Christmas. Undoubtedly the holiday with the greatest inclination to bring out the fruitcake in all of us. Is Christmas really any worse than other times of the year and do the Christmas blues really exist? Carl Jung differentiated himself from Freud by his addition of the analysis of that part of the psyche called the ”collective unconscious”.Freud’s mechanistic, deterministic view of science made him highly skeptical of all religious truth-claims, where as Jung’s more idealistic approach fit more naturally with a religious out look. Freud’s conviction is that civilization would be better off if people just gave up their religious wishes and channeled their energy into more realistic, and scientific cultural pursuits.
Jung believed religions that function properly serve as “great psychic healing systems” . This is because a healthy religion, one that fulfills its true purpose, will provide a way of uniting opposites in human nature and in the experiences of individual members. Religious concepts are naturally divided into opposites, such as heaven and hell, and generous and cheap gifts. You could call the collective unconscious your “psychic inheritance.” It is the reservoir of our experiences as a species, a kind of knowledge we are all born with. And yet we can never be directly conscious of it. It influences all of our experiences and behaviors, most especially the emotional ones, but we only know about it indirectly, by looking at those influences.
The contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes. Jung also called them dominants, images, mythological or primordial images, and a few other names, but archetypes seems to have been the preferred label.The archetype has no form of its own, but it acts as an “organizing principle” on the things we see or do. It works the way that instincts work in Freud’s theory An archetype is an unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way.
Christmas, as a holiday is an archetypical subject in itself embracing several of Jung’s most prominent markers. The child, represented in mythology and art by children, infants most especially, as well as other small creatures. The Christ child celebrated at Christmas is a manifestation of the child archetype, and represents the future, becoming, rebirth, and salvation. Curiously, Christmas falls during the winter solstice, which in northern primitive cultures also represents the future and rebirth. People used to light bonfires and perform ceremonies to encourage the sun’s return to them. The child archetype often blends with other archetypes to form the child-god, or the child-hero. The Trickster is represented by the die-hard atheists and humbugs. The animal archetype by the reindeer, The Wise old man by the three magi, and of course the Father archetype by Saint Nick and the mother archetype through the birth of Jesus, in whichever belief form you choose.
Recent academic Research, entitled “Religiosity and its association with happiness,purpose in life, and self-actualisation” published in Mental Health,Religion & Culture reveals a positive relation between religiosity and happiness. The study also suggests that the reason for this is that religious people are happier because they have more of a sense of purpose in their lives than non-religious people.This purpose may involve theft.The exaction of unchanelled desire to steal; from the rich and for your own pleasure.Its being termed as Go Forth and Shoplift. Anglican priest Rev. Tim Jones has advocated ”doing a runner” over the Christmas season.Its commandment 8 1/2, in the small print and a companion to Fellini’s film 9 1/2, as surreal act of faith.
”Poor people who are desperate for cash have been advised to go forth and shoplift from major stores – by an Anglican priest….He told parishioners it would not break the eighth commandment ‘thou shalt not steal’ because it ‘is permissible for those who are in desperate situations to take food that they might not starve’.. Father Jones, 42, was discussing Mary and the birth of Jesus when he went on to the subject of how poor and vulnerable people cope in the run-up to Christmas.’My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift,’ he told his stunned congregation at St Lawrence and St Hilda in York.” ( Chris Brooke, Daily Mail )
”Dr Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, said: “Religious people seem to have a greater purpose in life, which is why they are happier. Looking at the research evidence, it seems that those who celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas are on the whole likely to be happier. Research shows that too much materialism in our lives can be terrible for happiness.’ ” The 1960’s cult psychologist R D Laing elaborated a theory about the adverse effects of being hurled back into the bosom, and the mythical past of our family during Christmas Festivities and it subsequent reanimation of illusions. Laing’s work contains graphic accounts of the ways in which families are like dramas, with each of us accorded a scripted role tightly directed in its performance. From the moment we walk through the door on Christmas Eve or on the day itself, Laing warned, our parents and siblings will demand that we enact our appointed parts, no matter how different we may actually be. Reality, or truth being the gift of Christmas that no one gives.This becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy and within a short period of time you are liable to become exactly the person they project.
”In a matter of minutes the achievements and independence of adulthood can be swept away and you find yourself acting in a play you did not write, performing a role that you thought was long obsolete….The pressure that families place on us to re-enact our childhood roles is easily the greatest stress at Christmas and it could help to explain such dire holiday statistics as the Samaritans’ claim that in last year’s Christmas week (beginning 20 December) they received 15 per cent more calls compared with their weekly numbers in November and the rest of December. Even more dramatically, there were 26 per cent more calls in New Year’s weekuring in at a rate of 625 an hour or 15,000 a day.”( Oliver James, New Statesman )
Although, according to accounts from his son Martin, we know that Sigmund Freud celebrated Christmas,though the relationship was somewhat ambivalent, and the psycho-dynamics of the Christian holiday were often a sensitive ”nodal” point in the Doctor’s relationship with others. In fact the relationship with Christmas is almost Kafkaesque in assuming proportions of the absurd and irreconcilable with the five W’s of investigation,who, what, when, where, and why perhaps best left unanswered: Freud regards Jesus’ sacrificial death as a slight improve ment over Judaism: whereas Judaism’s rigid ethical standards stem from an intense unconscious guilt, Christianity’s belief that in Jesus God’s son died reveals some level of awareness of the guilt incurred from having killed the father (109-113). Like recalling forgotten memories in psycho analysis, repeating this ritual at the Holy Supper can have a beneficial healing effect
”We can, however, see that the matter of the Christmas greeting was not simple for assimilated Jews like Freud. In his correspondence with Jewish friends, the letters of late December preserve the subtleties of manoeuvre surrounding the assimilated Jew’s Christmas celebrations. Some letters mention Christmas; some offer explicit Christmas greetings; and some cover the festival in silence. In the case of Freud’s correspondence with Wilhelm Fleiss, it is the latter who, apparently, takes the first move towards the Christmas greeting. Fleiss, the older, more established man, early on in the correspondence, gives Freud a present in late December; Freud, in his thanks, specifically accepts the present as a Christmas gift . Thereafter they are at ease with Christmas greetings and occasional Yiddishisms.With Karl Abraham, a younger colleague, just a few years older than Dora, it is different. Freud in 1907, early in their relationship, acts as Fleiss had to him: he gives Abraham a late December gift, after Abraham had visited him in Vienna. Freud arranges for the present to be left in Abraham’s hotel, rather than giving it to him directly. Presumably, the present is not presented unambiguously as a Christmas gift and the recipient has a choice of interpretation. Abraham replies to Freud differently than had Freud to Fleiss. In his letter of December 21st, Abraham thanks Freud, but does not describe the present as a Christmas gift…Freud edges politely towards the possibility of offering Christmas greetings, but Abraham, just as politely, ignores the advances, offering only wishes for the New Year. Once, and only once – in 1916 – Freud actually offers “my best wishes for Christmas” . The wish is unacknowledged and unreturned. As if admitting his solecism, Freud two years later writes to Abraham on December 25 without even mentioning the public holiday . Finally, after Abraham has tragically and prematurely died on December 25 1925, Freud, writing in sympathy to his widow, makes no mention of the particular date of death. ( Michael Billig )
Even Albert Einstein celebrated Christmas. In a relative sense. . Every year, at the dawn of Christmas day, the ladies of the Westminster Choir College went to the front of Einstein’s house at Princeton University and sang “Joy to the World to inform Einstein the Christ has come. Einstein, though not a Christian, used to become very happy, and was kind enough to come out and greet them personally.” What a joy to see Einstein’s happy face!” ( Helen Holcombe ) In 1915, Einstein spent Christmas day in his Berlin apartment, tormented by mixed emotions; worried his colleagues were poking holes in his theory of relativity or accepting it, if only to appropriate it to their proper credit at the opportune moment.” Things would eventually improve. When the final version of Hilbert’s paper came out, he was both clear and generous in insisting that credit for the theory of relativity belonged to Einstein.”
”The rich and powerful didn‘t get angels to visit them to announce that God had moved in the neighborhood…as a matter of fact, their intent was to kill this child (read the story). It was the “have-nots” that were given hope. I wonder how many “have-nots” are walking the streets homeless this Christmas that could use a flesh and blood angel to provide them a meal or a warm place to lay their head…or maybe there is no room for them in our inns anymore. The One who was born on this most celebrated day made some important statements at the end of His life. He often spoke about the least, the last, and the lost…and He said “insomuch as you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto Me…” His idea of celebrating His life was visiting prisoners, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry. Those seemed really big issues on His agenda. Psychologist Carl Jung made a profound statement regarding “the least of these”. For Jung, all judgment was projection. In actual fact he made it clear that you cannot give what you do not have. What if the “least, last and lost” was first and foremost you as an individual? So maybe the real meaning of Christmas will be found in those areas in your waking or sleeping life where messages about hope and possibility invite you to embrace a reality beyond the world that you see in front of your eyes. Perhaps my greatest enemies are the ones in my own soul. ( Mark Chironna )