Jung on Limitation and the Creation of Consciousness

C. G. Jung, from the conclusion of the chapter "On Life After Death," in his memoir Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Vintage Books, 1989; first published 1961):

The feeling for the infinite, however, can be attained only if we are bounded to the utmost. The greatest limitation for man is the "self"; it is manifested in the experience: "I am only that!" Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious. In such awareness we experience ourselves as limited and eternal, as both one and the other. In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination -- that is, ultimately limited -- we possess the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite. But only then!
In an era which has concentrated exclusively upon extension of living space and increase of rational knowledge at all costs, it is a supreme challenge to ask man to become conscious of his uniqueness and his limitation. Uniqueness and limitation are synonymous. Without them, no perception of the unlimited is possible -- and, consequently, no coming to consciousness either -- merely a delusory identity with it which takes the form of intoxication with large numbers and an avidity for political power.

Our age has shifted all emphasis to the here and now, and thus brought about a daemonization of man and his world. The phenomenon of dictators and all the misery they have wrought springs from that fact that man has been robbed of transcendence by the shortsightedness of super-intellectuals. Like them, he has fallen a victim to unconsciousness. But man's task is the exact opposite: to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. Neither should he persist in his unconsciousness, nor remain identical with the unconscious elements of his being, thus evading his destiny, which is to create more and more consciousness. As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.


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