To Michael Fordham
Dear Fordham, 14 June 1958
I don’t flatter myself on having a theory of heredity.
I share the ordinary views about it.
I am convinced that individual acquisitions under experimental conditions are not inherited.
I don’t believe that this statement could be generalized, since changes in individual cases must have been inherited, otherwise no change would have come about in phylogenesis; or we would be forced to assume that a new variety, or a new species, was shaped by the creator on the spot without inheritance.
Concerning archetypes, migration and verbal transmission are self-evident, except in those cases where individuals reproduce archetypal forms outside of all possible external influences (good examples in childhood dreams!).
Since archetypes are instinctual forms, they follow a universal pattern, as do the functions of the body.
It would be highly miraculous if that were not so.
Why should the psyche be the only living thing that is outside laws of determination?
We follow archetypal patterns as the weaver-bird does.
This assumption is far more probable than the mystical idea of absolute freedom.
It is true that I have set aside hitherto general biology.
This for good reasons!
We still know far too little about the human psychology to be able to establish a biological basis for our views.
In order to do that, we ought to know far more about the psychology of the unconscious and what we know about consciousness cannot be connected with biological viewpoints directly.
Most attempts in this direction are rather futile speculations.
The real connections with biology are only in the sphere of the unconscious, i .e., in the realm of instinctive activities.
We gain the necessary material on the one hand from the explanation of individual cases and on the other hand from historical and comparative research.
Only by this work we can establish the existence of certain instinctual patterns that allow a comparison with the facts of biology.
For our purposes it is highly indifferent whether archetypes are handed down by tradition and migration or by inheritance.
It is an entirely secondary question, since comparable biological facts, i.e., instinctual patterns with animals, are obviously inherited.
I see no reason to assume that man should be an exception.
The assumption, therefore, that the (psychoid) archetypes are inherited is for many reasons far more probable than that they are handed down by tradition.
Instincts are not taught, as a rule.
The childish prejudice against inherited archetypes is mostly due to the fact that one thinks archetypes are representations; but in reality they are preferences or “penchants,” likes and dislikes.
As a matter of fact we have practically no evidence for inherited representations (although even this statement is not quite safe), but we have plenty of proof that archetypal patterns exist in the human mind.
How do you explain f.i. the fact of a little child dreaming that God is partitioned into four?
The child belongs to a little bourgeois family in a little town and certainly she has never had the slightest possibility of hearing and understanding the name “Barbelo,” meaning: “in the four is God.”
The doubt in the existence of archetypes is merely an affair of ignorance and therefore a lamentable prejudice.
For many scientific reasons it is far more probable that there are such forms than that there are not.
My reasons are not philosophical ones, they are statistical.
Hoping that I have explained myself satisfactorily,
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 450-451