God and the Unconscious (Jungian Classics Series)


449 It is now many years since I expressed a desire for co-operation with a theologian, but I little knew or even dreamt how or to what extent my wish was to be fulfilled. This book, to which I have the honour of contributing an introductory foreword, is the third major publication from the theological side which has been written in a spirit of collaboration and mutual effort. In the fifty years of pioneer work that now lie behind me I have experienced criticism, just and unjust, in such abundance that I know how to value any attempt at positive co-operation. Criticism from this quarter is constructive and therefore welcome.

450 Psychopathology and medical psychotherapy are, when viewed superficially, far removed from the theologian’s particular field of interest, and it is therefore to be expected that no small amount of preliminary effort will be required to establish a terminology comprehensible to both parties. To make this possible, certain fundamental realizations are required on either side. The most important of these is an appreciation of the fact
that the object of mutual concern is the psychically sick and suffering human being, who is in need of consideration as much from the somatic or biological standpoint as from the spiritual or religious. The problem of neurosis ranges from disturbances in the sphere of instinct to the ultimate questions and decisions of our whole Weltanschauung. Neurosis is not an isolated, sharply defined phenomenon; it is a reaction of the whole human being. Here a pure therapy of the symptoms is obviously even more definitely proscribed than in the case of purely somatic illnesses; these too, however, always have a psychic component or accompanying symptom even though they are not psychogenic. Modern medicine has just begun to take account of this fact, which the psychotherapists have been emphasizing for a long time. In the same way, long years of experience have shown me over and over again that a therapy along purely biological lines does not suffice, but requires a spiritual complement. This becomes especially clear to the medical psychologist where the question of dreams is concerned; for dreams, being statements of the unconscious, play no small part in the therapy. Anyone who sets to work in an honest and critical frame of mind will have to admit that the correct understanding of dreams is no easy matter, but one that calls for careful reflection, leading far beyond purely biological points of view. The indubitable occurrence of archetypal motifs in dreams makes a thorough knowledge of the spiritual history of man indispensable for anyone seriously attempting to understand the real meaning of dreams. The likeness between certain dream-motifs and mythologems is so striking that they may be regarded not merely as similar but even as identical. This recognition not only raises the dream to a higher level and places it in the wider context of the mythologem, but, at the same time, the problems posed by mythology are brought into connection with the psychic life of the individual. From the mythologem to the religious statement it is only a step. But whereas the mythological figures appear as pale phantoms and relics of a long past life that has become strange to us, the religious statement represents an immediate “numinous” experience. It is a living mythologem.

451 Here the empiricist’s way of thinking and expressing himself gets him into difficulties with the theologian. The latter when he is either making a dogma of the Gospel or “demythologizing” it won’t hear anything of “myth” because it seems to him a devaluation of the religious statement, in whose supreme truth he believes. The empiricist, on the other hand, whose orientation is that of natural science, does not connect any notion of value with the concept “myth/’ “Myth,” for him, means “a statement about processes in the unconscious,” and this applies equally to the religious statement. He has no means of deciding whether the latter is “truer” than the mythologem, for between
the two he sees only one difference: the difference in living intensity. The so-called religious statement is still numinous, a quality which the myth has already lost to a great extent. The empiricist knows that rites and figures once “sacred” have become obsolete and that new figures have become “numinous.”

452 The theologian can reproach the empiricist and say that he does possess the means of deciding the truth, he merely does not wish to make use of it referring to the truth of revelation. In all humility the empiricist will then ask: Which revealed truth, and where is the proof that one view is truer than another? Christians themselves do not appear to be at one on this point. While they are busy wrangling, the doctor has an urgent case on his hands. He cannot wait for age-long schisms to be settled, but will seize upon anything that is “alive” for the patient and therefore effective. Naturally he cannot prescribe any religious system which is commonly supposed to be alive. Rather, by dint of careful and persevering investigation, he must endeavour to discover just where the sick person feels a healing, living quality which can make him whole. For the present he cannot be concerned whether this so-called truth bears the official stamp of validity or not. If, however, the patient is able to rediscover himself in this way and so get on his feet again, then the question of reconciling his individual realization or whatever one may choose to call the new insight or life-giving experience with the collectively valid opinions and beliefs becomes a matter of vital importance. That which is only individual has an isolating effect, and the sick person will never be healed by becoming a mere individualist. He would still be neurotically unrelated and estranged from his social group. Even Freud’s exclusively personalistic psychology of drives was obliged to come to terms, at least negatively, with the generally valid truths, the age-old representations collectives of human society. Scientific materialism is by no means a private religious or philosophical matter, but a very public matter indeed, as we might well have realized from contemporary events. In view of the extraordinary importance of these so-called universal truths, a rapprochement between individual realizations and social convictions becomes an urgent necessity. And just as the sick person in his individual distinctiveness must find a modus vivendi with society, so it will be a no less urgent task for him to compare the insights he has won through exploring the unconscious with the universal truths, and to bring them into mutual relationship.

453 A great part of my life’s work has been devoted to this endeavour. But it was clear to me from the outset that I could never accomplish such a task by myself. Although I can testify to the psychological facts, it is quite beyond my power to promote the necessary processes of assimilation which coming to terms with the representations collectives requires. This calls for the cooperation of many, and above all of those who are the expounders of the universal truths, namely the theologians. Apart from doctors, they are the only people who have to worry professionally
about the human soul, with the exception perhaps of teachers. But the latter confine themselves to children, who as a rule only suffer from the problems of the age indirectly, via their parents and educators. Surely, then, it would be valuable for the theologian to know what happens in the psyche of an adult. It must gradually be dawning on any responsible doctor what a tremendously important role the spiritual atmosphere plays in the psychic economy.

454 I must acknowledge with gratitude that the co-operation I had so long wished and hoped for has now become a reality. The present book bears witness to this, for it meets the preoccupations of medical psychology not only with intellectual understanding, but with good will. Only the most uncritical optimism could expect such an encounter to be love at first sight. The points de depart are too far apart and too different, and the road to their meeting-place too long and too hard, for agreement to come as a matter of course. I do not presume to know what the theologian misunderstands or fails to understand in the empiricist’s point of view, for it is as much as I can do to learn to estimate his theological premises correctly. If I am not mistaken, however, one of the main difficulties lies in the fact that both appear to speak the same language, but this language calls up in their minds two totally different fields of association. Both can apparently use the same concept and must then acknowledge, to their amazement, that they are speaking of two different things. Take, for instance, the word “God.” The theologian will naturally assume that the metaphysical Ens Absolutum is meant. The empiricist, on the contrary, does not dream of making such a far-reaching assumption, which strikes him as downright impossible anyway. He just as naturally means the word “God” as a mere statement, or at most as an archetypal motif which prefigures such statements. For him “God” can just as well mean Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Shiva, or Huitzilopochtli. The divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, and so on are to him statements which, symptomatically or as syndromes, more or less regularly accompany
the archetype. He grants the divine image numinosity that is, a deeply stirring emotional effect which he accepts in the first place as a fact and sometimes tries to explain rationally, in a more or less unsatisfactory way. As a psychiatrist, he is sufficiently hardboiled to be profoundly convinced of the relativity of all such statements. As a scientist, his primary interest is the verification of psychic facts and their regular occurrence, to which he attaches incomparably greater importance than to abstract possibilities. His religio consists in establishing facts which can be observed and proved. He describes and circumscribes these in the same way as the mineralogist his mineral samples and the botanist his plants. He is aware that beyond provable facts he can know nothing and at best can only dream, and he considers it immoral to confuse a dream with knowledge. He does not deny what he has not experienced and cannot experience, but he will on no account assert anything which he does not think he can prove with facts. It is true that I have often been accused of having dreamt up the archetypes. I must remind these too hasty critics that a comparative study of motifs existed long before I ever mentioned archetypes. The fact that archetypal
motifs occur in the psyche of people who have never heard of mythology is common knowledge to anyone who has investigated the structure of schizophrenic delusions, if his eyes have not already been opened in this respect by the universal occurrence of certain mythologems. Ignorance and narrowmindedness, even when the latter is political, have never been conclusive scientific arguments.

455 I must be content to describe the standpoint, the faith, the struggle, the hope and devotion of the empiricist, which all culminate in the discovery and verification of provable facts and their hypothetical interpretation. For the theological standpoint I refer the reader to the competent expose by the author of this book.

456 When standpoints differ so widely, it is understandable that numerous clashes should occur in practice, some important, some unimportant. They are important, above all, where one realm threatens to encroach upon the territory of the other. My criticism of the doctrine of the privatio boni is such a case. Here the theologian has a certain right to fear an intrusion on the part of the empiricist. This discussion has left its mark on the book, as the reader will see for himself. Hence I feel at liberty to avail myself of the right of free criticism, so generously offered me by the author, and to lay my argument before the reader.

457 I should never have dreamt that I would come up against such an apparently out-of-the-way problem as that of the privatio boni in my practical work. Fate would have it, however, that I was called upon to treat a patient, a scholarly man with an academic training, who had got involved in all manner of dubious and morally reprehensible practices. He turned out to be a fervent adherent of the privatio boni, because it fitted in admirably with his scheme: evil in itself is nothing, a mere shadow, a trifling and fleeting diminution of good, like a cloud passing over the sun. This man professed to be a believing Protestant and would therefore have had no reason to appeal to a sententia communis of the Catholic Church had it not .proved a welcome sedative to his uneasy conscience. It was this case that originally induced me to come to grips with the privatio boni in its psychological aspect. It is self-evident to the empiricist that the metaphysical aspect of such a doctrine must be left out of account, for he knows that he is dealing only with moral judgments and not with substances. We name a thing, from a certain point of view, good or bad, high or low, right or left, light or dark, and so forth. Here the antithesis is just as factual and real as the thesis. It would never occur to anyone except under very special conditions and for a definite purpose to define cold as a diminution of heat, depth as a diminution of height, right as a diminution of left. With this kind of logic one could just as well call good a diminution of evil. The psychologist would, it is true, find this way of putting it a little too pessimistic, but he would have nothing against it logically. Instead of ninety-nine you can also say a hundred minus one, if you don’t find it too complicated. But should he, as a moral man, catch himself glossing over an immoral act by optimistically regarding it as a slight diminution of good, which alone is real, or as an “accidental lack of perfection,” then he would immediately have to call himself to order. His better judgment would tell him: If your evil is in fact only an unreal shadow of your good, then your so-called good is nothing but an unreal shadow of your real evil. If he does not reflect in this way he is deceiving himself, and self-deceptions of this kind have dissociating effects which breed neurosis, among them feelings of inferiority, with all their well-known attendant phenomena. For these reasons I have felt compelled to contest the validity of the privatio boni so far as the empirical realm is concerned. For the same reasons I also criticize the dictum derived from the privatio boni, namely: “Omne bonum a Deo, omne malum ab homine”; 5 for then on the one hand man is deprived of the possibility of doing anything good, and on the other he is given the seductive power of doing evil. The only dignity which is
left him is that of the fallen angeL The reader will see that I take this dictum literally. Criticism can be applied only to psychic phenomena, i.e., to ideas and concepts, and not to metaphysical entities. These can only be confronted with other metaphysical entities. Hence my criticism is valid only within the empirical realm. In the metaphysical realm, on the other hand, good may be a substance and evil a. I know of no factual experience which approximates to such an assertion, so at this point the empiricist must remain silent. Nevertheless, it is possible that here, as in the case of other metaphysical statements, especially dogmas, there are archetypal factors in the background, which have existed for an indefinitely long time as preformative psychic forces and would therefore be accessible to empirical research. In other words, there might be a preconscious psychic tendency which, independent of time and place, continually causes similar statements to be made, as is the case with mythologems, folklore motifs, and the individual formation of symbols. It seems to me, however, that the existing empirical material, at least so far as I am acquainted with it, permits of no definite conclusion as to the archetypal background of the privatio boni. Subject to correction, I would say that clear-cut moral distinctions are the most recent acquisition of civilized man. That is why such distinctions are often so hazy and uncertain, unlike other antithetical constructions which undoubtedly have an archetypal nature and are the prerequisites for any act of cognition, such as the Platonic (the Same and the Different).

460 Psychology, like every empirical science, cannot get along without auxiliary concepts, hypotheses, and models. But the theologian as well as the philosopher is apt to make the mistake of taking them for metaphysical postulates. The atom of which the physicist speaks is not an hypostasis, it is a model Similarly, my concept of the archetype or of psychic energy is only an auxiliary idea which can be exchanged at any time for a better formula. From a philosophical standpoint my empirical concepts would be logical monsters, and as a philosopher I should cut a very sorry figure. Looked at theologically, my concept of the anima, for instance, is pure Gnosticism; hence I am often classed among the Gnostics. On top of that, the individuation process develops a symbolism whose nearest affinities are to be found in folklore, in Gnostic, alchemical, and suchlike “mystical” conceptions, not to mention shamanism. When material of this kind is adduced for comparison, the exposition fairly swarms with “exotic” and “far-fetched” proofs, and anyone who merely skims through a book instead of reading it can easily succumb to the illusion that he is confronted with a Gnostic system. In reality, however, individuation is an expression of that biological process simple or complicated as the case may be by which every living thing becomes what it was destined to become from the beginning. This process naturally expresses itself in man as much psychically as somatically. On the psychic side it produces those well-known quaternity symbols, for instance, whose parallels are found in mental asylums as well as in Gnosticism and other exoticisms, and last but not least in Christian allegory. Hence it is by no means a case of mystical speculations, but of clinical observations and their interpretation through comparison with analogous phenomena in other fields. It is not the daring fantasy of the anatomist that can be held responsible when he discovers the nearest analogies to the human skeleton in certain African anthropoids of which the layman has never heard.

461 It is certainly remarkable that my critics, with few exceptions, ignore the fact that, as a doctor and scientist, I proceed from facts which everyone is at liberty to verify. Instead, they criticize me as if I were a philosopher, or a Gnostic with pretensions to supernatural knowledge. As a philosopher and speculating heretic I am, of course, easy prey. That is probably the reason why people prefer to ignore the facts I have discovered, or to deny them without scruple. But it is the facts that are of prime importance to me and not a provisional terminology or attempts at theoretical reflections. The fact that archetypes exist is not spirited away by saying that there are no inborn
ideas. I have never maintained that the archetype an sich is an idea, but have expressly pointed out that I regard it as a form without definite content.

462 In view of these manifold misunderstandings, I set a particularly high value on the real understanding shown by the author, whose point de depart is diametrically opposed to that of natural science. He has successfully undertaken to feel his way into the empiricist’s manner of thinking as far as possible, and if he has not always entirely succeeded in his attempt, I am the last person to blame him, for I am convinced that I am unwittingly guilty of many an offence against the theological way of thinking. Discrepancies of this kind can only be settled by lengthy discussions, but they have their good side: not only do two apparently incompatible mental spheres come into contact, they also animate and fertilize one another. This calls for a great deal of good will on either side, and here I can give the author unstinted praise. He has taken the part of the opposite standpoint very fairly, and what is especially valuable to me has at the same time illustrated the theological standpoint in a highly instructive way. The medical psychotherapist cannot in the long run afford to overlook the religious systems of healing if one may so describe certain aspects of religion any more than the theologian, if he has the cure of souls at heart, can afford to ignore the experience of medical psychology.

463 In the practical field of individual treatment it seems to me that no serious difficulties should arise. These may be expected only when the discussion begins between individual experience and the collective truths. In most cases this necessity does not present itself until fairly late in the treatment, if at all. In practice it quite often happens that the whole treatment takes place on the personal plane, without the patient having any inner experiences that are definite enough to necessitate his coming to terms with the collective beliefs. If the patient remains within the framework of his traditional faith, he will, even if stirred or perhaps shattered by an archetypal dream, translate this experience into the language of his faith. This operation may strike the empiricist (if he happens to be a fanatic of the truth) as questionable, but it can pass off harmlessly and may even lead
to a satisfactory issue, in so far as it is legitimate for this type of man. I try to impress it upon my pupils not to treat their patients as if they were all cut to the same measure: the population consists of different historical layers. There are people who, psychologically, might be living in the year 5000 B.C., i.e., who can still successfully solve their conflicts as people did seven thousand years ago. There are countless troglodytes and barbarians
living in Europe and in all civilized countries, as well as a large number of medieval Christians. On the other hand, there are relatively few who have reached the level of consciousness which is possible in our time. We must also reckon with the fact that a few of our generation belong to the third or fourth millennium A.D. and are consequently anachronistic. So it is psychologically quite “legitimate” when a medieval man solves his conflict today on a thirteenth-century level and treats his shadow as the devil incarnate. For such a man any other procedure would be unnatural and wrong, for his belief is that of a thirteenth-century Christian. But, for the man who belongs by temperament, i.e., psychologically, to the twentieth century, there are certain important considerations which would never enter the head of our medieval specimen. How much the Middle Ages are still with us can be seen, among other things, from the fact that such a simple truth as the psychic quality of metaphysical figures will not penetrate into people’s heads. This is not a matter of intelligence or education, or of Weltanschauung, for the materialist also is unable to perceive to what extent, for instance, God is a psychic quantity which nothing can deprive
of its reality, which does not insist on a definite name and which allows itself to be called reason, energy, matter, or even ego.

464 This historical stratification must be taken into account most carefully by the psychotherapist, likewise the possibility of a latent capacity for development, which he would do well, however, not to take for granted.

465 Whereas the “reasonable,” i.e., rationalistic, point of view is satisfying to the man of the eighteenth century, the psychological standpoint appeals much more to the man of the twentieth century. The most threadbare rationalism means more to the former than the best psychological explanation, for he is incapable of thinking psychologically and can operate only with rational concepts, which must on no account savour of metaphysics, for the latter are taboo. He will at once suspect the psychologist of mysticism, for in his eyes a rational concept can be neither metaphysical nor psychological. Resistances against the psychological standpoint, which regards psychic processes as facts, are, I fear, all equally anachronistic, including the prejudice of psychologism,” which does not understand the empirical nature of the psyche either. To the man of the twentieth century this is a matter of the highest importance and the very foundation of his reality, because he has recognized once and for all that without an observer there is no world and consequently no truth, for there would be nobody to register it. The one and only immediate guarantor of reality is the observer. Significantly enough, the most unpsychological of all sciences, physics, comes up against the observer at the decisive point. This knowledge sets its stamp on our century.

466 it would be an anachronism, i.e., a regression, for the man of the twentieth century to solve his conflicts either rationalistically or metaphysically. Therefore, for better or worse, he has built himself a psychology, because it is impossible to get along without it. Both the theologian and the somatic doctor would do well to give earnest consideration to this fact, if they do not want to risk losing touch with their time. It is not easy for the somatically oriented doctor to see his long familiar clinical pictures and their aetiology in the unaccustomed light of psychology, and in the same way it will cost the theologian considerable effort to adjust his thinking to the new fact of the psyche and, in particular, of the unconscious, so that he too can reach the man of the twentieth century. No art, science, or institution in any way concerned with human beings can escape the effects of the development which the psychologists and physicists have let loose, even if they oppose it with the most
stubborn prejudices.

467 Father White’s book has the merit of being the first theological work from the Catholic side to concern itself with the far reaching effects of the new empirical knowledge in the realm of archetypal ideas, and to make a serious attempt to integrate it. Although the book is addressed primarily to the theologian, the psychologist and particularly the medical psychotherapist will be able to glean from it a rich harvest of knowledge.