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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Carl Jung: You only can teach or change the heart of an individual.




To: James Gibb

Dear Mr. Gibb, 1 October 1958

Thank you for your interesting letter.

It is indeed as you say: one could speak of a pool of good and a pool of evil.

But this statement is a bit too simple, because good and evil are human opinions and therefore relative.

What is good for me can be bad for somebody else and the same with evil.

In spite of the fact that good and evil are relative and therefore not generally valid, the contrast exists and they are a pair of opposites basic to the structure of our mind.

The opposition good - evil is universal in our experience, but one must always ask to whom?

This is a great difficulty.

Otherwise the situation would be quite simple if you could make general statements about good and evil.

You could then clearly designate the things that are good and the things that are evil.

As this is not the case, the question is the human individual, namely, the latter is the decisive factor because it is the individual that declares something good and something evil.

It is not for you or for anybody else to judge, it is only the individual in question that decides whether something is good for him or bad.

Thus our attention must be given to the individual that decides and not to the question of good or evil, which we cannot make out for other people.

That is the reason why you cannot tell whole nations what is good for them.

You only can encourage the individual to make ethical decisions, with the hope for general consent.

What a whole nation does is always the result of what so many individuals have done.

You also cannot educate a nation.

You only can teach or change the heart of an individual.

It is true that a nation can be converted to good or bad things, but in this case the individual is merely acting under a suggestion or under the influence of imitation and his actions are therefore without ethical value.

If the individual is not really changed, nothing is changed.

This is unwelcome news and because it is so, the helpful attitude, I do suggest, is not perceived by the ear of a nation.

Therefore one says it is not popular.

In other words: it does not agree with people.

They will do it when everybody else is doing it.

And everybody is waiting for everybody to do it.

So nobody begins.

One is either too modest or too lazy, or too irresponsible to think that one can be the first to do the right thing.

If everybody felt the same thing, there would be at least a vast majority of people thinking responsibility a good thing.

Under those circumstances the major evils of mankind would have been dealt with long ago.

I call your attention to a little book I have written not long ago,where you will find some considerations about the same subject.

It is Answer to Job.

You will find it either in Psychology and Religion (Bollingen Series, New York) or as a small volume published in England (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London).

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 461-462