increases our responsibility towards creation. We have been induced into believing that we are completely helpless in the grip of powerful new forces and that we are caught up in a process that is meaningless, and just sweeping us along like the swine of a new Gadarene. But we have the power to be creative if we turn back to what I can only call `the dreaming process' in ourselves, and we put our imaginations and our lives into this area where the dream occurs; then we can `do', and we can change life. But the message is clear: the power which does not corrupt comes to man not in multitudes, it comes to him as an individual man, as it came to the man alone with his cattle, his natural self in the Forest of the Night and which, by his failure to recognize it, lost him his soul. It comes first to the individual alone: the individual who has to guard his individuality in an aloneness that is not loneliness but, as the Zulus say, a house of dreams. There he can discover the greatest of freedoms, to live out his own gift of life without diminishing or imperilling, but enriching his association with the society of man. And the dreaming to which I refer is not some lush, comfortable, pink marshmallow kind of concept. It is a voice of steel, calling us to live and fight for truth not in hate but love, for love. But it calls in a language to be decoded, since it is -- as someone I know in America, who left his church to do just this, put it -- `the forgotten language of God'. We have no excuse any more, and it is the greatest scandal of our day that neither religion nor science acknowledges it, that we have the code to read the ancient instructions inscribed in our dreams -- and we do not use it. All this reminds me very much of one of the last letters I ever had from Jung, when he wrote, `I cannot define for you what God is. I can only say that my work has proved empirically that the pattern of God exists in every man, and that this pattern has at its disposal the greatest of all energies for transformation and transfiguration of his natural being.' (Quoted in Jung and the Story of Our Time, p. 216.) And this is the challenge and the immediate call of truth. The sin of our time is not that we do not know. We do know where we have to look for the power and the energy and the sense of their direction, but we are so intellectually oriented that this seems a non-rational, even superstitious thing to do because we persist in the preposterous illusion that we must know rationally, in advance, where we are going. We have been so conditioned that modern man wants to have a hundred years' plan before he moves. Think of the arrogance of that: of imagining that we can plan the next hundred years, let alone the next two days -- we who cannot even complete an airport before the blueprint is out of date, and our present is littered with the remains of what we once so brilliantly invented and planned that is now obsolete. I have often felt that it is as if there has been only one modern man and we crucified him two thousand years ago. We still have to make his example truly modern in ourselves and be individual and specific in terms of the totality of our own natures, as he was. This is the way we have to go. But we now have to do our own leading. We have not to wait on masters; we do not have to wait for foolproof spiritual exercises; we can go to people and seek what they seek, but we cannot do it wholly their way and be stereotypes of one another. Like the leaves on the trees, we are compelled to be each our own way, again and again. We have, for this, to turn inwards -- to look into ourselves; look in this container which is our soul; look and listen in to it and all its hunches -- incredible, silly, stupid as they may appear to be. It might tell us to make fools of ourselves in the eyes of our established selves but, however improbable, just listen, just give it a chance in yourself, particularly at this moment when everything is increasingly impersonal. Until you have listened in to that thing which is dreaming through you, in other words answered the knock on the door in the dark, and discovered your estranged self, you will not be able to lift this moment in time, in which we are all imprisoned, back again onto a level where the great act of creation is going on, whether we heed it or not. We can join in with increased awareness, thanks to the creator's evolution, or stay out. If we stay out we perish; if we join in, we live for ever. You ask, `If it is so simple, then what prevents us?' There are, history teaches us, many impediments, but for me the main obstruction at this moment remains this European hubris of mere knowing, this wanting to look egotistically before we leap -- failing to remember that those who look partially and over-long never leap at all, and betray the evolution of the spirit that is gathering force in the wide prophetic soul of the dreaming of things to come -- which is preventing us from recognizing that our revelation will no longer come in one overwhelming and unchanging revelation from one great man. Humbly and contritely it is to be sought in the mirror of the universe within each individual soul, and the message read there lived out with the whole of an honest self where in time we shall rediscover the propinquity which is at the heart of all things and the most dedicated and caring reciprocity of giving and receiving between creator and his all. Do you think that new technology, like super computers, intelligent robots, new ways and means of communication, can make man more human, more reasonable? New technology can only be used as an instrument if there are individuals who can use it responsibly. What the computer is utterly incapable of doing is to give us a value judgement. It is utterly divorced from meaning. It can work statistically and it can quantify, but it cannot deal with meaning -- and certainly not create it. And do not forget, it is a law of creation that that which is created can never be greater than the thing that created it. That is why we must submit ourselves to God, because we cannot be greater than our creator, and we are safeguarded in this too from domination by our own inventions. And I think the other side of the contract of life, the contract we have with creation, is the fact that the creator, as I mentioned a moment ago, is subordinate to the laws of what he has created. This is very significantly illustrated in Greek mythology. The great law of life in Greek mythology is Fate, and it is the one thing that Zeus, the greatest god, cannot interfere with. This to me is a profoundly religious thing, that the god himself, by creating, commits himself to be bound by the laws of his own act and deed of creation.
`The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:'