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Carl Jung: The Life of the Spirit

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Letters Volume II

To Father Victor White

Dear Victor, 25 November 1950

I thank you very much indeed for kindly sending me The Life of the Spirit.

I have read your article with the greatest attention and interest.

Well, you have succeeded in putting the petra scandali very much in evidence.

Concerning the universale, you know, I have not much to say if I refrain from drawing conclusions and from speculating about the possible psychological consequences of the new dogma.

It is a fascinating subject, which is intensely discussed in Zurich.

It has released a series of dreams in me concerned with further developments, i.e., consequences of the new situation.

Quite against my expectation the declaration has stirred up something in the unconscious viz. in the archetypal world.

It seems to be the hierosgamos motif: the cut-down tree has been brought into the cave of the mother, in this case: the hold of a ship.

It takes up so much space that the people living in the cave are forced to leave it and to live outside exposed to wind and weather.

This motif refers to the night-sea-journey of the hero in the belly of the great fish-mother.

The universale, as you so neatly put it, is the interesting aspect of the dogma.

The particulare, on the other hand, is the thing as you obviously realize-that takes my breath away.

If the miracle of the Assumptio is not a living and present spiritual event, but consists of a physical phenomenon that is reported or only believed to have happened some 2000 years ago, then it has nothing to do with the spirit, or just as little as any parapsychological stunt of today.

A physical fact never proves the existence and reality of the spirit.

It only tries to concretize the spirit in material visibility.

Certainly the life and reality of the spirit are in no way demonstrated by the fact that 2000 years ago a body disappeared or other miracles happened.

Why should one insist upon the historical reality of this particular case of a virgin birth and deny it to all the other mythological traditions?

This insistence is particularly curious because it adds nothing to the significance of the idea; on the contrary it diverts the interest from the all-important spiritual aspect to a very questionable and completely irrelevant physical phenomenon.

I can only explain this peculiar tour de force as an attempt to prove the existence of the spirit to a coarse and primitive mind unable to grasp the psychic reality of an idea, a mind needing miracles as evidence of a spiritual presence.

It is more than probable that the idea of the Assumptio did not begin its real life in apostolic times but considerably later.

The miracle of the Assumptio obviously began to operate noticeably from the VI century onwards only.

If the A. means anything, it means a spiritual fact which can be formulated as the integration of the female principle into the Christian conception of the Godhead.

This is certainly the most important religious development for 400 years.

I am enclosing an article that has appeared in Neue Zurcher Zeitung.

It does not insist upon the concretistic historicity of the miracle but rather upon the Chris􀢢an nature of the idea.

I have not seen the text of the “definition” yet.

Could you lend me a copy?

Please return the article as I want to keep it.

To judge from this article, the “definition” does not insist upon the reality, but rather upon the belief in the reality of the Assumptio and thus upon the reality of the idea.

As you put it, it ·sounds rather like blatant materialism, which arouses the strongest objections.

If the A. is an essentially concrete historical fact, then it is no more a living spiritual experience.

It degenerates into a merely synchronistic effect in the past, just as interesting and curious as the departure of Elijah or the sensational disappearance of Enoch.

It is a mere side-stepping of the real problem, viz. the symbol of the A., whereas the really and only important

factor is the living archetype forcing its way into consciousness.

When insisting on historicity you risk not only the most awkward and unanswerable questions, but you also help everybody to tum his eyes away from the essential idea to the realistic crudity of a merely physical phenomenon, as it is only physical phenomena that happen in a distinct place at a distinct time, whereas the spirit is eternal and everywhere.

Even the corpus subtile is only relatively within time and space.

If we designate the A. as a fact in time and space we ought to add that it happens really in eternity and everywhere,

and what we perceive of it through our senses is corruptible matter, i.e., we don’t see it, but we infer or believe in the idea.

The conclusion took not less than 1900 years to reach its finale.

Under those conditions it seems to me preposterous to insist upon concrete historicity.

But if you say: I believe that Mary endowed with her corpus glorificationis (i.e., characterized by almost “corporeal” distinctiveness) has attained her place in the vicinity of the Deity, I can agree with you.

This seems to be also Mr. Karrer’ s opinion, and, as he points out, Mary wouldn’t be the only one.

There seems to be a certain traditional consensus that a life of religious wholeness (i.e., a conscious integration of the essential archetype) justifies the hope for a distinct existence in eternity.

The extension of such a consideration to Mary seems to be well within the scope of Christian


Yours cordially,

  1. G. Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 566-568