Letters between C.G Jung and theologian Adolf Keller

Read excerpts from the letter correspondence between C.G Jung and Protestant theologian and Pastoral psychologist Adolf Keller.

Bollingen, 12 February 1951

Dear friend,

Many thanks for your kind letter! It does me good to hear that you accept my humanity, and I only hope that this is not too difficult for you.

I do not wish to reproach you. But I don’t like standing there as the only sinner, conscious of having to accept the indulgent gift of having my sins forgiven. On the other hand, I am fully aware that I am “objectionable” in other regards and difficult to digest, and I am honestly grateful to you that you are not frightened off by this petra scandali. As I said, it saddened me very much that you applied my comment to yourself when it was intended self-critically.

I would be very happy to converse with you on any subject close to your heart as I have little opportunity to talk with other men. I have had some friends but they have died. To speak with others, i.e., to speak in such a way that one gets something from it, is therefore very difficult, because they have no relation to my spiritual world and thus feel over-extended.In contrast, an inconsequential conversation seems to me to be too wearisome and makes me as tired as if I had undertaken the most laborious work. People make it too difficult for me, for I cannot and will not torture myself with futility. I am always available for something substantial.

I hope we will soon have the opportunity for a conversation.

With best wishes,



Küsnacht, 4 March 1951

Dear friend,

Please forgive me if I trouble you with another unbidden letter. Although I constantly have little time for personal activities I have taken or stolen the necessary time to face my friends. I am no grandseigneur or praetor qui non curat minora. So, for example, I am not aware that I was “imposing” a theory on you. I have only attempted to engage with your dream according to my ability and to draw objective conclusions from the material you gave me yourself. That is not a theory, but pure practice. Where I might have imposed a theory on you otherwise, I do not know. My very profession would forbid me such a process immediately.

Since you are of the opinion that I do not engage with you, you are giving me cause to enlighten you with a further letter and thus to take up your valuable time. I must inform you that I am not able to see any connection between your remark about my arbitrary method in puncto theory on the one hand and the “degree of redemption” or lack of redemption of the Club members and your worldview on the other: I have no experience of “redemption” as I have never yet encountered and “redeemed”. I must almost conclude from your remark that you consider “redemption” the goal of my psychotherapy. But that would be a not insignificant error. The truth would be rather the opposite.

No one is claiming that you are to relate only to “one system or theory” or that you are not located in your own sphere of life,” or that this is at all invalid. It would be hard to be more convinced of the significance of Christianity than I am. Only, one can be convinced of it in a different way.

With best wishes

You C.G. Jung

Zurich, 14 March 1951

Dear friend,

It moves me deeply that you took the trouble to write me such a long, detailed, and most profoundly incisive letter.

You experience a growing distance in our correspondence - I experience it as a paradoxical expression of an intimacy. This is possible only when we are able not only “to agree to disagree” about particulars, but we together, each from his own location, try to discover the other’s position within the greater whole, for example, in the current of contemporary cultural awareness.

This is my constant position in relation to you. We are both approaching the end of our lives - in the last two months, I have lost eight friends and would be loathe to lose another one, not through the final unavoidable loss, but principally due to misunderstandings and misinterpretation. I, therefore, appeal a male informato ad melius informandum.

Incidentally, I have never confused psychotherapy with redemption, and in using the word I was alluding more to Nietzsche’s comment, thus rather to an impression than a theory. It would never occur to me to trivialize your immense knowledge and your experience - I am astounded by it, but it doesn't take away the freedom of my own critical judgment. And your undeniable humility towards the transcendent would also prohibit me from placating myself once and for all with an autos epha.

You seem to want to renounce my friendship. That is quite unilateral and I am unwilling to take part in it. I am distressed that you think I am capable of arrogance in a thoroughly constructively critical debate in which I show no condescension but am exercising my freedom and clearly showing you the honor and esteem that I offer to an initiator and psycho-pioneer who initiated me into mysteries such that I will remain bound to him my whole life, whatever befalls. Even when his human willingness and intimacy do not come my way. Yet I must retract this word right away, since your long letter proves quite the opposite.

You are hurt and therefore bitter. I had no intention of hurting you or even of lecturing you. We don’t have enough time left for that now. And even if you were right I would assume that your greatness and your knowledge of the inner dialectic of the opposites would enable you to meet even an errant or inadequate adept with understanding and insight in such a quaternity-full humanity. Much remains unsaid. I cannot ask such an extensive correspondence from you. Whether my reply will make possible a desired meeting, I must leave to you. I am now as always in undiminished respect and friendship.

Your Adolf Keller.


(Küsnacht, a few days before 21) March 1951

I am sincerely grateful to you for your comprehensive reply. It communicated a much clearer picture in many respects, not least about your dream which now appears in greater clarity. I now have an approximate sense of which conscious situation it is compensating. You really must not assume that I do not value your friendship. It’s precisely because I do value it that I tried to explain to you in broad detail what was irking me. Your letter helps me to understand where the difficulties in transmission lay.

I oppose the backwardness of Protestantism. I don’t want it give up its leading position. I don’t want to go back to the unconscious fog of Catholic concretism, therefore I also battle against Protestant concretism in historicity and the abstractness of the Protestant message, which today can only be understood as a historical remnant. If Christ means anything to me, it is only as a symbol. As a historical figure he might just as well be called Pythagoras, Lao-tze, Zarathustra, et. I find the historical Jesus completely unedifying, simply interesting because controversial.

I say this so that you’ll know where I stand. I’d be happy if despite this you want to talk with me. If you can d time for it, I’m willing. Once again many thanks for your considerate letter, full of goodwill,

Your Carl

Letters between C.G Jung and theologian Adolf Keller
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