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C.G. Jung Letter to Victor White


Excerpted from C.G. Jung: Letters: Volume 2: 1951-1961
Edited by Gerhard Adler, Translated by Jeffrey Hulen, (1975)
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press


10 April 1954

. . . Is the LSD-drug mescalin? It has indeed very curious effects – vide Aldous Huxley! – of which I know far too little. I don't know either what its psychotherapeutic value with neurotic or psychotic patients is. I only know there is no point in wishing to know more of the collective unconscious than one gets through dreams and intuition. The more you know of it, the greater and heavier becomes your moral burden, because the unconscious contents transform themselves into your individual tasks and duties as soon as they become conscious. Do you want to increase loneliness and misunderstanding? Do you want to find more and more complications and increasing responsibilities? You get enough of it. If I once could say that I had done everything I know I had to do, then perhaps I should realize a legitimate need to take mescalin. But if I should take it now, I would not be sure at all that I had not taken it out of idle curiosity. I should hate the thought that I had touched on the sphere where the paint is made that colours the world, where the light is created that makes shine the splendour of the dawn, the lines and shapes of all form, the sound that fills the orbit, the thought that illuminates the darkness of the void. There are some impoverished creatures, perhaps, for whom mescalin would be a heavensent gift without a counterpoison, but I am profoundly mistrustful of the "pure gifts of the Gods." You pay very dearly for them. Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. ["(Men of Troy, beware the horse!) Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts" – Virgil, Aeneid, I, 48.]

This is not the point at all, to know of or about the unconscious, nor does the story end here; on the contrary, it is how and where you begin the real quest. If you are too unconscious it is a great relief to know a bit of the collective unconscious. But it soon becomes dangerous to know more, because one does not learn at the same time how to balance it through a conscious equivalent. That is the mistake Aldous Huxley makes: he does not know that he is in the role of the "Zauberlehrling," [sorcerer's apprentice] who learned from his master how to call the ghosts but did not know how to get rid of them again:

Die ich rief, die Geister,Werd ich nun nicht los!

[Those that I called, the spirits, I cannot now send away!]

It is really the mistake of our age. We think it is enough to discover new things, but we don't realize that knowing more demands a corresponding development of morality. Radioactive clouds over Japan, Calcutta, and Saskatchawan point to progressive poisoning of the universal atmosphere.

I should indeed be obliged to you if you could let me see the material they get with LSD. It is quite awful that the alienists have caught hold of a new poison to play with, without the faintest knowledge or feeling of responsibility. It is just as if a surgeon had never learned further than to cut open his patient's belly and leave things there. When one gets to know unconscious contents one should know how to deal with them. I can only hope that the doctors will feed themselves thoroughly with mescalin, the alkaloid of divine grace, so that they learn for themselves its marvelous effect. You have not finished with the conscious side yet. Why should you expect more from the unconscious? For 35 years I have known enough of the collective unconscious and my whole effort is concentrated upon preparing the ways and means to deal with it. (page 172)

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