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Letters Volume II

To Benjamin Nelson

Dear Professor Nelson, 17 June 1956

If I were younger I should take great pleasure in following your kind proposition to write a comprehensible essay about the confusing mass of opinions aroused by Freud’s essential discovery: the psychological enchainment of psychopathological phenomena and its consequences for normal psychology.

But-helas-in the meantime I have reached the age of 81 years with its inevitable reduction of efficiency, its fatigue, and its necessary restrictions.

Moreover the stimulus of novelty so tempting to a writer has lost its charm, as I have done this kind of work already in an almost forgotten past, when even Freud was still a strange, unknown, or misunderstood figure.

It is only within the last decade that his psychology was really taken notice of by academic minds and has penetrated the mental tenebrosities of the greater public.

It was simply not to be expected that my criticism or my different point of view or even my attempt at a further development of psychological research should have been understood or been noticed at all.

In the 18 or more volumes of my Collected Works I have said all I could possibly think

Whatever I might be able to write now would neither be new nor in any way better than the stuff I produced 30 or 40 years ago.

It is still neither read nor understood by my contemporaries.

In full ignorance of my work one is satisfied with misconceptions, distortions, and prejudices.

I cannot force people to take my work seriously and I cannot persuade them to study it really.

The trouble is that I don’t construct theories one can learn by heart.

I collect facts which are not yet generally known or properly appreciated, and I give names to observations and experiences unfamiliar to the contemporary mind and objectionable to its prejudices.

Thus my chief contribution to the further development of the psychology of the unconscious, inaugurated by Freud, suffers from the considerable disadvantage that the doctors interested in psychotherapy have practically no knowledge of the general human mind as it expresses itself in history, archaeology, philology, philosophy, theology, etc., which demonstrate so many aspects of human psychology.

It is the smallest part of the psyche, and in particular of the unconscious, that presents itself in the medical consulting room.

On the other hand the specialists of the said disciplines are far from any psychological or psychopathological knowledge and the general public is blissfully unaware of all medical as well as any other kind of real and well-founded knowledge.

The topics under discussion are of a highly complex nature.

How can I popularize things so difficult, and demanding such an unusual amount of specific knowledge, to a public that does not or cannot take the trouble to settle down to a careful study of the facts collected in many volumes?

How can anyone express the essentials of nuclear physics in two words?

The comparison of modern psychology to modern physics is no idle talk.

Both disciplines [physics/psychology] have, for all their diametrical opposition, one most important point in common, namely the fact that they both approach the hitherto “transcendental” region of the Invisible and Intangible, the world of merely analogous thought.

The truth of physics can be convincingly demonstrated by the explosion of an H-bomb.

The psychological truth is far less spectacular and only visible to a mind trained in Science as well as in many other often remote disciplines, that were never envisaged from a psychological point of view except in a most superficial and incompetent way. (Cf. f.i. Freud’s Totem and Taboo and The Future of an Illusion.)

I don’t claim any knowledge of modern physics myself, but I have worked together with the well-known physicist W. Pauli for a considerable time and as a result we were both satisfied with the fact that there is at least a very marked mutual rapprochement between the two most heterogeneous sciences in their epistemological preoccupations, i.e., in their antinomies (f.i. light = wave and corpuscle ), Heisenberg’s “Unbestimmtheitsrelation,” Bohr’s complementarity, not to speak of the archetypal models of representation.

(Cf. Jung a n d Pauli: Nature and Psyche.)

The reader is by far better prepared to understand physics, whereas the psychology of the unconscious is to him a terra incognita populated by the most absurd misconceptions and prejudices-which is always the case where ignorance reigns supreme.

The worst of ignorance is that it is never aware of how ignorant it is.

Recently it happened that an academic theologian accused me of esoterism because I use the word hierosgamos (a well-known technical term in comparative religion!!).

With the same right he could accuse every other discipline of indulging in esoterics simply because he does not understand its concepts.

That is the kind of thing I am up against.

I should have to write a voluminous book for the sole purpose of explaining the fundamentals of my psychology of the unconscious.

As a matter of fact I have written a good deal about elementary presuppositions.

But the trouble is that Freud alone is already an indigestible lump that keeps them busy to the end of their days.

Why bother about further complications?

I remember the years when Freud first appeared on the scene and when I fought my first battles for him.

What a mountain of prejudice, misunderstanding and mental inertia came down upon me!

It took more than half a century to make him acceptable.

He is not even yet so far understood that people would notice where something could be added or changed in his ideas, although there is no scientific truth that represents the last word.

The problem nearest to Freud’s heart was unquestionably the psychology of the unconscious, but none of his immediate followers has done anything about it.

I happen to be the only one of his heirs that has carried out some further research along the lines he intuitively foresaw.

As my modest attempts were judged to be almost blasphemous I have no earthly chance to write anything under my own name that would not be instantly branded with the mark of Cain.

It must needs be somebody else that is willing to risk his skin.

There is only one book that has seriously tried to tackle the thankless task of describing the development of depth psychology including my own contribution in its beginnings at least.

My later and more important work (as it seems to me) is still left untouched in its primordial obscurity.

The book is by Friedrich Seifert, professor of philosophy (!) in Munich.

As far as it goes it is a remarkably clear and objective piece of work and fills the bill of a fairly popular book.

I can recommend it warmly to your attention.

As far as I know, it is not translated yet.

Concerning my own writings I mention 3 articles about Freud:

“Sigmund Freud in His Historical Setting” (Character and Personality, London, Vol. I, No. 1, Sept. 1932; German in: Wirklichkeit der Seele, 1932 ).

“Freud and Jung: Contrasts” (in: Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Kegan Paul, London, 1933).

“Sigmund Freud” (in memoriam, Basler Nachrichten, 1 Oct. 1939)·

The last of these articles might be of interest to you.

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 306-310.