To Father Victor White
from Jung, C. G. (1976). Letters 2: 1951-61. Selected and edited by Gerhard Adler in collaboration with Aniela Jaffé. Translated by R. F. C. Hull. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
[ORIGINAL IN ENGLISH]
Dear Victor, Bollingen, 10 April 1954
Your letter1 has been lying on my desk waiting for a suitable time to be answered. In the meantime I was still busy with a preface I had promised to P. Radin and K. Kerenyi. They are going to bring out a book together about the figure of the trickster.2 He is the collective shadow. I finished my preface yesterday. I suppose you know the Greek-Orthodox priest Dr. Zacharias?3 He has finished his book representing a reception, or better—an attempt—to integrate Jungian psychology into Christianity as he sees it. Dr. Rudin S.J. from the Institute of Apologetics did not like it. Professor Gebhard Frei on the other hand was very positive about it.
I am puzzled about your conception of Christ and I try to understand it. It looks to me as if you were mixing up the idea of Christ being human and being divine. Inasmuch as he is divine he knows, of course, everything, because all things macrocosmic are supposed to be microcosmic as well and can therefore be said to be known by the self. (Things moreover behave as if they were known.) It is an astonishing fact, indeed, that the collective unconscious seems to be in contact with nearly everything. There is of course no empirical evidence for such a generalization, but plenty of it for its indefinite extension. The sententia,therefore: animam Christi nihil ignoravisse4 etc. is not contradicted by psychological experience. Rebus sic stantibus, Christ as the self can be said ab initio cognovisse omnia etc. I should say that Christ knew his shadow—Satan—whom he cut off from himself right in the beginning of his career. The self is a unit, consisting however of two, i.e., of opposites, otherwise it would not be a totality. Christ has consciously divorced himself from his shadow. Inasmuch as he is divine, he is the self, yet only its white half. Inasmuch as he is human, he has never lost his shadow completely, but seems to have been conscious of it. How could he say otherwise: “Do not call me good ... .“?5 It is also reasonable to believe that as a human he was not wholly conscious of it, and inasmuch as he was unconscious he projected it indubitably. The split through his self made him as a human being as good as possible, although he was unable to reach the degree of perfection his white self already possessed. The Catholic doctrine cannot but declare that Christ even as a human being knew everything. This is the logical consequence of the perfect union of the duae naturae. Christ as understood by the Church is to me a spiritual, i.e., mythological being; even his humanity is divine as it is generated by the celestial Father and exempt from original sin. When I speak of him as a human being, I mean its few traces we can gather from the gospels. It is not enough for the reconstruction of an empirical character. Moreover even if we could reconstruct an individual personality, it would not fulfill the role of redeemer and God-man who is identical with the “all-knowing” self. Since the individual human being is characterized by a selection of tendencies and qualities ties, it is a specification and not a wholeness, i.e., it cannot be individual without incompleteness and restriction, whereas the Christ of the doctrine is perfect, complete, whole and therefore not individual at all, but a collective mythologem, viz, an archetype. He is far more divine than human and far more universal than individual.
Concerning the omniscience it is important to know that Adam already was equipped with supernatural knowledge according to Jewish and Christian tradition,6 all the more so Christ.
I think that the great split7 in those days was by no means a mistake but a very important collective fact of synchronistic correspondence with the then new aeon of Pisces. Archetypes, in spite of their conservative nature, are not static but in a continuous dramatic flux. Thus the self as a monad or continuous unit would be dead. But it lives inasmuch as it splits and unites again. There is no energy without opposites!
All conservatives and institutionalists are Pharisees, if you apply this name without prejudice. Thus it was to be expected that just the better part of Jewry would be hurt most by the revelation of an exclusively good God and loving Father. This novelty emphasized with disagreeable clearness that the Yahweh hitherto worshipped had some additional, less decorous propensities For obvious reasons the orthodox Pharisees could not defend their creed by insisting on the bad qualities of their God. Christ with his teaching of an exclusively good God must have been most awkward for them. They probably believed him to be hypocritical, since this was his main objection against them. One gets that way when one has to hold on to something which once has been good and had meant considerable progress or improvement at the time. It was an enormous step forward when Yahweh revealed himself as a jealous God, letting his chosen people feel that he was after them with blessings and with punishments, and that Cod’s goal was man. Not knowing better, they cheated him by obeying his Law literally. But as Job discovered Yahweh’s primitive amorality, God found out about the trick of observing the Law and swallowing camels.8
The old popes and bishops succeeded in getting so much heathendom, barbarism and real evil out of the Church that it became much better than some centuries before: there were no Alexander VI,9 no auto-da-fes, no thumbscrews and racks any more, so that the compensatory drastic virtues (asceticism etc.) lost their meaning to a certain extent. The great split, having been a merely spiritual fact for a long time, has at last got into the world, as a rule in its coarsest and least recognizable form, viz, as the iron curtain, the completion of the second Fish.10
Now a new synthesis must begin. But how can absolute evil be connected and identified with absolute good? It seems to be impossible. When Christ withstood Satan’s temptation, that was the fatal moment when the shadow was cut off. Yet it had to be cut off in order to enable man to become morally conscious. If the moral opposites could be united at all, they would be suspended altogether and there could be no morality at all. That is certainly not what synthesis aims at. In such a case of irreconcilability the opposites are united by a neutral or ambivalent bridge, a symbol expressing either side in such a way that they can function together.11 This symbol is the cross as interpreted of old, viz, as the tree of life or simply as the tree to which Christ is inescapably affixed. This particular feature points to the compensatory significance of the tree: the tree symbolizes that entity from which Christ had been separated and with which he ought to be connected again to make his life or his being complete. In other words, the Crucifixus is the symbol uniting the absolute moral opposites. Christ represents the light; the tree, the darkness; he the son, it the mother. Both areandrogynous (tree = phallus).12 Christ is so much identical with the cross that both terms have become almost interchangeable in ecclesiastical language (f.i. “redeemed through Christ or through the cross” etc.). The tree brings back all that has been lost through Christ’s extreme spiritualization, namely the elements of nature. Through its branches and leaves the tree gathers the powers of light and air, and through its roots those of the earth and the water. Christ was suffering on account of his split and he recovers his perfect
life at Easter, when he is buried again in the womb of the virginal mother. (Represented also in the myth of Attis by the tree, to which an image of Attis was nailed, then cut down and carried into the cave of the mother Kybele.13 The Nativity Church of Bethlehem is erected over an Attis sanctuary!)14 This mythical complex seems to represent a further development of the old drama, existence becoming real through reflection in consciousness, Job’s tragedy.15 But now it is the problem of dealing with the results of conscious discrimination. The first attempt is moral appreciation and decision for the Good. Although this decision is indispensable, it is not too good in the long run. You must not get stuck with it, otherwise you grow out of life and die slowly. Then the one-sided emphasis on the Good becomes doubtful, but there is apparently no possibility of reconciling Good and Evil. That is where we are now.
The symbolic history of the Christ’s life shows, as the essential teleological tendency, the crucifixion, viz, the union of Christ with the symbol of the tree. It is no longer a matter of an impossible reconciliation of Good and Evil, but of man with his vegetative (= unconscious) life. In the case of the Christian symbol the tree however is dead and man upon the Cross is going to die, i.e., the solution of the problem takes place after death. That is so as far as Christian truth goes. But it is possible that the Christian symbolism expresses man’s mental condition in the aeon of Pisces, as the ram and the bull gods do for the ages of Aries and Taurus. In this case the post-mortal solution would be symbolic of an entirely new psychological status, viz. that of Aquarius, which is certainly a oneness, presumably that of the Anthropos, the realization of Christ’s allusion; “Dii estis.”16 This is a formidable secret and difficult to understand, because it means that man will be essentially God and God man. The signs pointing in this direction consist in the fact that the cosmic power of self-destruction is given into the hands of man and that man inherits the dual nature of the Father. He will [mis]understand it and he will be tempted to ruin the universal life of the earth by radioactivity. Materialism and
atheism, the negation of God, are indirect means to attain this goal. Through the negation of God one becomes deified, i.e., god-almighty-like, and then one knows what is good for mankind. That is how destruction begins. The intellectual schoolmasters in the Kremlin are a classic example. The danger of following the same path is very great indeed. It begins with the lie, i.e., the projection of the shadow.
There is need of people knowing about their shadow, because there must be somebody who does not project. They ought to be in a visible position where they would be expected to project and unexpectedly they do not project! They can thus set a visible example which would not be seen if they were invisible.
There is certainly Pharisaism, law consciousness, power drive, sex obsession, and the Wrong kind of formalism in the Church. But these things are symptoms that the old showy and easily understandable ways and methods have lost their significance and should be slowly replaced by more meaningful principles. This indeed means trouble with the Christian vices. Since you cannot overthrow a whole world because it harbours also some evil, it will be a more individual or “local” fight with what you rightly call avidya. As “tout passe,” even theological books are not true forever, and even if they expect to be believed one has to tell them in a loving and fatherly way that they make some mistakes. A true and honest introverted thinking is a grace and possesses for at least a time divine authority, particularly if it is modest, simple end straight. The people who write such books are not the voice of God. They are only human. It is true that the right kind of thinking isolates oneself. But did you become a monk for the sake of congenial society? Or do you assume that it isolates only a theologian? It has done the same to me and will do so to everybody that is blessed with it.
That is the reason why there are compensatory functions. The introverted thinker is very much in need of a developed feeling, i.e., of a less autoerotic, sentimental, melodramatic and emotional relatedness to people and things. The compensation will be a hell of a conflict to begin with, but later on, by understanding what nirdvanda17 means, they18 become the pillars at the gate of the transcendent function, i.e., the transitus to the self.
We should recognize that life is a transitus. There is an old covered bridge near Schmerikon19 with an inscription: “Alles ist Uebergang.”20 Even the Church and her sententiae are only alive inasmuch as they change. All old truths want a new interpretation, so that they can live on in a new form. They can’t be substituted or replaced by something else without losing their functional value altogether. The Church certainly expects of you that you assimilate its doctrine. But in assimilating it, you change it imperceptibly and sometimes even noticeably. Introverted thinking is aware of such subtle alterations, while other minds swallow them wholesale. If you try to be literal about the doctrine, you are putting yourself aside until there is nobody left that would represent it but corpses. If on the other hand you truly assimilate the doctrine you will alter it creatively by your individual understanding and thus give life to it. The life of most ideas in their controversial nature, i.e., you can disagree with them even if you recognize their importance for a majority. If you fully agreed with them you could replace yourself just as well by a gramophone record. Moreover, if you don’t disagree, you are no good as a directeur de conscience, since there are many other people suffering from the same difficulty and being badly in need of your understanding.
I appreciate the particular moral problem you are confronted with. But I should rather try to understand why you were put into your actual situation of profound conflict before you think it is a fundamental mental mistake. I remember vividly your charta geomantica21 that depicts so drastically the way you became a monk. I admit there are people with the peculiar gift of getting inevitably and always into the wrong place. With such people nothing can be done except get them out of the wrong hole into another equally dubious one. But if I find an intelligent man in an apparently wrong situation, I am inclined to think that it makes sense somehow. There may be some work for him to do. Much work is needed where much has gone wrong or where much should be improved. That is one of the reasons why the Church attracts quite a number of intelligent and responsible men in the secret (or unconscious?) hope that they will be strong enough to carry its meaning and not its words into the future. The old trick of law obedience is still going strong, but the original Christian teaching is a reminder. The man who allows the institution to swallow him is not a good servant.
It is quite understandable that the ecclesiastical authorities must protect the Church against subversive influences. But it would be sabotage if this principle were carried to the extreme, because it would kill the attempts at improvement also, The Church is a “Durchgang” [passage] and bridge between representatives of higher and lower consciousness and as such she quite definitely makes sense. Since the world is largely sub principatu diaboli, it is unavoidable that there is just as much evil in the Church as everywhere else, and as everywhere else you have got to be careful. What would you do if you were a bank-clerk or a medical assistant at a big clinic? You are always and everywhere in a metal conflict unless you are blissfully unconscious. I think it is not only honest but even highly moral and altruistic to be what one professes to be as completely as possible, with the full consciousness that you are making this effort for the weak and the unintelligent who cannot live without a reliable support. He is a good physician who does not bother the patient with his own doubts and feelings of inferiority. Even if he knows little or is quite inefficient the right persona medici might carry the day if seriously and truly performed for the patient. The grace of God may step in when you don’t lose your head in a clearly desperate situation If it has been done, even with a lie, in favor of the patient it has been well done, and you are justified, although you never get out of the awkward feeling that you are a dubious number. I wonder whether there is any true servant of God who can rid himself of this profound insecurity balancing his obvious rightness. I cannot forget that crazy old Negro Mammy22 who told me: “God is working in me like a clock—funny and serious.” By “clock” seems to be meant something precise and regular, even monotonous; by “funny and serious” compensating irrational events and aspects—a humorous seriousness expressing the playful and formidable nature of fateful experiences.
If I find myself in a critical or doubtful situation, I always ask myself whether there is not something in it, explaining the need of my presence, before I make a plan of how to escape. If I should find nothing hopeful or meaningful in it, I think I would not hesitate to jump out of it as quick as possible. Well, I may be all wrong, but the fact that you find yourself in the Church does not impress me asbeing wholly nonsensical. Of course huge sacrifices are expected of you, but I wonder whether there is any vocation or any kind of meaningful life that does not demand sacrifices of a sort. There is no place where those striving after consciousness could find absolute safety. Doubt and insecurity are indispensable components of a complete life. Only those who can lose this life really, can gain it. A “complete” life does not consist in a theoretical completeness, but in the fact that one accepts, without reservation, the particular fatal tissue in which one finds oneself embedded, and that one tries to make sense of it or to create a cosmos from the chaotic mess into which one is born. If one lives properly and completely, time and again one will be confronted with a situation of which one will say: “This is too much. I cannot bear it any more.” Then the question must he answered: “Can one really not bear it?”
Fidem non esse caecum sensum religionis e latebris subconscientiae erumpentem,23 etc., indeed not! Fides in its ecclesiastical meaning is a construction expressed by the wholly artificial credo, but no spontaneous product of the unconscious. You can swear to it in all innocence, as well as I could, if asked. Also you can teach, if asked, the solid doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas, as I could if I knew it. You can and will and must criticize it, yet with a certain discrimination, as there are people incapable of understanding your argument.Quieta movere24 is not necessarily a good principle. Being an analyst, you know how little you can say, and sometimes it is quite enough when only the analyst knows. Certain things transmit themselves by air when they are really needed.
I don’t share at all X.’s idea that one should not be so finicky about conscience, it is definitely dishonest and—sorry—a bit too Catholic. One must be finicky when it comes to a moral question, and what a question! You are asked to decide whether you can deal with ambiguity, deception, “doublecrossing” and other damnable things for the love of your neighbour’s soul. If it is a case of “the end justifying the means,” you had better buy a through ticket to hell. It is a devilish hybris even to think that one could be in such an exalted position to decide about the means one is going to apply. There is no such thing, not even in psychotherapy. If you don’t want to go to the dogs morally, there is only one question, namely “Which is the necessity you find yourself burdened with when you take to heart your brother’s predicament?” The question is how you are applied in the process of the cure, and not at all what the means are you could offer to buy yourself off. It depends very much indeed upon the way you envisage your position with reference to the Church. I should advocate an analytical attitude, which is permissible as well as honest, viz, take the Church as your ailing employer and your colleagues as the unconscious inmates of a hospital.
Is the LSD-drug mesca1in?25 It has indeed very curious effects— vide Aldous Huxley26 —of which I know far too little. I don’t know either what its psychotherapeutic value with neurotic or psychotic patients is. I only know there is no point in wishing to know more of the collective unconscious than one gets through dreams and intuition. The more you know of it, the greater and heavier becomes our moral burden, because the unconscious contents transform themselves into your individual tasks and duties as soon as they begin to become conscious. Do you want to increase loneliness and misunderstanding? Do you want to find more and more complications and increasing responsibilities? You get enough of it. If I once could say that I had done everything I know I had to do, then perhaps I should realize a legitimate need to take mescalin. But if I should take it now, I would not be sure at all that I had not taken it out of idle curiosity. I should hate the thought that I had touched on the sphere where the paint is made that colours the world, where the light is created that makes shine the splendour of the dawn, the lines and shapes of all form, the sound that fills the orbit, the thought that illuminates the darkness of the void. There are some poor impoverished creatures, perhaps, for whom mescalin would be a heaven-sent gift without a counterpoison, but I am profoundly mistrustful of the “pure gifts of the Gods.” You pay very dearly for them. Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.27
This is not the point at all, to know of or about the unconscious, nor does the story end here; on the contrary it is how and where you begin the real quest. If you are too unconscious it is a great relief to know a bit of the collective unconscious. But it soon becomes dangerous to know more, because one does not learn at the same time how to balance it through a conscious equivalent. That is the mistake Aldous Huxley makes: he does not know that he is in the role of the “Zauberlehrling,” who learned from his master how to call the ghosts but did not know how to get rid of them again:
Die ich rief, die Geister,
Werd ich nun nicht los!28
It is really the mistake of our age. We think it is enough to discover new things, but we don’t realize that knowing more demands a corresponding development of morality. Radioactive clouds over Japan, Calcutta, and Saskatchewan point to progressive poisoning of the universal atmosphere.
I should indeed be obliged to you if you could let me see the material they get with LSD. It is quite awful that the alienists have caught hold of a new poison to play with, without the faintest knowledge or feeling of responsibility. It is just as if a surgeon had never leaned further than to cut open his patient’s belly and to leave things there. When one gets to know unconscious contents one should know how to deal with them. I can only hope that the doctors will feed themselves thoroughly with mescalin, the alkaloid of divine grace, so that they learn for themselves its marvellous effect. You have not finished with the conscious side yet. Why should you expect more from the unconscious? For 35 years I have known enough of the collective unconscious and my whole effort is concentrated upon preparing the ways and means to deal with it.
Now to end this very long epistle I must say how much I have appreciated your confidence, frankness, courage and honesty. This is so rare and so precious an event that it is a pleasure to answer at length. I hope you will find a way out to Switzerland.
The winter, though very cold, has dealt leniently with me. Both my wife and myself are tired, though still active, but in a very restricted way.
I am spending the month of April in Bollingen procul negotiis29 and the worst weather we have known for years.
Cordially yours, C. G. JUNG
1. W. wrote a long letter on 3 Mar. 54 in answer to Jung’s of 24 Nov. 53, expresssing agreement with most of what he said It deals largely with Jung’s views on the
problem of “Christ’s shadow,” which contradict the Catholic doctrine that Christ knew everything (and therefore could not have a shadow).
2. Jung’s commentary “On the Psychology of the Trickster Figure” (CW 9. i) for Paul Radin, The Trickster (1956; orig. Der gottliche Schelm, 1954). Kerenyi wrote the other commentary.
3. Cf. Zacharias, 24 Aug. 53.
4. “Christ’s soul was not ignorant of anything.” This and the following ab initiocognovisse omnia (“from the beginning he knew everything”) are two statements of the Holy Roman Office (one of the eleven departments of the Roman Curia) laid down in 1918 and quoted by W.
5. Cf. Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19.
6. Mysterium, CW 14, pars. 570ff.
7. The separation of Christ, the epitome of good, from his shadow, the devil.
8. Matthew 23:24: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallows camel.”
9. Rodrigo Borgia (1431—1503), the most notorious of the corrupt and venal popes of the Renaissance.
10. The astrological sign of Pisces consists of two fishes which were frequently regarded as moving in opposite directions. Traditionally, the reign of Christ corresponds to the first fish and ended with the first millennium, whereas the second fish coincides with the reign of Antichrist, now nearing its end with the entry of the vernal equinox into the sign of Aquarius. Cf. Aions, CW 9, ii, pars. 148f., and “Answer to Job,” CW 11, par. 725.
11. The bridge is the “uniting symbol,” which represents psychic totality, the self. Cf. Psychological Types, CW 6, par. 828
12. The tree often symbolizes the mother and appears as such in the numerous treebirth myths (cf. Symbols of Transformation, CW 5, Part II, ch. V). But it is also a phallic symbol and thus has an androgynous character. (For Christ’s androgyny cf. Mysterium, pars. 526, 565 & n. 63.)
15. Attis was one of the young dying gods, the lover of Kybele, the Great Mother goddess of Anatolia. In her rites, taking place in March, a pine tree, symbol of Attis, was carried into her sanctuary. Cf. White, 25 Nov. 50, n. 5.
14. A sanctuary of Adonis, another young dying god closely related to Attis, existed since ancient times in a cave at Bethlehem. It is supposed to be identical with
Christ’s birthplace, over which Constantine the Great (ca. 288—337) had a basilica built.
15. Cf. Memories, pp. 338f./312, and Neumann, so Mar. 59.
16. “Ye are gods.” John 10:34.
17. Nirdvandva (Skt.), “free from the opposites” (love and hate, joy and sorrow, etc.). Cf. Psychological Types, pars. 327ff.
18. Here “they” refers to the compensatory (or inferior) functions. Cf. ibid., Def. 30.
19. A village in Canton St. Gallen, on the Upper Lake of Zurich, near the Tower at Bollingen.
20. = “All is transition.”
21. In geomancy, an ancient method of divination still widely practiced in the Orient, especially the Far East, earth or pebbles are thrown on the ground and the resultant pattern is interpreted. In Europe the pattern was known as thecharta geomantica A later development was to make dots at random on a piece of paper: the “Art of Punctation.” (Cf. “Synchronicity,” CW 8, par. 866.) Jung was fond of experimenting with all such mantic methods in order to test synchronistic events. He became acquainted with the An Geomantica through “De animae intellectualis scientia seu geomantica,” Fasciculus geomanticus (Verona, 1687), by the English physician and mystical philosopher Robert Fludd (1574-1637), who is discussed in Pauli’s “The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler,” The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche (tr., 1955)
22. Possibly a patient Jung interviewed during his work with mentally deranged Negroes at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital an Washington, D.C., in 1912. Cf. TheFreud/Jung Letters, 323J, n. 3.—And cf. Loeb, 26 Aug. 41, n. 0.
23. On 1 Sept. 1910 Pius X edited a motu proprio (a document issued by the Pontiff on his own initiative) in which the sentence occurs: “Certissime teneo ac
sincere profiteor fidem non esse caecum sensum religionis e latebris subconscientiae . . . erumpentem” (I maintain as quite certain and sincerely avow that faith is not a blind religious feeling which breaks out of the darkness of the subconscious).
24. Lit. “to move what is at rest”; more colloquially, “rousing sleeping dogs.”
25. W. mentioned that he had been invited to a lunatic asylum “to talk to the staff, and (as I found) try to lend a band with religious-archetypal material which patients were producing under the L.S.D. drug.” — Jung wrote “mescal”
26. Aldous Huxley. The Doors of Perception (1954).
27. “[Men of Troy, trust not the horse!] Be it what it may, I fear the Danaans, though their hands proffer gifts” (Virgil, Aeneid, I, 48).
28. Goethe’s poem “The Magician’s Apprentice”: “I cannot get rid / Of the spirits I bid.”
29. = away from work.
from Jung on Mythology
Selected and introduced by Robert A. Segal
1998 ISBN: 0-691-01736-0 288 pp.
1998 ISBN: 0-691-01736-0 288 pp.
To Dorothee Hoch
Dear Dr. Hoch, 3 July 1952
I am very grateful that this time you have met my endeavour with more friendliness and understanding. I certainly admit that personal motives creep in everywhere in an exasperating way, but I still think it is a bit too glib to suspect an objective argument of personal resentment without closer and surer knowledge of the circumstances. Only at the end of a discussion, when all objective elements have run out, may one hazard the question whether personal motives have also had a hand in it. But I won’t make any annotations to Knigge’sUmgang mit Menschen.1
You are surprised at my reaction to your avowed faith is a personal meeting with Christ. I thought I ought not to conceal from you that such an avowal has a thoroughly intimidating effect on many people, because they feel (with good reason, I think) that this only happens to one of the elect, who has been singled out from the human community of the unblest, the wayward, the unbelievers, the doubters and the God-forsaken, and, especially if they are religious people, it makes them feel inferior. Many theologians make themselves unpopular on that account and so make the doctor, who is expected to have a better understanding of the ordinary, uninitiated person, appear as a more desirable proposition.
I do, to be sure, maintain that the Bible was written by man and is therefore “mythological,” i.e., anthropomorphic. God is certainly made vivid enough in it, but not visible. That would be a bit too much for our human inadequacy, even if we could see him in his incarnate form. This is the morfh donlon after the kenosis2 had taken place, the well-attested pagan figure of the katacoV3 and the Old Testament “servant of God,”4 or the unsuccessful, suffering hero like Oedipus or Prometheus.
The insistence on the uniqueness of Christianity, which removes it from the human sphere and doesn’t even allow it a mythological status conditioned by history, has just as disastrous an effect on the layman as the aforementioned “avowal.” The gospel becomes unreal; all possible points of contact with human understanding are abolished, and it is made thoroughly implausible and unworthy of belief. It is really and truly sterilized, for all the psychic propensities in us which would willingly accept it are brusquely thrust aside or suppressed and devalued. This short-sightedness is neither rational nor Christian and empties the Protestant churches in the most effective way; but it is very convenientbecause then the clergyman doesn’t have to bother about whether the congregation understand the gospel or not but can comfortably go on preaching at them as before. Educated people, for instance, would be much more readily convinced of the meaning of the gospel if it were shown them that the myth was always there to a greater or lesser degree, and moreover is actually present in archetypal form in every individual. Then people would understand where, in spite of its having been artificially screened off by the theologians, the gospel really touches them and what it is talking about. Without this link the Jesus legend remains a mere wonder story, and is understood as little as a fairytale that merely serves to entertain. Uniqueness is synonymous with unintelligibility. How do you make head or tail of a apax legomenon?5 If you are not fascinated at the first go, it tells you absolutely nothing. How can you “meet people in their lives” if you talk of things, and especially of unique events, that have nothing to do with the human psyche?
You refer me to your sermon. You talk there of rebirth, for instance, something the man of antiquity was thoroughly familiar with, but modern man? He has no inkling of the mysteries, which anyway are discredited by Protestant theology, because for it there is only one truth, and whatever else God may have done for man is mere bungling. Does modern man know what “water” and “spirit” signify? Water is below, heavy and material; wind above and the “spiritual” breath body. The man of antiquity understood this as a clash of opposites, a complexio oppositorum, and felt this conflict to be so impossible that he equated matter with evil outright. Christ forces man into the impossible conflict. He took himself with exemplary seriousness and lived his life to the bitter end, regardless of human convention and in opposition to his own lawful tradition, as the worst heretic in the eyes of the Jews and a madman in the eyes of his family. But we? We imitate Christ and hope he will deliver us from our own fate. Like little lambs we follow the shepherd, naturally to good pastures. No talk at all of uniting our Above and Below! On the contrary, Christ and his cross deliver us from our conflict, which we simply leave alone. We are Pharisees, faithful to law and tradition, we flee heresy and are mindful only of the imitatio Christi but not of our own reality which is laid upon us, the union of opposites in ourselves, preferring to believe that Christ has already achieved this for us. Instead of bearing ourselves, i.e., our own cross, ourselves, we load Christ with our Unresolved conflicts. We “place ourselves under his cross,”6 but by golly riot under our own. Anyone who does this is a heretic, self-redeemer, “psychoanalyst” and God knows what. The cross of Christ was borne by himself and was his. To put oneself under somebody else’s cross, which has already been carried by him, is certainly easier than to carry your own cross amid the mockery and contempt of the world. That sway you remain nicely ensconced in tradition and are praised as devout. This is well-organized Pharisaism and highly un-Christian. Whoever imitates Christ and has the cheek to want to take Christ’s cross on himself when he can’t even carry his own has in my view not yet learnt the ABC of the Christian message.
Have your congregation understood that they must close their ears to the traditional teachings and go through the darknesses of their own souls and set aside everything in order to become that which every individual bears in himself as his individual task, and that no one can take this burden from him? We continually pray that “this cup may pass from us” and not harm us. Even Christ did so, but without success. Yet we use Christ to secure this success for ourselves. For all these reasons theology wants know nothing psychology because through discover our own cross But we only want to talk of Christ’s cross, and how splendidly his crucifixion has smoothed the way for us and solved our conflicts. We might also discover, among other things, that in every feature Christ’s life is a prototype of individuation and hence cannot be imitated: one can only live one’s own life totally in the same way with all the consequences this entails. This is hard and must therefore be prevented. How this is done is shown among other things by the following example. A devout professor of theology (i.e., a lamb of Christ) once publicly rebuked me for having said “in flagrant contradiction to the word of the Lord” that it is unethical to “remain” a child. The “Christian” ought to remain sitting on his father’s knee and leave the odious task of individuation to dear little Jesus. Thus naively, but with unconscious design, the meaning of the gospel is subverted, and instead of catechizing ourselves on the meaning of Christ’s life we prefer, in ostensible agreement with the word of the Lord, to remain infantile and not responsible for ourselves. Thus an exemplary didauukaloV tou Israhl7 who can’t even read the New Testament properly.8 No one but me protested because it suits everybody’s book. This is only one of many examples of the way we are cheated in all godliness. Without anybody noticing it, Protestantism has become a Judaism redivivus.
Denominationalism has likewise become a flight from the conflict: people don’t want to be Christians any more because otherwise they would be sitting between two stools in the middle of the schism of the Church. Allegiance to a particular creed is—heaven be praised—un-ambiguous, and so they can skulk round the schism with a good conscience and fight “manfully” for a one-sided belief, the other fellow— alas—being always in the wrong. The fact that I as a Christian struggle to unite Catholicism and Protestantism within myself is chalked up against me in tine Pharisaic fashion as blatant proof of lack of character. That psychology is needed for such an undertaking seems to be a nuisance of the first order. The resistance to and devaluation of the soul as ‘“only psychic” has become a yardstick for Pharisaic hypocrisy. Yet people should be glad that dogmatic ideas have psychological foundations. If they hadn’t, they would remain eternally alien to us and finally wither away, which they are already doing very speedily in Protestantism. But that is what people unconsciously want, because then they wouldn’t be reminded of their own cross and could talk all the more uninhibitedly about Christ’s cross, which takes them away from their own reality, willed by Cod himself. Therefore, by entrenching themselves behind a creed, they calmly perpetuate the hellish scandal that the so-called Christians cannot reach agreement even among themselves.
Even if you thought there is anything to my reflections you could hardly preach a sermon about them to your congregation. This “cross” would presumably be a bit too heavy. But Christ accepted a cross that cost him his life. It is fairly easy to live a praiseworthy truth, but difficult to hold one’s own as an individual against a collective and be found unpraiseworthy. is it clear to your congregation that Christ may possibly mean just this?
These reflections came to me as I read the sermon you have kindly placed at my disposal. I was particularly affected by your thesis of “total surrender.” Is it clear to you what that means: absolute ex-posure? A fate without if’s and but’s, with no assurance that it will turn out harmlessly, for then one would have ventured nothing and risked nothing for God’s sake. It was these rather sombre undertones, so true two reality, that I missed in your sermon. With best greetings,
Yours sincerely, C. G. JUNG
1 By Adolf Freiherr von Knigge (1752—96), an immensely popular book (1788) on etiquette and good manners.
2 = “emptying”: cf. Phil. 1:7; “… Christ Jesus who ... emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (DV) - Cf. also Mysterium,
par. 29 & n. 195.
4 Isaiah 42:1—7, 49:1—6, 50:4—9, 52:13, 53:11
5 An expression used only once.
6 These words occur in a sermon of H.’s which she enclosed with her letter.
7=teacher of Israel
8 Matthew 18:3.
Letter To Upton Sinclair
[ORIGINAL IN ENGLISH]
from Jung on Mythology
Selected and introduced by Robert A. Segal
1998 ISBN: 0-691-01736-0 288 pp.
1998 ISBN: 0-691-01736-0 288 pp.
Dear Mr. Sinclair, 7 January I955
Having read your novel Our Lady1 and having enjoyed every page of it, I cannot refrain from bothering you again with a letter. This is the trouble you risk when giving your books to a psychologist who has made it his profession to receive impressions and to have reactions.
On the day after I had read the story, I happened to come across the beautiful text of the “Exultet” in the Easter night liturgy:
0 inaestimabilis dilectio caritatis
Ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti!
0 certe necessarium Adae peccatum,
Quod Christi morte deletum est!
O felix culpa
Although I am peculiarly sensitive to the beauty of the liturgical language and of the feeling expressed therein, something was amiss, as if a corner had been knocked off or a precious stone fallen from its setting. When trying to understand, I instantly remembered the bewildered Marya confronted with the incongruities of the exorcism, her beautiful and simple humanity caught in the coils of a vast historical process which had supplanted her concrete and immediate life by the almost inhuman superstructure of a dogmatic and ritual nature, so strange that, in spite of the identity of names and biographical items, she was not even able to recognize the story of herself and of her beloved son. By the way, a masterful touch! I also remembered your previous novel3 about the idealistic youth who had almost become a saviour through one of those angelic tricks well known since the time of Enoch (the earthly adventure of Samiasaz4 and his angelic host). And moreover, I recalled your Jesus biography.5 Then I knew what it was that caused my peculiarly divided feeling: it was your common sense and realism, reducing the Holy Legend to human proportions and to probable possibilities, that never fails in knocking off a piece of the spiritual architecture or in causing a slight tremor of the Church’s mighty structure. The anxiety of the priests to suppress the supposedly satanic attempt at verisimilitude is therefore most convincing, as the devil is particularly dangerous when he tells the truth, just as he often does (vide the biography of St. Anthony of Egypt by St. Athanasius).
It is obviously your laudabilis intentio to extract a quintessence of truth from the incomprehensible chaos of historical distortions and dogmatic constructions, a truth of human size and acceptable to common sense. Such an attempt is hopeful and promises success, as the “truth” represented by the Church is so remote from ordinary understanding as to be well-nigh unacceptable. At all events, it conveys nothing any more to the modern mind that wants to understand since it is incapable of blind belief. In this respect, you continue the Strauss-Renan tradition in liberal theology.
I admit it is exceedingly probable that there is a human story at the bottom of it all. But under these conditions I must ask: Why the devil had this simple and therefore satisfactory story to be embellished and distorted beyond recognition? Or why had Jesus taken on unmistakably mythological traits already with the Gospel writers? And why is this process continued even in our enlightened days when the original picture has been obscured beyond all reasonable expectation? Why the Assumptio of 1950 and the Encyclical Ad caeli Reginam7 of Oct. 11, 1954?
The impossibility of a concrete saviour, as styled by the Gospel writers, is and has always been to me obvious and indubitable. Yet I know my contemporaries too well to forget that to them it is news hearing the simple fundamental story. Liberal theology and incidentally your laudabilis intentio have definitely their place where they make sense. To me the human story is the inevitable point de depart, the self-evident basis of historical Christianity. It is the “small beginnings” of an amazing development. But the human story—I beg your pardon—is just ordinary, well within the confines of everyday life, not exciting and unique and thus not particularly interesting. We have heard it a thousand times and we ourselves have lived it at least in parts. It is the we—known psychological ensemble of Mother and beloved Son, and how the legend begins with mother’s anxieties and hopes and son’s heroic fantasies and helpful friends and foes joining in, magnifying and augmenting little deviations from the truth and thus slowly creating the web called the reputation of a personality.
Here you have me—the psychologist—with what the French call his deformationpro professionnelle. He is blase, overfed with the “simple” human story, which does not touch his interest and particularly not his religious feeling. The human story is even the thing to get away from, as the small story is neither exciting nor edifying. On the contrary, one wants to hear the great story of gods and heroes and how the world was created and so on. The small stories can be heard where the women wash in the river, or in the kitchen or at the village well, and above all everybody lives them at home. That has been so since the dawn of consciousness. But there was a time in antiquity, about the fourth century B.C. (I am not quite certain about the date.
Being actually away on vacation, I miss my library!), when a man Euhemeros8 made himself a name through a then new theory: The divine and heroic myth is founded upon the small story of an ordinary human chief or petty Icing of local fame, magnified by a minstrel’s fantasy. All-Father Zeus, the mighty “gatherer of clouds,” was originally a little tyrant, ruling some villages from his maison forteupon a hill, and “nocturnis ululatibus horrenda Prosperpina”9 was presumably his awe-inspiring mother-in-law. That was certainly a time sick of the old gods and their ridiculous fairy stories, curiously similar to the “enlightenment” of our epoch equally fed up with its “myth” and welcoming any kind of iconoclasm, from the Encyclopedie10 of the XVIIIth century to the Freudian theory reducing the religious “illusion” to the basic “family romance” with its incestuous innuendos in the early XXth century. Unlike your predecessor, you do not insist upon thechronique scandaleuse of the Olympians and other ideals, but with a loving hand and with decency like a benevolent pedagogue, you take your reader by the hand: “I am going to tell you a better story, something nice and reasonable, that anybody can accept. I don’t repeat these ancient absurdities, these god-awful theologoumena11 like the Virgin Birth, blood and flesh mysteries, and other wholly superfluous miracle gossip. I show you the touching and simple humanity behind these gruesome inventions of benighted ecclesiastical brains.”
This is a kind-hearted iconoclasm far more deadly than the frankly murderous arrows from M. de Voltaire’s quiver: all these mythological assertions are so obviously impossible that their refutation is not even needed. These relics of the dark ages vanish like morning mist before the rising sun, when the idealistic and charming gardener’s boy experiments with miracles of the good old kind, or when your authentic Galilean grandmother “Marya” does not even recognize herself or her beloved son in the picture produced by the magic mirror of Christian tradition.
Yet, why should a more or less ordinary story of a good mother and her well-meaning idealistic boy give rise to one of the most amazing mental or spiritual developments of all times? Who or what is its agens? Why could the facts not remain as they were originally? The answer is obvious: The story is so ordinary that there would not have been any reason for its tradition, quite certainly not for its world-wide expansion. The fact that the original situation has developed into one of the most extraordinary myths about a divine heros, a God-man and his cosmic fate, is not due to its underlying human story, but to the powerful action of pine-existing mythological motifs attributed to the biographically almost unknown Jesus, a wandering miracle Rabbi in the style of the ancient Hebrew prophets, or of the contemporary teacher John the Baptizer, or of the much later Zaddiks of the Chassidim12 The immediate source and origin of the myth projected upon the teacher Jesus is to be found in the then popular Book of Enoch and its central figure of the “Son of Man” and his messianic mission. From the Gospel texts it is even manifest that Jesus identified himself with this “Son of Man.” Thus it is the spirit of his time, the collective hope and expectation which caused this astounding transformation not at all the more or less insignificant story of the man Jesus.
The true agens is the archetypal image of the Cod-man, appearing in Ezekiel’s vision13 for the first time in Jewish history, but in itself a considerably older figure in Egyptian theology, viz., Osiris and Horus.
The transformation of Jesus, i.e., the integration of his human self into a super- or inhuman figure of a deity, accounts for the amazing “distortion” of his ordinary personal biography. In other words: the essence of Christian tradition is by no means the simple man Jesus whom we seek in vain in the Gospels, but the lore of the God-man and his cosmic drama. Even the Gospels themselves make it their special job to prove that their Jesus is the incarnated God equipped with all the magic powers of a kurioV tvn pneumatwn.14 That is why they are so liberal with miracle gossip which they naively assume proves their point. It is only natural that the subsequent post-apostolic developments even went several points better in this respect, and in our days the process of mythological integration is still expanding and spreading itself even to Jesus’ mother, formerly carefully kept down to the human rank and file for at least 500 years of early church history. Boldly breaking through the sacrosanct rule about the definability of a new dogmatic truth, viz., that the said truth is only definibilis inasmuch as it was believed and taught in apostolic times, explicite or implicite, the pope has declared the Assumptio Mariae a dogma of the Christian creed. The justification he relies on is the pious belief of the masses for more than 1000 years, which he considers sufficient proof of the work of the Holy Ghost. Obviously the “pious belief” of the masses continues the process of projection, i.e., of transformation of human situations into myth.
But why should there be myth at all? My letter is already too long so that I can’t answer this last question any more, but I have written several books about it. I only wanted to explain to you my idea that in trying to extract the quintessence of Christian tradition, you have removed it like Prof. Bultmann in his attempt at “demythologizing” the Gospels. One cannot help admitting that the human story is so very much more probable, but it has little or nothing to do with the problem of the myth containing the essence of Christian religion. You catch your priests most cleverly in the disadvantageous position which they have created for themselves by their preaching a concrete historicity of clearly mythological facts. Nobody reading your admirable novel can deny being deeply impressed by the very dramatic confrontation of the original with the mythological picture, and very probably he will prefer the human story to its mythological “distortion.”
But what about the euanggelion, the “message” of the God-man and Redeemer and his divine fate, the very foundation of everything that is holy to the Church? There is the spiritual heritage and harvest of 1900 years still to account for, and I am very doubtful whether the reduction to common sense is the correct answer or not. As a matter of fact, I attribute an incomparably greater importance to the dogmatic truth than to the probable human story. The religious need gets nothing out of the latter, and at all events less than from a mere belief in Jesus Christ or any other dogma. Inasmuch as the belief is real and living, it works. But inasmuch as it is mere imagination and an effort of the will without understanding, I see little merit in it. Unfortunately, this unsatisfactory condition prevails in modem times, and in so far as there is nothing beyond belief without understanding but doubt and scepticism, the whole Christian tradition goes by the board as a mere fantasy. I consider this event a tremendous loss for which we are to pay a terrific price. The effect becomes visible in the dissolution of ethical values and a complete disorientation of our Weltanschauung. The “truths” of natural science or “existential philosophy” are poor surrogates. Natural “laws” are in the main mere abstractions (being statistical averages) instead of reality, and they abolish individual existence as being merely exceptional. But the individual as the only carrier of life and existence is of paramount importance. He cannot be substituted by a group or by a mass. Yet we are rapidly approaching a state in which nobody will accept individual responsibility any more. We prefer to leave it as an odious business to groups and organizations, blissfully unconscious of the fact that the group or mass psyche is that of an animal and wholly inhuman.
What we need is the development of the inner spiritual man, the unique individual whose treasure is hidden on the one hand in the symbols of our mythological tradition, and on the other hand in man’s unconscious psyche. It is tragic that science and its philosophy discourage the individual and that theology resists every reasonable attempt to understand its symbols. Theologians call their creed a symbolum,15 but they refuse to call their truth “symbolic.” Yet, if it is anything, it is anthropomorphic symbolism and therefore capable able of re-interpretation.
Hoping you don’t mind my frank discussion of your very inspiring writings,
I remain, with my best wishes for the New Year,
Yours sincerely, C. G. JUNG
P.S. Thank you very much for your kind letter that has reached me just now. I am amazed at the fact that you should have difficulties in finding a publisher.16 What is America coming to, when her most capable authors cannot reach their public any more? What a time!
This letter was published, with minor changes and some omissions, in New Republic, vol 132, no.8, issue 2100 (21 Feb. 1955).—As some of Jung’s comments will hardly be intelligible to readers unfamiliar with Our Lady, a brief summary is given: The heroine of the story is Marya, a widow and grandmother, a peasant woman of ancient Nazareth speaking only Aramaic. Her son Jeshu, who is depicted as a religious and social revolutionary, has gone away on a mission, and in an agony of fear as to his future she consults a sorceress. Under a spell, she awakens in a great city (Los Angeles), moving with the crowd into a stadium where she witnesses what she takes to be a battle: the football game between Notre Dame U., Indiana, and the U. of California. Sitting next to her is a professor of Semitic languages at Notre Dame; on addressing the utterly bewildered woman he learns to his astonishment that she speaks ancient Aramaic. He hears her story and takes her to the bishop, who exorcises the demons and sends her hack to Nazareth with no enlightenment whatever. There she rebukes the sorceress, saying: ‘I asked to see the future of myself and my son: and nothing I saw has anything to do with us.”
2 The Missale Romanum (liturgy of the Roman Catholic Mass), has the following text for Holy Saturday: “Oh unspeakable tenderness of charity! In order to redeem the servant, Thou bust given the son. Oh truly necessary sin of Adam which has been redeemed through the death of Christ. Oh happy guilt which has found so great a Redeemer!” — The term “Felix culpa” (happy fault) goes back to St. Augustine.
3 What Didymus Did (London, 1954), the story of a young gardener in a suburb of Los Angeles who is visited by an angel and receives the power to perform miracles
(Didymus, “twin,” is the name of the apostle Thomas. Cf. John 11:16.)
4 In the Book of Enoch, Samiasaz is the leader of the angels who took human wives (Gen. 6:2). Cf. “Answer to Job,” CW 11, par. 689.
6. St. Athanasius (ca. 293—373), archbishop of Alexandria, wrote a biography of St. Anthony (ca. 250—350), the first Christian monk. St. Anthony is noted for his fights with the devil, who appeared to him under manifold disguises. In one story the devil admits defeat by the saint, hoping to seduce him into the sin of pride. A long excerpt from the biography, “Life of St. Anthony,” inThe Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers (1904), is in Prychological Types,CW 6, par. 82.
7 After having promulgated the dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven in Munificentissimus Deus, Nov. 1950, Pius XII confirmed it in his En. cyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, 11 Oct. 1954, which established a yearly feast in honour of Mary’s “royal dignity” as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
8.Euhemeros, Greek philosopher (fl. 4th—3rd cent. B.C.). He taught that the Olympians were originally great kings and war heroes.
10 Encyclopedie ou Dictionnaire raisonee des sciences, des arts et des metiers, edited by Diderot (1713-84) became one of the most important influences in the French Enlightenment.
11Teachings not part of Church dogma but supported by theologians; more generally theological formulations of the nature of God.
12 The Chassidim (or Hasidim) were a mystical sect of Judaism, founded shortly before the middle of the 18th cent. by the mystic Israel Baal Shem (“Master of the Holy Name”; 1700-1760). The leaders were called Zaddiks (righteous men).
14= Lord of the spirits.
15 symbolum, in the theological sense, is the formulation of a basic tenet of Christian faith; the creeds were symbola. Cf. “Dogma of the Trinity,” CW 11, pars. 210ff.
16 In his letter S. spoke of his difficulties in finding a publisher for What Didymus Did. It was never published in America but only in England. — This postscript was added in handwriting.