[Carl Jung: “I have never come across a case where a woman actually had a child by her own father,…”]

To C. R. Birnie

Dear Dr. Birnie, 14 May 1948

I have never come across a case where a woman actually had a child by her own father, but I’ve seen a number of cases where such consequences might easily have happened, i.e., incest with father and mother.

The actual event of incest means nearly always a terrific blow to the psychic structure, except in cases of very primitive minds.

The incest has the importance of a real trauma.

Its effect is a fixation to the time and the circumstances of the incest as well as to the person of the perpetrator.

This is the meaning of the dream that repeats itself in your case.

She is still her father’s prisoner.

A dream that repeats itself always refers to one and the same psychological situation that lasts as long as the dream repeats itself.

The unconscious brings up the fact as a sort of compensatory act with the intention that it should be remembered and introduced into consciousness.

As it (incest] is a trauma it is always held at bay and is partially repressed.

It cannot be assimilated and so the dream brings it back in the more or less vain hope that consciousness will be able to assimilate it.

It can be assimilated provided that consciousness understands the symbolic meaning of the event.

Consciousness, of course, is exclusively fascinated by the external moral and factual aspect of the act.

But that is not enough: the main point is that incest arouses an archaic level of mind (which I call the collective unconscious) in which one finds a highly archaic meaning of paternal incest.

When one has to treat such a condition, one ought to get the patient to reproduce the (unconscious) fantasies round the incest, applying the method of active imagination if the dreams don’t produce the necessary stuff.

There is an interesting difference between maternal and paternal incest as the former is more archaic and affects the feeling life of the son.

Paternal incest on the other hand is of a more recent nature and affects the mind of the daughter, because the father has to do with everything that is mental and spiritual.

In such a case a thorough explanation of the mental and spiritual implications of the incestuous act is unavoidable, since its nature is highly symbolical and as a rule refers to the sacred mysteries of the faith, namely to the myth of Mary who gives rebirth to her father in producing his son (“qui de sa fille fit sa mere”).

In the mediaeval representations of the Antichrist you always find a careful description of how the father (the devil) has sexual intercourse with his daughter and thereby produces the Antichrist.

This is one of the classic representations of the archetype of paternal incest.

I’m afraid it is a pretty complicated business.

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung

Note 1: B. reported the recurrent dream of a woman of 35 who “at the age of 23 had a child by her supposed father.” In the dream “she was locked in a dark room with a window” and “a door outside which her father stood.” It was the actual room in which her father had locked her “from early childhood in order to coerce her into sexual acts.”

Note 2: “[God] who made his daughter into his mother.” Quotation from Chretien de Troyes, 12th cent. poet, author of Le Conte du Graal. For the reverse of this process cf. Dante, Paradiso, XXXIII, 1: “O Virgin Mother, daughter of thy son.” ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 499-500.