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

To Pastor Fritz Pfafflin

Dear Pastor Pfafflin, 5 July 1935

Understandable though your question is, I find it difficult to answer by letter and in a few words.

Whatever future developments may bring, I think that despite everything it is not necessary at present for you to hang your cassock on the nail.

So long as there is a parish for you to look after, you have work enough to do.

Christianity as bequeathed to us by our fathers will be a necessity for a long time to come.

What is worrying you does not conflict with Christianity but has to do with experiences which a Christian-minded person, who takes his religion seriously, must go through provided he has the necessary vocation.

The great majority of people can and should be content with Christianity as it is today. But it would not surprise me if among those who are entrusted with the care of a parish there were some who have also to experience the inner meaning of what they are doing.

Behind all religions, as you know just as well as I, there are certain experiences which in the course of hundreds or thousands of years have formed a precipitate of rites and cult ideas.

“The way to the water” is, in Christian terms, “the way to baptism.”

Through historical development “the way to baptism” has departed so far from its original meaning that the idea of baptism is left hanging in mid-air because the actual experience of baptism has somehow disappeared.

If your unconscious now comes up with the water symbol, this means that it is trying to give you back the experience of baptism in its original form.

Originally it was an immersion to the point of death and thus had the significance of rebirth.

So it is hedged about with fear.

The treasure lying in the water can be compared with the treasure hid in a field or the pearl of great price which signifies the kingdom of Heaven.

If these symbols are translated into the language of dogma, the peculiar sense of gratuitous experience is stripped from them.

It is therefore necessary that the symbols be experienced in their original form.

Hence one must let oneself go and carefully observe and write down what one is experiencing.

This objectivity of observation is absolutely necessary, because otherwise one is overcome by panic and there’s no point in that.

Naturally the dreams must be considered too, because they often contain important hints.

If vivid vision-like images occur, they should if possible be drawn or painted, no matter whether one has any artistic talents or not.

The path you tread in this way leads to those inner experiences which underlie Christianity.

The experiences you go through permit an interpretation of Christian dogma whereby the latter appears as a symbol, as an expression for certain fundamental psychic happenings.

You will surely understand that, as I have said, it is impossible to go into more detail by letter.

I must therefore content myself with a rather general orientation.

But I would like to emphasize again that what the unconscious is trying to bring you is not something absolutely different from Christianity, but rather a deepening of Christian symbolism and a revivification of the foundations upon which Christianity as well as other great religions are built.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung [Letters Volume 1, Pages 191-192]