The Zofingia Lectures

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During his undergraduate years at Basel University, Jung delivered a series of lectures to the institute’s branch of the country-wide ‘Zofingia’ society.

Now part of the Collected Works as a ‘supplementary volume’ number 20, they are an early taster of what was to come from the great man.

Given between 1896 and 1899, Jung was 21 for the first one: ‘The Border Zones of Exact Science’. As expected the frat group was big on dining and drinking, but these talks were a compulsory part of membership.

While Jung just listened to what others said during the first year, he soon sprang up to take the floor – as this volume testifies.

It’s short – just five short talks covering around 100 pages in the Routledge edition of 1983. And Maria von Franz is rather dismissive of these early Jung pieces: “I believe that Jung himself would not have cared to publish these juvenilia…”

But I find there is substance in these early lectures of Jung. As the meetings were private affairs, often the language is strong, and the opinions forthright.

We still see educated people in every walk of life – and not least among them physicians and natural scientists – who are not ashamed to proclaim their adherence to materialism, thus bearing witness to their own intellectual poverty

This is the start of Jung’s anti-materialistic stance that he will continue all his life. And he targets the weak point in its argument, namely gravitation.

The law of the conservation of energy tells us that for every force there exists an equivalent force whose decrease is proportional to the increase of the first force. Now let us apply this law to our problems of universal gravitation. Where does the body get its energy? Matter exerts gravitational force because it is a property of matter to exert gravitational force. Once again we confront a collision between reason and reality. Reason demands an equivalent force, reality has none.

It’s a brilliant attack on the scientist who like “materialist-minded savants are croaking away like frogs”.

The second lecture, ‘Some Thoughts on Psychology’ then looks at how science has to be moral – those who think otherwise are sinning against man.

Jung particularly attacks “the cruel torture of animals which is a mockery of all human decency…No truth obtained by unethical means has the right to exist.”

The next lecture is an address on taking on the chairmanship of the club, in which he talks about the need for leadership – something he would later shift his position away from.

Then in number four ‘Thoughts on the Nature and Value of Speculative Inquiry’ Jung expounds on his need to understand the world and his mind, which leads into how essentially there are certain things that man can’t understand.

At bottom, ie in itself, everything that exists moves within one and the same world. The absolute realm is not divided into two distinct realms. All is One. A separation exists only in relation to us, because our sense organs are capable of perceiving only specific areas of the world-as-absolute.

This split is the human world of the senses and suffering, and this takes us into the fifth lecture, ‘Thoughts on the Interpretation of Christianity, with Reference to the Theory of Albrecht Ritschl’.

Ritschl was a German Protestant theologian who denied any mystical element to religion. In other words like a red rag to Jung’s theories of religion.

For Jung he sums up all those religious folk who believes God lives outside, rather than in the psyche:

Ritchl’s Christian knows that his God exists only in church, school and home. And it is to this powerless God that a Christian is supposed to pray for salvation from bodily and spiritual want? God cannot lift a finger, for he exists only historically, and in a strictly limited sense

Jung concludes: “no religion will ever survive without mystery” – and that will guide him for the next 50-plus years.

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