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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Carl Jung on the doctrine of privatio Boni




To Father Victor White

Dear Victor, 30 June 1952

First of all I should like to know whether the doctrine of privatio boni ranks as a dogma or as a sententia communis.

In the latter case it could be a disputable subject so far as I understand the ways of ecclesiastical thinking.

At all events I have started the discussion on this assumption.

If on the other hand it should be a defined and declared truth, I will not discuss it anymore, but I shall try to understand the
deeper reasons for its existence, as I have already tried at least tentatively.

The crux seems to lie in the contamination of the two incongruous notions of Good and of Being.

If you assume, as I do, that Good is a moral judgment and not substantial in itself, then Evil is its opposite and just as non-substantial as the first.

If however you assume that Good is Being, then Evil can be nothing else than Non-Being.

In my empirical thinking the tertium quid is always the observer, i.e., the one who makes the statement.

Your example of light and darkness is a subjective and relative statement, inasmuch as light is equal to motion and darkness equal to rest, that is, more or less frequency or more or less standstill.

Darkness is certainly a decrease of light, as light is a decrease of darkness.

Thus it amounts to a play of words to say that only Good is, i.e., has substance and Evil not.

Standstill is just as real for an observer as movement.

You could not even have a notion of movement if there were not standstill to compare it with.

Things are quite simple if you could only admit that Good and Evil are judgments, having nothing to do with the incommensurable
concept of Being.

It is true that motion is everything, since all things move, but it is equally true that certain things are less moving for a certain observer than other things.

From this fact you form the notion of standstill, which in itself, as far as we know, does not occur in our empirical world.

Thus you can hold that everything is good, but certain things are less good for a certain observer.

But this argument also depends upon an observer and his statement, which is always subjective.

What you call fixed stars, for instance, may move much faster in reality than our sun, and what you call good may be in other respects
a great evil, that is, for another observer.

The whole question may be a case like that of the earth , around which the sun revolved for the better part of 1900 years.

In recent times only it became an admissible truth that the earth is moving round the sun.

If the privatio boni is merely a doctrine and not a dogma, it can be discussed or is that not so?

St. Thomas is not infallible.

His views about the Assumptio for instance don't seem to agree with the new dogma.

Whereas Being is obviously a concept of + ,

Non-Being is one of -.

But Evil is as substantial as Good, as the devil and his hell are substantial.

If Evil should be a very small Good, it would nevertheless be good, however little, and not at all bad.

If I am condemned to hell I am still nothing but good, in spite of the fact that I have lost 99% of goodness because Evil is not.

Is it quite impossible for a theologian to admit the obvious fact of Good and Evil being moral judgments and as such relative to an observer?

There is not the faintest evidence for the identity of Good and Being.

God is certainly Being itself and you call Him the Summum Bonum.

Thus all Being is good, and even Evil is a minute Good, even Satan's disobedience is still good to a small degree and nothing else.

For that small Good he is in hell.

Why should Good be thrown into hell?

And at which percentage of goodness are you liable to get condemned?

Moreover there is no darkness in God and God is All where in hell is the absence of light then, where the host of fallen angels, where the "evil-doers" (i.e., those having done a little good) and Satan himself?

Why should a little good be against God?

It is still with God, even Satan is.

Whatever he is doing, it is always a little good and nothing else.

That is how the Christian doctrine gets out of its inherent dualism, i.e., Manicheism, by denying the existence of Evil.

You do deny it by calling Evil a decreasing Good.

Absolute Evil is for you a merely neutral condition, in which there is nothing at all, a p.􀂽 5v, but inasmuch as Satan exists, he is nothing but good, because Being = Good.

It reminds me of St. Mad's baptism of the penguins and St. Catherine's advice: Donnez-leur une arne, mais une petite!

I'm looking forward to seeing you on the 16th or the 17th.

I shall be in Bollingen then.

Cordially yours,

C.G. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 71-74.