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Jung-Hesse Letters and Quotations

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[Carl Jung’s letter to Hermann Hesse on “Demian.”]

  1. To Hermann Hesse

Dear Herr Hesse, 3 December 1919

I must send you my most cordial thanks for your masterly as well as veracious book: Demian.

I know it is very immodest and officious of me to break through your pseudonym; but, while reading the book, I had the feeling that it must somehow have reached me via Lucerne.

Although I failed to recognize you in the Sinclair sketches in the Neue Zurcher Zeitung.

I always wondered what sort of person Sinclair must be, because his psychology seemed to me so remarkable.

Your book came at a time when, once again, I was oppressed by the darkened consciousness of modern man, and by his hopeless bigotry, as Sinclair was by little Knauer.

Hence your book hit me like the beam of a lighthouse on a stormy night.

A good book, like every proper human life, must have an ending.

Yours has the best possible ending, where everything that has gone before runs truly to its end, and everything with which the book began begins over again-with the birth and awakening of the new man.

The Great Mother is impregnated by the loneliness of him that seeks her.

In the shell burst she bears the “old” man into death, and implants in the new the everlasting monad, the mystery of individuality.

And when the renewed man reappears the mother reappears too-in a woman on this earth.

I could tell you a little secret about Demian of which you became the witness, but whose meaning you have concealed from the reader and perhaps also from yourself.

I could give you some very satisfying information about this, since I have long been a good friend of Demian’s and he has recently initiated me into his private affairs-under the seal of deepest secrecy.

But time will bear out these hints for you in a singular way.

I hope you will not think I am trying to make myself interesting by mystery-mongering; my amor fati is too sacred to me for that.

I only wanted, out of gratitude, to send you a small token of my great respect for your fidelity and veracity, without which no man can have such apt intuitions.

You may even be able to guess what passage in your book I mean.

I immediately ordered a copy of your book for our Club library.

It is sound in wind and limb and points the way.

I beg you not to think ill of me for my invasion. No one knows of it.

Very sincerely and with heartfelt thanks,

C.G. Jung ~C.G. Jung, Letters Volume 1, Pages 573-574.

  1. To Hermann Hesse

Dear Herr Hesse, 1 October 1934

Best thanks for your detailed answer!

Naturally we shouldn’t quarrel about words.

Nevertheless I would note in all humility that the expression “sublimation” is not appropriate in the case of the artist because with him it is not a question of transfom1ing a primary instinct but rather of a primary instinct (the artistic instinct) gripping the whole personality to such an extent that all other instincts are in abeyance, thus giving rise to the work of divine perfection.

Excuse this terminological hair-splitting, but we have to deal with a wicked world in which innumerable flies get caught in the cobwebs of concepts.

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~C.G. Jung, Letters Volume 1, Pages 173-174.

  1. To: Hermann Hesse 28 January 1922

Heartiest thanks for you beautiful poems, and at the same time congratulations on their publication.

I see from the papers that you have given the Hottingen Literature Fraternitya touch of the horrors
with your far-ranging autobiography.

Who is the literary reporter on the N.Z.Z. anyway?

He is the possessor of a truly lamentable style.

In my thoughts I bad to pity you for this, but I hope the sun of Montagnola will rapidly bleach away these cisalpine vulgarities.

For a person like me, who never reads poetry, your poems are simply beautiful.

With best greetings,



  1. To Hermann Hesse

Dear Herr Hesse, 18 September 1934

Thank you for your letter and enclosures.

I am much amused that you think I have ”become professoria.”

Evidently have success fully deceived even your eagle eye.

One must have a good exterior ”dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles”; for there is no point in having none.

Pearls should not be cast before swine.

You do me an injustice with your remarks on sublimation.

It is not from resentment that I fight this idea, but from copious experience of patients (and doctors too) who shirk
the difficulty every time and “sublimate,” i.e., simply repress.

Sublimatio is part of the royal art where the true gold is made.

Of this Freud knows nothing, worse still, he barricades all the paths that could lead to the true sublimatio.

This is just about the opposite of what Freud understands by sublimation.

It is not a voluntary and forcible channeling of instinct into a spurious field of application, but an alchymical transformation
for which fire and the black prima materia are needed.

Sublimatio is a great mystery. Freud has appropriated this concept and usurped it for the sphere of the will and the bourgeois, rationalistic

Anathema sit! But who understands any of these things today?

Therefore they remain in darkness,

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung

  1. To Hermann Hesse

Dear Herr Hesse, 27 October 1936

Best thanks for kindly sending me “Josef Knecht’s Dream.”

Is it a dream? And who is the dreamer?

Excuse this question of a psychologist who, deeply impressed by the beauty of the form and content, cannot suppress his curiosity.

But you need not answer the question.

With best greetings,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung

  1. To Emanuel Maier

Dear Professor Maier, 24 March 1950

I must apologize for the long delay in answering your letter of January 16th.

I’m a very busy man and suffer from an overwhelming correspondence which I’m hardly able to cope with.

I know Hesse’s work and I know him personally.

I knew the psychiatrist who treated him.

He died several years ago.

Through him Hesse received some influences originating in my work (which show for instance in Demian, Siddhartha, and Steppenwolf ).

It was about that time (1916) that I made Hesse’s personal acquaintance.

The psychiatrist was Dr. J. B. Lang.

He was a very curious, though extremely learned man, who had studied oriental languages (Hebrew, Arabic, and Syrian) and was particularly interested in Gnostic speculation.

He got from me a considerable amount of knowledge concerning Gnosticism which he also transmitted to Hesse.

From this material he wrote his Demian.

The origin of Siddhartha and Steppenwolf is of a more hidden nature.

They are-to a certain extent the direct or indirect results of certain talks I had with Hesse.

I’m unfortunately unable to say how much he was conscious of the hints and implications which I let him have.

I’m not in a position to give you full information, since my knowledge is strictly professional.

I have never done any systematic work on any of Hesse’s novels.

It would be, I admit, an interesting psychological study, particularly from the standpoint of my theoretical conceptions.

It is possible for anyone sufficiently aware of my work to make the necessary applications.

Unfortunately my time doesn’t allow me to go into detail, because this would amount to a new dissertation which would demand
an extra amount of work which I’m not able to produce.

I should be very much interested to know about the results of your researches.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung

  1. To Hermann Hesse

Dear Herr Hesse, 19 August 1950

Among the many messages and signs my 75th birthday brought me, it was your greeting that surprised and delighted me most.

I am especially grateful for your Morgenlandfahrt,l which I have set aside to read at a quiet moment.

Since my birthday, however, this quiet moment still hasn’t arrived, for I am swamped with a flood of letters and visitors beyond my control.

At my age it means going “slow and with care,” nor is my working capacity what it was, especially when you have all sorts of things on your programme which you want to bring to the light of day.

I have made a late start with them, which may well be due to the difficulty of the themes that have dropped into my head.

Allow me to reciprocate your gift with a specimen of my latest publications bordering on the domain of literature.

Meanwhile you too have moved up into the higher age bracket and so will be in a position to empathize with my preoccupations.

With best thanks,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung

To Hermann Hesse

  1. From Hermann Hesse to Emanuel Maier

Dear Mr. Maier, (? April 1950]

Being a friend of discretion, I have not opened Jung’s letter.

In 1916 I underwent an analysis with a doctor friend of mine who was in part a pupil of Jung’s.

At that time I became acquainted with Jung’s early work, the Wandlungen der Libido, which made an impression on me.

I also read later books by Jung, but only until around 1922 because thereafter analysis did not greatly interest me.

I have always had respect for Jung, but his works did not make such strong impressions on me as did those of Freud.

Jung will already have written you that, in connection with an evening of readings I gave as the guest of Jung’s Zurich Club, I also had several analytic sessions with him around 1921.

Then too I got a nice impression of him, though at that time I began to realize that, for analysts, a genuine relationship to art is unattainable: they lack the organ for it.

With kind regards,

  1. H . HESSE

From Hermann Hesse to Hugo and Emmy Ball Zurich, (? April 1921]

I’m up and down.

City and work are very tiring, but I live in a very beautiful spot high up near the forest on the Zurichberg, and occasionally I see dear people.

But my psychoanalysis is giving me a great deal of trouble, and often Klingsor feels old and incorrigible, the summer is no longer his.

I shall stay here still longer, the fruit I have bitten into has to be eaten to the full. Dr. Jung impresses me very much.

I am so glad to know that waiting for me down in the Ticino are not just chestnut forests and typewriter, but also dear friends.

I send greetings to both of you in Agnuzzo and to forest and lake from the bottom of my heart.

Yours, H. HESSE

Hermann Hesse’s involvement with the psychology of C.G. Jung begins in spring of 1916 when the writer has a nervous breakdown and subsequently undergoes a course of psychotherapy with J.B. Lang, a member of C.G. Jung’s staff. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 1

Yesterday, evening, Dr. Jung telephoned me from Zurich … and invited me to the hotel for dinner. I accepted, and was with him until around eleven.  My opinion of him changed several times during the course of this first meeting, his confidence having appealed to me very early on but then having put me off, yet my impression on the whole was a very positive one. ~Hermann Hesse, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 1

The strong impression Jung made on him is no doubt the reason why Hesse sought therapeutic assistance from the master himself during the next crisis in his life, his divorce from his first wife and the writer’s block he suffered from during the writing of Siddhartha. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 1

Here with Jung, I am currently, while going through a difficult, and often almost unbearable, period of my life, experiencing the shock of analysis … It shakes you to the very core and is painful. But it helps …. All I can say is that Dr. Jung is conducting my analysis with extraordinary skill – ingenuity, even. ~Hermann Hesse, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 1

He therefore goes on to write his three major novels Demian, Siddhartha, and Der Steppenwolf, successively written works that were closely linked to Jungian psychotherapy, and in which Hesse uses his experiences of psychotherapy, and the impression he gained from reading to give motivational and compositional structure to his own writings.  ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 2

Jung’s teaching furnishes him with the key to the central message of his works from Demian on: the identity of self-awareness and awareness of God. Yet Hesse would, in Jung’s psychology of religion, appear to have found merely confirmation and legitimation of his own religious experiences and awareness, rather than having obtained any new inspiration. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 2

Yet Jung’s theory of the animus also plays a certain, albeit subaltern, role in Hesse’s work. Now old, Kamela meets her former lover Siddhartha while searching for the enlightened Buddha, and recognizes that the former is now on a par with the celebrated founder of the religion. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

For me personally, analysis had only a beneficial effect, yet more in the shape of a few books by Jung and Freud I read than in the actual practical analysis. Later, my relationship to psychoanalysis cooled off somewhat, partly because I got to see many cases of unsuccessful, or even harmful, analysis, yet in part, too, because I never met an analyst who had any genuine relationship to art. All in all, however, my relationship to depth psychology remains an amicable one. ~Hermann Hesse, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 3

Additionally, Hesse incorporated a whole series of individual Jungian motifs into his narrative works. This is especially true of Demian, which Hesse wrote in 1917 towards the end of the eighteen-month analysis with J.B. Lang, and in which he processed his experiences of psychotherapy and the fruits of his readings of Jung’s writings.  ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

The message of Abraxas, for example, the god in whom the Devil is also present, derives from the private print published by Jung in 1916, Septem sermones ad mortuos, in which he speaks of this gnostic deity in hymnal language. The same is true of Demian’s reinterpretation of the myth of Cain and the story of the thieves on Mount Golgotha, which also derive from gnostic thought. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

Diary entries of Hesse’s that were discovered only recently prove that the “gnostic” is a subject that was discussed during his first meeting with Jung in 1917. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

Other motifs in Demian probably have their root in Hesse’s reading of Jung’s Symbols of Transformation.  ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

In Demian, furthermore, Jung’s concept of the “individuation process” – with its characteristic steps from initial suffering via the projection of archetypes in certain figures through to the return of the projections in the sequence shadow, anima, self – is executed in virtually textbook fashion. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4-5

It was no accident that C.G. Jung, after reading the book, wrote an enthusiastic letter to Hesse and had the book added to the library of his institute in Zurich.  ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 5

Demian ends with an exemplary Jungian individuation process in the shape of the self-discovery and autonomy of the protagonist Sinclair.  ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 5

Those who have been able to penetrate through to the self, says Jung, will feel drawn to their fellow humans as they will be aware of the general human dimensions of their collective unconscious. It will be fully apparent to them that all other people are only images of their own psychic potentials. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 7-8

So what precise influence did Jungian psychology have on Hesse’s writings? Striking in the first instance is the fact that Hesse addresses Jung’s theory of archetypes in a whole series of works, transforming them in his own characteristic fashion in the process. The archetype of the “shadow,” for example, first appears in Demian in the form of the sadistic street urchin Kromer, to whom the protagonist Sinclair feels darkly drawn, and which he later recognizes to be part of himself. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 3

In the novella Klein and Wagner, the civil servant Friedrich Klein grasps that, behind his strait-laced exterior, there lurks the urge to become a playboy and murderer, and gives this shadowy side of his personality the name “Wagner.” The philosopher and redemption-seeker Siddhartha encounters his shadow as drinker, gambler, and grasping businessman during his worldly period. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 3

In Der Steppenwolf, Harry Haller has to realize that, behind his high-minde d definition of himself, lurks a beast-like creature, that only “wants to range solitarily across steppes, to occasionally drink blood or stalk a she-wolf.” Even in the case of the apparently harmless Don Juan and artist Goldmund, the shadow erupts into periodic violence and two murders. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 3

In Demian, it is – in analogy to Dante’s Divine Comedy – first the girl Beatrice who wrenches the boy Sinclair from the grip of depression and leads him from “inferno” to “paradiso.” He later realizes that the passionately admired woman Eva is, in the Jungian sense, only a “symbol of his inner being,” and experiences, through the exploding shell projected into her, a visionary rebirth. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 3

Under the influence of his anima, in the form of his lover Kamala, Siddhartha is transformed, as described by Jung, from an abstract man of mind and intellect into a sensuous man of the world. In Der Steppenwolf, the very name Hermine, the feminized form of the writer’s first name, is a reference to its classic anima function. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

It leads Harry Haller, a cerebralized, desperate man unable to cope with life and on the brink of suicide, back into life and into love. In Narziss und Goldmund, too, the Jungian anima concept also still features prominently when Hesse cites as motive for Goldmund’s Casanova-like behaviour the search for the “eternally maternal,” and also associates his ambivalent interpretation of life with the mother archetype. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

Symbols of the self are a further leitmotif-like element featuring in Hesse’s novels, from Demian through to Das Glasperlenspiel. In Demian, it is the hero of the title himself who, in his intellectual precociousness, agelessness, and androgynous nature, embodies the desired oneness of the self in the sense intended by Jung. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

In Siddhartha, meanwhile, it is again the hero of the title himself, and the old ferryman Vasudeva, who achieve the goal of complete self-awareness as defined by Jung. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

The motif of the river crossing, for example, as symbol of a fundamental transformation of the personality in Siddhartha and in Narziss and Goldmund, features prominently, and is at the same time broadly developed in Jung’s Symbols of Transformation. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

When Harry Haller is taught, in the Treatise On The Steppenwolf, that he consists not of just two but of an infinite number of dispositions and opposing pairs of poles, it is Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious that serves as theoretical base. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

…it is precisely in Steppenwolf that the Jungian concept of the individuation process is most clearly revealed. Harry Haller’s task is that of overcoming the dualism between his cultural ego and his shadow in the form of the Steppenwolf, to acknowledge his anima, as embodied by Hermine and Goethe, Mozart and Pablo, as the symbol of his own self, and to thus realize the manifold nature of his inner being. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 4

It may therefore be said that Der Steppenwolf, together with Demian, is the work most strongly influenced by Jungian psychology and one that, without this intellectual foundation, can be neither understood in terms of its genesis nor adequately comprehended. ~Günter Baumann, 9th International Hesse Colloquium in 1997, Page 5