1 Gordon St.,
I was very pleased to hear from you once again and to hear that you have read my small brochure.
It seems to have been a hit here as there is already a second print run underway.
In relation to the so-called New Ethic we are basically quite in agreement, but I prefer to express this delicate problem in a rather different language.
It is not really a question of a “new” ethic.
Evil is and always remains the thing one knows one should not do.
Man overestimates himself unfortunately in this respect: he thinks it is within his discretion to intend good or evil.
He can persuade himself of this, but in reality he is, in view of the greatness of these opposites, simply too small and too unconscious to be able to choose the one or the other in free will and under all circumstances.
It is much more the case that he does or does not do the good that he would like to for overwhelming reasons, and that in the same way, evil just happens to him like misfortune.
Ethics is that which makes it impossible for him to do evil intentionally and encourages him to do good—and indeed often with little success. I.e., he can do good and cannot avoid evil, although his ethic causes him to test the powers of his will in this regard. In reality he is the victim of these powers.
He must admit to himself that under no circumstances can he absolutely avoid sin, as he also on the other hand may hope to be able to do good. Now, as evil is unavoidable, so one never completely evades sin and it is a fact that one must accept.
It gives cause not for a new ethic, but for differentiated ethical considerations, namely, to the question: how do I behave toward the fact that I cannot escape sin?
The instruction that is given in Christ’s words: “If thou knowest what thou doest …” shows a way to the ethical surmounting of the problem: I know that I do not wish to do evil and do it all the same, not from my own choice but because it overpowers me.
As a human being I am a weakling and vulnerable so that evil can overwhelm me.
I know that I do it and what I have done and know that I will stand in the torment of this contradiction for my lifetime.
I will, where I can, avoid evil and will always fall into this hole.
But I will endeavor to live as if this were not the case; I will therefore grin and bear it and will by this means be pleasing to the Lord, like the unfaithful householder who knowingly produced a false account.
I do not do this because I wish to deceive myself or even the Lord, but so that I do not cause any public offense for the sake of my brothers’ weakness, and I preserve my moral standing and human dignity to some degree.
I am therefore in the situation of a human being who experiences a terror in the middle of a dangerous situation and would prefer to see if he does not pull himself together for the sake of the others and feigns courage to himself and the others by which the situation can perhaps be saved.
In this case, while I have not made my panic imaginary, I have hidden my good success behind the mask of courage. It is an act of supreme hypocrisy, therefore another sin, but without which we would all be lost.
This is not a new ethic, but simply a more differentiated one with fewer illusions, but the same as it always was.
You can relate these subtle considerations to Zeus, but not to the ox.
They are in fact subtle because they presuppose very special conditions.
They achieve their validity only for the man who is really conscious of his shadow, but for one who treats his shadow either as a casual inconvenience or who trivially dismisses it out of a lack of scruples and moral responsibility, it signifies a dangerous possibility of the aberration of moral judgment as is characteristic for the man who, as a result of his moral defect, possesses a corresponding intellectual inflation.
One can relieve oneself of some conflict by closing the moral eye for “all guilt avenges itself on earth.”
I am just occupied with a work that has a completely different theme, but the discussion has meant that I had to also mention the ethical problem.
I could not do otherwise than embark on a repudiation of the expression “new ethic,” without naming names.
This is once again one of those sins, a faithlessness as it were, which imposes itself like a disaster at the moment when I had to protect the disproportionately higher aspect of our psychology from the coarseness of vulgar appreciation and, this, to general advantage.
The entire difficulty lies in this case in the slipperiness of the language.
Therefore one is forced to strew sand, which occasionally also lands in the eyes of the audience.
I am looking forward to your application of the origins history to the psychology of children.
There would indeed be illustrative material there.
I feel myself very uncertain in relation to the question of pessimism and optimism and must leave the solution to fate.
The only one who could decide this dilemma, that is dear God himself, has withheld his answer from me so far.
Hopefully you are well dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles.
Tout cela est bien dit, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.
With best wishes,
Your ever devoted,
C. G. Jung ~Neumann-Jung Correspondence Dated 03Jung1957
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