To Hans Schmid
Dear friend, 6 November 1915
In the meantime, and after long reflection, the problem of resistance to understanding has clarified itself for me.
And it was Brigitta of Sweden (1303-1373) who helped me to gain insight.
In a vision she saw the devil, who spoke with God and had the following to say about the psychology of devils:
“Their belly is so swollen because their greed was boundless, for they filled themselves and were not sated, and so great was their greed that, had they but been able to gain the whole world, they would gladly have exerted themselves, and would moreover have desired to reign in heaven.
A like greed is mine.
Could I but win all the souls in heaven and on earth and in purgatory, I would gladly snatch them.”
So the devil is the devourer. Understanding = comprehendere and is likewise a devouring.
Understanding swallows you up.
But one should not let oneself be swallowed if one is not minded to play the hero’s role, unless it be that one really is a hero who can overpower the monster from within.
And the understander in turn must be willing to play the role of Fafner and devour indigestible heroes.
It is therefore better not to “understand” people who might be heroes, because the same fate might befall oneself.
One can be destroyed by them.
In wanting to understand, ethical and human as it sounds, there lurks the devil’s will, which though not at first perceptible to me, is perceptible to the other.
Understanding is a fearfully binding power, at times a veritable murder of the soul as soon as it flattens out vitally important differences.
The core of the individual is a mystery of life, which is snuffed out when it is “grasped.”
That is why symbols want to be mysterious; they are not so merely because what is at the bottom of them cannot be clearly apprehended.
The symbol wants to guard against Freudian interpretations, which are indeed such pseudo-truths that they never lack for effect.
With our patients “analytical” understanding has a wholesomely destructive effect, like a corrosive or thermocautery, but is banefully destructive on sound tissue.
It is a technique we have learnt from the devil, always destructive, but useful where destruction is necessary.
But one can commit no greater mistake than to apply the principles of this technique to an analysed psychology.
More than that, all understanding in general, which is a conformity with general points of view, has the diabolical element in it and kills.
It is a wrenching of another life out of its own course, forcing it into a strange one in which it cannot live.
Therefore, in the later stages of analysis, we must help people towards those hidden and unlockable symbols, where the germ lies hidden like the tender seed in the hard shell.
There should truly be no understanding in this regard, even if one were possible.
But if understanding is general and manifestly possible, then the symbol is ripe for destruction, as it no longer conceals the seed which is about to break from that shell.
I now understand a dream I once had, which made a great impression on me: I was standing in my garden and had dug open a rich spring of water that gushed forth.
Then I had to dig another deep hole, where I collected all the water and conducted it back into the depths of the earth again.
So is healing given to us in the unlockable and ineffable symbol, for it prevents the devil from swallowing up the seed of life.
The menacing and dangerous thing about analysis is that the individual is apparently understood: the devil eats his soul away, which naked and exposed, robbed of its protecting shell, was born like a child into the light.
That is the dragon, the murderer, that always threatens the newborn divine child.
He must be hidden once more from the “understanding” of humanity.
True understanding seems to be one which does not understand, yet lives and works.
Once when Ludwig the Saint visited the holy Aegidius incognito, and as the two, who did not know each other, came face to face, they both fell to their knees before each other, embraced and kissed-and spoke no word together.
Their gods recognized each other, and their human parts followed.
We must understand the divinity within us, but not the other, so far as he is able to go by himself and understand himself.
The patient we must understand, for he needs the corrosive medicine.
We should bless our blindness for the mysteries of the other; it shields us from devilish deeds of violence.
We should be connivers at our own mysteries, but veil our eyes chastely before the mystery of the other, so far as, being unable to understand himself, he does not need the “understanding” of others. [UNSIGNED] ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Page 30-32