To Herbert E . Bowman
Dear Dr. Bowman, 18 June 1958
Thank you ever so much for your kind and refreshing letter.
Believe me: there are rather few of this kind in my mail-bag.
As to your question “Why has the Self gone undiscovered?”
I must tell you that my American publisher had the grace to invent this title.
I would never have thought of it, as the self is not really undiscovered, it is merely ignored or misunderstood; but for the American public it seems to have been the right term.
The self is known in ancient and modern Eastern philosophy.
Zen philosophy is even fundamentally based on the cognition of the self.
In Europe, as far as I can make out, Meister Eckhart is about the first where the self begins to play a noticeable role.
After him some of the great German alchemists took up the idea and handed it down to Jacob Boehme and Angelus Silesius and kindred spirits.
Goethe’s Faust almost reached the goal of classical alchemy, but unfortunately the ultimate coniunctio did not come off, so that Faust and Mephistopheles could not attain their oneness.
The second attempt, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, remained a meteor that never reached the earth, as the coniunctio oppositorum had not and could not have taken place.
In the course of my psychiatric and psychological studies I could not help stumbling upon this very obvious fact and I therefore began to speak of the self again.
For about 1900 years we have been admonished and taught to project the self into Christ, and in this very simple way it was removed from empirical man, much to the relief of the latter, since he was thus spared the experience of the self, namely the unio oppositorum.
He blissfully does not know the meaning of the term.
If you are interested in the secret peripeteia of the spiritual development of Western man, I might mention to you my volume Aion (Rascher Verlag, Zurich, 1951), in which you find two essays, the one by M.-L. von Franz,concerning the transition of the antique mind into Christian form, and an essay of mine in which I deal with the transmutation of the Christian mind towards the end of the Christian aeon.
(The English version is on the way and is going to be printed by the Bollingen Press, New York.)
Thanking you again for your kind interest,
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 453-454.