[Carl Jung to a mother whose son aged 24, joined an Indian religious order and changed his European name into an Indian one.]
Dear Frau N., 26 April 1955
I find your son’s decision very regrettable in the sense that it is hardly anything more than an evasion, though it is not as unusual as it may seem.
When I was in Calcutta I met a whole lot of Europeans-Englishmen and Germans-who had joined the Ramakrishna Order there.
With us this decision would be like entering a Catholic monastic order and would be more binding since it is more difficult to get out of the monastery or the Catholic priesthood than out of an exotic religious community.
I know the patron saint of the Pramachari Order, Paramhansa Yogananda, or rather I know his book.
It is genuinely Indian and for our ears sounds utterly fantastic.
As has often happened before, impressionable people living in India easily come under the influence of Indian ideas, which are admittedly impressive and at least quench in the Indian manner a thirst for knowledge which our theologians unfortunately cannot assuage.
When these young people return to Europe they often find that they have to give up this fantastic-sounding philosophy simply because it does not fit our circumstances.
Nobody can afford to go around every day with the begging bowl and sit in the street waiting for a pious soul to fill it with rice.
This is a daily spectacle in India but with us the police and the traffic would render such an unusual religious exercise impossible.
Missionaries here have to rely on a few gushing enthusiasts who, though they don’t fill the rice bowl for them, occasionally drop a mild gift into their purse.
For a young man with a strong but largely unrealized need for self-assertion this is a pretty dismal prospect in the long run.
I therefore think you would be well advised not to put any difficulties in his way at present but to get him back to Europe sometime.
There’s no need to bother him emotionally, just ask him what he thinks of living on in the future: alms or earnings.
If he has financial prospects which assure him a life free from care, he can safely keep to the Pramachari Mission as a way of passing the time.
He will then discover soon enough that nothing comes out of it.
Such ideas are suitable for countries where for 10 months it is so hot that you can hardly open your eyes for sweat.
This is the great difference which Emile Zola pointed out when he said: “Mais chez no us, la misere a froid.”
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 247-248.