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The Hell of Initiation.
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Introduction: J. P. Hodin, a British art critic and historian, of Czech origin, had studied Jung’s statements about art and creativity, particularly in his essays on Joyce and on Picasso.

Feeling dissatisfaction with Jung’s explanation of his point of view, he requested an appointment to discuss psychology and modern art, and Jung received him at his house in Kusnacht on June 17, 1952.

Hodin’s account of the interview was published in his book Modern Art and the Modern Mind (Cleveland, 1972), in a chapter titled as above, part of which had been included in a lecture, “C. G. Jung and Modern Art,” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in February 1954.

The present version is recast in dialogue form.

J.P. Hodin: (In a small study, its windows opening on the garden and the lake beyond it, Jung awaited me: a writing-desk in one corner, bookcases, a few insignificant pictures of small size in dark frames on the wall—landscapes, figures.

Jung bade me welcome and asked me to be seated in a chair near the window.

He was over medium height, had a strong frame which suggested peasant stock, and walked with a rather heavy gait.

The soundness of his shape was matched by his strong gaze.

His hair and moustache were white, but he seemed younger than his years although he was, he told me, just recovering from one of the illnesses which assail old age.

That is why, when I mentioned in passing an incident from the life of the aged Swiss poet Hermann Hesse, Jung spoke of having many times lately thought of Freund Hein, which is a German expression for death.

But he must have embarked on one of his most ambitious works, the Mysterium Coniunctionis, at about this same time.

He listened attentively to my objections.

When I mentioned that in England his psychology had again and again been attacked as unscientific, he was at first indignant.

(Only later followed an even stream of evidence.)

In comparative anatomy, we speak of morphological phenomena in man, of organs which resemble the organs of animals.

We know, for instance, that man has lived through early stages of development in the course of his evolution.

We know the complete genealogy of the horse dating back millions of years, and on these facts the science of anatomy is founded.

There is also a comparative morphology of psychic images.

Folklore is another field of research into motivation.

What I have practiced is simply a comparative phenomenology of the mind, nothing else.

If someone has a dream and we find that dream in identical form in mythology, and if this constantly repeats itself, are we not justified in saying with certainty: We are still functioning in the same way as those who created that mythological image?

Take the Eucharist.

A god is slain, pierced with a spear, is dismembered, eaten.

To this day, the piercing of a loaf of bread with a silver spear is a ritual of the Greek Church.

In the Aztec rites, Huitzilopochtli is slain, pierced with a lance.

His body consists of a dough made from the seeds of plants just as the Host is made of white flour, and the pieces are distributed and eaten.

The undivided and the divided God.

Think of the use made of the cross in Yucatan.

It is the same as our adoration of the Cross.

Or the myth of Dionysos.

[Jung gave several other examples.]

The psychiatrists, in treating their cases, know that these things happen in the soul of the patients.

There are countless ideas, images of the unconscious, which have been compared to mythological concepts, because they proved to be identical.

There is only one method: the comparative method.

Comparative anatomy, the science of comparative religion. Why not then comparative psychology?

If we draw a circle and divide that circle into four equal parts and think of it as a philosophical idea, and the Chinese does the same thing, and the Indian too—do you think that it is something different when I do it?


There are only a few heaven-inspired minds who understand me.

In America it was William James.

But most people are ignoramuses.

They take no pains to find out the essential things about themselves.

It requires too much Latin and Greek!

(I asked him if he had any inclination to interpret works of other modern artists—Paul Klee, for example. I had just come from Bern, where I had visited Klee’s aged sister and his son Felix and had seen very early works of this artist.)

No. I cannot occupy myself with modern art any more.

It is too awful.

That is why I do not want to know more about it.’

At one time I took a great interest in art. I painted myself, sculpted and did wood carving.

I have a certain sense of color.

When modern art came on the scene, it presented a great psychological problem for me.

Then I wrote about Picasso and Joyce.

I recognized there something which is very unpopular, namely the very thing which confronts me in my patients.

These people are either schizophrenics or neurotics.

Neurotics smart under the problems of our age. T

hey smart under the conditions of its time.

Art derives its life from and expresses the conditions of our time.

In that sense art is prophetic.

It speaks as the plant speaks of nature and of the earth, of ground and background.

My patients make similar pictures.

When they are in a chaotic state, all forms dissolve.

Then panic grips them.

Everything threatens to fall to pieces and we are in a state of panic—though it is an unadmitted panic.

What does this art say?

This art is a flight from the perceptible world, from the visible reality. What does it mean, to turn one’s eye inward?

The first thing people see there is the debris of destruction, and the infantilism of their own souls.

That is why they imitate the tyro.

People admire the art of the primitives.

True, it is art, but it is primitive.

Or one imitates the drawings of children.

The schizophrenics do that too.

To the extent that it is a manifestation of a yearning for the primary it may have a positive value.

But dissolution demands synthesis.

And I am always concerned with the pile of wreckage, with the ruins of that which has been, with infantile attempts at something new.

The fact is we have not yet reached the point when things can be put together.

And we cannot reach it yet, because the world is cut in two.

J.P. Hodin: The iron curtain …A political factor. Has it anything to do with it?

Dr. Jung: I should think it has!

It hangs over our lives like the sword of Damocles.

Since 1933 we have witnessed uttermost destruction.

First it was the Nazis.

On two occasions they almost got here.

If they had, I should have been put against the wall.

Well, I had settled my accounts with the next world.

If the Russians come we shall have the “pile of wreckage,” for even if we are the victors, we know very well that we shall do the same thing as they do and with the same methods.

In America, when they want to cope with the gangsters, they do it with the help of G-men.

That means we become like them.

I am pessimistic about the pile of wreckage.

A new revelation from within, one that will enable us to see behind the shattered fragments of infantilism, one in which the true image appears, one that is constructive—that is what I am waiting for.

We have to visualize this image empirically, as at once an idea and a living form, the ground for which has long been prepared historically.

I have always pointed it out.

The alchemist called it the Round.

It is the idea of completeness.

The Chinese call it Tao—the unity of opposites in the whole.

Psychologically seen, the process takes place in the center of the personality which is not the “I,” but another center, the greater man in us.

For this, too, the ground has been prepared psychologically.

I see it as form, or, if you like, as an idea.

Except that an idea without living form is merely intellectual.

My idea which is also form is like a man who has a body.

If he has no body, we should not see him.

It must be visible form and idea at the same time.

J.P. Hodin: Do you consider science to have had a negative influence on modern man?

Dr. Jung: Science is only one source of evil.

Besides science there are technology, religion, philosophy, art.

Modern art preaches the same fatality.

The destructive role of the intellect, of rationalism, not only of science, must share the guilt.

Everything that should represent the irrational and fails to do so is responsible.

“La Deesse raison a ses raisons” [the goddess of Reason has her own reasons].

This doctrine took the stage as a mass movement in the French Revolution, and it is the same revolution which we are still experiencing, because we have raised Reason to a seat above the gods.

J.P. Hodin: (What Jung meant by this, I felt, was not God or gods as objective realities. As a psychologist all he says is that God is an archetype of what is to be found in the soul of man and which may be called the image of God. I misunderstood him intentionally in order to make him express himself more specifically, and suggested that modern man could not reconcile himself to dogmas, and that this was understandable if viewed historically.)

Dr. Jung:

Dogmas would be all right.

They are symbols.

One could not do it better.

But the theologians rationalize them.

We only interpret it psychologically, this drama of the Heavens.

Theology is one of the causes of soullessness.

Science, because it claims exclusiveness; the priest, when he subordinated himself to the intellect; art, which has all of a sudden lost its belief in beauty and looks only inwardly where there is nothing to be found but ruins, the mirror of our world: they all want to descend into the realm of the mothers without possessing Faust’s key.

In my own way I try to get hold of key and to open closed doors with it. ~Carl Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 219-224