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

To Pastor W. Niederer

Dear Pastor Niederer, 1 October 1953

I will answer your points a s best I can in writing.

1 . My interest in the first place was to understand the meaning of the Christian message myself, in the second place to convey this understanding to those of my patients who felt a religious need, and in the third place to salvage the meaning of Christian symbols in general.

  1. I don’t do anything to God at all, how could I?

I criticize merely our conceptions of God. I have no idea what God is in himself.

In my experience there are only psychic phenomena which are ultimately of unknown origin, since the psyche in itself is hopelessly unconscious.

My critics all ignore the epistemological barrier which is expressly respected by me.

Just as everything we perceive is a psychic phenomenon and therefore secondary, so is all inner experience.

We should be truly modest and not imagine we can say anything about God himself.

Truly we are confronted with frightful enigmas.

We must in fact be conscious that an unconscious exists.

I don’t dare to formulate what the theologian does, but what I do is try to make people conscious enough to know where they can exercise their will and where they are confronted with the power of a non-ego.

So far as I can observe the workings of this non-ego it is possible for me to make statements about it.

I have no real cognitive means (only arbitrary decisions) which would enable me to distinguish the unknowable non-ego from what men since the remotest times have called God (or gods, etc.).

For instance the-so far as I can supreme God archetype of the self has a symbolism identical with the traditional
Christian God-image.

How all this can be understood without a knowledge of the psychology of the unconscious, or without self-knowledge,is utterly beyond me. In psychology one understands only what one has experienced.

The archetype is the ultimate I can know of the inner world.

This knowledge denies nothing else that might be there.

3· If one assumes that God affects the psychic background and activates it or actually is it, then the archetypes are, so to speak, organs
(tools ) of God.

The self “functions” like the Christ-image.

This is the theological Christus in nobis.

It is not only I who think this way, but ail the ancients right back to Paul.

I take my stand clearly on the empirical plane and speak a psychological language where the theologian speaks an analogous theological or mythological language.

Of course theological statements about the Christian aeon do not agree at all points with psychological empiricism, for instance in regard to God as the Summum Bonum or Christ as a one-sided pneumatic light-figure.

But everything that is alive changes; it even develops, so that Christianity is no longer what it was woo let alone 1900 years ago.

It can differentiate itself still further, i.e., go on living, but to do that it must be interpreted anew in every aeon.

If that does not happen (it happens even in the Catholic Church) it suffocates in traditionalism.

But the foundations, the fundamental psychic facts, remain eternally the same.

4- Here I can only say: 0 sancta simplicitas!

I realize I am fit for the stake ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

I consider myself a Christian, but that didn’t do Savonarola or Servetus much good, and not even Christ himself escaped this fate.

“Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”

How about these parsons and the true imitatio Christi?

Where are they crucified?

They· are redeemed scot-free of all pain, and Christ can take care of everything else.

With respects to your wife and kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 129-131.