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Friday, August 21, 2015

Carl Jung on “Faust.”

To Karl Theens

Dear Herr Theens, 25 April 1955

I would gladly comply with your kind invitation to contribute something to the literature on Faust were it not that my old age sets definite and, unfortunately, narrow limits to my working capacity.

Faust II has been my companion all my life but it was only 20 years ago that certain things began to dawn on me, especially when I read Christian Rosencreutz's Chymical Wedding, which Goethe also knew but, interestingly enough, did not mention among the alchemical literature of his Leipzig days.

This is what often happens with books or impressions which, piercing through the top layer of consciousness, sink down into the depths of the psyche and return to the surface only much later in altered form, bearing witness to their long-lasting effects.

So far as we know, Goethe used only the relatively late alchemical literature, and it was the study of the classical and early medieval texts which first convinced me that Faust I and II is an opus alchymicum in the best sense.

Recently Goethe as alchemist has been treated by the Englishman Ronald D. Gray (Goethe the Alchemist, Cambridge 1952), evidently under the stimulus of my own references to this subject.

Unfortunately Gray's knowledge of alchemy is deficient so that he overlooks its main concern, the mystery of the coniunctio, or "chymical wedding," which runs through the whole of Faust.

I have devoted a special work to this problem-Mysterium Coniunctionis, which is to appear shortly.

It contains everything that forms the historical background -so far as this is alchemical-of Faust.

These roots go very deep and seem to me to explain much of the numinous effect which emanates from Goethe's "main work."

But for my feeling it is so vast that I would do better to say nothing at all, as it is quite impossible even to hint at the wealth of associations in a short essay, let alone make them intelligible.

So it is not disinclination or indifference that checks my pen, but the insuperable difficulty of condensing such a profusion of material into a few words.

Instead of a substantial contribution I can therefore offer nothing except these skimpy references to researches and studies which, in my view at least, do shed some light on the problem of Faust.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 246-247.