Carl Jung: Finally, we come to the question, who are the dead, and what does it mean to answer them?
Finally, we come to the question, who are the dead, and what does it mean to answer them?
On June 13, 1958, Jung discussed this issue with Aniela Jaffe. He noted. that one could only find one’s myth
if one was together with one’s dead. He felt that he had given answers to his dead, and had relieved himself of the
burden of this responsibility. However, his answers were applicable to his dead.
There was a danger that others would repeat this parrot-fashion to avoid answering their own dead. The
question of whether the dead were spiritual or corporeal ancestors was unclear.
In another sense, Freud had left him an inheritance, a question directed towards him, which he had tried to
take further. There are several striking things in this discussion.
First, Jung indicates that his finding his myth could only take place in conjunction with his dead.
In this regard, his theology of the dead forms an essential component of his myth and the recuperation of
meaning. He draws attention to the fact that the answers that he has provided to his dead, in the form of his work,
may not at all be suitable for anyone else’s dead, and hence in the elaboration of their myths. Indeed, there is a
danger that they would simply borrow his to avoid the difficulty of articulating answers to their own dead.
Finally, there is the question of the identity of the dead. Are Jung’s ancestors simply the previous generations
of his family, his spiritual ancestry, such as Kant, Goethe, Nietzsche, and Swedenborg, or former associates such as
This issue of the identity of one’s ancestors and the questions that they posed was linked to the question of
karma. In this regard, he was particularly interested in Buddhist conceptions of karma. In Memories, he reflected:
“Am I a combination of the lives of these ancestors and I do embody these lives again? Have I lived before as
a specific personality, and I progress so far in that life that I am now able to seek a solution? I do not know. Buddha
left the question open, and I like to assume that he himself did not know with certainty … It might happen that I
would not need to be reborn again so long as the world needed no such answer, and that I would be entitled to
several hundred years of peace until someone was once more needed who took an interest in these matters and
could profitably tackle the task anew. I imagine that for a while a period of rest could ensue, until the stint I had done
in my lifetime needed to be taken up again. The Jung-Jaffe Protocols