To Ignaz. Tauber
Dear Colleague, 22 May 1959
Dr. Jacobsohn’s criticism is certainly a fatal blow but was to be
I am sorry I was the bird of ill omen who had to convey to you this negative experience.
Even without Jacobsohn I could have told you that you were making an improper use of the amplification method, but I didn’t want to keep back the expert opinion of a scientifically trained Egyptologist who is in a better position than I am to pick holes in the material.
I am thoroughly aware of my incompetence in the field of Egyptology, in obvious contrast to yourself.
You are too quick to brush aside any positive knowledge of Egyptology with fallacious reasoning.
Your use of the amplification method is uncritical because you do not amplify from the knowledge proper to an Egyptologist but just as you please, that is to say from your knowledge of the medieval and modern mind.
When we amplify a modern dream whose content we do not at first understand, the amplifications are not chosen at random, but are supported either by the associative material of the dreamer himself or by the tradition available to him, or, going further afield, by the tradition of his historical milieu, and finally by fundamental conceptions of a more general nature, as for instance the Trinity, the quaternity, and other universal myth-motifs.
In dealing with a definitely historical text it is absolutely essential to know the language and the whole available tradition of the milieu in question and not to adduce amplifications from a later cultural milieu.
This can be done when, and only when, the meaning has been sufficiently well established with the help of methods warranted by the historical milieu itself.
Only then may we adduce for comparison amplifications from other times and places, but under no circumstances can we use them to explain the text.
One cannot be cautious enough in this regard.
Now for your dreams.
The dream of the silver wires tangled up with the teeth may be interpreted as follows: the teeth, understood as organs for gripping, for instance in the predators, here represent the concepts by which things are grasped and dissected, i.e., discriminated, but are needlessly impeded by “silver wires” which have no business to be in the mouth.
These wires are alien and irrelevant appendages that do not belong to the natural function of the teeth and have been improperly introduced from outside.
This is precisely what I have to criticize about your method.
The other dream points to the coming shock, a complete shattering of your view of the world, as a result of which you and your anima fall into the depths-the catacombs.
These, like the pagan temples, stand for the origins of Christianity,
whose two church towers remain unshaken.
With this fall into the depths you come to the firm historical foundations upon which Christianity is built.
Once you have this solid ground under your feet, you can regain the historical continuity from which you have evidently cut yourself off, misled by your intuition.
It has inveigled you into a bottomless edifice of speculation which again and again will collapse about your ears.
So if you want to work your dissertation up into a poem I can raise no objections, for then poetic license will stand you in good stead and you can give free rein to your intuition since it no longer lays claim to scientific validity.
Intuition is a dangerous gift, tempting us over and over again into groundless speculation.
An intuition needs an uncommonly large dose of sobering criticism, otherwise it exposes us only too easily to the kind of catastrophic experience that has befallen you.
The dream of the catacombs ends on a hopeful note, and I hope very much that this negative and painful experience will turn out to your advantage.
With friendly greetings,
~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 507-508