Karl Jung: Our Life is a “Flimsy”

This move to Taos, New Mexico has been every bit the adventure I had anticipated…and more. Yes, the “adventure” has been intense at times as I found that “literallew” is very much alive and kicking in the depths of my heart and does not like change. I wish that rascal would go away! (But, not really! He is a key element in my heart and always will be.)

One of the first discoveries I made out here was a Jungian study group that was being organized by a Jungian analyst who was trained at the Jungian Institute in Zurich. My wife and I joined the small group and proceeded to explore several chapters of Jung’s Tavistock Lectures. This experienced as renewed my interest in exploration of archetypal energies present in my own life and in life itself. Jung had a tremendous ability to explore the depths of the heart, having explored his own even to the point of nearly suffering a “nervous breakdown.” Jung believed that dreams were very revealing about what is going on in our life and will announce what our hidden issues are and will continue to do so until we address them. But in the current reading I have now discovered that he felt that life itself is but a dream, that even our conscious life is the playing-out of our unconscious fantasies and is itself a “fantasy” of sorts. This is what Shakespeare had in mind when he said that “our life is but the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Now of course, Jung was not nuts and realized that “reality” is just that, “real.” But he felt there was more to this “real” world than what most people realize but that most people prefer to live life on the surface, not daring to look beneath that surface and begin to explore those subterranean depths where monsters and ghouls roam about at will. But as Jung noted, “What we resist, persists” and so the hidden dimensions of our life always find expression “out there” in the world, usually in other people. My favorite example of this projection is what I call the Chicken Little phenomena, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” I grew up in a sub culture in the American South where impending doom was a basic assumption of life, where “the judgment of God” was always imminent, where “the sky is going to fall” was a constant fear. I now see that this subtle assumption of that culture…and primarily its religion…reflected a deep pessimism about life and an awareness of just how precarious our grip on life was. This belief system reflected a deep-seated existential insecurity which always requires the compensation of rigid belief systems. The more uncertain you are in the depths of your heart, the more fiercely are you certain about your belief system. And to consider that someone else’s belief system might be equally valid would threaten this certainty, requiring that other belief systems must be opposed or demonized in some fashion.

Here is the full context of the Shakespearean quote above, from “The Tempest”:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


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