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Biological and Psychological Transformation of Instinct.

The Jung-White Letters

To Father Victor White

My dear Father White, 13 February 1946

My answer to your kind letter comes very late indeed: I have a bad conscience.

There are certain reasons, however, that may excuse my long silence.

For a number of weeks I felt very low on account of a grippe in the head and in the intestines and besides this ailment I was caught in the grips of a book that eats me alive if I don’t write it.

As I must still see certain patients, give consultations, write letters etc., my time for work is very short.

This evening I shall give a report about the way you conceive of my psychology before a group of doctors, who regularly come to my house every fortnight.

Once I mentioned a parallel you draw between St. Thomas’ philosophy and my psychology, which remark met with great interest.

They asked me to give them fuller details.

On this occasion I went through your pamphlets again and found a point which I forgot to mention in my previous letter.

It is in your article ”St. Thomas Aquinas and Jung’s Psychology” (Blackfriars XXV, 216): “Jung’s substitution of indetermined ‘libido’ for Freud’s determined ‘sexuality’ was a challenge,” etc. (9th line from the bottom).

Your statement as to the transformability of instinct is correct in the main, yet it could give cause for criticism from biological quarters.

Instinct as seen from a biological standpoint is something extremely conservative, so much so that it seems to be almost inalterable.

This is a fact one should not overlook in talking to a scientist.

It is a regular fact in the animal kingdom.

It is only man that shows a certain unreliability concerning the functioning of his instincts, and it is only civilized man who is capable of losing sight of his instincts to a certain extent and under certain conditions.

If he is nothing but instinctive he collides with his civilization, and if he gets a bit too far away from his instinctive basis he gets neurotic.

There is a certain optimum between the two extremes.

Transformation of instinct, therefore, can only concern a small part of it and it takes untold thousands of years until a noticeable change is effected.

This is the transformation envisaged by the biologist.

But the kind of transformation which the psychologist has in mind is something else and cannot be compared to the biological effect, as it is not a “real” change such as is understood by a natural scientist.

It is rather a “psychological” change, a change brought about by a psychological superstructure: a relatively small amount of instinctive energy (i.e., energy of the instinct) is led over into another form, i.e., a thought or feeling-form (idea and value) upon the basis and with the help of a pre-existing archetype.

This is done for instance by a ritual anamnesis of an archetypal figure.

You can observe this procedure in nearly all renewal or rebirth mysteries: there is an invocation and dramatic representation of the (spiritual) ancestor and his deeds.

The “constellate” (or stimulate) the latent analogous archetype in the and its inherent fascination causes the instinctive energy (libido) to deviate from its original, biological
course and to adhere to its spiritual counterpart.

See for instance the hermeneutic conception of the Cantic.

Cant., where Christ corresponds to the “spiritual ancestor” or archetype of man (as Adam secundus), while the fundamental instinctive basis is represented by an indubitable erotic situation.

I am most grateful to you for the information about St. Thomas and for the interesting news.

I had no idea th at my work would find so much attention.

Hoping you are always in good health,

I remain,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 412-414.