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

To Pastor Max Frischknecht

Dear Pastor Frischknecht, 7 April 1945

Thank you for kindly sending me your book.

Permit me a few objective remarks: you stumble over the term “self.”

This nomenclature is no invention of mine. It existed with the same meaning for the same thing thousands of years before I did.

Following Bacon’s scientific rule, principia explicandi praeter necessitatem non sunt multiplicanda, I was obliged to choose this concept or else prove that it meant something different. I could not furnish this proof.

Certainly the concept was-and in Indian scholastic philosophy today still is-metaphysical, because philosophy at this level always includes psychology.

The metaphysical nature of a concept did not prevent physics, for instance, from operating with the (thoroughly metaphysical) concept of a ether right down to the time of the theory of relativity.

One must only apply the necessary reservations befitting a working hypothesis, as Kant did when he called the Ding an sich a “merely negative borderline concept.”

You yourself have quoted what I say about the self in this respect.

You also seem to overlook the fact that every assertion about something that is unknowable must of necessity be antinomian if it is to be true, also that natural data ( e.g., the maximum density of water at 4 degrees C.) are always irrational.

Since scientific statements are inductive, starting as they do from irrational data, they are bound to be irrational in so far as they are descriptive.

Only deductions are logical. My scientific methodology is nothing out of the ordinary, it proceeds exactly like comparative anatomy, only it describes and compares psychic figures.

Comparative anatomy swarms with primary forms, archetypes-a term which I mentioned only in passing as deriving from Augustine.

Actually it occurs earlier, in Cicero (Epist. XII to Pomponius Atticus, 5) and in the Poimandres4 (ed. Scott, I, 8a).

Does anyone expect a zoologist to represent the primary form of the vertebrates or of the individual organs as stamped by God’s own hand?

After all, we are no longer living in the 18th century, when zoology began with Genesis chapter 1.

Or would you accuse a physiologist of making a God of the living body when he describes it as a self-regulating system?

Is the God-image, which has functioned as a psychic factor in man everywhere since the remotest times, as the consensus omnium attests, absolutely identical with God?

I expressly emphasize that it isn’t and that there is no justification for such an assumption.

Does one found a new religion every time one busies oneself with the psychology of comparative religion?

As the case of Overbeck shows, one can even make a distinction between the history of the Church and theology.

Although my honesty may be doubted (unfortunately I have never discovered why) I would consider it extremely dishonest-and what is still worse, bigoted and stupid-if a psychologist were to assert that the God-image does not have a tremendous effect on the psyche.

For the scientist this has nothing to do with the theological question of God’s existence, as he is concerned simply and solely with the phenomenology of psychic dominants, whether they be called God, Allah, Buddha, Purusha, Zeus, planets, zodia, or sex (as Philippians 3:19, ”whose God is their belly,” rightly says ).

Science cannot assert that God stamped his own archetype, neither can it say that the archetype engenders God, nor does it say anything of the sort.

But it has the right to make statements about the observable psychic effects of an archetype.

It does not have to take instruction from anyone in this matter, least of all from a nonprofessional.

Your opinion that I am art atheist is pretty bold, to say the least.

Have I ever said “God could not live for a second without me”? That was Angelus Silesius, whose atheism has still to be proved; the whole Indian East says it too, and the charge of atheism would be equally out of place.

What do you know, may I be permitted to ask, about my religious convictions?

Do you conclude from my preoccupation with alchemy that I also believe in Mercurius or am an Hermetic?

The teacher is not always a tyro, the psychiatrist not invariably mad, and the prison chaplain not an obvious criminal.

If you have formed the peculiar notion that I am proclaiming a religion, this is due to your ignorance of psychotherapeutic methods.

When for instance the heart no longer functions as it has always functioned, it is sick, and the same goes for the psyche, whose functioning depends on archetypes ( instincts, patterns of behaviour, etc. ) .

The doctor sees to it that the heart gets into its old rhythm again, and the psychotherapist must restore the “original pattern,” the original ways in which the psyche reacts.

This is done, today as several thousand years ago, through the “anamnesis” of the archetype.

I can’t help it that religions also work with archetypes ( in the Christian, i.e., the Catholic, Church there is even a cura animarum! ).

But as the Medical Faculty is at least as old as the Theological Faculty it is idle to start quarrelling about priorities.

I could just as well accuse the parson of dabbling in medicine because he works with archetypes, and even more so the doctor of godlessness and messing about with religion because he does the same.

He was doing this when parsons still wore leopard skins and danced to the drum.

Don’t you think one should judge a thing only if one has some knowledge of it, and a man only if one knows him well?

Don’t you think that hearsay and personal resentment are not exactly the most reliable foundations for judgment?

You say, quite rightly, that you ( or “we,” as you so modestly put it ) “ought not to be guided simply by personal feeling.”

My dear Pastor, I beg you with all due deference to read through your book again, critically and with this proviso in mind.

I am grateful to you for your efforts to present my concept of the self as accurately as possible.

This idea seems to have become a stumbling-block ever since Origen and Meister Eckhart were accused of heresy, whereas in the East it is mani padme, “the jewel in the lotus,” or hiranyagarbha,9 the golden seed, the “conglomerate soul.”Cf. the verses:

The first man and the last is Christ alone,
All men do spring from him, in him are one.

Well, well: ” Unto the Christians a stumbling-block, unto the Jews foolishness.”

Yours very truly,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Volume 1, Pages 359-362.