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

To William G. Mather

Dear Professor Mather, 26 September 1945

Your letter interested me very much. Your idea that primitive methods or religious exercises have something to do with the experience of the unconscious is perfectly correct.

I suppose you mean to say that these people are white people and not Hopi Indians or something of the sort that celebrate snake dances.

If I’m right in assuming that you mean white sectarians, then it is obviously a matter of the phenomenon peculiar to colonial settlers.

Inasmuch as civilized white people settle down on virgin soil their unconscious assimilates the peculiar nature of the country.

So much so that even their children begin to resemble to a certain extent the autochthonous population of that country.

In Africa and in India you observe a violent resistance in the white man against the primitive or exotic country in which he lives.

In Africa, for instance, I observed that the settlers there either hate that country or they just love it.

In either case (if they are real settlers, and not only transient officials that serve their 20 years of exile) they nolens volens begin to get assimilated by the soil and they develop a very curious mentality.

It is just as if the unconscious part of their psyche was sinking down into the peculiar phenomenon “going black.”

You can observe how these people get lured away unconsciously from their civilized sphere.

Even in America you can observe similar things: for instance the students’ most remarkable initiation ceremonies that above all resemble Indian rituals.

No wonder if sects show similar symptoms: in the case you mention the relation to snakes which always represents the integration of the chthonic (earth) element.

To the same chapter belongs the positive or negative emphasis on sex.

It is practically the same whether you emphasize sex through affirmation or negation.

It simply means sex is all-important.

If it is denied it simply means the chthonic element is all-important, yet in a hostile way.

In the other case it is understood as something positive.

The torture of the body, for instance, which is so frequent with primitives, shows merely the importance of the body.

And very often you cannot tell which is the greater pleasure: granting chthonic lusts or denying them.

All this has nothing to do with theology or other spiritual factors.

It is chiefly the question of the overwhelming tendency of the unconscious to get rooted in the soil.

You can observe similar phenomena in Europe, where nature can have an overwhelming influence, as for instance the sea or barren islands or lonely parts of the country or
mountainous regions as in Switzerland.

In Switzerland we have many sects which have something in common with those of Wales and other mountainous parts of Britain.

Invariably they have mostly a very peculiar relation to sex either in a positive or a negative way.

Hoping I have answered your question to your satisfaction, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung [Letters Volume 1; Pages 380-381]