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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Carl Jung: I profess no "belief."



To Gunter Wittwer

Dear Herr Wittwer, 10 October 1959

Your question is legitimate: who actually is behind the books I have written?

It is much more difficult to answer this question than you might think.

To answer it satisfactorily, I would need to know exactly who I am, give you a picture of myself to match, and finally prove to you that my report is not a mere tinkling of words.

Even if you were to confine your question to my "religion" or "outlook on life" it would still affect the whole of my personality, for I am convinced that one's "outlook on life" can claim to be genuine only when it springs from the encounter of the whole man with his world.

If it doesn't, it's so much twaddle.

But because my consciousness is narrow, and incapable of grasping the whole in all its parts, every statement is but patchwork.

We are, unfortunately, always only parts of a whole, although glimmerings of it are possible.

I cannot allow myself arbitrarily to believe something about things I don't know.

I would regard this as impertinent and unwarranted.

Anyone whom I believed, just like that, to be a liar and a thief would take my attitude very badly indeed, just as he would laugh at me pityingly if I believed him to be a saint.

You can easily find out from my books what I think about religion (e.g., "Psychology and Religion'') .

I profess no "belief."

I know that there are experiences one must pay "religious" attention to.

There are many varieties of such experiences.

At first glance the only thing they have in common is their numinosity, that is to say their gripping emotionality.

But on closer inspection one also discovers a common meaning.

The word religio comes from religere, according to the ancient view, and not from the patristic religare.

The former means "to consider or observe carefully."

This derivation gives religio the right empirical basis, namely the religious conduct of life, as distinct from mere credulity and imitation, which are either religion at second hand or substitutes for religion.

This view is a most inconvenient one for the "theologian,” and he suspects it of psychologism, though actually it turns out that he has a very poor opinion of the psyche, this centre-piece of religious experience.

That is also why he is much fonder of Freud's view than of mine, since it does him the service of sweeping all inconvenient experiences under the table by intellectualizing them.

I myself feel committed to such experiences both intellectually and ethically.

They are of many kinds, as I have said.

My books give detailed information about them.

You can also see from my writings that I am not playing any intellectual or aesthetic or otherwise edifying game with the religious problem.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 517-518