There are no longer any gods whom we can invoke to help us. The great religions of the world suffer from increasing anemia, because the helpful numina have fled from the woods, rivers, and mountains, and from animals, and the god-men have disappeared underground into the unconscious. There we fool ourselves that they lead an ignominious existence among the relics of our past. Our present lives are governed by the goddess Reason, who is our greatest and most tragic illusion. By the aid of reason, so we assure ourselves, we have “conquered nature.”
But this is a mere slogan, for the so-called conquest of nature overwhelms us with the natural fact of overpopulation and adds to our troubles by our psychological incapacity to make the necessary political arrangements. It remains quite natural for men to quarrel and to struggle for superiority over one another. How then have we “conquered nature”?
As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it may be any one of us. Nobody can afford to look round and wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself. But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worth while for each of us to ask himself whether by any chance his or her unconscious may know something that will help us. Certainly the conscious mind seems unable to do anything useful in this respect. Man today is painfully aware of the fact that neither his great religions nor his various philosophies seem to provide him with those powerful animating ideas that would give him the security he needs in face of the present condition of the world.
I know what the Buddhists would say: Things would go right if people would only follow the “noble eightfold path” of the Dharma (doctrine, law) and had true insight into the Self. The Christian tells us that if only people had faith in God, we should have a better world. The rationalist insists that if people were intelligent and reasonable, all our problems would be manageable. The trouble is that none of them manages to solve these problems himself.
Christians often ask why God does not speak to them, as he is believed to have done in former days. When I hear such questions, it always makes me think of the rabbi who was asked how it could be that God often showed himself to people in the olden days while nowadays nobody ever sees him. The rabbi replied: “Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough.”