All Haste Is of the Devil: Carl Jung as Homesteader

Carl Jung pumping water in the Tower at Bollingen. From the Library of Congress.
It’s a holiday here in the US, so we’ve turned things over to a special guest blogger, Dr. Carl Jung, who comes to us via the special astral internet plan we get from AT&T. As it turns out, Jung was quite the off-grid homesteader when it came to building and living in his special retreat tower in Bollingen, on the shore of Lake Zürich.

I have done without electricity, and tend the fireplace and stove myself. Evenings, I light the old lamps. There is no running water, and I pump the water from the well. I chop the wood and cook the food. These simple acts make man simple and how difficult it is to be simple!

Why live the simple life? Jung says,

. . . we have plunged down a cataract of progress which sweeps us on into the future with ever wilder violence the farther it takes us from our roots. Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motion. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilization and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the light of the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will at last bring the proper sunrise. We refuse to recognize that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is cancelled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.

Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est—all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.

Text from Jung’s highly engaging autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. These are Jung’s notions, not my own. As a blogger, Twitterer and Facebookafier, I’d be a hypocrite if I said I was in 100% agreement. But, it sure is nice to be away from the computer sometimes. And I still refuse to get that “smart” phone. Your thoughts? Leave a comment . . . 

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  1. Yes,in total agreement and yes being a total hypocrite as I type this out on my iPad. The world would be a better place if we chopped wood more and typed less.

    Maybe I can find an app to chop wood for me this winter……..

    Thanks., Tohner

  2. Very interesting. I never would have guessed that Jung was the author of that quote. Considering the vast wealth at his disposal, the image of Jung retreating to bucolic simplicity brings to mind Marie Antoinette’s hamlet where she played milkmaid in a gorgeously artificial country setting. Of course, she never came up with anything half so thoughtful and cogent to say about her experience. And if the telegraph, telephone, and early tv “unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life,” just imagine the despair with which he would have regarded the internet and the ubiquity of hand-held computers, which so many seem unable to peel their eyeballs away from.

  3. Considering all the old skills you practice and teach, I was not sure if this was another tongue-in-cheek post or not.

    Jung, for all his nostalgia expressed for simplicity, wanted to be thought of as a scientist. It is always easy to retreat to an earlier, simpler and rougher time, when a person knows the easy life, connection to the world and technology is one step away. It is/was more difficult to live without modern (in whatever era) when there is no hope of obtaining relief.

    I liken statements and endeavors like his to playing, a vacation from daily stressors. However, if his whole life were nothing but a relief from his usual life.

    He said, “how difficult it is to be simple.” as he was in the middle of his experiment in simplicity. He was acknowledging the effort of his daily endeavors.

    Wordsworth and Thoreau both turned their backs, seemingly, on modernity while they still had one foot in the new ways and took full advantage of what society had to offer. Others have made similar statements, but they do not, like Jung, acknowledge that the simpler life is difficult.

  4. Wow, what an amazing passage. It could have been written by someone today. I had no idea about that side of Carl Jung. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  5. Mmm. Beautiful and surprising post. Thank you for it and for the memories it evokes.

    You can’t call me either on my non-existent smart phone. Reach me in the collective unconscious…

  6. Very beautiful blog — and what a lovely website design.
    I was taken aback by the symbol on the right side of Dr. Jung’s picture at the top of the page. The pentacle inside the square containing the sun cross. Is that a sign of Venus transiting the sun every 8 years?

    I saw something very similar this week in a book called “The Holy Place”, in the construction of the Rennes-Le-Château — a pentacle wrapped around the sun cross, representing Venus transiting the Sun.

    It was a beautiful, breathtaking thing.

    But — I did want to ask —

    is that the Eastern Star?
    The Venus pentacle around the sun?

    Thank you for the beautiful site — will look at the older ones; this article came up in Google.


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