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The Labyrinth as a Primordial Image.
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C.G. Jung Letters, Vol. 1: 1906-1950

To Karl Kerenyi

Dear Colleague, 10 March 1941

Many thanks for kindly sending me your Labyrinth book which I found extraordinarily interesting.

The labyrinth is indeed a primordial image which one encounters in psychology mostly in the form of the fantasy of a descent to the underworld.

In most cases, however, the topography of the unconscious is not expressed in the concentrated form of the labyrinth but in the false trails, deceptions, and perils of an underworld journey.

But there are also designs which express the labyrinth idea in the skein motif (coiling serpents, meanders, etc.).

With regard to Goethe’s Aegean Festival, this contains, as I think I have written you already, the intuition of a central alchemical motif, namely the coniunctio, which is intimately bound up with the
production of the Homunculus.

With an almost uncanny sureness of intuition you have touched on a central problem of the unconscious which seems to me exceedingly difficult to handle.

Das Aegiiische Fest describes one aspect of this problem, but the problem itself extends infinitely further: on the one hand via the hieros gamos into Gnosis and Christian mythology and thence into
Indian Tantrism, on the other via the Homunculus into the psychology of alchemy.

This complex of motifs is a labyrinth in itself, an indescribable tangle of problems, and I fear that my thoughts about it, although they have been going on for years, have still not got to the point.where I
could trust myself to say anything responsible.

Moreover this task would cut across a plan I have been carrying around with me for some time, namely a description of the accessible processes of the unconscious, especially of the coniunctio motif.

I am afraid that just tacking on a few remarks on the significance of the Homunculus in alchemy would be doing your beautiful book a poor service.

One would have to say something to the point or else nothing at all.

I would gladly have used my spring holiday for this purpose had I not been asked to deliver the address at the Paracelsus jubilee this year, and I had to consent although I am no Paracelsus specialist.

But as I have to mug up the philosophy of this countryman of mine because he exerted a considerable influence on later alchemy, and there are evidently few people who know anything about this particular aspect of medieval speculation, I shall have to spend my holiday pursuing the labyrinthine thought-processes of Paracelsus and in addition prepare my summer lecture.

Consequently there will be no time left to devote myself to your book.

If you could wait until the summer I might, Deo concedente, be able to contribute something on Das Aegiiische Fest, but it is simply impossible before.

With lively regrets and best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 295-296.