Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961
To Dorothee Hoch
Dear Dr. Hoch, 28 May 1952
The conjecture that I have succumbed to a personal complex does indeed spring to mind when one knows that I am a clergyman’s son.
However, I had a good personal relationship with my father, so no “father complex” of the ordinary sort.
True, I didn’t like theology because it set my father problems which he couldn’t solve and which I felt unjustified.
On the other hand, I grant you my personal mother complex.
It is always a risky business to attribute unproven personal motives to an opponent before one has sufficiently weighed or understood the nature of his argument.
It does not seem to be quite clear to you that I am dealing with ideas and images.
God-images, for instance, can be discussed.
I consider it unfortunate that most theologians believe they have named God when they say “God.”
The rabbi, for instance, hardly means the Christian God, the Protestant definitely the God who was incarnate, the Catholic the God who has revealed the Assumptio B.V.M. to the Church.
Under these rather distressing circumstances the empiricist, regardless of his religious convictions, has no choice but to deal with the ideas of God, without deciding the metaphysical issue.
He makes no decisions based on faith.
Ideas of God are first of all myths, statements about things that are philosophically and scientifically indeterminable; that is, they are psychological objects which are amenable to discussion.
Anyone who holds that God is named and expressed when he says “God” is hypostatizing Yahweh, Allah, Quetzalcoatl, Jupiter, etc.
That puts an end to all discussion.
All religious objects become taboo.
Not only can Christians not agree among themselves but the denominationally uncommitted layman dare not open his mouth because of the danger of blasphemy.
As a psychologist I have to speak of ideas professionally and if necessary criticize them when they behave too objectionably.
I don’t imagine that by so doing I have affected God; I merely try to put my own ideas in order.
I can think about my ideas but not about a metaphysical God who is beyond the range of human understanding.
I move exclusively in the domain of psychological empiricism, not in that of denominational metaphysics.
I don’t turn Christ into “the animus” (cf. Aion, ch. V), but Christ can be brought into relation with the concept ofthe “self,” as the symbolism proves.
The “black son” is definitely not “harmless,” as you would infer from my Job book.
Everyone is reckless who unleashes a world catastrophe, whatever he may imagine by this.
I know no “most perfect” man but only a relatively complete one.
I have never asserted that God is only an intrapsychic potency.
If I say I am a captain in the Swiss Army Medical Corps, as I have a perfect right to do, you will hardly conclude that this is my only qualification.
I share your opinion entirely that man lives wholly when, and only when, he is related to God, to that which steps up to him and determines his destiny.
My documentation is concerned with the historical development of ideas in Western culture.
It cannot be disputed that the Book of Enoch and other apocrypha were read in the Near East and were not without influence.
The same is true of ancient Egyptian influences as well as of Catholic dogmas.
You ought to have noticed that I don’t go in for dogmatics but submit the psychology of Western ideas of God to critical discussion.
Presumably you won’t think I am criticizing the metaphysical God?
After all, we are not living in the Middle Ages when people still believed they could do God an injury.
The Protestants will, I hope, not fall into the error of thinking they are the only Christians in the world?
Every real Christian must recognize that he lives in a schism.
One is not just a Protestant or a Catholic but a human being with paganism still ingrained in his very bones.
Hence I write of universally Christian ideas and do not touch the-for meinaccessible question of metaphysical truth.
I don’t know, either, why you want to prove that an “irruption into myth” has occurred.
It doesn’t look to me that way at all.
The myth goes on, now as before, as the Assumptio proves, which obviously belongs to the Christian world of ideas and not to that of Islam or Buddhism.
If you will conscientiously reread what I have said about individuation you cannot possibly conclude that I mean Nirvana or that I overlook the Resurrection.
It would be too cheap to credit me with such stupidity.
I understand why you are annoyed.
It really is very distressing that the majority of educated people today eschew talk of religious matters.
I hold theologians responsible for this up to a point, because they obstinately refuse to admit that they, as much as the rest of us, are talking of anthropomorphic ideas about which we do not know how exactly or inexactly they depict a possible metaphysical fact.
In this way they slaughter every discussion from the start, so that one is obliged to avoid, politely, any conversation with theologians, very much to the detriment of the religious life!
What good is it to anyone when a theologian “confesses” that he has “met the living Lord”?
The wretched layman can only turn green with envy that such an experience never happened to him.
In my practice I often had to give elementary school lessons in the history of religion in order to eliminate, for a start, the disgust and nausea people felt for religious matters who had dealt all their lives only with confession-mongers and preachers.
The man of today wants to understand and not be preached at.
The need for understanding and discussion is as great as it is unconscious (at least in most cases).
That is why my little Job book has the (unexpected) effect of getting people who know the Bible only from hearsay to turn to it with curiosity.
It is of burning interest for them to hear something understandable about religion, so much so that often I am hard put to it to draw a distinction between myself and a director of conscience.
For me personally religion is a matter of first-rate importance; that is why I accept all the odium that is heaped upon the critic of tabooed area.
And that is also why I disturb the sleep of the just, who won’t take the trouble to rouse themselves out of their subjectivism, Their preacher role, and their irresponsibility in the face of the demands of the time.
It would perhaps be worth the effort to make Christianity comprehensible to educated people today instead of leaving this urgent task to the psychiatrist.
To this end I have set forth in my little book what a thoughtful contemporary can read out of the Christian tradition.
Let him forget the arrogance of clerics who deem themselves in possession of the sole truth and who contrive to spread the schism of Christendom still further, and reflect on the only question of importance: What is religion all about?
Only a fraction of white humanity is Christian, and yet Christianity indulges in the luxury of not having any truck with human intelligence.
I don’t want to annoy people needlessly, but in this case my conscience compelled me to say out loud what so many think in silence.
I hope I have started the ball rolling.
“Il faut casser les oeufs pour faire une o melette!”
I enclose my reply to M. Buber, who also thinks he can talk of God without saying which, and without proving that this is the only right one.
These absurdities have to be cleared up for once.
This all-too-long letter may clarify for you the standpoint of an empiricist who is doing his best to understand the language of theologians.
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 65-68.