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Carl Jung’s Letter to W.Y. Evans-Wentz

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Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume I, 1906-1950 (Vol 1)

To W. Y. Evans-Wentz

My dear Mr. Evans-Wentz, 8 December 1938

I shall try to comply with your wishes as much as possible with reference to Book II which I shall make the chief subject of my inquiries.,.

The Eastern idea which Mr. Sturdy seems to share is that what I call the unconscious is consciousness, even super-consciousness.

This is a metaphysical assumption of course.

I remain within our ordinary Western consciousness, the only kind of consciousness I know.

The nature of that psyche which reaches beyond my consciousness is essentially unknown to me. Therefore one aptly calls it the unconscious.

Of course I wouldn’t know of it if there were not parts of it that reach my consciousness, but the main body of this psyche is essentially unconscious to me, as its origins are equally unknown to me.

We know of no consciousness that is not the relation between images and an ego.

But unfortunately we have no means to ascertain that every living organism is equipped with what we call an ego.

We even know of dim states of consciousness where our own ego becomes equally dimmed, yet the state is definitely psychic.

From such an experience we may conclude that there is an enormous mass of psychic functioning which is not exactly conscious to an ego, or which is altogether without an ego.

The latter condition would be utterly “dark,” i.e., deprived of the light of consciousness.

To speak of consciousness in a cell is to me a highly metaphysical assertion for which we have no evidence whatsoever.

On the other hand it is easy to assume that each living organism has probably something like a psychic function.

All psychic functioning without an ego has peculiar characteristics that adhere to every psychic fragment which is not the result of conscious functioning.

Dreams, for instance, are not the result of conscious functioning in the main.

They have therefore a peculiar character which we call unconscious.

If the Indians would call sublime psychic experience “psyche” or something equivalent to it, I would agree with them, but to call it consciousness cannot be substantiated by any evidence.

If the highest psychic condition is Sunyata, then it cannot be consciousness, because consciousness is by definition the relationship between the subject and a representation.

One is conscious of something. As long as you are conscious of Sunyata it is not Sunyata, because there is still a subject that is conscious of something.

Void is even the void of consciousness, and there l completely agree with the East.

I hope to be able to do the promised bit of work in my winter vacations.

Hoping you are always in good health, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung [Letters Volume 1; Pages 248-250]