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

To Pastor Walther Uhsadel

Dear Pastor Ubsadel, 18 August 1936

I have now read your little book on prayer with great interest and 1 have to agree with all of it on the assumption that you are speaking to believers or at least to people who are capable of believing.

You simply take belief for granted.

But this presupposition is to a large extent no longer valid and therein lies the whole difficulty.

If we believe. then any discussion about prayer is superfluous because it is self-evident.

But if we don’t believe, it seems to me pointless to talk about prayer.

The question then is: Why don’t we believe any more?

How does one get to believe?

Whence does modern man derive any certainty that the circle of the world is open towards the Divine?

The unbeliever knows as well as anybody else that this world is in a frightful mess and always was.

This knowledge alone has probably never yet prompted any modern man to believe.

On the contrary!

God’s perfection would lead one to expect a perfect work of creation and not this sorry semi-hell of laziness, stupidity, and wickedness.

Misery does not always teach prayer by any means but far more often cursing, violence, and criminality.

Among the educated today I have as a rule to deal with people who are incapable of believing and whom I cannot condemn on that account.

They are profoundly alienated from the Church as well as from religion because all they hear is “Thou shalt” when they don’t know anyway how they could fulfil this commandment.

What modern man needs and what would afford the only possibility of a religious attitude is precisely not an effort of the will and not moral compulsion, but rather the experience that his view of the world, which
reflects his hybris of consciousness, is really and truly inadequate.

This experience is possible only when something happens to him personally which is not of his conscious doing.

It is only the experience of the spontaneous activity of the psyche, independent of his will and consciousness, that has this power of conviction.

It seems to me that the most important task of the educator of the soul would be to show people the way to the primordial experience which most clearly befell St. Paul, for example, on the road to Damascus.

In my experience this way opens up only during the psychic development of the individual.

Naturally I’m speaking of educated people.

That collective effects also occur is shown by the amazing success of the Oxford Movement.

My own personal view is that this is merely a psychologie des foules with a prognosis to match.

The turning away of educated people from the churches is a momentous loss, for it means a slipping of the Church down to a lower, popular level and hence an impoverishment of spiritual life.

A Church that has only the support of the masses can hardly be distinguished from the State.

It seems to me that Protestantism has lost contact with the individual personality in the most disastrous way.

The absence of personal confession and of the exceedingly important function of the directeur de conscience is, in a sense, the cause of a dangerous alienation of minds.

I hope you will not be offended by the candour of my remarks.

Nobody is more poignantly aware of the necessity of religious convictions than I, but just for that reason I am concerned most of all about the technical question of the way in which religious experience may, so to speak, be induced.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 216-217.