Friday, September 25, 2009

Psychology, Alchemy and Carl Jung

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist, the founder of analytical psychology known as Jungian psychology.

As a theoretical psychologist and practicing clinician, he explored the psyche through an examination of dreams, mythology, religion and art. He also spent much of his life delving into alchemy, astrology and Eastern philosophy. Some of his notable achievements include the concept of psychological archetypes, synchronicity and the collective unconscious.

Jung emphasized the importance of harmony and balance. The process of “individuation” was the central concept of analytical psychology. For a person to become whole, it requires a psychological process of integrating the conscious with the unconscious while still maintaining conscious independence.

In 1906, Jung published STUDIES IN WORD ASSOCIATION and sent a copy of the book to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Thus, began a close relationship between these two giants of psychology.

In 1912, Jung published THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE UNCONSCIOUS which resulted in a feud between Freud and Jung, breaking up their close relationship. Apparently, each was incapable of admitting that he could possibly be wrong.

In 1916, Jung wrote VII SERMONES AD MORTUOS, which basically means “The Seven Sermons to the Dead written by Basilides in Alexandria” – transcribed by Carl Gustav Jung.

Fasten your seatbelts.

In 1916, Jung had been contacted by a “highly cultivated elderly Indian” who had been a commentator on the Vedas (early Hindu sacred writings) and had died centuries ago. He would become one of Jung’s spirit guides (gurus). Rather than assume he had gone insane, Jung believed he had crossed into the same realm as the ancient priests and others who had experienced the divine.

Then many strange occurrences took place in Jung’s house, such as haunting aberrations, poltergeist moments, etc.

Jung finally shouted, “For God’s sake, what in the world is this?”

In unison, voices cried out, “We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought.”

Then over three straight evenings, while being in a state of “possession” performing automatic writing, Jung wrote VII SERMONES AD MORTUOS.

Basilides, a real person, was born in Syria and became a teacher in Alexandria in 133-155 AD. Jung had channeled and transcribed Basilides words. The finished work was more than an exercise in automatic writing – the contents have been described as a “core text in depth psychology.”

Within the text, Abraxas is the name used for the Supreme Being that created individuality and mental powers. Upon death, individual human beings maintain the fullness of their human individuality rather than being absorbed into the oneness.

From this experience, Jung formulated the concept of the collective unconscious. He stated, “The collective unconscious is common to all. It is the foundation of what the ancients called the sympathy of all things. It is through the medium of the collective unconscious that information about a particular time and place can be transferred to another individual mind.”

Jung later claimed to have many spirit guides, including Basilides, Philemon and Salome.

Gnosticism is the belief that spiritual knowledge comes from within. Gnosis is esoteric (restricted to a small group) knowledge of spiritual truth held by the ancient Gnostics to be essential to salvation. When Jung discovered the writings of the ancient Gnostics, he wrote, “I felt as if I had at last found a circle of friends who understood me.”

In 1926, Jung had a significant dream whereby he was in the 1600s engaged in the “Great Work” as an alchemist. He believed that alchemy was the connection between the modern world and the ancient world of the Gnostics.

Coincidentally, Albert Einstein read from ancient alchemy texts every night when he went to bed.

Jung considered alchemy to be the key to the transformation of the soul on its path toward perfection. His manuscript titled PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY was published in 1944.

He wrote that the cosmos contained a divine light, the essence of which was a trap, presided over by the Bringer of the Light, called Lucifer, a demiurge (a subordinate deity who is the creator of the material world).

The focus of the alchemist is the union of opposites. Rather than a battle between good and evil (dualism), Jung claimed there was no right or wrong, no order or chaos, no black or white – they are simply opposites that transform into grey, demanding of humanity to be transformed.

According to Jung’s Psychology of the Transference, the key to success in love and psychological growth is the ability to endure the tension of the opposites without abandoning the process. It’s the stress of the process that permits one to grow, to blossom, to mature, to become transformed.

Life is simple – Accept the challenges, embrace the suffering, don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.

Quote for the Day -- "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you." Carl Jung

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and various spirit guides, including Pouteaux, Maitreya, Babala and Lone Wolf. His blogs appear on several websites, including


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