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Monday, October 19, 2015

Carl Jung: The Platonic "Idea" is in this case no longer intellectual but a psychic, instinctual pattern.




To Elisabeth Herbrich

Dear Dr. Herbrich, 30 May 1960

Your letter brings me the unexpected and painful news of the death of Prof. Betschart to whom I am bound by many fond memories.

I first became acquainted with him at the Paracelsus celebrations in Einsiedeln, and I remember the many talks we had about the philosophy and psychology of the old master.

Later, unfortunately, we did not see each other anymore, after he became a professor in Salzburg.

Only a few letters were exchanged.

So I had heard nothing of his death.

At that time the main subject of discussion was the philosophical views of Paracelsus and his relation to Hermetic philosophy; these emerge with particular clarity in the treatise De Vita Longa of Adam von Bodenstein, to which I have devoted a major study.

In this connection, inevitably, further psychological themes were discussed, especially the archetypes, which are so often misunderstood.

Pater Betschart lent an attentive ear, and I admired the openness of mind with which he followed my arguments.

Platonic philosophy afforded welcome common ground where we could agree relatively easily on the ideal side of the problem.

From there we could pass on with some success to a discussion of its scientific aspect.

The main difficulty here is that the eternal ideas have been dragged down from their "supracelestial place" into the biological sphere, and this is somewhat confusing for the trained philosopher and may even come to him as a shock.

Actually this needn't be so, because Plato's heavenly proto types extend through all spheres of the cosmos down to the most concrete level.

Hence it is not in the least surprising that one also encounters them-one might even say, more particularly-in the biological realm. Here they appear, perhaps rather unexpectedly, in the form of the "behaviour pattern," i.e., in the typical and hereditary instincts such as the migratory or nest-building instinct.

The Platonic "Idea" is in this case no longer intellectual but a psychic, instinctual pattern. Instinctual patterns can be found in human beings too.

They illustrate man's specifically human modes of behaviour.

Naturally these do not express themselves only in unconsciously motivated, instinctive activities but also in patterns of thought and perception which present themselves to him involuntarily and unconsciously and whose numerous parallels can be observed all over the earth.

Were this not so, human beings could not communicate with one another at all.

These patterns are the precondition for the inner affinity of all races of men.

They express themselves chiefly in mythological motifs whose existence is substantiated not merely by the fact that they may have been disseminated by tradition and migration, but that-quite apart from this-they reappear spontaneously again and again in the unconscious products of modern individuals.

This phenomenon is naturally of no small concern to theologians and philosophers and would merit their highest interest did not a host of prejudices stand in the way.

However, Pater Betschart did not allow himself to be held up by them but followed my argument with keen attention.

When one considers that for over 50 years there has been a definite conception of the unconscious which is supported by empirically demonstrable facts, it is little short of amazing that philosophers still haven't found the time to do anything but pooh-pooh it.

Professor Betschart was a great and praiseworthy exception.

He was one of the first and the few to look at the problem in a positive way.

In Switzerland, at any rate, he was the first philosopher with whom I could talk sense in these matters, and for this I am everlastingly grateful to him.

Since my time and working capacity are very limited as a result of old age, I would ask you to make use of this letter, perhaps, if you are going to publish a memorial volume for Professor Betschart I shall seldom be at home this summer, as I have to escape the menacing flood of visitors.

They sap too much of my time and energy-forgive me.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 559-560

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