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Monday, September 7, 2015

Carl Jung on “Sin.”




To the Rev . H. L. Philp

Dear Mr. Philp, 11 June 1957

The question about "sin" etc. you ask me seems to me difficult to answer, as I don't understand where you see a difficulty in my way of using these "theological" terms.

I beg your pardon, but speaking of "sin" or "evil" can be quite
colloquial, at least this is the case with myself.

I talk of them in a quite ordinary way so that everybody can
understand what I mean.

The same is the case when I mention the "Fall."

It is Adam's story as we read it in Genesis.

Thus I mean by "sin" an offence against our moral code, by "evil" the black fiend ever working in man's nature, and by "Fall" the disobedience against, and the deviation of the primordial Man from, God's command.

These terms designate simple and recognizable psychological situations forever repeating themselves in all human lives.

The "Fall" f.i. covers the regular experience that I find myself deviating from the prescribed way from the very start.

I am tempted and even possessed by evil forces (like St. Paul) time and again, and sin is nolens volens mingled with my daily bread.

You find such statements moreover everywhere in all imaginable forms.

It is f.i. bad and even evil to step on the chief's shadow or over a sleeping man.

It is sinful to scrape a skin with an iron knife instead of a flint.

Whoever has bothered himself about the eternal problem of whence evil has invented the story of a primordial awkwardness.

A modern man with a yellow streak will explain himself f.i. by the fact that his grandfather's brother suffered from epilepsy and the alienist will nod his head: "I told you so."

The terms "sin" and "evil" are under no conditions "meaningless"and they are in no way in need of any particular framework, as little as the terms "good" and "bad," since they are merely emphatic expressions of an emotional, negative reaction in their colloquial or everyday use.

However, where strong affects are in question we can expect unmistakable traces of a religious framework, i.e., a "theological"
system of reference.

But anybody, provided he is mad enough, can say "God damn it" without being conscious of a particular framework beyond colloquial habits.

When I speak of "original sin" I mean what the doctrine of the Church calls the peccatum originale, Adam's sin, i.e., man's Disobedience clearly visible in everybody's life, his inevitable Deviation from the state of grace, where there has been no sin yet.

The latter begins with the dawn of consciousness, which implies "conscience," i .e., moral awareness and discrimination.

Cases in which this function is absent are pathological (moral insanity).

Of course I am unable, as anybody is, to define what evil is in itself.

There is nothing which at times cannot be called evil.

It is a subjective qualification supported by a more or less general consent.

Deviation from the numen seems to be universally understood as being the worst and the most original sin.

This is, as I hope, an elucidation of my approach to the matter in question.

The early part of October would suit me perfectly.

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 369-370