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

To Pastor William Lachat

Dear Pastor Lachat, 29 June 1955

Your letter of June 10th comes at the right moment, since I am in the hospital where I have time to answer it.

I can subscribe to all the principal points made by Mr. Zacharias with the exception of his metaphysical Christian interpretations and, above all, his identification of Christ, with the archetype of the self in the sense that Christ is himself the archetype.

I cannot prove the identity of an historical personage with a psychological archetype.

That is why I stop after establishing the fact that in the Occident this archetype, or this “God-image,” is seen in Christ; in the Orient, in the Buddha, or in the form of Tao (which is not a personification but a metaphysical hypostasis).

In these three concrete forms the archetype of the self has appeared to us.

Since it represents the center of All, it can be called the vas mysticum filled with the Spiritus Sancta servitor mundi.

This symbolic formula would be an entirely satisfactory characterization of the psychological nature of the archetype of the self if the paradoxical nature of the Holy Spirit, like that of the author of all things, could be admitted.

Inasmuch as we attribute to the Holy Spirit the faculty of procreating in matter, we must unavoidably grant it a nature capable of contact with material existence, i.e., a chthonic aspect, as the alchemists did; otherwise it could not influence Physis.

However, these are metaphysical considerations outside my empirical domain.

But if you take them for what they are-that is, psychological qualifications-my formula seems perfectly applicable.

As for literature relevant to this subject, I would recommend my books Aion and Symbolik des Geistes.

In the latter you will find a little essay on Mercurius and the chthonic aspect of the Spirit.

I cannot share Zacharias’ optimistic belief that the efficacy of the rites can
be “repristinized.”

Unfortunately one must say: Once lost, lost forever!

But I must also say that there will be psychological equivalents; the psychological work necessary for the realization of the individuation process is an opus divinum consisting of a series of symbolic acts, examples of which can be found in my book Gestaltungen des Unbewussten (“Zur Empirie des Individuationsprozesses”).

Considering that the light of Christ is accompanied by the “dark night of the soul” that St. John of the Cross spoke about, and by what the Gnostics of lrenaeus called the umbra Christi, which is identical with the chthonic aspect mentioned above, the life of Christ is identical in us, from the psychological point of view, with the unconscious tendency toward individuation.

That is what forces us to live life completely, an adventure which is often as heroic as it is tragic.

Without error and sin there is no experience of grace, that is, no union of God and man.

A complete life, unconditionally lived, is the work of the Holy Spirit.

It leads us into all dangers and defeats, and into the light of knowledge, which is to say, into maximal consciousness.

This is the aim of the incarnation as well as the Creation, which wants each being to attain its perfection.

Very sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 267-268.