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Friday, August 21, 2015

Carl Jung: “Mythology as a vital psychic phenomenon is as necessary as it is unavoidable.”




To Pastor Jakob Amstutz.

Dear Pastor Amstutz, Mammern, 23 May 1955

Meanwhile I have read your typescript, "Zum Verstandnis der Lehre vom werdenden Gotte."

It seems to me one more proof of the overweening gnostic tendency in philosophical thinking to ascribe to God qualities which are the product of our own anthropomorphic formulations.

Every metaphysical judgment is necessarily antino mian, since it transcends experience and must therefore be complemented by its counterposition.

If we describe God as "evolving," we must bear in mind at the same time that perhaps he is so vast that the process of cognition only moves along his contours, as it were, so that the attribute "evolving" applies more to it than to him.

Moreover, "evolving" as a quality of human cognition is far more probable empirically than the presumptuous projection of this quality on to a Being whose nature and scope transcend by definition our human stature in every respect.

Such projective statements are pure gnosticism.

I hold the contrary view that there are certain experiences (of the most varied kinds) which we
characterize by the attribute "divine" without being able to offer the slightest proof that they are caused by a Being with any definite qualities.

Were such a proof possible, the Being that caused them could only have a finite nature and so, by definition, could not be God.

For me "God" is on the one hand a mystery that cannot be unveiled, and to which I must attribute only one quality: that it exists in the form of a particular psychic event which I feel to be numinous and cannot trace back to any sufficient cause lying within my field of experience.

On the other hand "God" is a verbal image, a predicate or mythologem founded on archetypal premises which underlie the structure of the psyche as images of the instincts ("instinctual patterns").

Like the instincts, these images possess a certain autonomy which enables them to break through, sometimes against the rational expectations of consciousness (thus accounting in part for their numinosity).

"God" in this sense is a biological, instinctual and elemental "model," an archetypal "arrangement" of individual, contemporary and historical contents, which, despite its numinosity, is and must be exposed to intellectual and moral criticism, just like the image of the "evolving" God or of Yahweh or the Summum Bonum or the Trinity.

"God" as a mythologem dominates your discussion, which casts a deceptive veil over the religious reality.

For the religious man it is an embarrassment to speak of the mystery which he can say nothing about anyway except paradoxes, and which he would rather conceal from profane eyes if he had anything in his hands at all that he could conceal from anybody.

It is unfortunately true: he has and holds a mystery in his hands and at the same time is contained in its mystery.

What can he proclaim? Himself or God? Or neither?

The truth is that he doesn't know who he is talking of, God or himself.

All talk of God is mythology, an archetypal pronouncement of archetypal causation.

Mythology as a vital psychic phenomenon is as necessary as it is unavoidable.

Metaphysical speculations that keep within the bounds of reason (in the wider sense) are therefore quite in place so long as one is aware of their anthropomorphism and their epistemological limitations.

The relatively autonomous life of the archetypes requires symbolic statements like the "evolving God" or the encyclicals Munificentissimus Deus and Ad Caeli Reginam or Cod as complexio oppositorum, etc., because collective psychic life is strongly influenced by changes in the "Pleroma" of the mundus archetypus (cf. Hitler's "saviour epidemic" and the worldwide Communist delusion of a Utopia peopled by human robots).

In this discussion, it seems to me, the gnostic danger of ousting the unknowable and incomprehensible and unutterable God by philosophems and mythologems must be clearly recognized, so that nothing is shoved in between human consciousness and the primordial numinous experience.

The mythologem of the Incarnation seems to serve this purpose indirectly, because it is symbolic.

I hope you won't find my criticism of your discussion officious, but will take it rather as an expression of my sympathetic interest.

For us psychotherapists, at any rate for those of them who have come to see how great is the importance of the religious attitude for psychic equilibrium, theological discussions are of the utmost practical value, because questions of this kind are directed to us more often than the layman imagines.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 254-256.