Jung-White Letters

In this footnote, added in 1952 to his lecture, “The Frontiers of Theology and Psychology,” which became Chapter V of God and the Unconscious (orig. pub. 1952; Spring ed., 1982, pp. 75£),

White lays out the traditional position of the Catholic Church on the problem of evil.

The paragraph breaks have been added for legibility.

Since Jung’s essay on the Trinity was written the discussion on the nature of good and evil has been elaborated with some warmth by both parties, e.g., by the present writer in Dominican Studies, Vol. II, 1949, p. 399, and at length by Jung in Aion (1951), pp. 69ff.

So far, the discussion appears to have generated more heat than light – an indication that the issues at stake may prove to be of vital importance, and that some strong resistances are yet to be overcome before understanding is to be reached.

Of the position of traditional Catholic thought as formulated by Aquinas, the following may be briefly noted:

(1) There is no formal dogma of the Church on the subject.

(2) But inasmuch as the meaning of basic human words, and those indicative of fundamental human values, is at stake, the matter cannot be lightly dismissed as an academic logomachy.

(3) As Jung himself shows in Aion, the conception of evil as a privation of good is asserted by the Fathers of both East and West.

( 4) They do not deny, as might a “Christian Scientist”, the reality of evil ( on the contrary they vigorously affirm it); their concern is with the further question: In what does that reality consist? Or, What is it that constitutes x to be “evil” and not “good”?

(5) Their answer is that it is always the absence (the privatio, not the negation) of a real good from a real subject – evil has no positive existence of itself – as blindness is real (but consists in the absence of sight from a real man) or darkness is real (but consists in the absence of light).

(6) This absence may indeed result from a presence (as the presence of a cataract causes the absence of sight – and the “better” the cataract the “worse” the sight) but does not consist in it.

(7) This conception is no a priori “metaphysic”, but is empirically verifiable by an analysis of meaning whenever the words “good”, “evil”, or their equivalents are used.

Jung has our keenest support and sympathy in deploring the minimizing of evil which leads to its repression, with its devastating results for the individual psyche and for society; but we are unable to find evidence that the conception of the privatio bani has contributed to this.

On the other hand, we are unable to find any intelligible, let alone desirable, meaning in such fundamental Jungian conceptions as the “assimilation of the shadow” if they are not to be understood as the supplying of some absent good (e.g.,consciousness) to what is essentially valuable and of itself “good”. ~Victor White, Jung-White Letters, Appendix V, Page 246-247