Saturday, June 29, 2019

Jung On The Stages of Life

Carl Gustav Jung, in his essay, “The Stages of Life,” (Chapter 1; The Portable Jung, Edited by Joseph Campbell; translated by R. F. C. Hull), points out that there are four stages in a man’s life, and he talks about the physiological issues that arise as a man transitions from one phase of life to other. Here’s an excerpt in which he is using the analogy of the sun’s motion to describe the difficulty a man faces in transitioning from the phase of mature adulthood to extreme old age:
"Experience shows us, rather, that the basic cause of all the difficulties of this transition is to be found in a deep-seated and peculiar change within the psyche. In order to characterize it I must take for comparison the daily course of the sun—but a sun that is endowed with human feeling and man's limited consciousness. In the morning it rises from the nocturnal sea of unconsciousness and looks upon the wide, bright world which lies before it in an expanse that steadily widens the higher it climbs in the firmament. In this extension of its field of action caused by its own rising, the sun will discover its significance; it will see the attainment of the greatest possible height, and the widest possible dissemination of its blessings, as its goal. In this conviction the sun pursues its course to the unforeseen zenith—unforeseen, because its career is unique and individual, and the culminating point could not be calculated in advance. At the stroke of noon the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal of all the ideals and values that were cherished in the morning. The sun falls into contradiction with itself. It is as though it should draw in its rays instead of emitting them. Light and warmth decline and are at last extinguished." 
Jung notes that it is fortunate that we are not like rising and setting suns, because that would fare badly with our cultural values. “But there is something sunlike within us, and to speak of the morning and spring, of the evening and autumn of life is not mere sentimental jargon.”

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