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"Spiritus Contra Spiritum": Dr. Jung's Influence on AA

by Frank

Dear Latin Teacher,

I actually have several questions about the difference in definitions and accurate usage of the words 'spiritus' and 'spiritum'.

Regarding the phrase, "spiritus contra spiritum", which is fairly popular and attributed to Dr. Carl Jung: I wonder if this would mean alcohol overcome by God (or the spirit of God)?

I understand that spiritum is singular accusatory, but do not understand what it means. I'm not taking language lessons, but trying to determine the validity of that phrase. Would a professor that is well versed (an expert) in Latin come up with it, in terms of appropriate use of the words? Perhaps it would be more of a novice translation?

When I used an online translator, it said that spiritus meant breathe, air. When I put the entire phrase in, it translated it as "against spirit", not spirit against spirit.

Lastly, Jung apparently said that alcohol in Latin meant spiritus. I thought that it was in English that spirits meant alcohol, and that alcohol in Latin was alkuhol.

Sorry for the length of this inquiry and many thanks in advance to any comments or answers.

Dear Frank,

Dr. Jung's Latin phrase, Spiritus contra spiritum, means in English, "Spirit against spirit, i.e. "the highest religious experience against the most depraving poison", or God against alcohol. AA today still acknowledges the importance of God in fighting addiction. I've included the link to Jung's letter for those readers interested in Jung's communication with early leaders of AA.

Aa's Godparents: Three Early Influences on Alcoholics Anonymous and Its Foundation : Carl Jung, Emmet Fox, Jack Alexander

I hope this helps, and thanks for asking a Latin teacher.



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