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Carl Jung Letter to Mircea Eliade
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Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

[Oh, oh…Carl Jung chastises Mircea Eliade]

Letter from Carl Jung to Mircea Eliade:

It is an honor to have been sent a copy of your book on yoga. I greatly appreciate your kindness and generosity. I am now studying your work very carefully and profoundly enjoying its riches. It is certainly the best and most complete summary of yoga that I know of, and I am happy to possess such a mine of information.

I was somewhat surprised, however, to find that you had not been able to grant me normal intelligence and scientific responsibility. As you know, I received my scientific education in the field of the natural sciences, whose principle is “ There is nothing in the mind that was not previously in the senses.”

In any case, this is the fundamental credo of the medical alienist. So you can imagine my astonishment when, I encountered associations of ideas, or rather “thought forms,” among the dreams of neurotics and normal persons, for which no models cold apparently be found. Naturally this was particularly shocking to me because very recognizable models did exist, but entirely beyond the purview of my patients.

There was not even the chance of cryptomnesia since the models did not exist in the patients’ environment. I waited and explored all the possible explanations for fourteen years before I published the facts. I went to the U.S.A. to study the dreams of Negroes in the southern states, and I found that their dreams contain the same archetypal motifs as our won. Every time that a patient spontaneously produced a mandala, I did my best to discover its origin.

There were no models for them We do not see such things around us, and still more important, we do not know their use or their significance, nothing is taught us about them. It should even be difficult for us to find a scholar, like “Tucci,” capable of giving us information about them. In India it is entirely different. There they repeat and imitate mandalas which are to be seen just about everywhere.

If any “apish imitations” occurs, no contrast is intended among the Tibetans and Hindus. But the unconscious reacts instinctively, and instinct never imitates, it reproduces without a conscious model, it follows it biological “behavior pattern.” This is exactly what happens with my individual mandalas: they are produced instinctively and automatically, without models or imitation.

Even my former teacher, Professor Freud, would never have admitted that the incest complex with its typical fantasies (what I call the “incest archetype”) was but an apish reaction, the imitation of a model. For him, incest was a biological affair, that is, a perverted sex instinct.

The child who develops that sort of fantasies is not imitating adults. His own instinct is at the base of his fantasies. Every instinct generates its own forms and fantasies which are more or less identical everywhere, without having been spread by traditions, migration, imitation or education. For example, the mandala seems originally to have been an apotropaic gesture for the purpose of concentration. That is why it reproduces a form which is the most primordial of infantile patterns. The statistics which Kellogg compiled from the drawing of thousands of very young children are proof of this.

To attribute the qualities of the conscious psyche to the unconscious is quite a serious error. I do not commit it, nor am I so stupidly ignorant that I cannot recognize the instinctive character of the unconscious. Above all, you have only to leaf through my works to assume yourself that I identify the archetype with the “pattern of behavior.”

You have used the term “archetype” too, but without mentioning that you mean by this term only the repetition and imitation of a conscious image or idea. The real “ape” in us is consciousness; it is our consciousness that imitates and repeats. But the unconscious, being instinctive, is very conservative and difficult to influence. Nobody knows better than the psychiatrist how much the unconscious resists every effort to change it or influence it in the least.

If it were “apish” it would be easy to make it forget its compulsions and its obstinate ideas—and, if it were imitative, it would not be creative. The lucky intuitions of the artist and the inventor are never imitations. Those gentlemen would be very much put out by such a thought.

There is a psychological problem here which I cannot explain. On the one hand, you make the very kind and generous gesture of sending me your book; on the other, you seem to consider me so idiotic as never even to have though about the nature of the unconscious. How have I merited this ill-will? From the moment when I had the honor and pleasure of making your acquaintance personally, I have never felt anything other than admiration and esteem for your great work, and I would be distressed to have offend you without knowing it.

I hope that you will not be angry with me for writing you this long importunate letter, but I do not like to let a hidden sore fester. Needless to say how grateful I would be to you for a few words of explanation!

With admiration and lasting gratitude,

Very sincerely yours, C.G. Jung. [Letter dated 19January1955]


  1. Mircea Eliade had sent Dr. Jung a copy of “Yoga: Immortality and Freedom.”
  2. Giuseppe Tucci had written a book entitled: “The Theory and Practice of the Mandala.”
  3. Mrs. Rhoda Kellogg, a nursery-school teacher in San Francisco, had examined over a million scribblings of two to five year olds from more than thirty countries for basic types and patterns. Her findings are published in “The Psychology of Children’s Art (1967).

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