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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Carl Jung on God and a God-Image


Dear Dr. N., 2 January 1957

Many thanks for your detailed letter, the contents of which interested me very much.

I was impressed above all by the fact that in the discussion between you and Frau X there is constant talk of "God" and of what he does or what he is.

I miss any explicit recognition of the epistemological threshold.

We cannot speak of "God" but only of a God-image which appears to us or which we make.

If, for instance, we were to create a myth, we would say that "God" has two aspects, spiritual and chthonic, or rather: material.

He appears to us as the world-moving spirit (= wind) and as the material of the world.

That is the image we create for ourselves of the prima causa.

But in reality we can say nothing at all about "God."

We can only project a conception of him that corresponds to our own constitution: a body perceived by the senses and a spirit (= psyche) directly conscious of itself.

After this model we build our God-image.

Coming now to cosmogony, we can assert nothing except that the body of the world and its psyche are a reflection of the God we imagine.

The split in this image is an unavoidable trick of consciousness for making us aware of anything at all.

But we cannot assert that this split actually exists in the objective world.

Rather, we have every reason to suppose that there is only one world, where matter and psyche are the same thing, which we discriminate for the purpose of cognition.

As regards the Incarnation, the idea of God's descent into human nature is a true mythologem.

What we can experience empirically as underlying this image is the individuation process, which gives us clear intimations of a greater "Man" than our ego.

The unconscious itself characterizes this "Man" with the same symbols it applies to God, from which we can conclude that this figure corresponds to the Anthropos, in other words God's son, or God represented in the form of a man.

The greater "Man" (the self) does not become identical with the empirical man in such wise that the ego is replaced by the self.

The self becomes only a determining factor, and it is not bounded by its apparent entry into consciousness; in spite of this it remains an ideal, i.e., purely imagined, entity dwelling essentially in the background, just as we also imagine God existing in his original boundless totality in spite of the Creation and Incarnation.

So far as the integration of personality components are concerned, it must be borne in mind that the ego-personality as such does not include the archetypes but is only influenced by them; for the archetypes are universal and belong to the collective psyche over which the ego has no control.

Thus animus and anima are images representing archetypal figures which mediate between consciousness and the unconscious.

Though they can be made conscious they cannot be integrated into the ego-personality, since as archetypes they are also autonomous.

They behave like the God-image, which while objectivating itself in the world nevertheless subsists of itself in the Unus Mundus.

These are problems that cannot be discussed at all if epistemology is disregarded.

They can be tackled only if you are constantly aware of epistemological criticism, in other words, if you do not forget that absolute reality can be conceived only in psychological terms.

At the same time the psyche, or rather consciousness, introduces the prerequisites for cognition into the picture-the discrimination of particulars or qualities which are not necessarily separated in the self-subsistent world.

We distinguish an organic and an inorganic world, for example.

The one is alive, the other is dead; the one has psyche, the other not.

But who can guarantee that the same vital principle which is at work in the organic body is not active in the crystal?

It seems to me that due regard for the epistemological standpoint would make discussions with Frau X considerably easier.

With best greetings,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 341-343.