Carl Jung’s letter to Father Victor White
Dear Victor, Bollingen, 10 April 1954
Your letter has been lying on my desk waiting for a suitable time to be answered. In the meantime I was still busy with a preface I had promised to P. Radin and K. Kerenyi. They are going to bring out a book together about the figure of the trickster.2 He is the collective shadow. I finished my preface yesterday. I suppose you know the Greek-Orthodox priest Dr. Zacharias? He has finished his book representing a reception, or better—an attempt—to integrate Jungian psychology into Christianity as he sees it. Dr. Rudin S.J. from the Institute of Apologetics did not like it. Professor Gebhard Frei on the other hand was very positive about it.
I am puzzled about your conception of Christ and I try to understand it. It looks to me as if you were mixing up the idea of Christ being human and being divine. Inasmuch as he is divine he knows, of course, everything, because all things macrocosmic are supposed to be microcosmic as well and can therefore be said to be known by the self. (Things moreover behave as if they were known.) It is an astonishing fact, indeed, that the collective unconscious seems to be in contact with nearly everything. There is of course no empirical evidence for such a generalization, but plenty of it for its indefinite extension. The sententia,therefore: animam Christi nihil ignoravisse4 etc. is not contradicted by psychological experience. Rebus sic stantibus, Christ as the self can be said ab initio cognovisse omnia etc. I should say that Christ knew his shadow—Satan—whom he cut off from himself right in the beginning of his career. The self is a unit, consisting however of two, i.e., of opposites, otherwise it would not be a totality. Christ has consciously divorced himself from his shadow. Inasmuch as he is divine, he is the self, yet only its white half. Inasmuch as he is human, he has never lost his shadow completely, but seems to have been conscious of it. How could he say otherwise: “Do not call me good … .“? It is also reasonable to believe that as a human he was not wholly conscious of it, and inasmuch as he was unconscious he projected it indubitably. The split through his self made him as a human being as good as possible, although he was unable to reach the degree of perfection his white self already possessed. The Catholic doctrine cannot but declare that Christ even as a human being knew everything. This is the logical consequence of the perfect union of the duae naturae. Christ as understood by the Church is to me a spiritual, i.e., mythological being; even his humanity is divine as it is generated by the celestial Father and exempt from original sin. When I speak of him as a human being, I mean its few traces we can gather from the gospels. It is not enough for the reconstruction of an empirical character. Moreover even if we could reconstruct an individual personality, it would not fulfill the role of redeemer and God-man who is identical with the “all-knowing” self. Since the individual human being is characterized by a selection of tendencies and qualities ties, it is a specification and not a wholeness, i.e., it cannot be individual without incompleteness and restriction, whereas the Christ of the doctrine is perfect, complete, whole and therefore not individual at all, but a collective mythologem, viz, an archetype. He is far more divine than human and far more universal than individual.
Concerning the omniscience it is important to know that Adam already was equipped with supernatural knowledge according to Jewish and Christian tradition,6 all the more so Christ.
I think that the great split7 in those days was by no means a mistake but a very important collective fact of synchronistic correspondence with the then new aeon of Pisces. Archetypes, in spite of their conservative nature, are not static but in a continuous dramatic flux. Thus the self as a monad or continuous unit would be dead. But it lives inasmuch as it splits and unites again. There is no energy without opposites!
All conservatives and institutionalists are Pharisees, if you apply this name without prejudice. Thus it was to be expected that just the better part of Jewry would be hurt most by the revelation of an exclusively good God and loving Father. This novelty emphasized with disagreeable clearness that the Yahweh hitherto worshipped had some additional, less decorous propensities For obvious reasons the orthodox Pharisees could not defend their creed by insisting on the bad qualities of their God. Christ with his teaching of an exclusively good God must have been most awkward for them. They probably believed him to be hypocritical, since this was his main objection against them. One gets that way when one has to hold on to something which once has been good and had meant considerable progress or improvement at the time. It was an enormous step forward when Yahweh revealed himself as a jealous God, letting his chosen people feel that he was after them with blessings and with punishments, and that Cod’s goal was man. Not knowing better, they cheated him by obeying his Law literally. But as Job discovered Yahweh’s primitive amorality, God found out about the trick of observing the Law and swallowing camels.
The old popes and bishops succeeded in getting so much heathendom, barbarism and real evil out of the Church that it became much better than some centuries before: there were no Alexander VI,9 no auto-da-fes, no thumbscrews and racks any more, so that the compensatory drastic virtues (asceticism etc.) lost their meaning to a certain extent. The great split, having been a merely spiritual fact for a long time, has at last got into the world, as a rule in its coarsest and least recognizable form, viz, as the iron curtain, the completion of the second Fish.10
Now a new synthesis must begin. But how can absolute evil be connected and identified with absolute good? It seems to be impossible. When Christ withstood Satan’s temptation, that was the fatal moment when the shadow was cut off. Yet it had to be cut off in order to enable man to become morally conscious. If the moral opposites could be united at all, they would be suspended altogether and there could be no morality at all. That is certainly not what synthesis aims at. In such a case of irreconcilability the opposites are united by a neutral or ambivalent bridge, a symbol expressing either side in such a way that they can function together.11 This symbol is the cross as interpreted of old, viz, as the tree of life or simply as the tree to which Christ is inescapably affixed. This particular feature points to the compensatory significance of the tree: the tree symbolizes that entity from which Christ had been separated and with which he ought to be connected again to make his life or his being complete. In other words, the Crucifixus is the symbol uniting the absolute moral opposites. Christ represents the light; the tree, the darkness; he the son, it the mother. Both areandrogynous (tree = phallus).12 Christ is so much identical with the cross that both terms have become almost interchangeable in ecclesiastical language (f.i. “redeemed through Christ or through the cross” etc.). The tree brings back all that has been lost through Christ’s extreme spiritualization, namely the elements of nature. Through its branches and leaves the tree gathers the powers of light and air, and through its roots those of the earth and the water. Christ was suffering on account of his split and he recovers his perfect
life at Easter, when he is buried again in the womb of the virginal mother. (Represented also in the myth of Attis by the tree, to which an image of Attis was nailed, then cut down and carried into the cave of the mother Kybele.13 The Nativity Church of Bethlehem is erected over an Attis sanctuary!)14 This mythical complex seems to represent a further development of the old drama, existence becoming real through reflection in consciousness, Job’s tragedy.15 But now it is the problem of dealing with the results of conscious discrimination. The first attempt is moral appreciation and decision for the Good. Although this decision is indispensable, it is not too good in the long run. You must not get stuck with it, otherwise you grow out of life and die slowly. Then the one-sided emphasis on the Good becomes doubtful, but there is apparently no possibility of reconciling Good and Evil. That is where we are now.
The symbolic history of the Christ’s life shows, as the essential teleological tendency, the crucifixion, viz, the union of Christ with the symbol of the tree. It is no longer a matter of an impossible reconciliation of Good and Evil, but of man with his vegetative (= unconscious) life. In the case of the Christian symbol the tree however is dead and man upon the Cross is going to die, i.e., the solution of the problem takes place after death. That is so as far as Christian truth goes. But it is possible that the Christian symbolism expresses man’s mental condition in the aeon of Pisces, as the ram and the bull gods do for the ages of Aries and Taurus. In this case the post-mortal solution would be symbolic of an entirely new psychological status, viz. that of Aquarius, which is certainly a oneness, presumably that of the Anthropos, the realization of Christ’s allusion; “Dii estis.”16 This is a formidable secret and difficult to understand, because it means that man will be essentially God and God man. The signs pointing in this direction consist in the fact that the cosmic power of self-destruction is given into the hands of man and that man inherits the dual nature of the Father. He will [mis]understand it and he will be tempted to ruin the universal life of the earth by radioactivity. Materialism and
atheism, the negation of God, are indirect means to attain this goal. Through the negation of God one becomes deified, i.e., god-almighty-like, and then one knows what is good for mankind. That is how destruction begins. The intellectual schoolmasters in the Kremlin are a classic example. The danger of following the same path is very great indeed. It begins with the lie, i.e., the projection of the shadow.
There is need of people knowing about their shadow, because there must be somebody who does not project. They ought to be in a visible position where they would be expected to project and unexpectedly they do not project! They can thus set a visible example which would not be seen if they were invisible.
There is certainly Pharisaism, law consciousness, power drive, sex obsession, and the Wrong kind of formalism in the Church. But these things are symptoms that the old showy and easily understandable ways and methods have lost their significance and should be slowly replaced by more meaningful principles. This indeed means trouble with the Christian vices. Since you cannot overthrow a whole world because it harbours also some evil, it will be a more individual or “local” fight with what you rightly call avidya. As “tout passe,” even theological books are not true forever, and even if they expect to be believed one has to tell them in a loving and fatherly way that they make some mistakes. A true and honest introverted thinking is a grace and possesses for at least a time divine authority, particularly if it is modest, simple end straight. The people who write such books are not the voice of God. They are only human. It is true that the right kind of thinking isolates oneself. But did you become a monk for the sake of congenial society? Or do you assume that it isolates only a theologian? It has done the same to me and will do so to everybody that is blessed with it.
That is the reason why there are compensatory functions. The introverted thinker is very much in need of a developed feeling, i.e., of a less autoerotic, sentimental, melodramatic and emotional relatedness to people and things. The compensation will be a hell of a conflict to begin with, but later on, by understanding what nirdvanda17 means, they18 become the pillars at the gate of the transcendent function, i.e., the transitus to the self.
We should recognize that life is a transitus. There is an old covered bridge near Schmerikon19 with an inscription: “Alles ist Uebergang.”20 Even the Church and her sententiae are only alive inasmuch as they change. All old truths want a new interpretation, so that they can live on in a new form. They can’t be substituted or replaced by something else without losing their functional value altogether. The Church certainly expects of you that you assimilate its doctrine. But in assimilating it, you change it imperceptibly and sometimes even noticeably. Introverted thinking is aware of such subtle alterations, while other minds swallow them wholesale. If you try to be literal about the doctrine, you are putting yourself aside until there is nobody left that would represent it but corpses. If on the other hand you truly assimilate the doctrine you will alter it creatively by your individual understanding and thus give life to it. The life of most ideas in their controversial nature, i.e., you can disagree with them even if you recognize their importance for a majority. If you fully agreed with them you could replace yourself just as well by a gramophone record. Moreover, if you don’t disagree, you are no good as a directeur de conscience, since there are many other people suffering from the same difficulty and being badly in need of your understanding.
I appreciate the particular moral problem you are confronted with. But I should rather try to understand why you were put into your actual situation of profound conflict before you think it is a fundamental mental mistake. I remember vividly your charta geomantica21 that depicts so drastically the way you became a monk. I admit there are people with the peculiar gift of getting inevitably and always into the wrong place. With such people nothing can be done except get them out of the wrong hole into another equally dubious one. But if I find an intelligent man in an apparently wrong situation, I am inclined to think that it makes sense somehow. There may be some work for him to do. Much work is needed where much has gone wrong or where much should be improved. That is one of the reasons why the Church attracts quite a number of intelligent and responsible men in the secret (or unconscious?) hope that they will be strong enough to carry its meaning and not its words into the future. The old trick of law obedience is still going strong, but the original Christian teaching is a reminder. The man who allows the institution to swallow him is not a good servant.
It is quite understandable that the ecclesiastical authorities must protect the Church against subversive influences. But it would be sabotage if this principle were carried to the extreme, because it would kill the attempts at improvement also, The Church is a “Durchgang” [passage] and bridge between representatives of higher and lower consciousness and as such she quite definitely makes sense. Since the world is largely sub principatu diaboli, it is unavoidable that there is just as much evil in the Church as everywhere else, and as everywhere else you have got to be careful. What would you do if you were a bank-clerk or a medical assistant at a big clinic? You are always and everywhere in a metal conflict unless you are blissfully unconscious. I think it is not only honest but even highly moral and altruistic to be what one professes to be as completely as possible, with the full consciousness that you are making this effort for the weak and the unintelligent who cannot live without a reliable support. He is a good physician who does not bother the patient with his own doubts and feelings of inferiority. Even if he knows little or is quite inefficient the right persona medici might carry the day if seriously and truly performed for the patient. The grace of God may step in when you don’t lose your head in a clearly desperate situation If it has been done, even with a lie, in favor of the patient it has been well done, and you are justified, although you never get out of the awkward feeling that you are a dubious number. I wonder whether there is any true servant of God who can rid himself of this profound insecurity balancing his obvious rightness. I cannot forget that crazy old Negro Mammy22 who told me: “God is working in me like a clock—funny and serious.” By “clock” seems to be meant something precise and regular, even monotonous; by “funny and serious” compensating irrational events and aspects—a humorous seriousness expressing the playful and formidable nature of fateful experiences.
If I find myself in a critical or doubtful situation, I always ask myself whether there is not something in it, explaining the need of my presence, before I make a plan of how to escape. If I should find nothing hopeful or meaningful in it, I think I would not hesitate to jump out of it as quick as possible. Well, I may be all wrong, but the fact that you find yourself in the Church does not impress me asbeing wholly nonsensical. Of course huge sacrifices are expected of you, but I wonder whether there is any vocation or any kind of meaningful life that does not demand sacrifices of a sort. There is no place where those striving after consciousness could find absolute safety. Doubt and insecurity are indispensable components of a complete life. Only those who can lose this life really, can gain it. A “complete” life does not consist in a theoretical completeness, but in the fact that one accepts, without reservation, the particular fatal tissue in which one finds oneself embedded, and that one tries to make sense of it or to create a cosmos from the chaotic mess into which one is born. If one lives properly and completely, time and again one will be confronted with a situation of which one will say: “This is too much. I cannot bear it any more.” Then the question must he answered: “Can one really not bear it?”
Fidem non esse caecum sensum religionis e latebris subconscientiae erumpentem,23 etc., indeed not! Fides in its ecclesiastical meaning is a construction expressed by the wholly artificial credo, but no spontaneous product of the unconscious. You can swear to it in all innocence, as well as I could, if asked. Also you can teach, if asked, the solid doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas, as I could if I knew it. You can and will and must criticize it, yet with a certain discrimination, as there are people incapable of understanding your argument.Quieta movere24 is not necessarily a good principle. Being an analyst, you know how little you can say, and sometimes it is quite enough when only the analyst knows. Certain things transmit themselves by air when they are really needed.
I don’t share at all X.’s idea that one should not be so finicky about conscience, it is definitely dishonest and—sorry—a bit too Catholic. One must be finicky when it comes to a moral question, and what a question! You are asked to decide whether you can deal with ambiguity, deception, “doublecrossing” and other damnable things for the love of your neighbour’s soul. If it is a case of “the end justifying the means,” you had better buy a through ticket to hell. It is a devilish hybris even to think that one could be in such an exalted position to decide about the means one is going to apply. There is no such thing, not even in psychotherapy. If you don’t want to go to the dogs morally, there is only one question, namely “Which is the necessity you find yourself burdened with when you take to heart your brother’s predicament?” The question is how you are applied in the process of the cure, and not at all what the means are you could offer to buy yourself off. It depends very much indeed upon the way you envisage your position with reference to the Church. I should advocate an analytical attitude, which is permissible as well as honest, viz, take the Church as your ailing employer and your colleagues as the unconscious inmates of a hospital.
Is the LSD-drug mesca1in?25 It has indeed very curious effects— vide Aldous Huxley26 —of which I know far too little. I don’t know either what its psychotherapeutic value with neurotic or psychotic patients is. I only know there is no point in wishing to know more of the collective unconscious than one gets through dreams and intuition. The more you know of it, the greater and heavier becomes our moral burden, because the unconscious contents transform themselves into your individual tasks and duties as soon as they begin to become conscious. Do you want to increase loneliness and misunderstanding? Do you want to find more and more complications and increasing responsibilities? You get enough of it. If I once could say that I had done everything I know I had to do, then perhaps I should realize a legitimate need to take mescalin. But if I should take it now, I would not be sure at all that I had not taken it out of idle curiosity. I should hate the thought that I had touched on the sphere where the paint is made that colours the world, where the light is created that makes shine the splendour of the dawn, the lines and shapes of all form, the sound that fills the orbit, the thought that illuminates the darkness of the void. There are some poor impoverished creatures, perhaps, for whom mescalin would be a heaven-sent gift without a counterpoison, but I am profoundly mistrustful of the “pure gifts of the Gods.” You pay very dearly for them. Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.27
This is not the point at all, to know of or about the unconscious, nor does the story end here; on the contrary it is how and where you begin the real quest. If you are too unconscious it is a great relief to know a bit of the collective unconscious. But it soon becomes dangerous to know more, because one does not learn at the same time how to balance it through a conscious equivalent. That is the mistake Aldous Huxley makes: he does not know that he is in the role of the “Zauberlehrling,” who learned from his master how to call the ghosts but did not know how to get rid of them again:
It is really the mistake of our age. We think it is enough to discover new things, but we don’t realize that knowing more demands a corresponding development of morality. Radioactive clouds over Japan, Calcutta, and Saskatchewan point to progressive poisoning of the universal atmosphere.
I should indeed be obliged to you if you could let me see the material they get with LSD. It is quite awful that the alienists have caught hold of a new poison to play with, without the faintest knowledge or feeling of responsibility. It is just as if a surgeon had never leaned further than to cut open his patient’s belly and to leave things there. When one gets to know unconscious contents one should know how to deal with them. I can only hope that the doctors will feed themselves thoroughly with mescalin, the alkaloid of divine grace, so that they learn for themselves its marvellous effect. You have not finished with the conscious side yet. Why should you expect more from the unconscious? For 35 years I have known enough of the collective unconscious and my whole effort is concentrated upon preparing the ways and means to deal with it.
Now to end this very long epistle I must say how much I have appreciated your confidence, frankness, courage and honesty. This is so rare and so precious an event that it is a pleasure to answer at length. I hope you will find a way out to Switzerland.
The winter, though very cold, has dealt leniently with me. Both my wife and myself are tired, though still active, but in a very restricted way.
I am spending the month of April in Bollingen procul negotiis29 and the worst weather we have known for years.
Cordially yours, C. G. JUNG