C.G. Jung on The Symbolic Life
You see, man is in need of a symbolic life – badly in need. We only live banal, ordinary, rational, or irrational things . . . but we have no symbolic life. Where do we live symbolically? Nowhere except where we participate in the ritual of life. . . .
Have you got a corner somewhere in your house where you perform the rites, as you can see in India? Even the very simple houses there have at least a curtained corner where the members of the household can perform the symbolic life, where they can make their new vows or their meditation. We don’t have it; we have no such corner. We have our own room, of course, – but there is a telephone that can ring us up at any time, and we always must be ready. We have no time, no place.
We have no symbolic life, and we are all badly in need of the symbolic life. Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul – the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people have no such thing, they can never step out of this mill – this awful, banal, grinding life in which they are “nothing but.” . . . Everything is banal; everything is “nothing but,” and that is the reason why people are neurotic. They are simply sick of the whole thing, sick of that banal life, and therefore they want sensation. They even want a war; they all want a war; they are all glad when there is a war; they say, “Thank heaven, now something is going to happen – something bigger than ourselves!”
These things go pretty deep, and no wonder people get neurotic. Life is too rational; there is no symbolic existence in which I am something else, in which I am fulfilling my role, my role as one of the actors in the divine drama of life.
From a seminar talk given by Carl Jung in 1939 to the Guild for Pastoral Psychology, London