[Carl Jung’s Letter to Father White]
To Father Victor White
My dear Father White, 5 October 1945
In the meantime I have finished reading the pamphlets you kindly have sent to me.
My first reaction was: what a pity that you live in England and that I don’t have you at my elbow when I am blundering in the wide field of theological knowledge.
You must grant me attenuating circumstances though: besides all the other things I had to learn, I arrived only very late at the treasure-house of patristic wisdom, so late in fact that my limited powers didn’t suffice any more to acquire all that would be needed to elucidate and explain the perplexities of modern psychological experience.
Excuse the irreverential pun: you are to me a white raven inasmuch as you are the only theologian I know of who has really understood something of what the problem of psychology in our present world means.
You have seen its enormous implications.
I cannot tell you how glad I am that I know a man, a theologian, who is conscientious enough to weigh my opinions on the basis of a careful study of my writings!
My temperamental empiricism has its reasons.
I began my career with repudiating everything that smelt of belief.
That explains my critical attitude in my Psychology of the Unconscious.
You should know that this book was written by a psychiatrist for the purpose of submitting the necessary material to his psychiatric colleagues, material which would demonstrate to them the importance of religious symbolism .
My audience then was a thoroughly materialistic crowd/ and I would have defeated my own ends if I had set out with a definite creed or with definite metaphysical assertions.
I was not and I did not want to be anything else but one of them.
My principle was always not to seek the place where I might do something useful, but to do it where I actually was .
I was impressed with their utter lack of knowledge in matters of symbolism and I wanted to do my best to provide it for them.
Only too late I have discovered that it wasn’t my colleagues at all but very different people who became interested in my work.
I have tried to accommodate myself to the psychiatric and medical mind, hardened and often made cynical through the relentless onslaught of brutal and cruel facts and the depravity of mankind.
Thus, when I said that God is a complex/ I meant to say: Whatever He is, He is at least a very tangible complex.
You can say, He is an illusion, but He is at least a psychological fact.
I surely never intended to say: He is nothing else but a complex.
Naturally when my book got into the hands of readers outside my psychiatric sphere they read it with very different eyes. Hence many mistakes!
My book was originally nothing but a reprint from a psychiatric periodical, which was supposed to be read by doctors chiefly.
Concerning my gnoseological standpoint at that time please see note 42, p. 307, Engl. edit. of Psychology of the Unconscious.
You have rendered justice to my empirical and practical standpoint throughout.
I consider this as a very meritorious act, since most of my philosophically or theologically minded readers overlook my empiricism completely.
I never allow myself to make statements about the divine entity, since that would be a transgression beyond the limit of science.
It would therefore be unfair to criticize my opinions as if they were a philosophical system .
My personal view in this matter is that man’s vital energy or libido is the divine pneuma all right and it was this conviction which it was my secret purpose to bring into the
vicinity of my colleagues’ understanding.
When you want to talk to scientists you cannot start with a religious creed .
You have to show the facts and let them draw their own conclusions.
You also cannot say that man’s goal is actually realized in God, you must again show facts demonstrating in what the goal is realized.
What you can show in this respect is the symbol of the self, a well-defined psychological phenomenon, which anybody may call God, but the scientists cannot prove it to be God.
As a scientist I must give a wide berth to anything dogmatic or metaphysical, since it is not the scientist’s task to preach the Gospel.
But it is precisely what the theologian has to say, namely that the dogma is the hitherto most perfect answer to and formulation of the most relevant items in the objective psyche and that God has worked all these things in man’s soul.
The scientist however cannot prove such an assertion, he can only try his best in his limited sphere.
I sympathize fully with you when you say : “The task before us is gigantic indeed.”
It is enormous and I marvel at the intellectual pachydermia of those who ought to know better and who didn’t take notice apparently, or worse-who try to get rid of the octopus by the most futile arguments.
I have frequent discussions with Catholic as well as Protestant theologians.
As a rule they are astonishingly innocent of actual psychological experience and often they seem to have forgotten the wisdom of the Fathers.
It is all very well to have it summarized most beautifully by St. Thomas Aquinas, but when it comes to the interpretation of man’s living soul you need actual knowledge.
It is far from me to depreciate concepts and formulas.
On the contrary I envy you and all those enjoying full possession of Scholastic philosophy and I would surely be among the first to welcome an explicit attempt to integrate the findings of psychology into the ecclesiastical doctrine.
I am sure I should draw the greatest benefit from it.
I am grateful for every hint you dropped in your papers .
I was for instance most interested in what you said about the problem of the Third Person.
I wish you would enlighten me about this subject a bit more.
Could you tell me about the sources where I can find more enlightenment?
You can perhaps imagine my feelings of inadequacy when I have to tackle such a problem at short notice.
It is usually so, that I keep quiet for years about such intricate matters as for instance the Trinity.
But all of a sudden the subject comes up in a discussion or in a lecture and somebody deals with it in a really inadequate way, then I feel somebody ought to say something more to the point and I am launched utterly unprepared, only supported by my experience with practically nothing on the other, the theological side. There I would need some solid theological help.
I realize that it can come only from the Catholic side, as the sola fide standpoint8 of the Protestant has lost the tradition of the doctrine
too much to be useful in disentangling the knots in the empirical material.
This collaboration has been realized to a certain extent as I enjoy the most valuable help of Prof. Hugo Rahner, S.J., at Innsbruck University.
He is an authority on the Hermeneutics, science of interpretation, more especially of the Bible.of the Fathers.
But I see him only rarely and it is most difficult to find out how far his psychological understanding reaches.
I think he is too careful.
Do you know the Eranos-Jahrbiicher?
Do you read German?
There is stuff for you.
If you read German I should like to send you my book Psychology and Alchemy, much better than the badly translated Integration of the Personality which was forced out of my hands by the thrift and “pep” of an American publisher.
There will be an English edition of Psychology and Alchemy within the next year.
I owe you special thanks for kindly remembering my seventieth birthday.
The Eranos circle has dedicated to me a Festschrift in which you will find a brilliant paper by Rahner about Moly and Mandragora and an equally remarkable essay by Layard on the subject of primitive marriage-classes and the virgin archetype.
You accuse me of repudiating the divine transcendence altogether.
This is not quite correct.
I merely omit it, since I am unable to prove it.
I don’t preach, I try to establish psychological facts.
I can confirm and prove the interrelation of the God-image with other parts of the psyche, but I cannot go further without committing the error of a metaphysical assertion, which is far beyond my scope.
I am not a theologian and I have nothing to say about the nature of God.
There is no place for subjective confessions in science.
Whatever I say about “God” is said about the image expressis verbis.
And the image is relative, as you yourself have stated.
It is again a matter of to-whom-you talk.
My public does not consist of theologians but of utterly worldly, educated people of our day.
When you talk of God, they do not know of what you talk, since such ideas have been dismissed long ago as nebulous fantasies.
I show facts to them and not metaphysical assertions which they cannot grasp.
If I were talking to peasants I certainly would talk about God, since I know that they know of what I am talking.
It is of the highest importance that the educated and “enlightened” public should know religious truth as a thing living in the human soul and not as an abstruse and unreasonable relic of the past.
People must be taught to see where they come in, otherwise you never bridge the gulf between the educated mind and the world of dogmatic ideas, which they comprehend nowhere and which moreover offend their reason.
If the Reformers for instance had ever understood what the Holy Mass is or what the rites in general stands for, they would certainly not have abandoned it.
The appalling lack of understanding threatens the Christian religion with complete oblivion.
You cannot preach to a man who does not understand the language.
To shout and to repeat makes no sense.
But you feel as I do, that the theologian ought to learn a new language.
What if St. Paul had talked on the ayopa as if he were in a synagogue?
Understanding begins with the individual mind and this means psychology.
It is a gigantic task indeed to create a new approach to an old truth.
More than once I have put the question to my theological friends: what about new wine in old skins?
The old way of interpreting has itself to be interpreted, this time with the help of science.
This method can reach the modern mind as I have seen in many cases.
I do not combat the Christian truth, I am only arguing with the modern mind.
We have known for long and sufficiently well how things ought to be, but we do not know how to bring them about.
This is my main concern.
People. are not to be lured any more by the promises of Heaven and Hell, they want to understand.
I cannot “tell” my patient, I have to seek him and I must learn his language and think his thoughts, until he knows that I understand him correctly.
Then only is he ready to understand me and at the same time the strange language of the unconscious, that tells him of eternal truths, and incidentally he will discover that he has heard similar things before.
That’s the practical way. But to get there you have to avoid “suggestions.”
Well-a long letter! Not my style at all.
“It” has made an exception in your case, my dear Father, because “it” has appreciated your conscientious and far-sighted work.
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 383-387.
The Jung-White Letters by Ann Conrad Lammers http://www.amazon.com/dp/1583911944/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_2znCub0N3AM5W