[Carl Jung on Suicide and Detachment of the Soul from the Body]
To Eleanor Bertine
Dear Dr. Bertine, 25 July 1946
I’m just spending a most agreeable time of rest in my tower and enjoy sailing as the only sport which is still available to me.
I have just finished two lectures for the Eranos meeting of this summer It is about the general problem of the psychology of the unconscious and its philosophical implications.
And now I have finally rest and peace enough to be able to read your former letters and to answer them.
I should have thanked you for your careful reports about Kristine Mann’s illness and death long ago, but I never found time enough to do so.
There have been so many urgent things to be done that all my time was eaten up and I cannot work so quickly any longer as I used to do.
It is really a question whether a person affected by such a terrible illness should or may end her life.
It is my attitude in such cases not to interfere.
I would let things happen if they were so, because I’m convinced that if anybody has it in himself to commit suicide, then practically the whole of his being is going that way.
I have seen cases where it would have been something short of criminal to hinder the people because according to all rules it was in accordance with the tendency of their unconscious and thus the basic thing.
So I think nothing is really gained by interfering with such an issue.
It is presumably to be left to the free choice of the individual.
Anything that seems to be wrong to us can be right under certain circumstances over which we have no control and the end of which we do not understand.
If Kristine Mann had committed suicide under the stress of unbearable pain, I should have thought that this was the right thing.
As it was not the case, I think it was in her stars to undergo such a cruel agony for reasons that escape our understanding.
Our life is not made entirely by ourselves. The main bulk of it is brought into existence out of sources that are hidden to us.
Even complexes can start a century or more before a man is born.
There is something like karma.
Kristine’s experience you mention is truly of a transcendent nature.
If it were the effect of morphine it would occur regularly, but it doesn’t.
On the other hand it bears all the characteristics of an ekstasis. Such a thing is possible only when there is a detachment of the soul from ‘ the body.
When that takes place and the patient lives on, one can almost with certainty expect a certain deterioration of the character inasmuch as the superior and most essential part of the soul has already left.
Such an experience denotes a partial death.
It is of course a most aggravating experience for the environment, as a person whose personality is so well known seems to lose it completely and shows nothing more than demoralization or the disagreeable symptoms of a drug-addict.
But it is the lower man that keeps on living with the body and who is nothing else but the life of the body.
With old people or persons seriously ill, it often happens that they have peculiar states of withdrawal or absent-mindedness, which they themselves cannot explain, but which are presumably conditions in which the detachment takes place.
It is sometimes a process that lasts very long.
What is happening in such conditions one rarely has a chance to explore, but it seems to me that it is as if such conditions had an inner consciousness which is so remote from our matter-of-fact consciousness that it is almost impossible to retranslate its contents into the terms of our actual consciousness.
I must say that I have had some experiences along that line.
They have given me a very different idea about what death means.
I hope you will forgive me that I’m so late in answering your previous letters.
As I said, there has been so much in between that I needed a peaceful time when I could risk entering into the contents of your letter.
My best wishes!
C.G. Jung [Letters Volume 1; Pages 435-437]