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Carl Jung letter to Fritz Kunkel
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To Fritz Kunkel

Dear Dr. Kunkel, 10 July 1946

This is to acknowledge with thanks the receipt of the books of Stewart Edward White.

I have read them conscientiously, and I would know from these books what sort of problem you are confronted with even if I hadn’t seen it from your letter.

The really important book is The Unobstructed Universe.

The other two do not rise much above the level of the general run of spiritualistic literature, of which I made a thorough study for a long time in my earlier days in order to find out the meaning of this movement.

Already then it became absolutely clear to me that the whole spiritualistic movement is pervaded by an unconscious urge to allow the unconscious to reach consciousness.

This phenomenon shows that even today our consciousness is still much too split off from the unconscious, which leads to a psychic uprooting of man.

This also explains why practically everybody falls victim to some kind of -ism, with the result that any cause, however reasonable in itself, gets a pathological streak.

The wildest breaking away of consciousness from the natural order of things has, of course, been witnessed in Germany, but we see the same phenomenon in other nuances and gradations throughout the whole world of the white man.

Even the yellow Japanese have gone to blazes.

They have obviously learnt so much from the uprooting and corresponding madness of the white man that they no longer consulted the I Ching before and during the war.

In the first World War Japanese statesmen always consulted it in important affairs of state, as I know from Richard Wilhelm.

Although The Unobstructed Universe is written in a ghastly style, it contains ideas of fundamental importance which, despite the barbarous setting, seem to me significant enough to be taken seriously.

Their concurrence with the findings of the psychology of the unconscious is positively amazing.

The compensatory drive of the unconscious towards conscious realization stands out particularly clearly; that is to say our consciousness is largely dissociated from the unconscious so that a reconnection is of the utmost importa nce.

This is also a basic principle of analytical psychology.

Equally worth noting is the introverted attitude necessary for this, without which the unconscious contents could not be assimilated.

The fact that they appear in the form of personifications (spirits) is not at all surprising.

Firstly it has been from time immemorial the traditional form of unconscious compensation, and secondly there is no possibility of proving with certainty that it is really not a question of spirits.

But the proof that it is a question of spirits is equally difficult if not impossible.

As we know, the proof of identity is extraordinarily difficult to furnish, though all sorts of people have tried.

One may be entirely convinced subjectively, but that is a long way from being an objective proof. I can’t imagine any method whereby an objective proof could be furnished.

The proofs that White gives are not in themselves convincing since every single one of them could be explained by the actually existing knowledge in the unconscious (cryptomnesia, clairvoyance, etc.).

I once discussed the proof of identity for a long time with a friend of William James, Professor Hyslop in New York.

He admitted that, all things considered, all these meta-psychic phenomena could be explained better by the hypothesis of spirits than by the qualities and peculiarities of the unconscious. And here, on the basis of my own experience, I am bound to concede he is right.

In each individual case I must of necessity be skeptical, but in the long run I have to admit that the spirit hypothesis yields better results in practice than any other.

The success of this book is not surprising either.

We are living again in a postwar period in which, as after the first World War, a veritable wave of spiritualism is sweeping mankind.

A further point of agreement with the psychology of the unconscious is the idea of the elasticity of space and time.

I coined this same term many years ago and have used it in my lectures without knowing anything about this book.

The extraordinary emphasis White lays on consciousness also agrees with our view that the dawning of consciousness, indeed consciousness itself, is the all-important goal of human evolution.

Since The Unobstructed Universe is not handicapped by any knowledge of psychology, the author is completely unaware of the fact that his Betty, who manifests herself as his femme inspiratrice, is also present in him even if his Betty had never died or had not existed at all.

For this reason I do not call this feminine figure Betty but anima.

The figure of Anne behaves towards Betty as the mother archetype (the Great Mother) behaves towards the ego in the psychology of women.

She represents the feminine aspect of the self.

This point is of particular interest as it does not fit in with the psychology of a man.

If Betty were nothing but an anima, in the case of a man there would have to be a masculine figure corresponding to Anne, namely the Wise Old Man.

In this respect, then, Betty behaves like a real woman and not like an anima.

This seems to indicate that she is herself rather than an anima figure.

Perhaps, with the help of such criteria, we shall one day succeed in establishing, at least indirectly, whether it is a question of an anima (which is an archetype never lacking
in masculine psychology) or of a spirit.

I must own that with regard to Betty I am hesitant to deny her reality as a spirit; that is to say I am inclined to assume that she is more probably a spirit than an archetype, although she presumably represents both at the same time.

Altogether, it seems to me that spirits tend increasingly to coalesce with archetypes.

For archetypes can behave exactly like real spirits, so that communications like Betty’s could just as well come from an indubitably genuine archetype.

On the other hand, it must be emphasized that by far the greatest majority of communications are of purely psychological origin and appear in personified form only because
people have no inkling of the psychology of the unconscious.

You are quite right when you say that in these circumstances it would be the task of a practical psychology to offer the public handier concepts than the subtleties of analytical psychology.

In actual practice one finds oneself again and again in the position of having to make do with the terminological crudities of science.

I would like to draw a radical distinction between psychology as a science and psychology as a technique.

In practice I have no compunction, if the case seems to me sufficiently certain, in speaking simply of spirits albeit with the proviso that these spirits may be partly or entirely mere personifications of unconscious tendencies and sooner or later are integrated into consciousness and then vanish.

I have observed plenty of such cases, where the unconscious first appeared in spirit form spirits which later, after discharging their contents into consciousness, disappeared again.

Your view that the collective unconscious surrounds us on all sides is in complete agreement with the way I explain it to my pupils.

It is more like an atmosphere in which we live than something that is found in us. It is simply the unknown quantity in the world.

Also, it does not by any means behave merely psychologically; in the cases of so-called synchronicity it proves to be a universal substrate present in the environment rather than a psychological premise.

Wherever we come into contact with an archetype we enter into relationship with trans-conscious, meta-psychic factors which underlie the spiritualistic hypothesis as well as that of magical actions.

The best idea in The Unobstructed Universe is perhaps that of frequency.

It is an idea that dawned on me too during my attempts to explain the relative reality of meta-psychic phenomena.

The parallel White draws with the nature of thought seems to me to hit the mark very aptly.

Thought has no quality in common with the physical world except its intensity, which in mathematical terms may be considered as frequency.

You observe a distinct heightening of this intensity or frequency in all cases where either an archetype manifests itself or, owing to an absolute abaissement du niveau mental, the unconscious comes actively into the foreground, as in visions of the future, ecstasies, apparitions of the dying, etc.

I would like to see the book translated if only it were written more sensibly, but there is so much insufferable gabble in it that it would only scare off an educated European public, for no one likes picking out the pearls from such a journalistic morass.

But the book has stimulated me no end, and for this I am most grateful to you.

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung [Letters Volume 1; Pages 430-434]