Carl Gustav Jung mystical vision might be considered his realization between the Biblical God and the real and personal God, in short, God’s grace which he later speaks about as improving people’s lives. The vision which occurred when Jung was around twelve years old was the result of an inner struggle between what he had been religiously taught and what he finally felt compelled to do. He describes it in his Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, during his School Years.
It initially occurred on a beautiful day as he left school. In brilliant sunlight he as a young boy was overwhelmed at the sight as he entered the cathedral square. The world seemed beautiful to him. The church was beautiful as the sun sparkled from the new, brightly glazed tiles. Jung thought of how God made all of this and sits above it far away in the blue sky on a golden throne. It was here he felt a great hole in his thoughts, and a choking sensation. He was numb and new as he told himself, “Don’t go on thinking now! Something terrible is coming, something I do not want to think, something I dare not even approach. Why not? Because I would be committing the most frightful of sins. What is the most terrible sin? Murder? No, it can’t be that. The most terrible sin is the sin against the Holy Ghost, which cannot be forgiven. Anyone who commits that sin is damned to hell for all eternity. That would be very sad for my parents, if their only son, to whom they are so attached, should be doomed to eternal damnation. I cannot do that to my parents. All I need to do is not go on thinking.”
As Jung admits, he found that easier said than done. On his way home he tried thinking of other things but his thoughts kept returning to the beautiful cathedral and God sitting on his throne above. This his thoughts would fly off again as if they had received an electric shock. Again he told himself not to think of it. When arriving home he was pretty worked up and his mother immediately something was wrong. She asked him what was wrong, had something happened at school. Without lying he was able to assure nothing had happened. It occurred to him that if he confessed t her what he was thinking it might help to relieve his turmoil, but he felt he could not because if he told her he would be doing what he was desperately trying not to do.
His inner struggle continued two more days after he slept badly that night from trying to ward of the forbidden thought. He said the next two days were sheer torture. His mother thought he was ill. But he resisted the temptation to confess aided by the thought that it would caused his parents great sorrow.
One the third night he describes his torment as becoming unbearable. He awoke from a restless sleep just in time to catch him from thinking of the cathedral and God. He says he almost completed the thought and felt his resistance weakening. Here Jung gives a detailed description of his struggle and thought pattern; one sees that it is purely Christian. First there is the self-questioning of why he should think of something which he does not know. He is certain he does not want to do (think) it. Where does this terrible will come from? He did not create himself; God did, the way his parents shaped him. Then he thought this might be the desire of his parents, but quickly dismissed the thought as ridiculous because they never had such thoughts.
His unbearable struggle continued. Search for the answer as to why he was in his situation he quickly remembered his ancestors beginning with his grandparents and finally ending Adam and Eve, the first people who had no parents but were created directly by God. God had created Adam and Eve perfect for all of his creation was perfect, but they had sinned, how was this possible? He had placed this possibility within them. God in his omniscience had arranged everything so the first parents would have to sin. Therefore it was God’s intention that they should sin.
This conclusion led young Jung to ask what God wanted of him. He knew he had to find out right away. He also knew according to conventional morality sin must be avoided, that was what he had been doing till now, but he felt he could not go on doing it. His broken sleep and spiritual distress had worn him out to the point where fending of the thought tying him into unbearable knots. But, at the same time, before yielding he thought that he had to find out God’s will and intention. He was by this time certain that God was the author of his desperate problem. He notes that oddly enough at no time did he think the devil might be playing a trick on him because at the time the devil played little part in his mental world since he regarded the devil powerless compared to God. Jung continues describing how convinced he was that God personally planned this test for him. Then once again he asked whether God was testing his obedience not to do it. He thought it through once more, knowing he must not just trust his own thoughts.
After thinking it over again he reached the same conclusion. “‘Obviously God desires for me to show courage,’ I thought. ‘If that is so and I go through with it, then He will give me His grace and illumination.'”
Then Jung, the boy, gathered up all of his courage as if he was about to leap into hell-fire, and let the thought come. He saw before him the cathedral, the blue sky, and God sitting on his throne far above the world. And, then from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder.
Immediately the boy knew what he had done and it was not the frightful sin. He experienced grace and unutterable bliss such as he had never known. He wept for happiness and gratitude. He knew wisdom and goodness of God had been given to him because he had yielded to His inexorable command. It seemed he had experienced a great illumination. A great many things which he had previously failed to understand became clear to him.
These things were what his father had failed to understand, Jung thought; he had failed to experience the will of God, had opposed it for the best of reasons and out of the deepest of faith. And that was why he had never experienced the miracle of grace which heals all and makes all comprehensible. His father had taken the Bible’s commandments as his guide; he believed in God as the Bible prescribed and his forefathers had taught him. But he did not know the immediate living God who stands, omnipotent and free, above His Bible and His Church, who calls upon men to partake of His freedom, and can force him to renounce his own views and convictions in order to fulfill without reserve the command of God. In his trial of human courage God refuses to abide by traditions, no matter how sacred. In his omnipotent He will see to it that nothing evil comes of such tests of courage. If one fulfills the will of God one can be sure of going the right way.
Jung then compares himself with Adam and Eve whom he describes as being created by God in such a way that they had to think what they did not all want to think. He did so to test their obedience. He had done the same with Jung, made him reject religious tradition, made him go against as a test of his obedience. It was his obedience which brought to Jung God’s grace and made this grace comprehensible to him. Afterwards Jung understood one must be utterly abandoned to God; nothing matters but fulfilling his will. Otherwise all is folly and meaningless.
It was then, Jung declared, that his grace and true responsibility began. Why did God befoul His cathedral? For Jung that was a terrible thought. But then came the dim understanding that God could be something terrible; he had experienced a dark and terrible secret, which overshadowed his entire life and caused him to become deeply pensive.
The experience gave Jung a deep sense of inferiority; he the he was either a devil or a swine, or infinitely deprived. But reading about the Pharisee and the republican in the New Testament gave him a certain satisfaction in knowing that reprobates are the chosen ones. It was Peter, the waverer, the rock upon which the Church was built.
Still he was unsure of himself, it was a shaming experience. He had something tangible that was part of the great secret, but was it something evil and sinister which gave him distinction. He had at times an urge to speak to others to see if they had experienced something like it, but he never found as much as a trace within them. As a result he felt that he was outlawed or elected, accused or blessed.
He never told anyone of this experience, always resisting the temptation. But it prefigured his whole life by making him a more solitary person. He felt he knew things and must hint at things which others did not know. This was especially true when hearing religious conversations between his father and two uncles who also were parsons. He remembered wanting to agree that was true, what they said, but what about grace? His secret of God’s grace, he knew, they knew nothing about.
Later, when eighteen, Jung had discussions with his father with the secret hope of conveying to him the miracle of grace in order to help mitigate the pangs of conscience. Jung was convinced that if his father just fulfilled God’s will everything would turn out for the best. But their discussions invariably came to an unsatisfactory end with his irritated and saddened father telling him, “Oh nonsense,” as he was in the habit of saying, “you always want to think. One ought not to think, but believe.”
Then Jung would think, “No, one must experience and know.” But instead say to his father, “Give me this belief,” who would shrug and turn resignedly away. A.G.H.
Hannah, Barbara. Jung His Life and Work: A Biographical Memoir. New York. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1976 Jung, C. J. Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. New York, Vintage Books. 1985
von Franz, Marie-Louise. C. G. Jung: His Myth In Our Time. New York. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1975