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Letters Volume II

To Bernhard Lang

Dear Colleague, 14 June 1957

Your letter astounded me.

What Buber knows of me is based exclusively on my writings, or rather only on bits of them.

He has completely misunderstood them because he has no conception of psychology.

Psychology as I understand it is a science and not an opinion.

So when we are dealing with a metaphysical statement we are dealing with the fact that the psyche makes such a statement.

A descriptive science will therefore say: it is of the nature of the psyche to make such statements, no matter what their content may be.

It doesn’t matter whether it states a truth or not.

Thus when I remain within the confines of my science, the established truth consists in my proof that such statements are made, but not that they are true or untrue in the philosophical or religious sense.

Over and above this, psychology can establish in what relation these statements stand to the life of the psyche, and it will distinguish whether they are merely individual opinions or collectively valid ideas.

Taking the God-concept as an example, this is demonstrably grounded on archetypal premises corresponding essentially to the instincts.

They are given and inherited structures, the instinctual bases of psychic behaviour as well as of thinking.

These structures possess a natural numinosity (i.e., emotional value) and consequently a certain degree of autonomy.

When, for instance, a so-called epiphany occurs, it is the projected appearance of this psychic structure, that is, of an image based on the archetypal structure.

Owing to the autonomy and numinosity of the structure it appears as if it had a life of its own, different from my life.

We then say: God has appeared.

What can be established is not that God has appeared, but on closer examination the structure of an archetype.

Thus far can science go.

It cannot cross this threshold and assert that it was God himself.

Only belief can do that.

I do not appeal to this belief.

In view of my human imperfection, I am satisfied with the statement that I have seen a divine image, but I am unable to make out whether it is God himself.

Outside this image and its dynamic qualities, it is utterly impossible for me to make out anything about the nature of God.

So when I say (in “The Undiscovered Self”) that the social and political independence of the individual is guaranteed only by the feeling that he is “anchored in God,” I mean that he divines the relationship through this intense inner experience.

No one in his right senses would assert that the idea he has formed of a thing through his experience of it is identical with the nature of that thing.

If he did, he would immediately collide with the fact that there are thousands of other opinions about this same thing, some of them like his own, others totally different, because no man can agree with another to the point where their respective ideas would be identical.

Buber completely overlooks the existence of the individual psyche.

He also thinks he can override all other ideas of God by assuming that his God-image is the God-image.

I am far from denying the possibility that our psychic structure projects an image of something.

But there is no reason whatever to suppose that the psychic image reflects the nature of its unknowable background either completely or in part or not at all; we cannot jump over our own heads since all we can ever assert is our own conception.

No one can get round the self-limitation of human judgment; it is part of our human limitation in general.

The psyche has its own intrinsic reality which cannot be got rid of by believing in something.

What I assert is not belief but knowledge, not of God himself but of the facts of the psyche.

Apparently they are totally unknown to Buber, even though Plato has expounded this whole problem with unsurpassable clarity in his parable of the cave.

To return to the psychic structure which projects the images or makes “metaphysical statements,” we do not know what it itself rests on.

We only know that something is there.

From this we may postulate that beyond the psychic structure there is something-a substrate, an ousia-about which it is impossible in principle to make any assertion because it would only be yet another conception.

Hoping I have expressed myself with sufficient clarity,

I remain,

with collegial regards,

Yours sincerely, c. G. J u N c ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 370-372.