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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Carl Jung: To be sure "Christ" gave the myth a new meaning for the man of antiquity.





To Dorothee Hoch

Dear Dr. Hoch, 23 September 1952

You are quite right: in my last letter I said very much more than was warranted by your sermon.

The theologians pick on me so much and misunderstand me so dismally that it would be unnatural if I didn't let off steam occasionally.

But it was not meant personally.

If I stress the historical evolution of Christianity this does not mean that I overlook the news it brings.

I only want to smooth the transition so that the meaning of the message can be understood.

People are so different!

Recently an elderly Swiss clergyman wrote me a touching letter emphasizing that through my writings I had at last opened the way to the Bible for him.

I certainly never expected anything like that.

But you can see from this that the figurative language of the Bible is not understood even by a clergyman.

No doubt the archetypes are present everywhere, but there is also a widespread resistance to this "mythology."

That is why even the gospel has to be "demythologized."

To be sure we are dealing with the meaning and content of mythologems.

To be sure "Christ" gave the myth a new meaning for the man of antiquity.

But when we still go on stressing the newness 2000 years later, we must point out what exactly is the news for us, which we haven't yet heard and understood.

Then we could feel like primitive Christians again.

But we hear only the same old words and, like Bultmann, get sick of mythology.

How far is the message new for us?

How far is Christ still unknown to us?

We heard ages ago that he exists as a living person exempt from our arbitrariness, and all the rest of it.

What we need is a new point of departure, and this cannot be found without the assignment of new meaning.

The message is alive only if it creates new meaning.

I don't believe at all that it has run dry, rather that theology has.

Just how do you make it clear to your listeners that "the death and resurrection of Christ are their death and their resurrection"?

Aren't you equating Christ with the self of man, and isn't this a view which is contested when I say it?

If the death and resurrection of Christ are my death and resurrection, i.e., if a = b, then b = a .

That Christ is the self of man is implicit in the gospel, but the conclusion Christ = self has never been explicitly drawn.

This is an assignment of new meaning, a further stage in the incarnation or actualization of Christ.

You are drawing near to this insight with rapid steps; indeed, you have already voiced it.

And with it Christ becomes a formulable psychological experience: the self is a living person and has always been there.

It is an insight upon which Hindu philosophy (the equivalent of Western theology), Buddhism, Taoism, mystical Islamic sects, and Christianity are all agreed.

My psychology is a modest contribution to this illustrious assemblage, and from the Christian standpoint you have formulated the essential
psychological principle in the words quoted above.

Thanks to this insight and inner experience the figure of Christ has come alive for you, and means for you an ultimate and unshakable truth, because it issues from a universally disseminated, collective archetype, which is ax£(po7rol71ro>.

Every Christian should rejoice, but I fear the theologians will make a sour face.

I, however, rejoice that the unconscious has put into your mouth the true meaning: (Jappf.m fLVO'Ta( TOV ewv (J'£(J'oO'p.lvov.

As you may know, I have written in detail about this in Aion and Answer to Job and other works.

It goes without saying that I am not of the opinion that insights which only the individual can have should be preached.

I realize that the sermon is a pressing affair for the clergyman, something he has to cope with somehow.

But his psyche is perhaps an even more pressing task, and it is of this I speak.

In this respect there is a general flight outwards, a wrinkling of the nose at "psychology," a terrifying ignorance of it, and the cura animarum has reached its nadir.

Instead, one goes in for missions to the heathen.

The first emissaries went into the great centres of civilization, but not to the sources of the Nile.

That came in only with monasticism, which sprang from a disgust with the civilized world from which one had dropped out.

A good example is Albert Schweitzer, who is urgently needed in Europe but prefers to be a touching saviour of savages and to hang his theology on the wall.

We have a justification for missionizing only when we have straightened ourselves out here, otherwise we are merely spreading our own
disease.

How is it with God's Kingdom in Europe?

Not even savages are stupid enough not to see our lies.

Shamelessly and childishly we parade our irreconcilable schisms before the wondering eyes of our black "brethren" and preach peaceableness, brotherliness, neighbourly love, etc. etc. through the mouths of Evangelists, Lutherans, High Church, Nonconformists, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, all of whom are resolved to the death not to communicate with their brother. Is this fulfilling God's will?

These thoughts come to me unbidden when you speak of total commitment, for instance to missionary work.

Of course people can be committed to everything and anything-even to Naziism, as we have seen.

But whether the goal presupposed by us to be "right" also corresponds to God's will is another matter.

About this only a very small, still voice within us gives us any information.

And not infrequently it contradicts our collective ideals (vide the way it called certain of the prophets!).

One of the greatest obstacles to our psychic development, it seems to me, is the drowning out of the inner voice in the interests of some collective, conventional ideal which makes us insensitive to the damage done to our own house and givers us the right to impart good advice to our neighbours.

If we go along with a so-called good cause, we can easily give ourselves the treat of not having to do something to improve our-oh so small and insignificant!-psyches.

But that the right means in the hands of the wrong man then work mischief is something nobody thinks about.

Don't you think we would have more cause to worry about the state of Christianity in Europe than about the hygienic precautions in and around Lambarene?

The first is naturally highly unpopular, but the second is exemplary idealism which guarantees a first-class good conscience and nowhere tarnishes the lordly feelings of the white man.

Please don't take my remarks personally but for what they are footnotes to the religious question of the present.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung

P.S. I really owe you an explanation why it is that I bombard you with such long and repellent letters.

I have, you see, to listen to so much idiotic and negative stuff about Christianity on the one hand, and am so grotesquely misunderstood by the theologians on the other, that I do my utmost to bring my criticism to bear only when I can count on goodwill, i.e., on a truly Christian attitude which may have not a little to do with neighbourly love.

Besides that, your last letter has also moved me to show you how closely your religious views touch my own. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 83-86.