The Jung – Hisamatsu Conversation May 16, 1958: Further Commentary

Nigel Wellings 2005


This piece was written almost ten years ago. Looking at it now there are two glaring ‘mistakes’ that my more pedantic self blanches at: first is the using of the Tibetan tradition of Dzogchen to shed light on the meaning of the term wu-hsin / mu-shin - a term from an entirely different Buddhist tradition. While I do not think I have misrepresented the meaning I do think this is not the best way to elucidate it. Second, I have used my understanding of Buddhism which is mainly seated in Early Buddhism and the later Dzogchen to generally inform my commentary – it would have been much better if Soto Zen was my principle informant.



The ritual of an annual essay at this time of year has turned out to be, not a direct exploration of my own ideas, but a careful investigation of the ideas of others. Perhaps because I find myself so often standing out against the generalised and amorphous philosophical confusion that transpersonal psychology can so easily descend into, here, I explore the opposite – a conversation that struggles to find definition between C.G. Jung and a Zen philosopher.

This struggle is found in a conversation between Jung and Shin’ichi Hisamatsu that occurred in the spring of 1958 at Jung’s home in Switzerland. Shin’ichi Hisamatsu was a leading Zen philosopher as well as a  Zen master of some spiritual realisation who died in 1980. In 1958 his comparative research into Eastern and Western philosophy and religion lead him to visit America and Europe. During this time he spoke with a number of prominent European thinkers, one of whom was Jung: At this meeting was Hisamatsu’s translator, Koichi Tsujimura and Jung’s private secretary, Aniela Jaffe’.

Today we have at two English translations of their conversation. One is found in Self and Liberation, the Jung/Buddhism dialogue edited by Daniel J. Meckle and Robert L. Moore and published by Paulist Press 1992 and the other in The Couch and the Tree, dialogues in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism edited by Antony Molino and published by Constable 1999, and again in Awakening and Insight, Zen Buddhism and Psychotherapy, edited by Polly Young-Eisendrath and Shoji Muramoto and published by Brunner Routledge 2002. Both of these versions will be presented here because they are substantially different in both content and tone.

The English translations are surrounded by a little mystery. According to Shoji Muramoto, the English translator in his own and Molino’s book, in 1958, after the two men met, Jaffe’ sent a copy of her German transcript to Hisamatsu and Tsujimura translated it into Japanese and then published it, firstly in 1959, in the Zen journal Fushin and then in 1969 in Vol. 1 of Hisamatsu’s Collected Works. Sometime before 1960 Sachi Toyomura translated Tsujimura’s German/Japanese version into English for publication in Psychologia, a Japanese English language journal. This English translation was refused publication by Jung at the time and it was only in 1968, seven years after Jung’s death, that Psychologia finally published it. Toyomura’s English translation suffered from two shortcomings. It was a translation of a German text that came via Tsujimura’s Japanese translation and further more this translation was made by a non-English speaker. Therefore Daniel Meckel and Robert Moore revised Toyomura’s English translation and it is this that is published in 1992, in their book Self and Liberation, The Jung/Buddhism Dialogue.

However the story that Meckel and Moore tell in their book, although not entirely clear, is different. They say that both Jaffe’ and Tsujimura made a record of the Jung/Hisamatsu talk and that it is Tsujimura’s transcript that is published in Fushin but not Hisamatsu’s Collected Works. Toyomura’s first English translation comes directly from the Tsujimura’s notes, not from the Jaffe’s, and it is this Tsujimura/Toyomura translation that Jung refused permission to publish in 1960. Then, at some point after Jung’s death in 1961, Jaffe’ sent a copy of her transcript to Hisamatsu and Tsujimuru translated this into Japanese and used this for the Hisamatsu Collected Works. Then comes the confusion. Meckel and Moore say “A second English translation was also published in Psychologia. The Japanese translation was clearly the best and most reliable. From it was done a new English translation that appears in this book.” (p.102) What can this mean? We know that the 1968 English translation in Psychologia was done by Toyomura (according to Muramoto). But what is the Japanese translation they are referring to? Tsujimura’s translation of the Jaffe’ German transcript into Japanese? This would mean that the Jaffe’ record was better than the Tsujimura even though his had been good enough to publish in Fushin originally. What ever the truth here it seems that Toyomura had a second attempt at an English translation, based on this superior Japanese translation, and it is this that is publish in 1968 in Psychologia, not his first attempt, based on the Tsujimura transcript. Then in 1992, a third English translation was made from this “Japanese translation” by Isshi Yamada and Daniel J. Meckel, which was “checked and revised” by Masao Abe and Richard De Martino, and it is this that appears in the Meckel and Moore book.

And there is one more turn. Muramoto, in the mid-eighties, visited Jaffe’ and she started a chain of events from which emerged a new English translation, of her original German record, made by Muramoto himself. It is this translation, that comes to us, without any Japanese steps in between, that he publishes in 1999, in Molino’s book The Couch and the Tree and then again several years later in his own book with Polly Young-Eisendrath Awakening and Insight, Zen Buddhism and Psychotherapy.

In this commentary both these English translations will be found side by side. Firstly Meckel and Yamada’s German / Japanese / English version. And secondly, Muramoto’s German / English version. This is because, to my mind, the second, which should be a more accurate record of what was actually said, is in fact the less comprehensible while the first, despite its longer journey, or perhaps because of its longer journey, is more easily understood. From Jung’s own testimony we know he and Hisamatsu struggled to meet each other and this struggle is more plainly seen in the Jaffe’/Muramoto version than in the Meckel/Yamada version, where a good deal of ‘tidying up’ appears to have gone on. I wonder if Yamada and Meckel, with Abe and De Martino, all having a good working knowledge of both Jungian thought and Zen, unintentionally imported into the dialogue a greater level of coherence and intelligibility than was first there? Muramoto himself points out how there have been many opportunities for the Jung/Hisamatsu conversation to have become distorted. Jaffe’ provides our definitive version but could only make short hand notes in German and had no knowledge of the Japanese language nor Zen. Tsujimura, though less handicapped, could also have made mistakes – as confirmed by his notes apparently lending themselves to a less good English translation than did Jaffe’s. (Though it remains difficult for me to understand how his rendering could be less accurate than that of Jaffe’ given their respective tools.) Both records may have been subject to editing when written up from the notes and further more the “Chinese whispers” effect of multiple translations, without reference to the original, could not have helped.

Jaffe’, in her conversation with Muramoto at the end of her life, had become uneven in her memories. She no longer remembered Tsujimura being present. Did she then really send him her record immediately after the conversation, as Muramoto claims, or did she wait, knowing that Jung did not want it published, until after his death, sometime after 1961, as Meckel and Moore claim? If the last was so then the first Japanese account of the conversation, published in 1959, in the journal Fushin, would give us access to the original Tsujimura record, this one being the only one available at that time to him. Further more this would than call into question Muramoto’s statement that the Jaffe’ original record is the only one in existence because if a copy of the 1959 Fushin exists then there is a second, Tsujimura’s.

All this must remain conjecture. To date my attempts to check these ideas have met with complete failure. Dr. Moore and FUS, the organisation that published Fushin, have not replied to my attempts to contact them and Shoji Muramoto, at first very helpful, has not replied to my specific questions and has now changed his email address and so has become unavailable. Likewise my attempts to find help through colleagues with access to SOAS and also the Jung archives have fallen on apparently deaf ears. In more paranoid moments I wonder if it is something that I have said?

Central ideas

Muramoto, in his introduction to this conversation quotes Norma Haynes observation that parts of it have an “Alice in Wonderland” quality about them. Reading it I felt the same. Each man speaks yet most of the time they do not understand each other and then when they do (in Muramoto’s translation) Jung breaks off in what could be read as alarm or irritation. All this I found irresistible. What was going on in each of their minds as they tried to cross the great gulf between them equipped with only the wings of their mutual projections?

Having an interest in analytical psychology and Buddhism I thought I might have a chance of understanding both their positions. However I am not a Jung scholar and Zen Buddhism is the Buddhist school I am least familiar with. As such in this commentary I may well have badly misrepresented both Jung and Hisamatsu at times – may they forgive me. As for the emotional colouration I have placed on their exchanges, this too could be wildly inaccurate. However there is a great deal of sub-text between them and it does spill out. Based on Muramoto’s translation I have seen it as a story of two men who start out a little wary of each other and perhaps each secretly thinking that he owns a superior truth. From the start there is a fundamental misunderstanding about the key term in the dialogue that never becomes resolved. Hisamatsu questions Jung carefully and systematically to gain the information he wants while Jung, seemingly oblivious to this intent, conveys his ideas without giving the impression that he is really interested in comparisons. Hisamatsu’s concerns are: the nature of the ultimate reality, the nature of suffering and the nature of the self. Then comes the denouement. Does Jung, under this questioning, make a non-Jungian statement of such metaphysical magnitude that he seems to fall back in alarm at what he has said and then defensively re-entrench himself in his familiar position? Or, more likely and my suggestion, do they simply fail to understand each other? Finally Hisamatsu’s desire for comparisons is something he achieves privately. Jung’s conviction that such comparisons are impossible, (unless perhaps Jung is making them), frustrates a shared experience. A sad but probably inevitable end.

As I have already said, Jung and Hisamatsu struggle to make themselves understood. This difficulty makes an early appearance when Jung introduces the Chinese word wu-hsin (Japanese mu-shin). Jung translates this as ‘no-mind’ and thinks of it as the unconscious.1. Hisamatsu is very cautious here because wu-hsin, a central term, represents for him an experiential knowledge of the ground of reality beyond the personal and conceptual mind. Bodhi, our awakened Mind. He needs to know how Jung is using it and achieves this through a series of searching questions. During this search he introduces the phrase “fundamental unconscious” and this seemingly un-Zen like, psychological sounding term, only causes more misunderstanding, leading Jung to think he is using his, Jung’s, language. This is then compounded later when Hisamatsu further introduces the terms ‘authentic’, ‘true’, ‘fundamental’, and ‘formless self’. Muramoto, in his notes suggests that all of these point to “something ultimate, or metaphysical” which Jung misunderstands as referring to his own concept of the self that represents the totality of the person, both conscious and unconscious. And it gets worse, Jung even more confusingly introduces the concept of atman from the Hindu Upanishads as analogous to this greater self. Confusion reigns!

Their problem springs out of their sincere desire to communicate. Hisamatsu, as a Buddhist, does not believe, as some other religions do, that any actual metaphysical self exists. (For instance the atman in Hinduism). Buddhist philosophy is exceedingly clear on this in its doctrine of not-self, anatta/anatma. When, under meditative investigation we look into ourselves, no enduring, independent self, soul or spirit may be 6found. The only self that is recognised is an illusionary personal self that comes into being as a transitory amalgam of interdependent parts. A concept of self much closer to psychoanalysis than Jung’s analytical psychology. However Hisamatsu, as we shall see, does in fact use variations on the term ‘self’ also to mean a metaphysical higher reality but he does so without compromising his Buddhist position. Muramoto suggests that Hisamatsu’s willingness to attempt to use words like ‘self’ is driven by his desire to make bridges but it would also seem according to Masao Abe, who writes his own essay on the Jung/Hisamatsu conversation, (The Self in Jung and Zen 1992), that Hisamatsu uses Japanese terms that do indeed seem to reintroduce a specifically Zen understanding of a metaphysical self – or ‘Not Self’. Furthermore, after many centuries of banishment the term self – with a suitably Buddhist gloss does indeed reappear in later Mahayana sutras which postulate a buddha nature. It is not just Hisamatsu using it.

This confusion continues in Jung and Hisamatsu’s discussion on suffering. Jung at first seems unable to grasp the enormity of Hisamatsu’s position. Buddhism believes that when we fully spiritually awake all suffering comes to a total, irreversible end. After initially affirming that psychotherapy applies itself to individual problems and has no universal panaceas Jung finally understands what Hisamatsu is saying with a flash of recognition. This must almost sound like sacrilege to the Romantic Jung: ‘Get rid of all suffering? How then may we become individuated when suffering is the engine that creates personal meaning?’ However this is exactly what Hisamatsu means and there is no getting around it.

The two texts and Muramoto’s notes

Meckel and Moore’s comes first, marked MM, Muramoto’s last, marked M. My additional comments follow and are italicised. Remember both originate from Jaffe’ but M is a direct English translation while MM is via Japanese before its English translation. M should be the purist. Section headings are mine.

The initial meeting

Hisamatsu: I have been in the United States, where psychoanalysis has become so popular, and I have spoken with many psychoanalysts. It is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to meet and speak with you, the one who has so uniquely developed that science. Now I wish to hear the views of Professor Jung on the current status of psychoanalysis. MM

Hisamatsu: In the United States I witnessed the great spread of psychoanalysis and talked about it with many scholars. I am very glad to speak today with the founder of psychoanalysis.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the state of psychoanalysis today. M

In the M text, in note 1. Jaffe corrects Hisamatsu’s conflation of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology. However it is interesting that this conflation occurs. Since Hisamatsu must know that he is not talking to Freud and he does know specific Jungian concepts how can he think they are one and the same? Also interesting is the fact that Jung does not correct him when he answers. All this oddness is absent in the MM text which gets around it with the word ‘developed’, implying one who takes something further – which is what Jung did.

Jung: Will you please first give me your own views on psychoanalysis, so that I know exactly what to talk about in response to your question? The Oriental language is greatly different from our Occidental language of thought. In India, I spoke with many Indian philosophers and found it necessary to first explore their thinking before answering their questions. If I failed to do this and simply surmised the nature of their questions, proceeding according to my own conjecture, I often missed the point of their thoughts. MM

Jung: I would prefer to know your view first, so that I may understand the nature of the question. Eastern language is very different from Western conceptual language. In India, I had many conversations with philosophers and came to realise that I always need to clarify the question first, so as to know what my Eastern partner is thinking. If I assume that I know what he thinks, everything will be misconstrued. M

In the M text Jung appears to project his experience of conversations with Indian philosophers onto Hisamatsu, assuming that Hisamatsu’s and Indian  thinking will be the same – that is “Eastern”. Given that Japan is further from India than is Europe, and has a quite different religious culture, not Indo-European, this lumping together is questionable. However more generously, it is true that Jung will have to understand Hisamatsu’s rather general question properly before he can answer it. Conversely, in the MM text, this imperialist quality has subtly gone. Eastern – arguably an imperialist concept – has become ‘oriental’ and Jung no longer sounds like he speaks from slightly on high, here taking more responsibility for misunderstandings.

Hisamatsu: I am not a specialist in psychoanalysis. So first I wish to know the ultimate and final point of psychoanalysis and then compare it with Zen. MM

Hisamatsu: As I am no specialist in psychoanalysis, I would first like to understand its essential position, in order to then compare it with Zen. M

In M this begins to sound suspiciously like two wrestlers circling each other before engaging. Neither wants to make the first move. However in MM Hisamatsu makes his intention clearer, the comparison of the ‘ultimate and final point’ of psychoanalysis and Zen. This should alert us to his intention to see whether psychoanalysis has an understanding of spiritual awakening, enlightenment.

Jung: That’s fine. But as you know, Zen is a philosophy and I am a psychologist. Please take that into consideration. MM

Jung: That is possible, but you must bear in mind that Zen is a philosophy and that I am a psychologist. M

This is essential for Jung and he is giving Hisamatsu a warning that he believes they do not speak the same language. Generally he tries to avoid making metaphysical statements, preferring to limit himself to statements about psyche. However if we were to think of Jung as phenomenologist we would be mistaken. Much of his ‘psychology’ is distinctly metaphysical and, as we will see later, he somewhat jumps from metaphysical speculation to quasi-empiricism as it suits him. The MM text here makes Jung sound warmer, giving less of a warning than M.

Hisamatsu: Zen can be said to be a philosophy in a sense. But it is quite different from ordinary philosophy which depends upon human intellectual activity. Therefore we can also say that Zen is not a philosophy. Zen is a philosophy and a religion at the same time. Yet it is not an ordinary religion, it is a “religion-and-philosophy.” MM

Hisamatsu: In a sense, one might say that Zen is a philosophy, but it is very different from ordinary philosophy, which depends on human intellectual activity. One might also say that Zen is no philosophy. Zen is a philosophy and at the same time a religion, but no ordinary religion. It is “religion and philosophy.” M

Hisamatsu seems to want to encourage the possibility of dialogue. However here the difference between the two men becomes immediately apparent. How can Zen be both a philosophy and a religion and simultaneously a different type of non philosophy and non religion? With this Hisamatsu introduces the conceptually confounding nature of Zen which only becomes resolved through the non-conceptual, direct experiential knowledge of non-dual awareness. Zen itself. A state of being that Jung elsewhere in his writing has demonstrated that he neither fully understands (CW vol.11 Part Two) nor values (MDR p.258). Here there is not a great deal of difference between MM and M except the greater comprehensibility that begins to typify MM.

The unconscious and ‘No Mind’

Jung: I must ask you the following questions so that I may clearly understand your thought and respond to it appropriately. Does Professor Hisamatsu want to know how I respond, from the standpoint of a psychologist, to the goals and challenges which Zen presents to us? The central issue in both Zen and psychology is the same. In Zen, is it not the question of the way in which the human being is related to “No Mind”? MM

Jung: I must pose these questions in order to hear what you think, so that I can then direct my questions accordingly. You want to know what I think psychologically of the task that Zen poses for us. The task is in both cases—Zen and psychology—the same. Zen is concerned with how we deal with wu-hsin, no-mind. M

Jung does not respond to Hisamatsu’s definition of Zen. Instead he returns to his request for clarification and places in Hisamatsu’s mouth a question he has not actually asked – in M, what he, Jung, thinks of the task that Zen poses. This is difficult to understand, does Zen ever pose a task for anyone? Jung then goes on to answer his own question and says that both Zen and psychology are concerned with wu-hsin, or “no-mind”. The key Zen term in all that follows. With this the wrestlers close in but are they fighting the same battle? MM softens this exchange considerably by turning Jung’s assertion that both are concerned with wu-hsin into a question. And lastly note the difference between M’s no-mind and MM’s “No Mind”. The latter warns us with capitals that it is a serious metaphysical concept.

Hisamatsu: There have been many different interpretations of “No Mind.” Therefore it is necessary to have a genuine and strictly Zen definition of “No Mind.” This is very important. How does Professor Jung understand “No Mind”? MM

Hisamatsu: To date there have been many interpretations of wu-hsin. It is, there-fore, absolutely necessary to find a true and strict definition for the term from the standpoint of Zen. This is extremely important. I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter.


Hisamatsu engages. He does not seem surprised at the introduction of a specific Chinese/Japanese Buddhist term by Jung. However he very clearly states the need for a precise definition, knowing that such a concept as “no-mind” is exceedingly open to misunderstanding. Such a fear is well founded as Jung, (see Muramoto note 2.), does indeed misunderstand it as referring to his own concept of the unconscious. Immediately Jung and Hisamatsu begin to talk at cross purposes.

So what is wu-hsin? Hisamatsu defines this himself in his own commentary: “‘No Mind’ of Zen is [in opposition to the unconscious] not only known, but most clearly known, as it is called “Kaku” (awakening) or “ryoryo jochi” (always clearly comprehending). But this is not a state in which something is merely known. Rather, it is a clear “self awakening in and to itself” that is without a separation between knower and known. “No Mind” is a state in which self is most clearly awakened to itself, such as when we are utterly absorbed in our work.” (Meckel & Moore 1992:117).

Reading this I am struck by the similarity to the Dzogchen concept of, intrinsic awareness. The Tibetan Buddhist teaching of Dzogchen describes a state of pure, non-dual consciousness that is the awakened Mind. It is experienced as spacious, cognisant and an endless expanse of compassion. Resting without effort in the state of, an experience that has by definition no experiencer, thoughts and emotional states “self-liberate”, that is arise and disappear, without any effort on the part of the practitioner. In this way is neither troubled or disturbed by the activities of the conceptual and emotional mind while always being the base out of which these manifest.

As this dialogue unfolds we will see that Hisamatsu uses many synonyms for wu-hsin. No-mind, true nature, real self, authentic self, original self and most confusingly, fundamental unconscious. However what is clear is that once we begin to get a feel for wu-hsin the one thing it is not is either a repository of repressed psychological material nor an innate blue print of our instincts and the images that represent them. Personal and collective unconscious.

Jung: It is the “unknown.” But it is the unknown which excites and disturbs me psychically; it is the unknown which influences me positively or negatively. I am aware that it is, but I don’t know what it is. MM

Jung: It is the unknown which affects me psychologically, the unknown which disturbs or influences, whether positively or negatively. Thus I notice that it exists, but what it is, I don’t know. M

Because Jung believes wu-hsin is the unconscious he gives a description of  unconscious processes.

Hisamatsu: Is this “unknown” the same as the “unconscious”— I mean the collective unconscious—or does it differ from the unconscious? MM

Hisamatsu: Is this “unknown” something different from the unconscious? From the collective unconscious? M

Hisamatsu does not yet know Jung’s misuse of wu-hsin, no-mind and, displaying a knowledge of analytical psychology, asks a clarifying question to check what Jung is referring to – something Hisamatsu already knows of, the notion of the unconscious, or perhaps something metaphysical. With this we realise that this first exchange is to be about Jung describing the view of analytical psychology in response to Hisamatsu’s questioning. Exactly what Hisamatsu asked for at the start.

Jung: The “unknown” disturbs me or influences me in certain specific ways, otherwise I would not be able to talk about it. For example, many times I have felt that a personal memory is disturbing or influencing me, yet I also have dreams, images, and fantasies which are not derived from the subjective, but have a universal character. For instance, the image which I have of my father is a personal image. But if this image has a religious character, then it is no longer connected only with the personal. MM

Jung: The unknown disturbs or influences me in certain forms, otherwise I could not speak of it. Sometimes I sense that a personal memory is bothering me, or exerting an influence on me; other times I have dreams, ideas or fantasies that do not have a personal origin. Their source is not the subjective; rather they have a universal quality. For example, the image I have of my father is a personal image. But when this image possesses a religious quality, it is no longer solely connected to the personal realm. M

Jung does not answer the question although he does give a description that separates experiences of a personal and universal nature. Is he trying to avoid technical language? Here I am also struck by the similarity and clarity of both texts. Could this be because this is Jaffe’s home ground?

Hisamatsu: Is the non-personal unconscious a fundamental and original unconscious? In other words, is this non-personal unconscious that which you call the “collective unconscious”? And is this the most fundamental, or is there anything which is more fundamental? MM

Hisamatsu: Is the non personal unconscious a fundamental unconscious?

In other words, is the non-personal unconscious what you call the collective unconscious? Is this the most fundamental? Or perhaps just relatively more fundamental? M

Hisamatsu again presses for a precise definition rather than a descriptive one. Alighting on Jung’s phase “ideas or fantasies that do not have a personal origin” he solidifies this into the concept of a “non-personal unconscious” and asks if it is the same as a “fundamental unconscious”. He then reframes this and asks if a non-personal unconscious is the same as the collective unconscious and is this, the collective unconscious, the most fundamental thing or not. From Jung’s perspective the answer is simple. Ideas and fantasies that do not have a personal origin originate from the more fundamental collective unconscious. However this misses Hisamatsu’s use of the language which clearly shows his own intention which is not simply to elicit Jung’s explanation of the personal and collective unconscious but to make a comparison between these concepts and what Zen considers the most fundamental – wu-hsin. Muramoto confirms this in his notes. The phrase “fundamental unconscious” contains within it the meaning “original no-mind”. When Hisamatsu says this what he is in effect asking is, “Is the Zen experience of wu-hsin, no-mind, our original mind, the same as the concept of the collective unconscious?” This is picked up in MM where “original” finds a place along side ‘fundamental”. Contrary to Muramoto I believe that this attempt to construct a mutually usable language does not show Hisamatsu’s unfamiliarity with depth psychology (an idea not supported by this text) but rather his penetrative intention to check his existing understanding against the master. An intention that is laid bare in his own commentary.

Jung: The “personal unconscious” comes into existence in the  course of our life through experiences, the memories of which I usually expel and suppress. Another unconscious—namely the collective unconscious—is inherent and universal to all humans. My collective unconscious is the same as yours, even though you were born in Japan and I here in Europe. MM

Jung: The personal unconscious develops in the course of life, for example through experiences, the memory of which I repress. The other, the collective, is something instinctive, collectively developed and universally human. My collective unconscious is the same as yours, even though you were born in Japan and I here in Europe. M

Jung now proceeds with the explanation of his understanding of the structure and development of the psyche. Using his own terms he defines personal and collective unconscious clearly. Interestingly in M he defines the collective unconscious as our human instinctual nature that has developed during a period of time. A very biological definition shorn of the cultural/spiritual quality that so often accompanies definitions of the collective unconscious.

Hisamatsu: Is the collective unconscious, then, universal and suprapersonal. MM

Hisamatsu: Does the collective unconscious involve something common to all persons or something that is beyond the personal? M

This is a very subtle question and reveals Hisamatsu’s continuing attempt to make a comparison between wu-hsin, no-mind and the collective unconscious. If the collective unconscious involves something common to all persons it will be collective but still personal. While if it is beyond the personal than there is still a possibility that it is an equivalent to wu-hsin, no-mind. No-mind being a non-personal or trans-personal state of non-dual awareness. Something beyond the subject-object experience of ordinary, personal consciousness. For Hisamatsu the answer to this question could be the decider without Jung being aware of it.

Jung: All one can say about the collective unconscious is that it is common to all instinctive psychic reactions. This commonality can be found everywhere. For instance, the very possibility of our speaking to each other intellectually is based on this common ground. Otherwise, you would be so different from me that we could not understand each other. MM

Jung: One can only say that the collective unconscious is the commonality of all instinctive reactions found among all human beings. The possibility of our speaking with each other intellectually rests on our sharing a common foundation. Otherwise, we would be so different as to understand nothing. M

Jung unknowingly confirms the former. That though collective, it is still  experienced personally ie: dualistically. Therefore wu-hsin, no-mind, is not the same as the collective unconscious. Hisamatsu has his answer without Jung apparently knowing he has given it. In his own commentary Hisamatsu shows how he arrives at this understanding by simply saying that if the unconscious is unknown than it must be different from no-mind because this is the state of absolute knowing, non-dual awareness that is spiritual awakening. The two are almost opposites.

The roots of suffering

Hisamatsu: In fairy tales there is a variety of joys and sorrows. Do they all emerge from within the collective unconscious? MM

Hisamatsu: Fairy tales speak of various sufferings and joys. Do these all emerge from the collective unconscious? M

Having made his own conclusions about the collective unconscious and no-mind Hisamatsu now changes tack and tries to understand the collective unconscious from the perspective of the origin of suffering. What part does it play in creating emotional disturbance. Again this is a very important question if we remember that the whole of Buddhism proceeds from the intention to end suffering completely by realising nirvana. Also, that Hisamatsu links the collective unconscious to fairy tales demonstrates his knowledge of analytical psychology: Jung and his followers seeing in fairy tales a direct expression of the collective unconscious.

Jung: I will give you an example: when you study a child or a very primitive man, each, of course, has a certain degree of consciousness. Yet, the child who cannot yet say “I,” for instance, remains in a universal psychic state, common to all children. This is the universal state common to all human beings prior to attaining consciousness. Consciousness emerges in the process of individual development and [collective] history. It is experience. The development of psyche in history is recapitulated in the development of the individual. In the case of the child, consciousness develops out of a collective unconscious state. An instinctive life of worries, joys, pains, hate, and love exists before consciousness in the proper sense develops. These are already recognised in animals and are connected with the essence of the unconscious. They are instinctive activities which can be observed in animals. Probably one can say that the issues surrounding the so-called Klesha concern the various aspects and symptoms of the unconscious. MM

Jung: If, for example, you study a very primitive person with limited consciousness or, let’s say, if you study a child—a child who cannot yet even say “I”—you find that the child is still in the general mental state of all children, or of all people before they achieve consciousness. Consciousness has developed through the course of history; it is a common experience. Ontogeny repeats phylogeny.

In the child, consciousness develops out of a collective unconscious state. Emotional life, worries, joys, sufferings, hate, love, these are already present before consciousness proper develops. You see this in animals as well. There are instinctive excitements observable in animals which are connected with the essence of the unconscious. Perhaps one could say that these are Kleshas—namely, properties or symptoms of the unconscious. M

Jung answers Hisamatsu’s question in a round about way. He tells us basically that our emotions arise from our instinctual nature, which is governed by the collective unconscious, and that they preexist any personal, conscious development. As such the collective unconscious is the source of emotional disturbance. These emotional disturbances he links to the Buddhist notion of Klesha, afflictive or disturbing passions that chain us to the wheel of suffering. Different numbers of Kleshas are traditionally described from the basic one, ignorance, to the ‘three poisons’, ignorance, attachment and aversion, to an unlimited number symbolically represented as 84,000.

Here there are a number of points.

1. Jung’s use of the word “conscious” becomes clearer if we think of it as a quality of self awareness that grows as we develop the skill to reflect upon ourselves objectively. This is important because we can say that a new baby is conscious, if awake, when plainly it has little sense of self awareness in any adult way.

2. The definition of the collective unconscious here sounds remarkably like the reptilian and paleomammalian structures of the brain. The source of all instinctual responses and the emotions that accompany them.

3. The link to the Kleshas is potentially problematical because again Jung is using a Buddhist concept for his own system. The confusion here is that Jung does not differentiate between healthy and unhealthy emotions – which is odd. Usually from his position, while the collective unconscious is the seat of our instinctive emotionality, this does not mean that these emotions are disturbing in any unhealthy way. Rather, emotions are seen to be unhealthy once the conscious ego starts to repress them, at this point the personal unconscious begins to build its contents and neurosis becomes a possibility. The emotions of a preconscious infant may cause suffering but as yet have not created mental illness.

However this is not the Buddhist position. Here kleshas, ignorance, attachment and aversion, are deeply rooted reactions to life when we are unaware of our own and its true nature. They exist within the preconscious infant as much as the highly conscious adult. They are universal and inborn, (in those of us who are not Buddhas), and so could be said to belong to the collective unconscious and they flood our interactions with the world and our relationship with our self and so are also entirely personal. Here there is no distinction between ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ emotions; all emotions, when identified with, cause suffering and distort reality and therefore are ‘bad’.

Finally I think MM shows a great deal of tidying here, it reads more like a book than natural, less ordered, speech. This shows particularly at the start where it attempts to clarify the use of the term ‘consciousness’. And the more accessible rendering of M’s “Ontogeny repeats phylogeny”.

Hisamatsu: From our point of view, the Kleshas belong, rather, to the sphere of consciousness. MM

Hisamatsu: From our viewpoint, Kleshas belong to the sphere of consciousness. M

Firstly we should note this is the first time Hisamatsu has positively offered something from his own perspective and this leads directly to a disagreement with Jung: Buddhism clearly places the Kleshas in the sphere of consciousness, not the unconscious. The problem is that each man is using the ambiguous term ‘conscious’ in different ways. For Jung it means as said above: consciousness is the result of a psychic process, not merely a thought process. It involves awareness, intuition, apperception and reflection. It grows with experience. Consciousness is much more than sense awareness, it is the fruit of the whole adventure of individuation.

What it means for Hisamatsu is not the same. It is neither a quality gained through individuation nor is it paired to a concept of the ‘unconscious’. Buddhism uses terms that may be translated as consciousness but mean different things. This can lead to confusion. Fundamentally consciousness is the ‘knowing faculty of the mind’ that is an ‘immediate direct cognisance’ that proceeds the process of naming and emotionally reacting towards a perceived object. However this consciousness may be understood in several fundamentally different ways. From the conventional perspective consciousness is something that comes into and disappears out of being, it is transient and conditioned. Thus right now I am simply conscious of this word on this computer screen and then this changes to something different. However from a more profound perspective there is consciousness itself that is the cognisant quality of the awakened Mind. The Mind that is characterised by its ‘empty essence’, its ‘intrinsic awareness’ and ‘unlimited expanse’. Resting with out effort in this awakened Mind is to dwell in pure awareness, pure consciousness, the non-dual state of wu-hsin, no-mind. This consciousness is without beginning or end, is unconditioned and proceeds/under pins/permeates (each of these are wrong because they all represent subject/object relationships), the consciousness that operates within the subject and object dualism of our usual experience.

Which then does Hisamatsu refer to above? Whether consciousness is viewed as intrinsic awareness or conditioned sense awareness both may be obscured or afflicted by the emotions. In this sense what Hisamatsu is saying is that the Kleshas, attachment, aversion and ignorance, belong to sense awareness consciousness because this personal, dualistic consciousness is by nature deluded. However this does not answer his own question – do our joys and sorrows arise from the collective unconscious? From his perspective they always arise from our ignorance, attachment and aversion – poisons found empirically in the conscious mind.

Jung: Of course, consciousness is necessary. Without it, we could not even be sure that such things exist at all. The question, for us, is whether or not it is consciousness that produces Klesha. The answer is no; consciousness is rather the victim of Klesha. Passions are already there, before the presence of consciousness. One cannot ask an angry animal if it is angry; the animal is the victim of its anger. It is the anger that has seized the animal, not the animal who has seized the anger. MM

Jung: Of course, consciousness is necessary, otherwise we could not establish that such things exist. But the question for us is: is it consciousness that creates the Kleshas? The answer is no, consciousness is their victim. Before consciousness, passions already exist. One cannot ask a raging animal whether it is raging. The animal is at the total mercy of its rage. The rage has seized it; the animal has not seized the rage. M

Jung’s response does nothing to clarify the situation. Obviously from his understanding of consciousness, emotions may harm it but it is certainly not the source of the emotions. The collective and personal unconscious are with their content of archetypes and complexes. A view different from Hisamatsu’s. To the question where do attachment, aversion and ignorance come from Jung will say the unconscious – a locational answer, and Hisamatsu will say from our karma – an answer that implies a compulsion, started by our self, moving through time.

Hisamatsu: From an ordinary point of view, Klesha are thought to belong to consciousness, but in what way is this area of consciousness related to the unconscious? MM

Hisamatsu: Kleshas are usually thought to belong to consciousness, but how is this sphere of consciousness related to the unconscious? M

Here Hisamatsu appears to hesitate, perhaps realising the semantic confusion and asks a clarifying question: ‘Ok, Klesha usually are thought to come from consciousness but in your definition how is this consciousness emotionally disturbed by the unconscious?’

Jung: I understand your question to be: how is the unconscious related to consciousness? Is that what you want to know? I cannot give you a definite answer for this. Based on our experience, we acknowledge that consciousness emerges from the unconscious. This can be observed in children, primitive people and other cases. I recognise this as a physician when I have to treat a patient who is seized by the unconscious. The unconscious is like a terrain where there are mountains, lakes and forests, but it is night and nothing can be seen. Suppose a fire is kindled in a certain spot, then suddenly you can see what is there: mountains, lakes, forests, and so on. That fire is consciousness. MM

Jung: How is the unconscious related to consciousness? I really have no definite answer. But for us they are related: we see from experience that consciousness develops out of the unconscious. We can observe this in children, in primitive people and so on. And I see it as a physician. If I have to treat a person in the grip of the unconscious, the unconscious is like a landscape at night, when nothing of the mountains and lakes and woods is visible. Then, if a fire starts someplace, you can suddenly see all that’s there—the lakes, the woods and so on. That is consciousness. M

Jung too seems to lose his way here and merely repeats what he has just said and gives a general clinical example. He has mistaken the real thrust of Hisamatsu’s question, and understandably because it has not been made clear. Instead of addressing the mechanism of suffering he addresses how the collective and personal unconscious are related – which only requires the empirical observation that they are. Perhaps a better ‘Jungian’ answer here would be to speak of neurosis and psychosis – both of which consist disturbing emotions that have their seat in the unconscious while influencing consciousness.

The nature of the self

Hisamatsu: Now then, which is our True Self, the unconscious or consciousness? Which one is called “True Self” or “Self”? MM

Hisamatsu: Which then is our real self, our real, our putative “I”: the unconscious or consciousness ?


The two translations are here quite different. In MM Hisamatsu appears to temporarily rest his attempt to compare his and Jung’s understanding of suffering and instead goes to the nature of the self while in M it reads as if he is still following on from Jung’s last response. However both address a central question for Buddhism, the concepts of anatta – not self, and shunyata – emptiness. A ‘mark of existence’ and the nature of reality respectively. For Hisamatsu there is no real self, personal or archetypal.

In M Hisamatsu asks the confusing question: how can “real self” be a “reputed I”? One sounds intrinsically real the other an illusion. Muramoto’s note tells us that both men use the word “I” in an ordinary every day way without any technical psychological usage implied. So could it be that Hisamatsu is simply asking which, consciousness or the unconscious, is the seat of the feeling of I-ness. The MM text suggests the opposite, that Hisamatsu is asking if either the conscious or unconscious is the “True Self” which if correct would mean that Hisamatsu has returned to his first batch of questions – which I believe he has already got the answers for. Jung’s response supports the M interpretation.

Jung: Consciousness calls itself “I” (ich), while the Self (Selbst) is not “I” at all. The Self is the whole, because personality—you as the whole—consists of consciousness and the unconscious. It is the whole or, in other words, the “Self.” But I know only consciousness; the unconscious remains unknown to me. MM

Jung: Consciousness refers to itself as “I.” The self is no mere “I.” The self is the whole personality—you as a totality—consisting of consciousness and the unconscious. This is the whole, or the self, but I know only consciousness; the unconscious remains unknown to me. M

Having said so much about the Jungian concept of consciousness being linked to a reflective process of individuation here it seems more simply just the self awareness of the ego of itself within a field of awareness. This is set against the Self which represents the whole person, ego consciousness being but one part.

This will pose some problems of understanding for Hisamatsu because nearly all the assumptions here are not found in Buddhism. There is no real or enduring self that has any intrinsic identity. All experiences of a solid, stable and continuing self are found to be an illusion under meditative investigation. 

Hisamatsu: According to your view, the “Self” is the whole. From this the question follows: Is “I-consciousness” different from “Self-consciousness” or not? MM

Hisamatsu: In your view, the self is a totality. This prompts the following question: Is I-consciousness different from self-consciousness? M

Hisamatsu manfully wades in to clarify these points. He appears not to have grasped that the word ‘self’ has two meanings, the common and psychoanalytic use, and Jung’s quasi religious use. Here he seems to be less clear on his Jungian theory than before.

Jung: In ordinary usage, people say “self-consciousness,” but psychologically this is only “I-consciousness.” The Self is unknown, for it indicates the whole, that is, consciousness and the unconscious. The conscious part of a person is none other than you, and moreover it is the person you know. The unconscious part of the person, that is to say, the person as unconscious, is also none other than you. And moreover, it is the person whom you do not know. The Self of a man is indescribable because only one-third or perhaps two-thirds of it enters into experience, and because that which does enter into experience belongs to the “I.” What is known is not the entirety of the Self. In essence, “self-consciousness,” in ordinary usage, psychologically means consciousness as ego. The Self is more than the ego. MM

Jung: In ordinary usage, one says self-consciousness, but that only means I-consciousness, psychologically speaking. The self is unknown because it indeed designates the whole of the person, both conscious and unconscious. The conscious person you are is known to you, but the unconscious person you are is unknown to you. The human self is beyond description, because it is only one-third, or perhaps two-thirds, in the realm of experience, and that part belongs to the “I.” That which is known, however, does not encompass the self. The vernacular expression “self-consciousness” translates psychologically as I-consciousness. The self is much more than the “I.” M

Jung does a good job of teasing out the two uses of ‘self’. He leaves us with an understanding of a being that is largely unknown to itself, a mystery.

Hisamatsu: What? The self cannot be known? MM

Hisamatsu: So the self is unknown? M

A request for confirmation. This suggests to me that Hisamatsu is being careful with the alien concept of the unknowable Self. Also note the difference between MM and M. That the self is unknown (M) does not necessarily mean it can not be known (MM).

Jung: Perhaps only one half of it is known, and that is the ego. The ego is half of the Self. MM

Jung: Perhaps only half of it is known, and that is the “I,” the half of the self. M

Confirmation given.

Hisamatsu: Is the way in which one does not know this “unknown” [Self] the same as the way in which one does not know the “unconscious”? MM

Hisamatsu: Is the way the self is unknown the same as the way that the unconscious is unknown? M

Hisamatsu checks his understanding. Is the not knowing of the unconscious and the self the same?

Jung: It is practically the same. I don’t know what is in it. I am quite unconscious of it. MM

Jung: It is practically the same. I do not know what is within the unconscious, I am not conscious of it. M

Jung confirms it.

Hisamatsu: Is that which we call “I,” in everyday life, really the ego, which has many and various emotions? The ordinary “I” belongs to the sphere of consciousness. How is this ordinary “I” related to the fundamental and unknown self? What place does the ego have in the personality as a whole? MM

Hisamatsu: Is what we call “I” in ordinary life the same “I” that experiences so many different emotions? The ordinary “I” belongs to the sphere of consciousness. How is it related to the original unknown self? What place does the “I” have in the whole personality? M

After reading this a number of times I am not sure what it means. Jung has already made the ego/self, conscious/unconscious relationship exceedingly clear and I feel that Hisamatsu has grasped it. So why does he ask how is ego related to A. the original/fundamental self again? B. To the whole personality.? He has the answer to B. but is he meaning with A. not the greater self (conscious and unconscious) but greater self, no-mind? Remember, Muramoto tells us that fundamental or original unconscious both mean for Hisamatsu the awakened Mind – wu-hsin. Is he actually asking then how the conscious ego is related to no-mind? This would make sense if we think of the internal logic of his questions: he has inquired about the relationship of the unconscious to no-mind and now he has asked about the relationship of the ego to no-mind. However this interpretation sits better with the MM text. Using M alone it may be that Hisamatsu is simply still struggling to understand Jung fully. Note that the MM text introduces the term ‘ego’ while M does not. This does clarify things but is probably not as accurate as M.

Jung: The ego is like a light in the darkness of night. MM

Jung: The “I” is like a light in the darkness of night. M

Jung gives the answer again as an image, he obviously just thinks Hisamatsu does not understand. Does this satisfy Hisamatsu?

The alleviation of suffering

Hisamatsu: In the case of mental illness, the patient cannot escape deep suffering. To relieve the patient of his suffering is probably considered to be the therapy. By such therapy, the patient is brought to a state in which there is no suffering. If this release is the essence of therapy, then how is therapy related to the fundamental unconscious? MM

Hisamatsu: In illness, a patient experiences many deep sufferings, and therapy perhaps consists of liberating the suffering patient from them. He is brought to a state of non suffering. If this liberation is the nature of psychotherapy, how is therapy related to the fundamental unconscious? M

The last answer seems to satisfy Hisamatsu because he now returns to the question of suffering and also the “fundamental unconscious”. What is important to remember here is that both men have yet to unravel the semantic muddles they are caught in. Hisamatsu means by ‘fundamental unconscious’ the non-personal state of wu-hsin – dwelling in pure awareness. So what he is really trying to ask Jung is whether psychotherapy seeks to end suffering in the way Buddhist realisation seeks to end suffering. That is utterly and for ever by being enlightened. What Hisamatsu has wrong here is the assumption that therapy understands and shares this goal and that it knows anything of spiritual liberation. His use of the word “liberation” is revealing. This does not imply alleviation but a final cessation.

Jung: When the sickness is caused by things of which we are not conscious, there exists the possibility of cure through making the causes conscious. The cause, however, does not always exist within the unconscious. Rather, there are also a fair number of cases in which the various symptoms indicate the existence of conscious causes. I will give you an example: there was a man who had lost his ordinary consciousness, so to speak. He became only dimly conscious or, one may say, half-conscious, and it was as though he had lost his capacity for judgment. The cause was that his wife had given birth to a child who was not his own. But he was not conscious of this fact. As a result, his consciousness was confused and he became abnormal. Eventually he began chasing after an elderly woman. This happened because he had lost discretion. But this lack of discretion was not the fundamental cause of his suffering. He was not conscious of the fact which generated his suffering. In his case, the treatment was to reveal to him that his wife had been unfaithful. MM

Jung: If the illness is caused by things that are unconscious, then there is the possibility of healing by making these causes conscious. The causes do not always have to lie in the unconscious, however. There are cases in which the symptoms point to psychic causes. For example, there was a man who lost his consciousness, so to speak, and became only half conscious. It was as if he had lost his good judgment. The reason for this was that the child to whom his wife had given birth was not his own child. While he was not conscious of this fact, it had nonetheless darkened his consciousness. He then chased after an old love of his, but this was only because he was living in unawareness. He was unconscious of what was causing his suffering, and the therapy consisted in telling him that his wife had been unfaithful. M

Jung of course is unaware of the enormity of the question because he understands ‘fundamental unconscious’ as the unconscious and so gives an account of the standard psychoanalytic cure of making the unconscious conscious. Also a very interesting difference between MM and M. ‘Elderly woman’ and ‘old love’. Literal and euphemistic translations?

Hisamatsu: What will happen to him when he comes to know clearly that his child is not his own? Is it not quite possible that once he knows this fact, he will suffer in another way? Does the treatment lie in exposing the various causes of suffering? MM

Hisamatsu: What will become of this man when he has clearly recognised that the child is not his own? It could be that after learning the truth he becomes afflicted with another suffering. Does psychotherapy consist of making conscious the causes of suffering? M

Hisamatsu sees in this answer only a temporary alleviation but not a total cessation. It is at best a plaster. He knows that all life is suffering and that it requires knowledge of the cause of suffering to bring suffering to an end forever. However these causes he sees, not as transient local difficulties, but more fundamentally as being ignorant of our awakened nature due to the obscurations of the Kleshas. Only when this ignorance comes to an end will suffering end.

Jung: In this case, yes, but not in all cases. For example, sometimes the causes of the suffering are already known to the patient, such as a relationship [of discord] between himself and his mother or father. Both he and those around him are aware of the causes. What they do not know are the kinds of influences which the discord has on the patient’s personality, which attitude the patient should have toward these things, and how he should respond. Most patients complain either that the father or the mother is responsible for the illness. But as a physician, the question is how to treat the patient to enable him to determine his own attitude. The parents’ responsibility relates to the origin of the illness. The most important problem in treatment relates to its aim. And this problem leads ultimately to the question: “What is the meaning of my life?” MM

Jung: In his case, yes, but not always. For example, there are other cases in which the causes are well known, in which a person already knows that a bad relationship with his father or mother is the cause of his suffering. Anybody can know as much. What everybody cannot know is the kind of consequences for the patient’s character that result from the relationship. Nor do they know what kind of attitude he is now to have toward these consequences. Most patients say repeatedly, “Father and Mother are to blame for my illness,” but the real question is: How can I treat the patient so that he becomes able to cope with his experience? While the father’s or the mother’s responsibility may be a causal factor, when all is said and done, therapy hinges on the final question: What kind of meaning does my life have? M

Jung still has not been alerted to Hisamatsu’s own agenda. He responds to Hisamatsu’s question by adding that in addition to becoming conscious of what was unconscious, it is also, more importantly, necessary to weave ones personal narrative into a cloth of meaning. This is the heart of Jung’s psychology.

Hisamatsu: There are many worries in our ordinary existence. The essence of cure is liberation from worries. Now then, what sorts of changes in the sphere of the unconscious correspond to this liberation? MM

Hisamatsu: Ordinary life has many kinds of suffering. Psychotherapy consists of liberation from suffering. What sort of changes in the sphere of the unconscious correspond to this liberation? M

What is interesting here is that this question is remarkably similar to Hisamatsu’s “In illness, a patient experiences many deep sufferings, and therapy perhaps consists of liberating the suffering patient from them. He is brought to a state of non suffering. If this liberation is the nature of psychotherapy, how is therapy related to the fundamental unconscious? M”. Also the two versions ask different questions. MM seems to suggest with the phrase ”essence of cure” something that is fundamental, more than a temporary solution. While M is clearly speaking of psychotherapy. I wonder what has happened here? Has Jung, to Hisamatsu’s mind, not yet understood what he is trying to ask so he asks it again slightly differently? Either way the question becomes clearer as we proceed. Hisamatsu wants to know what psychotherapy can do for the root cause of suffering and what its ‘cure’ consists of.

Jung: It has to do with one’s conscious attitude. What matters most of all is the attitude that I hold toward such worries and the measures I take in response to them. Suppose that, for such and such a reason, I feel distressed and sad. If I feel that “this is all too much to bear and I really can’t stand it,” then my worries increase all the more. But if one can say, “Well, there is good and bad in this world, and every day has its mishaps; the sun cannot always shine; there also are rainy days and snowy days,” then his worries will diminish. If one can assume an objective attitude, namely, if he can accept his worries, then he has discovered the attitude by which he can liberate himself from neurotic, pathological worries. If one can accept one’s worries, they are no longer so painful. MM

Jung: This is the question of conscious attitude. In states of psychological suffering, it is important how I myself relate to a certain state, what kind of attitude I have. Let’s say I am unhappy or sad because of something that’s happened. If I think, “How horrible that something like this has happened,” and cannot accept it, then I’ll only suffer more. Each day has its own troubles, and the sun cannot always shine. Sometimes it rains or snows. If a person is able to adopt the attitude that both good and bad are part of life, that person will suffer less. With an objective attitude, he can find a way to release himself from his morbid neurotic suffering. If he can say “yes” to the suffering and accept it, the pain is suddenly diminished. M

Jung’s answer is to actually describe a conscious change – the ability to not be so caught up in ones neurosis by being able to accept it. Something very close to Melanie Klein’s concept of the depressive position.

Hisamatsu: Fear of death is a universal suffering which is common to everyone. How can this fear be treated with psychotherapy? MM

Hisamatsu: A universal suffering is the fear of death. How can this suffering be treated by psychotherapy? M

Hisamatsu now seems to ask the question a third time by casting it with a specific example. Could it be that Jung’s answer he has either not understood or is dissatisfied by?

Jung: There is no universal rule or method. Each case is different. People fear death for a variety of reasons, and the particular treatment will be determined by those reasons. For example, if I experience anxiety about death, the cause may be quite different from that of a young, healthy man’s anxiety. Why is the latter afraid of death? He has no reason at all. Nevertheless, he is afraid. As such, the situation varies from case to case. There is no universal method of cure. We must consider each case individually. The old man’s anxiety about death and the young man’s anxiety must be treated in entirely different ways. MM

Jung: There is no general rule or method, but only individual cases. People fear death for many different reasons. The course of therapy depends upon the reasons for this death anxiety. My anxiety of death is quite different from anxiety in a young, healthy man. Why does he fear death? There may be no apparent reason and yet he fears it. So the situations are quite different. Therefore, there is no general course of therapy. We must always consider the individual case. Why is an old man anxious about death? Why is a young man anxious about death? The two must be dealt with quite differently. M

Perhaps Jung is beginning to understand that Hisamatsu has something in mind. Whether that is so or not he makes it clear that he only offers individual cures.

Hisamatsu: I have taken the fear of death only as an example, because death is unavoidable for everyone. There are so many different worries and we must live most of the time in suffering. Now what I would like to ask is this: Is it possible or not for a human being to discard all of his suffering at a stroke, and can this be achieved by psychotherapy? MM

Hisamatsu: I only mention the fear of death as an example, because death is unavoidable. But people suffer in many, many ways. We must almost always live in suffering. I want to ask you whether or not it is possible, within the framework of psychotherapy, for a person to disengage from all these various sufferings in one fell swoop? M

Now it is out! Hisamatsu at last asks directly. Buddhism believes it has the universal cure for all ills. It is a path to end all suffering. Completely, for ever. Can psychotherapy do this?

Jung: How can such a method be possible? A method which enables us to free ourselves from suffering itself? MM

Jung: Are you asking whether there exists a method by which suffering is healed? M

Can Jung believe his ears?

Hisamatsu: Is there no universally applicable treatment for suffering? MM

Hisamatsu: Yes. Is there no generally valid remedy for it? M

Can Hisamatsu make it clearer?

Jung: Is there really such a method by which we can free ourselves from suffering itself? MM

Jung: Are you asking whether there is a method through which one could spare a person suffering? M

Jung grasps the nettle with what sounds like disbelief.

Hisamatsu: Doesn’t psychotherapy emancipate us from suffering all at once? MM

Hisamatsu: Yes. Can psychotherapy liberate us from suffering in one fell swoop? M

Hisamatsu confirms it again. Yes, he means the end of all suffering for ever.

Jung: Liberate man from suffering itself? What we are trying to do is to reduce human suffering. Still some suffering remains. If the beautiful and wonderful do not appear in contrast to the ugly and troublesome, then they will disappear. Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, once said, “Happiness is the cessation of suffering.” We need suffering. Without it, life is no longer interesting. Therefore, even psychotherapy has no right to meddle in the [philosophical] question of the ultimate meaning of human suffering. Should this be done, people would be dissatisfied. MM

Jung: Liberate us from suffering? One tries to reduce suffering, yet some suffering is always present. There would be nothing beautiful if the beautiful were not in contrast with ugliness or suffering. The German philosopher Schopenhauer once said: “Happiness is the cessation of suffering.” We need suffering. Otherwise, life would no longer be interesting. Psychotherapy must not disturb the problem of suffering too much in people. Otherwise, people would become dissatisfied. M

This produces in Jung an statement of allegiance to his core Romantic belief. Suffering is valuable, it is the engine of individuation, just enough makes life beautiful and meaningful, why would you want to get rid of it for ever?

Hisamatsu: Suffering is, in a way, necessary to human life. This is true. Nevertheless, within man is a genuine wish to be liberated from suffering itself. MM

Hisamatsu: Suffering is, in a sense, necessary for life. You are right. Nevertheless, we have a genuine wish to be liberated from it. M

Hisamatsu recognises that suffering is intrinsic to life but his core belief values being liberated from it totally. For him there is nothing beautiful in human suffering. Never have the two men understood each other so clearly nor been so far apart. Hisamatsu likewise sounds shocked.

Jung: Of course, when there is an excess of suffering, it is the physician’s duty to reduce it. But it is not the physician’s duty to completely eradicate suffering. MM

Jung: Of course, if there is too much of it. The physician strives to reduce suffering, not to put an end to it. M

At this moment of mutual alienation Jung appears to attempt to construct something of a bridge across but without abandoning his position.

Hisamatsu: But in the case of physical illness, the doctor attempts to release the patient from sickness and to eradicate sickness from the human world. Is this not the same in the case of mental illness? MM

Hisamatsu: In the case of physical illness, the physician tries to release the patient from it and to eliminate sickness from the human world. Is this not also true of mental illness? M

However it sounds like Hisamatsu is trying to clarify what he has just heard. A physician tries to eliminate all physical sickness why not than a psychotherapist with mental illness?

Jung: Of course, it is the same. MM

Jung: Of course! M

Jung agrees but in the light of what he has just said this can not be a full agreement.

Hisamatsu: The great messengers of religious truth, such as Christ or Buddha, all say that we human beings share equally in universal suffering – suffering related to death, or suffering related to sin, for example. The intention of these religious founders was to liberate human beings from fundamental suffering. Is it really possible that such great freedom can be achieved by psychotherapy? MM

Hisamatsu: The great messengers of religious truth – Christ, for example

– have said that all humans suffer a common lot: the suffering of death, or of original sin. Their intention was to liberate humans from this fundamental suffering. Is it possible to think that such a great liberation could be realised in psychotherapy? M

Hisamatsu here invites Jung to consider the Buddhist vision of ending all suffering. He calls this a “great liberation” and suggests that it was the vision of Christ as well as Buddha, could psychotherapy embrace this as well?

Jung: It is not inconceivable, if you treat suffering not as an individual sickness, but as an impersonal occurrence, such as a disaster or an evil. Psychotherapy, for example, is concerned with making the patient understand that his sufferings have non-personal aspects, and helping him become conscious of the causal sequence. In many cases, psychotherapy’s concern is to release him from unnecessary suffering caused by the passions, or klesha. He is entangled in the klesha, and can be liberated from them through inner wisdom. The aim of psychotherapy is exactly the same as that of Buddhism. MM

Jung: This is not inconceivable, if you regard the problem not as a personal illness, but as an impersonal manifestation of evil. The concern of psychotherapy is in many cases to make patients conscious, through insight, of the nidana chain, of the unnecessary suffering fostered by lust, desire and passion. Passion ties us up, but through insight we are made free. The goal in psychotherapy is exactly the same as in Buddhism. M

The two versions are very dissimilar here, MM clearly both translating terms -nidana – and adding new concepts – inner wisdom. However what they share is Jung’s conciliatory tone. He acknowledges that it is possible to think about peoples suffering in a religious, generalised way. All of us suffer and this suffering has causes, by gaining insight into this we may free ourselves. In this psychotherapy and Buddhism are the same.

Hisamatsu: The essential point of this liberation is how we can be awakened to our Original Self. The Original Self is the self which is no longer bound by a myriad of things. To attain this self is the essential point of freedom. It is necessary, therefore, to release oneself even from the collective unconscious and the bondage which derives from it. MM

Hisamatsu: The essential issue in this liberation is: how does one reach a fundamental self, one that is no longer captivated by the ten thousand things? How to get there, that is the problem. Is it necessary to liberate oneself from the collective unconscious as well, or from the conditions it imposes on us? M

This however does not appear to be enough for Hisamatsu and he again reveals the background to his questioning by saying that the key thing is how do we reach the “fundamental self” or “Original Self” – (wu-hsin). This is the root cure to the root cause of suffering. It liberates us from the Kleshas. However in M he is apparently still unclear about the collective unconscious – is this too part of the ten thousand things in itself? If it is we will need to liberate our identification with it. While MM he is emphatic – it is necessary to be released from the bondage of the collective unconscious – said not as a question.

Jung: If one is caught in a myriad of things and thus bound within it, this is because he is caught within the collective unconscious at the same time. He can be freed only when he is liberated from both of them. One person may be dragged along more by the unconscious, another by things. In short, through liberation, man must be brought to a point where he is free from the compulsion to chase after a myriad of things or from being controlled by the collective unconscious. Both are fundamentally the same: Nirvana. MM

Jung: If someone is caught in the ten thousand things, it is because that person is also caught in the collective unconscious. A person is liberated only when freed from both. One person may be driven more by the unconscious and another by things. One has to take the person to the point where he is free from the compulsion to either run after things or be driven by the unconscious. What is needed for both compulsions is basically the same: nirdvandva.


This is astonishing. Has Jung just said that the root cure from either being caught up in materialism or identification with the unconscious is to be free of opposites? nirdvandva means to be free of dualism and this implies the realisation of non-dual consciousness. Exactly the consciousness that Hisamatsu has been expounding as the definitive cure of all ills.

Muramoto can not believe Jung is saying this because it would represent the abandonment of his position. He believes that Jung has taken this Buddhist term and seen in it a confirmation of his own idea of the transcendent function. This Jung can do without threat to his Romantic philosophy. However, in the translations there is some confusion between whether he did indeed say this or the more difficult to explain away nirvana as MM suggests. This later implies an extinction of the self and therefore finds no echo in Jung’s work anywhere. In fact he explicitly declares in his memoirs a distinct disinterest in this particular goal. So what could Jung have really been saying? Did he really understand what he appears to have said? Muramoto and other writers have suggested that Jung’s reply was forced from him under the inquisition of the Zen masters questioning in much the same way a master springs from the student a sudden enlightening insight. Attractive as this fantasy may be I can not see the ancient Jung as so susceptible to sudden shifts in perspective. Perhaps, staying with his usual position, he merely means that consciousness must become distinct from the collective unconscious in the process of individuation. If the collective unconscious is the home of universal passions then it will be necessary to be free of, or liberated, from unconscious identification with them, as in the Freudian idea that ego must be distinct from id. An idea that is echoed in Jung’s belief that it is the ego which must have the final decision, not the unconscious. The real problem however is, as usual, Jung’s loose use of borrowed terms. What ever he means he certainly surprises his Japanese guests and subsequent interpreters.

Hisamatsu: In what you have just said about the unconscious, Professor Jung, do you mean that the collective unconscious is some thing from which, in its nature, we can free ourselves? MM

Hisamatsu: From what you have said about the collective unconscious, might I infer that one can be liberated from it? M

Hisamatsu sounds a bit astonished.

Jung: Yes it is. MM

Jung: Yes!


Muramoto says that Hisamatsu and his translator are both surprised by this. This is not analytical psychology, as they hear it, but Buddhism. Muramoto however invites us into a speculation into what sort of yes it was. Consciously affirmative, irritated and exasperated or somehow sprung from Jung’s own unconscious under the questioning of this Zen master? New and astonishing but then later to be retreated from, perhaps an embarrassment? Muramoto chooses the later but I am not convinced. Hisamatsu’s questions for me have more the flavour of one intent to understand and make comparisons not an attempt to create new understanding. So why did Jung say yes?

My belief is that Jung is saying one thing and Hisamatsu, due to his lack of a deep understanding of Jungian psychology, is hearing another though neither realise this. If we think back we will remember that both men use the key word ‘liberate’ in different ways. Hisamatsu means an absolute cessation found in spiritual awakening while Jung means a simpler ‘to be free of’. Thus when he says liberation from the collective unconscious all he means is his own understanding of the desirability for the ego to be individuated and not be solely identified with the archetypes of the collective unconscious. This is really no more than what Jung has already said – it is necessary to gain a reflective distance on the compulsion to identify with our emotions. Nothing more than this.

Returning to the self

Hisamatsu: What we generally call “self” is the same as the self [Selbst] characterised by you, Professor Jung. But it is only after the emancipation of this self that the “Original Self” of Zen emerges. It is the True Self described in Zen as the Self which is realised in absolute emancipation and is without dependence on anything. [do-kadatsu mue] MM

Hisamatsu: What we in Buddhism, and especially in Zen, usually call the “common self” corresponds exactly to what you call the “collective unconscious.” Only through liberation from this self does the authentic self emerge.


Hisamatsu now seems to offer his Zen view to check that Jung is really going along with his apparent statement that we must be liberated from the collective unconscious. The ‘common self’ is the same as the collective unconscious and this ‘common self’ must be spiritually liberated to realise the authentic self which is characterised as ‘alone, independent, and detached’. It is almost as if he is asking, “Are you sure you want to abandon the collective unconscious in the light of all you have said?” M is much clearer on this.

Jung: Your “self” means something like klesha in the Yoga Sutra. On the contrary, my “Self” corresponds to atman or Purusha. The personal atman corresponds to the Self. The individual atman is, at the same time, a super-individual atman. In other words, my “self” is at the same time “Self itself” [non-individual Self]. According to my terminology, “Self” is the counterpart who works against “ego.” What you call “self” is for me “ego.” And what I call “Self” is the whole, and atman. MM

Jung: This self of which you speak corresponds, for example, to the Kleshas in the Yoga Sutra. My concept of self corresponds, however, to the notions of atman or Purusha. This personal atman corresponds to the self insofar as it is at the same time the suprapersonal atman. In other words, “my self” is at the same time “the” self. In my language, the self is the counterpart to the “I.” What you call the self is what I would call the “I.” What I call the self is the whole, the atman. M

Jung seems to have now heard Hisamatsu fully and becomes confusing in both MM and M as he apparently tries to get clear water between himself and Hisamatsu. Was he actually shocked by what he has just said (Muramoto’s idea) or has he just realised that they have badly misunderstood each other?

Jung now says:

1. The self Hisamatsu speaks of is the same as the Kleshas in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. But which self, the common or the authentic? It must be the former.

2. Entering metaphysics fully Jung says his self is the same as the atman or Purusha, both Hindu notions representing the divine when viewed within the person. Does he mean “his self” as in ‘my self’ or his Self as in his notion of the Self? Following MM I think the later.

3. This next is particularly confusing. Jung tries to delineate the relationship between the personal atman and the suprapersonal atman, and the personal self, the “I”, and the archetypal Self. I think what he means is that there is a connection between the personal self and universal self that is like the atman/Brahman relationship in Vedanta philosophy. They are like space inside and outside of a container, essentially the same but viewed differently. This is confirmed by my broader reading where it does seem that Jung makes the parallel between atman/Brahman and ego/self. (For instance see The Holy Men of India). For me this causes endless confusion because, by my understanding, the two sets of concepts are utterly dissimilar.

4. Eventually he seems to make a clear statement. Hisamatsu’s self (we presume his ordinary self) corresponds to Jung’s ego and Jung’s atman corresponds to his capital S Self. However what has become of Hisamatsu’s ‘authentic self’?

5. Lastly I feel this statement is about defending Jung’s notion of the archetypal self from being lumped together with the personal self. He can not agree to Hisamatsu’s suggestion that both form together the “ordinary self” and that one must be liberated from them to realise the “authentic self”. This would make the archetypal self – somewhat godlike in Jung’s thinking – into something lesser than the highest value – the authentic self, wu-hsin – in Hisamatsu’s Buddhism. An idea utterly different to analytical psychology.

Many of the confusions in M are tidied in MM. Here Jung is clearly saying that his understanding of the Self is that it may not be lumped in with the conscious ego to make one entity – the ordinary self – that must then be liberated. But rather, it is like atman or Purusha, the highest divinity found within man. This then would mean that it is an equivalent to ‘no-mind’, the highest value.

Hisamatsu: Etymologically, “Original Self” corresponds to atman. But what we call atman in its ordinary usage implies some substantial essence and is not what I call True Self. The True Self has no substance. The True Self has no form or substance, whatsoever. MM

Hisamatsu: The authentic self corresponds to the atman. In the common understanding atman still retains a faint trace of substance, but that is not yet what I call the true self. The true self has neither substance nor form.

Hisamatsu will not allow Jung to make this connection. However he makes an unusual claim for a Buddhist, that the authentic self corresponds to the atman. This is unusual because it flies in the face of Buddhist philosophy which categorically denies the existence of atman with its own notion of anatma – not self. Muramoto has a struggle with this in his note 10. He sees Hisamatsu as using authentic self, true self and fundamental unconscious all as synonyms for wu-hsin, no-mind. However this being so how can he then appear to differentiate them in this last statement?

Perhaps the answer is found in the sentence, “In the common understanding atman still retains a faint trace of substance, . . ”. Could Hisamatsu be thinking here of a very fine distinction between the “common atman” and some other atman which has no substance and can therefore be properly called a “true self”? Thus what he may be saying is, “The authentic self, the true self, wu-hsin, is only the same as the atman which has no trace of substance.” This notion of different expressions of atman is intimated by Jung in his statements about a personal and suprapersonal atman. Muramoto also suggests that normally Hisamatsu would never use the Upanishadic concept of atman but seeing that Jung is familiar with it attempts to use it as a bridge for communication. This last point I find convincing. So according to Hisamatsu, common atman = ordinary self = personal and collective unconscious. Suprapersonal atman = authentic/true self = wu-hsin, no-mind. Of course what Hisamatsu is also saying is that Jung may not liken his concept of the self to the suprapersonal atman because it is only the collective part of the ‘ordinary self’. Thus denying the importance of the self that Jung is suggesting.

In the MM text we read that “Etymologically, “Original Self” corresponds to atman”. Dr.T.M.P. Mahadevan in History of Philosophy Eastern and Western 1952:59 says that the word atman may have originally came from the word breath. Does this get us any further? Yes, in as much as there is a common association of breath with the divine.

And one last important point. In my researches I can find no reference to a “common atman”. So for me at least this remains an entirely perplexing concept.

Jung: Even though I identify the Self with atman, this is simply a rough comparison. Because the Oriental way of thinking is different from my way of thinking, the two are not commensurable. I can say that the Self exists and yet does not exist, for I cannot say anything decisively about it. I can only say that the Self seems to me to be bigger than “I.” If someone should tell me that atman has substance or that it has no substance, I can only respond as follows: “You say so, but in fact I do not know what the true atman is. I only know what people say about the atman.” I can only say that it is such and such, and at the same time, that it is not such and such.


Jung: So when I compare the self with atman, my comparison is an obviously incorrect one. They are incommensurable because the Eastern way of thinking is different from my way of thinking. I can say that the self both exists and does not exist, because I really can say nothing about it. It is greater than the “I.” The “I” can only say: this is the way it seems to me. If one were to say that atman either has or does not have substance, I can only acknowledge what the person says—for I do not know what the true atman really is. I only know what people say about it. I can only say of it: “It is so” and, at the same time, “It is not so.” M

This is a intriguing response to what Hisamatsu has just said. Immediately after making all sorts of chaotic metaphysical claims about the self and the atman Jung seems to take a huge leap backwards into his agnostic psychologist self and say that he can not say anything about the truth of atman but only observe what other people say of it. I am left wondering why he would do this. Is it that he has just fully understood the force of what Hisamatsu has said and realises that they come from utterly different perspectives? At this point he begins withdrawing from the whole enterprise of dialogue by saying “Well I can’t contribute because we are so different.” However it is also important to note how easily Jung abandons his use of atman. It is as if he feels that because it is an “Eastern” term it belongs to Hisamatsu. Again he demonstrates an ignorance of the fact that actually his own psychology is closer to Vedic notions of a transpersonal self than Hisamatsu’s Buddhism is. According to Muramoto Hisamatsu is only using such language because Jung started it. If he were to get precise he would disagree with it all.

Hisamatsu: There is neither form nor substance in the True Self of Zen. It is quite different from the ordinary atman. Zen’s True Self has neither spiritual form nor physical shape. MM

Hisamatsu: Unlike the ordinary atman, the true self of Zen has neither form nor substance. It has no form, mental or physical. M

This too sounds like a retreat. Hisamatsu simply reiterates the nature of the true self of Zen, differentiating it from the ordinary atman. This term ‘ordinary atman’ that it has a “faint trace of substance” which does not have the total insubstantiality of the true self, really remains a mystery. What is Hisamatsu thinking of?

Jung: Even if you say so, I cannot in fact know what I do not know. I cannot know if the Self has various states or not, because I am quite unconscious in these regards. The whole of the human being consists of consciousness and the unconscious. I know no more than that it is possible that this whole can exist in such and such a state. It is possible. But I do not know. Naturally, I can make certain assertions and strenuously maintain various positions regarding metaphysical problems. However, the very act of doing so would reveal that ultimately I do not know. MM

Jung: I cannot know what I don’t know. I cannot be conscious of whether the self has attributes or not, because I am unconscious of the self. The whole human person is both conscious and unconscious. I only know that I may possess a certain set of attributes. What you say [concerning the ordinary atman and the true self of Zen—SM] is possible, but I can’t know if that’s really the case. I can, of course, make assertions. I can state metaphysical matters until I am blue in the face but, fundamentally, I don’t know.


Jung truly has taken a step backwards from the dialogue. He is now unwilling to do anything other than assert his psychologist position and repeat his simple truth that one can not speak of what is unknown. His phrase, “state metaphysical matters until I am blue in the face”, sounds positively rude and is absent in MM – the one that comes via the Japanese source. Is he suggesting that is what Hisamatsu is doing, forgetting that Zen is seated on experiential knowledge, not theories?

Muramoto also recognises something of an antagonistic quality here and suggests it is Jung’s “harsh judgment” of Hisamatsu’s apparent refusal to view his own Zen through Jung’s psychological glasses. If this is so then it reveals an arrogance in Jung: It would suggest that Jung believes his psychological model may act as a ‘meta-model’ through which all philosophies and religious beliefs may be analysed and so more truly understood. What he then is offering Hisamatsu is not a dialogue between equal but different partners but rather an opportunity for Hisamatsu to place Zen within his, Jung’s psychological overview. Once Hisamatsu stops asking questions and takes a turn at expressing his own understanding Jung no longer wants to play. Could it be that he is not there to mutually learn but only teach? If this were so than Jung has forgotten that, even by the light of his own theories, analytical psychology can be no more than one of the many human attempts to bring meaning to the suffering of human existence – it too being but a single expression of the Self.

This brings us to a crux question. Is it actually possible to compare these two world views? Jung plainly thinks not when he says they are incommensurable, even though he knows that is Hisamatsu’s intention from the start. Why is this?

Jung’s view is that all human experience is patterned by archetypes that we may only infer the existence of through the instinctual behaviours and archetypal images that they engender and find expression in. This is just as true for spirituality as it is for all other areas of human activity. Thus all the ideas, feelings and experiences associated with Zen are conditioned by  archetype predispositions – particularly the archetype of the self. Because of this Jung can say – as a psychologist – that while the self as such remains unknown, its manifestation as the archetypal behaviours and images found in Zen can be observed as psychological phenomena. However as a psychologist he can not comment on the metaphysical reality of Zen’s philosophical truths, he can only analyse their content and structure. Essentially this is a very modest enterprise. Merely descriptive with no attempt to say what is true or not. Where it falls down though is that it conceals within it the belief that the self is the ultimate ‘thing’ (ie: archetype) which all religions and mystical traditions each express in their own individual ways. It is in effect a closet perennial philosophy position. All roads lead to the self. Another, simpler, way of saying this is to state the obvious: all spiritual expressions come from the human psyche. This is unarguably true while their respective truths are not.

Hisamatsu’s model is based on meditation practitioners who have  experientially confirmed the spiritual realisation of Zen Buddhism. They inhabit an experience of wu-hsin that they recognise as the ultimate reality which is beyond the dualistic conceptual mind. An awakened Mind of pure, non-dual consciousness. Unconstructed, indestructible, formless, cognisant, compassionate. Ultimately ineffable. This awakened Mind is unbound by the ‘ten thousand things’, the entire manifest universe, and among these ten thousand things are all conceptualisations including Jung’s conceptualisation of a collective unconscious from which it emerges as an expression of the archetype of the self. The direct knowledge of wu-hsin reveals this conceptualisation bears the ‘three marks of existence’ as something transitory, capable of producing suffering and without any real, enduring reality within it. A gathering of insubstantial ideas that blow together like leaves into a pile and then blow away. Here fundamentally what is at bottom is wu-hsin, in Hisamatsu’s adapted Buddhist language, the true self, the authentic self, the original self. And it is out of this original self that the whole universe of the ten thousand things manifests, including the notion of a collective unconscious and all its functions.

So is Jung right, are these two world views so without a common measure that they may not be compared? My feeling is that the question itself immediately confuses us. When we talk about Zen and Analytical Psychology, about Wu-hsin and the self, it is assumed that these concepts represent experiential realities – that they talk about something that is really there. But if we listen to what they say about ‘what is really there’ then they say very different things. The self is only known by implication. As Jung says, it is unknown. We only know it by its effects – its patterning of human experience. Wu-hsin is known directly through experience. It is the one thing that is known more clearly than anything else. It is ‘what is really there’ when we stop thinking, when we cease to inhabit a universe conditioned by subject/object perceptions and relationships, when we wake up. Hisamatsu can teach a means to have this knowledge, for Jung there is no equivalent. So my own belief is that Jung is correct. These two views are so fundamentally different that comparison is meaningless. While there may be superficial places of contact we can not get away from the fact that a contemplative philosophy like Zen is not, and has no desire to be, a conceptually speculative endeavour, a natural science, in the way psychology is (or hopes to be).

Hisamatsu: The True Self has no form and no substance. Therefore the True Self can never be bound by a myriad of things. Liberation, the essence of religious freedom, rests on this point. The religious character of Zen lies in this. Ultimately, to become “The Formless Self” [muso no jiko] is the essence of Zen. My earlier statement, that Zen is a philosophy and religion at the same time, derives from this. MM

Hisamatsu: The true self is without form and substance, and is therefore never bound by the ten thousand things. That is the essence of religious liberation. This is also the religious character of Zen, with its insight into the value of transcending the passions and becoming the formless self.

That is why I said at the beginning of our conversation that Zen is both philosophy and religion.


Hisamatsu may now have picked up Jung’s withdrawal. He states his entire position very simply and possibly in the last statement that Zen is both a philosophy and religion gently reminds Jung that he is not merely sprouting ideas which have no connection to anything real.

No MM for this last paragraph.

Professor Hisamatsu thanks Dr. Jung for having found, together with him, the connection between the unconscious and what we have called “the true self.”

The connection has become very clear to him. He then proceeds to explain the true self further by using the metaphor of waves on water.


This last is wonderfully ambiguous and dry. If my reading is correct Hisamatsu has largely found the connection between the true self and the collective unconscious by himself through his questioning of Jung and what he has found is that there is no connection at all. Lastly the text does not tell us how Jung receives further information on the true self. Does his exasperation continue or can he listen as a psychologist who hears all that is being said as the inner world of the patient?

Muramoto’s Notes

1. Jaffe’s note: C. G. Jung’s psychology is called analytical psychology, to distinguish it from Freud’s psychoanalysis.

2. Hisamatsu does not use the Chinese word wu-hsin, but rather its Japanese phonetic transcription, mu-shin. Like many other Buddhist terms, the word has settled into the Japanese language, albeit with some variation in meaning. Jaffe notes in the protocol that Jung takes wu-hsin to mean the unconscious.

What is the source Muramoto is referring to here? Beneath he will mention a Japanese translation several times. He has told us that his translation is from the German so are we to assume that he consulted Tsujimura’s Japanese translation of the Jaffe’ transcript whilst doing so?

3. The word “fundamental” (ursprunglich in Jaffe’s protocol) is my translation of both konpontenki and kongenteki in the Japanese translation—terms which might be more exactly rendered “original.” What Hisamatsu means to refer to is something metaphysical, and not genetically primal—though he would deny metaphysics in the Western sense. His meaning may be close to the German prefix ur-, as in Goethe’s concepts of Urpflanze, Urphanomen and so on, because it is at once both metaphysical and accessible to experience. It is with some reservation, then, that I adopt the English term “fundamental” instead of “original.”

A decision the MM text does not make.

It is essential in this context to keep in mind Hisamatsu’s lack of familiarity with depth psychology. He speaks of “the fundamental unconscious” in his own Zen sense of wu-hsin—and not in any psychological sense. Thus, even if the term “fundamental” were replaced by words like “original” or “primal,” it is only the translator who grapples with such nuances of meaning and sophistication. Hisamatsu only uses the word “unconscious” in this dialogue with otherwise, he would never speak of it. In the Japanese text, in fact, the word “unconscious” is given in quotes, perhaps to suggest Hisamatsu’s particular use and understanding of it.

4. Jung here refers to Ernst Heckel’s famous biological thesis. The earlier English version of the conversation, based upon the Japanese translation, reveals that the Japanese translator was unaware of this. In that earlier version, “ontogeny” and “phylogeny” were respectively mistranslated as “the development of the individual” and “the development of psyche in history.”

Which earlier version? The MM text says, “The development of psyche in history is recapitulated in the development of the individual”, so the earlier English translation is not the MM text.

5. Since the days of Strachey’s translation of Freud, the German term das Ich is usually rendered “the ego” in the psychological literature. But throughout the conversation, both Hisamatsu and Jung seem to refer to an everyday—rather than a technical— understanding of the term, along the lines of what Bruno Bettelheim, in his book Freud and Man’s Soul, takes to be Freud’s own original intent. Therefore, I consistently use “I” instead of “the ego” as the translation of das Ich. I am grateful to Jan Middeldorf for his insistence on this point.

6. The Buddha is mentioned along with Christ in Tsujimura’s translation.

7. Sanscrit word meaning “freedom from opposites,” but different from nirvana. nirdvandva refers to an idea in which dualism is presupposed and at the same time overcome. It is no wonder that Jung adopted this word, as it fits well with his mode of thinking which is expressed, for example, in his key concept of the “transcendent function”—namely, an attitude or a capacity to sustain the tension of opposites, from which a reconciling symbol can then emerge from the depths of the mind. The word nirvana, on the contrary, originally meaning “the extinction of fire,” suggests an absolute transcendence or denial of dualism to nothingness—reflecting a mode of thinking which is foreign to Jung:

Nothingness = shunyata

Upon reading the German protocol for the first time, I asked Jaffe whether the word nirdvandva was not a typing error for nirvana. Firmly saying “No,” she opened to page 377 of Vol. 11 of Jung’s Collected Works (in the original German version of the Gesammelte Werke) and pointed to paragraph 435. The word nirdvandva was in fact there. However, in the editor’s note to the expanded edition of Vol. 1 of Shin’ichi Hisamatsu’s Collected Works, published in 1996, Gishin Tokiwa writes that translator Tsujimura clearly heard Jung speak of nirvana, and not nirdvandva. According to Tsujimura, he had translated the typewritten protocol he’d received from Jung himself, thus making unlikely, if not impossible, any translation errors of this sort. Tokiwa goes on to claim that there is no difference between nirdvandva and nirvana. Personally, I think the difference between the two Sanscrit words is not to be overlooked, especially where the dialogue between Zen and psychology is concerned.

Which “typewritten protocol he’d received from Jung himself”, both Muramoto and Meckel and Moore say the protocol comes from the Jaffe’ notes before or immediately after Jung’s death?

8. Hisamatsu’s immediately preceding question is, in my opinion, the gravitational centre of the entire conversation, comparable with a critical confrontation between a Zen Master and his disciple in Zen mondo (question and answer). We are told, in fact, in Hisamatsu’s commentary to the Japanese version of the translation appearing in Vol. 1 of his Complete Works that both he and Tsujimura found Jung’s “Yes!” very unexpected. Unfortunately, however, we don’t know what kind of “yes” it was. Was Jung’s reply a heartfelt affirmation, an expression of exasperation, or a “yes” which was somehow forced from his mind, perhaps even against his will, by Hisamatsu’s penetrating and somewhat intrusive questioning? Personally, I believe the latter was the case, and suspect that this was one of the reasons why Jung refused to have the conversation published in Psychologia.

9. Tsujimura’s Japanese version includes this clarification of what is meant by the “authentic self”: “That is the true self, or doku datsu mu-e: namely, the self which is alone, independent, and detached.” The source of doku datsu mu-e is “The Record of Linchi,” where not doku datsu mu-e but doku datsu fu-e is mentioned. Both fu and mu imply a negation, while e means “dependence.”

I take the meaning here to be ‘unconditioned’. Alone and independent imply relationship to another – which implies dualism. Detached implies both detached from another – dualistic again – and disassociated – dualistic yet again.

On the matter of “authentic self,” the German das eigentliche Selbst cited in the protocol is perhaps Tsujimura’s translation of Hisamatsu’s term honrai-no-jiko. Eigentliche clearly suggests that Tsujimura—a student of Martin Heidegger—interprets honrai-no-jiko in the Heideggerian sense. Heidegger’s concept of Eigentlichkeit, derived from his Being and Time, is usually translated honrai-sei into Japanese. The philosophers of the Kyoto School are generally sympathetic to Heidegger, whom Hisamatsu also met. (Their conversation, in fact, is recorded in Vol. 1 of Hisamatsu’s Collected Works. It is altogether free of the many tensions evidenced in Hisamatsu’s conversation with Jung.) Because Eigentlichkeit is translated as “authenticity” in English versions of Being and Time, I have opted to translate das eigentliche Selbst as “the authentic self.”

So: eigentliche Selbst = authentic self = honrai-no-jiko/honrai-sei

10. To refer to something ultimate, or metaphysical, Hisamatsu uses in the Japanese version three different adjectival phrases: honrai-no, Shinjitsu-no (or Shin-no) and kongenteki, which I have rendered respectively as “authentic,” “true” and “fundamental.” Though originally Chinese terms, they have been used by modern Japanese philosophers to translate Western philosophical terms into Japanese. Hisamatsu seems to use the three adjectives without any clear differentiation among them in his terminology. Thus, while Hisamatsu elsewhere speaks of “the fundamental unconscious” in the Zen sense of wu-hsin (see note 3), we have reason to suspect that his use of terms like “authentic” or “true” refers to this same basic understanding.

Still, in this very passage Hisamatsu clearly states that “the authentic self that corresponds to the atman . . . is not yet what I call the true self”! I realise that such a statement seems in flagrant contradiction to the claim that “true,” “authentic” and “fundamental” are all equivalent adjectives for Hisamatsu. In a sense, this passage reveals an inconsistency in the philosopher’s use and understanding of the words “the true self.” It may be due to a logical dilemma intrinsic to Buddhist philosophy—of which Hisamatsu was likely to be deeply aware, to the point of coining the concept of the “formless self.”

Muramoto’s abbreviation here of Hisamatsu’s comment actually changes its meaning and is the source of the misunderstanding. Muramoto has left out Hisamatsu’s “In the common understanding atman . .” It is this ‘common understanding atman’ that is not the true self. Read so ‘authentic’ and ‘true’ are no longer seemingly different. Hisamatsu is not being inconsistent – however he has left us wondering what this “common understanding” is.

Finally, it is interesting to note that, in the Japanese text, this same passage reads: “The authentic self, insofar as semantics are concerned, corresponds to the atman.” Hisamatsu was aware of how difficult, if not impossible, it is to explain the meaning of the true self with the Indian concept of atman. He never identified the authentic self with atman in the Hindu sense. In my view, he borrowed the Hindu concept to explain his own concept to Jung, who did not share the same spiritual background but seemed to have some knowledge of Upanishad philosophy. Such confusion is common between people from different cultures trying to reach a common understanding.

11. Jung’s final two comments evidence his harsh criticism of Hisamatsu’s conviction, which, in its resistance to any psychological investigation, resembles those Jung observed throughout his life in clergy and believers. Basically, we can see Jung opposing his psychological viewpoint to Hisamatsu’s ontology.

In this light, a freer translation of Jung’s response might read: “Professor Hisamatsu, we must distinguish between your understanding of the true self of Zen—as one possible archetypal image of the self—and the archetype of the self as such. You may well know the self in your sense—be it fundamental, true or formless—but while I am sorry that I do not, neither of us can know the self as such.”

If Muramoto were accurate in his placing of this sentence in Jung’s mouth it would make Jung little better than a bigot.

Jung’s opening statement here is also quite perplexing, and warrants close attention. Perhaps tautological in expressing his agnostic stance, the phrase “I cannot know what I don’t know” seems to tum Jung’s own understanding of the unconscious upside down. It is not characteristically Jungian, or true, that one cannot know what one does not know. In the course of a lifetime, one can indeed come to know what one ignores at any given time. Conversely, it is Jung’s unequivocal contention that only the unconscious is destined to remain forever unknown—despite one’s efforts to know it. Thus, a phrase like “I don’t know what I cannot know” somehow sounds more natural and consistent in a Jungian context than the cited “I cannot know what I don’t know.” We can perhaps assume that Jung’s odd remark reflects an implicit refusal to further debate Hisamatsu’s religious and philosophical convictions.

Actually there has been no debate, only Jung answering Hisamatsu’s questions until he withdraws.

12. Hisamatsu’s phrase “with its insight into the value of transcending the passions” is not present in the Japanese text. It was perhaps edited out by Hisamatsu himself or by Tsujimura. In addition, the next phrase, “and becoming the formless self,” is somewhat different in the Japanese text, where it reads: “In short, becoming the formless self is the nature of Zen.”

On the matter of the formless self (muso-nodiko, in Japanese): As a Buddhist, Hisamatsu does not regard the self as a metaphysical entity. This does not mean, however, that he advocates nihilism. He presents a concept of the self which is not metaphysical in the Western sense but, in a sense intrinsic to Buddhist philosophy, formless. It is the Mahayana understanding of the self as bodhi (awakening) that underscores, in fact, Hisamatsu’s religion or philosophy of awakening. But while Hisamatsu’s central idea is basic to the very origins of Buddhism, his idea of the formless self and other similar expressions (such as the fundamental, authentic or true self ) mark—through his assimilation of Western philosophy—his unique contribution to the development of modern day Buddhism.

This to my mind needs to be more precise. Hisamatsu may have introduced notions of an awakened quasi-self – Buddha Mind – into Zen but in the Theravada and Vajrayana traditions the party line holds – not self. Amen to simplicity!

13. Hisamatsu’s remark “Zen is both philosophy and religion” actually reads “Zen is both philosophy and psychology” in the German protocol. While this likely reflects an error in typing, the substitution offers an interesting example of what Freud considered “the psychopathology of everyday life”!

I actually do not understand what this could mean if it were a slip of the pen. Is it simply suggesting that Hisamatsu also saw Zen as a psychology?

14. I am not sure whom the “we” here refers to. Two answers are possible. One is, of course, both Hisamatsu and Jung: Another is Hisamatsu himself, together with those who share his position.

15. The metaphor of waves on water is originally found in the Lankavatara Sutra, a sutra supposedly preached by the Buddha on Adam’s Peak in Ceylon. It later became the source for the text “The Mahayana Faith Awakening,” whose original Sanscrit version by Asvagosha was lost but later recast through two Chinese versions by Paramartha and by Siksananda. To illustrate the metaphor, I offer the following excerpt, taken from Hisamatsu’s own essay “The Characteristics of Oriental Nothingness”:

“Waves are produced by the water but are never separated from the water. When they cease to be waves, they return to the water—their original source. While the water in the wave is one with the wave and not two, the water does not come into being and disappear, increase or decrease, according to the coming into being and disappearing of the wave. Although the water as wave comes into being and disappears, the water as water does not come into being and disappear. Thus even when changing into a thousand or ten thousand waves, the water as water is itself constant and unchanging. The Mind of ‘all is created by Alone-Mind’ is like this water. The assertions of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng, ‘Self-Nature, in its origin constant and without commotion, produces the ten thousand things,’ and ‘All things are never separated from Self-Nature,’ express just this creative feature of Mind.” (Translated by Richard De Martino, in collaboration with Jikai Fujiyoshi and Masao Abe.) See Philosophical Studies of Japan, Vol. 2, 1960.

Further Discussion

Meckel and Moore provide for us several fascinating further insights into the Jung/Hisamatsu dialogue. Amongst these are both Jung’s and Hisamatsu’s own commentaries on their shared conversation. Jung’s comes as a response to Koji Sato’s request that Jung edit Sachi Toyomura’s English translation so that it might be published in the English language journal Psychologia. As already said, Jung refuses this, his reason being that he has no confidence in his ability to understand the terms used correctly – a concern made more so since they are manifestations of an “Eastern mind”. He recognises that there is more to making comparisons then finding similar words, a real comparison must rest more deeply on what the words refer to, what he calls the “facts”. This being so, both he and Hisamatsu would have to engage in an extended period of study before either could be sure that their understanding of their respective ideas was accurate. Thus he finally sees the dialogue as being no more than a “mutual sign of good will and . . an honest attempt to establish a mutual basis of understanding” and not “a sufficient foundation for a valid representation of the Eastern, as well as the Western views”.

Hisamatsu does not agree with this. He says that after arriving at a tentative position in America he sought a confirmation through talking with “an outstanding authority” – Jung. Thus he comes with the agenda he declares at the outset of their meeting. The desire to “ hear your [Jung’s] thoughts on the state of psychoanalysis today” and  “to understand its [psychoanalysis] essential position, in order to then compare it with Zen”. He does this by attempting to compare the unconscious, the self and the treatment of suffering in psychoanalysis (actually analytical psychology) to no-mind, no self and the liberation from suffering in Zen. To his mind he arrives at satisfactory conclusions, these and some amplification now follow.

The unconscious and no-mind

Hisamatsu says the unconscious of psychoanalysis and wu-hsin, no-mind, are entirely dissimilar because of the simple reason that while the unconscious can not be known by definition, no-mind can. Of no-mind he says that it is called “Kaku” which means ‘awakening’ and also “ryoryo jochi” which means ‘always clearly comprehending’. This awakening and comprehending is not a simple conscious cognition or understanding but rather a state of non-dual consciousness. It is, as already suggested, our  buddha nature awakened to itself and it being ‘always clearly comprehending’ points to intrinsic awareness, the natural state of the mind itself.

What is of particular interest to me is his example. He says “‘No Mind’ is a state in which self is most clearly awakened to itself, such as when we are utterly absorbed in our work.” (My italics). What can this mean? It sounds like something rather mindless rather than an awakened state of awareness. Jack Engler (reference) gives us a possible understanding of this. He observes that psychoanalysis has missed out of its enquiries what he calls “unselfconscious experience”. This refers to the many moments where we spontaneously act with out being conscious of the ‘I’ who is acting. Effectively these are the largely overlooked and undervalued moments of non-dual consciousness that naturally and frequently happen in our every day lives. These typically consist in actions and responses that are just right. He gives the simple example of a friend calling us on the street. We do not need to think to ourselves “Oh! I have been called, I need to turn and answer.”, we simply do it without thinking. This spontaneous action is different from being identified with our emotions and acting out or from being simply unconscious, as in unaware. These perfect participations in life let us know that we can function very well, indeed better, when not self conscious. Is this what Hisamatsu is referring to? Not just a simple response action but more that this, an act of ‘selfless immediacy’ that expresses the unselfconscious spontaneity of the awakened mind? A well know Zen koan gives a perplexing example of this. The Zen master Nan-ch’uan caught his monks arguing over a cat and snatching it up challenged them to say something to save it from his sword. No one could say anything and the cat died. Later Chao-chao returned and on hearing the story from Nan-ch’uan placed his sandal on his head and walked out. Nan-ch’uan then said “If you had been there, the cat would have been spared”!

The self in psychoanalysis and Zen.

In many ways this, and the following section on the nature of suffering, are the most important. For Buddhism suffering is the starting point. The Buddha made suffering the subject of his Four Noble Truths and it was for him the incentive to leave a life style that was any thing but suffering when viewed superficially. Similarly the nature of the self is of central importance. The Buddha started his own pursuit for an existential truth as just one of many holy men who at that time had taken to the forests to pursue austerities, purification and meditation. Influenced by Vedic culture and the teaching of the earliest Upanishads they accepted that their spiritual journeys would reveal the reality of a true self that laid somewhere beyond the confines of the human personality. What Buddha brought to this through his own experience was that such a self did not exist and from this was born the unique Buddhist realisation of anatta – not self.

Hisamatsu starts his introduction to this by perfectly paraphrasing Jung’s own definition of the self: it is the whole person consisting of ego and the unconscious, further more, that part of the self that is unconscious has the effect upon the ego of exciting and disturbing it. Conversely the self in Zen is limitless self-awakening which is free of any emotional obstruction or obscuration. It is synonymous with the awakened mind, wu-hsin, no-mind.

Meckle and Moore provide us with two further essays that both touch on this point at some length. The first, “What is the True Self, A Discussion”, is a record of a discussion that happened in 1961 between a group of Japanese and European scholars concerning the Jung and Hisamatsu conversation. The second is by Masao Abe, a member of this group, which explores what it says in its title, “The Self in Jung and Zen”. I do not want to comment on either of these at great length but several points come forcefully forward. Firstly the Japanese phrase ryoryo-jochi, which is the quality of no-mind, here is translated as ‘thoroughly clear ever-present awareness’. This I take to be a further confirmation of my suspicion that this true self of Zen is identical with the state of within the Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen teaching. Masao Abe says that “Ryoryo-jochi refers to the True Self which goes beyond the subject-object duality, or self-world dichotomy”. That is, the true self is non-dual consciousness which is the nature of the awakened mind. Secondly Abe helps us in his essay to navigate the mystifying contradictions in Hisamatsu’s Zen concerning a self that is also somehow a not-self and also a “true self”. Essentially he leads us to understand that in Zen meditation the self is found to be without any inherent existence. That is, it is simply an amalgam of parts that come together for a period of time and then disperse. What ever level we view this from, the atomic, cellular or psychological, this remains true. However it is also mistaken to think of this ‘not-self’ as having some kind of positive form because this would fall into the trap of again making something have a concrete, set existence. To avoid this, the third phrase, ‘No Self’ (capital letters), is employed and used to indicate the real nature of the individual and the entire universe which is beyond both the contraction of an apparent separate sense of self and also the seductive mistake of making concrete again an ineffable reality through the use of language. Abe says “Since the original human nature cannot be characterised as self or no-self, it is called No-Self. Therefore, No-Self represents nothing but the true nature or true self of humanity which cannot be conceptualises at all and is beyond self and no-self”. Achieving the experiential realisation of this requires that we let the separate self sense die, this is called the ‘Great Death’, and when we do this the True Self, our awakened nature, is born.

The nature of suffering

This last brings to the fore again the confusing yet fascinating disjunction in the conversation that I have already mentioned and commented on at small length. Hisamatsu tells us that Buddhism seeks to bring all suffering to a final and complete end through spiritual awakening. This is the third Noble Truth. Suffering is brought to an end through nirvana – the snuffing out of the delusion of a separate self sense in the spacious awareness of non-dual consciousness. Against this he rightly perceives that psychoanalysis (and analytical psychology) may not compete (nor perhaps want to). Freud’s goal is the oft quoted “ordinary unhappiness” and Jung’s is predicated upon the value of suffering being bringing us repeatedly to the same existential issues by which it offers us the possibility of working out our own unique answers. Thus suffering is the engine of individuation. However none of this is of value to Hisamatsu – and because of this he sees these answers as only partial and transitory and so dubs them “the fatal shortcoming in psychoanalytic treatment”, a “vicious circle” in which one problem is cured only to give rise to the next.

Yet because of Jung’s surprising apparent about face concerning the possibility of delivering oneself from the emotional bondage derived from the collective unconscious. That is, to be freed from the compulsion “to chase after things” or be “helplessly dominated by the unconscious”. Hisamatsu says that Jung has “open[ed] a passage from psychoanalysis to Zen, and that the vicious circle of psychoanalysis can be overcome and psychoanalysis itself can advance a step forward”.

Thinking about this, even if we agree with Hisamatsu’s value system – that ending all suffering for ever is good – we may not agree with his assessment that Jung has created a bridge that brings psychoanalysis and Zen together. Indeed Hisamatsu shows some doubt himself. He says “If Professor Jung’s statement is accurate . . .” (My italics). I think this doubt is well founded. Careful reading of this portion of the dialogue shows just how vulnerable to misunderstanding and possibly mistranslation it is.

In the MM text we read:

“Hisamatsu: The essential point of this liberation is how we can be awakened to our Original Self. The Original Self is the self which is no longer bound by a myriad of things. To attain this self is the essential point of freedom. It is necessary, therefore, to release oneself even from the collective unconscious and the bondage which derives from it.”

and in the M text:

“Hisamatsu: The essential issue in this liberation is: how does one reach a fundamental self, one that is no longer captivated by the ten thousand things? How to get there, that is the problem. Is it necessary to liberate oneself from the collective unconscious as well, or from the conditions it imposes on us?”

What both translations ask is how is it possible to know an “original” or “fundamental” self that is free of the “myriad” or “ten thousand things”. They then both repeat the question making a conceptual jump in which the ten thousand/myriad of things becomes synonymous with the “conditions” or “bondage” of the  collective unconscious. This is an odd thing to say, how does Hisamatsu make such a connection? No such thing has been suggested in the conversation thus far. Does this indicate Hisamatsu’s unspoken understanding? If so it is incorrect as the myriad of things is a poetic image for the whole manifest world and not Jung’s concept of unconscious psyche. Jung accepts this conflation of concepts and answers but it remains unclear whether he has or has not understood the full Buddhist implications of Hisamatsu’s formulation. He replies:

“Jung: If one is caught in a myriad of things and thus bound within it, this is because he is caught within the collective unconscious at the same time. He can be freed only when he is liberated from both of them. One person may be dragged along more by the unconscious, another by things. In short, through liberation, man must be brought to a point where he is free from the compulsion to chase after a myriad of things or from being controlled by the collective unconscious. Both are fundamentally the same: Nirvana.” MM

“Jung: If someone is caught in the ten thousand things, it is because that person is also caught in the collective unconscious. A person is liberated only when freed from both. One person may be driven more by the unconscious and another by things. One has to take the person to the point where he is free from the compulsion to either run after things or be driven by the unconscious. What is needed for both compulsions is basically the same: nirdvandva.” M

Here we can see that the translations convey apparently different meanings. MM confirms Hisamatsu’s hope that Jung has made a bridge to Zen. He appears to have said, in his summary of his own words, that nirvana is liberation from the control and compulsions of the collective unconscious. An entirely Buddhist position when the collective unconscious is erroneously identified as the ten thousand things. We should also note the use of the term nirvana, as already mentioned, Jaffe’ in conversation did not believe Jung said this because it was alien to his thinking and his value system.

However M, probably the more accurate translation, says something different. Here Jung seems to be using the terms according to his own understanding. He is unaware of the meaning to Hisamatsu of the misleading confusion of the manifest world with his more circumscribed concept of an aspect of the unconscious being comprised of archetypes. He simply describes a psychological state in which the ego is insufficiently differentiated from its archetypal core and so is compelled and controlled by the emotions that make this core up. In many ways this simply reflects his psychoanalytic past which informs him that where there is insufficient ego development there will id be. Therefore the liberation which he refers to is not the liberation of spiritual awakening that Hisamatsu is thinking of but the more profane liberation of an ego that has mastered the management of its emotional affect. Thus when he says that the cure for this plight is nirdvandva, what he is saying is that the opposites of ego and unconscious or ego and self must find a balance, a conjunction, that allows both to function in harmony. Ego needs to separate from its preconscious matrix and simultaneously maintain conscious connection with the wellspring of its being. What is unfortunate is that he should use any Buddhist language at all. His refusal to edit the conversation demonstrates his own doubts about the accuracy of his understanding but he also writes copiously elsewhere using such concepts and translating them as he sees fit. This is more than trying to use words that he and Hisamatsu may share, this is Jung believing, until challenged, that he really does know their meaning when he does not.

This interpretation fits in well with Muramoto’s own belief that Jung would prefer the concept of nirdvandva to nirvana because the first, meaning ‘overcoming the opposites’, sits better with him than the second, which implies the extinguishing of a separate identity in non-dual consciousness. Muramoto suggest that in nirdvandva Jung saw something of his own concept of a transcendent function in which pairs of irreconcilable opposites found reconciliation in a previously unimaginable third position. However we may not be home and dry yet. Jung, in his autobiography uses the term nirdvandva in a thoroughly unambiguous way. He says:

“The Indian’s goal is not moral perfection, but the condition of nirdvandva. He wishes to free himself from nature; in keeping with this aim, he seeks in meditation the condition of imagelessness and emptiness. I, on the other hand, wish to persist in the state of lively contemplation of nature and of the psychic images. I want to be freed neither from human beings, nor from myself, nor from nature; for all these appear to me the greatest of miracles. Nature, the psyche, and life appear to me like divinity unfolded—and what more could I wish for? To me the supreme meaning of Being can consist only in the fact that it is, not that it is not or is no longer.

Memories, Dreams and Reflections p.258/7

Surely this clearly proves firstly that Jung even by the end of his life did not differentiate between nirvana and nirdvandva – here he defines the second by the first – and secondly that irrespective of whether it was nirvana or nirdvandva he was not interested in being liberated in either. And finally let us remember the dates. Jung’s autobiography was being ghost written by Jaffe’ at the same time in Jung’s life as Hisamatsu came to visit. I do not believe Jung would or could so radically change his position, as Hisamatsu suggests, at the close of his life. What ever Jung may have said he and Hisamatsu do not agree on suffering.

Last thoughts.

Like many psychoanalysts, Jung never managed to find a comfortable place in relation to science. On the one hand he wanted to be seen as a natural scientist who made objective observations about the psyche but on the other there was a powerful mystic and intuitive at work within him who was a believer. As his life progressed this mystic self periodically reasserted itself and it came to the fore again through the heart attack that he suffered in 1944 at the age of 69. During this period Jung dreamt:

“I was on a hiking trip. I was walking along a little road through a hilly landscape; the sun was shining and I had a wide view in all directions. Then I came to a small wayside chapel. The door was ajar, and I went in. To my surprise there was no image of the Virgin on the altar, and no crucifix either, but only a wonderful flower arrangement. But then I saw that on the floor in front of the altar, facing me, sat a yogi in lotus posture, in deep meditation. When I looked at him more closely, I realised that he had my face. I started in profound fright, and awoke with the thought: ” Aha, so he is the one who is meditating me. He has a dream, and I am it.” I knew that when he awakened, I would no longer be.”

Jung makes quite a lengthy interpretation and concludes:

“The aim of [this] dreams is to effect a reversal of the relationship between ego-consciousness and the unconscious, and to represent  the unconscious as the generator of the empirical personality. This  reversal suggests that in the opinion of the “other side,” our unconscious existence is the real one and our conscious world a kind of illusion, an apparent reality constructed for a specific purpose, like a dream which seems a reality as long as we are in it. It is clear that this state of affairs resembles very closely the Oriental conception of Maya.”

MDR p.298-300

This dream and Jung’s interpretation is interesting because it shows his unconscious position with regard to his thoughts and feelings at that time. In 1944, the same year as the illness after which this dream appeared, Jung published a foreword, entitled The Holy Men of India, to Heinrich  Zimmer’s last book. In this foreword he displays a complex ambivalence towards his subject that I believe reflects the inner conflict between Jung the psychologist and Jung the mystic. Swinging between on the one hand a critical disinterest of spiritual certainties and on the other a dire warning for those of us who have lost them.

At the start of the foreword we learn that Jung does not share Zimmer’s enthusiasm for the Advaita Vedanta sage Shri Ramana Mahashi because he is a perfect example of an Indian Holy Man, he calls him “the whitest spot on a white surface”.  For Jung what is interesting is not something that is universal and collective but something that is human and unique. He says:

“The man who is only wise and holy interests me about as much as the skeleton of a rare surian, which would not move me to tears. The insane contradiction, on the other hand, between existence beyond Maya in the cosmic self, and that amiable human weakness which fruitfully sinks many roots into the black earth, repeating for all eternity the weaving and rending of the veil as the ageless melody of India – this contradiction fascinates me; for how else can one perceive the light without the shadow, hear the silence without the noise, attain wisdom without foolishness?” CW11 953

However he does acknowledge that Shri Ramana’s thoughts are ‘beautiful to read’ and then does a typically Jungian thing of conflating his own concepts with those of Ramana’s Advaita Vedanta. This we have already seen in the conversation with Hisamatsu, with the collective unconscious and no-mind, and it is this that scholars have repeatedly complained of when they have come to retranslate Buddhist works that he has written psychological commentaries to. (Reynolds 2000). Here he likens his own notion of the self to that of the atman and then goes on to say that despite the Indian’s apparent psychological language it is actually still a religious language that is not able to step away from itself and make objective reflections. All this is very confusing, while it is true that Shri Ramana does not view himself as an object it is not true that his experiential knowledge of atman is the same as Jung’s concept of the self. Jung’s belief that his analytical psychology offers a metapsychology that can shed light on the psychological structure of all other beliefs and experiences is simply untrue – it being as much a belief system as anything it seeks to interpret. This is seen clearly in Jung’s interpretation of Shri Ramana’s spiritual awakening. He says:

“Shri Ramana has either really been more or less absorbed by the self, or at least has struggled earnestly all his life to extinguish his ego in it.” CW11 958

What are we to make of this? If we use Jung’s more ‘scientific’ definition of the self as being the whole of the person, both conscious and unconscious,  then this makes little sense. How can he become absorbed into the ego and the unconscious together? However if we take Jung’s more ‘mystical’ definition, that the self is the image of God within the psyche, then it begins to become clear that he is simply saying that Shri Ramana has become absorbed by his experience of God. However this no longer is a strictly ‘scientific’ statement and in feeling begins to reveal Jung the believer. This is compounded further when he compares and depicts the mysticism of the East and West as:

“The shifting of the centre of gravity from the ego to the self, from man to God. This means the ego disappears in the self, the man in God.” CW 11 958.

Do we here begin to gain an insight in Jung’s dream of the yogi? To my mind this quote actually contains two principle concepts, not one stated and then further defined. The “shifting of the centre of gravity from the ego to the self” corresponds with Jung’s own interpretation of his dream as well as his thoughts on immediately waking. This theme is also found in Zimmer’s forward where Jung clearly describes the function and desirability of creating an ego-self axis that serves both equally but finally one that recognises the centrality of the self, not the ego. The second phrase, “This means the ego disappears in the self, the man in God.” without much imagination could be read as saying something unintentionally different. Could it be that this reveals Jung the mystic who somewhere, despite his agnostic psychologist self, is attracted to and even yearns for the personal dissolution of nirvana? This is confirmed by the dream. What Jung actually experiences in the dream is his dream ego’s alarm at discovering he is a Yogi. All the rest, his defensive rationalising and interpretations which are in accord with what he already believes, are later additions. Additions that take away what the dream brings as new and unseen. I believe that while Jung starts out his Holy Men of India piece keeping his distance from one of the greatest masters of non-dual (Advaita) consciousness he at the end of the piece reveals a deeper, committed self that passionately gives a “warning message to a humanity which threatens to lose itself in unconsciousness and anarchy” (CW11 963.) Is this warning really for himself?

If this suggestion, that the would be scientist Jung conceals a mystic Jung, that the preference for object/subject relationships conceals an attraction to a non-dual dissolution in God, then we may have a further light to shed on the Hisamatsu conversation. Could it also be that Jung’s unconscious betrayed him in the most controversial and stressful part of their exchange. Putting into Jung’s mouth a sufficient ambiguity to lead us to suspect that while consciously he has not deviated from his established position as a psychologist, in the chapel of his heart he wishes he is a yogi resting in the unbounded clarity and spaciousness of his awakened mind?


Jung, C. G. 1963 Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Collins and Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Jung, C. G. 1981 Collected Works Vol. 11 Psychology of Religion: West and East, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London and Henley.

Meckle, Daniel J. and Moore, Robert L. Ed. 1992 Self and Liberation, the Jung/Buddhism dialogue, Paulist Press, New York & Mahwah.

Molino, Antony Ed. 1999 The Couch and the Tree, dialogues in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism, Constable, London.

Young-Eisendrath, Polly and Muramoto, Shoji Ed. 2002 Awakening and Insight, Zen Buddhism and Psychotherapy, Brunner Routledge, London.


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