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Midweek Mysticism: Carl Jung — Mystical Psychologist

Carl Jung

Carl Jung is an inspiration to many people of a spiritual nature today because he dared to go beyond the narrow bounds of “scientific” psychological theory, leading to the famous break with Freud.

Born in 1875, he passed on in 1961 at the grand age of 86. Typically, he worked until the end, his memoirs Memories, Dreams, Reflections revealing his many mystical experiences during this period.

Carl Gustav Jung is often described as a psychiatrist and physician. In fact his work matured into an all-embracing vision of human life and its relations with the Absolute. His phenomenal insight constantly came up against the numinous in everyday affairs and, being the man he was, he courageously based his post-Freudian work on his own personal experiences.

Jung’s nearest counterpart in the East in the 20th century is without doubt Dr. D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966), an almost exact contemporary who introduced Zen to the West and who was often accused by his Japanese countrymen of over-stressing the intellect in a distinctly Western way.

The truth, of course, is that both these men were too big to be contained within cultural norms, and too honest by nature to let uninformed criticism deflect them from their work.

In his long and fruitful life, Jung trod a careful path between the crusty scientific establishment of his day and the more adventurous thinkers on the fringes of Eastern mysticism and religion. He went to enormous lengths to avoid being classed as a Theosophist, a group he regarded as having swung irremediably towards psychological extremism.

His published scientific works are always models of empirical analysis, drawing living structures from a mass of precise medical observations. And yet he is never statistically arid like many scientists today. There is a life in his work that can only be described as religious, in the best sense of the word.

His main “problem” was that the inevitable conclusions arising from these tireless investigations applied just as much to so-called normal people as to his pathologically disturbed patients. He had transcended his academic discipline.

The basis of Jung’s work was the process he called individuation, a naturally occurring progression leading to psychological integration.

Individuation, as expounded by Jung, is clearly related to mystical enlightenment, in that though his ostensible concern was with empirical psychology, Jung went beyond Freud’s shallow personal subconscious (a repository of repressed mental contents) to what he called the “collective unconscious” which took in the whole of the psyche, and went far beyond the individual intellect.

Jung believed that nothing in the cosmos is incapable of psychological inclusion given the necessary insight and balanced vision. This relationship between what is psychological and what is metaphysical is dangerously subject to all the vagaries of definition, making comparisons between viewpoints all the more perilous.

Suzuki, for example, has this to say on the matter: “The idea is to express the unconscious working of the mind, but this unconscious is not to be interpreted psychologically, but on the spiritual plane where all traces of discursive or analytical understanding vanish.” That, by the way, is an exact description of the mystic’s experience of the nature of reality.

Compare this with Jung’s: “One cannot grasp anything metaphysically, but it can be done psychologically. Therefore I strip things of their metaphysical wrappings in order to make them objects of psychology … if finally there should still be an ineffable metaphysical element, it would have the best opportunity of revealing itself.”

How would it reveal itself? Is the viewpoint arising from the non-working of the senses (which includes “thinking” in Buddhism) in the state called Nirvana to be called psychological?

The difference here is no-difference. Suzuki uses “psychological” to describe objects of rational thinking — all else, by implication, is metaphysical. Jung, however, takes a Western approach and calls anything capable of being experienced, even outside the normal thought processes, psychological. Of course, anything which cannot be experienced is of no concern to us, since we couldn’t possibly ever know of its existence. This is not the case with the Buddhist Unborn mind which is clearly experienced from moment to moment by those attuned to it.

Jung used psyche to embrace all experience, normal and transcendental. Suzuki drew a line at the limits of the intellect, thus creating an enormous spiritual domain. Here the divisive nature of words manufactures an East/West chasm that doesn’t really exist.

Individuation, or wholeness, is defined by Jung as a balanced development of certain psychological faculties, so that the one-sided emphasis on one or other of the opposites is reconciled on a higher plane. Thus, for example, the apparent antagonism of liberty and equality, the subject of heated political debates, is defused and contained in the higher quality of fraternity, or brotherhood.

Jung defined the psychological faculties as thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. A further division of type is between extraversion and introversion: outgoing or inward-looking tendencies in the personality.

He defined himself as an introverted intuitive-intellectual. His “inferior” faculties therefore were sensation and feeling. To counteract these tendencies, he spent a lot of time carving and working with stone to raise the consciousness of his sensory side, and delved deeply into his unconscious through painting highly coloured mandalas to strengthen the feeling, value-laden aspect of himself, which he associated with the undeveloped feminine in men.

That he succeeded in producing a fully-rounded awareness, capable of the deepest insights into the nature of reality, while retaining its rich humanity, is amply testified by those who knew him, including several biographers.

Jung’s own enlightenment came after many years of work on himself, through dreams, visions and analysis, and seems to have been a conscious decision on his part. Author Laurens Van Der Post dates it on the afternoon of December 12, 1913, almost 100 years ago. As Jung put it, “I said to myself, ‘Well, Jung, here you go.’ And it was as if the ground literally gave way under me as I let myself drop.”

This was an action of great moral courage, since he felt that, unlike many in the East, he did not have the full backing of thousands of years of culture and experiment to guide and reassure him. He was all too aware that he could so easily end up in an institution in the same pitiful condition as his deranged patients.

My own view is that Jung exaggerated the problem. Nirvanic experience under many names is deeply embedded in Western culture. Take this description of spiritual enlightenment by a 14th century English monk: One Simple Thing)

Jung’s method of balancing the four psychological faculties and the tendencies of extra- and introversion, bears a distinct similarity with the Buddhist technique of mindfulness as expressed by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta:

A monk fares along contemplating the body in the body,
(sensation) ardent, clearly conscious of it, mindful of
it so as to control covertousness and rejection (the
opposites) in the world; he fares along contemplating
the feelings in the feelings, the mind in the mind
(intuition), and the mental objects in the mental
objects (thinking).

Suzuki has a similar scheme, though couched in slightly different terms because of semantic variations. He compares man with a geometrical point where three dimensions intersect: physical-natural, intellectual-moral and spiritual. Very roughly, the outer world, the inner personal world, and the world where concepts like “outer” and “inner” have vanished.

We may be conscious of all these lines, but usually not to the same extent. Normally, the intellectual-moral is given emphasis over the spiritual. This results in an inability fully to grasp the spiritual side of life.

The intellectual-moral line delivers a dualistic view of life. It carves its way into the soft substance of existence, setting up categories and divisions in the way a sharp stone shatters a car windscreen: the whole view disappears and one is only aware of a spidery network of frosty fragments. However, despite this, there is a “persistent urge impelling the intellect to transcend itself.”

For the intellect to leave its own line and transfer to the spiritual is a kind of suicide, a “losing of life in order to gain it.” Suzuki stresses that there is no gradation here. It is a leap, a letting go as Jung discovered too, for the moment one gives up the intellectual, one finds oneself on the spiritual.

For Westerners, the jump has to be made from the intellect instantly to the spiritual; that is the moment of enlightenment. From then on the spiritual world lights up the physical-natural with a numinous glow that transforms everything, as Jung himself found when he let himself go on the 12th of December 1913. However, there is only one world, and when the faculties lose their distinctiveness they are seen to be illusory.

Jung’s work with Richard Wilhelm on the Chinese classics, the I Ching, The Secret of the Golden Flower and The Book of Consciousness and Life, brought his considerable intuitive intelligence to bear on the “problem” of time.

Ultimately he believed that every moment has a time-signature, a character that confers a common nature to a time-moment regardless of spatial separation — a sort of Being-Time.

Jung termed this coincidental factor Synchronicity to explain the persistently prophetic nature of the I Ching when used as an oracle.

It is clear that Jung’s mental furniture comprised all the elements necessary for a full participation in the rich philosophies of the East, with their almost total concentration on the path to mystical enlightenment. At his home in Switzerland, Jung carved the following words on a block of stone: “Time is a child — playing like a child — playing a board game — the kingdom of the child.”

Jung’s enlightenment was a Western one, although inspired by a deep understanding of Eastern thought patterns. Such was the extent of the conscious development of the Western mind, that an abyss of the greatest proportions separates us from our natural selves and the wholeness of our being.

Immortality for him was the unconscious made conscious in a kind of partnership with the differentiated ego which, at this point, relinquishes its total domination over the stultifyingly intellectualised mind of Western man.

Jung was very aware that the East had a much better relationship with the symbology of the collective unconscious and could handle its intrusions without losing control. He felt that the West no longer lived a symbolic life, largely because of the failure of the churches, and therefore had no psychological immunity against the deeper contents of the psyche.

He emphasised a Western way to enlightenment, a way of balance and proportion. And he called it by the very Western name of Individuation. Jung believed that, “The sole and natural carrier of life is the individual, and this holds true throughout nature.” It is only the individual who can sacrifice his ego, and it is the individual who is called to do so. It is only from the enlightened Absolute viewpoint that this so real individual is seen to be illusory and empty in the face of its immortality.

Of Taoist Immortals he wrote this: “What did these people do in order to achieve the development that liberated them? As far as I could see they did nothing … but let things happen. The art of letting things happen … letting go of oneself, as taught by Meister Eckhart, became for me the key opening the door to the Way. We must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us this is an art of which few people know anything. Consciousness [the mind, in this case] is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. It would be simple enough if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things.”

John Evans

Coming soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website,

Author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

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Midweek Mysticism: Divination — Jung, the I Ching and the Tarot

Tarot I’ve long retained a healthy scepticism about the ancient art and practice of divination. I like to think I’m an empiricist in the English philosophical tradition. If I can’t make something work, I lose interest in it.

That doesn’t mean it can’t blossom for someone else, of course. The problem is that many of its practitioners seem to hang out on fairgrounds and slightly downmarket television shows. However, I was in for a surprise.

When I was reading psychology at university my hero was the great C.G. (Carl) Jung, a Swiss genius of towering breadth of learning and imagination. His mystical apotheosis was a revelation in every sense:

When the summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges … and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser personality with the force of a revelation, he … will know that the long expected friend of his soul, the immortal one, has now really come.

It doesn’t get much better than that. Jung was also a lifelong student of the Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching — a rather intellectual tool for divination.

Its method is similar to most other systems of reaching out to foreknowledge, which use the physical to attain the mystical. In ancient China, Taoists used 49 yarrow stalks, throwing them six times to the ground to make up a hexagram. Jung was convinced it worked and practised diligently.

My own experience of it was one of tedium. I adopted the modern method of throwing three coins instead of yarrow sticks. I managed to get hold of three old British pennies, the surprisingly large and heavy copper coins that were in use until 1971.

At first the process seemed interminable, asking a question, then throwing the coins six times and building up a hexagram of six whole and broken lines. I used the Richard Wilhelm translation which had a stimulating commentary by Jung himself.

It seemed to work on many occasions, but could be densely obscure, lacking the vivid nature of real life. Perhaps I was expecting too much.

Some years later — not long ago — I was given a pack of Tarot cards as a present. These, of course, are much more associated with the fairground that ever was the I Ching. But as I shuffled through them, I recognised Jung’s Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. I was immediately attracted to them and began to try them out.

As often with divinatory methods, it takes a while to break yourself into the deeper aspects of the system. I had sporadic matches with various outcomes, but as with the I Ching, they seemed tenuous and distant, lacking immediacy.

But I didn’t give up on them, because of their archetypal dynamism and the brilliance of the commentary in the book that came with my version. Gradually, the mist clarified and the “immortal one” seemed to answer. I am still staggered by the relevance of the answers I now get.

The Tarot can be a bit scary. The first time you get the Death card is not for the faint-hearted: in some versions, it’s a black skeleton with a scythe riding on a black horse — truly the stuff of nightmares.

All is not lost. The card represents merely a decisive loss, perhaps a job (the sack?) or the need for a complete, beneficial, change of direction. Until, that is, your turn for departure from this world really does come.

If you can accept my assertion that it definitely does work, you stand a chance of making it relevant for yourself after a period of induction. So how does it work?

I suspect it has more to do with biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s “extended mind” — the universal, or Nirvanic consciousness, than any other theoretical medium.

This is genuinely mystical; that is, something beyond normal consciousness and means of seeing. It links our earthly life with what lies beyond. It is both accessible to those who want it enough and will guide them through mysteries without end.

Jung’s “culmination of life” was such an experience. Divination is just the opening shots in the greatest journey of all.

John Evans

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Midweek Mysticism: Memories are made of … what?


Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-coloured memories
Of the way we were …

We all have memories; some pleasant, some bad. They form the bone and structure of our lives.

Without memories, life would lose its multi-dimensional qualities. But what are they? Where are they kept? How are they managed? Surprisingly, science has no definitive answers to these questions.

Mysticism, in its widest sense as the study of consciousness, has. A persistent ancient assertion is that everything that happens, and has happened throughout time, down to the smallest detail, is recorded in a universal memory. This idea is now being taken seriously in unexpected quarters.

Modern materialists believe (and I use the word advisedly) that memories are stored as physical traces in the brain using a chemical or electrical marker, something like a database on a computer hard drive.

The problem for neuroscientists is that they have never been able to locate them nor even the cranial “hard drive”. Typically, they make an assumption that fits with their assumed model of the world.

When Google’s highly innovative founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, developed their Google Search system they realised that conventional database technology was physically too clunky to call up hundreds, even millions, of results almost instantaneously. They came up with the first Cloud technology.

Instead of a massive mainframe computer with whirring tapes and fetch-and-carry software routines to poll, find and retrieve the data, they brought in large numbers of cheap PCs — basic Dell boxes — and connected them all up together in a cooled room, rather like a huge refrigerator.

In place of a hard drive, they suspended their constantly-changing map of the internet in RAM memory — the lightning-fast sort that disappears when a computer is switched off.

This arrangement eventually allowed anyone in the world to access literally millions of results for a search query in a fraction of a second, almost as if it were their own memory.

The non-local openness of the technology freed it from the painfully slow hardware and software combinations of conventional databases. The information was, as it were, hanging in the ether, available to everyone.

Mystics have long known that human memories are non-local, not brain located. To store them in the brain would be the equivalent of a physical database. The mystic equivalent of the Google “Cloud” is that memories of an event are stored with that event in time.

When we remember something from the past we make a direct connection with it across time, somewhat resembling Carl Jung’s Synchronicity: a non-causal connecting principle, or meaningful coincidence.

The biologist, Dr Rupert Sheldrake in his new book, The Science Delusion, explains the process with the term morphic resonance. He points out that Ivan Pavlov, famous for his experiments on the conditioning of dogs, proved that this conditioning “could survive massive surgical damage to the brain”, showing that it was not brain-dependent.

Clearly, memories are not made of wired circuits within the skull, but have a non-local source more akin to telepathy than is conventionally understood. This extended mind, as Sheldrake terms it, is surrounding us at all times. We have built-in receptors to filter much of it out, but are mostly unaware of how this works.

Science too is struggling to explain the non-material part of the human mind, which many scientists believe doesn’t exist. The influence of Cartesian philosophy hangs over 21st-century science like a bad smell.

Gross materialism melts away when human consciousness is studied with an open mind.

Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we? *

* The Way We Were, the Barbra Streisand song was written by Hamlisch, Marvin/Bergman, Alan/Bergman, Marilyn.

John Evans

… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

Mystics in the Modern World is coming soon.

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REPRISE: Here’s something we published earlier: C.G. Jung

C.G. Jung

Carl Jung, the great Swiss thinker and psychologist, did not mince his words when referring to immortality: “When the summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges … and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser personality with the force of a revelation, he … will know that the long expected friend of his soul, the immortal one, has now really come.”

A more perfect apotheosis could hardly be imagined, for Jung had spent his whole life rummaging about in his own mind and those of others. As a scientist he was naturally reticent – colleagues could be dismissive of any apparent “descent into the swamp of mysticism”. But, as the final chapters of his late memoirs, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, show, Jung had penetrated to the soul of the matter even while playing the part of a dull, diligent, boffin of the mind.

Extracted from The Eternal Quest for Immortality – Is it staring you in the face? by John Evans, published by Syntagma Books.

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Saturday Ramble: Norwegian atrocity shakes the foundations of Europe

Templar Knight Like many folk this morning I have been trying to work out why Anders Behring Breivik murdered around one hundred people in cold blood in what he admits was an atrocity.

How could an educated, successful man from a settled culture, aware of the moral dimension, carry out such a despicable attack on innocent young people?

Events like this go beyond conventional decision-making and suggest the involvement of a deeper influence. My first thought was that a powerful archetype of the collective unconscious had been triggered by recent events.

It was hardly a coincidence that just four days ago the European Union agreed that northern states of the Eurozone should transfer massive sums of money to profligate countries in the south — in the middle of an ongoing recession. Many of the people who are paying for this largesse didn’t have a voice in the decision. It was a German-French stitch-up at the highest level cobbled together by Brussels. While Norway is not a member of the EU, the close affinities of the Nordic countries means it is affected by decisions in Brussels, especially by the free movement of people across Europe.

But, even so, the killing spree was beyond excessive. We need to look deeper for the motivation behind this inexplicable crime, for something that has been stewing for decades. The Nordic mentality is generally disciplined. It takes a great deal of pain to trigger an event of such horror and devastation.

What we know is that the brooding Scandinavian temperament has been awash with unease for years about the state of their countries and their ability to govern themselves.

It is closely connected with the continuing loss of national culture, sovereignty and a largely peaceful way of life. Oslo’s population is now twenty-five percent Muslim, thanks to the open borders created by the Schengen Treaty and a very generous welfare state.

The two policies are clearly incompatible. For the Norwegians, the end of the free movement of people around Europe is becoming the only option. Significantly, Denmark has recently reimposed border controls in defiance of Brussels.

The archetype finally made its appearance on Breivik’s social media websites: that old favourite, the Knights Templar.

The Templars were set up by crusading knights in the 12th century to protect the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem, from Islamic invaders. It grew into a mass movement throughout Europe, even reaching as far north as England and Scotland, then died out before being replaced by the Scottish Freemasons.

Events like yesterday’s can only be explained by the influence of apparently heroic causes and a sense of divine mission. All the elements were in place, it only needed a psychological mechanism for action.

Modern computers have a facility called Snap to Grid. It is the technology behind spreadsheets and CadCam design software.

A blank screen hides an invisible grid of small rectangles. As worksheets or technical drawings are prepared, new inputted data automatically “snaps” into the boundaries set by the hidden grid. The grid can be revealed by a keystroke. The facility can also be turned off completely. However, if you are not an expert, your work can appear rather messy.

The analogy in ordinary life is this: when we act with apparent freedom, our actions automatically, and without our being aware of it, snap to a grid. As we grow in awareness, we begin to discern the grid. A person with a high degree of inner awareness can turn off the grid and assume complete spiritual freedom. These are the three stages of psychological free will.

The “snap” stage is when we are ignorant of any predetermining factors on our actions. A powerful archetype can easily take over a person on this level of development, conferring an inflated sense of divine mission and absolute confidence. Adolf Hitler is the perfect example. It seems that Anders Behring Breivik was under similar “magnetic” influences during yesterday’s massacre of the innocents.

The second stage, the beginning of awareness (illumination), is when we can see the grid and, within limits, adjust its purpose. The third level (called unitive contemplation in the Christian tradition) is when we become one with the grid itself and are able to control it at will.

Real freedom is quite rare, which is why there are so many senseless atrocities in history. It is predicated on an ability to rise above internal and external impulses, which rests on the level of awareness attained by any individual.

Breivik thought he was fighting back against a culture of national decline, but he was just snapping to the grid of an ancient, tired mythology.

The only partial protection against such random outbursts is for a society to have a strong code of behaviour inculcated very young.

Norway has just such an unspoken culture of civility and good manners. That yesterday’s killing spree happened anyway shows just how far some individuals have been pushed.

I suspect this could be the start of many more incidents like this across Europe unless our feeble political class takes back democratic control of our nation states.

John Evans

… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers. Muscular Mysticism is coming soon.

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