CARL JUNG AND THE UNEXPLAINED- PART 1
"Among the countless believers in miracles of our days very few will be found who have ever seen anything manifestly supernatural. And among these few there will be still fewer who do not suffer from an overheated imagination and do not replace critical observation by faith."
-Carl Gustav Jung
The name Carl Jung is still widely recognised worldwide, and he is perhaps best known as one of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis. His influence extended further than that, though- he also played a role in the development of the Myers-Briggs personality test, through his 1921 German-language publication "Psychologische Typen" (Psychological Types), and in the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Jung will also forever be associated with having coined the term "Synchronicity", and devising the related theory- and that, as well as his ideas on the collective unconscious, ancestral memory, and archetypes, is still much-discussed to this day.
Due to his iconic status in psychology, it may perhaps seem odd that he was also quite strongly interested in what (at first) may seem like an unlikely alternate area of study..
You see, Jung is also widely recognised and mentioned in a field seemingly unrelated to psychology- that of occult and psychical research (he actually joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1917).
I say "seemingly" unrelated because in reality there is in fact a great deal of psychology involved in this field, as anyone familiar with the fundamentals would unhesitatingly acknowledge. After all, what is the one essential element in any paranormal experience? Us!..or rather, our minds. And of course, our minds are the field of exploration in not only psychology, but also that of parapsychology and psychical research too- those fascinations on the "other side of the fence"; a fence which Jung quite capably straddled.
Those who delve into parapsychology and psychical research are the depth-divers of the broader paranormal field- they try to determine the what, where, why, and how a paranormal or extrasensory experience may happen, and what psychological or neurological factors- workings of the mind- are perhaps coming into play, too.
This is of the utmost importance in order to give us a clear picture of what's perhaps truly going on when we have such an experience, as often what we may feel is a paranormal or supernatural encounter may in actuality be something created by our own energetic output; that which is created by our minds, and the outward projection of their energies.
As psychology is about the study of the mind and its workings, and as it is the mind and its workings which play a part in any paranormal or Psi experiences, there's actually a very clearly defined link between psychology, parapsychology, paranormal research, and psychical research apparent there, when one stops to think about it!
I first started to read about Jung's life, his thinking and his theories, and the experiences which helped shape those theories, around a year ago, and I have since become quite fascinated by a man who, it seems to me, was rather ahead of his time in his manner of thinking.
I've found myself predominantly intrigued, though, by the many anomalous experiences he relates in his works, and the effect those experiences may have had upon the formation of a truly unique mind.
What greatly impressed me about Jung, aside from his mind, was his willingness- at a time when it could have been detrimental to his career- to delve into topics that were often considered irrelevant, insignificant, preposterous, or just plain "verboten" by some of his peers, as psychical or occult study was, if publicly acknowledged as a consideration, thought to be detrimental to the then-infant field of analytical psychology.
For a great deal of his life, Jung was fascinated by, and explored in great depth, areas of paranormal and psychical study: occultism, alchemy, mysticism..and some of that which he considered, and which informed his thoughts and theories was, as it turns out, inspired by his own personal experiences with the unexplained.
There was a bit more going on there in the way of influential factors or inspirations, when we look at Jung's interest in occult and psychical phenomena and his past experiences though..so before I go into relating those experiences to you, perhaps I should introduce you to a few of those influential factors..or I should say influential people- it seems Jung's family, and his childhood, played quite a large role in shaping his thinking.
Jung's childhood was spent in an environment very conducive to his developing an interest in the paranormal. Growing up in the Swiss countryside, he heard stories of unexplained occurrences quite often, such as (in his words) those of "dreams which foresaw the death of a certain person, clocks which stopped at the moment of death, glasses which shattered at the critical moment" (Jung, Jaffe 1963, p127) .
I've been reading an online transcript of Jung's "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", (posthumously compiled by his friend and assistant, Aniela Jaffe), where he mentions that the reality of such strange events "were taken for granted in the world of my childhood". (Jung, Jaffe 1963, p.127)
Jung's maternal Grandfather, Samuel Preiswerk, a theologian and a Swiss Reformed Pastor, seemingly held a strong belief that he was constantly surrounded by spirits, and it's been said that Samuel devoted one day a week to conversing with the spirit of his deceased first wife, and had a special chair set aside for her in his study.
Samuel's second wife (and Jung's maternal Grandmother), Augusta, was believed to be clairvoyant. And Jung's own Mother, Emilie, experienced strange occurrences too, to the extent that she kept a diary related to them. She spoke to Jung often about the apparitions who visited her at night, too.
There springs to mind a possibility here- that psychic or extrasensory capabilities are perhaps hereditary, and are passed along, from parent to progeny, just like other genes. When one looks at the fact that Jung's Grandfather and Grandmother, their daughter, and that daughter's own child (Jung) all had strange experiences, it definitely begs that question..but perhaps the discussion of that possibility should wait for another time, as after all you're here to hear about Jung's experiences with the unexplained!
It does seem sometimes though that for some, their steps onto the road of the paranormal and the unexplained are almost inevitable from the start, and in Jung's case these familial beliefs and experiences seem to have been quite significant in their impact and influence upon him.
I think this may be one of the reasons I find myself so drawn to reading his work and his thoughts- I had a rather unusual childhood myself, and I feel that played a large part in shaping my own interests, and the path I would take in following those..I guess you could say I can relate to some elements of Jung's journey!
As his interest in the occult, psychic phenomena, and parapsychological processes are quite well stated, and as his childhood holds many memories of experiences related by his own family, how much of Jung's own time may have been spent in contemplation of such things- and could his willingness to explore those areas perhaps have made him more open to- more "in tune", to that world of the unexplained?
I actually first read about one of Jung's strange experiences- his "brush with a ghost", when I was 10. Of course, 10-year-old me attached no significance to his name..and I'd actually forgotten about having read of his experience for a great many years, until I revisited an "old friend" recently - a book I'd not looked at for a long time. Further research into that particular experience of Jung's revealed a wealth of other stories related to his strange experiences- he had many of them, throughout the course of his life.
The first documented experience I found dates from a time in his life when he was very young- around 7 or 8 years of age. There was a great deal of tension in the Jung household at that time, as his parents were sleeping apart from one another.
"One night I saw coming from my mother's door a faintly luminous, indefinite figure whose head detached itself from the neck and floated along in front of it, like a little moon" (Jung, Jaffe 1963, p.32).
Another well-documented experience was to take place much later, when Jung was 23. At that point in time he was still a young medical student, living with his (now-widowed) Mother, and younger sister.
It occurred thus, as Jung describes it (Jung, Jaffe 1963, p.132):
"During the summer holidays, however, something happened that was destined to influence me profoundly. One day I was sitting in my room, studying my textbooks. In the adjoining room, the door to which stood ajar, my mother was knitting.
That was our dining room, where the round walnut dining table stood. The table had come from the dowry of my paternal grandmother, and was at this time about seventy years old. My mother was sitting by the window, about a yard away from the table.
My sister was at school and our maid in the kitchen. Suddenly there sounded a report like a pistol shot. I jumped up and rushed into the room from which the noise of the explosion had come. My mother was sitting flabbergasted in her armchair, the knitting fallen from her hands. She stammered out, “W-w-what’s happened? It was right beside me!” and stared at the table.
Following her eyes, I saw what had happened. The table top had split from the rim to beyond the center, and not along any joint; the split ran right through the solid wood. I was thunderstruck.
How could such a thing happen? A table of solid walnut that had dried out for seventy years–how could it split on a summer day in the relatively high degree of humidity characteristic of our climate? If it had stood next to a heated stove on a cold, dry winter day, then it might have been conceivable.
What in the world could have caused such an explosion? There are certainly curious accidents, I thought."
The next unexplained event in Jung's life occurred not too long after the "exploding table" incident, and again took place at his family home. There seems to me to be a strange similarity in this incident with the previous one, but what it also indicates, in Jung's thinking, and in his actions afterwards, is the inherent analytical capability of his mind.
The incident, described again in Jung's own words, occurred thus (Jung, Jaffe 1963, pp.133-134):
"Some two weeks later I came home at six o’clock in the evening and found the household–my mother, my fourteen-year–old sister, and the maid–in a great state of agitation. About an hour earlier there had been another deafening report.
This time it was not the already damaged table; the noise had come from the direction of the sideboard, a heavy piece of furniture dating from the early nineteenth century. They had already looked all over it, but had found no trace of a split. I immediately began examining the sideboard and the entire surrounding area, but just as fruitlessly.
Then I began on the interior of the sideboard. In the cupboard containing the bread basket I found a loaf of bread, and, beside it, the bread knife. The greater part of the blade had snapped off in several pieces. The handle lay in one corner of the rectangular basket, and in each of the other corners lay a piece of the blade.
The knife had been used shortly before, at four-o’clock tea, and afterward put away. Since then no one had gone to the sideboard. The next day I took the shattered knife to one of the best cutlers in the town. He examined the fractures with a magnifying glass, and shook his head. 'This knife is perfectly sound,' he said. 'There is no fault in the steel. Someone must have deliberately broken it piece by piece. It could be done, for instance, by sticking the blade into the crack of the drawer and breaking off a piece at a time. Or else it might have been dropped on stone from a great height. But good steel can’t explode. Someone has been pulling your leg.'
I have carefully kept the pieces of the knife to this day. My mother and my sister had been in the room when the sudden report made them jump. I could find nothing to say. I was completely at a loss and could offer no explanation of what had happened, and this was all the more annoying as I had to admit that I was profoundly impressed. Why and how had the table split and the knife shattered?"
A couple of things struck me about this incident, the first being Jung's annoyance at being impressed by it, and also his annoyance at his inability to find a rational explanation for it. His reaction displays both the impressive analytical and self-analytical qualities of his mind; qualities which had long been forming and would indeed serve him well in his later work.
The second thing that struck me was his subsequent search for a rational explanation; he took the knife to the best cutlery-maker in town, seeking an answer there. Again, his analytical nature is clear, and shows the formative "bones" that began the development of a truly great mind.
The other significant aspect that caught my attention is that both previous incidents involve the fracturing- seemingly through internal stress- of two very solid objects.
I'm going to digress here for a moment..for an applicable reason!
I read an article online recently about a journalist/author, Greg Bishop, who had sat down with his friend and editor for a few beers, the night before he was due to interview a prominent scientist and researcher (and a great mind), Dr. Dean Radin. At the same time, Bishop was also quite stressed due to an impending divorce.
Upon taking his glass to the kitchen and rinsing it, no sooner had he done so and gone to set the glass on the drying rack when it exploded in his hand, sending shards of glass flying many feet across the kitchen.
He mentioned this incident to Radin during their conversation, and Radin's reply was "Well, don't you see that this might have been the appropriate thing to happen at this time? You are under stress, and perhaps this was externalised in the breaking glass."
Was this "externalisation" a factor in the incidents in Jung's life too?
Regarding a much later unusual incident (which I'll describe further in another post) which occurred during a heated clash with his mentor, father-figure, and friend, Sigmund Freud, Jung described the incident as a "catalystic exteriorisation phenomenon"..looking at that term, it seems Jung is perhaps describing what Radin termed "externalisation" of stress..
This may equally apply in either of the previous two incidents in Jung's life which I've related to you, I feel, but as to whose mind was responsible for those little possible psychokinetic occurrences, it's hard to say. Jung's Mother was widowed several years earlier, and her children thus deprived of a Father..and Jung himself was studying medicine at the time of the two "explosion" incidents, which would have been rather stressful too. Jung's sister was 14 at the time of the incidents, and there's a noted correlation between adolescence and psychokinesis, which is demonstrated via numerous reported poltergeist cases with adolescent agents.
Jung would go on to have quite a few further strange experiences too, including the one I first read about- but those will have to wait for the "sequel" to this piece, as recounting those further experiences would definitely require a great deal more time..and I do think a mind as fascinating as his definitely deserves more than just one post!
Feel free to share your thoughts on Jung's experiences, or your thoughts on the man in general, or indeed your own experiences- I'd love to hear them!