The Fundamental Question About Life, According to Jung

For Carl Jung, the fundamental question of life has to do with the transcendence or scope of individual existence. When this question is not answered satisfactorily, there is a malaise and a void that become determinant.

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In the 20th century, concern for the meaning of life transcended the frontiers of art, literature or intellectual circles. The gradual fall of absolute values, the disappointment of human cruelty and the lack of stable references fed the need to give an answer. For his part, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung captured this widespread concern and launched a hypothesis to identify that fundamental question about life whose response was capable of giving meaning to existence.

For Jung, the decisive thing was our sense of transcendence. In other words, he believed that each person needs to feel that their life has a meaning, which goes beyond the immediate. That what he does in the world reaches an echo, an impact on reality. In addition, he affirmed that when life is perceived simply as a sum of moments, with no greater direction than small objectives of little relevance, existential anguish appears. The feeling that everything is meaningless.

Before modernity, religions provided a sense of transcendence to life. The existence of people did not end with his death, but extended to another form of spiritual life, in which everything that had been done was evaluated and rewarded or punished. Thus, with the gradual fall of religious beliefs, the human being was left naked in the face of reality. That began to glimpse in the time of Jung and for that reason, he insisted on giving shape to that fundamental question about life.

“The more a man is fixed in his false possessions and the less sensitivity he has to the essential, the less satisfying his life is.”

-Carl Jung-

The fundamental question about life

According to Carl Jung, the fundamental question about life is this: is the existence of a particular person related to something infinite? Without realizing it, most of us seek to establish that connection with the infinite in our existence. We are not always aware of this, but we do it through religious activity, work, convictions, etc.

The infinite is a set or series with an end or unknown borders. Human life ends with death. But we all know that, beyond the death of each one of us, there are realities that transcend us. They were there before we were born and will continue there after our individual disappearance.

Religion has been one of the most natural ways to establish that contact with the infinite. The belief in a God answers the fundamental question of life. For non-believers or for whom that God does not have a determining presence, things become more complex. The infinite is then searched through one’s offspring; the children prolong life. It is also possible to try to find in a certain framework, such as labor or social.

The importance of the sense of transcendence

From the dawn of history, man wanted to establish that contact with the infinite. Whether out of fear, because of the impossibility of assimilating the idea of ​​death or as a means to consolidate an authority to which all human beings should obey. From very early times, love also became the cornerstone that gave answer to that fundamental question of life.

However, the human being discovered that if the object of his love was something or someone outdated and limited, that feeling was condemned to generate suffering. To the extent that the object of love has an end, the sense of transcendence is condemned to die, as a consequence of irremediable loss. That is why the human being created gods everywhere and loved them. These did not die; fate could not deprive us of his company. In this way, a link with the infinite was established.

Later on, and with the development of science and the arts, for many the concept of God took a back seat. Precisely, the sciences and the arts became a new “infinity” that gave transcendence to the life of a person.

The importance of the fundamental question about life and the sense of transcendence is that they give a form of happiness that is not achieved in any other way. This was expressed by the philosopher Spinoza, very lucidly. In this regard he said:

“All our happinessor unhappiness depends only on the quality of the object in which we fix our love […] But the love towards an eternal and infinite object feeds the mind with a pure joy without traces of sadness.”