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Carl Jung corrects Erich Neumann on the so-called “castration complex.”


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

To Erich Neumann

Dear Colleague, 1 July 1947

The only disturbing term that struck me as I read your first volume was the so-called “castration complex.”

I regard this term not only as an aesthetic mistake but also as an erroneous overvaluation of sexual symbolisms.

This complex actually has to do with the archetype of sacrifice, a far more comprehensive term and one which takes account of the fact that for primitives sex does not have anything
like the significance it has for us.

In primitive psychology one must always bear in mind that the search for food, or hunger, often plays a decisive role.

Thus the symbols of sacrifice are not just castrations or derivates of the same, as is especially obvious when you consider the taboos, all of which have a sacrificial meaning.

The tabooing of words or syllables, for instance, can only be derived from castration by sheer force.

Rather we must look at actual or alleged castration in the light of the archetype of sacrifice, which would make all these manifold forms far easier to understand in an unobjectionable way.

The term “castration complex” is much too concretistic for my taste and too one-sided, although there are plenty of phenomena to which it proves perfectly applicable.

But I would have avoided everything that gives the appearance of deriving psychic events from a specific instinct.

We must put the essence of the psyche at the beginning as a phenomenon sui generis and understand the instincts as being in a special relationship to it.

If we don’t do this, all psychic differentiation •is at bottom “nothing but.”

And then what does one do with a castrated Origen?

This is the only point I must take exception to.

For the rest I must say that I deeply admire your lucid exposition, crammed full of ideas.

I have spoken with Rascher and he says he is ready to take on the book, but not until next year because of business reasons.

An unavoidable lowering of prices is expected, and this makes all publishers hesitant.

If I should come across anything else I will let you know.

I shall now scrutinize your smaller writings more closely, as there is a chance that Rascher will eventually bring out a collection of them.

But this question has not been clarified yet.

So you see that since things are going better with me I am busying myself with your affairs and doing my best to facilitate publication.

But it’s not all that simple in view of the scope of your work.

Meanwhile with best regards,

Ever sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 467-468.