Carl Jung Letter to Pere Lachat
Carl Jung Letter to Pere Lachat Kusnacht, 27 March 1954
It was very kind of you to send me your booklet on the reception and action of the Holy Spirit.
I have read it with special interest since the subject of the Holy Spirit seems to me one of current importance.
I remember that the former Archbishop of York, Dr. Temple, admitted, in conversation with me, that the Church has not done all that it might to develop the idea of the Holy Spirit.
It is not difficult to see why this is so, for to [“The spirit bloweth where it listeth.” John 3:8.]—a fact which an institution may find very inconvenient! In the course of reading your little book a number of questions and thoughts have occurred to me, which I set out below, since my reactions may perhaps be of some interest to you.
I quite agree with your view that one pauses before entrusting oneself to the “unforeseeable action” of the Holy Spirit.
One feels afraid of it, not, I think, without good reason.
Since there is a marked difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New, a definition is desirable.
You nowhere explain your idea of God. Which God have you in mind: The New Testament God, or the Old?
The latter is a paradox; good and demon-like, just and unjust at the same time, while the God of the New Testament is by definition perfect, good, the Summum Bonum even, without any element of the dark or the demon in him.
But if you identify these two Gods, different as they are, the fear and resistance one feels in entrusting oneself unconditionally to the Holy Spirit are easy to understand.
The divine action is so unforeseeable that it may well be really disastrous.
That being so, the prudence of the serpent counsels us not to approach the Holy Spirit too closely.
If, on the other hand, it is the New Testament God you have in mind, one can be absolutely certain that the risk is more apparent than real since the end will always be good. In that event the experiment loses its venturesome character; it is not really dangerous.
It is then merely foolish not to give oneself up entirely to the action of the Holy Spirit.
Rather one should seek him day by day, and one will easily lay hold of him, as Mr. Horton assures us.
In the absence of a formal statement on your part, I assume that you identify the two Gods.
In that case the Holy Spirit would not be easy to apprehend; it would even be highly dangerous to attract the divine attention by specially pious behaviour (as in the case of Job and some others).
In the Old Testament Satan still has the Father’s ear, and can influence him even against the righteous.
The Old Testament furnishes us with quite a number of instances of this kind, and they warn us to be very careful when we are dealing with the Holy Spirit.
The man who is not particularly bold and adventurous will do well to bear these examples in mind and to thank God that the Holy Spirit does not concern himself with us overmuch.
One feels, much safer under the shadow of the Church, which serves as a fortress to protect us against God and his Spirit.
It is very comforting to be assured by the Catholic Church that it “possesses” the Spirit, who assists regularly at its rites.
Then one knows that he is well chained up.
Protestantism is no less reassuring in that it represents the Spirit to us as something to be sought for, to be easily “drunk,” even to be possessed.
We get the impression that he is something passive, which cannot budge without us.
He has lost his dangerous qualities, his fire, his autonomy, his power.
He is represented as an innocuous, passive, and purely beneficent element, so that to be afraid of him would seem just stupid.
This characterization of the Holy Spirit leaves out of account the terrors of YHWH.
It does not tell us what the Holy Spirit is, since it has failed to explain to us clearly what it has done with the Deus absconditus.
Albert Schweitzer naively informs us that he takes the side of the ethical God and avoids the absconditus, as if a mortal man had the ability to hide himself when faced with an almighty God or to take the other, less risky side.
God can implicate him in unrighteousness whenever he chooses.
I also fail to find a definition of Christ; one does not know whether he is identical with the Holy Spirit, or different from him.
Everyone talks about Christ; but who is this Christ?
When talking to a Catholic or Anglican priest, I am in no doubt.
But when I am talking to a pastor of the Reformed Church, it may be that Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity and God in his entirety, or a divine man (the “supreme authority,” as Schweitzer has it, which doesn’t go too well with the error of the parousia), or one of those great founders of ethical systems like Pythagoras, Confucius, and so on. It is the same with the idea of God.
What is Martin Buber talking about when he discloses to us his intimate relations with “God”? YHWH?
The olden Trinity, or the modern Trinity, which has become something more like a Quaternity since the Sponsa has been received into the Thalamus?
Or the rather misty God of Protestantism?
Do you think that everyone who says that he is surrendering himself to Christ has really surrendered himself to Christ?
Isn’t it more likely that he has surrendered himself to the image of Christ which he has made for himself, or to that of God the Father or the Holy Spirit?
Are they all the same Christ —the Christ of the Synoptics, of the Exercitia Spiritualia, of a mystic of Mount Athos, of Count Zinzendorf, of the hundred sects, of Caux7 and Rudolf Steiner, and—last but not least—of St. Paul?
Do you really believe that anyone, be he who he may, can bring about the real presence of one of the Sacred Persons by an earnest utterance of their name?
I can be certain only that someone has called up a psychic image, but it is impossible for me to confirm the real presence of the Being evoked.
It is neither for us nor for others to decide who has been invoked by the holy name and to whom one has surrendered oneself.
Has it not happened that the invocation of the Holy Spirit has brought the devil on the scene?
What are invoked are in the first place images, and that is why images have a special importance.
I do not for a moment deny that the deep emotion of a true prayer may reach transcendence, but it is above our heads.
There would not even be any transcendence if our images and metaphors were more than anthropomorphism and the words themselves had a magical effect.
The Catholic Church protects itself against this insinuation expressis verbis, insisting on its teaching that God cannot go back on his own institutions.
He is morally obliged to maintain them by his Holy Spirit or his grace.
All theological preaching is a mythologem, a series of archetypal images intended to give a more or less exact description of the unimaginable transcendence.
It is a paradox, but it is justified.
The totality of these archetypes corresponds to what I have called the collective unconscious.
We are concerned here with empirical facts, as I have proved. (Incidentally, you don’t seem to be well informed about either the nature of the unconscious or my psychology.
The idea that the unconscious is the abyss of all the horrors is a bit out of date.
The collective unconscious is neutral; it is only nature, both spiritual and chthonic.
To impute to my psychology the idea that the Holy Spirit is “only a projection of the human soul” is false.
He is a transcendental fact which presents itself to us under the guise of an archetypal image, or are we to believe that he is really “breathed forth” by the Father and the Son?).
There is no guarantee that this image corresponds exactly to the transcendental entity.
The unconscious is ambivalent; it can produce both good and evil effects.
So the image of God also has two sides, like YHWH or the God of Clement of Rome with two hands; the right is Christ, the left Satan, and it is with these two hands that he rules the world.
Nicholas of Cusa calls God a complexio oppositorum (naturally under the apotropaic condition of the privatio boni ! )
YHWH’s paradoxical qualities are continued in the New Testament.
In these circumstances it becomes very difficult to know what to make of prayer.
Can we address our prayer to the good God to the exclusion of the demon, as Schweitzer recommends?
Have we the power of dissociating God like the countrywoman who said to the child Jesus, when he interrupted her prayer to the Virgin: “Shhh, child, I’m talking to your mother”? Can we really put on one side the God who is dangerous to us?
Do we believe that God is so powerless that we can say to him: “Get out, I’m talking to your better half?” Or can we ignore the absconditus?
Schweitzer invites us to do just this; we’re going to have our bathe in the river, and never mind the crocodiles.
One can, it seems, brush them aside. Who is there who can produce this “simple faith”?
Like God, then, the unconscious has two aspects; one good, favourable, beneficent, the other evil, malevolent, disastrous.
The unconscious is the immediate source of our religious experiences.
This psychic nature of all experience does not mean that the transcendental realities are also psychic; the physicist does not believe that the transcendental reality represented by his psychic model is also psychic.
He calls it matter, and in the same way the psychologist in no wise attributes a psychic nature to his images or archetypes.
He calls them “psychoids” and is convinced that they represent transcendental realities.
He even knows of “simple faith” as that conviction which one cannot avoid.
It is vain to seek for it; it comes when it wills, for it is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
There is only one divine spirit—an immediate presence, often terrifying and in no degree subject to our choice.
There is no guarantee that it may not just as well be the devil, as happened to St. Ignatius Loyola in his vision of the serpens oculatus, interpreted at first as Christ or God and later as the devil.
Nicholas of Flue had his terrifying vision of the absconditus, and transformed it later into the kindly Trinity of the parish church of Sachseln.
Surrender to God is a formidable adventure, and as “simple” as any situation over which man has no control.
He who can risk himself wholly to it finds himself directly in the hands of God, and is there confronted with a situation which makes “simple faith”
a vital necessity; in other words, the situation becomes so full of risk or overtly dangerous that the deepest instincts are aroused.
An experience of this kind is always numinous, for it unites all aspects of totality.
All this is wonderfully expressed in Christian religious symbolism: the divine will incarnate in Christ urges towards the fatal issue, the catastrophe followed by the fact or hope of resurrection, while Christian faith insists on the deadly danger of the adventure; but the Churches assure us that God protects us against all danger and especially against the fatality of our character.
Instead of taking up our cross, we are told to cast it on Christ.
He will take on the burden of our anguish and we can enjoy our “simple faith” at Caux.
We take flight into the Christian collectivity where we can forget even the will of God, for in society we lose the feeling of personal responsibility and can swim with the current.
One feels safe in the multitude, and the Church does everything to reassure us against the fear of God, as if it did not believe that He could bring about a serious situation.
On the other hand psychology is painted as black as possible, because it teaches, in full agreement with the Christian creed, that no man can ascend unless he has first descended.
A professor of theology once accused me publicly that “in flagrant contradiction to the words of Christ” I had criticized as childish the man who remains an infant retaining his early beliefs.
I had to remind him of the fact that Christ never said “remain children” but “become like children.”
This is one small example of the way in which Christian experience is falsified; it is prettied up, its sombre aspects are denied, its dangers are hidden.
But the action of the Holy Spirit does not meet us in the atmosphere of a normal, bourgeois (or proletarian!), sheltered, regular life, but only in the insecurity outside the human economy, in the infinite spaces where one is alone with the providentia Dei.
We must never forget that Christ was an innovator and revolutionary, executed with criminals.
The reformers and great religious geniuses were heretics.
It is there that you find the footprints of the Holy Spirit, and no one asks for him or receives him without having to pay a high price.
The price is so high that no one today would dare to suggest that he possesses or is possessed by the Holy Spirit, or he would be too close to the psychiatric clinic.
The danger of making oneself ridiculous is too real, not to mention the risk of offending our real god: respectability.
There one even becomes very strict, and it would not be at all allowable for God and his Spirit to permit themselves to give advice or orders as in the Old Testament.
Certainly everyone would lay his irregularities to the account of the unconscious.
One would say : God is faithful, he does not forsake us, God does not lie, he will keep his word, and so on.
We know it isn’t true, but we go on repeating these lies ad infinitum.
It is quite understandable that we should seek to hold the truth at arm’s length, because it seems impossible to give oneself up to a God who doesn’t even respect his own laws when he falls victim to one of his fits of rage or forgets his solemn oath.
When I allow myself to mention these well-attested facts the theologians accuse me of blasphemy, unwilling as they are to admit the ambivalence
of the divine nature, the demonic character of the God of the Bible and even of the Christian God.
Why was that cruel immolation of the Son necessary if the anger of the “deus ultionum” is not hard to appease?
One doesn’t notice much of the Father’s goodness and love during the tragic end of his Son.
True, we ought to abandon ourselves to the divine will as much as we can, but admit that to do so is difficult and dangerous, so dangerous indeed that I would not dare to advise one of my clients
to “take” the Holy Spirit or to abandon himself to him until I had first made him realize the risks of such an enterprise.
Permit me here to make a few comments. On pp. 11f.: The Holy Spirit is to be feared.
He is revolutionary especially in religious matters (not at all “perhaps even religious,” p. 11 bottom).
Ah, yes, one does well to refuse the Holy Spirit, because people would like to palm him off on us without telling us what this sacred fire is which killeth and maketh to live.
One may get through a battle without being wounded, but there are some unfortunates who do not know how to avoid either mutilation or death.
Perhaps one is among their number.
One can hardly take the risk of that without the most convincing necessity.
It is quite normal and reasonable to refuse oneself to the Holy Spirit.
Has M. Boegner’s life been turned upside down?
Has he taken the risk of breaking with convention (e.g., eating with Gentiles when one is an orthodox Jew, or even better with women of doubtful reputation), or been immersed in darkness like Hosea, making himself ridiculous, overturning the traditional order, etc.?
It is deeds that are needed. Not words:
- 13. It is very civil to say that the Holy Spirit is “uncomfortable and sometimes upsetting,” but very characteristic.
- 16. It is clear that the Holy Spirit is concerned in the long run with the collectivity (ecclesia), but in the first place with the individual, and to create him he isolates him from his environment, just as Christ himself was thought mad by his own family.
- 19. The Holy Spirit, “the accredited bearer of the holiness of God.”
But who will recognize him as such? Everyone will certainly say that he is drunk or a heretic or mad.
To the description “bearer of the holiness” needs to be added the holiness which God himself sometimes sets on one side (Ps. 89)
- 21. It is no use for Mr. Horton to believe that receiving the Holy Spirit is quite a simple business.
It is so to the degree that we do not realize what is at issue.
We are surrendering ourselves to a Spirit with two aspects.
That is why we are not particularly ready to “drink” of him, or to “thirst” for him.
We hope rather that God is going to pass us by, that we are protected against his injustice and his violence.
Granted, the New Testament speaks otherwise, but when we get to the Apocalypse the style changes remarkably and approximates to that of older times.
Christ’s kingdom has been provisional; the world is left thereafter for another aeon to Antichrist and to all the horrors that can be envisaged by a pitiless two faces represents the last and tragic chapter of the New Testament which would like to have set up a god exclusively good and made only of love.
This Apocalypse—was it a frightful gaffe on the part of those Fathers who drew up the canon?
I don’t think so. They were still too close to the hard reality of things and of religious traditions to share our mawkish interpretations and prettily
- 23. “Surrender without the least reserve.”
Would Mr. Horton advise us to cross the Avenue de l’Opera blindfold?
His belief in the good God is so strong that he has forgotten the fear of God.
For Mr. Horton God is dangerous no longer.
But in that case —what is the Apocalypse all about? He asks nevertheless, “To what interior dynamism is one surrendering oneself, natural or
When he says, “I surrender myself wholly to God,” how does he know what is “whole”?
Our wholeness is an unconscious fact, whose extent we cannot establish. God alone can judge of human wholeness.
We can only say humbly: “As wholly as possible.”
There is no guarantee that it is really God when we say “god.”
It is perhaps a word concealing a demon or a void, or it is an act of grace coincident with our prayer.
J 548 This total surrender is disturbing.
Nearly twenty years ago I gave a course at the Ecole Polytechnique Suisse for two semesters on the Exercitia Spiritualia of St. Ignatius.
On that occasion I received a profound impression of this total surrender, in relation to which one never knows whether one is dealing with sanctity
or with spiritual pride.
One sees too that the god to whom one surrenders oneself is a clear and well-defined prescription given by the director of the Exercises.
This is particularly evident in the part called the “colloquium,” where there is only one who speaks, and that is the initiand.
One asks oneself what God or Christ would say if it were a real dialogue, but no one expects God to reply.
- 26. The identity of Christ with the Holy Spirit seems to me to be questionable, since Christ made a very clear distinction between himself and the paraclete, even if the latter’s function resembles Christ’s.
The near-identity of the Holy Spirit with Christ in St. John’s Gospel is characteristic of the evangelist’s Gnosticism.
It seems to me important to insist on the chronological sequence of the Three Persons, for there is an evolution in three stages:
- The Father. The opposites not yet differentiated; Satan is still numbered among the “sons of God.” Christ then is only hinted at.
- God is incarnated as the “Son of Man.” Satan has fallen from heaven. He is the other “son.” The opposites are differentiated.
- The Holy Spirit is One, his prototype is the Ruach Elohim, an emanation, an active principle, which proceeds (as quintessence) a Patre Filioque.
Inasmuch as he proceeds also from the Son he is different from the Ruach Elohim, who represents the active principle of Yahweh (not incarnate, with only angels in place of a son). The angels are called “sons,” they are not begotten and there is no mother of the angels.
Christ on the other hand shares in human nature he is even man by definition.
In this case it is evident that the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son does not arise from the divine nature only, that is, from the second Person, but
also from the human nature.
Thanks to this fact, human nature is included in the mystery of the Trinity.
Man forms part of it.
This “human nature” is only figuratively human, for it is exempt from original sin. This makes the “human” element definitely doubtful inasmuch as man without exception, save for Christ and his mother, is begotten and born bearing the stamp of the macula peccati.
That is why Christ and his mother enjoy a nature divine rather than human.
For the Protestant there is no reason to think of Mary as a goddess.
Thus he can easily admit that on his mother’s side Christ was contaminated by original sin; this makes him all the more human, at least so far as the filioque of the Protestant confession does not exclude the true man from the “human” nature of Christ.
On the other hand it becomes evident that the Holy Spirit necessarily proceeds from the two natures of Christ, not only from the God in him, but also from the man in him.
There were very good reasons why the Catholic Church has carefully purified Christ and his mother from all contamination by the peccatum originate.
Protestantism was more courageous, even daring or—perhaps?—more oblivious of the consequences, in not denying—expressis verbis—the human nature (in part) of Christ and (wholly) of his mother.
Thus the ordinary man became a source of the Holy Spirit, though certainly not the only one.
It is like lightning, which issues not only from the clouds but also from the peaks of the mountains.
This fact signifies the continued and progressive divine incarnation.
Thus man is received and integrated into the divine drama.
He seems destined to play a decisive part in it; that is why. he must receive the Holy Spirit.
I look upon the receiving _of the Holy Spirit as a highly revolutionary fact which cannot take place until the ambivalent nature of the Father is recognized.
If God is the summum bonum, the incarnation makes no sense, for a good god could never produce such hate and anger that his only son had to be sacrificed to appease it.
A Midrash says that the Shofar is still sounded on the Day of Atonement to remind YHWH of his act of injustice towards Abraham (by compelling
him to slay Isaac) and to prevent him from repeating it.
A conscientious clarification of the idea of God would have consequences as upsetting as they are necessary.
They would be indispensable for an interior development of the trinitarian drama and of the role of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is destined to be incarnate in man or to choose him as a transitory dwelling-place.
“Non habet nomen proprium, says St. Thomas; because he will receive the name of man. That is why he must not be identified with Christ. „
We cannot receive the Holy Spirit unless we have accepted our own individual life as Christ accepted his.
Thus we become the “son’s of god” fated to experience the conflict—of the divine opposites, represented by the crucifixion.
Man seems indispensable to the divine drama.
We shall understand this role of man’s better if we consider the paradoxical nature of the Father.
As the Apocalypse has alluded to it (evangelium aeternum) and Joachim of Flora has expressed it, the Son would seem to be the intermediary between the Father and the Holy Spirit.
We could repeat what Origen said of the Three Persons, that the Father is the greatest and the Holy Spirit the least.
This is true inasmuch as the Father by descending from the cosmic immensity became the least by incarnating himself within the narrow bounds of
the human soul (cult of the child-god, Angelus Silesius).
Doubtless the presence of the Holy Spirit enlarges human nature by divine attributes.
Human nature is the divine vessel and as such union of the three.
This results in a kind of quaternity which always signifies totality, while the triad is rather a process, but never the natural division of the circle, the natural symbol of wholeness.
The quaternity as union of the Three seems to be aimed at by the Assumption of Mary dogma adds the feminine element to the masculine Trinity, the terrestrial element (virgo terra!) to the / spiritual, and thus sinful man to the Godhead.
For Mary in her/ character of omnium gratiarum mediatrix intercedes for the sinner (before the judge of the world. (She is his “paraclete.”)
She is his Paraclete like her prefiguration, the Sophia of the Old Testament.
Protestant critics have completely overlooked the symbolic I , aspect of the new dogma and its emotional value, which is a capital fault.
The “littleness” of the Holy Spirit stems from the fact that ] God’s pneuma dissolves into the form of little flames, remaining none the less intact and whole.
His dwelling in a certain number of human individuals and their transformation gnifies a very important step forward beyond “Christocentrism.”
Anyone who takes up the question of the Holy Spirit seriously is faced with the question whether Christ is identical with the Holy Spirit or different from him.
With dogma, I prefer the independence of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is one, a complexio oppositorum, in contrast to YHWH after the separation of the divine opposites symbolized by God’s two sons, Christ and Satan.
On the level of the Son there is no answer to the question of good and evil ; there is only an incurable separation of the opposites.
The annulling of evil by the privatio boni is a petitio principii of the most flagrant kind and no solution whatever.
I t seems to me to be the Holy Spirits task and charge to reconcile and reunite the opposites in the human individual through a special development of the human soul.
The soul is paradoxical like the Father; it is black and white, divine and demon-like, in its primitive and natural state.
By the discriminative function of its conscious side it separates opposites of every kind, and especially those of the moral order personified in Christ and Devil.
Thereby the soul’s spiritual development creates an enormous tension, from which man can only suffer.
Christ promised him redemption.
But in what exactly does this consist?
The imitatio Christi leads us to Calvary and to the annihilation of the “body,” that is, of biological life, and if we take this death as symbolic it is a state of suspension between the opposites, that is to say, an unresolved conflict.
That is exactly what Przywara has named the “rift,” the gulf separating good from evil, the latent and apparently incurable dualism of
Christianity, the eternity of the devil and of damnation. ( Inasmuch as good is real so also is evil.)
To find the answer to this question we can but trust to our mental powers on the one hand and on the other to the functioning of the unconscious, that spirit which we cannot control.
It can only be hoped that it is a “holy” spirit. The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the “transcendent
function” (cf. Psychological Types, para 828)
This function progressively unites the opposites.
Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries.
Besides this, it is a natural and spontaneous phenomenon, part of the process of individuation.
Psychology has no proof that this process does not unfold itself at the instigation of God’s will.
The Holy Spirit will manifest himself in any case in the psychic sphere of man and will be presented as a psychic experience.
He V thus becomes the object of empirical psychology, which he will need in order to translate his symbolism into the possibilities of this world.
Since his intention is the incarnation, that is, the realization of the divine being in human life, he cannot be a light which the darkness comprehendeth not.
On the contrary, he needs the support of man 1 and his understanding to comprehend the mysterium iniquitatis \ which began in paradise before man existed. (The serpent owes _his existence to God and by no means to man.
The idea: omne bonum a Deo, omne malum ab homine is an entirely false one.)
YHWH is inclined to find the cause of evil in men, but he evidently represents a moral antinomy accompanied by an almost complete lack of reflection.
For example, he seems to have forgotten that he created his son Satan and kept him among the other “sons of God” until the coming of Christ—a strange oversight
The data of the collective unconscious favour the hypothesis of a paradoxical creator such as YHWH.
An entirely good Father seems to have very little probability; such a character is difficult to admit, seeing that Christ himself endeavored to reform his
He didn’t completely succeed, even in his own logia.
Our unconscious resembles this paradoxical God.
That is why man is faced with a psychological condition which does not let him differentiate himself from the image of God (YHWH).
Naturally we can believe that God is different from the image of him that we possess, but it must be admitted on the other side that the Lord
himself, while insisting on the Father’s perfect goodness, has given a picture of him which fits in badly with the idea of a perfectly moral being.
(A father who tempts his children, who did not prevent the error of the immediate parousia, who is so full of wrath that the blood of his only son is necessary to appease him, who left the crucified one to despair, who proposes to devastate his own creation and slay the millions of mankind to save a very few of them, and who before the end of the world is going to replace his Son’s covenant by another gospel and complement the love by the fear of God.)
It is interesting, or rather tragic, that God undergoes a complete relapse in the last book of the New Testament
But in the case of an antinomian being we could expect no other development.
The opposites are kept in balance, and so the kingdom of Christ is followed by that of Antichrist.
In the> circumstances the Holy Spirit, the third form of God, become to extreme importance tor it is thanks to him that the man of good will is drawn
towards The” divine drama and mingled in it and the spirit is one.
In him the opposites are separated no longer.
Begging you to excuse the somewhat heretical character of my thoughts as well as their imperfect presentation, I remain, dear monsieur,
yours sincerely, C. G. Jung ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 679-691