To Canon H. G. England
Dear Sir, 8 January 1948
I’m sorry to be so late in answering your kind letter.
I’m somewhat overwhelmed by my correspondence and find it very difficult to cope with it.
It is by no means easy to answer your questions as it is a matter of the exceedingly problematic relations between theology and psychology.
First of all, therefore, I must ask you to remember that I don’t claim to be a theologian; I’m moving entirely within the limits of a natural empirical science.
This is important to know, as it dictates a certain terminology which doesn’t coincide with theological explanations.
Thus, above all, the concept of the unconscious.
We call that psychological sphere unconscious because we cannot observe it directly.
We only observe certain effects of it and from them we draw certain conclusions as to the nature and condition of possible contents of the unconscious.
You could also say: the sphere of the unconscious is a sphere of the unknown psyche about which we say nothing by calling it the unconscious.
We do not say that it is conscious or unconscious, it is only unconscious to us.
What it is in itself we do not know and do not pretend to know.
If you call it the universal consciousness we cannot contradict you, we can only confess our ignorance as to its real state.
But if you call it universal consciousness, then it is the universal consciousness of God.
If you make such an assumption, then the difficult question arises as to where the definitely evil influences that derive from the unconscious come from-these influences which you rightly identify with the symbol of the dragon.
The dragon is the devil of old. I’m quite ready to accept that term, because it describes definite psychological experiences, as “God” does.
But psychology can only confirm that the highest and the lowest, the best and worst impulses derive from the sphere of the unconscious psyche.
That is the utmost we can say within the limits of science.
Instead of St. George you could use the more general symbolism of Christ and the devil.
St. George is a more personalistic formulation of the same.
The saint is surely the conscious ego, but not the persona, because we don’t assume that St. George is merely a mask hiding the real self.
Persona is what you want to impress people with and what they force you to assume as a role.
Therefore it is called a mask. The sword, which you identify with the Logos, is properly interpreted on the assumption that St. George symbolizes Christ, as no one else would be capable of wielding the Logos.
But if you take St. George as a human being, then it would be his discriminating faculty and this is the main characteristic of consciousness, that it is discriminating, chiefly by means of the intellect.
Thus the sword very often represents the intellect or discriminating values.
The dragon in this case would be the whole length of the shadow, namely the human plus the animal (ape) shadow in man.
The anima, being psychologically the female counterpart of the masculine consciousness, based upon the minority of female genes in a masculine body, has a decidedly dual aspect.
She functions like a persona, being a link between the collective unconscious and the conscious, just as the persona is a link between the real personality and the external world.
Her dual aspect is due to the fact that the effects of the collective unconscious are dual in their aspect too.
Thus the anima can transmit not only good influences but also evil ones.
As a matter of fact, she is not rarely the worst daemon in a man’s life .
We like to imagine that God is all light, but S. Johannes a Cruce has the truly psychological notion of the darkness and the seeming remoteness of God as an effect of the divine presence.
This state of darkness is by far the most trying and most dangerous part of the mystical experiences.
It feels like a void and this is precisely what Buddhism cultivates as the most desirable state of Nirvana.
The Buddhists reach it in exactly the same way as Christian mystics do, namely by excessive self-abnegation.
At least this is true of classical Buddhism. It is not so true of its later developments, as for instance in Zen.
It is generally true that consciousness must win a victory over the powers of darkness.
But as darkness is not wholly subject to our moral valuation, since it seems to be one of the divine characteristics, it remains a question whether the dragon is to be considered as wholly evil.
This question, however, is a most intricate one.
The serpent as well as the dragon and other reptiles usually symbolize those parts of the human psyche which are still connected with the animal side of man.
The animal still lives in him: it is the old saurian that is really the dragon, and therefore the dragon is a very proper symbol.
These parts of the psyche are most intimately connected with .the life of the body and cannot be missed if body and consciousness are to work together soundly.
Therefore a certain amount-or better an uncertain amount-of darkness has to be allowed, because it is vitally necessary if the body or the mind is to live at all.
Many neuroses come from the fact that too good a victory has been won over the body and its dark powers.
Old Drummond, for instance, used to lament over the awful moods of pious people.
Those were the cases where the old serpent has been too cruelly mauled by too spiritual a consciousness.
One would have found in analyzing these people that there was no small amount of greed and vanity in their spiritual aspirations.
The medical psychologist knows that he is treading on dangerous ground here and therefore he goes warily when it comes to the question of victories over darkness.
This is admittedly no theology, but it is a question of mental and physical health.
We think that, when God made animals, He equipped them with just those needs and impulses that enable them to live according to their laws.
We assume that He has done the same with man.
In a way the animal is more pious than man, because it fulfills the divine will more completely than man ever can dream of.
He can deviate, he can be disobedient, because he has consciousness.
Consciousness is on the one hand a triumph and a blessing, on the other hand it is our worst devil, which helps us to invent every thinkable reason and way to disobey the divine will.
Oh yes, things are far more difficult than they ought to be!
Thus we welcome everybody who says that things are simple.
I have made an honest attempt to answer your questions as fully as possible.
It is too bad that most of my recent work has not been translated into English.
Otherwise I could refer you to some works which deal with these questions more amply.
C.G. Jung ~Letters Volume 1; Pages 483-486