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Red Book

To Lad is K. Kristof

Dear Herr Kristof, July 1956

Since, as you know, I am not a philosopher but an empiricist, my concept of the collective unconscious is not a philosophical but an empirical one.

I designate by this term all our experiences of “behaviour patterns” in so far as these support or cause the formation of certain ideas.

By the latter I mean mythic ideas in the broadest sense of the word, such as can be observed in mythology and folklore as well as in the dreams, visions, and fantasies of normal and psychically ill persons.

The existence and spontaneous emergence of such ideas independently of tradition and migration permit the inference that there is a universal psychic disposition, an instinct, which causes the formation of typical ideas.

The disposition or instinctual “pattern” is inherited, but not the idea itself.

This consists of recent, individually acquired elements.

While the inference of a universal psychic disposition of this kind is sufficiently assured by experience, I feel less certain when it comes to the question of hereditary “ramifications,” i.e., specific differentiations conditioned by locality or race.

It seems to me altogether possible and even probable that such differentiations really do exist (like the wingless insects of the Galapagos Islands) regardless of theoretical prejudices.

But as yet I have found no certain proofs.

In order to decide this question, one would have to undertake very extensive researches which would far exceed my capacities.

I therefore regret that I can give you no clear answer on this point.

The problem of the relation of a people or culture with the collective unconscious has nothing to do with the question of its nature or with its differentiation.

I have had ample opportunity to convince myself that the Indians and Chinese have just as little relation to the collective unconscious as Europeans.

You find a better relation only among primitives.

The development of consciousness proceeds at the cost of the relation
to the unconscious.

Primitives have evolved a number of techniques for making it conscious and in [Eastern] cultures these have reached a high degree of differentiation.

In our highly developed modern cultures these techniques are dying out and the question of the relation to the collective unconscious is becoming obsolete.

It is only modern psychology that has taken up the problem again.

It should be added that the religions, so long as they are alive, have never
ceased to foster the relation to the unconscious in one form or another.

Yours Sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 319-320.