Carl Gustav Jung  (Portrait by F. Szasz)
Carl Gustav Jung


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The Gnostic Jung

The Gnostic Jung
by Stephan A. Hoeller


The classic translation and interpretation of Jung's VII Sermones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Search for Roots

The Search for Roots:
C.G, Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis

by Alfred Ribi


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The Gnostic Jung
and the Seven Sermons to the Dead


Archive Notes

In 1982, Dr. Hoeller published a landmark study on C. G. Jung and his relationship with Gnostic tradition: The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead. Publication of Jung's Red Book in 2009 has substantiated the views first expressed by Hoeller nearly three decades ago. The Gnostic Jung remains an important introduction to Jung's thought and to the tradition with which Jung felt a life-long allegiance: the tradition of Gnosis.

The follow excerpt is reproduced with permission of the author, and includes pages 1 to 43 of the published work. (Hoeller's translation of the Septem Sermones ad Mortuos, included in this book, is also available in our libary collection.)


Excerpt from:
The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead

by Stephan A. Hoeller (Quest, 1982)

 

Part 1: The Gnosis of C. G. JungThe Gnostic Jung

A Science Born of Mystery

In this latter quarter of the twentieth century, few would deny the truth of the statement that depth psychology has proven to be one of the mightiest transforming forces of the culture of our era. Emerging from the dark alienation of consciousness that characterized the nineteenth century, the rediscovery of the unconscious mystery within the human mind has become very much like the biblical leaven that made an entire new world of the spirit rise before the eyes of past generations. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger spoke a great truth when he called the nineteenth century the darkest of all the centuries of the modern era; yet it was precisely at this time of the greatest obscuration of the light of the spirit that the two pioneering giants of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung, were born, in 1856 and 1875 respectively.

Freud was a great discoverer, destined to unmask many things. Psychologists, as well as the public, are still slow to realize the debt of gratitude they owe him. A man of the old narrowly materialistic school of science, whom only practical exigencies drove from the biologist's laboratory into the healing arts, Freud could do no other than use the patterns of thought of his times. By a tragically ironic twist of fate, the very man whose discoveries ultimately shook the very foundations of scientific rationalism remained himself chained to rationalistic and reductionistic dogma, which he guarded and defended with desperate conviction. Like Moses, he could not enter the promised land toward which he led others, the task of the final conquest thus falling to a younger man, a new Joshua of the mind, whose name was Carl Gustav Jung.

Who was Jung and how did he accomplish the crowning task of psychic pioneering? What were the sources of his prophetic insight into the most secret recesses of the human soul? From whence did he derive his wisdom?

All through Jung's long life (July 26, 1875 to June 6, 1961) people were puzzled by the curiously esoteric and magical overtones of his work. Here was a phenomenon hitherto unheard of in the world of the intelligentsia since the era of the Enlightenment. Symbols and images of dark and ancient power were resuscitated from the dust of their millennial tombs. Heretics and alchemists, mystics and magicians, Taoist sages and Tibetan lamas lent the treasures of their arcane quests to the wizardry of the modern Swiss Hermes. Gone were the mundane, personalistic preoccupations of the earlier psychoanalysis with its childhood traumas and infantile vagaries, and the gods and heroes of old were no longer regarded as the glorified masks of childish lusts and terrors. Like Venus arising from the foam of the sea, or Athena springing from the brow of Zeus, the archetypes arose from the prima materia of the collective unconscious; the Gods once again walked with men. Above these primeval creative waters of the psyche moved the spirit of one man, the genius of Jung. Well could the learned wonder and the wise be astonished, for a new era of the mind had come.

To those informed regarding the arcane disciplines and theories of the alternative reality tradition, sometimes called the perennial philosophy, or theosophia (divine wisdom), it soon became clear that certain parallels existed between Jung's teachings and what to them was long known as the path of initiation. As the noted esoteric poet and diplomat, Miguel Serrano, observed in his seminal small work, C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse, it was as though there were a second language underlying the first in all of Jung's works. The analyst came to be a hierophant of the mysteries, while the patient became a neophyte, or disciple. Sickness revealed itself as a divided or incomplete condition and health as a state of spiritual wholeness. Analytical psychology began to appear as a dialogue between the individual and the universe, without destroying the personality or the ego after the fashion of some Buddhist and Hindu theories.

The sources of Jung's work remained a subject of conjecture for many decades. During his lifetime Jung shrouded the origins of his discoveries in a mantle of caution that often bordered on Hermetic concealment. He said again and again that everything he wrote was based on empirical evidence, indicating that no matter how esoteric and mystical much of his work appeared, it always rested on experience in the psychological field. Most persons took this to mean that Jung treated many patients, that he also had access to the practical research of many of his junior colleagues, and that his books were no doubt the result of data gathered from these sources. Of course, there were rumors which declared that he was a most unconventional scientist indeed, and that he associated with astrologers and men of religion. It was also whispered that he, himself, had occult and weird experiences, saw ghosts and consulted oracles.

It was not until after Jung's death in 1961 and especially after the publication of his remarkable autobiographical fragments, entitled Memories, Dreams and Reflections, that a continuous stream of progressively more daring revelations began to pour forth from the pens of his disciples and from posthumously published notes and letters of Jung himself. From these sundry disclosures we learn that between 1912 and 1917 Jung underwent an intense period of experience which involved a tremendous flooding of his consciousness from within by forces which he called archetypal but which previous ages would have declared to be divine and demonic. A certain amount of information regarding these experiences Jung communicated in confidence to various of his associates, but undoubtedly he experienced much more than he ever disclosed, indeed more than ever will be disclosed. The great explorer often called this experience, or rather cycle of experiences, his Nekyia, using the term whereby Homer described the descent of Odysseus into the underworld. (See James Kirsch, "Remembering C.G. Jung, in Psychological Perspectives, Vol. 6, p. 57) At this time, so we are told, he withdrew from most external activities, with the exception of a modicum of his psychiatric practice. It is even reported that during this period he did not read any books, assuredly a great event in the life of such an avid student of every form of literature. Although he did not read, he wrote. His writing at this time consisted of the records of his strange, inner experiences which filled 1,330 handwritten pages, illustrated by his own hand. His handwriting at this time changed to one that was used in the fourteenth century; his paintings were painted with pigments which he himself made, after the fashion of the artists of bygone ages. He had some of the most beautiful paintings and scriptures bound in red leather and kept in a place of honor among his belongings; hence they became known as the Red Book. According to eyewitnesses, the writings of this period of his life fall into two distinct categories; some are bright and angelic, while others are dark and demonic in form and content. One is tempted to say that Jung, in the manner of other magicians, went through experiences belonging to the categories of Theurgic Invocation of gods and of Goetic Evocation of spirits and that he kept a "magical record" of each.

Jung's Red Book, folio page 52
Folio page 52 from Jung's Red Book,
which was finally published in 2009

Fascinating as these facts about Jung's early transformation are in themselves, their true importance is only disclosed when we realize that there is evidence that much, if indeed not all, of his scientific work may be based on visionary revelations. The much-repeated adjective empirical, characterizing the sources of Jung's work, thus appears in an entirely new light. Jung's psychological science was indeed grounded in empirical elements, but these were not primarily of an external nature but consisted of the experiences and experiments he carried out in his own secret world, in the occult regions of his deepest unconscious. Of course, Jung is not "scientific" in the narrower sense of the word in use today in that he did not control variables and conduct careful, repeatable experiments. His "science" consisted in developing a systematized body of knowledge derived from observation and study and discovery of principles and meaning behind the area of his studies, using scientific standards of objectivity. He (and Freud) have an acceptable modern-day scientific ally in phenomenology, whose proponents consider the various modes of human consciousness as their primary data and construct hypotheses, theories and explanations based on these.

It may be useful to remember that Freud carried out much of his research in a manner like that of Jung. The great Viennese doctor discovered the secrets of dreams by way of analyzing his own dreams, and indeed he remained, perhaps, the only psychoanalyst never to submit to analysis by anyone else, discounting a brief discussion of a few of his own dreams with Jung on their common American voyage. Jung was not alone in seeking the company of occultists and unconventional mystics, for Freud was an avid visitor of the haunts of soothsayers, and nourished an important friendship with a crank scientist named Wilhelm Fliess. (See Ernest Jones, Life and Works of Sigmund Freud ) One is tempted to characterize Jung as a supremely rational anti-rationalist, while Freud could be called a very irrational rationalist. However, both were seeking the same thing: "More Light" (Goethe's famed Mehr Licht) concerning the mysteries of the psyche.

In 1917 at the conclusion of his great descent into his personal, spiritual underworld, Jung was faced with a portentous choice. He could have taken his revelations at face value, perhaps published them as some sort of off-beat religious tome, and thus joined the ranks of the great occult writers of his time like H.P. Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner. Instead, Jung decided to remain within the field of his chosen scientific discipline, namely depth psychology, but not without utilizing the 1,330 pages of mysterious and archetypal revelatory material to enrich his scientific work. There is good reason to suspect that Jung, throughout his entire life, continued to draw on this record of secret lore and to incorporate elements of it in his numerous books as he deemed fit. There is incontrovertible evidence available that he did this in the case of the first great work which he authored after his personal transformation, namely his book Psychological Types, published in 1921. While afflicted with contagious whooping cough and thus isolated from his usual patients, he dictated the manuscript for this work at an incredibly furious pace, completing the first 583 pages in six weeks time. He subsequently confessed to the Dutch poet Roland Holst that Psychological Types was written entirely on the basis of the material contained in thirty pages of his Red Book. (Reported by G. Quispel in a lecture at the first Panarion Conference of Jungian scholars, at Los Angeles in 1975.)

As one might expect, Jung maintained a constant contact with the mysterious sources that inspired his Red Book throughout his life. He remained an inspired—some might say haunted—revelator for the rest of his days. His scientific work never represented a compartment of his existence that would or could be separated from his mystical and prophetic life; the two were intricately and inexorably interrelated. Jung the mystic guided and inspired Jung the scientist, while the physician and psychologist supplied balance and common sense to stabilize and to render practical the messages of the archetypal gods and demons. Thus was the epochal work of Carl Jung conceived and executed. In both its content and intent, it was an example of the precious principle of coniunctio oppositorum, the union of the polarities that ever produces the elixir of ultimate meaning.

The corpus containing Jung's original experiences of the unconscious from the period of his great transformation was never made available to the public by him. The attitude of his heirs appears to be, if anything, even more secretive in this regard than Jung's had been. It appears at the time of the writing of these words (1982) that any hope or expectation one may nourish for the publication of this material is not likely to be fulfilled for some time to come. Thus we are left with Jung's scientific works and very little more. Still, in this category of more we find at least one most remarkable document which tells us a great deal about the sources of Jung's psychology. This is a small work, hardly more than a diminutive monograph, although the significance of its contents may easily elevate it to an item of major importance in the study of Jung's message and mission. The work we refer to is known as The Seven Sermons to the Dead.

 

Preaching to the Dead

Carl Jung permitted the publication of only one solitary fragment from the vast amount of archetypal material which he wrote under mysterious inspiration in the early part of his career. It was written in a short time sometime between December 15, 1916, and February 16, 1917. According to Jung's statement in his autobiographical fragments, it was written in three evenings. (See C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Aniela Jaffe, ed.) The writing of this small book was heralded by weird events and was replete with phenomena of a parapsychological nature. First, several of Jung's children saw and felt ghostly entities in the house, while he himself felt an ominous atmosphere all around him. One of the children dreamt a religiously colored and somewhat menacing dream involving both an angel and a devil. Then—it was a Sunday afternoon—the front doorbell rang violently. The bell could actually be seen to move frantically, but no one visible was responsible for the act. A crowd of "spirits" seemed to fill the room, indeed the house, and no one could even breathe normally in the spook-infested hallway. Dr. Jung cried out in a shaky and troubled voice: "For God's sake, what in the world is this?" The reply came in a chorus of ghostly voices: "We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought." With these words the treatise, which is entitled in Latin Septem Sermones ad Mortuos, commences and then continues in German with the subtitle: "Seven exhortations to the dead, written by Basilides in Alexandria, the city where East and West meet."

Septem Sermones, original page
Jung's original 1916 printing
of the Septem Sermones

Even a superficial reading of the treatise reveals that it is written in the manner of second century Gnosticism and uses largely the terminology of that era. The very subtitle reveals the name of the famous gnostic sage Basilides, who taught in Alexandria in Hellenistic Egypt around the years A.D. 125-140. To Basilides, in fact, does Jung seem to attribute the authorship of the document itself, thus suggesting to some an element of mediumship and (or) automatic writing. In this regard it may be necessary to remember that for many centuries it was customary for authors of spiritually toned literature not to sign their own names to such works but to ascribe them poetically to someone whom they considered to occupy a position superior to their own. The celebrated Zohar of the Kabbalistic corpus is thus fictitiously attributed to Rabbi Shimon ben Jochai, its real author being unknown. It is more than likely that C. G. Jung utilized this time-honored exercise in poetic humility when using the name of Basilides as the author of the Sermons. Yet, the parapsychological element contained in the phenomena surrounding the writing of the treatise was freely acknowledged and emphasized by Jung, even to the extent of applying to it the words of Goethe in the second part of Faust: "It walks abroad, it's in the air!" One thing is certain: this is an unusual work, written under most unusual circumstances.

The importance of the Seven Sermons within the context of Jungian thought is an issue on which opinions differ. When Jung was questioned about it later in life, he grumbled, calling it a "youthful indiscretion." Some of his more conservative disciples, such as Aniela Jaffe, tend to perpetuate the myth of a "youthful indiscretion," while others feel differently. M. L. von Franz, a most important disciple indeed, affirmed that while Jung referred to the publication of the Sermons as a youthful folly, this by no means included the conceptions which they contained. A panel of Jungian scholars, assembled at the first Panarion conference in Los Angeles, California, in 1975, agreed that the Seven Sermons are nothing less than "the fount and origin" of Jung's work, and the C. G. Jung centenary exhibit, which toured the world at the time of his 100th birthday in 1975, showed the first page of the original edition of the Sermons, describing them as follows: "The 'Septem Sermones ad Mortuos' represent a summary of Jung's experiences with the images from the unconscious." Even more significantly, Jung himself went on record regarding the contents of the Red Book and the Sermons, stating that all his works, all his creative activity has come from these initial visions and dreams, and that everything that he accomplished in later life was already contained in them. These are hardly words whereby one might refer to a mere youthful indiscretion!

The small, poetic treatise was published privately by Jung for the delectation of an inner circle of friends, the German text soon being translated into English by H.G. Baynes. It was included in the appendix of the original German edition of Memories, Dreams and Reflections, published by Rascher Verlag in Zurich in 1962, but omitted from the English edition published simultaneously by Pantheon Books. This deliberate omission can only be explained as a further evidence of the well-known suspicion of the European mind against the English-speaking peoples with their tendency to misunderstand and misconstrue anything that borders on the mystical and the occult. Nevertheless, an artistically designed, separate volume of the Sermons was also published by Stuart & Watkins in London, containing the translation by Baynes. Thus there are several editions in circulation by now, warranting additional light on the text itself.

There certainly were events in the course of Jung's career when he might have easily regretted the youthful indiscretion of publishing his small volume of archetypal visions. One such incident concerned the formidable and Jehovah-like Martin Buber, who never got along well with Jung, and who, moreover, managed to lure one of Jung's dearest disciples away from him and into his own camp. This faithless disciple, whose name was Martin Trüb, gave a copy of the Sermons to Buber, whose Old Testament wrath rose to tremendous proportions in view of what he considered to be Jung's Gnostic heresies. Buber repeatedly attacked Jung and in his book Eclipse of God gravely accused him of being a Gnostic. Jung was most upset about the matter and made a somewhat ambiguous reply, denying and affirming his own Gnosticism in the same breath, as it were. Another curious story concerns the Nobel Prize-winning German author Hermann Hesse and his epochal novel Demian, in which Hesse incorporated many explicitly Gnostic themes—notably some references to the Gnostic archetypal god Abraxas, which closely resemble Jung's treatment of the same figure in the Sermons. While Gnosticism was definitely in the air during the two decades between the two world wars, the kind of Gnosticism espoused by Hesse in Demian appears so uniquely Jungian that many suspected a connection. In fact, a Jungian analyst by the name of Lang treated Hesse around the year 1916 and may easily have passed a copy of the Sermons to the then-unfolding young literary genius. A sympathetic connection continued to exist between Jung and Hesse for many decades and was subsequently immortalized by the Chilean diplomat and poet Miguel Serrano in his lovely volume C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse. It would seem that the little book of poetic Gnosticism, occasioned by the visit of the dead to Jung in 1916, had a greater influence and elicited more response than even Jung thought likely. All of these responses, however, concerned one subject, at once obscure and controversial, and this was of course Gnosticism.

 

What in the World Are Gnostics?

The words Gnostic and Gnosticism are not exactly standard features in the vocabulary of contemporary people. In fact, more people are familiar with the antonym of Gnostic, which is agnostic, literally meaning a non-knower or ignoramus, but figuratively describing a person with no faith in religion who still resents being called an atheist. Yet Gnostics were around long before agnostics and for the most part appear to have been a far more exciting category of persons than the latter group. In contradistinction to non-knowers, they considered themselves knowers—gnostikoi in Greek—denoting those who have Gnosis or knowledge. Gnostics were people who lived, for the most part, during the first three or four centuries of the so-called Christian era. Most of them probably would not have called themselves by the name Gnostic but would have considered themselves Christians, or more rarely Jews, or as belonging to the traditions of the ancient cults of Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome. They were not sectarians or the members of a specific new religion, as their detractors claimed, but rather people who shared with each other a certain attitude toward life. This attitude may be said to consist of the conviction that direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings, and, moreover, that the attainment of such knowledge must always constitute the supreme achievement of human life. This knowledge, or Gnosis, they did not envision as a rational knowledge of a scientific kind, or even as philosophical knowledge of truth, but rather a knowing that arises in the heart in an intuitive and mysterious manner and therefore is called in at least one Gnostic writing (the Gospel of Truth) the Gnosis kardias, the knowledge of the heart. This is obviously a religious concept that is at the same time highly psychological, for the meaning and purpose of life thus appears to be neither faith, with its emphasis on blind belief and equally blind repression, nor works with their extraverted do-goodism, but rather an interior insight and transformation, in short, a depth-psychological process.

If we come to envision the Gnostics as early depth psychologists, then it immediately becomes apparent why the Gnostic teaching and practice was radically different from the teaching and practice of Jewish and Christian orthodoxy. The knowledge of the heart, for which the Gnostics strove, could not be acquired by striking a bargain with Yahweh, by concluding a treaty or covenant which guaranteed physical and spiritual well being to man in exchange for the slave-like carrying out of a set of rules. Neither could Gnosis be won by merely fervently believing that the sacrificial act of one divine man in history could lift the burden of guilt and frustration from one's shoulders and assure perpetual beatitude beyond the confines of mortal existence The Gnostics did not deny the usefulness of the Torah or the magnificence of the figure of the Christos, the anointed of the most high God. They regarded the Law as necessary for a certain type of personality which requires rules for what today might be called the formation and strengthening of the psychological ego. Neither did they negate the greatness of the mission of the mysterious personage whom in his disguise men knew as the Rabbi Jehoshuah of Nazareth. The Law and the Savior, the two most highly revered concepts of Jew and Christian, became to the Gnostic but means to an end greater than themselves. These became inducements and devices which might, in some fashion, be conducive to personal knowing which, once attained, requires neither law nor faith. To them, as to Carl Jung many centuries later, theology and ethics were but stepping stones on the road to self-knowledge.

Some seventeen or eighteen centuries separate us from the Gnostics. During these centuries Gnosticism became a faith not only forgotten (as one of its interpreters, G. R. S. Mead, called it) but also a faith and a truth repressed. It seems that almost no group has been so relentlessly and consistently feared and hated for nearly two millennia as were the unhappy Gnostics. Textbooks of theology still refer to them as the first and most pernicious of all heretics, and the age of ecumenism seems to have extended none of the benefits of Christian love to them. Long before Hitler, the Emperor Constantine and his cruel bishops began the practice of religious genocide against the Gnostics, their first holocausts to be followed by many more through history. The last major persecution concluded with the burning of over 200 latter-day Gnostics in 1244 in the castle of Montsegur in France, an event which Laurence Durell described as the Thermopylae of the Gnostic soul. Still some prominent representatives of the victims of the latest holocaust have not regarded the most persecuted religious minority in history as a companion in misfortune, as the attacks of Martin Buber on Jung and on Gnosticism indicate. Jews and Christians, Catholics, Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox (and, in the case of the Manichaean Gnosis, even Zoroastrians, Moslems and Buddhists) have hated and persecuted the Gnostics with a persistent determination.

Why? Was it only because their antinomianism or disregard for moral law scandalized the rabbis, or because their doubts concerning the physical incarnation of Jesus and their reinterpretation of the resurrection angered the priests? Was it because they rejected marriage and procreation, as some of their detractors claim? Were they abhorred because of licentiousness and orgies, as others allege? Or might it be that perhaps the Gnostics truly had some knowledge, and that this knowledge re them supremely dangerous to establishments both secular ecclesiastical?

It is not easy to give a reply to this question, but an attempt must be made, nevertheless. We might essay such an answer by saying that the Gnostics differed from the majority of humankind, not only in details of belief and of ethical precept, but in their most essential and fundamental view of existence and its purpose. Their divergence was a radical one in the sense of the word, for it went back to the root (Latin: Radix) of humankind's assumptions and attitudes regarding life. Irrespective of their religious and philosophical beliefs, most people nourish certain unconscious assumptions pertaining human condition which do not spring from the formative, focused agencies of consciousness but which radiate from a deep, unconscious substratum of the mind. This mind is ruled by biology rather than by psychology; it is automatic rather than subject to conscious choices and insights. The most important among these assumptions, which may be said to sum up all others, is the belief that the world is good and that our involvement in it is somehow desirable and ultimately beneficial. This assumption leads to a host of others, all of which are more or less characterized by submissiveness toward external conditions and toward the laws which seem to govern them. In spite countless illogical and malevolent events of our lives, the incredible sequences, by-ways, repetitious insanities of human history, both collective and individual, we will believe it to be incumbent upon us to go along with the world, for it is, after all, God's world, and thus it must have meaning and goodness concealed within its operations, no matter how difficult to discern. Thus we must go on fulfilling our role within the system we can, being obedient children, diligent husbands, dutiful wives, well-behaved butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers, hoping against hope that a revelation of meaning will somehow emerge from this meaningless life of conformity.

Not so, said the Gnostics. Money, power, governments, the raising of families, paying of taxes, the endless chain of entrapment in circumstances and obligations—none of these were ever rejected as totally and unequivocally in human history as they were by the Gnostics. The Gnostics never hoped that any political or economic revolution could, or even should, do away with all the iniquitous elements within the system wherein the human soul is entrapped. Their rejection was not of one government or form of ownership in favor of another; rather it concerned the entire prevailing systematization of life and experience. Thus the Gnostics were, in fact, knowers of a secret so deadly and terrible that the rulers of this world—i.e., the powers, secular and religious, who always profited from the established systems of society—could not afford to have this secret known and, even less, to have it publicly proclaimed in their domain. Indeed the Gnostics knew something, and it was this: that human life does not fulfill its promise within the structures and establishments of society, for all of these are at best but shadowy projections of another and more fundamental reality. No one comes to his true selfhood by being what society wants him to be nor by doing what it wants him to do. Family, society, church, trade and profession, political and patriotic allegiances, as well as moral and ethical rules and commandments are, in reality, not in the least conducive to the true spiritual welfare of the human soul. On the contrary, they are more often than not the very shackles which keep us from our true spiritual destiny.

This feature of Gnosticism was regarded as heretical in olden days, and even today is often called "world denying" and "anti-life," but it is, of course, merely good psychology as well as good spiritual theology because it is good sense. The politician and the social philosopher may look upon the world as a problem to be solved, but the Gnostic, with his psychological discernment, recognizes it as a predicament from which we need to extricate ourselves by insight. For Gnostics, like psychologists, do not aim at the transformation of the world but at the transformation of the mind, with its natural consequence—a changed attitude toward the world. Most religions also tend to affirm a familiar attitude of internalism in theory, but, as the result of their presence within the establishments of society, they always deny it in practice. Religions usually begin as movements of radical liberation along spiritual lines but inevitably end up as pillars of the very societies which are the jailers of our souls.

If we wish to obtain Gnosis, the knowledge of the heart that renders human beings free, we must disentangle ourselves from the false cosmos created by our conditioned minds. The Greek word kosmos, as well as the Hebrew word olam, while frequently mistranslated as world, really denote more the concept of systems. When the Gnostics said that the system around them was evil and that one had to get away from it in order to know truth and discover meaning, they acted, not only as the forerunners of innumerable alienated drop-outs from St. Francis to the beatniks and hippies, but they also stated a psychological fact since rediscovered by modern depth psychology. Jung restated an old Gnostic insight when he said that the extraverted human ego must first become thoroughly aware of its own alienation from the greater Self before it can begin to return to a state of closer union with the unconscious. Until we become thoroughly aware of the inadequacy of our extraverted state and of its insufficiency in regard to our deeper spiritual needs, we shall not achieve even a measure of individuation, through which a wider and more mature personality emerges. The alienated ego is the precursor and an inevitable precondition of the individuated ego. Like Jung, the Gnostics did not necessarily reject the actual earth itself, which they recognized as a screen upon which the Demiurge of the mind projects his deceptive system. To the extent that we find a condemnation of the world in Gnostic writings, the term used is inevitably kosmos, or this aeon, and never the word ge (earth), which they regarded as neutral if not as outright good.

It was on this knowledge, the knowledge one has in one's heart concerning the spiritual barrenness and utter insufficiency of the establishments and established values of the outer world, that the Gnostics relied in order to construct both an image of universal being and a system of coherent inferences to be drawn from that image. (As one might expect, they accomplished this less in terms of philosophy and theology than in myth, ritual, and cultivation of the mythopoetic and imaginative qualities of their souls.) Like so many sensitive and thoughtful persons before and after their time, they felt themselves to be strangers in a strange country, a forlorn seed of the distant worlds of boundless light. Some, like the alienated youth of the 1960's withdrew into communes and hermitages, marginal communities on the edge of civilization. Others, more numerous perhaps, remained in the midst of the great metropolitan culture of the large cities like Alexandria and Rome, outwardly fulfilling their roles in society while inwardly serving a different master—in the world but not of the world. Most of them possessed learning, culture and wealth, yet they were aware of the undeniable fact that all such attainments and treasures pale before the Gnosis of the heart, the knowledge of the things that are. Little wonder that the wizard of Küstnacht who, since his early childhood, sought and found his own Gnosis, felt close to these strange and lonely people, these pilgrims of eternity, homeward bound among the stars.

 

Jung and Gnosticism

From the earliest days of his psychoanalytic career until the time of his death, Jung maintained a lively interest in and had a deep sympathy for Gnostics. As early as on August 12, 1912, Jung wrote a letter to Freud about the Gnostics in which he called the Gnostic conception of Sophia a reembodiment of an ancient wisdom that might appear once again in modern psychoanalysis. He was not lacking in literature that might have stimulated his interest in the Gnostics, for nineteenth-century scholarship in Germany (though almost nowhere else) diligently devoted itself to Gnostic studies. Partly as a reaction against the rigidities of Bismarckian Germany and its intellectual as well as theological conformist effects,. numerous fine scholars (Reitzenstein, Leisegang and Carl Schmidt, among others) as well as imaginative writers and poets (Hermann Usner, Albrecht Dieterich) delved into Gnostic lore, as did at least some members of the French intelligentsia (M. Jaques Matter, Anatole France). All of Jung's biographers mention his keen interest in matters Gnostic. One of the most revealing statements in this regard is quoted by his one-time associate, Barbara Hannah, who recounts his words about the Gnostics: "I felt as if I had at last found a circle of friends who understood me." The same biographer also notes that Jung developed an interest in Schopenhauer precisely because the great German philosopher reminded him of the Gnostics with their emphasis on the suffering aspect of the world, and that he approved whole-heartedly of the fact that Schopenhauer "spoke neither of the all-good and all-wise providence of a Creator, nor of the harmony of the cosmos, but stated bluntly that a fundamental flaw underlay the sorrowful course of human history and the cruelty of nature; the blindness of world-creating Will ...." That all of these are thoroughly Gnostic statements goes without saying. Since his interest in Schopenhauer goes back to his boyhood, we may take this to mean that Jung was in many ways a "natural" Gnostic, possessing the Gnostic attitude even before he became acquainted with some of the teachings of Gnosticism.

Although Jung quite early in his life had access to a certain amount of scholarly and poetic literature that stimulated his interest in Gnosticism, he had almost no primary source material of a Gnostic nature available. Like so many others, Jung had to rely on the fragmentary and, above all, mendaciously distorted accounts of the anti-Gnostic church fathers, especially Irenaeus and Hippolytus, for his information on the Gnostics. The ponderous wheels of academic scholarship were, with extreme slowness and even reluctance, only The leather-bound codices found at Nag Hammadi in 1945beginning to apply themselves to the three Coptic codices (Agnew Codex, Bruce Codex, Askew Codex) then moldering in various museums waiting to be translated and published. That Jung was able to derive so much insight and extract so much valuable information favorable to Gnosticism from the polemics of the heresy-hunting church fathers may be regarded as somewhat of a miracle in itself. Jung's contribution to Gnostic studies in general and to an enlightened, contemporary interpretation of Gnosticism in particular is little short of epochal in scope and import. That this contribution is still largely unappreciated by the increasing number of specialists in Gnosticism within the field of biblical studies is regrettable but not particularly amazing, in view of the fact that most of these scholars are the products of divinity schools and schools of religion of orthodox religious leanings. Moreover, most of them are totally lacking in any serious appreciation of psychology, especially the kind of psychology that Jung proclaimed. It has been said that war is too important to be entrusted to generals, and it might be equally just to say that Gnosticism is too valuable a tradition to be consigned to Bible scholars and quibblers over Coptic words. The lack of attention and respect accorded to Jung by some of these scholarly folk is all the more incredible, since Jung's influence is almost solely responsible for the vital project of the publication of the greatest storehouse of original Gnostic writings ever discovered in history, the Nag Hammadi Library.

The Gnostics were prolific writers of sacred lore. Their enemies noted with disapproval that the followers of the Gnostic teacher Valentinus were wont to write a new gospel every day and that none among them were esteemed much unless they wrote a new contribution to their literature. Yet, of all this profusion of texts, very few survived, due to the relentless suppression and destruction of Gnostic literature by the book-burners and heresy hunters of the Church, which with imperial support attained ascendancy over its rivals. For many centuries no original Gnostic scriptures were known to exist. It was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that travelers like the valiant and romantic Scotsman, James Bruce, began to bring back to Europe, from Egypt and adjoining localities, ancient papyrus fragments containing texts. While probably written in Greek originally, these had been translated by Gnostic scribes into Coptic, the demotic language of Hellenistic Egypt. Coptic scholars as well as persons interested in Gnosticism being rare indeed, the translation of such texts proceeded at a veritable snail's pace. Then, a near miracle occurred. In December, 1945, in the immediate wake of World War II, an Egyptian peasant, while digging for fertilizer in the vicinity of some caves in the Jabal al-Tarif mountain range near the Nile in Upper Egypt, came upon an entire collection of Gnostic codices. These treasures were apparently once part of the library of the vast monastic complex founded in that area by the father of Christian monasticism, the sainted Coptic monk, Pachomius.

First page of "Gospel of Thomas" coptic manuscript. (Photo Courtesy of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate University)
Page of the Gospel of Thomas
found at Nag Hammadi

Like its predecessors, the Nag Hammadi find was exceedingly slow to see the light of day. The ponderous ways of scholarship were greatly speeded up, however, by the influence of one man who was neither a Coptic scholar nor a biblical expert but merely an archaeologist of the human soul. This man was, of course, none other than Carl Jung. Jung took an early interest in the Nag Hammadi find, and it was Jung's long-time friend and collaborator Professor Gilles Quispel who took the lead in the translation and publication of the Nag Hammadi books. On May 10, 1952, while political crises and academic wrangling had brought all the work on the manuscript to a standstill, Quispel acquired one of the codices in Brussels, and it was from this portion of the great library that most of the early translations were made, thus shaming the scholarly community into speeding up its long-delayed work. This codex, named Jung Codex was presented to the Jung Institute in Zurich on the occasion of the eightieth birthday of Dr. Jung, and was thus the first item from the Nag Hammadi find to be openly viewed by scholars and laymen outside the turbulent and uncooperative milieu of Egypt in the fifties. Professor Quispel himself went on record as stating that Jung was instrumental in calling attention to, and in publishing, the priceless collection of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts. There is good reason to suspect that without Jung's influence this collection might also have been consigned to oblivion by the seemingly ever-active conspiracy of scholarly neglect. (For further details of the history of the Nag Hammadi Library and Jung's connections with it see: H.C. Puech, G. Quispel, W.C. Van Unnik: The Jung Codex, London, M.R. Mowbray, 1955.)

What was Jung's true view of Gnosticism? Unlike most scholars until quite recently, Jung never believed Gnosticism to have been a Christian heresy of the second and third centuries. Neither did he pay attention to the endless disputes of experts about the possible Indian, Iranian, Greek and other origins of Gnosticism. Earlier than any authority in the field of Gnostic studies, Jung recognized the Gnostics for what they were: seers who brought forth original, primal creations from the mystery which he called the unconscious. When in 1940 he was asked Is Gnosticism philosophy or mythology? he gravely replied that the Gnostics dealt in real, original images and that they were not syncretistic philosophers as so many assumed. He recognized that Gnostic images arise even today in the inner experiences of persons in connection with the individuation of the psyche, and in this he saw evidence of the fact that the Gnostics were expressing true archetypal images which are known to persist and to exist irrespective of time or of historical circumstances. He recognized in Gnosticism a mighty and utterly primal and original expression of the human mind, an expression directed toward the deepest and most important task of the soul, which is attainment to wholeness. The Gnostics, so Jung perceived, were interested in one thing above all—the experience of the fullness of being. Since this was both his own personal interest and the objective of his psychology, it is axiomatic that his affinity for the Gnostics and their wisdom was very great indeed. This view of Gnosticism did not remain confined to Jung's own psychological works, but it soon entered the world of Gnostic studies by way of his aforementioned coworker, Gilles Quispel, who in his important work Gnosis als Weltreligion (1951) presented the thesis that Gnosticism expresses, neither a philosophy nor a heresy, but a specific religious experience which then manifests itself in myth and (or) ritual. It is regrettable indeed that, more than twenty-five years after the publication of this work, so few have appreciated its significant implications.

In view of these considerations, one may understandably ask the question Was Jung a Gnostic? Misguided persons, like Martin Buber, have answered yes to this question, implying thereby that Jung was both less than a respectable scientist and less than a good man within the orthodox religious meaning of the term. As the result of this derogatory use of the term Gnostic, many of Jung's followers, and occasionally Jung himself, have denied that he was a Gnostic. A rather typical example of this hedging was a statement made by Gilles Quispel when he stated that "Jung was not a Gnostic in the usual sense of the term." It is very doubtful, however, that there ever was even one single Gnostic in a usual sense of the term. Gnosticism is not a set of doctrines but a mythological expression of an inner experience. In terms of Jungian psychology, we might say that the Gnostics gave expression in poetic and mythological language to their experiences within the individuation process. In so doing they brought forth a wealth of most significant material, containing profound insights into the structure of the psyche, the content of the collective unconscious and the dynamics of the individuation process. Like Jung himself, the Gnostics described, not only the conscious and personal unconscious aspects of the human psyche, but empirically explored the collective unconscious and gave descriptions and formulations of the various archetypal images and forces. As Jung stated, the Gnostics were far more successful than the orthodox Christians in finding suitable symbolic expression of the Self, and their symbolic expressions closely parallel those which Jung formulated. While Jung did not openly identify himself with Gnosticism as a religious school, just as he did not identify himself with any religious denomination, there can be little doubt that he did more than anyone to illuminate the central thrust of Gnostic imagery and symbolic practice. He saw in Gnosticism a particularly valuable expression of man's universal struggle to regain wholeness. While it would have been both impractical and immodest for him to say so, there is no doubt that this Gnostic expression of the urge toward wholeness was duplicated only once in the history of the West, and that was in Jung's own system of analytical psychology.

What manner of Gnostic was Jung? Certainly he was not a literal follower of any one of the ancient teachers of Gnosis, which would have been an impossible undertaking in any case in view of the inadequacy of detailed information regarding these teachers and their teachings. On the other hand he, like the Gnostics of old, formulated at least the rudiments of a system of transformation, or individuation, which was based, not on faith in any outside source (whether it be Jesus or Valentinus), but on the natural, inner experience of the soul which was ever the source of all true Gnosis.

The dictionary definition of Gnostic is knower rather than a follower of someone else who may be a knower. Jung was certainly such a knower if there ever was one. To deny that Jung was a Gnostic in this sense would be tantamount to the denial of all the recognized data of his life and work. The most probable indication of the specifically Gnostic character of Jung's orientation, however, is none other than the treatise called Seven Sermons to the Dead, which, by the admission of prominent Jungians, is the fount and origin of his later work. Who but a Gnostic would or could write a work like these sermons? Who would choose to garb his personal archetypal revelations, which form the skeleton of his life's work, in the terminology and mythological framework of the Alexandrian Gnosis? Who would prefer to select Basilides rather than any other figure as the author of the Sermons? Who would use, with expert understanding and finesse, such terms as Pleroma and Abraxas to symbolize highly abstract psychological states? There can be but one answer to these questions: only a Gnostic would do these things. Since Carl Jung did all of these and indeed much more, therefore we may consider Carl Jung a Gnostic, both in the general sense of a true knower of the deeper realities of psychic being and in the more narrow sense of a modern reviver of the Gnosticism of the first centuries of the Christian era.

 

Jung and the Pansophic Gnosis

According to Morton Smith, the noted discoverer of the Secret Gospel of Mark, the term gnostikoi was generally used to describe persons of a Platonic and/or Pythagorean orientation, although, of course, the term gnosis occurs in the writings of many authors belonging to other schools, including orthodox Christian church fathers like Origen and Clement of Alexandria. The Nag Hammadi Gnostic Library contained copies of both the Republic of Plato and of certain Hermetic tractates which scholarly purists of contemporary vintage would never dream of including in the Gnostic corpus. All of this furnishes evidence for the contention that already in early times, when the Gnostic schools were still physically alive, Gnosticism was characterized by a considerable ecumenicity and elasticity. The members of the presumed Gnostic community in Upper Egypt would probably have defined Gnostic literature as any spiritually valuable scripture capable of producing Gnosis within the reader. Academic experts on Gnosticism may aspire to the status of purists, but the Gnostics themselves never were such, nor could they ever be. Thus in later centuries, after the destruction of the original Gnostic communities and of their scriptures, the Gnostic spirit lived on under many names and in many disguises, still serving its original and never-fading purposes. As long as there is a light within the innermost selfhood of human nature, and as long as there are men and women who feel themselves akin to that light, there will always be Gnostics in the world. We may consider the continued presence of the Gnosis as in a very large measure due to the survival of Gnostic archetypes within the collective unconscious and to the very nature of the processes of the growth and development of the psyche itself. Jung undoubtedly knew this when he referred to the process of the confrontation with the shadow (the recognition of the unacceptable, or "evil" part of ourselves) as a "gnostic process." The church fathers coined the phrase anima naturaliter Christiana (the soul, which is by its nature Christian), but the Gnostics with even greater validity could have said that the soul's content and path of growth are by their nature Gnostic. The undeniably archetypal character of Gnosticism is not the only cause of its survival. In addition to the Gnostic character of the unconscious, which spontaneously tends to produce Gnostic systems of reality, there also exists a historical development and continuity linking the ancient Gnostics with their heirs in later historical periods.

The Prophet Mani
Icon of the Prophet Mani
(Oil on panel, by Jan Valentin Saether)

Underground movements seldom lend themselves as subjects for the work of the historian. Compelled to secrecy by their hostile environment, their chief preoccupation is survival, and thus they leave relatively few discernible tracks in the soil of time. Much, although not all, of Gnostic history after the third and fourth centuries is made up of speculation and intuition in lieu of facts. Still in this gossamer fabric of concealment and subterfuge, of evasions and occasional daring declarations, certain significant data stand forth with remarkable force and clarity. One of these is the life and work of the splendid Persian prophet Mani (A.D. 215-277), whose star rose just when that of the first Gnostics declined. Mani was a Gnostic both by the nature of his character and by virtue of tradition. When twelve years old he was visited by an angel who declared to him that he was chosen for great tasks. At the age of twenty-four the angel came to him again and urged him to make his public appearance and to proclaim his own doctrine. The Persian name of this angel means twin, and he was the spiritual twin-brother, or higher self, of Mani. The gnostic treatise known as Pistis Sophia recounts a similar incident in the life of Jesus, who in his youth was visited by an angel who resembled him like a twin brother and with whom Jesus merged after they embraced. These myths express the Jungian encounter between the ego and the Self, with the ensuing union of the opposites. Recent discoveries appear to indicate, however, that Mani's father, Patiq, had traveled to Syria and Palestine and there joined a Jewish or Mandaean group of Gnostic character. Thus in all likelihood Mani received a Gnostic transmission from his father or from his father's teachers.

Mani was cruelly executed by a treacherous king at the instigation of the Zoroastrian priestly establishment, but his religion continued to flourish in many lands for several centuries and became the principal carrier of the Gnostic tradition. As late as 1813 the Manichaean order of the White Lotus and the Black Cloud was politically active in China, and there seem to be indications of the existence of Manichaean remnants existing in Viet Nam as late as 1911. Unlike the first Gnostic teachers, Mani was a skilled organizer, and the missionaries of his church were indefatigable travelers and preachers. In Europe the Manichaean Gnosis twice reared its head with bold might: once in the Balkan regions of Bulgaria and Bosnia where its votaries were known as Bogomils, and once in the south of France where the followers were known as Cathars or Albigensians. Although drowned in blood every time, their influence penetrated the cultural and religious field in many lands and helped to reinforce the underground stream of Gnostic traditions which continued to survive in secrecy.

While the spiritual heirs of Mani thus carried forth their particular Gnostic transmission openly, though against overwhelming odds, various strictly secret traditions continued to exist, especially in Europe and in the Middle East. It is with one of these covert traditions of the Gnosis that Carl Jung established a most significant link. The tradition we refer to is alchemy. In an address, delivered at the presentation of the celebrated Jung Codex of the Nag Hammadi collection to the C.G. Jung Institute, Jung singled out two main representatives of the Gnostic tradition, one being the Jewish Kabbalah, while the other he called "philosophical alchemy." Jung was familiar with the Kabbalah and was a frequent reader of one of its greatest works, the Latin translation of the Zohar, translated by Knorr von Rosenroth and known as Kabbalah Denudata. The principal modality of Gnosis to which Jung became greatly attached, however, was not the Kabbalah but alchemy. He commented extensively in many volumes of his finest writing on its intricate symbolism and splendid transformational metaphors.

Many have wondered why Jung should have chosen the obscure and long-ridiculed occult discipline of alchemy as one of the favorite subjects of his research. The answer to the quandary, though clearly given by Jung himself, has failed to elicit the response that it warrants. For about a dozen years, from the First World War until 1926, Jung devoted himself with great zeal to the study of the literature on Gnosticism then available to him. In spite of the fragmentary and distorted character of this literary material, he became both well informed about Gnosticism and thoroughly imbued with its spirit, as proven by the content of the Seven Sermons to the Dead. What Jung could not find at first, however, was some sort of a bridge or link that might have connected the Gnosis of old with later periods, including the contemporary one. Some Grail-like vessel was needed wherein the precious elixir, once used by such masters as Valentinus and Basilides, was preserved and in which it was carried through the centuries to attract would-be Gnostic Parsifals in our own era. Jung's intuition declared to him that there must be such a bridge, such a connecting link in the chain of wisdom, but he could not rationally discern where it was to be sought. Then, as usual, he was aided by a dream.* In it he was carried back into the seventeenth century when alchemy still flourished in Europe. A recognition dawned on him. Here, he thought, is the missing link of the descent of the Gnosis! Thus began his great research, which eventually led him to proclaim that alchemy indeed represented the historical link with Gnosticism, and that a definite continuity therefore existed between the past and present. Jung stated that, grounded in the natural Philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy on the one hand formed the bridge into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other to the future, to modern depth psychology. Thus came to pass one of the significant hallmarks of esoteric historical exploration. Alchemy was discovered to be none other than the bridge over which the Gnosis of old traversed the ages and entered the modern world as the Jungian psychology of the unconscious. The implications regarding the connections of Jung's thought with Gnosticism, although seldom mentioned in the past, are nevertheless clear for all to see. They may be summed up as follows: Jung might be viewed as a modern-day Gnostic who absorbed the Gnosis, both by way of his inner transformation and his confirming study of Gnostic literature. He knew that in his psychology he was putting forward an essentially Gnostic discipline of transformation in contemporary guise. He needed to discover a historical connection between his own efforts and those of the Gnostic teachers of antiquity. He was also in need of a statement of the Gnostic method of transformation that was not fragmentary but contained an adequate vocabulary of psychologically valid symbols to be made useful within the context of the study of the human mind today. In alchemy he found precisely what he sought. Thus the answer to his dreams came heralded by a dream.

In alchemy Jung contacted one of the most important branches of what has sometimes been called the Pansophic Tradition, or the wisdom heritage which descended from Gnostic, Hermetic, and Neo-Platonic sources, through numerous later manifestations, to contemporary times. This Pan-Sophic, or Theo-Sophic tradition was recognized by Jung to have taken many forms throughout the ages, but also to have been particularly manifest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries within the movement of modern Theosophy, enunciated by the Russian noblewoman and world-traveler, Madame H. P. Blavatsky. In such works as The Undiscovered Self and Civilization in Transition Jung clearly recognized modern Theosophy as an important contemporary manifestation of Gnosticism, and he likened it to a submarine mountain range spreading beneath the waves of the mainstream culture, with only the projecting mountain peaks becoming visible from time to time through the attention received by Mme. Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Krishnamurti and others.

As Jung repeatedly emphasized, orthodox Christianity (and, one should include orthodox Judaism as well) has demonstrably failed to satisfy the deepest and most essential needs of the soul of Western humanity. Christian theology was far too rationalistic, reductionistic and insensitive to the profound reaches of the human soul. As the church came to ally herself with one hopelessly unspiritual secular establishment after the other, from Constantine to Mussolini, so also her spirit atrophied under the baneful influence of Aristotelian logic and other structures of thought which stifled the urge of believers toward personal psychic transformation. In this climate of spiritual aridity, which persisted for some 1700 years, the desire for individuation frequently turned to the alternative spirituality of the Pansophic or Theosophic transmission which, while not exclusively Gnostic in the classical sense, contained a large component of Gnosticism.

The seventeenth century, to which Jung saw himself transported in his alchemical dream, was one of the most important points in the history of the upsurgence of this alternative tradition of spirituality. It was at this time that the movement called by Frances Yates the Rosicrucian Enlightenment brought Hellenistic alchemy into a cooperative conjunction with the Jewish Gnosticism of the Kabbalah and with the Theurgicmagical methods that descended from both Gnosticism and Neoplatonism. The greatest early luminary of this spiritual counterpart of the artistic and literary Renaissance was a man with whom Jung felt an uncanny and overwhelming inner kinship, Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Paracelsus Bombastus of Hohenheim, who like himself was Swiss, a physician, and a man determined to unite the opposites of science and spirituality into one operative unity.

Although a flamboyant and gargantuan Renaissance man, filled with scientific curiosity as well as with spiritual aspiration—not to speak of physical and emotional appetites of equally heroic proportions—Paracelsus was in many ways a true Gnostic. Pugnacious, haughty, fiercely independent (his motto was "He who can be his own, should not be another's"), he nourished a sovereign contempt for the world of established power, dogma and values. A lonely and homeless wanderer, he journeyed over almost the entire known world of his time, and died mysteriously and alone in Salzburg, Austria, where even his tomb was found to be empty in later years. Very much like Jung, he looked upon illness as a spiritual phenomenon related to the universal meaning of life within a magical cosmos. His epigram "Magic is a Great Hidden Wisdom—Reason is a Great Open Folly" could be easily adapted to characterize Jung's discovery of the meaningful non-rationality of the unconscious, replete with its own symbolic magic and revealing itself in the wonders of synchronicity. At a fairly early point in his career (1929) speaking in the very house where Paracelsus was born at Einsiedeln in Switzerland, Jung repeatedly drew comparisons between the philosophy of the great occult physician and the teachings of Gnosticism. Jung recognized in the cosmogenic principle propounded by Paracelsus, and called by him Hylaster, a form of the Gnostic Demiurge, or deity subordinate to the supreme deity, sometimes considered the creator of evil. He traced the alchemical view of the archetypal potentialities concealed in matter to the Gnostic concept of the Iightsparks scattered abroad in the darkened cosmos. With singular clarity, he perceived how the occult materialism of Paracelsus and of the alchemists was but a new form of the apparent extreme idealism of the Gnostics. Jung recognized that the same transformation process which the Gnostics symbolized as the journey of the soul through the aeonic regions appeared in the Paracelsian symbolism as the stage-by-stage transfiguration of the dark prima materia into the shining gold of the alchemical work. While apparently poles apart, the Gnostics and alchemists shared a common quest. They also opposed a common foe, orthodox Christianity, which was ever incapable of appreciating either the transformational potentialities of matter or the authentic, naturally inherent sanctity, and indeed divinity, of the human psyche. Instead of an appreciation of either or both of these alchemical and Gnostic propositions, the church chose to languish in a psychological limbo compounded of Aristotelian logic and the Semitic obsession with moral laws and commandments. Paracelsus and the alchemists were dear to Jung, for in them he saw a mighty manifestation of the Pansophic Tradition which is a descendant of ancient Gnosticism.

Paracelsus, Pico de la Mirandola, Fichino and their companions may have initiated the Pansophic fusion of the magico-philosophical disciplines of transformation. However, this Pansophic or Theosophic synthesis was brought to its greatest fruition in the seventeenth century, with the unknown authors of the Fama Fraternitatis, the Confessio Fraternitatis and of the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz, as well as the writings and activities of the English Renaissance occultists John Dee, Thomas Vaughan and Robert Fludd. The aforementioned historian, Frances Yates, proves in her most convincing scholarly works (Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, as well as The Art of Memory, The Theatre of the World and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment) that Renaissance art, science, literature, and drama have an organic connection with and are, in a sense, part of the Pansophic effort. It is Hermetic and Gnostic magic, alchemy and heterodox mysticism that served as the well of the living waters from which the greatest lights of Western culture, from Galileo to Shakespeare, drew their inspiration and spiritual sustenance.

The seventeenth century thus led to the eighteenth, wherein Martinism, Freemasonry, the Illuminati and the neo-Templars carried forward the torch of the alternative spiritual tradition into the Age of Reason. The Jacobin club and other antimonarchist and anticlerical associations in France and elsewhere were politicized offshoots of the esoteric orders, bent in part on revenging the centuries of persecutions visited on the representatives of heterodox spirituality by the powers of throne and altar. When King Louis XVI was led to the scaffold, he is said to have exclaimed: "This is the revenge of Jaques de Molay!" But as thrones crumbled and altar lights were extinguished, the champions of the new dawn of the spirit came to recognize that the triumph of wisdom was still far off. New tyrants replaced the monarchs of old and churchly dogma gave way to the soul-killing materialism of an arrogant young science.

The era of darkness set in. Semi-moribund religion continued to battle science, while the grimy smokestacks of the Industrial Revolution reduced peasant to proletarian and elevated merchant and usurer to capitalist. Only the artist and poet remained to fan the flickering flame of the alternate spiritual tradition. William Blake, Shelley, Goethe, Holderlin, and later W.B. Yeats and Gustav Meyrink, as well as the painters Moreau and Mucha—following in the footsteps of the Pre-Raphaelites and of other artistic esotericists—were consciously, and at times hopelessly, championing the Pansophic tradition. Even toward the end of his life, Jung said gravely to Miguel Serrano: "No one understands, only a poet could begin to understand," thus speaking for the entire stream of esoteric transmission in its nineteenth and twentieth century plight.

The dawn always breaks at the darkest time of night. Out of the torpor of nineteenth century culture, new figures arose and, like chanticleers, they called forth magically the new-old light of the sun. Wagner, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and numerous lesser figures, all in their own fashion, brought forth elements of the Pansophic tradition. Like a Cathar troubadour risen from the pyre of the Inquisition, Richard Wagner sang the glories of the mystical Grail and paraded the awakened gods of the pagan past. Nietzsche, the passionate neo-pagan, articulated a truly Gnostic contempt for the pusillanimous constructs of what he saw as an alienated, degenerated Christianity, while Kierkegaard, the gloomy Dane, conjured up existential anguish and alienation, duplicating the feat of the earliest Gnostics. All of these efforts, however, fell short of taking the ultimate step, taken long ago by Valentinus, Basilides, Marcion and other Gnostics, which was neither a leap of faith nor a plunge into despair, but the entry into the aionic regions of the human psyche. Here the archetypal gods await the neophyte ego to be initiated into the mystery. Depth psychology thus became the logical conclusion of an age-long process which brought the Pansophic tradition from the sunny shores of the Mediterranean to Europe and America, and from classical antiquity through the Middle Ages and subsequent centuries into the paradoxical times of the two World Wars, of Nazism, Fascism, and Marxism and the other curious elements which make up the twentieth century.

Religion, science, philosophy, art and literature were only partial approaches to the great mystery of the soul; each was like a facet in a cut gem, fragmentary in its own isolation. Only two forces emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which addressed themselves to the very fire in the center of the many-faceted diamond of the soul and endeavored in their own ways to understand the dynamics of the brilliancy of its light. The two forces were: modern occultism, initiated by the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky, and modern depth psychology, initiated by Freud and carried forward into new creative dimensions by Jung. The former followed the age-old pattern of the alternative spiritual tradition, pursuing a private, or quasi-religious approach. The latter aspired to become a science, even though it came to reveal itself more as a qüasiscientific discipline, half an art and half a science. Whether this modern discipline of the soul will be able to live up to its own high expectations and fulfill its outstanding promise, only the passage of time will disclose. In the person and in the work of C.G. Jung, modern depth psychology has come very close to revealing the great secret; it has come close to perfecting the Gnostic-alchemical work. As we know, the old wizard of the mind whom the world called C.G. Jung is no longer on earth to continue the great experiment he began. His psychology is still with us, and so is his general Pansophic legacy, inherited by him from a succession of sages that includes the Gnostic elite of two millenia. The night is still long and the watchmen are few. Will the magnum opus be carried forward to a new stage toward its completion? Who will be the alchemists, the Gnostics of the future?

 

Jung and the New Gnosticism

If one accepts the view expressed in the foregoing, namely that Jung played the role of an authentic, contemporary link in the chain of transmission that has been called Pansophic, the core of which is Gnosticism, then certain conclusions will, of necessity, suggest themselves. One of these is that Jungian or analytical psychology cannot and must not remain restricted to the field of psychotherapeutic practice and theory, but that instead the wider cultural and spiritual implications of Jung's thought need to be explored and implemented. This necessity is made increasingly clear when one considers the mounting generalized public response to Jung's total message, which is far greater than the response of the same public to Jungian therapy alone. The academic community of experts in literature, mythology, comparative religions and kindred disciplines, as well as large segments of the educated lay public, have responded with the greatest measure of positive interest to Jung's insights, while the medical and clinical disciplines of psychology have remained relatively unimpressed and unaffected by them. (This assessment is primarily to be understood within the context of the intellectual life of America, but the European picture resembles the American to a significant degree.) Over the last two or three decades there has been a phenomenal increase in the popularity of Jung's books, but the number of practicing psychiatrists and psychologists following the Jungian discipline is still minuscule when compared to those attached to other psychological models. "Vox populi, vox Dei" (The voice of the people is the voice of God). It may well be that the gods have thus spoken through the mouths of people in many walks of life and that their judgment declares that, while only few may avail themselves of Jungian therapy, many, and perhaps all, can benefit from Jung's "Weltanschauung," his model of reality, or world-conception.

Another conclusion that should be considered is that Jung's essential message cannot be regarded as an isolated, contemporary phenomenon, but rather as an organic outgrowth, nay perhaps even the culmination, of a distinguished spiritual tradition of great antiquity as well as of timeless relevance. In short, Jung's insights need to be considered as one of the latest and greatest manifestations of the stream of alternate spirituality which descends from the Gnostics. It is to be expected that this position will find its critics and that some of these critics will be precisely persons who are quite attached to Jung's psychology and in some cases are practitioners of his therapy. To link Jung's name unequivocally with the most abominated heresy of Christian history may appear to some as a disservice rendered to Jung and to his psychology. Perhaps the timid and the faint-hearted need to be reminded that immediate advantages must often be sacrificed in order to benefit distant but larger objectives. What will it profit Jung's admirers if they should gain the whole world in terms of acceptance and academic respectability, while modern man at large still wanders in search of his lost soul?

The world, especially the Western world, is in evident need of a new Gnosis, even of a new Gnosticism. Fascinating and inspiring though it is, the old Gnosticism of 1700 years ago labors under some obvious limitations when its applicability to contemporary spiritual problems is considered. Yet, at the same time it must be evident to any unprejudiced student of Gnosticism that it still has much to offer to contemporary humanity when it is stripped of certain archaic and outdated historical features. It is because of these features that it appears imperative that Gnosticism should not be confined to the limited interests of a backward-looking antiquarianism. Some way must be found to rescue ancient Gnosticism from the ivory towers of those who delight more in the subtleties of Coptic and Greek phrases than in the living realities of the soul, to which the ancient Gnostics were in fact addressing themselves. It appears to us that such a way can be found, and that it must of necessity be composed of two main sources.

Jung's First Mandela, based on the experience of the Septem Sermones
Jung's first Mandela, based on the
experience of the Septem Sermones

The first of these sources is the classical Gnosticism of the early centuries A.D. with the addition of significant amplifications brought forth by the various manifestations of the Gnostic impulse within the Pansophic tradition. The second element is none other than theGnosis formulated by Jung. It may be considered likely that self-declared purists of both the Jungian and of the Gnostic variety will resist the marriage of these two elements. Resistances and objections of such a nature, however, ought to be viewed as of little importance when contrasted with the potential benefits to be derived from a creative conjunction of ancient Gnosticism and the modern Gnosis of Jung. Assuredly there may be persons who wish to confine the wisdom of Jung to the small operational arena of the consulting room, even as there will be others who will insist on locking up Gnosticism in the files of scholarly specialists and in their costly and obscure academic treatises. The fact remains that Jungian depth psychology is more than a therapeutic discipline, just as Gnosticism is more than an ancient religion. Both are the expression at their particular levels of existential reality of a Gnosis, a knowledge of the heart directed toward the inmost core of the human psyche and having as its objective the essential transformation of the psyche.

It becomes necessary for us now to give some expression to the model of reality as it appears within the texts of the ancient Gnostics, and as it may be usefully amplified by the modern statement of Gnosis offered to us by Jung. Gnosis is formless, since ultimate reality is always beyond conceptual grasp. It was precisely this perception of ultimate reality that inspired the teachers and writers of ancient Gnosticism and fired them to amazing heights of original, creative accomplishment in the spiritual field. Modern psychology and ancient Gnosticism are but pointers to truths that are actually encountered in the vital experience of personal psychic transformation. Experience itself is always individual and can never be adequately expressed or interpreted by arranging sets of concepts and doctrines, for concepts are only indications of similarities within experience. Gnostic and psychologist must both be on their guard against the danger that they might mistake formulae for wisdom, and thus fall into the same dark pit into which theology plunged headlong, and fatally.

If anyone should expect Jung to have constructed a new Gnostic "system" in the accustomed sense of the word, such an expectation would assuredly meet with disappointment. Jung, in fact, pointed the way toward a most important feature of the new Gnosticism when he said that where individual development is demanded, all methods must be abandoned. He considered individuality as unique, unpredictable and uninterpretable. In his view, all human beings are pathfinders, hewing their way through a dense forest. The established systems and forms of knowledge can do no more than put up signposts and indicate the explored roads that lead to the edge of this forest where the task of solitary exploration begins. Thus religious and quasi-religious disciplines, as well as modern psychology, can point to significant, common situations in the quest after Gnosis, but they are in reality only a shorthand of the language of the soul to be abandoned as real contact with the deeper layers of spirit is achieved. The danger of all systems is that they tend to mistake the words which serve as pointers for the realities to which they point. We may use terms of a Gnostic derivation, such as Sophia or Abraxas, or on the other hand, we may employ psychological terms, such as anima, animus and shadow, but in all instances we must be extremely careful that we do not earmark them as known because named, thus depriving ourselves of authentic Gnosis. Life is never static and the inner life least of all, so it would be improper to refer to any definable Gnosis or individuation as a final achievement. We are ever becoming, but we never become. All systems must beware of assuming that they are making true statements about reality. When they come to rationalize their symbols and begin to look upon them as truths, they will soon be fossilizing their insights and thus soon destroy their empirical value as signposts on the way. At the portal of true Gnosis all "isms," even Gnosticism, must vanish. Similarly the psychologist must be willing to sacrifice his allegiance to a psychological system when he begins to deal with true individuation.

It is interesting to note in this connection that Jung was quite critical of the representatives of the Pansophic tradition within the modern era, precisely because of their frequent tendency to mistake their own symbols for factual and philosophical truth. Most of his derogatory remarks made about Theosophy and related systems must be interpreted in this light. Modern occultists for the most part, even if thus inclined, could not give expression to their symbolic models of reality in psychological language. Jung, on the other hand, seriously questioned the usefulness of metaphysical formulations such as theirs. His endeavor was to bring everything purporting to be metaphysical to what he called "the daylight of psychological understanding," which he felt was vastly preferable to the use of nebulous power-words of academic metaphysicians and occultists. Jung, in turn, has been criticized for this approach by persons attached to the mainstream religions as well as by some esotericists (notably by the school of Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon in recent years), and the charge of "psychologism" was made against him for his attempt to express religious and metaphysical statements in psychological terms only. Yet it is fairly apparent that Jung acted as a Gnostic in this respect also. To name is not to know. The church has substituted faith for knowing, and some metaphysicians as well as many esotericists have come to regard speculation and elaborate systematizations of terminology as substitutes for knowing directly for oneself. To know, one must experience. This, as far as we can discern from the now increasingly available Gnostic documents, was exactly the position of the ancient Gnostics, for which reason they were held in disrepute by churchly believers and philosophical speculators alike. The occultist who uses elaborate diagrams of astral planes and etheric bodies liberally sprinkled with Sanskrit words can be as far from Gnosis as can the psychologist who employs clever two-dimensional maps of the psyche with short hand expressions such as "the shadow," "the anima," or "the wise old man," as though these were concrete realities instead of symbolic pointers to incomprehensible mysteries in the vast recesses of the unconscious.

If we cannot expect a "system" of the conventional sort to represent the Gnosis which emerges from the conjunction of the approaches of the ancient Gnostics and of Jung, it may be at least possible for us to state certain basic axioms which could serve as the principal indicators of the message of this Gnosis. In the following we shall present a brief summary of these elements in the hope that they may state in briefest outline form the basic propositions around which all other elements of the new Gnostic reality model may constellate themselves. Some of the points here enumerated are based on a similar summary by the late Eleanor Bertine in her work Jung's Contribution to our Time, in which she outlines basic conclusions of Jung concerning the religious side of the psyche.

     1. The first conclusion is that a pneumatic (spiritual, or more than personal) element is an organic part of the human psyche. The ancient Gnosis declared that the human being is not merely a creature of materiality (hyle) and of a personal mind-emotion complex (psyche), but that there is a third potency indwelling the soul, which is spirit (pneuma). It is upon the awakening of this element into effective action that Gnosis depends. Jung stated something very similar when he declared that the unconscious material of human beings inevitably reveals evidences of the highest spiritual potentiality. This spiritual component is a source of revelations, insight, and ultimately of the urge toward wholeness.

     2. The second conclusion is that this spiritual element carries on an active dialogue with the personal element of our selfhood through the use of symbols. The spiritual element is not a silent partner in the business of life, but demands active participation in the growth and transformation of the individual. Unlike the mind-emotion complex, the pneumatic component does not express itself in words or in ordinary feelings. Dreams, visions, altered states of consciousness and what Jung called synchronistic experiences are the most important avenues for these symbolic communications.

     3. The third conclusion is that the symbols proceeding from the pneumatic component of the soul reveal a path of spiritual or psychological development, which can be traced, not only backward toward a cause in the past, but forward to a goal in the future. The Gnostics held that the existential condition of the human being is determined by two factors: the descent or fall of the human soul from the light-world in the past; and the soul's teleological destiny, which is its return to that light-world in glory and victory. We are not only driven by our murky past but also mightily drawn forward and upward by our splendid future. Mainstream Christianity holds the fall of man and the consequent state of original sin responsible for his present condition, even as Freudian psychology traces the present neurotic afflictions of the psyche back to infantile conditions. In contradistinction, Jung held that the psyche contains an indwelling sense of its destiny of wholeness, and that this sense to a considerable extent determines its present condition.

     4. The fourth conclusion is that prior to an arising of Gnosis (or individuation as Jung might call it) the human soul is dominated by many blind and foolish powers (projections and unconscious compulsions). These powers have been mythically expressed and given names such as demiurgoi and archons by the ancient Gnostics. (Demiurgos, or demiurge - fashioner, or architect; an inferior creator deity as distinguished from the highest God; Archon - ruler, a term for an inferior deity, similar to demiurge.) While it is occasionally asserted that Jung's Gnostic statements, such as the ones contained in the Seven Sermons to the Dead, do not speak of a Demiurge or archons and therefore Jung could not be a Gnostic, it appears likely that such observations are based on an inability of some to appreciate the subtle code in which Jung's Gnosticism is articulated. One cannot help but feel that the observers making these statements simply were unable to perceive the powerful analogies and correspondences existing between Jung's concepts and the mythologems of Valentinus, Basilides and their fellows. The primary demiurge in the Jungian system is, so it would seem, none other than the alienated human ego. This conscious selfhood, having pulled itself away from the original wholeness of the unconscious, has become a blind and foolish being, unaware of its roots in the unconscious, yet desperately attempting to re-create a semblance of the over-world by effecting unconscious projections. The ego thus appears very much like an intermediary between the realm of extraverted action and the greater, unconscious matrix, within which Jung saw all external phenomena to be rooted. Like the Gnostic demiurge, the ego in its alienated, blind arrogance boldly but falsely proclaims that "there is no other God before" it—that it alone is the true determinant of existence—and that the powers and potentialities of the unconscious are unreal or non-existent. The ego-demiurge creates its own kosmos, but it is a flawed and distorted one, inasmuch as in it the light of the deeper selfhood is obscured and polluted by unconscious projections and compulsions. It is thus that the ego becomes a true demiurge, the foolish architect of its own foolish world.

Since in their quaintly ironic manner the ancient Gnostics frequently identified the mythologem of the Semitic creator God with their own mythologem of the demiurge, and since this Semitic creator in turn became God-the-Father to the Christians and Allah to the Moslems, it is understandable that the concept of the demiurge should create severe resentment in those who have become attached to the god image of this deity. At the same time it must be remembered that a variety of demiurgic mythologems appear in numerous religions and spiritual disciplines, thus indicating that such an idea is not merely an eccentric aberration of the abominated Gnostics. The greatest Gnosis of the East, Buddhism, gives a very clear expression of this concept when it describes the figure of Mara, the deceiver who sought to keep Gautama from attaining to Buddahood. It must be remembered also that Buddhism in the same breath affirms the psychological truth that the overcoming of the ego is the most important ingredient in the attainment of enlightenment. Other systems also give frequent mythological expression to the recognition that there is an adversary, or oppositional power, active in life, which seems bent on preventing or at least retarding the enlightenment of the soul, in order to hold it in some sort of captivity within a universe of darkness and illusion. The idea of the demiurge is not a mere weird and shocking invention of the Gnostics but an archetypal image universally present in the human psyche, and inevitably manifest in the various myths of enlightenment or liberation. The unwillingness of some religious structures to take evil seriously, and with it the image of the demiurge, has led to the psychic impoverishment of the followers of these religions. Any new Gnosis or Gnosticism emerging in our contemporary world would of necessity have to address itself to this important psychic fact and give it some useful and creative expression in present-day terms. Jung has undoubtedly paved the way in this direction by his psychological restatement of the mythic figurations once advanced by the Gnostics.

     5. The fifth conclusion is that the alienation of consciousness, along with its attendant feelings of forlornness, dread and homesickness, must be fully experienced before it can be overcome. The detractors of classical Gnosticism forever accuse it of gloomy and "world-denying" tendencies. Jung's psychology has also had its share of accusations of gloominess and of an excessive emphasis on darkness, alienation and evil. Once again it must be recalled that there are empirical reasons related to the dynamics of spiritual liberation which make such attitudes imperative. A delightful story regarding a patient of Jung's points this up. She saw herself in a dream sinking into a dreadful mire. Overhead appeared the figure of Dr. Jung serenely floating in the aether and sternly addressing the distressed Patient with the following words: "Not out, but through!" This anecdote illustrates a most important principle of Jung's and of his psychology, which is quite similar to certain principles of Gnosticism. The psyche must allow itself the experience of darkness, terror and alienation, irrespective of the pain effected by the experience. The process of individuation includes the confrontation with and experience of what Jung called the shadow.

This process of confrontation and experience has been characterized—once again by Jung himself—as a "Gnostic process". Another useful analogy to the modern psychological Gnostic process is the fourfold structure of the classical Greek drama: agone or contest; pathos or defeat; threnos, or lamentation; and theophania, or a divinely accomplished redemption. It is significant to note that, of the four stages of development, only the fourth and last may be described as pleasant and joyous, while the other three are characterized by struggle, defeat and mourning. Is this pessimism? Yes, but by no means a hopeless, despairing pessimism. The pessimistic view of the present existential condition of the soul or psyche is more than compensated by the hope of the potential ultimate denouement of wholeness and redemption. Similarly, in the classical ancient form of Gnosticism, the so-called cosmic pessimism (recognition of the existential evils of life in the cosmos) was set off against the glorious eschatological vision of the liberation of the soul from the bonds of darkness, oppression and ignorance and its reunion with the Pleroma, the transcendental fullness of being. Philosophers may argue endlessly and theologians may speculate fruitlessly about the abstract issues of the goodness or evil of the created world, but the psychologist has little reason to doubt that the psyche aspiring toward wholeness must first experience keenly and fully those unpleasant existential conditions of alienation and darkness which alone may convince it of the true necessity for growth. The sick person unaware of his or her illness is less likely to seek for means of healing than someone who experiences the symptoms of the disease. As Buddha taught suffering and the cessation of suffering, so Jungian psychological teaching recognizes that those unaware of suffering are much more likely to have their development arrested at the level of shallow, personalistic concerns than their fellows who are aware of the facts of suffering. The neurotic personality, resentful and fearful of the growing pains of the soul, tends to seek refuge in self-deception and thus frequently convinces itself that growth is really unnecessary, for things are quite satisfactory just as they are at present.

     6. The sixth conclusion brings us back to the process of Gnosis and its goal, for it declares that the goal of spiritual growth is expressed by images of completion in a whole, which the Gnostics often called the Pleroma (fullness) and/or the Anthropos, or Primal Man and which Jung called the Self. This Self, the representative of the fullness of being within an individual context, is unique for each individual and is formed by the integration of the little self, or ego, and the unconscious. Manifest life is indeed a process of soul-making. The pneuma must create for itself a vehicle for its own liberation from earthly bonds, while still engaged in the tasks and perils of earthly existence. Crucial to this conclusion is the idea that the authentic selfhood of the human being is neither created nor does it evolve in some Darwinian or quasi-Darwinian fashion, but it is alchemically integrated from the opposites of light and dark, good and evil, masculine and feminine, conscious and unconscious. It is not by simple extension or a lineal path of growth, but by the oppositional conflict and eventual reconciliation of the opposites that the fullness of being is restored within the individual soul.

     7. The seventh conclusion is that the wholeness, or Self, which is the end result of the process of spiritual growth, is characterized by all the qualities such as power, value, holiness which religious systems have always attributed to God. This is not to say that the intrapsychic image of deity completely exhausts all the possible ways in which the numinous presence, often called God, may manifest. Still, the internal God-image is probably the most helpful and practically useful point of contact with transcendental wholeness available, and one, moreover, of which empirical evidence appears in our dreams, visions, and other creative experiences.

     8. The eighth conclusion is that the growth of the soul has as its goal a state of integrated wholeness rather than a condition of moral perfection. This conclusion of Jungian thought links Jung and his teachings most intimately with the much condemned antinomianism (opposition to the law) of the Gnostics. Indeed, in ancient Gnosticism we find very clear statements of a spiritual libertarianism (not, as frequently alleged, of libertinism) which regards the individual human pneuma as superior to and Possessing a sovereignty over the primitive law of "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not" promulgated by the demiurge. To imagine that one's pure, divine spirit could be even affected, and even less lost because of transgressing against the petty laws of a cosmic tyrant appeared laughable to the Gnostics. Threats of demiurgic retribution cannot frighten the Gnostic, for the ruler of the lower world has no dominion over the pneuma which originates within and is destined to return to a realm superior to his own. Moreover, this freedom of the spirit of the Gnostic is much more than a mere indifferent state of permissiveness; rather it is evident that the liberating effect of this freedom from external laws and commandments is in itself a value to be cultivated, for important reasons. Through indifference to the demiurgic norms, the Gnostic thwarts the designs of the petty, tyrannical powers of the cosmos and thus makes a positive contribution to the work of salvation. Freedom makes for more and greater freedom, while subservience to the blind law of a blind demiurge creates further slavery. One cannot free oneself by bowing to the yoke but only by breaking it.

Like a true Gnostic, Carl Jung recognized that, even at best, goodness is no substitute for wholeness; he frequently said that in the long run what matters is not goodness or obedience to moral laws, but only and simply the fullness of being. Gnostic psychology has always recognized that the artificial division or splitting apart of the fullness of being into the two halves of good and evil was a plot of the tyrannical forces bent upon keeping humanity in chains. By dividing life into two separate halves and ordering the human being to cleave to one of these halves to the exclusion of the other, the demiurgic power has caused humanity to do violence against the shadow side of the soul and has caused human beings to condemn themselves to a state of incompleteness and guilt. In order to restore the pleroma, or experience the fullness of being, we must know evil, which is not the same as doing evil. Evil-doers in the true sense are almost inevitably persons acting under one or several compulsions of an unconscious nature. It is thus their very lack of self-knowledge, and with it their lack of knowledge of their own evil, that forces them to do antisocial and evil acts. Unconscious content not brought into the Gnosis of consciousness is forced to live itself out by way of compulsive acts performed by the ego. As a latter-day Gnostic classic has expressed it, each human being is in truth his or her own absolute lawgiver, as well as his or her own reward and punishment. Such a statement can be recognized as valid only by persons who have emancipated themselves from the one-sided pursuit of moral perfection according to external laws and commandments. No longer seeking umbrage under the written law, such persons learn how to make conscious moral choices of their own design, winning individual victories and suffering their personal defeats according to the just constellations of psychic life.

Such are, in brief outline form, some of the principal tenets of the Gnosis, both of those who in olden days were called Gnostics, and of those who, following the guidelines set forth by C.G. Jung, have become acquainted with the Gnostic nature of the human soul and its path toward wholeness. Important and useful though such summaries of ideas may be, they cannot serve as substitutes for the original Gnostic images embodied in the primary vision revealed to the inner eye of the inspired knower. C.G. Jung was, of course, just such a knower. His knowledge was amplified by his superb education and his extensive acquaintance with the literature of the Gnostics, but it did not originate therein. It is of supreme importance therefore that we should have a glimpse of some of these original insights ("initial imaginationen," as he called them) as he wrote them down in his mysterious small treatise, filled with primeval power and deepest inspiration, and called by him Septem Sermones ad Mortuos or the Seven Sermons to the Dead. The remaining and major portion of this work shall be devoted to the content of this poetic tractate, presented here in an original translation, and to the elucidation of its strange message in the light of the ideas of classical Gnosticism and of modern psychology.

[End of excerpt from Part 1 of The Gnostic Jung]

The Gnostic Jung

The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead
by Stephan A. Hoeller



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