The Secret of the Golden Flower
A Chinese Book of Life

Translated by Richard Wilhelm
Commentary by C.G. Jung
London 1931

Jung Golden Flower 106

1. The Disintegration of Consciousness

106 Danger arises whenever the narrowly delimited, but intensely clear, individual consciousness meets the immense expansion of the collective unconscious, because the latter has a definitely disintegrating effect on consciousness.

According to the exposition of the Hui Ming Ching, this effect belongs to the peculiar phenomena of Chinese yoga practice. It is said there: Every thought-fragment takes shape and becomes visible in colour and form. All the powers of the soul reveal their traces.

One of the illustrations accompanying the book shows a sage sunk in contemplation, his head circled with fire, out of whichfive human figures emerge: these five split up again into twenty-five- smaller figures. That would represent a schizophrenic process if it remained a permanent condition. Therefore the instructions, as though warning the adept, say : Figures formed out of the fire of the spirit, are only empty colours and forms. The Light of the essence streams back to the primordial truth.
It is understandable then why the protecting figure of the "enclosing circle" was seized upon. It is intended to prevent " emanations and to protect the unity of consciousness from being split apart by the unconscious.

107 Moreover, the Chinese concept points a way toward lessening
the disintegrating effect of the unconscious ; it describes the "thought-figures" or
"thought-fragments" as empty colours and shapes and thus depotentializes them as far as that is possible.

This idea goes through the whole of Buddhism (especially the Mahayana form), and, in the instructions to the dead of the Bardo Todol, it is even pushed to the point of explaining both favourable and unfavourable gods as illusions still to be overcome.

It certainly is not within the competence of the psychologist to establish the metaphysical truth or falsity of this idea; he must be content to determine wherever possible what is psychically effective. In doing this, he need not bother himself as to whether the shape in question is a transcendental illusion or not, since faith, not science, has to decide this point.

We are working here in a field which for a long time has seemed to be outside the domain of science, and which has therefore been looked upon as altogether illusory. But there is no scientific justification for such an assumption, because the substantiality of these things is not a scientific problem since, in any case, it lies beyond the power of human perception and criticism, and therefore beyond any possibility of proof. The psychologist is not concerned with the substance of these complexes, but with the psychic experiences.

Without a doubt they are psychic contents which can be experienced, and which have an indisputable autonomy. They are psychic partial-systems which either appear spontaneously in ecstatic condition and cause powerful impressions and effects, or else become fixed as mental disturbances in the form of lunacies and hallucinations, thus destroying the unity of the personality.

108 The psychiatrist is always prone to believe in toxins and the like, and to explain schizophrenia (splitting of the mind in a psychosis) in these terms, leaving the psychic contents out of account. On the other hand, in psychogenetic disturbances (hysteria, compulsion neurosis, etc.), where the question of toxic effects and cell degeneration cannot possibly arise, there are to be found, in somnambulistic conditions for example, independent, split-off complexes. Freud would explain these as due to unconscious repression of sexuality, but this explanation is by no means valid for all cases, because there can evolve spontaneously out of the unconscious, contents which the conscious cannot assimilate, and, in such cases, the repression hypothesis is inadequate. Moreover, the essential autonomy of these elements can be observed in the effects of daily life which obstinately obtrude themselves against our wills, and then, despite our most desperate efforts toward repression, overwhelm the ego and force it under their control. No wonder that the primitive sees in these moods either a state of possession, or sets them down to the loss of a soul. Our colloquial speech reflects the same thing when we say : "I don't know what has got into him to-day"; "He is ridden by the devil”; "It has him again"; "He was beside himself"; "He behaves as if possessed." Even legal practice recognizes a partial lessening of responsibility in a state of affect. Autonomic psychic contents are therefore quite common experiences for us, and such contents have a disintegrating effect on the conscious.

But besides the ordinary, widely recognized affects, there are subtler, more complex emotional states which cannot be described as pure and simple affects but are complicated partial-systems which have more of the character of personalities the more complicated they are. Being also constituents of the psychic personality, they necessarily have the character of persons.

109 Such partial systems appear in mental diseases where there is no psychogenetic splitting of the personality (double personality), and also, quite commonly, in mediumistic phenomena.

They are also encountered in the religious phenomena, and therefore many of the earlier gods have developed from persons to personified ideas, and finally into abstract ideas. As we know, activated unconscious contents always appear first as projections upon the outside world. In the course of mental development, consciousness gradually assimilates them and reshapes them into conscious ideas which then forfeit their originally autonomous and personal character.

Some of the old gods, after serving as carriers of astrological projections, became mere descriptive attributes (martial, jovial, saturnine, erotic, logical, lunatic, etc.). The instructions of the Bardo Todol, especially, enable us to see how greatly the conscious is threatened with disintegration through these figures. Again and again, the dead are instructed not to take these shapes as real, and not to confuse their gloomy appearance with the pure white light of Dharmakaya ("the divine body of truth”).

The meaning is that they are not to project the one light of highest consciousness into concretized figures, and in such a way dissolve into a plurality of autonomous partial-systems. If there were no danger in this, and if the partial-systems were not menacingly autonomous and divergent tendencies, such urgent instructions would not be necessary.

If we consider the simpler, polytheistically orientated attitude of the Eastern man, these instructions are almost as significant as would be warnings to a Christian not to let himself be blinded by the illusion of a personal God, not to mention a Trinity and innumerable angels and saints.

110 If tendencies toward splitting were not inherent characteristics of the human psyche, partial-systems would never have been separated off. In other words, there would never have been either spirits or gods. That is the reason, too, that our time is so utterly godless and profane, lacking as we do knowledge of the unconscious psyche, and pursuing an exclusive cult of consciousness.

Boe: Bohm - fragmentation

Our true religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it, with a fanatical denial of the existence of autonomous partial-systems. In this we differ from the Buddhist yoga doctrine, because we even deny that partial-systems can be experienced. Since the repressed material appears again in consciousness in unsuitable form, a great psychic danger arises here, because the partial systems then behave like any other repressed contents, and induce compulsive, wrong attitudes. This fact, which is so striking in every case of neurosis, holds true also for the collective psychic phenomena.

In this respect, our time is caught in a fatal error; we believe we can criticize religious facts intellectually; we think, for instance, like Laplace, that God is a hypothesis which can be subjected to intellectual treatment, affirmation, or denial. It is completely forgotten that the reason humanity believed in " daemons " has nothing whatever to do with anything external, but depends entirely on naive awareness of the powerful inner effect of autonomous partial-systems. This effect is not stopped by criticizing its name intellectually, nor by describing it as false.

The effect is collectively always present; the autonomous systems are always at work, because the fundamental structure of the unconscious is not disturbed by the fluctuations of a transitory consciousness. If one denies the existence of the partial-systems, hoping to be rid of them by a criticism of the name, then their effect, which nevertheless continues, cannot be understood, and therefore they cannot be assimilated to consciousness.

111 They then become an inexplicable factor of disturbance which one assumes to exist somewhere or other outside. In this way, there results a projection of the partial-system, and, at the same time, a dangerous situation is created, because the disturbing effects are now attributed to a bad will outside ourselves which is perforce located at our neighbour's " de l’autre coté de la rivière”. This leads to collective delusions, instigations to war and revolution, in a word, to destructive mass psychoses.

Insanity is possession by an unconscious content which, as such, is not assimilated to consciousness, nor can it be assimilated, since consciousness has denied the existence of such contents. Religiously expressed, the attitude is equivalent to saying: "We no longer have any fear of God and believe that everything is to be measured in terms of human standards”.

This hybris, that is, this narrowness of consciousness, is always the shortest way to the insane asylum. I recommend the excellent presentation of this problem inH. G. Wells' novel, Christina Alberta's Father, and Schreber's Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken.

It must stir a sympathetic chord in an enlightened European when it is said in the Hui Ming Ching that the "shapes formed from the fire of the spirit are only empty colours and forms”. That sounds quite European and seems to suit our reason excellently. We, indeed, think we can flatter ourselves at having already reached such heights of clarity because such phantoms of gods seem to have been left far behind.
But the things we have outgrown are only the word-ghosts, not the psychic facts which were responsible for the birth of the gods.

112 We are just as much possessed by our autonomous psychic contents as if they were gods. To-day they are called phobias, compulsions, etc., or briefly, neurotic symptoms.

The gods have become diseases; not Zeus, but the solar plexus, now rules Olympus and causes the oddities of the professional office hour, or disturbs the brains of the politician and journalist who then unwittingly release mental epidemics.

Therefore it is better for the Western man not to know too much about the secret insight of Eastern wise men, because it would then be a case of the "right means in the hands of the wrong menInstead of again convincing himself that the daemon is -an illusion.

The Westerner ought to experience the reality of this illusion again. He ought to learn to recognize these psychic powers again, and not wait until his moods, nervous states, and insane ideas, make clear to him in the most painful possible way that he is not the only master in his house. The splitting tendencies are effective psychic personalities of a relative reality. They are real when they are not recognized as real and are therefore projected; relatively real when they are related to the conscious (in religions this stage leads to the forming of a cult); but they are unreal in so far as consciousness has begun to detach itself from its contents. However, the latter is only the case when life has been lived so exhaustively, and with such devotion, that no more unfulfilled life-duties exist, and when, therefore, there are no more desires which cannot be sacrificed without hesitation.

In a word, this detachment of consciousness can only begin when nothing remains to prevent an inner superiority to the world. It is futile to lie to oneself about this. Wherever one is caught, one is still possessed; and, when one is possessed, it means the presence of something stronger than "oneself" ("Truly from thence willt thou ne'er come forth until thou hast paid the last farthing.")

It is not a matter of unconcern whether one calls something a "mania" or a "god”. To serve a mania is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is full of meaning, and rich in possibilities because it means yielding to a higher, invisible, and spiritual being. The personification enables one to see the relative reality of the autonomous partial-system, which, in turn, makes its assimilation possible and depotentializes the forces of external life. When God is not recognized, selfish desires develop, and out of this selfishness comes illness.

Yoga teaching assumes the recognition of gods to be something granted. Its secret instruction is therefore only intended for him whose light of consciousness is capable of freeing him from the powers of life, in order to enter into the ultimate undivided unity, into the " centre of emptiness where "dwells the god of utmost emptiness and life" as our text says.

"To hear such a teaching is difficult to attain in thousands of aeons".

the veil of Maya cannot be lifted by a mere decision of reason, but demands the most thoroughgoing and wearisome preparation consisting in the right payment of all debts to life.

For, as long as one is in any way held by the domination of cupiditas, the veil is not lifted, and the heights of a consciousness, empty of content and free of illusion, are not reached, nor can any trick nor any deceit bring it about. It is an ideal that can only be completely realized in death. Till then, there are real, and relatively real, figures of the unconscious.