Origins of the famously mis-quoted sentence by Jung

Is there a God? If so, what is She like?

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Origins of the famously mis-quoted sentence by Jung

Post by Kuznetzova »

No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.
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This sentence was written by the Swiss psychologist and historian of religion, Carl Gustav Jung. It appears in chapter 5 of a book by Jung, titled Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self. This book was written in 1951, originally in German.

This quote has been ripped out of context and spread around on the internet with wild abandon. Many websites falsely attribute it to Nietzsche, while others attribute it to the romance-era poet, Heinrich Heine. Black Metal and Norse mythology websites pretend the quote has something to do with the giant ash tree reaching to Yggdrasil. These are all utterly false rumors.

The blogging and re-blogging of this quote, its appearance on facebook and quote-websites indicates a profound, public confusion of the both the context of, and intended meaning of the sentence.

Rest assured, Jung was not a practicing christian in any form, and he was not guiding the reader on how they could go about reaching Heaven in their personal lives. Instead, in the chapter in which this appears, Jung is psycho-analyzing the symbolic and mental archetypes of Christ, within the minds of practicing Protestants. Essentially, Jung is de-constructing the psychological manner in which Christ is received by Christians as the template for their own self identity. The title of the chapter in which it appears is, "V. Christ a Symbol of the Self"

Jung was not discussing Hell and he was not talking about Heaven. He was instead making an analogy between the mental archetypes of light being opposite darkness; particularly about how those archetypes manifest in both traditional, christian symbolism, as well as theology. Jung even discusses the Renaissance in this chapter.

As evidence in support of the claims above, I present the entire section in which the famous quotation appears, in unedited form of its original English translation:

In reality every intensified differentiation of the Christ-image brings about a corresponding accentuation of its unconscious complement, thereby increasing the tension between above and below.

In making these statements, we are keeping entirely within the sphere of Christian psychology and symbolism. A factor that no one has reckoned with, however, is the fatality inherent inthe Christian disposition itself, which leads inevitably to a re-versal of its spirit not through the obscure workings of chance but in accordance with psychological law. The ideal of spirituality striving for the heights was doomed to clash with the materialistic, earth-bound, passion to conquer matter and master the world.

This change became visible at the time of the "Renaissance." The word means "rebirth, ' and it referred to the renewal of the antique spirit. We know today that this spirit was chiefly a mask; it was not the spirit of antiquity that was reborn, but the spirit of medieval Christianity that underwent strange pagan transformations, exchanging the heavenly goal for an earthly one, and the vertical of the Gothic style for a horizontal perspective (voyages of discovery, exploration of the world and of nature). The subsequent developments that led to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution have produced a world-wide situation today which can only be called "antichristian" in a sense that confirms the early Christian anticipation of the "end of time." It is as if, with the coming of Christ, opposites thatwere latent till then had become manifest, or as if a pendulum had swung violently to one side and were now carrying out the complementary movement in the opposite direction. No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.

The double meaning of this movement lies in the nature of the pendulum. Christ is without spot, but right at the beginning of his career there occurs the encounter with Satan, the Adversary, who represents the counterpole of that tremendous tension in the world psyche which Christ's advent signified. He is the "mysterium iniquitatis" that accompanies the "sol iustitiae" as inseparably as the shadow belongs to the light, in exactly the same way, so the thought, that one brother cleaves to the other. Both strive for a kingdom: one for the kingdom of heaven, the other for the "principatus huius mundi." We hear of a reign of a "thousand years" and of a "coming of the Antichrist," just as if a partition of worlds and epochs had taken place between two royal brothers. The meeting with Satan was therefore more than mere chance; it was a link in the chain.
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