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Theologians suffer from the fact that when they say God then that God is.


1677e 1liturgy

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

To G . A . van den Bergh von Eysinga

Dear Sir, 13 February 1954

In the meantime, somebody helped me to a careful excerpt of your critique.

There seems to me some misunderstanding of my basic ideas.

First of all, I am not a philosopher and my concepts are not philosophical and abstract, but empirical, viz. biological.

The concept generally misunderstood is that of the archetype, which covers certain biological facts and is not a hypostatized idea at all.

The “archetype” is practically synonymous with the biological concept of the behaviour pattern.

But as the latter designates external phenomena chiefly, I have chosen the term “archetype” for “psychic pattern.”

We don’t know whether the weaver-bird beholds a mental image while it follows an immemorial and inherited model in building its nest, but there is no doubt that no weaver-bird in our experience has ever invented its nest.

It is as if the image of nest-building were born with the bird.

As no animal is born without its instinctual patterns, there is no reason whatever to believe that man should be born without his specific forms of physiological and psychological reactions.

As animals of the same kind show the same instinctual phenomena all over the world, man also shows the same archetypal forms no matter where he lives.

As animals have no need to be taught their instinctive activities, so man also possesses his primordial psychic patterns and repeats them spontaneously, independently of any kind of teaching.

Inasmuch as man is conscious and capable of introspection, it is quite possible that he can perceive his instinctual patterns in the form of archetypal representations.

As a matter of fact, these possess the expected degrees of universality ( cf. the remarkable identity of shamanistic Structures).

It is also possible to observe their spontaneous reproduction in individuals entirely ignorant of traditions of this sort.

Such facts prove the autonomy of the archetypes.

The pattern of behaviour is autonomous also inasmuch as it enforces its own application as soon as the general conditions allow.

Nobody would assume that the biological pattern is a philosophical assumption like the Platonic idea or a Gnostic hypostasis.

The same is true of the archetype.

Its autonomy is an observable fact and not a philosophical hypostasis.

I am a physician and I am practising as a psychiatrist, thus having plenty of opportunity to observe mental phenomena which are unknown to philosophy in spite of the fact that Pierre Janet’s Automatisme psychologique was published almost 70 years ago.

Your critique of my poetic license: the night surrounding the mulier amicta sole is correct in so far as the text does not mention the night.

But it isn’t so far away when you can see the dragon removing one third of the stars from heaven.

My mythologem obviously points to Leto, to the heroes’ mothers in general, and to the matriarchal mother goddesses and their chthonic and nocturnal associations.

But this is hardly of any importance.

To mention another point: if Yahweh was not influenced by Satan, as you apparently assume, then he tortured Job against his own better conviction, which makes his case only worse.

Yahweh’s amorality has nothing to do with a moral differentiation of the believers.

It exists still today and is recognized even by theological textbooks although his uncontrolled affects and his injustice
are swallowed without the consequences even drawn by the Midrashim long ago. (F.i. the admonition to the Lord to remember his better qualities; the sounding of the shofar to remind him of murderous attempt against Isaac, etc.)

It is regrettable that you did not read my introductory remarks.

You might have discovered there my empirical standpoint without which-I grant you-my little book makes no sense at all.

Envisaged from a philosophical point of view without consideration of its psychological premise, it is sheer idiocy, from a theological angle nothing but downright blasphemy and from the standpoint of rationalistic commonsense a heap of illogical and feeble-minded phantasmata.

But psychology has its own proposition and its own working hypotheses based upon the observation of facts, i.e. (in our case) of the spontaneous reproduction of archetypal structures appearing in dreams as well as in psychoses.

If one doesn’t know of these facts, it will be difficult to understand what is meant by “psychic reality” and “psychic autonomy.”

I agree with you that my statements (in Antwort auf Hiob) are shocking, but not more, rather less so, than the manifestations of Yahweh’s demonic nature in the OT.

The Midrashim are quite aware of it, and the Christian church had to invent that awful syllogism, the privatio boni, in order to annihilate the original ambivalence of the Jewish God.

But while the Catholic Church has at least a sort of sententia communis explaining the transmutation of Yahweh, who ad instar rhinocerotis had upset the world in the OT, into the God of love in the NT, Protestantism clings to an identity of the two gods and does not allow of a transformation of the One God.

This is a scandalum.

But theologians suffer from the fact that when they say “God,” then that God is.

But when I say “God,” I know I have expressed my image of such a being and I am honestly not quite sure whether he is just like my image or not, even if I believe in God’s existence.

When Martin Buber speaks of God, he does not tell us which God, but he assumes that his God is the only one.

My God-image corresponds to an autonomous archetypal pattern.

Therefore I can experience God as if he were an object, but I need not assume that it is the only image.

I know I am dealing, as Kant says, with a “symbolical anthropomorphism” which concerns “language” (and mimic Representation in general ) but not the object itself.

To criticize intentional or unintentional anthropomorphism is neither blasphemy, nor superstition, but wholly within the province of psychological criticism.

I remain, dear Sir,

Yours faithfully,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 151-154.