Mysticism in 'The Philosophy of the Unconscious' (1869).

Klimt, Philosophy, 1907 (destroyed by fire in 1945).

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In 1868, when Freud was just 12, Von Hartmann published his three volume compendium of German philosophy, 'The Philosophy of the Unconscious', a work that would later inspire the author of 'The Interpretation of Dreams'. In his autobiographical writings, Jung says that he read Von Hartman's book "assiduously".

The following is an extract from the Introduction and the chapter 'The Unconscious in Mysticism' from the first volume of 'The Philosophy of the Unconscious':


"Philosophy is the history of philosophy,"- to that I subscribe with all my heart. He, however, who should take this assertion to mean that truth is to be found in the past alone would fall into a very serious error; for there is a dead and a living past in the history of Philosophy, and life is only to be found in the present. Thus in a tree, the solid stem of dead-wood which defies the storm is formed by the growth of earlier years, and a thin layer alone contains the life of the mighty plant, until in the next year it too is numbered with the dead. [...] It is not merely strength for which the living ring is debtor to its dead forefathers, but by holding them in its embrace, expansion likewise; wherefore for the newly sprouting ring, as for the tree, the first law is really to embrace and enfold all its predecessors, the second, to grow from the root upwards self-dependently. The problem how to fulfil these two conditions in Philosophy verges on the paradoxical, for... he, who attempts a new departure, generally presents some crude dilettante product from having insufficiently appreciated the previous historic evolution.
I believe that the principle of the Unconscious, which forms the focus in which all the rays of our inquiry meet, when conceived in its generality, may not improperly be regarded as a new point of view. How far I have succeeded in penetrating into the spirit of the previous development of Philosophy I must leave to the judgement of the reader.

...if the causes of all cosmical phenomena could be regressively traced, until they were referred to one or a few ultimate causes or principles, Science, which is one... might attain perfection by way of the inductive method.
Supposeing, however, any one to have solved this problem in a more or less complete form, the question still remains, whether, in imparting his convictions to others, he would do better to follow the track from phenomena backwards and upwards to the original causes, or to deduce the existing world from such first principles?

As the person to be guided dwells in the lower region of fact, his proper starting-point is there, and his upward course is always from the known to the unknown. On the other hand, to place him at the outset at the point of view of first principles would necessitate a salto mortale [deadly jump], and then he would have to proceed from one unknown point to another, only reaching the known again at the conclusion of his journey.
Every one is persuaded that his own opinion is the correct one, and consequently distrusts any novel doctrine. He must, therefore, know how another has arrived at his sublime results, if his own distrust is to be removed, and this requires the employment of the ascending method.

Deduction from first principles, supposing it to be absolutely flawless, may perhaps be imposing by its vastness, compactness, and subtlety, but does not produce conviction. For since the same effects can arise from different causes, in the most favourable case deduction only proves the possibility of these principles, by no means their necessity; it does not even give them a coefficient of probablity, as the inductive method does, never advancing beyond the bare notion of possibility.

After what has been stated, it would be inexplicable how anybody who had arrived at his principles by the inductive path should take the deductive method for their communication and proof... . The truth is, that philosophers who deduce their systems... , have arrived at their principles by the only way save induction which is open to them, viz, by a sort of mystical flight... . In their case deduction is the attempt to descend from the mystically acquired results to the reality to be explained, and that too by a path, which has always possessed a fascination for system-loving minds dazzled by the certainty of the results attained in the very different science of mathematics. For such philosophers deduction is certainly the appropriate method, since their given starting-point is the upper region of thought. [...] The principle may perhaps gain somewhat in comprehensibility by the process, but no power of convincing, and the attainment of a conviction of their correctness is left exclusively to mystical reproduction, as their discovery consisted in mystical production. It is the greatest misfortune for Philosophy, so far as it employs this method, that the assurance of the truth of its results is not communicable as in the case of inductive science; and even the comprehension of its content, as is well known, is no easy matter, because it is infintely difficult to pour a mystical conception into an adequately scientific mould. Philosophers, however, only too frequently deceive both themselves and their readers with regard to the mystical origin of their principles, and try, in the absence of good proofs, to give them a scientific support by subtle sophisms... . Here is the explanation of the circumstance, that people (save in the rare exception of a certain mental affinity) feel an extreme repugnance to the study of the philosophers, when they turn their proofs and deductions, but, on the other hand, are attracted and fascinated in the highest degree by the imposing compactness of their systems, their grand views of the world, their flashes of genius illuminating the darkest recesses, their deep conceptions, their ingenious apercus, their psychological acument. It is the mode of proof that inspires the man of science with his instinctive aversion to Philosophy... .

Thus a chasm yawns between the methods... . It may be concluded from this that the whole truth cannot be comprehended from one side alone, but that the matter must be approached simultaneously from both sides, and a survey made from opposite stations in order to find out the salient points, where a bridge can be thrown across. [...] Thoughts crystallise both from above and from below, as the mass of melted sulphur coalesces when the most prominent needles interlace, but not before. [...] The present time needs a spokesman who has comprehended both sides...

Chapter IX The Unconscious in Mysticism

...Religion is the ground and soil on which mysticism springs up most easily and luxuriantly; but it is by no means its only hot-bed. Mysticism is rather a creeping plant, which grows up exuberantly on any support... . has accompanied the history of civilisation from early prehistoric times to the present day. It has doubtless changed its character with the spirit of the times, but no advance of civilisation has ever been able to repress it; it has maintained itself just as unconquerable in presence of the infidelity of materialism as against he terrors of the Inquisition. But mysticism has also performed priceless civilising services for the human race. Without the mysticism of Neo-Pythagoreanism, the Johannean Christianity would ever have arisen; without the mysticism of the Middle Ages, the spirit of Christianity would have been submerged in Catholic idolatry and scholastic formalism; without the mysticism of the persecuted heretical communities from the beginning of the eleventh century, which, in spite of all suppressions, ever sprang up again with renewed energy under another name, the blessings of the Reformation would never have dispelled the darker shades of the Middle Ages and opened the portals of the new era. Without mysticism in the mind of the German people, and among the heroes of modern German poetry and philosophy, we should have been so completely inundated by the shallow drifting sand of the French materialism in the last century, that we might not have got our heads free again for who knows how long. As for the human race as a whole, so also for the individual. So long as it keeps free from sickly and rank outgrowths, mysticism is of inestimable worth. [...] Genuine mysticism is then something deeply founded in the inmost essence of man, in itself healthy, if also easily inclining to morbid growths, and of high value both for the individual and for humanity at large.

All founders of religion, and prophets, have declared that they have either received their wisdom personally from God, or, in composing their works, delivering their speeches, and doing their wonders, have been inspired by the Divine Spirit, which most of the higher religions have made an article of faith.

If we ask how we have to conceive this immediate knowledge through intellectual intuition, Fichte and Schelling give us answers on this point also. Fichte says, in the " Facts of Consciousness " :—" Man has in general nothing but experience, and he comes by everything whereto he attains only through experience, through life itself. In the theory of the sciences, too, as the absolute highest potency, above which no consciousness can rise, nothing can at all occur which does not lie in actual consciousness or in experience, in the highest sense of the term." And Schelling corroborates (" Works," ii. vol. i. p. 326):—"For, to be sure, there are also those who speak of thought as an antithesis to all experience, as if thought itself were not certainly also experience!" Immediate or mystical knowledge is here very well included in the notion, experience, because it is previously found "in actual consciousness" as given, without the will being able to make any change in it. No matter whether this datum is given from within or from without, conscious will has, in either case, nothing to do with it, and consciousness, to which its unconscious background is just as unconscious, must accordingly accept its inspirations as something extraneous, whence arises the belief in divine or demoniac inspiration of the intellectual intuition in earlier times, and among those untrained in philosophy. Since consciousness knows that it has not derived its knowledge directly or indirectly from sense perception, thereby being pre-eminently immediate knowledge, it can only have arisen through inspiration from the Unconscious, and we have accordingly comprehended the essence of the mystical— as the filing of consciousness with a content {feeling, thought, desire) through involuntary emergence of the same from the Unconscious.
 "We must accordingly claim clairvoyance and presentiment as essentially mystical— a subdivision of mysticism, so far as it has reference to thought,—and shall not be able to avoid finding something mystical also in every instinct, namely, so far as the unconscious clairvoyance of instinct appears in consciousness as presentiment, faith, or certainty.[...] ...I characterise those thoughts and feelings as mystical in form, which owe their origin to an immediate intrusion of the Unconscious, thus before all the aesthetic feeling in contemplation and production, the origin of sensuous perception and the unconscious processes in thinking, feeling, and willing generally. This perfectly justifiable application meets with resistance only from vulgar prejudice, which sees marvel and mystery only in the extraordinary, but finds nothing obscure or marvellous in the things of every-day life—only because there is nothing rare and unusual in it. Certainly, one does not call a man, who only carries about in himself these ever recurring mysteries, a mystic ; for if this word is to mean more than human being, it must be reserved for the men who participate in the rarer phenomena of mysticism, namely, such inspirations of the Unconscious as go beyond the common need of the individual or of the race, €.g., clairvoyants, through spontaneous somnambulism or natural disposition, or persons with a darker but frequently active power of presentiment (Socrates' " Daimonion "). I should also not object to the designating as mystics, in the province of their art, all eminent art geniuses, who owe their productions predominantly to inspirations of their genius, and not to the work of their consciousness, be they in all other concerns of life as clear-headed as possible {e.g., Phidias, Eschylus, Eaphael, Beethoven) ; and he alone could take offence who has himself so little of the mystical vein in him, that the incommensurability of the genuine work of art with any rationalistic standard, as well as the infinity of its content, in respect of all attempts at definition, has not yet at all entered into his consciousness.
In philosophy I should like to extend the notion still further, and call every original philosopher a mystic, so far as he is truly original; for in the history of philosophy no high thought has ever been brought to light by laborious conscious trial and induction, but has always been apprehended by the glance of genius, and then elaborated by the understanding. Add to that, that philosophy essentially deals with a theme which is most intimately connected with the one feeling only to be mystically apprehended, namely, the relation of the individual to the Absolute. All that has gone before only concerned such matter of consciousness as can or could arise in no other way, thus is here only called mystical, because tlie form of its origin is mystical ; but now we come to an item of consciousness, which, in its inmost character, is only to be apprehended mystically, which thus also, materially, may be called mystical; and a human being who can produce this mystical content will have to be called pre-eminently a mystic.
To wit, conscious thought can comprehend the identity of the individual with the Absolute by a rational method, as we too have found ourselves on the way to this goal in our inquiry ; but the Ego and the Absolute and their identity stand before it as three abstractions, whose union in the judgment is made probable, it is true, through the preceding proofs, yet an immediate feeling of this identity is not attained by it. The authoritative belief in an external revelation may credulously repeat the dogma of such a unity—the living feeling of the same cannot be engrafted or thrust on the mind from without, it can only spring up in the mind of the believer himself ; in a word, it is to be attained neither by philosophy nor external revelation, but only mystically, by one with equal mystical proclivities, the more easily, indeed, the move perfect and pure are the philosophical notions or religious ideas already possessed. Therefore this feeling is the content of mysticism, [ ], because it finds its existence only in it, and, at the same time, the highest and ultimate, if also, as we have seen before, by no means the only aim of all those who have devoted their lives to mysticism. Nay, we may even go so far as to assert that the production of a certain degree of this mystical feeling, and the enjoyment lurking in it, is the sole inner aim of all religion, and that it is, therefore, not incorrect, if less significative, to apply the name religious feeling to it. Further, if the highest blessedness lurks in this feeling for its possessor, as is confirmed by the experience of all mystics, the transition is manifestly easy to the endeavour to heighten this feeling in degree, by seeking to make the union between the Ego and the Absolute ever closer and more intimate. But it is also not difficult to see that we have here arrived at the point previously indicated, where mysticism spontaneously  degenerates into the morbid, by overshooting its mark. Undoubtedly we must elevate ourselves for this purpose a little above the standpoint hitherto attained in our investigations. The unity, namely of the Absolute and the individual, whose individuality or egoity is given through consciousness, thus, in other words, the unity of the unconscious and conscious, is once for all given, inseparable and indestructible, except by destruction of the individual; wherefore, however, every attempt to make this unity more close than it is, is so absurd and useless. The way which, historically, has almost always been taken, is that of the annihilation of consciousness—the endeavour to let the individual perish in the Absolute. This, however, contains a great error, as if, when the goal of annihilation of consciousness was reached, the individual still existed; the Ego at once desires to be annihilated, and to subsist in order to enjoy this annihilation. Consequently this goal has hitherto been always only imperfectly attained on both sides, although the accounts of the mystics enable us to perceive that many on this path have attained an admirable height, or rather depth, so that I shall adduce a few illustrations. (True self-annihilation is, of course, only suicide ; but here the contradiction is too patent for it to have often, been the, result of mysticism.)
Michael Molinos, the father of Quietism, says, among the eight-and-sixty propositions of his celebrated " Spiritual Guide," condemned by Innocent VI. :—" Man must annihilate his powers, and the soul annihilates itself when it ceases to effect anything. And if the soul has attained the mystical death, it can—having now returned to its fundamental cause, to God—will nothing further than what God wills." The mystics of the earlier part of the Middle Ages distinguish in different ways a greater or smaller number of stages ; the last is always absorption, the same state as we already find described among the Buddhist gymnosophists, the modern Persian Sufis, and the Hesychasts or quietists or Omphalists of Mount Athos. It is said that in absorption the human being is no longer aware of his body, perceives nothing external at all, nay not even his inner self. " To think of absorption is already to emerge from absorption." To die to one's ownness, to completely annihilate personality, and to let one's self be lost in the divine essence, is expressly demanded. Nay, even the essential forms of consciousness, space, and time must disappear, as we gather from a conversation of the prophet with Ssaid [?], where the latter says :—" Day and night have disappeared for me like a flash of lightning; I embraced at once eternity before and after the world; to those in such a state a hundred years and an hour are one and the same." All this is confirmed by the endeavour after identification with the Absolute, through annihilation of the individual consciousness.

From mystics proceeded the religious revelations, from mystic philosophy; mysticism is the common source of both. It is true that fear first created gods on earth, so far as it was fear, which first stirred up the fancy of mystical brains, but what they created was their own, and fear had no part therein. But when the first gods were once there, they propagated among themselves, and fear lost its function. Accordingly the old assertion so highly valued by theologians, of the god-consciousness dwelling in man is no fable, if there be also perfectly godless individuals and peoples, in whom it has never emerged ; mysticism is Adam's scion, and its children are the ideas of the gods and their relation to man. How elevated and pure these ideas may have been even in quite early times in the esoteric doctrines of many peoples, is shown in the case of the Hindus, who have in effect implicitly possessed the whole history of philosophy, presenting in figurative and undeveloped form what we exhibit only too abstractly through only too many writers and volumes.
Thus I see in the whole history of philosophy nothing else than the conversion of a mystically-begotten content from the form of the image or the unproved assertion into that of the rational system, for which certainly often a new mystical production of single parts is required, which a later age finds already contained in the ancient writings.—It is naturally not wonderful, that from the moment when philosophy and religion get to be separated, they both deny their human-mystical origin ; the former seeks to present its results as rationally acquired, the latter as external Divine revelation. For as long as the mystic abides by his results, without trying to give them a rational foundation, he is not yet philosopher, and this only becomes possible by his giving conscious reasoning its rights. But this he will not do until he prefers the latter to mysticism, and then he likes to renounce and forget the mystical source of his results, which will not be difficult for him, considering the obscurity of their mode of origin. On the other hand, if the mystic thinks little of conscious reason, or naturally inclines to fanciful exposition, he will seek a pictorial-symbolical expression for his results, which of course can always be only an accidental and imperfect one. Now, as soon as he himself or his successors become incapable of grasping the idea lurking behind the symbols, and take those themselves for the truth, they cease again to be mystics and become religionists. As they themselves can neither mystically reproduce their symbols, nor are these rationally comprehensible, they must appeal to the authority of the founder for the truth of the same, and as human authority appears too small for such important affairs—possibly, too, the founder himself has already claimed to be recipient of divine communications—their truth is referred to the divine authority itself. Thus arise the moulds which shape the dogmatic content of religion. The more adequate are the symbols of the mystical Idea, the purer and sublimer is the religion ; the more abstract and philosophical, however, must also the symbols be ; the more inadequate and sensuous they are, the more does religion sink into superstitious idolatry and sacerdotal formalism. Now he who takes the symbols of religion again merely as symbols, and wishes to grasp the idea dwelling behind them, steps out of religion as such, which requires, and must require, literal belief in the symbols, and becomes again a mystic ; and this is the usual way in which mysticism is formed, by clearer heads finding the historically given religion unsatisfactory, and desiring to grasp the profounder ideas which lurk behind its symbols. One sees now how closely related religion and mysticism are, and how they are yet somewhat different in principle ; one sees also why an established church must always be hostile to mysticism.
If we now ask how it came to pass that mysticism, which brought to men the first revelations of the super-sensible, did not stop there, but became converted into philosophy and religion, the reason of this is shown in the vagueness of the purely mystical result, which must necessarily strive to acquire a form. As little as the mystical is in itself communicable, so little is it comprehensible for the consciousness of the thinker himself; it is like everything unconscious — a definite content to consciousness only when it has entered the forms of sensibility, as light, clearness, vision, image, symbol, or abstract thought. Previously it is only absolutely indefinite feeling, i.e. consciousness experiences nothing but blessedness or unblessedness absolutely. If, now, the feeling first becomes definite in images or thoughts of a certain kind, there dwells in this image or thought alone for consciousness the content of the mystical result; and it is consequently no wonder that, if with the weakening of the mystical energy the inspirations fail, consciousness cleaves to these sensuous residua—least of all, when others do this, to whom only these residua, and not the feelings united therewith, can be imparted, not that undefined somewhat which tells the productive mystic that his images and thoughts are still always an incomplete expression of the super-sensual idea. But communication requires still more : the other party desires to have not merely the What of the mystical results, but also the Why, for the productive mystic receives, it is true, through the way in which he arrives at it, an immediate certainty, but whence is a third person to obtain conviction? Religion helps itself here with the surrogate of authoritative faith annihilating independent judgment ; philosophy, however, tries rationally to prove what it has mystically received, and thereby to make the private property of the mystic the public property of thinking humanity. Only too frequently, as could not well be otherwise, considering the difficulty of the subject, these rational proofs are unsuccessful, in that they, apart from what is really incorrect in them, depend again themselves on suppositions, of the truth of which conviction can only be mystically acquired. And thus it comes to pass that the different philosophical systems, however imposing they are to many, yet have only full probative force for the author and for some few who are able to reproduce mystically in themselves the underlying suppositions (e.g. Spinoza'a Substance, Fichte's Ego, Schelling's Subject-Object,  Schopenhauer's Will), and that those philosophical systems, which rejoice in most adherents, are just the poorest of all and most unphilosophical (e.g., Materialism and rationalistic Theism).
Were I now to name the man whom I regard as the flower of philosophical mysticism, I should pronounce the name of Spinoza: his starting-point, the mystical Substance, his ultimatum ^ the mystical love of God, in which God loves himself, and all else sun-clear, according to mathematical methods.
Certainly Spinoza did not think himself a mystic, but rather supposed he had proved everything so surely that all must see it; and yet his system, imposing as it is, has nothing convincing about it, and convinces so few, because one must first be convinced of Substance in Spinoza's sense, which only a mystic can, or a philosopher who at the close of his system has reached the same by another path, and then no longer needs Spinozism. Similarly is it, however, with all other systems, excepting the few which, like those of Leibnitz and the English, begin from below, but then also do not get far, and, properly speaking, are not to be called systems. The complete rational proof of the mystical results can only appear at the close of the history of philosophy, for the latter consists, as has been said, altogether in the search for this proof.
Finally, we must not omit to call attention to the risk of error which lies in mysticism, and which is so much worse in this than in rational thought, because the latter has in itself, and in the co-operation of others, the control and hope of improvement, but the error which has crept in[to?] mystical form is ineradicable. One must not thereby, however, conceive the matter as if the Unconscious imparted false inspirations, but it then imparts none at all, and consciousness simply takes the images of its uninspired fancy for inspirations of the Unconscious, because it longs for them.
It is just as difficult, to distinguish a genuine inspiration of the Unconscious in the waking state in a mystical mood from mere freaks of fancy, as a clairvoyant dream from an ordinary one ; as in the latter case only the result, so in the former only the purity and inner worth of the result, can decide this question. But as true inspirations are always rare conditions, it is easy to see that among all, who ardently long for such mystical suggestions, very many self-deceptions must occur for one true inspiration; it is therefore not astonishing how much nonsense mysticism has brought to light, and that it must in consequence be extremely repugnant to every rational mind.

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