Jung-White Letters

My Dear Professor Jung:                       23.10.4547

It is over a week since your letter of October 5th reached me, but this is the very first opportunity I have had even to begin to answer it.

My life is so full and busy these days that it is seldom I can get an hour without interruption; so please forgive my delay and the disjointedness of what may follow!

It is quite impossible for me to express my gratitude to you for your letter or to tell you how much it has meant to me.

For some time past I have found myself ploughing a rather lonely furrow, painfully aware of the inadequacy of my experience on the psychological side, and of my need for expert and understanding guidance ~ at least to the extent of some reassurance that I was not positively on the wrong lines from the psychological standpoint.

The matter is one that has come to affect the whole of my life and work profoundly. My principal job in life is that of professor of Dogmatic Theology in this Dominican House of studies (also open to other theological students), and, since reading your books, and still more since my own analysis,

I have found myself more and more compelled to expound the “Summa” of St.Thomas Aquinas in psychological terms and with constant reference to its vast psychological relevance and implications.

But besides my daily theological lectures here, I have to do a good deal of more popular lecturing, both here in Oxford, in London and in other parts of the country; and latterly I have been receiving an increasing number of invitations to address various societies – clerical (non-Catholic even more than Catholic!) lay, and even medical – on some subject or other connected with “Psychology and Religion”.

In addition to this I have somehow accumulated an increasing amount of more personal work:

I do not know whether to describe it as Seelsorge or Psychotherapie! It is usually a concoction of both, varying greatly in proportion
according to circumstances.

I have not sought this work – quite the contrary. But I too have learned (though it took a lot of learning!) to try to make it my principle “not to seek the place where I might do something useful, but to do it where I actually was”.

So far as possible I have tried to limit my activities to that of liaison between needy souls and professional psychotherapists: introducing them, when possible, to suitable analysts, or “taking over” from analysts when they want “religion”.

But it has not always been possible so to limit my activities, and circumstances have often arisen when I have felt obliged to take on the whole job myself.

Of course I well understand that approval of the general drift of my writings does not imply approval of my practical methods; but your assurance that I have in the main “understood” your work aright is a greater relief and comfort to me than I can possibly say.

Nor is it possible for me to express how great is my appreciation and gratitude that you should have written to me at such length
and with such candour.

Need I say how entirely I agree and sympathise with your point of view throughout?

I sympathise particularly with you in the difficulties which you have encountered with the theologians – and philosophers! I have, of course, met with plenty of the same difficulty myself.

Despite the lip-service paid to St. Thomas Aquinas, his magnificent conception (so much, I think, akin to your own) of the relative autonomy of the various sciences, each differentiated by its particular methods and “rationes cognoscibiles”, seems to be largely forgotten in our day.

The results are, in my opinion, quite deplorable.

Religion tends to become an escape-mechanism, and Catholic psychologists are often more “materialistic” than the “materialists”.

But, small as they are, there are developments among English Catholics which would I think interest and perhaps astonish you.

Among my own colleagues in the Dominican Order in England there are now several who are keenly interested in your work.

I can at least guarantee that all the students for the priesthood who attend my lectures are acutely aware of the psychological implications of dogmatic theology!

My colleague, the Professor of Holy Scripture, has a quite extraordinary insight into the interplay of archetypal motifs in the Bible and its psychological relevance; he too is lecturing in London and elsewhere and drawing extraordinary numbers of people to his present series on the Apocalypse! Fr. Gerald Vann’s widely read book,

“The Heart of Man”,  owes much to your work. Another of our priests, my first analysant,56 is doing fine work in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

But I think the most influential book has been “Catholic Thought and Modern Psychology” by a simple and unsophisticated country parish-priest, Father Witcutt.

It is a quite extraordinary phenomenon, as the author had never met a psychologist in his life when he wrote it, with no other background
whatever except your own books!

It is, in my opinion, a very naive book, which skims too easily over most of the problems, and tends to take a far too static and “semiotic” view of symbolism.

But it was just the kind of book needed to break down much suspicion and prejudice, and it has already, I believe, been reprinted two or three times, and is being translated into Spanish and Portuguese! Fr. Witcutt has a quite extraordinary knowledge of English folklore and fiction, and I am expecting very valuable work from him. I wonder if you have seen this book?

If not, I will certainly write to ask him to send you a copy.

I did not know him at all when he wrote it, and it quite astonishes me that he suddenly produced it from his little country presbytery without any help or collaboration whatsoever!

It might also interest you that a Benedictine monk is engaged on a comparative study of traditional “spiritual direction” (especially as represented by Father Augustine Baker in the 17th century) with modern analytical methods.

All this is, indeed, but a grain of mustard seed: the demand (especially the therapeutic demand) far exceeds the supply.

But I think you may be interested to hear of these distant, and perhaps quite unexpected, results of your own work!

Your letter is so full of stimulating things that I hardly know where to start – or stop! I have re-read, with renewed interest, your “gnoseological” note in “Psych. of the Unconscious”.

It is not very easy reading, at least in the English translation, but I think I agree in many respects.

Yet I wonder how far the Kantian dichotomy is not itself cause and symptom of the neurosis of Modern Man?

Do not the “two realities” themselves imply a deep split in the psyche; and when “God” has been banished from “Pure Reason” and wholly divorced from the field of Sensation, is He not bound to slip into unconsciousness and become, first a purely irrational, then an anti-rational and even pathological function?

My little experience in psychology itself has taught me to appreciate the therapeutic value of (for instance) St. Thomas Aquinas in contrast with Kant and the post-Kantians.

For him, “quod ollllles dicunt Deum”, while remaining super- (or, if you prefer, extra-) rational is necessarily implied (Summa, I.ii.3) and immanent (I.viii) in “quod sensu constat” , besides being expressible only in symbol (I.i.8) and analogy (I.xiii), and being the actual (though not necessarily the conscious) object of all Love and Desire.

I do not suggest that Modern Man can retrace the identical “Viae” of Aquinas; but it seems to me that the initial Kantian dichotomy

must somehow be overcome, and your own psychological work would seem to confirm that the transcending bridge can never be built from one side only.

I think that you yourself have wonderfully stated the essential problem  for us to-day in your essay on “Psychic Energy” – in terms, that is to say, of the relation of “psychical” and “physical” energy.

Obviously it was not your job to solve this knotty problem; but equally certainly its solution must condition our understanding of psychological language itself.

You yourself have made every possible “caveat” to the effect that words like Psyche, Unconscious, Introversion, Extraversion etc. are not to be given an ontological or gnoseological meaning.

Yet I think it is not only the theologians and philosophers who have failed to appreciate your rigid and stern empiricism.

I thoroughly agree for instance that Layard’s essay in your Festschrift67 is magnificent – but I wonder if you would agree that “the
maxim that nothing exists outwardly that did not previously exist internally is fundamental to Jung’s teaching” (p.264)?

Setting aside the question as to what meaning spatial language about “outward” and “inward” can have with respect to the psyche (which, as you say, “can be regarded as a relatively closed system” – “Contributions,” p.6) – is there any possible empirical warrant for such an assertion about existence? It seems to me that there neither is nor can be …

But I must resist the temptation to bore you by riding this hobby horse any

further; though it seems to me a question of the uttermost importance, not only from the theological and philosophical standpoint, but also from the therapeutic …

I feel most truly penitent at having accused you of rejecting the “transcendence” of God altogether. I fully realize that that is not so, though readers are apt to gain that impression from one or two passages in “Ps. Types” and “Ps. and Religion”.

My “Frontiers” essay was written some two or three years ago when my ideas on the subject were somewhat more fluid.

But I realise that the statement was libellous, and I shall certainly see that it is changed if there is another edition. Unfortunately there has already been a second impression, but I was given no opportunity to revise the proofs.

You will find the idea that the Holy Spirit (unlike the Father and the Son) “non habet nomen proprium”72 developed by St. Thomas in “Summa” I.xxxvi sqq.

The point would seem to be that whereas the First and Second Person can be represented by proper logical concepts (though of course only analogically), the Third Person can not, but can only be conceived or named by concepts or words which belong also to Father and Son. (“Father” is NOT “Son” nor “Son” “Father”; “Begotten” not “Unbegotten” etc. etc.

But “Father” and “Son” are ALSO “Holy”, “Spirit”, “Love”, “Gift” and every other concept or name we can give to the Third Person.)

The point may seem a bit recondite, but was it quite fantastic of me to feel that you had sensed the same truth when you wrote:

“Der Hl. Geist als Leben ist … ein Begriff, der keineswegs aus der Identitat von Yater u. Sohn logisch abgeleitet werden kann, sondern vielmehr eine psychologische Idee, d.h. eine auf einer irrationaler Uranschauung beruhende Gegebenheit darstellt”?

At all events, the doctrine seems to be an interesting confirmation of the “irrationality” of the “transcendent function”.

I read German moderately well, and of course should love to have a copy of your new book on Alchemy.

So far as I know there is only one copy in England as yet, and that is being devoured by members of the London A.P. Club ,so I have not yet been able to see it.

I wish you could meet my friend Dr. Sherwood Taylor, custodian of the Old Ashmolean Science Museum, a chemist and historian of some distinction, who has somehow found his way from “materialism” through his study of alchemy to Tao and Catholicism!

He was at one time an editor of “Ambix” – a periodical which you may have met with, devoted to the history of alchemy.

I think he still has a number of offprints of some of the alchemical texts he has edited – Zosimos, Stephanos, etc. If you would like to have any that are available, I am sure he would be delighted and honoured to send them to you.

He is in the main agreed with your thesis in “Integration of the Personality”, but considers that the earlier alchemy was in the main “extraverted” and produced undoubtedly “real” chemical transmutations.

Both of us incline to wonder if the Mass-idea and the Alchemy-idea can be so sharply opposed as is suggested on pp.232-233.

For many of the Alchemists, it would seem that the “opus” was primarily an “opus” of God and of Grace; while the idea that in the Mass “man … leaves the work of salvation to the autonomous divine figure” sounds rather like reading Protestant “sola fide” and “extrinsic
imputation” into a Catholic context. (For a Catholic, while the “opus” of the Mass is indeed Christ’s, it is only efficacious by reason of the soul’s participation in and with Him).

At any rate, it is difficult to find any trace of any opposition to alchemy as such on the part of the Church, or any difficulty on the part of good Catholics to performing the alchemical “opus”.

I gather that quite a number of my own Dominican colleagues in the past were noted from their proficiency in the Art!

I see that I began this letter on the 23rd of October, it is now the 29th. – so many have been the interruptions that have prevented me from getting on with it.

But it is already so long that I am afraid you will hardly have the patience to read so far, and I must bring it to an end.

How very much do I also wish that I could indeed be “at your elbow”, though very much aware that the benefit would be far greater on my side. I am afraid however that that is impossible and that I must continue to try to “be useful where I actually am”.

But perhaps I may have the boldness to say that nothing on earth could please or profit me more than to be able to visit you – if only for two or three days. In termtime that is impossible, but perhaps, if you were willing, it might be possible during the Easter or Summer vacation. I certainly cannot feel that I have any such claim on your time and attention as you are so generous as to accord me, but there is very much indeed that I should love to talk over with you.

Thanking you once again for your enormous help and encouragement, Yours very sincerely, FR. VICTOR WHITE, O.P.

P.S. In a separate envelope I am taking the liberty of sending you one or two other of my pamphlets – external circumstances and interior inhibitions alike seem to conspire to prevent my getting down to a sustained and serious book!

The pamphlet on “Scholasticism” was written many years ago and long before I knew anything about psychology, but may be of some interest.

That on Hilton may be of some interest as a “popular” exposition of a native “spiritual writer” of the Middle Ages in terms of your psychology; it was intended for a mainly non-Catholic audience.

I have kept formal psychology in the background of the “De Modo Studendi”, but it may be of some interest as illustrating the fashion in which I have found your psychology to illuminate my understanding of St. Thomas Aquinas. ~Victor White, Jung-White Letters, Page 15-22