Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

To Herbert Read

Dear Sir Herbert, 2 September 1960

I have just read the words of a Man, that is, the statement of your views about m y work.

Courage and honesty have won out, two qualities the absence of which in my critics hitherto has hindered every form of understanding.

Your blessed words are the rays of a new sun over a dark sluggish swamp in which I felt buried.

I often thought of Meister Eckhart who was entombed for 600 years.

I asked myself time and again why there are no men in our epoch who could see at least what I was wrestling with.

I think it is not mere vanity and desire for recognition on my part, but a genuine concern for my fellow-beings.

It is presumably the ancient functional relationship of the medicine-man to his tribe, the participation mystique and the essence of the physician’s ethos.

I see the suffering of mankind in the individual’s predicament and vice versa.

As a medical psychologist I do not merely assume, but I am thoroughly convinced, that nil humanum a mealienum esse is even my duty.

I am including “modern art”-and passionately though I see you indulgently smiling.

I have regretted very much not to have had the opportunity of a real talk with you about your book, which has brought back to me all my thoughts about art.

I have never been explicit about them because I was hampered by my increasing awareness of the universal misunderstanding I encountered.

As the problem is subtle, its solution demands subtlety of mind and real experience of the mind’s functioning.

After 60 solid years of field-work I may be supposed to know at least something about my job.

But even the most incompetent ass knew better and I received no encouragement.

On the contrary I was misunderstood or completely ignored.

Under those circumstances I even grew afraid to increase the chaos of opinion by adding considerations which could not be understood.

I have given a good deal of attention to two great initiators: Joyce and Picasso.

Both are masters of the fragmentation of aesthetic contents and accumulators of ingenious shards.

I knew, as it seems to me, what that crumpled piece of paper meant that went out down the Liffey in spite of Joyce.

I knew his pain, which had strangled itself by its own strength.

Hadn’t I seen this tragedy time and again with my schizophrenic patients?

In Ulysses a world comes down in an almost endless, breathless stream of debris, a “catholic” world, i.e., a universe with moanings and outcries unheard and tears unshed, because suffering had extinguished itself, and an immense field of shards began to reveal its aesthetic “values.'”

But no tongue will tell you what has happened in his soul.

I saw the same process evolving in Picasso, a very different man.

Here was strength which brought about the dissolution of a work.

He saw and understood what the surge of depth meant.

Almost consciously he accepted the challenge of the all-powerful spirit of the time.

He transformed his “Konnen” ( “Kunst” derives from “konnen” ) into the art of ingenious fragmentation: “It shall go this way, if it doesn’t go the other way.”

I bestowed the honour upon Picasso of viewing him as I did Joyce.

I could easily have done worse by emphasizing his falsity.

He was just catering to the morbidity of his time, as he himself admits.

I am far from diagnosing him a schizophrenic. I only emphasize the analogy to the schizophrenic process, as I understand it.

I find no signs of real schizophrenia in his work except the analogy, which however has no diagnostic value, since there are plenty of cases of this kind yet no proof that they are schizophrenics.

Picasso is ruthless strength, seizing the unconscious urge and voicing it resoundingly, even using it for monetary reasons.

By this regrettable digression he shows how little he understands the primordial urge, which does not mean a field of ever so attractive-looking and alluring shards, but a new world after the old one has crumpled up.

Nature has a horror vacui and does not believe in shard-heaps and decay, but grass and flowers cover all ruins inasmuch as the rains of heaven reach them.

The great problem of our time is that we don’t understand what is happening to the world.

We are confronted with the darkness of our soul, the unconscious.

It sends up its dark and unrecognizable urges.

It hollows out and hacks up the shapes of our culture and its historical dominants.

We have no dominants any more, they are in the future.

Our values are shifting, everything loses its certainty, even sanctissima causalitas has descended from the throne of the axioma and has become a mere field of probability.

Who is the awe-inspiring guest who knocks at our door portentously?

Fear precedes him, showing that ultimate values already flow towards him.

Our hitherto believed values decay accordingly and our only certainly is that the new world will be something different from what we were used to.

If any of his urges show some inclination to incarnate in a known shape, the creative artist will not trust it.

He will say: “Thou art not what thou sayest” and he will hollow them out and hack them up.

That is where we are now.

They have not yet learned to discriminate between their willful mind and the objective manifestation of the psyche.

They have not yet learned to be objective with their own psyche, i .e., [to discriminate] between the thing which you do and the thing that happens to you.

When somebody has a happy hunch, he thinks that he is clever, or that something which he does not know does not exist.

We are still in a shockingly primitive state of mind, and this is the main reason why we cannot become objective in psychic matters.

If the artist of today could only see what the psyche is spontaneously producing and what he, as a consciousness, is inventing, he would notice that the dream f.i. or the object is pronouncing (through his psyche) a reality from which he will never escape, because nobody will ever transcend the structure of the psyche.

We have simply got to listen to what the psyche spontaneously says to us.

What the dream, which is not manufactured by us, says is just so.

Say it again as well as you can.

Quod Natura relinquit imperfectum, Ars perficiU It is the great dream which has always spoken through the artist as a mouthpiece.

All his love and passion ( his “values”) flow towards the coming guest to proclaim his arrival.

The negative aspects of modern art show the intensity of our prejudice against the future, which we obstinately want to be as we expect it.

We decide, as if we knew.

We only know what we know, but there is plenty more of which we might know if only we could give up insisting upon what we do know.

But the Dream would tell us more, therefore we despise the Dream and we are going on to dissolve ad infinitum.

What is the great Dream?

It consists of the many small dreams and the many acts of humility and submission to their hints.

It is the future and the picture of the new world, which we do not understand yet.

We cannot know better than the unconscious and its intimations.

There is a fair chance of finding what we seek in vain in our conscious world.

Where else could it be?

I am afraid I never find the language which would convey such simple arguments to my contemporaries.

Apologies for the length of my letter!

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 586-592