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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Carl Jung: Abstract thinking can lead us no further than to intellectual sophistries,…

To Albert Jung

Dear Colleague, 21 December 1960

Thank you for kindly sending me your lecture which has given me a valuable glimpse into your research work.

Your equation of certain archetypal ideas with fundamental physiological processes has my undivided applause.

It is only the limitation to my subject and to the resulting method that has prevented me from dilating on this aspect of the unconscious except in a few individual instances.

I am reluctant to express any views, let alone convictions, in domains where I do not feel fairly competent.

The division of the sympathicus seems to me particularly important psychologically.

So I am not in the least surprised when you say that the alchemical pairs of opposites can be correlated with the endophylactictrophotropic and the ergotrop-dynamic systems.

It goes without saying that it is hardly possible for consciousness to establish a conscious relationship with the Anthropos, i.e., the natural self.

For, as you rightly point out, it would mean extending ego-consciousness into the realm of the transcendent, which by definition as well as on empirical grounds is beyond the reach of consciousness.
I do not doubt that the alchemical Mercurius was, for the medieval mind, compensatory to the Christ figure.

Admittedly my attempt to outline the historical situation is unsatisfactory in one respect, since neither of these figures nor their synthesis can be presented in a purely abstract and intellectual way; they form a living totality which cannot be represented by any conscious means.

This requires for its representation not merely all our capacities for experience, all our descriptive powers; it also needs the active participation of the Mercurius / Christ figure itself, o r, to put it symbolically, an influxus divinus that grips our very life and not just our so-called spiritual faculties, which allways remain caught in the toils of the intellect, intuition, and feeling. As the alchemists rightly say : Ars requirit tatum hominem.

But our consciousness is never the whole.

Only this gripping of consciousness can be regarded as an approximation to totality.

Abstract thinking can lead us no further than to intellectual sophistries, which are invariably used as shields and subterfuges and are calculated to prevent the realization of the whole.

When we ourselves cannot go ahead actively any more, we suffer the activity, and then we are no longer the hand that wields the hammer but the hammer that is wielded, or some kind of tool that has got out of control.

Since man is relatively free to choose the way he will go, he is also free to go the wrong way and, instead of coming to grips with the reality of his unconscious, to speculate about it and cut himself off from the truth of nature.

I therefore cherish no philosophical hopes.

One half of the truth lies in the hand of man, the other half in the hand of that which is greater than we.

In the first case we can be active, in the second we are bound to be passive, which means: to suffer.

No philosophy can help us here, it can only deceive us; and the lamentable spiritual void we are living in today cannot be filled with words but only by our total commitment, or, in mythological terms, by our voluntary self-sacrifice, or at least our readiness for it.

We are not even in a position to decide the nature of this self-sacrifice, for this decision depends on the other side.

The process of individuation, of becoming whole, includes by definition the totality of the phenomenon Man and the totality of the riddle of Nature, whose division into physical and spiritual aspects is merely an act of discrimination in the interests of human cognition.

With collegial regards and best thanks,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 617-620

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