J.B. Rhine: Letters 1923-1939: ESP and the Foundations of Parapsychology

For example, the following quotation is from a letter to Rhine that did not find its way into Jung’s two-volume set of letters:

I regretted very much not seeing you when you were in Europe.

Soon after you left I recovered from my illness and I have been able to finish a paper that is largely based upon your ESP experiment which, by the way, is intensely discussed over here by psychologists as well as physicists. (C. G. Jung, personal communication to J. B. Rhine, September 3, 1951) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 3

Jung uses the term cause in the conventional sense of an efficient cause involving some force,

energy, or information traveling from one well-defined object to another.

For example, in discussing synchronicity he writes,

We must give up at the outset all explanations in terms of energy, which amounts to saying that events of this kind cannot be considered from the point of view of causality, for causality presupposes the existence of space and time in so far as all observations are ultimately based upon bodies in motion. (Jung, 1978c, para. 836) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 3

Marie-Louise von Franz (1992), whose contribution to synchronicity is second only to Jung’s (see her book Psyche and Matter, 1992) clarifies this when she writes:

According to the Jungian view, the collective unconscious is not at all an expression of personal wishes and goals, but is a neutral entity, psychic in nature, that exists in an absolutely transpersonal way. Ascribing the arrangement of synchronistic events to the observer’s unconscious would thus be nothing other than a regression to primitive-magical thinking, in accordance with which it was earlier supposed that, for example, an eclipse could be “caused” by the malevolence of a sorcerer. Jung even explicitly warned against taking the archetypes (of the collective unconscious) or psi-powers to be the causal agency of synchronistic events. (p. 231) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 4

Like most of us, Rhine had difficulty accepting the idea of acausal connections. After nearly two decades of correspondence with Jung, and in response to a synchronicity paper by C. A. Meier (no English translation of Jung’s synchronicity essay was available then), Rhine wrote on July 17, 1954:

Professor Dr. C. G. Jung

Seestrasse 228



Dear Professor Jung:

I have just finished a letter, a very tardy one, to Professor Meier, attempting to answer

his question concerning my reaction to his paper on synchronicity.

I told him I was playing for time on that question and that psychologically he might have to classify me as a very cautious person.

At any rate, I was disposed to try to cling to the causality hypothesis, patching up the psychophysical interaction by supposing the necessary energetics.

I think it is possible that I simply do not understand all that synchronicity represents and involves in your concept of it.

It is not that I have any great confidence in causality or that I understand very much of what it might mean in a psychophysical interaction in any case. It is more a matter with me of taking very cautious, timid steps, and I do this partly because I am determined to go as far as I can in fact-finding in this area of problems.

There is a fair possibility that I may come upon the kind of evidence that can discriminate between causality and noncausality in the psychophysical realm.

I shall not make up my mind with any feeling of confidence, or finality for a long time to come in any case.

I think it would help enormously if I could read your latest book in English.

I do not see why so important a book cannot be brought out in several languages at the same time.

Certainly if you are right about synchronicity there will be a revolution in scientific thought and it could be a timely one.

I am eager to hear more about any developments that have followed the publication of your book.

Has anything come of any experiment such as Bender’s?

I have read a number of fairly good reviews but I still want the original in English.

Thank you for your good letter and best wishes for your continued good health.

Sincerely yours, J. B. Rhine. ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 4-5

Further on, we show how a more refined view of causality supports Rhine’s attempt to cling to it in understanding parapsychological phenomena. Jung promptly replied to Rhine’s letter on July 26,


Prof. J. B. Rhine

Parapsychological Laboratory

College Station

Durham, N. C.

Dear Professor Rhine,

Thank you for your kind letter! Synchronicity is indeed a difficult and involved problem.

The translation of my book into English is finished and the printing must be on the way,

so that you will have a chance to read it rather soon.

I must warn you though that in spite of all sorts of alterations I have made, it is still a difficult book that appeals chiefly to the thinking function as it consists in its main substance of the description of a point of view rather unfamiliar to our epoch.

Certain main points of my book have not been understood at all, but that is what I have always seen with my books: I just have to wait for about 10 or 20 years until certain readers appear understanding what my thought is.

That sounds most arrogant, and everybody is free to think that I am writing a particularly unclear and obscure style.

The writer himself has to suspend his own judgment.

As far as I can see, my book has not had any noticeable effect yet, with the exception of Prof. Bender’s experiments.

I have seen him recently, and he told me that he pursues his experiments with success. My best wishes to you; I always remember our rather noisy lunch at the Ambassador’s. ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 4-5

When V. Mansfield (V. M.) got copies of the Rhine-Jung letters, he read the first half of them just before going to bed. He thought “these are interesting letters, but there is nothing earthshaking in them.”

He then had the following short dream: “I am carrying the letters around in a knapsack and telling people how important they are.”

He had also just finished reading the fairy tale, “Brother Lustig” (Grimm & Grimm, 1972), in which Saint Peter is an initiatory trickster figure who rewards Lustig with a magic knapsack.

Anything Lustig wishes into the knapsack instantly appears there.

At the end of the tale, Saint Peter denies Lustig entrance into heaven.

Lustig then tricks Saint Peter into taking back the knapsack and then wishes himself inside the knapsack.

Instantly he finds himself in the knapsack in heaven, where Saint Peter relents and allows him to stay. ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 6

Where is our neurosis trying to lead us? What does it demand of us?

As Jung said:

By finality I mean merely the immanent psychological striving for a goal. Instead of striving for a goal one could also say sense of purpose. All psychological phenomena have some such sense of purpose inherent in them…. (1978a, para. 456) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 8

This timeless knowledge, implicit in the individuation process, gradually reveals itself to the ego through unconscious compensation and occasionally through synchronistic experiences. Jung (1978c) comments:

Whether we like it or not, we find ourselves in this embarrassing position as soon as we begin seriously to reflect on the teleological processes in biology or to investigate the compensatory function of the unconscious, not to speak of trying to explain the phenomenon of synchronicity.

Final causes, twist them how we will, postulate a foreknowledge of some kind. It is certainly not a knowledge that could be connected with the ego, and hence not a conscious knowledge as we know it, but rather a self-subsistent “unconscious” knowledge which I would prefer to call “absolute knowledge.” (para. 931) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 7

Von Franz (1992) stresses the meaning and unity that are both so central to synchronicity:

For Jung, individuation and realization of the meaning of life are identical—since individuation means to find one’s own meaning, which is nothing other than one’s own connection with Universal Meaning.

This is clearly something other than what is referred to today by terms such as information, superintelligence, cosmic or universal mind—because feeling, emotion, the Whole of the person, is included.

This sudden and illuminating connection that strikes us in the encounter with a synchronistic event represents, as Jung well described, a momentary unification of two psychic states: the normal state of our consciousness, which moves in a flow of discursive thought and in a process of continuous perception that creates our idea of the world called “material” and “external”; and of a profound level where the “meaning” of the Whole resides in the sphere of “absolute knowledge.” (p. 258) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 10

It is precisely this unification of our image of the material world with the deepest levels of our being that makes synchronicity such a revolutionary idea, with repercussions far beyond

psychology. Whatever the archetypal meaning in a synchronicity experience, the expression of unity is always paramount.

As von Franz (1975) says:

The most essential and certainly the most impressive thing about synchronicity occurrences … is the fact that in them the duality of soul and matter seems to be eliminated.

They are therefore an empirical indication of an ultimate unity of all existence, which Jung, using the terminology of medieval natural philosophy, called the Unus Mundus.” (p. 247) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 10

After one of Rhine’s many requests for him to write down his parapsychological experiences, Jung (1975) wrote on September 25, 1953:

I am not sure whether I can get together all my reminiscences concerning parapsychlical events. There were plenty.

That accumulation of such tales does not seem to be profitable.

The collection by Gurney, Myers, and Podmore has produced very little effect.

People who know that there are such things need no further confirmation, and people not wanting to know are free, as hitherto, to say that one tells them fairy tales.

I have encountered so much discouraging resistance that I am amply convinced of the stupidity of the learned guild. (p. 126) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 11

  1. B. Rhine was a young psychology instructor at Duke University when he first wrote to Jung on

November 14, 1934:

Dear Doctor Jung:

After having seen your interesting contribution, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, I thought you might be remotely interested in my work published in a volume, Extra-Sensory Perception [Rhine, 1934], and I therefore asked the publishers to put your name on the list for complimentary copies. ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 11

The correspondence between Rhine and Jung continued, sometimes sporadically, over the next two decades, even during the war years.

They exchanged their more recent books, usually inquired about the other’s health, and frequently expressed appreciation and admiration for the ideas or achievements of the other.

On April 1, 1948, Jung (1973) wrote to Rhine about his book The Reach of the Mind (Rhine, 1947):

Dear Dr. Rhine,

I’ve read your book with greatest interest and I thank you very much for sending me more than one copy.

People read it a lot over here and I have recommended it to several physicists interested in psychological and parapsychological matters.

I think it is one of the greatest contributions to the knowledge of unconscious processes.

Your experiments have established the fact of the relativity of time, space and matter with reference to the psyche beyond any doubt. (p. 495) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 12

The problematic role of volition raises a difficulty, because Jung (1978c) also writes in his synchronicity essay:

Among Rhine’s experiments we must also mention the experiments with dice.

The subject has the task of throwing the dice (which is done by an apparatus), and at the same time he has to wish that one number (say 3) will turn up as many times as possible.

The results of this so-called PK (psycho-kinetic) experiment were positive, the more so the more dice were used at one time. (p. 434) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 14

Jung also had doubts about classifying the parapsychological as a type of synchronicity because of the lack of archetypal meaning in laboratory parapsychology.

For example, he writes (1978c):

Meaningful coincidences—which are to be distinguished from meaningless chance groupings—therefore seem to rest on an archetypal foundation.

As least all the cases in my experience—and there is a large number of them—show this characteristic …

Although anyone with my experience in this field can easily recognize their archetypal character, he will find it difficult to link them up with the psychic conditions in Rhine’s experiments, because the latter contain no direct evidence of a constellation of the archetype.

Nor is the emotional situation the same as in my examples.

Nevertheless, it must be remembered that with Rhine the first series of experiments generally produced the best results, which then quickly fell off.

But when it was possible to arouse a new interest in the essentially rather boring experiment, the results improved again. It follows from this that the emotional factor plays an important role.

Affectivity, however, rests to a large extent on the instincts, whose formal aspect is the archetype. (para. 846) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 16

If we examine Jung’s more inclusive notion of general acausal orderedness, of which synchronicity is a part, we can harmonize our strict interpretation of synchronicity with Jung’s broader use of the term.

Jung (1978c) describes this more inclusive acausal ordering principle:

I incline in fact to the view that synchronicity in the narrow sense is only a particular instance of general acausal orderedness—that namely, of the equivalence of psychic and physical processes where the observer is in the fortunate position of being able to recognize the tertium comparationis.

But as soon as he perceives the archetypal background he is tempted to trace the mutual assimilation of independent psychic and physical processes back to a (causal) effect of the archetype, and thus to overlook the fact that they are merely contingent.

This danger is avoided if one regards synchronicity as a special instance of general acausal orderedness. (p. 516)  ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 17

Jung (1975) explained in a letter of September 18, 1945, how reluctant he was to act on Rhine’s repeated pleas to write about the paranormal (including synchronicity) without a systematic collection of data:

Dear Dr. Rhine,

Your letter has been a great joy to me.

I have often thought of you in these last years and I also often mentioned your name and your experiments to many people.

I wish I could fulfill your wish but having a scientific conscience I feel very hesitant about it since, being a doctor, my observations are all of a clinical kind, which means that they are unavoidably subjective to a certain extent and never systematic in as much as they are all isolated cases and facts which form a rather incoherent mass, which would look like a collection of anecdotes.

I despise such a way of dealing with this matter and I would much prefer to be in a position to deal with a coherent material collected along certain scientific lines.

Of course I have had quite a number of noteworthy experiences, but you know how it is: circumstances and persons involved, though indispensably important for the explanation of the facts, cannot be described in a way that would convince the outsider.

It would all look hopelessly haphazard and pretty flimsy.

As you assume, I have thought a great deal about parapsychological facts and I tried to establish certain connections, but I always refrain from talking publicly about such matters for the above mentioned reasons. (pp. 378-379) ~Victor Mansfield, Rhine-Jung Letters, Page 18