Jung the Occultist

When people discuss Carl Gustav Jung, it’s generally about his famous split with Freud in 1912, or his theory of cultural archetypes.

But as I’ve been reading about him lately through his 21st Century disciples (Christopher Knowles and Christopher O’Brien..hmm..”Christophers”…), the theory of archetypes and synchronicity (note the “Christ” figures as disciples) bringing “gnosis” (knowledge..heh..another one!) is hard to ‘ignore’ (hah, another one! Okay, stop now).

Well it seems that Jung in the last years of WWII was in the throes of depression and was suffering heart ailments as well. While in a coma after suffering a fall that broke his leg, he had an “out of body experience”:

On 11 February 1944, the 68-year-old Carl Gustav Jung – then the world’s most renowned living psychologist – slipped on some ice and broke his fibula. Ten days later, in hospital, he suffered a myocardial infarction caused by embolisms from his immobilised leg. Treated with oxygen and camphor, he lost consciousness and had what seems to have been a near-death and out-of-the-body experience – or, depending on your perspective, delirium. He found himself floating 1,000 miles above the Earth. Seas and continents shimmered in blue light and Jung could make out the Arabian desert and snow-tipped Himalayas. He felt he was about to leave orbit, but then, turning to the south, a huge black monolith came into view. It was a kind of temple, and at the entrance Jung saw a Hindu sitting in a lotus pos ition. Within, innumerable candles flickered, and he felt that the “whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence” was being stripped away. It wasn’t pleasant, and what remained was an “essential Jung”, the core of his experiences.

He knew that inside the temple the mystery of his existence, of his purpose in life, would be answered. He was about to cross the threshold when he saw, rising up from Europe far below, the image of his doctor in the archetypal form of the King of Kos, the island site of the temple of Asclepius, Greek god of medicine. He told Jung that his departure was premature; many were demanding his return and he, the King, was there to ferry him back. When Jung heard this, he was immensely disappointed, and almost immediately the vision ended. He experienced the reluctance to live that many who have been ‘brought back’ encounter, but what troubled him most was seeing his doctor in his archetypal form. He knew this meant that the physician had sacrificed his own life to save Jung’s. On 4 April 1944 – a date numerologists can delight in – Jung sat up in bed for the first time since his heart attack. On the same day, his doctor came down with septicæmia and took to his bed. He never left it, and died a few days later.

Jung was convinced that he hadn’t simply hallucinated, but that he had been granted a vision of reality. He had passed outside time, and the experience had had a palpable effect on him. For one thing, the depression and pessimism that overcame him during WWII vanished. But there was something more. For most of his long career, he had impressed upon his colleagues, friends, and reading public that he was, above all else, a scientist. He was not, he repeated almost like a mantra, a mystic, occultist, or visionary, terms of abuse his critics, who rejected his claims to science, had used against him. Now, having returned from the brink of death, he seemed content to let the scientist in him take a back seat for the remaining 17 years of his life.

Although Jung had always believed in the reality of the ‘other’ world, he had taken care not to speak too openly about this belief. Now, after his visions, he seemed less reticent. He’d had, it seems, a kind of conversion experience, and the interests the world-famous psychologist had hitherto kept to himself now became common knowledge. Flying saucers, astrology, parapsychology, alchemy, even predictions of a coming “new Age of Aquarius”: pronouncements on all of these dubious subjects – dubious at least from the viewpoint of modern science – flowed from his pen. If he had spent his career fending off charges of mysticism and occultism – initially triggered by his break with Freud in 1912 – by the late 1940s he seems to have decided to stop fighting. The “sage of Küsnacht” and “Hexenmeister of Zürich”, as Jung was known in the last decade of his life, had arrived.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Yet Jung’s involvement with the occult was with him from the start – literally, it was in his DNA. His maternal grandfather, Rev. Samuel Preiswerk, who learned Hebrew because he believed it was spoken in heaven, accepted the reality of spirits, and kept a chair in his study for the ghost of his deceased first wife, who often came to visit him. Jung’s mother Emilie was employed by Samuel to shoo away the dead who distracted him while he was working on his sermons.

She herself developed medium istic powers in her late teens. At the age of 20, she fell into a coma for 36 hours; when her forehead was touched with a red-hot poker she awoke, speaking in tongues and prophesying. Emilie continued to enter trance states throughout her life, in which she would communicate with the dead. She also seems to have been a ‘split personality’. Jung occasionally heard her speaking to herself in a voice he soon recognised was not her own, making profound remarks expressed with an uncharacteristic authority. This ‘other’ voice had inklings of a world far stranger than the one the young Carl knew.

This ‘split’ that Jung had seen in his mother would later appear in himself. At around the age of 12, he literally became two people. There was his ordinary boyhood self, and someone else. The ‘Other,’ as Carl called him, was a figure from the 18th century, a masterful character who wore a white wig and buckled shoes, drove an impressive carriage, and held the young boy in contempt. It’s difficult to escape the impression that in some ways Jung felt he had been this character in a past life. Seeing an ancient green carriage, Jung felt that it came from his time. his later notion of the collective unconscious, that psychic reservoir of symbols and images that he believed we inherit at birth, is in a sense a form of reincarnation, and Jung himself believed in some form of an afterlife. Soon after the death of his father, in 1896 when Jung was 21, he had two dreams in which his father appeared so vividly that he considered the possibility of life after death. In another, later dream, Jung’s father asked him for marital advice, as he wanted to prepare for his wife’s arrival. Jung took this as a premonition, and his mother died soon after. And years later, when his sister Gert rude died – a decade before his own near-death experience – Jung wrote that “What happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imagination and feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it.”

Hmm..apparently the whole family could communicate with “spirits”, what ever spirits are.

Are they just glimpses of other dimensions, or are they projected “archetypes?”

It’s hard to say from this article, but I would conjecture that given Jung’s, and others OBE’s that what ever our core beings (consciousness) are, they exist in another reality.

And the collective subconscious is capable of projecting “archetypes” that can become real and solid.

Pretty deep.

The Occult World of CG Jung

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3 responses

  1. Jung was a fascinating character. His autobiography is a great starting point, and delves into his own confrontation with his unconscious mind. His ideas on the collective unconscious and Christian mysticism are interesting (some would say fanciful), but well worth exploring for the different perspective they offer.

    1. I must admit my knowledge of Jung is limited to the writings of Christopher Knowles and O’Brien through their studies of the collective subconscious archetypes and a “tricksterish” element attached to the phenomenon and what I learned in college many moons ago. So when I found this article, I had to read it twice to understand what the author tried to convey because I couldn’t understand why Jung had a mystical side to him.

      I think I’m going to have to make his books required reading.

  2. Few people, of any age or state of health, want to even consider their own death. All of us, however, realize that death is inevitable. Consider its definitions: death is only the end of this life and the demise of this body. Unless you believe it is The End, death is also the threshold of a new beginning. How many possibilities follow this life? Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine oneness, consider the alternatives. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    This short life is just a speck in time; it is important to us because it now seems to be our speck. Look beyond yesterday, today and tomorrow, beyond Earth’s 4.5 billion years: consider eternity.

    (from my e-book at http://www.suprarational.org on comparative mysticism)

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