Faith vs Reason

The imposing arguments of science represent the highest degree of intellectual certainty yet achieved by the mind of man. So at least it seems to the man of today, who has received hundred-fold enlightenment concerning the backwardness and darkness of past ages and their superstitions. That his teachers have themselves gone seriously astray by making false comparisons between incommensurable factors never enters his head.

Above all, the facts of faith, which might give him the chance of an extramundane standpoint, are treated in the same context as the facts of science.

Thus, when the individual questions the Churches and their spokesmen, to whom is entrusted the cure of souls, he is informed that membership in a creed is more or less de rigeur for religious belief; that the facts of faith which have become questionable for him were concrete historical events; that certain ritual actions produce miraculous effects; and that the sufferings of Christ have vicariously saved him from sin and its consequences.

If, with the limited means at his disposal, he begins to reflect on these things, he will have to confess that he does not understand them at all and that only two possibilities are open to him; either to believe implicitly, or to reject such statements because they are flatly incomprehensible.

Whereas the man of today can easily think about and understand all the "truths" dished out by the State, his understanding of religion is made considerably more difficult owing to the lack of explanations.

If, despite this, he has still not discarded all his religious convictions, this is because the religious impulse rests on an instinctive basis and is therefore a specifically human function.

You can take away a man's gods, but only to give him others in return.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.45, 46

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The standpoint of the creeds is archaic; they are full of impressive mythological symbolism which, if taken literally, comes into insufferable conflict with knowledge.

But if, for instance, the statement that Christ rose from the dead is to be understood not literally but symbolically, then it is capable of various interpretations that do not collide with knowledge and do not impair the meaning of the statement.

Is it not time that the Christian mythology, instead of being wiped out, was understood symbolically for once?

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.27

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Temples and churches, pagodas and mosques, in all countries and ages, in their splendour and spaciousness, testify to man's need for metaphysics, a need strong and ineradicable, which follows close on the physical.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.162

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Our time has been distinguished, more than by anything else, by a drive to control the external world , and by an almost total forgetfulness of the internal world.

By 'inner' I mean our way of seeing the external world and all those realities that have no 'external', 'objective' presence - imagination, dreams, phantasies, trances, the realities of contemplative and meditative states, realities that modern man, for the most part, has not the slightest direct awareness of.

People did not first 'believe in' God: they experienced his Presence, as was true of other spiritual agencies.

Sanity today appears to rest very largely on a capacity to adapt to the external world - the interpersonal world, and the realm of human collectivities [...] But since society, without knowing it, is starving for the inner, the demands on people to evoke its presence in a 'safe' way, in a way that need not be taken seriously, etc., is tremendous - while the ambivalence is equally intense.

Small wonder that the list of artists, in say the last 150 years, who have become shipwrecked on these reefs is so long - Hölderlin, John Clare, Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, Antonin Artaud ...

Those who survived have had exceptional qualities - a capacity for secrecy, slyness, cunning - a thoroughly realistic appraisal of the risks they run, not only from the spiritual realms that they frequent, but from the hatred of their fellows for anyone engaged in this pursuit.

Let us cure them. The poet who mistakes a real woman for his Muse and acts accordingly ... The young man who sets off in a yacht in search of God ...

The outer divorced from any illumination from the inner is in a state of darkness. We are in an age of darkness. The state of outer darkness is a state of sin - i.e. alienation or estrangement from the inner light. Certain actions lead to greater estrangement; certain others help one not be so far removed. The former used to be called sinful.

Already everything in our time is directed to categorizing and segregating this reality from objective facts.

Many people are prepared to have faith in the sense of scientifically indefensible belief in an untested hypothesis. Few have trust enough to test it. Many people make believe what they experience. Few are made to believe by their experience.

We live in a secular world. To adapt to this world the child abdicates its ecstasy.

There is a prophecy in Amos that there will be a time when there will be a famine in the land, 'not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.' That time has now come to pass. It is the present age.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.115-8


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[A man] must sense that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated. The unexpected and the incredible belong to this world. Only then is life whole.

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.390


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[...] our ancestors understood metaphorically at least five thousand years ago that the process of creative courageous encounter with the unknown comprised the central process underlying successful human adaptation, and that this process stood as the veritable precondition for the existence and maintenance of all good things.

Such understanding, however, was implicit and low-resolution – at best, procedural, embodied, encoded in ritual and drama – and not something elaborated to the point we would consider explicit or semantic understanding today.

We are constantly tempted to regard such understanding as superstitious, because of its continuing lack of explicitness, and to presume that our current modes of apprehension have rendered traditional beliefs superfluous. 

This attitude is predicated (1) on failure to recognize that empirical enquiry cannot provide a complete world description, because of the intractable problems of action, value and consciousness and (2) on an ignorance with regard to the content and meaning of pre-empirical or pre-experimental belief that is so complete, profound and unfathomable that its scope can barely be communicated.

Freud described religious beliefs as illusions, motivated by wish-fulfillment.

Such beliefs can be more accurately understood as culturally-shared and accepted strategies for pragmatically managing complexity.


[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict', in Cortex 38(3), December 2002, p. 453, 455


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