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Carl Jung: Since no human need is without a reason


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Letters Volume II

To Bernhard Lang

Dear Colleague, 8 June 1957

Sincerest thanks for your kind letter.

An author is always delighted to learn that his voice has been heard.

He could wish for nothing better.

I should be grateful if you would tell me again what you think Martin Buber was trying to prove to me.

I could not decipher the word.

Buber is of the erroneous opinion that a metaphysical assertion is either true or untrue, and he doesn’t understand that as a psychologist and psychiatrist I regard what is said and believed primarily as a statement which, though a fact in itself, cannot be asserted to be true or untrue.

For instance, I can examine the statement that Christ rose up at Easter in the body from the psychological standpoint without at the same time maintaining it is true or untrue.

One can say of all metaphysical statements that their factuality Consists in the fact of their being asserted, but none of them can be proved to be true or untrue.

It does not come within the scope of a science like psychology to ascertain the truth or untruth of metaphysical assertions.

It is a thoroughly outmoded standpoint, and has been so ever since the time of Immanuel Kant, to think that it lies within the power of man to assert a metaphysical truth.

This is and remains the prerogative of belief.

Belief in turn is a psychological fact, though it is far from being a proof.

The most it tells us is that such a belief exists, and that the belief meets a psychological need.

Since no human need is without a reason, we may also expect That the need for metaphysical assertions is based on a corresponding reason, even if we are not conscious of this reason.

Nothing is thereby asserted, nothing denied, and this is just what Buber doesn’t understand; for he is a theologian who naively thinks that what he believes must necessarily be so.

We shall never be able to understand other philosophies or religions if everyone thinks his conviction is the only right one.

Thus Buber blandly assumes that everyone thinks the same as he does when he says “God.”

But in reality Buber means Yahweh, the orthodox Christian means the Trinity, the Mohammedan Allah, the Buddhist Buddha, the Taoist Tao, and so on.

Everyone insists on his standpoint and imagines he possesses the sole truth; therefore I counsel modesty, or rather the willingness to suppose that God can express himself in different languages.

But it is the theologians of every variety who buttonhole God and Prescribe to him what he has to be like in their estimation.

This leads to no understanding between men, of which we stand in such dire need today.

My apparent scepticism is only a recognition of the epistemological barrier, of which Buber doesn’t seem to possess the ghost of an idea.

When I say that God is first and foremost our conception, this is twisted into God is “nothing but our conception.”

In reality there is a background of existence which we can intuit at most but cannot transpose into the sphere of our knowledge.

In any case a serious science should not succumb to this arrogance.

The relation with transcendence is certainly a necessity for us, but gives us no power over it.

With collegial regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 367-368