Experiences of Carl Jung
(1875 - 1961)
psychologist and major contributor to psychotherapy,
Carl Jung cultivated the ability
to have visions from deep imagination. Some would label
these explorations as mystical experiences while others
would say they are more akin to the sort creative thinking
addition to these experiences, Jung had several spontaneous
visions when he was recovering from a heart attack when
he was 69. All of his visions are described in detail
in his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Bed Visions (1944)
seemed to me that I was high up in space. Far below
I saw the globe of the earth, bathed in a gloriously
blue light. I saw the deep blue sea and the continents.
Far below my feet lay Ceylon, and in the distance ahead
of me the subcontinent of India. My field of vision
did not include the whole earth, but its global shape
was plainly distinguishable and its outlines shone with
a silvery gleam through that wonderful blue light...the
sight of earth from this height was the most glorious
thing I had ever seen...
new entered my field of vision. A short distance away
I saw in space a tremendous dark block of stone, like
a meteorite. It was about the size of my house, or even
bigger. It was floating in space, and I myself was floating
entrance led into a small antechamber. To the right
of the entrance, a black Hindu sat silently in lotus
posture upon a stone bench...I knew that he expected
me. Two steps led up to this antechamber, and inside...was
the gate to the temple. As I approached the steps leading
up to the entrance into the rock, a strange thing happened:
I had the feeling that everything was being sloughed
away; everything I aimed at or wished for or thought,
the whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence, fell
away or was stripped from me---an extremely painful
process. Nevertheless something remained; it was as
if I now carrried along with me everything I had ever
experienced or done, everything that had happened around
me. I might also say: it was with me, and I was it.
I consisted of all that, so to speak. I consisted of
my own history, and I felt with great certainty: this
is what I am. I am this bundle of what has been, and
what has been accomplished.
experience gave me a feeling of extreme poverty, but
at the same time of great fullness."
the next few weeks, Jung would feel gloomy by day, sleep
the early evening to midnight and then awaken to a feeling
of ecstasy. "It was as if I were in an ecstasy.
I felt as though I were floating in space, as though
I were safe in the womb of the universe---in a tremendous
void, but filled with the highest possible feeling of
happiness. Everything around me seemed enchanted...Night
after night I floated in a state of purest bliss, thronged
round with images of all creation."
this time, Jung has visions of several images of "mystical
marriage." Mystical marriage is a complex concept
that has been expressed in the writings and artwork
of alchemy, kabbala, Gnosticism, and some major religions.
The marriage occurs when two powers, such as the Chinese
yin (the feminine) and yang (the masculine) are brought
into harmony; in this case to form the Tao. Since yin
and yang represent many different attitudes and ways
of comporting ourselves in the world, a marriage indicates
that we have the power to be in balance with these two
powerful forces. We are the "whole" person,
not limited to one side of the coin but instead enlightened
enough to be able to employ whatever attitude or behavior
is appropriate in the moment. To Jung and Jungians,
this was a vision of tremendous importance and of a
a full retelling of these visions, see chapter 10 of
Jung's, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.)
Dreams, Reflections pulled together Jung's autobiographical
recollections from his lectures, letters, and conversations.
Published after his death, this book provides an inside
view of Jung's own experience with Active
Imagination. In Chapter 6, "Confrontation With
The Unconscious," we learn how Jung is thrown into
his inner world when he finds himself out of his mentors
world. In his mid-thirties, he has a falling out with
Freud and finds himself out on his own without the professional
connections he enjoyed through Freud's connections.
With time on his hands and with enough understanding
of the inner world, Jung decides to go as deeply as
possible. Here, in very summary format, is what he experiences.
Recorded Active Imagination Experience - December
sits at his desk and decides to "just let himself
drop." He finds having the sensation that the
ground has literally given out under his feet. He
plunges into the dark depths. Not too long in his
fall he lands on soft ground, actually a "sticky
mass." Once his eyes adjusts he begins to see
some details in the near darkness. Before him is an
entrance to a cave, in which stood a dwarf with leathery
skin. Jung squeezes past this person and soon begins
to wade through icy water which is knee deep. At the
other end of the cave he sees, on a projecting rock,
a glowing red crystal.
the crystal he sees that that there is a hole in the
ground allowing him to see down to a river. He soon
sees a corpse floating by (a boy with blonde hair).
He is followed by a gigantic black scarab and then
by a red, newborn sun, rising up out of the depths
of the water. Blinded by the sun, Jung wants to replace
the crystal in the hole to block the sun's rays but
a fluid starts to pour out of the whole. It is blood.
Blood pours out and Jung feels nauseated. On it pours
until finally, it comes to an end. Jung's Active Imagination
179, Vintage edition of Memories, Dreams, Reflections)
Recorded Active Imagination Experience - No Date Given
uses a visual technique that he has found helps him
go deeper into Active Imagination. This technique
is a realistic visualization of descending a great
distance. In this experience he figures that he has
descended about a 1000 feet. There he discovers a
"cosmic abyss." Next he sees something like
a moon crater and then he has the feeling that he
is in the land of the dead. Near the steep slope of
a rock he catches the sight of two people, one an
old man and the other, a beautiful young girl. He
summons up his courage and approaches them. He listens
carefully to what they say. The old man turns out
to be the biblical figure Elijah and the girl, Salome.
"What a strange couple," he muses. But Elijah
tells Jung that he and Salome belong together for
all eternity. Along with the two is a third, a large
black snake. Jung sticks close to Elijah and keeps
his distance from Salome.
181-182, Vintage edition of Memories, Dreams, Reflections)
time, Jung holds conversation with Elijah who eventually
changes into another figure, Philemon. Philemon
teaches Jung about the nature of human consciousness.
Jung begins to see how autonomous inner figures
can act. It is the inner figure that seems to hold
this knowledge, not Jung. (p.183). Again, Jung's
inner figure changes. This time it alters to take
on the form of the Egyptian notion of spirit, Ka.
(p.184-185, Vintage edition of Memories, Dreams,
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