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Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

To Stephen Abrams

Dear Mr. Abrams, 21 October 1957

Your letter leads into the centre of a very complicated problem.

Being a scientist I am rather shy of philosophical operations, particularly of conclusions reaching beyond the limits of experience. F.i. I would not go as far as to say that the categories of space and time are definitely non-objective.

I would rather ask, on which level or in which world are space and time not valid?

In our three-dimensional world they are certainly and inexorably objective, but we have the definite experience that occasionally-presumably under certain conditions-they behave as if they were relatively subjective, that is relatively non-objective.

We are not sure how far the relativity can go, so we do not know whether there is a level or a world on or in which space and time are absolutely abolished; but we remain within the limits of human experience when we accept the fact that it is the psyche which is able to relativize the apparent objectivity of time and space.

This conclusion is fairly safe as we have, to my knowledge, no known reasons to assume that it is the action of time and space which enables the psyche to perform an act of precognition.

They are in our experience, apart f.i. from parapsychology, unchangeable.

However, Einstein’s relativity theory shows that they are not necessarily Identical with our idea of them, f.i. that space may be curved and that time necessarily depends upon the stand-point and the speed of the observer.

Such considerations support the idea of their relative validity.

Parapsychological experience definitely shows their uncertain behaviour under psychic influence.

We conclude therefore that we have to expect a factor in the psyche that is not subject to the laws of time and space, as it is on the contrary capable of suppressing them to a certain extent. In other words: this factor is expected to manifest the qualities of time- and spacelessness, i.e., “eternity” and “ubiquity.”

Psychological experience knows of such a factor; it is what I call the archetype, which is ubiquitous in space and time, of course relatively speaking.

It is by the presence of matter in space, thus setting up a gravitational field a structural element of the psyche we find everywhere and at all times; and it is that in which all individual psyches are identical with each other, and where they function as if they were the one undivided Psyche the ancients called anima mundi or the psyche toukosmou.

This is no metaphysical speculation but an observable fact, and therefore the key to innumerable mythologies, that is, to the manifestations of unconscious fantasy.

From this observation it does not follow that this factor is one and the same thing [inside] and outside the psyche, as it were.

It may be, from a psychological point of view, a mere similarity and not a unity in essence.

This question cannot be decided by ordinary psychology, but here Parapsychology comes in, with its psi-phenomena that unmistakably show an essential identity of two separate events, as f.i. the act of prevision and the objective precognized fact.

These experiences show that the factor in question is one and the same inside and outside the psyche.

Or in other words: there is no outside to the collective psyche.

In our ordinary mind we are in the worlds of time and space and within the separate individual psyche.

In the state of the archetype we are in the collective psyche, in a world-system whose space-time categories are relatively or absolutely abolished.

This is about as far as we can go safely.

I see no way beyond, since we are not capable of functioning in a four-dimensional system at will; it only can happen to us.

Our intellectual means reach only as far as archetypal experiences, but within that sphere we are not the motors, we are the moved objects.

Experiment in the ordinary sense therefore becomes impossible.

We can only hope for occasional observations.

From this argument it follows that we should expect an operative archetype.

I have carefully analysed many parapsychological cases and I have been satisfied with the fact that there are indeed operative archetypes in many cases.

I could not say: in all cases, I call them exceptions because they are very curious indeed.

I don’t want to enter into this point here.

I only want to state my general experience: perhaps in most of the cases there is an archetype present, yet there are many other archetypal situations in which no parapsychological phenomenon is observable, and there are also cases of psi-phenomena where no archetypal condition can be demonstrated.

There is no regularity between archetype and synchronistic effect.

The probability of such a relation is presumably the same as that of the Rhine results.

I think you are correct in assuming that synchronicity, though in practice a relatively rare phenomenon, is an all-pervading factor or principle in the universe, i.e., in the Unus Mundus, where there is no incommensurability between so-called matter and so-called psyche.

Here one gets into deep waters, at least I myself must confess that I am far from having sounded these abysmal depths.

In this connection I always come upon the enigma of the natural number.

I have a distinct feeling that Number is a key to the mystery,since it is just as much discovered as it is invented.

It is quantity as well as meaning.

For the latter I refer to the arithmetical qualities of the fundamental archetype of the self (monad, microcosm, etc.) and its historically and empirically well-documented variants of the Four, the 3 + 1 and the 4 – 1.

It seems that I am too old to solve such riddles, but I do hope that a young mind will take up the challenge. It would be worthwhile.

I have already heard some rumours about the foundation of a Parapsychology Club at the University of Chicago.

I accept with pleasure and gratitude the honour of honorary membership.

It is none too early that somebody in the West takes notice of synchronicity.

As I have been informed, the Russians have already caught hold of my paper.

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 398-400