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

Dear Herr Galliker, 29 January 1952

I don’t think you are seeing too black.

You are quite right when you say that the modern world prefers living en masse and thus forgets the bond with the past which is characteristic of every culture.

The young people are not to blame, for it is quite understandable that they should keep an eye open for what is new and impressive about our so-called cultural achievements.

But one must also realize that the real cultural good, the legacy of the past, is very often presented in such a boring and uninteresting way that it is almost a miracle if anyone can muster any enthusiasm for it.

Those for whom tradition means mere knowledge and book-learning will not be able to interpret the past as the living present.

I myself have experienced as a doctor how one had to brush aside the whole previous presentation of religion; mythology, and history as so much junk in favour of new living things, and how later one can find access again to what was lost if one reflects on its living meaning.

In order to understand what is going on now I had to return to the distant past and dig up the very things I thought were finally buried in the rubbish heap.

It seems to me perfectly possible to teach history in the widest sense not as dry-as-dust, lifeless book-knowledge but to understand it in terms of the fully alive present.

All these things should be presented as coming out of our contemporary experience and not as dead relics of times outlived.

This certainly faces the teacher with a hard and responsible task, but that’s what a teacher is for.

A more than specialist education is always useful.

I have never regretted knowing things outside my specialty, on the contrary: renewals never come from over-sophisticated specialized knowledge but from a knowledge of subsidiary subjects which give us new
points of view.

A wider horizon benefits all of us and is also more natural to the human spirit than specialist knowledge that leads to a spiritual bottleneck.

Yours very truly,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 36-37.