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Carl Jung on a piece of Greek sculpture


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Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

To Ronald J. Horton

Dear Mr. Horton, 22 April 1955

The chance of seeing and enjoying the exquisite beauty of this unique piece of Greek sculpture has been a boon I have to thank you for.

It is indeed a difficult task to identify the head.

I am no archaeologist, and I cannot claim any competence in judging such a case.

My special interest besides my psychiatric work is research in the field of comparative psychology of religious symbolism.

Superficially looking at the head, one would be inclined to think of a relatively late date and one would be reminded of the Mithraic dadophors.

But as it is obviously a work of the highest Greek art, one has to go further back.

The erotic element, the feminine sweetness of the face, the peculiar treatment of the hair on the one hand and the Phrygian pileus, the juvenile masculinity on the other hand, suggest one of the early dying son-gods of the Near East.

I think chiefly of Attis, the son and lover of Kybele.

He is represented with the pileus.

He has, like his analoga, viz. Adonis, Tammuz, and the Germanic Baldur, all the grace and charm of either sex.

There is something of Demeter’s serene beauty in his face.

(The parallel is the Eleusinian Iacchus.)

As the cult of Attis is of considerable age, there is a certain possibility that it is an early representation of Attis.

That is about the nearest I can get to a diagnosis of the head and its truly bewitching beauty.

At all events it expresses in a perfect way the feeling an Asiatic Greek would experience in worshipping Attis or one of his equivalents, one of the pueri aeterni, being the joy of men and women and dying early with the flowers of spring.

May I keep at least one of the photos?

They have caught my fantasy thoroughly.

I am sorry to give you such a meagre and tentative answer.

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 243-244.

~Note: The image at the top of this post is not the image Dr. Jung is corresponding about.