[Carl Jung on the Spiritual Exercises of the West]
Dear Pastor van Dijk, 25 February 1946
The question of meditation is really a problem of the first order.
I have read your brochure and gather that you want to put spiritual exercises on a Protestant basis.
Two different ways have developed in the West.
One is historical and probably originates in Benedictine contemplation Benedictine mysticism, the Victorines, and in particular the Itinerarium of St. Bonaventura .
Then we have the exercises of Loyola, stemming from Islam.
All these various Christian methods of contemplation and meditation have one thing in common : the image to be meditated upon as well as the kind of meditation are presented to the candidate from outside.
This meditation can do no more than merely fill out the image given.
If you want to compare the technique of modern psychotherapy with these old methods, you could understand it as something similar, since here too certain contents are reflected upon and observed though the system is different. In psychotherapy, dreams are subjected to meditative observation for the purpose of restoring the broken connection between consciousness and the unconscious or integrating the latter’s contents.
In this case, of course, no external object is prescribed for conscious meditation, it is always provided by the unconscious.
This kind of psychic experience goes back historically to philosophical alchemy, and in ecclesiastical tradition has superficial connections with the sects of the Free Spirit (13th cent. )
The two Christian trends have a considerably deeper connection with the psychology of Origen.
But the real source is to be found outside and prior to Christianity in those peculiar psychic processes reported by Apuleius in his Metamorphoses/ and in the Mithras Liturgy, the Acts of Thomas and of John.
With best thanks for your brochure,
Yours sincerely, C.G. Jung ~Letters Vol. 1, Pages 415-416.