The Divine Wager

— Carl Gustav Jung —

Some Upaniṣad explain that the ultimate goal of the Veda, of its hymns, songs and formulas, is metaphysical knowledge.

What does this knowledge consist of?

Some wise men have said that such knowledge may fit in just one sentence.

Others indicate that it touches on the nature of the world and the nature of the Self.

They state, for example, that « the world is a triad consisting of name, form and action »i, and they add, without contradiction, that it is also « one », and that this One is the Self. Who is the Self, then? It is like the world, in appearance, but above all it possesses immortality. « The Self is one and it is this triad. And it is the Immortal, hidden by reality. In truth the Immortal is breath ; reality is name and form. This breath is here hidden by both of them. » ii

Why do we read ‘both of them’ here, if the world is a ‘triad’?

In the triad of the world, what ‘hides’ is above all the ‘name’ and the ‘form’. Action can hide, in the world, but it can also reveal.

Thus the One ‘acts’, as the sun acts. The divine breath also acts, without word or form. The weight of words differs according to the context…

We will ask again: why this opposition between, on the one hand, ‘name, form, action’, and on the other hand ‘breath’? Why reality on the one hand, and the Immortal on the other? Why this cut, if everything is one? Why is the reality of the world so unreal, so obviously fleeting, so little immortal, and so separated from the One?

Perhaps reality participates in some way in the One, in a way that is difficult to conceive, and therefore participates in the Immortal.

Reality is apparently separated from the One, but it is also said to ‘hide’ It, to ‘cover’ It with the veil of its ‘reality’ and ‘appearance’. It is separated from It, but in another way, it is in contact with It, as a hiding place contains what it hides, as a garment covers a nakedness, as an illusion covers an ignorance, as existence veils the essence.

Hence another question. Why is it all arranged this way? Why these grandiose entities, the Self, the World, Man? And why these separations between the Self, the World and Man, metaphysically disjointed, separated? What rhymes the World and Man, in an adventure that goes beyond them entirely?

What is the purpose of this metaphysical arrangement?

A possible lead opens up with C.G. Jung, who identifies the Self, the Unconscious, – and God.

« As far as the Self is concerned, I could say that it is an equivalent of God ».iiiiv

The crucial idea is that God needs man’s conscience. This is the reason for man’s creation. Jung postulates « the existence of a [supreme] being who is essentially unconscious. Such a model would explain why God created a man with consciousness and why He seeks His purpose in him. On this point the Old Testament, the New Testament and Buddhism agree. Master Eckhart says that ‘God is not happy in His divinity. So He gives birth to Himself in man. This is what happened with Job: the creator sees himself through the eyes of human consciousnessv

What does it (metaphysically) imply that the Self does not have a full awareness of itself, and even that It is much more unconscious than conscious? How can this be explained? The Self is so infinite that It can absolutely not have a full, absolute consciousness of Itself. Consciousness is an attention to oneself, a focus on oneself. It would be contrary to the very idea of consciousness to be ‘conscious’ of infinitely everything, of everything at once, for all the infinitely future times and the infinitely past times.

An integral omniscience, an omni-conscience, is in intrinsic contradiction with the concept of infinity. For if the Self is infinite, it is infinite in act and potency. And yet consciousness is in act. It is the unconscious that is in potency. The conscious Self can realize the infinite in act, at any moment, and everywhere in the World, or in the heart of each man, but It cannot also put into act what unrealized potency still lies in the infinity of possibilities. It cannot be ‘in act’, for example, today, in hearts and minds of the countless generations yet to come, who are still ‘in potency’ to come into existence.

The idea that there is a very important part of the unconscious in the Self, and even a part of the infinite unconscious, is not heretical. Quite the contrary.

The Self does not have a total, absolute, consciousness of Itself, but only a consciousness of what in It is in act. It ‘needs’ to realize its part of the unconscious, which is in potency in It, and which is also in potency in the world, and in Man…

This is the role of reality, the role of the world and its triad ‘name, form, action’. Only ‘reality’ can ‘realize’ that the Self resides in it, and what the Self expects of it. It is this ‘realisation’ that contributes to the emergence of the part of the unconscious, the part of potency, that the Self contains, in germ; in Its infinite unconscious.

The Self has been walking on Its own, from all eternity, and for eternities to come (although this expression may seem odd, and apparently contradictory). In this unfinished ‘adventure’, the Self needs to get out of Its ‘present’, out of Its own ‘presence’ to Itself. It needs to ‘dream’. In short, the Self ‘dreams’ creation, the world and Man, in order to continue to make what is still in potency happen in act.

This is how the Self knows Itself, through the existence of that which is not the Self, but which participates in It. The Self thus learns more about Itself than if It remained alone, mortally alone. Its immortality and infinity come from there, from Its power of renewal, from an absolute renewal since it comes from what is not absolutely the Self, but from what is other to It (for instance the heart of Man).

The world and Man, all this is the dream of the God, that God whom the Veda calls Man, Puruṣa, or the Lord of creatures, Prajāpati, and whom Upaniṣads calls the Self, ātman.

Man is the dream of the God who dreams of what He does not yet know what He will be. This is not ignorance. It is only the open infinite of a future yet to happen.

He also gave His name: « I shall be who I shall be ». vi אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, ehyeh acher ehyeh. If the God who revealed Himself to Moses in this way with a verb in an « imperfective aspect » ‘, it is because the Hebrew language allows one side of the veil to be lifted. God is not yet « perfective », as is the verb that names Him.

Pascal developed the idea of a ‘bet’ that man should make, to win infinity. I would like to suggest that another ‘bet’, this time divine, accompanies the human bet. It is the wager that God made in creating His creation, accepting that non-self coexists with Him, in the time of His dream.

What is the nature of the divine wager? It is the bet that Man, by names, by forms, and by actions, will come to help the divinity to accomplish the realization of the Self, yet to do, yet to create, the Self always in potency.

God dreams that Man will deliver Him from His absence (to Himself).

For this potency, which still sleeps, in a dreamless sleep, in the infinite darkness of His unconscious, is what the God dreams about.

In His own light, He knows no other night than His own.

iB.U. 1.6.1

iiB.U. 1.6.1

iiiC.G. Jung. Letter to Prof. Gebhard Frei.1 3 January 1948. The Divine in Man. Albin Michel.1999. p.191

ivC.G. Jung. Letter to Aniela Jaffé. September 3, 1943. The Divine in Man. Albin Michel.1999. p.185-186

vC.G. Jung. Letter to Rev. Morton Kelsey. .3 May 1958. The Divine in Man. Albin Michel.1999. p.133

viEx 3.14

Surviving Self

How to survive our Self?

Are we essentially alone in the face of the porous mysteries of the unconscious? Are we always alone in front of what could suddenly be discovered or revealed there, after long and slow maturation? Are we alone in front of the flagrant repression of what will remain buried there forever?

Many wander in sorrow in the deserts of their own minds, they wander lonely in the ergs of understanding. Fleeing the austerity of the silent void, they flee to the hubbub.

Others think alone, against the norm, against opinion, against the crowd. « I cross the philosophical space in absolute solitude. As a result, it no longer has any limits, no walls, it doesn’t hold me back. This is my only chance.”i

But if it is difficult to think alone, it is even more difficult to think with others.

The common brings us closer and warms us up. It doesn’t encourage people to try to reach cold peaks. The community compensates for isolation, and offers fusion in the mass. But something resists. It is the haunting, extreme, demanding feeling that the ‘self’ is not the ‘us’. The ideological, collective, social ‘us’ does not intersect with the inner, personal, singular ‘self’…

Cultures, religions and civilizations are ‘us’, fleeting in essence.

They fictitiously envelop billions of solitary ‘selves’, in essence. All these ‘us’ become lifeless shells, skinless drums, after a few millennia.

The mystery is that only the ‘self’ will survive them.

A deeper mystery yet: how to survive our Self?


iCatherine Malabou, Changer de différence, – cit. in Frédéric Neyrat , Atopies.

The Absolute Constant of the Mystery

The famous 17th century Hindu thinker, Śaṃkara, proposed four essential concepts, sat, cit, ātman, and brahman.

They may be tentatively translated into English by the words being, thought, self, and absolute.

But it is worth digging a little beneath the surface.

For Śaṃkara, sat is « what is here and now ». Sat seems closer to being than to existence, or essence. Sat is, so to speak, the true form of being. But then what can be said of what is not here or now, of what was or will be, or even of what could or should be? One can say sat, too, to designate these sort of beings, but we oblige ourselves to an effort of abstraction, by thinking of these other modalities of being as “beings”.

Cit means thought, but also and above all consciousness. The objective idea is grasped by thought, the subjective feeling requires consciousness. Cit brings the two meanings together, but it is consciousness that leads the game.

As for ātman, this word is originally linked to life, life force, energy, wind, air, breath. It is only later that it comes to designate the person. In the Upaniṣad, the meaning of the word varies: body, person, self, or Self. This ambiguity complicates interpretation. Is the Self without a body? Is the Self a person? Difficulties related to language.

Finally, brahman may be translated as ‘absolute‘, but it has many other possible meanings. It is referred to in the Upaniṣad as breath, speech, mind, reality, immortality, eternity and also as the aim, “that which is to be pierced »i. It may mean ‘sacred word’, but it evolves to mean ‘absolute silence’. « Leave the words: here is the bridge of immortality.”ii

In the end, brahman comes to designate the absolute, the absolute of speech, or the absolute without speech, the absolute silence.

This analogy has been proposed: ātman represents the essence of the person, brahman identifies with the essence of the entire universe.

The word brahman has had some success in the Indo-European sphere of influence. Its root is ḅrhat, « greatness ». The Latin word flamen derives from it, as does brazman (« priest » in old Persian).

But the meaning of brahman as “priest” does not at all capture the mystery of its main meaning.

The mystery of the poet and the mystery of the sacred word are both called brahman. The mystery of absolute silence is also brahman. Finally, the mystery of the absolute, the mystery of the absolute is brahman.

The brahman is that from which all beings are born, all gods, and the first of them is Brahmā himself. Brahman is what everything is born of, « from Brahmā to the clump of grass »iii.

The absolute, the brahman of Śaṃkara, is at the same time greatness, speech, silence, sacred, enigma, mystery, divinity.

It must be underlined. The Veda does not offer a unique, exclusive, absolute truth. There is no truth, because an absolute truth could not account for the absolute mystery. In the Veda, the absolute remains an absolute mystery.

This lesson is compatible with other ideas of the hidden God, that of ancient Egypt, that of the God of Israel, or that of the God of Christian kenosis.

This may be a hint of an anthropological persistence, throughout the ages.

The persistent presence of an absolute mystery.

iMuU II,2,2

iiMuU II,2,5

iiiTubh III, 1,1