C.G. Jung Letters, Vol. 1: 1906-1950

To Gebhard Frei

Dear Dr. Frei, 13 January 1948

In your essay which I have read with great interest, you have given a fair and in all essentials correct presentation of my views.

Your remarks about the “self and God,” on which you lay particular stress, I find very apt.

As you will see, I have taken the liberty of making a few comments in your MS, which though not very considerate of me may perhaps be of service to you.

The great difficulty is the clash between scientific and epistemological thinking on the one hand and theological and metaphysical thinking on the other.

With regard to the self, I could say that it is an equivalent of God.

That sort of thing puts the wind up the theologians because it looks as if a “God-substitute” had been created.

To the psychologist this is so absurd that he would hesitate to credit anybody with such stupidity.

He would put it like this: When I say ”God” this is a psychic image. Equally, the self is a psychic image of the transcendent, because indescribable and inapprehensible, wholeness of man. Both are expressed empirically by the same symbols, or symbols so similar that they cannot be distinguished from one another.

Psychology is concerned simply and solely with experienceable images whose nature and biological behaviour it investigates with the help of the comparative method.

This has nothing whatever to do with God per se.

How can any man in his right senses imagine he could subtract anything from or add anything to God?

If I have 20,000 frs. and I say it is 50,000 I shall soon find out that my real 20,000 have not increased by a cent.

After all, I am not such a lunatic that people could credit me with the idea of intending to create a God-substitute.

How could any man replace God?

I can’t even create a lost button with my imagination but have to buy myself a new real one!

The mistake, it seems to me, is that these critics actually believe only in words, without knowing it, and then think they have posited God.

Because they don’t know this, it appears projected on to me in the accusation that I am manufacturing a God.

This accusation is so unbelievably absurd because at the very most I speak of an imago Dei, as I have repeatedly emphasized in countless places, and I am not like the idiot who believes that the image he sees in the mirror is his real and living I.

My thinking is substantive, but theological-metaphysical thinking is in constant danger, as the above instance shows, of operating with substanceless words and imagining that the reality corresponding to them is then seated in heaven.

What else could the theologian show?

Well, Christ is in us and we in him ! Why shouldn’t the workings of God and the presence of the “Son of Man” in us be real and experienceable?

I thank God every day that I have been permitted to experience the reality of the imago Dei in me.

Had that not been so, I would be a bitter enemy of Christianity and of the Church in particular.

Thanks to this actus gratiae my life has meaning, and my inner eye was opened to the beauty and grandeur of dogma.

I can see that the Church is my mother, and that the spirit of my father leads me away from her to the battlefield of the world, where every day the light is in danger of being extinguished for me by the princeps huius mundi, the stifling darkness of unconsciousness.

Avidya is a cardinal evil for the Buddhists too .

It is probably the sin and malum kat’ exochen.

The tension you feel between the Church and psychology does not, in my opinion, lie in morality but in psychic facts, namely conflicts of duty, which in the last resort come from our having no sure judgment about good and evil, and the more psychological insight we acquire the more we see how fearfully the two of them interpenetrate.

The evil of the good and the good of the evil are-unfortunately, unfortunately! ineffaceable facts.

Psychology is as little to blame for this as zoology for lice.

It merely knows about them, and whoever wants to remain unconscious (thereby serving the devil) therefore hates and suspects psychology.

The reigning prince of this world shuns the light of knowledge like the plague.

If good did not have its evil side and vice versa, the notion that God could lead his miserable little creature into temptation would be an absurd blasphemy.

It would then be a simple matter always to decide for the good.

But in reality it needs the highest consciousness and the greatest perspicacity to reach even a halfway intelligent decision.

Many people pride themselves on this spirit of perspicacity, but Christ says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God”

Nothing makes us so deeply conscious of our poverty as the problem of good and evil.

Did it please the Pharisees that Christ consorted with publicans and whores?

What did he say to Peter about eating unclean beasts?

Why did the Lord commend his deceitful and unjust steward because he had done

It would perhaps be advisable if you got it into your public’s head that my psychology does not deal in banalities and platitudes but with the most difficult problems it is possible to imagine, which can only be compared with those of microphysics.

They are not my invention, but I sweat at them.

Please excuse this long letter!

You may gather from it how very concerned I am to get into a right relationship with Catholic thinking in particular, for this is the precondition, which cannot be thought
out of existence, for solving the difficult problems with which the psychology of the unconscious confronts us.

With best regards,

Yours very sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 486-489.