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blog - Charles Stanford

Choosing Truth and Goodness: A Jungian Perspective

Freedom and reason make us men.
Take these away, what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well
the beasts may think of heav'n or hell.
May we no more our pow'rs abuse,
But ways of truth and goodness choose.
(“Know This, That Ev'ry Soul Is Free,” LDS Hymns)

 

Making good choices is something which sounds simple. Adults seek to inculcate the importance of good choices in children, in hopes that this will keep them on a good path through life.

The moral law is nothing else than an outer manifestation of the inborn urge of man to repress and tame himself. This urge to domestication or civilization is lost in the unfathomable, misty depths of the history of human development, and can never be thought of as the result of a certain code of laws imposed upon mankind from outside. Man himself, obeying his own instincts, has created his own laws. (The Theory of Psychoanalysis, Collected Works vol. 4)

Is there a quick and easy way to ensure that we are making those choices that best serve us?

It is easy to take for granted the conventions we inherit, as if they were universal. In truth, conventional moralities are rooted in a huge diversity of circumstances around the world, rooted in all kinds of ecological and economic necessities and evolving through complex interactions between rule systems over time.

We must never forget that what today is deemed a moral law will tomorrow be cast into the melting-pot and transformed, so that in the near or distant future it may serve as the basis of a new ethical structure. This much we ought to have learned from the history of civilization, that the forms of morality belong to the category of transitory things. (“On Some Crucial Points in Psychoanalysis,” Collected Works vol. 4)

Awakening to this situation, we feel we can no longer rely simply on sets of rules to govern our choices: to become a complete soul we have to find the source of values that steers our choices within us. This always is uneasy news for those who are attached to traditional values as such.

Psychoanalysis has been reproached for liberating man's (happily) repressed animal instincts and thus bringing about incalculable evil. This apprehension shows how little confidence is felt in the efficacy of the moral principles of today. The illusion is cherished that only the morality of precept and principle holds men back from unbridled license. (“New Paths in Psychology,” Collected Works vol. 7)

Part of the individuation process includes discovering one's own internal values and individual sense of morality.

But rather than promoting moral anarchy, Jung's work calls on individuals to awaken to a clearer understanding of their motivations, without which none of us can achieve sovereignty over our lives. For a rigid self-identification with being on the right side so easily leads to the ruthless hostility towards those who bear our projections of the undesirable parts of ourselves.

Our unwillingness to see our own faults and the projection of them is the beginning of most quarrels, and is the strongest guarantee that injustice, animosity, and persecution are not ready to die out. (“The Psychology of Eastern Meditation,” Collected Works vol. 11)

Dr. Jung's work models an enlightened and humble cultivation of the guiding values of honesty, empathy and patience. Growing these in our souls will steer our choices toward a true and transcendent good.

 

~Charles Stanford
Archivist, author, musician
Staff Writer – Jung Society of Utah
Etsy shop: Only Real Quills

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