Letters Volume I

To A. Pupato

Dear Colleague, 2 March 1934

The question I broached regarding the peculiarities of Jewish psychology does not presuppose any intention on my part to depreciate Jews, but is merely an attempt to single out and formulate the mental idiosyncrasies that distinguish Jews from other people.

No sensible person will deny that such differences exist, any more than he will deny that there are essential differences in the mental attitude of Germans and Frenchmen despite the fact that the French liver functions exactly like the German.

The mental attitude is only very tenuously connected with the liver, however.

When, on the other hand, it is a question of psychological theories, we must, for the sake of scientific justice, always criticize very carefully all conscious and unconscious assumptions, since the whole mass of an individual’s assumptions inevitably gets into any psychological theory.

Psychology differs from other sciences in that the object of investigation is at the same time the instrument of investigation.

That is why there is an infinity of psychological theories, each of which is patently connected with the historical assumptions of the individual in question.

Even in the phenomenology of the neuroses there are very distinct differences between German and French clinics, a fact that struck the old nerve doctors.

For instance, the typical “grande hysterie” we find in the Salpetriere is almost completely absent in the German clinical domain.

Again, nobody with any experience of the world will deny that the psychology of an American differs in a characteristic and unmistakable way from that of an Englishman.

It seems to me the height of absurdity … To point out this difference cannot possibly, in my humble opinion, be in itself an insult to the Jews so long as one refrains from value judgments.

If anyone seeking to pin down my peculiarities should remark that this or that is specifically Swiss, or peasant-like, or Christian, I just wouldn’t know what I should get peeved about, and I would be able to admit such differences without turning a hair.

I have never understood why, for instance, a Chinese should be insulted when a European asserts that the Chinese mentality differs from the European mentality.

Or is the well-known fact that the average Chinese gets along better with the French than with the English an insult to the French or to the English or to the Chinese?

It is my opinion that the peculiarity of the Jews might explain why they are an absolutely essential symbiotic element in our population.

If there actually were no differences between them and other people, there would be nothing to distinguish them at all and then there would also be nothing in the characteristic influence, amply attested by history, which they have exerted on their environment.

It must after all be supposed that a people which has kept itself more or less unadulterated for several thousand years and clung onto its belief in being “chosen” is psychologically different in some way from the relatively young Germanic peoples whose culture is scarcely more than a thousand years old.

It is true that I fight Freud’s psychology because of its dogmatic claim to sole validity.

The monotony of Freudian explanations obliterates the wealth of differences that do indeed exist.

I am persuaded that I am not doing another person a favour by tarring him with the brush of my subjective assumptions.

If I want a proper knowledge of his nature I must ascertain where and to what extent he is Different from me.

Then only is it possible for me to know him really objectively.

I would consider it most fortunate if, for example, Germany and France took the trouble to understand each other better and could appreciate and acknowledge each other’s characteristic values.

But the way things are, each explains the other in terms of the assumptions of its own psychology, as you can convince yourself daily by reading the French and German newspapers.

That people in some respects are also all alike is by this time a familiar fact, but it leads to no misunderstandings.

These come from the differences, which should therefore be a worthy object of investigation.

Yours very truly,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 147-149

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