Possibly in a century or two, perhaps a little less or a little more, some
historian of ideas,
if any historians of ideas are still left, or some student
with a thesis to write will find an ideal subject for a monograph in the
phenomenon of Eranos in the twentieth century. And perhaps his monograph
will turn out to be like so many others that, ever since the rise of
historical criticism, have been devoted to the "schools," the "ideological
currents" of the past, demonstrating their "causes," explaining their "influences,"
the "migrations of themes," and so on.
But it is to be feared that, if he in his turn is content to do no more
than to apply a scientific method which will have had all the virtues, except
the primary virtue that would have consisted in establishing its object by
recognizing the way it gives its object to itself—it is to be feared that our
future historian will completely miss the phenomenon of Eranos. He will
perhaps believe that he has "explained" it by a profound and ingenious
dialectic of causes. But he will not have divined that the real problem
would have been to discover not what explains Eranos, but what Eranos
ex-plains by virtue of what it im-plies: for example, the idea of a true
community, bringing together speakers and listeners, a community so paradoxical
that it displays none of the characteristics that are of concern to
statistics and sociology.
This is why, if the eventuality of our future historian is forecast here,
the forecast is made from no vanity of an expected fame, but rather in fear
that the soul of Eranos may one day be lost in such a venture. Had he not
felt this fear, he to whom it has fallen to play a soloist's role at the beginning
of the present volume would have hesitated thus to step out from the
chorus of his confrères. But he has become convinced of one thing. This
whole volume is devoted to the question of Time, which each of us has envisaged
from the angle of his habitual meditations. Now, if it is true that,
while they explain things and beings by their time, historians as such are
not in the habit of beginning by reflecting on the nature of historical time,
the theme of this volume perhaps contains the best warning against the
dubious formula that would try to explain Eranos "by its time."
It would be well to meditate on the possible meaning of these words:
the time of Eranos. For it will be no explanation of Eranos to say that it
was "very much of its time," that is, of everybody's time, in accordance
with the formula that is so soothing to alarmed or hasty conformisms.
Nothing indicates that Eranos ever tried to "be of its time." What, on the
contrary, it will perhaps have succeeded in doing is to be its time, its own
time. And it is by being its own time that it will have realized its own
meaning, willingly accepting the appearance of being untimely. It is not
certain things that give its meaning to Eranos; rather, it is Eranos that
gives their meaning to these other things. How, then, are we to conceive the
proposition that it is not by "being of our time," as so many well-meaning
people say, but by ourselves being our own time, that each of us explains
and fulfills his own meaning? Can this be suggested in a brief summary?
To return to our hypothetical future historian: why, undertaking to explain
Eranos by the circumstances, the "currents" and "influences" of the
period, would he miss its meaning and its essence, its "seminal reason"?
For the same reason, for example, that the first and last explanation of the
various gnostic families referred to in the present book is those gnostics
themselves. The historian may suppose every kind of favorable circumstances,
draw all possible conclusions, he would be merely reasoning in
vacuo if there were not the first and signal fact of gnostic minds. It is not
the "main currents" that evoke them and bring them together; it is they
that decree the existence of a particular current and bring about their own
Probably, then, the word "fact," as just used, does not signify quite
what our current speech commonly means by the word; rather, it signifies
what current speech makes its opposite, when it distinguishes between
persons and facts, men and events. For us, the first and last fact, the initial
and final event, are precisely these persons, without whom there could
never be anything that we call "event." Hence we must reverse the perspectives
of the usual optics, substitute the hermeneutics of the human
individual for the pseudodialectic of facts, which today is accepted, everywhere
and by everyone, as objective evidence. For it was only by sub
mitting to the "necessity of the facts" that it became possible to imagine
in them an autonomous causality that "explains" them. Now, to explain
does not yet necessarily mean to "understand." To understand is, rather,
to "imply." There is no explaining the initial fact of which we are speaking,
for it is individual and singular, and the individual can be neither deduced
nor explained; indimduum est ineffabile.
On the contrary, it is the individual who explains very many things to
us, namely all the things that he implies and that would not have existed
without him, if he had not begun to be. For him to explain them to us, we
must understand him, and to understand is to perceive the meaning of the
thing itself, that is, the manner in which its presence determines a certain
constellation of things, which hence would have been entirely different if
there had not first been this presence. This is a very different matter from
deducing the thing from assumed causal relations, that is, from taking it
back to something other than itself. And it is doubtless here that the reader
will most readily mark the contrast with our current modes of thought,
those represented by all the attempts toward philosophies of history or
toward the socialization of consciousnesses: anonymity, depersonalization,
the abdication of the human will before the dialectic net that it began to
weave itself, only to fall into its own snare.
What concretely exists is wills and relations between wills: failing will,
imperious or imperialistic will, blind will, will serene and conscious of itself.
But these wills are not abstract energies. Or rather, they are and designate
nothing but the willing subjects themselves, the subjects whose real
existence postulates that we recognize the individual, and the individual
as the first and only concrete reality. I should gladly admit that I am here
in affinity with an aspect of Stoic thought, for is not one of the characteristic
symptoms in the history of philosophy in the West precisely the
overshadowing of the Stoic premises by the dialectic that derived from
Peripateticism? Stoic thought is hermeneutic; it would have resisted all the
dialectical constructions that burden our most current representations: in
history, in philosophy, in politics. It would not have surrendered to the
fiction of "main currents," the "meaning of history," "collective wills," of
which, moreover, no one can say exactly what their mode of being may be.
For the fact is that, outside of the first and final reality, the individual,
there are only ways of being, in relation to the individual himself or in
relation to what surrounds him; and this means attributes that have no
substantial reality in themselves if they are detached from the individual
or individuals who are their agents. What we call "events" are likewise
the attributes of acting subjects; they are not beings but ways of being.
As actions of a subject, they are expressed in a verb; now, a verb acquires
meaning and reality only from the acting subject who conjugates it.
Events, psychic or physical, do not assume existence, do not "take shape,"
except through the reality that realizes them and from which they derive;
and this reality is the acting individual subjects, who conjugate them "in
their tense," "in their time," give them their own tense and time, which is
always essentially the present tense and time.
Hence, detached from the real subject who realizes them, facts, events,
are merely something unreal. This is the order which had to be inverted
to alienate the real subject: to give, instead, all reality to facts, to speak
of the laws, the lesson, the materiality of facts, in short, to let ourselves be
trapped in the system of unrealities that we have ourselves constructed
and whose weight falls on us in turn in the form of history, as the only scientific
"objectivity" that we can conceive, as the source of a causal determinism
the idea of which would never have occurred to a humanity that
had preserved the sense of the real subject. Detached from the real subject,
facts "pass away." There is past, and there is past that has been "passed
beyond," "transcended." Hence the resentment against the yoke of the
past, the illusions of progressivism, and, conversely, the complexes of reaction.
Yet past and future are themselves attributes expressed by verbs; they
presuppose the subject who conjugates those verbs, a subject for whom
and by whom the only existing tense and time is the present, and on each
occasion the present. Thus dimensions of the past and future are also, on
each occasion, measured and conditioned by the capacity of the subject
who perceives them, by his instant. They are dimensional to that person,
for it depends upon him, on the scope of his intelligence and his largeness of
heart, to embrace the whole of life, totius vitae cursum, to totalize, to imply
in himself, all worlds, by falling back to the farthest limit of the dimension
of his present. This is to understand, and it is a totally different matter
from constructing a dialectic of things that have ceased to exist in the past.
It is "interpreting" the signs, explaining not material facts but ways of being, that reveals beings. Hermeneutics as science of the individual stands
in opposition to historical dialectics as alienation of the person.
Past and future thus become signs, because a sign is perceived precisely
in the present. The past must be "put in the present" to be perceived as
"showing a sign." (If the wound, for example, is a sign, it is so because it
indicates not that such and such a one has been wounded, in an abstract
time, but that he is having been wounded.) The genuine transcending the
past can only be "putting it in the present" as sign. And I believe it can
be said that the entire work of Eranos is, in this sense, a putting in the
present. Neither the contents of this book, nor that of all the other volumes
previously published, offer the character of a simple historical dictionary.
All the themes treated acquire the value of signs in them. And if it is
true that, even at some future date, the act of Eranos, whose initiative has
persisted for twenty-five years, could not be explained simply by deducing
it from the circumstances that would justify the historian in saying that it
was "very much of its time," this is because Eranos is itself a sign. It cannot
now or in future be understood unless it is interpreted as a sign, that is,
as a presence that ceaselessly and on each occasion puts "in the present."
It is its time because it puts in the present, just as each acting subject is
his time, that is, a presence that puts in the present whatever is related to
it. An active presence does not fall "into its time," that is, it is not "of its
time" in the sense of the oversimple theory that thinks it explains a being
by situating it in an abstract time which is "everybody's" time and hence
In short, the whole contrast lies here. With signs, with hierophanies and
theophanies, there is no making history. Or rather, the subject that is at
once the organ and the place of history is the concrete psychological individuality.
The only "historical causality" is the relations of will between
acting subjects. "Facts" are on each occasion a new creation; there is discontinuity
between them. Hence to perceive their connections is neither to
formulate laws nor to deduce causes, but to understand a meaning, interpret
signs, a composite structure. So it was fitting that C. G. Jung's study
of synchronicity should be the center of the present book, since that study
is itself the center of a new problematics of time. To perceive a causality
in "facts" by detaching them from persons is doubtless to make a philosophy
of history possible; it is to affirm dogmatically the rational meaning
of history on which our contemporaries have built up a whole mythology.
But it is likewise to reduce real time to abstract physical time, to the essentially
quantitative time which is that of the objectivity of mundane calendars
from which the signs that gave a sacred qualification to every present
It remains for us to gain a better awareness of the abdication of the
subject who thus alienates himself in objective history. The first step will
necessarily have been ceasing to perceive events on the plane of signs and
putting them on the plane of data. It is in this way that signs have been
laicized. But our entire theology will, by an unconscious and fatal complicity,
itself have had to prepare the laicization of which it is the victim.
The meaning of history: no longer need a God be born in the flesh to reveal
it. A textbook philosophy claims to be in possession of it and to impose
it, because that philosophy is after all only a lay theology of the social
The caricature of our own Image (Ivan Karamazov seeing himself in the
looking glass) fills us with all the more terror because we have nothing to
oppose to it except precisely our own features, which it mirrors to us in
caricature. Now, it is impossible to compete with and against a scientific,
materialistic, and atheistic socialization by a conformism of well-meaning
people who can find no justification for their being except in their social
activity nor any foundation for their knowledge except the "social sciences."
The no that must be cried aloud proceeds from a different imperative.
It draws its energy from the lightning flash whose vertical joins heaven
with earth, not from some horizontal line of force that loses itself in a
limitlessness from which no meaning arises. For what is called "evolution"
would have meaning only on the cosmic scale; but our philosophers are too
serious to make themselves responsible for the curiosity that is, at most,
excusable in Gnostics and Orientals.
And yet, will the reader be so good as to consider for a moment the
signature at the end of these few pages? Together with the name of a place,
it comprises a double date incorporating three calendars: a date of the
Christian era, an Iranian date in which the official name of the month
corresponds to that of the ancient pre-Islamic Persian calendar, while the
year is that of the solar Hegira (all the rest of Islam, outside of Persia,
reckons in lunar years). This is a mere example. Is it to be supposed that
putting these eras in correspondence, putting them together "in the present,"
conjugating them in the present, can result from a simple mathematical equation, with the aid of a table of correspondences? The answer
will be yes, if one is naive enough to suppose that all human beings everywhere
are of the same age, have the same desires, the same aspirations, the
same sense of responsibility, and that good-will and proper hygiene would
suffice to bring them into accord in the frame of abstract objective time,
the uniform mathematical time of universal history.
But the answer will certainly be no, if one has an acute awareness of
differences, a concern for the rights of pluralism against all monism,
whether a well-intentioned or a brutal and unavowed monism. What is in
question is a relation between qualitative times. The Occidental may be
much the elder, and he may often be younger than the Oriental, according
to the realms in which they meet. But it is perhaps also true that only the
Occidental is able to secrete the antidote, and to help the Oriental to surmount
the spiritual crisis that the impact of the West has provoked in him,
and which has already forever ruined several traditional civilizations.
This simple example suggests the true task of which we have perhaps
not yet even begun to be aware. It is a matter of perceiving the same signs
together; it is a matter of each one of us on each occasion interpreting
them according to the meaning of his own being, but it is also a matter of
constituting a harmonious hermeneutics of signs, as once the fourfold and
sevenfold meanings of the Scriptures were in harmony. To accomplish this,
there must be no more escaping into an abstract time, the time of anonymous
collectivities; there must be a rediscovery of concrete time, the time
of persons. And this, at bottom, is only opening the living spring of unconditioned
sympathy, the sympathy that, existing before our deliberate
and conscious purpose, causes the grouping of human beings and alone
makes them "contemporaries."
What we should wish to call the meaning of Eranos, which is also the
entire secret of Eranos, is this: it is our present being, the time that we act
personally, our way of being. This is why we are perhaps not "of our time,"
but are something better and greater: we are our time. And this is why
Eranos has not even an official denomination nor any collective name. It is
neither an academy nor an institute, it is not even something that, in the
fashion of the day, can be designated by initials. No, it is really not a phenomenon
"of our time." And this is why it is likely to confound the future
dialectical and deductive historian. It will not even interest the devotees of
statistics, the probers into opinion.
If curves and graphs are demanded at any cost, I can suggest only one
reference: the great planisphere that Dr. Daniel Brody, our courageous
publisher, had the idea of displaying on the walls of the exhibition commemorating
the twentieth anniversary of the Eranos-Jahrbuch in the offices
of the Rhein-Verlag, at Zurich. It was a planisphere scored by lines in
many colors, all meeting at the same center: an invisible point on the vast
map, Ascona, on the shore of Lake Maggiore. The uninitiate would at once
have supposed it something familiar—curves indicating airplane routes, the
great lines of traffic. Nevertheless it expressed nothing of the kind, but
simply the journey that each one of us had taken, from various points in
the world, to the center that unites us. The lines had no statistical meaning:
they were signs, the sign made to each of us, and by each of us.
The result of the response to that sign was the meeting of acting, autonomous
individualities, each in complete freedom revealing and expressing
his original and personal way of thinking and being, outside of all dogmatism
and all academicism; a constellation of those wills, and a constellation
of the worlds that they bring with them, that they have taken in
charge by putting them into the present, the present of Eranos. A composite
whole, a structure, not a result conditioned by the laws of the
period or by fashionable crazes, but a whole made strong by its one inner
and central norm: a woman's generous, energetic, tenacious will, that of
Mme Olga Froebe-Kapteyn, every year propounding a new theme and thus
inviting to a new creation.
And that is why even those who in the sense of current speech "are no
more" nevertheless do not cease to be present in the present of Eranos.
An immense work has been accomplished: essays, books, have seen the
light of day, books that perhaps would not have come to birth if Eranos
had not put them in the present. Its meaning, finally: that of a sym-phony
whose performance would each time be repeated in fuller and deeper
sonorities—that of a microcosm, which the world cannot be expected to
resemble but whose example, one may hope, will spread throughout the
21 December 1956
30 Azar 1335