The occult was in the forefront of Jung’s interest from the very beginning of his professional career, and before. At the behest of his chief, the great psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, Jung wrote his M.D. dissertation on “The Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena,” published in 1902, and evidently composed after he became an assistant physician at the Burghol-zli Hospital in 1900.
In psychiatric terms, he described several clinical cases of double consciousness, twilight states, and somnambulism, then presented in detail the case of an adolescent girl medium, whose seances he had witnessed in the mid 1890’s. He sought to account clinically for the visions experienced by this young woman, and cites the theory of cryptomnesia, the coming into consciousness of unrecognized memory-images —a reference, obviously, to the unconscious. In Jung’s conclusion to the monograph, there is an allusion to what sounds very close to the collective unconscious.
“I waded through the occult literature so far as it pertained to this subject [the root idea of the girl’s visions], and discovered a wealth of parallels with our gnostic system, dating from different centuries, but scattered about in all kinds of works, most of them quite inaccessible to the patient” .
Several years earlier, in 1897, while an undergraduate at Basel University, Jung discussed the occult in a lecture to the Zofingia Society, a student club. Speaking in 1897 on the general subject of psychology, the 22-year-old Jung said that the soul does exist, it is intelligent and immortal, not subject to time and space. He declared the reality of spirits and spiritualism, on the evidence of telekinesis, messages of dying people, hypnotism, clairvoyance, second sight, and prophetic dreams.
In February 1905, Jung gave a lecture at his alma mater, Basel University, “On Spiritualistic Phenomena” —a lengthy discourse in which he surveyed the history and psychology of the subject in America and England as well as on the Continent. He drew upon a broad range of literature—Schopenhauer, Swedenborg, Mesmer, Kant, Kerner, Krafft-Ebing, and the famous English physicist Sir William Crookes, whose observations of levitation had impressed Jung particularly. Jung himself had investigated eight mediums in Zurich; in general, he was unimpressed, diagnosing both hysteria and auto-hypnosis in most instances.
Two and a half years later, in a letter of Nov. 2, 1907/ Jung told Freud that because of his services as an occultist he had been elected an honorary fellow of the American Society for Psychical Research —nearly two years before he first visited America. He goes on, “In this capacity I have been dabbling in spookery again. Here too your discoveries are brilliantly confirmed. What do you think about this whole field of research?” Unfortunately, Freud’s letter in reply is one of the few that is missing.
On April 12, 1909, just after Jung’s second visit to Freud in Vienna, he writes of a case he is analyzing in which “first-rate spiritualistic phenomena occur” and another that involves the “evil eye,” and goes on to refer glancingly to his “spookery” during his last evening with Freud. This was the episode of the poltergeist knocking in Freud’s bookcase, which Freud mentioned skeptically in his answering letter: “My dear son, keep a cool head, for it is better not to understand something than make such great sacrifices to understanding.” Jung gave a full account only fifty’ years later in Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Ernest Jones, in his life of Freud/ relates that when Freud and Jung met in Munich on December 26, 1910, they had a long talk about occultism, and Freud “was not surprised to hear that Jung had long been fully convinced of the reality of telepathy and had carried out most convincing experiments himself.” In a letter of May 8, 1911, Jung writes, “The meeting in Munich is still very much on my mind.
Occultism is another field we shall have to conquer —with the aid of the libido theory, it seems to me. At the moment I am looking into astrology, which seems indispensable for a proper understanding of mythology. There are strange and wondrous things in these lands of darkness. Please don’t worry about my wanderings in these infinitudes. I shall return laden with rich booty for our knowledge of the human psyche. For a while longer I must intoxicate myself on magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in the abysses of the unconscious.”
The present selection includes several further and shorter works of Jung’s on the subject of the occult, written between 1919 and 1957. His foreword to a collection of three of these studies, translated into French, forms an introduction to the volume in hand. There are numerous references to occultism also to be found in Jung’s letters.”
Foreword to Jung: Phenomenes occultes
On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena
On Spiritualistic Phenomena
The Psychological Foundations of Belief in Spirits
The Soul and Death
Psychology and Spiritualism
Foreword to Moser: “Spuk: Irrglaube Oder Wahrglaube?”
Foreword to Jaffe: Apparitions and Precognition
The Future of Parapsychology
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