During a recent Red Book Study Group Meeting (June 12, 2011), I was struck by the following quotation (see below) from Jung's personal diary. Jung was grappling with external pressures (spirit of the times) versus internal pressure (spirit of the depths). Jung eloquently and cryptically described the process of literal versus symbolic murder of "the princes"--the external authorities and heroes. Instead, Jung suggested that we internalize this struggle to face and embrace our own incapacity, limitations, and true human nature.
But our ruler is the spirit of this time, which rules and leads in us all. It is the general spirit in which we think and act today. He is of frightful power, since he has brought immeasurable good to this world and fascinated men with unbelievable pleasure. He [sic] is bejeweled with the most beautiful heroic virtue, and wants to drive men [sic] up to the brightest solar heights, in everlasting ascent.
The hero wants to open up everything he can. But the nameless spirit of the depths evokes everything that man [sic] cannot. Incapacity prevents further ascent. Greater height requires greater virtue. We do not possess it. We must first create it by learning to live with our incapacity. We must give it life. For how else shall it develop into ability?
We cannot slay our incapacity and rise above it. But that is precisely what we wanted. Incapacity will overcame us and demand its share of life. Our ability will desert us, and will believe, in the sense of the spirit of this time, that it is a loss. Yet it is no loss but a gain, not for outer trappings, however, but for inner capacity.
The one who learns to live with his incapacity has learned a great deal. This will lead us the valuation of the smallest things, and to wise limitation, which the greater height demands. If all heroism is erased, we fall back into the misery of humanity and into even worse. Our foundation will be caught up in the excitement since our highest tension, which concerns what lies outside us, will stir them up. We will fall into the cesspool of our underworld, among the rubble of the centuries in us.
The heroic in you is the fact that you are ruled by the thought that this or that is good, that this or that performance is indispensable, this or that cause is objectionable, this or that goal must be attained in headlong striving work, this or that pleasure should be ruthlessly repressed at all costs. Consequently, you sin against incapacity. But incapability exists. No one should deny it, find fault with it, or shout it down. (p. 240)
Shamdasani, S. (Ed.). (2009). The red book: Liber novus by C. G. Jung. New York, NY: Norton.