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The physical substratum of mental facts like archetypes

To D . Cappon

Dear Doctor Cappon, 15 March 1954

Concerning your question about the physical substratum of mental facts like archetypes, this is a problem I hardly dare to touch.

It invites all sorts of funny speculations, and that is exactly what I try to avoid.

If you say they repose on the genes, you can’t go wrong.

Everything depends upon them.

The same question would arise with instincts.

Where are they localized?

With the vertebrates, one would assume that they are based upon the brain and its annexes, but where are they localized in an insect that has no brain?

Obviously, in the sympathetic nervous system.

You can also hold that an instinctual pattern being identical with an archetype is based upon our sympathicus.

But all this is mythology, quite unwarrantable from an epistemological standpoint, and just as inadmissible as these ridiculous fantasies about intra-uterine psychological experiences.

I am personally convinced that our mind corresponds with the physiological life of the body, but the way in which it is connected with the body is for obvious reasons unintelligible.

To speculate about such unknowable things is mere waste of time.

If you want to be quite accurate, both statements, viz. that the psyche is founded upon an organic process of the body, or that the psyche is independent of the body, are unanswerable.

The question of brain localization is an extremely delicate one, because when you destroy a certain part of the brain you destroy a certain function.

Yet you do not know whether you have really destroyed the function because it is quite possible that you
have only destroyed the transmitter of that function, as if you have taken away the telephone apparatus which does not mean that you have killed its owner.

There is even no absolute certainty about the psyche being definitely dependent upon the brain since we know that there are facts proving that the mind can relativize space and time, as the Rhine experiments and general experience have proved sufficiently.

As I have already pointed out, the archetypes are the psychological representations of instinctual patterns, and behave exactly like these.

How did the instincts get into an individual?

Instincts have been inherited since time immemorial, and presumably have developed with the different species.

Thus, they are certainly in most cases millions of years old.

Also with regard to instincts, it is questionable if they continue to exist when you have destroyed their transmitter, i.e., whether they have been killed themselves.

It is quite obvious that it is not at all necessary to uncover the archetypes in every treatment of neurosis.

One can get along successfully with far less, but it is equally true that it is sometimes not at all in your hand to decide whether you will go into archetypes or not, since they turn up all by themselves, sometimes with a vehemence you wouldn’t like.

I never look for archetypes and don’t try to find them; enough when they come all by themselves.

This is almost regularly the case when an analysis lasts a bit long or when it is matter of a person with a somewhat vivacious mind.

  1. There is no point in trying to make the patient understand archetypal material as long as he has not yet gained some insight into his personal complexes, and particularly into the nature of his shadow.

  2. The patient may be practically cured without ever having heard of an archetype.

  3. One has cured neurosis by the most astonishing means long before our modern psychology.

If there are no technical means, it is the sincerity of the doctor’s attitude and his willingness to help that restore the impaired wholeness of the patient, but if you withhold a better technical knowledge, you wouldn’t be able to get any proper result with less.

The successful therapeutic attitude always expects of you that you really do your best, no matter how good or how bad it is, or what kind of technique you apply.

Only you must be sure that you do the best you know.

I should not worry about all this localization talk.

It’s practically all foolishness, and a remnant of the old brain mythology like the explanation of sleep through the contraction of the ganglia, which is by no means more intelligent than the localization of the psyche in the pituitary gland.

Hoping I have answered your question,

I remain, dear Doctor

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 159-161.