Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961
To Pastor William Lachat
Dear Pastor Lachat, 18 January 1955
The book on Le Bdpteme dans l’Eglise nformee which you were good enough to send me deals with an eminently theological theme.
I feel that I am too much of a layman to be competent to touch upon it.
The only problem that concerns me is that of the rite in Protestantism.
As I see it, this is a problem of the highest importance.
The sola fide standpoint seems to me insufficient for a complete religion.
Every religion makes use of two feet: faith on one side and ritual on the other.
In the two Christian churches, the importance and the psychological significance of rites are not generally appreciated; to some people they are acts of faith or of habit; to others, acts of magic.
But in reality there is a third aspect: the aspect of the rite as a symbolic act, giving expression to the archetypal expectation of the unconscious.
What I mean by this is that every epoch of our biological life has a numinous character: birth, puberty, marriage, illness, death, etc.
This is a natural fact demanding recognition, a question wanting an answer.
It is a need that should be satisfied by a solemn act, characterizing the numinous moment with a combination of words and gestures of an archetypal, symbolic nature.
Rites give satisfaction to the collective and numinous aspects of the moment, beyond their purely personal significance.
This aspect of the rite is highly important.
The pastor’s personal prayer does not fill the need at all because the response should be collective and historical; it should evoke the “ancestral spirits” so as to unite the present with the historical and mythological past, and for that a re-presentation of the past is indispensable: rites should be archaic (in language and gesture).
The proper kind of rite is not magically but psychologically efficacious.
That is why a well-conducted Mass produces a powerful effect, particularly when the meaning of the ceremony can be followed.
But once lost, lost forever! That is the tragedy of Protestantism.
It has only one leg left.
This lack may possibly be compensated by an artificial limb, but one never feels convinced that it is as good as the natural leg.
The Protestant is restless, and something in him goes about looking for a solution.
The wheel of time cannot be turned back.
Things can, however, be destroyed and renewed.
This is extremely dangerous, but the signs of our time are dangerous too.
If there was ever a truly apocalyptic era, it is ours.
God has put the means for a universal holocaust into the hands of men.
People hate the human soul, it is nothing but “psychological.”
They don’t understand that it has needs, and they throw its treasures into the street without understanding them.
That is what Protestantism started, the Encyclopedistes continued, and la Deesse Raison will finish off.
Our rites will become solemn syntheses of hydrogen bombs.
Baptism, like the other sacraments, is really a mystery in so far as it represents an answer to the unconscious question put to us by the numinous moment.
This question awaits a satisfactory reaction from our side.
If there is no response, the lack of it augments the general dissatisfaction to the point of neurosis, and increases the disorientation to the point of mental blindness and collective psychosis which has characterized our time since 1933, or (in Russia) since the war of 1914-1918.
I thank you very much for sending the book on baptism, which I am in the process of reading slowly.
Perhaps I shall have still other reactions.
With my sincere regards,
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 208-210.