Friday, November 21, 2008

Toward Our More Perfect Union


"The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised," writes Sigmund Freud, "that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth. The case is similar to what happens when we tell a child that new-born babies are brought by the stork. Here, too, we are telling the truth in symbolic clothing, for we know what the large bird signifies. But the child does not know it. He hears only the distorted part of what we say, and feels that he has been deceived; and we know how often his distrust of the grown-ups and his refractoriness actually take their start from this impression. We have become convinced that it is better to avoid such symbolic disguisings of the truth in what we tell children and not to withhold from them a knowledge of the true state of affairs commen­surate with their intellectual level."1
It is the purpose of the present book to uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-diffi­cult examples and letting the ancient meaning become ap­parent of itself. The old teachers knew what they were say­ing. Once we have learned to read again their symbolic language, it requires no more than the talent of an anthol­ogist to let their teaching be heard. But first we must learn the grammar of the symbols, and as a key to this mystery I know of no better modern tool than psychoanalysis. Without regarding this as the last word on the subject, one can never­theless permit it to serve as an approach. The second step
1 Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (translated by James Strachey et al., Standard Edition, XXI; London: The Hogarth Press, 1961), pp. 44-45. (Orig. 1927.)



will be then to bring together a host of myths and folk tales from every corner of the world, and to let the symbols speak for themselves. The parallels will be immediately apparent; and these will develop a vast and amazingly constant state­ment of the basic truths by which man has lived throughout the millenniums of his residence on the planet.

Perhaps it will be objected that in bringing out the cor­respondences I have overlooked the differences between the various Oriental and Occidental, modern, ancient, and primi­tive traditions. The same objection might be brought, how­ever, against any textbook or chart of anatomy, where the physiological variations of race are disregarded in the inter­est of a basic general understanding of the human physique. There are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind, but this is a book about the similarities; and once these are understood the differences will be found to be much less great than is popu­larly (and politically) supposed. My hope is that a compara­tive elucidation may contribute to the perhaps not-quite-desperate cause of those forces that are working in the pres­ent world for unification, not in the name of some eccle­siastical or political empire, but in the sense of human mutual understanding. As we are told in the Vedas: "Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names."

For help in the long task of bringing my materials into readable form, I wish to thank Mr. Henry Morton Robinson, whose advice greatly assisted me in the first and final stages of the work, Mrs. Peter Geiger, Mrs. Margaret Wing, and Mrs. Helen McMaster, who went over the manuscripts many times and offered invaluable suggestions, and my wife, who has worked with me from first to last, listening, reading, and revising.

J. C.
New York City June 10,1948

Copyright 1949 by Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York, N.Y. Published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey


First Edition, 1949 Second Edition, 1968

For the second edition, minor corrections have been made and references
to the Collected Works of C. G. Jung and the Standard Edition of
Sigmund Freud have been substituted wherever appropriate.

First Princeton/Bollingen Paperback Printing, 1972 Third Printing, 1973

Princeton University Press books are printed on acid-free paper
and meet the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on
Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 49-8590 ISBN 0-691-01784-0 (paperback edn.) ISBN 0-691-09743-7 (hardcover edn.)

Printed in the United States of America

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