To V. Subrahamanya Iyer
Dear Sir, 9 January 1939
You are quite right, Schopenhauer was by no means in a position to have a complete insight into and an understanding of the Upanishads, since in those days the Upanishads were only known in the very imperfect Latin rendering of A. du Perron, who brought them over in the form of the so-called Oupnekhat at the beginning of the 19th century.
I quite agree with you that deep sleep or any state of complete unconsciousness is beyond pain and pleasure, but also beyond consciousness, so that when the complete state of being beyond pleasure and pain is achieved, there is nobody there that could be conscious of it.
It is true however that if somebody survives that condition, for instance by waking up from deep sleep or from unconsciousness, he might say: “I must have been unconscious, I felt nothing.”
Or if he has an agreeable feeling left over from his deep sleep: “I had a very good and pleasurable sleep without dreams.”
But while he was asleep or unconscious, he was not aware of it, at least we cannot prove that there was anybody aware of that condition.
It is of course a merely theoretical statement when I say that complete unconsciousness, i.e., a complete overcoming of pain and pleasure and ego, would be just death.
By such a statement I only want to say that as long as I’m conscious of something, my mind is not contentless and not egoless, since I am aware of a definite state in which I find myself.
I wouldn’t call the ego a creation of mind or consciousness, since, as we know, little children talk of themselves first in the third person and begin to say ‘T’ only when they have found their ego.
The ego, therefore, is rather a find or an experience and not a creation.
We rather might say: the empirical existence of an ego is a condition through which continuous consciousness becomes possible.
For we know that the sort of impersonal consciousness observed in little children is not continuous but of a dissociated and insular character.
I know it is a special feature of Indian thought that consciousness is assumed to have a metaphysical and pre-human existence.
We are convinced that only what we call the unconscious mind, which is per definition a psyche not conscious to anybody, has pre-human and preconscious existence.
What we call the unconscious is an exact replica of the Indian concept of super- or supreme consciousness.
As far as my knowledge goes, however, we have no evidence at all in favor of the hypothesis that a pre-human and preconscious psyche is conscious to anybody and therefore a consciousness.
Concerning your last question I want to say that I quite agree that there is nothing in or of the material world that is not a projection of the human mind, since anything we experience and are able to express through thought is alien to our mind.
Through experience and mental assimilation it has become part of our mind and thus it has become essentially psychic.
Inasmuch as a material thing does not enter our consciousness it is not experienced and we cannot say for certain that it does exist.
Whatever we touch or come in contact with immediately changes into a psychic content, so we are enclosed by a world of psychic images, some of which bear the label “of material origin,” others the label “of spiritual origin.”
But how those things look as material things in themselves or as spiritual things in themselves we do not know, since we can experience them only as psychic contents and nothing else.
But I cannot say that material things or spiritual things in themse1ves are of psychic nature, although it may be that there is no other kind of existence but a psychic one.
If that is the case, then matter would be nothing but a definiteness of divine thought, as Tantrism suggests.
I have no objection to such an hypothesis, but the Western mind has renounced metaphysical assertions which are per definition not verifiable, if only recently so.
In the Middle Ages up to the 19th century we still believed in the possibility of metaphysical assertions.
India, it seems to me, is still convinced of the possibility of metaphysical assertions. Perhaps she is right and perhaps not.
Hoping you are always in good health and active as ever, I remain, dear Sir, Yours devotedly,
C.G. Jung, [Letters Volume 1; Pages 254-255]