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

To Pastor Ernst Jahn

Dear Pastor Jahn, 7 September 1935

I am sorry that pressure of work has prevented me from answering your kind letter. Please forgive me. It is very kind of you to have gone into my work so thoroughly.

With your permission, I would like to draw your attention to a few points that have struck me.

It seems to me that you approach my views too much from the angle of the theologian.

You seem to forget that I am first and foremost :m empiricist, who was led to the question of Western and Eastern mysticism only for empirical reasons.

For instance, I do not by any means take my stand on Tao or any Yoga techniques, but I have found that Taoist philosophy as well as Yoga have very many parallels with the psychic processes we can observe in Western man.

Nor do I get anybody to draw or contemplate mandala pictures as in Yoga, but it has turned out that unprejudiced people take quite naturally to these aids in order to find their bearings in the chaos of unconscious processes that come to light.

A point which theologians very often overlook is the question of the reality of God. When I speak of Cod, I always speak as a psychologist, as I have expressly emphasized in many places in my books.

For the psychologist the Cod-image is a psychological fact.

He cannot say anything about the metaphysical reality of Cod because that would far exceed the limits of the theory of knowledge.

As an empiricist I know only the images originating in the unconscious which man makes of God, or which, to be more accurate are made of God in the unconscious; and these images are undoubtedly very relative.

Another point is the relation between the psychological I and Thou.

The unconscious for me is a definite vis-a-vis with which one has to come to terms.

I have written a little book about this.

I have never asserted, nor do I think I know, what the unconscious is in itself.

It is the unconscious region of the psyche. When I speak of psyche I do not pretend to know what it is either, and how far this concept extends.

For this concept is simply beyond all possibility of cognition.

It is a mere convention for giving some kind of name to the unknown which appears to us psychic.

This psychic factor,as experience shows,is something very different from our consciousness.

If you have ever observed a psychosis in a person you know intimately, you will “know what a dreadful confrontation that can be.

It seems to me that it is difficult for a theologian to put himself in an empiricist’s shoes.

What the theologian takes to be spiritual realities are for the empiricist expressions of psychic life, which at bottom is essentially unknown.

The empiricist does not think from above downwards from metaphysical premises, but comes from below upwards from the phenomenal world and, conscious of the limitations of his mind, must be content with understanding the psychic processes re-constructively.

And so it is with my therapy. I have chiefly to do with people in whom I cannot implant any values or convictions from above downwards.

Usually they are people whom I can only urge to go through their experiences and to organize them in a way that makes a tolerable existence possible.

The pastor of souls is naturally not in this position as a rule; he has to do with people who expressly demand to be spiritually arranged from above downwards.

This task should be left to the pastor of souls. But those rarer people who cannot accept traditional values and convictions, who in other words do not possess the charisma of faith, must perforce seek advice from the empiricist, who for his part, in order to do justice to his task, can appeal to nothing except the given realities.

Thus he will on no account say to his patient, “Your psyche is God,” or ”Your unconscious is God,” because that would be just what the patient has fled from in disgust.

Rather he will start off the psychic process of experiencing unconscious contents, whereby the patient is put in a position to experience his psychic realities and draw his own conclusions.

What I described in the Golden Flower are simply the results of individual developments which closely resemble those arrived at through Eastern practices.

Centuries ago Yoga congealed into a fixed system, but originally the mandala symbolism grew out of the unconscious just as
individually and directly as it does with Western man today.

I had known about the spontaneous emergence of these symbols for 17 years but deliberately published nothing on this subject so as to prevent the regrettable but undeniable imitative instinct from getting hold of these pictures.

In these 17 years I had ample opportunity to see again and again how patients quite spontaneously reached for the pencil in order to sketch pictures that were meant to express typical inner experiences.

Yoga, however, as we know it today, has become a method of spiritual training which is drilled into the initiates from above.

It holds up the traditional pictures for contemplation and has precise rules as to bow they should be executed.

In this respect Yoga is directly comparable to the Exercitia of Loyola. But that is the exact opposite of what I do.

I am therefore an avowed opponent of taking over Yoga methods or Eastern ideas uncritically, as I have stated publicly many times before.

So what I have said on these matters is the result of empirical work and does not constitute the technical principles of my therapy.

Perhaps I may draw your attention to a book that has just been published (Die kulturelle Bedeutung der komplexen Psychologie, Jul.
Springer, Berlin 1935), in which the first contribution deals with my method.

There you will find a philosophical basis for my whole work, which will doubtless elucidate for you any points that may still be obscure.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung [Letters Volume 1, Pages 195-197]