Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

To Horst Scharschuch

Dear Herr Scharschuch, 1 September 1952

There can be no doubt that the unconscious comes to the surface in modern art and with its dynamism destroys the orderliness that is characteristic of consciousness.

This process is a phenomenon that can be observed in more or less developed form in all epochs, as for instance under primitive conditions where the habitual way of life, regulated by strict laws, is suddenly disrupted, either by outbreaks of panic coupled with wild lawlessness at solar and lunar eclipses, or in the form of religious license as in the Dionysian orgies, or during the Middle Ages in the monasteries with the reversal of the hierarchical order/ and today at carnival time.

These episodic or regular disruptions of the accustomed order should be regarded as psycho-hygienic measures since they give vent from time to time to the suppressed forces of chaos.

At the present day such things are obviously taking place on the largest scale because the cultural order has suppressed the primitive disorderliness too long and too violently.

If one views modern art prospectively, as I think one can, it plainly announces the uprush of the dissolvent forces of disorder.

It clears the air by abolishing the constraints of order.

I myself am inclined to view what rushes up as the opposite of art, since it very evidently lacks order and form.

The uprushing chaos seeks new symbolic ideas which will embrace and express not only the previous order but also the essential contents of the disorder.

Such ideas would have a magical effect by holding the destructive forces of disorder spellbound, as has been the case in Christianity and in all other religions.

In ancient tradition this magic is called white magic; black magic, on the other hand, exalts the destructive forces into the only valid truth in contrast to the previous order, and moreover compels them to serve the individual in contrast to the collective.

The means used for this purpose are primitive, fascinating, or awe-inspiring ideas and images, unintelligible incantations, outlandish words and shapes, savage rhythms, drumming and suchlike.

In so far as modern art uses such means as ends in themselves and thereby increases the state of disorder it can be described outright as black magic.

The daemonic, on the contrary, rests entirely on the unconscious forces of negation and destruction and on the reality of evil.

The existence of the daemonic is demonstrated by the fact that black magic is not only possible but uncannily successful, so much so that it is tempting to assume that black magicians are possessed by a daemon.

Hitler’s magic, for instance, consisted in his always saying what everybody was afraid to say out loud because it was considered too disreputable and inferior (resentment against the Jews).

But his daemonism lay in the fact that his methods were uncannily effective and that he himself obviously became the victim of the daemon which had taken total possession of him.

The study of these questions must of course begin with a thorough knowledge of primitive magical practices.

I would advise you to read the book by Mircea Eliade, Le Chamanisme, also the Philosophia Occulta of Agrippa von Nettesheim and some of the writings of Paracelsus, for instance Liber Azoth.

In Paracelsus especially you will find a lot about sympathetic magic.

You will also find the same kind of suggestive neologisms that characterize the latest German philosophy-the incomprehensible words, signs, antics, etc.

You may get something out of my little book Paracelsica (1942).

I should also mention the theory of Albertus Magnus that when anyone gives free rein to violent emotion and in this state wishes evil, it will have a magical effect.

This is the quintessence of primitive magic and of the corresponding mass phenomena like Naziism, Communism, etc.

Ernst Robert Curtius once described James Joyce’s classic Ulysses as “infernal”-quite rightly.

I fear this description can also be applied to long stretches of modern art in all its forms.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung, Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 81-83