“It is really the individual’s task to differentiate himself from others and stand on his own feet. All collective identities, such as membership in organisations, support of “-isms”, and so on, interfere with the fulfilment of this task…
It is wrong to regard this intermediary step as a trap; on the contrary, for a long time to come it will represent the only possible form of existence for the individual, who nowadays seem more than ever threatened by anonimity. Collective organisation is still so essential today that many consider it, with some justification, to be the final goal; whereas to call for further steps along the road to autonomy appears like arrogance or hubris, fantasticality, or simple folly.
Nevertheless it may be that for sufficient reasons a man feels he must set out on his own feet along the road to wider realms. It may be that in all the garbs, shapes, forms, modes, and manners of life offered to him he does not find what is peculiarly necessary to him. He will go alone and be his own company. He will serve as his own group, consisting of a variety of opinions and tendencies – which need not necessarily be marching in the same direction.”Carl Jung, Late Thoughts, from his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections
When I first read this passage, I was astonished to find someone else had considered the same thoughts I had. Perhaps this was my own personal foible, to be quite so pleasantly surprised by the presence of fellow traveller on the same road as I but it was so refreshing to find him that I was happy nonetheless. If you haven’t read Jung’s autobiography, I strongly recommend it. It is an excellent read, full of diverting, well-written stories and if it occasionally lapses into some self-indulgent passages, I think we can forgive such a titan and genius of the 20th century these diversions.
I particularly appreciate one of the sentences that follows the passage above:
“… the individual on the lonely path needs a secret which for various reasons he may not or cannot reveal. Such a secret reinforces him in the isolation of his individual aims.”
I believe that interpreted at its most metaphorical, this is true. To be brave enough to seek one’s own path through the world requires such a degree of courage (given the ease with which one can lapse back into social conformity) that an almost incomprehensible inner steel is required. This clarity of thought and purpose can only come through a unification of attitude engendered by some secret goal.
If the goal was known to the wider world, we would suffer mockery or faint praise and or other undermining and patronising commentary, and be discouraged from pursuing it. Only by keeping true to that inner aim can we truly work towards individuation and happiness.