In 1897, while an undergraduate at Basel

University, Jung discussed the occult in a lecture to the Zofingia

Society, a student club. Speaking in 1897 on the general subject

of psychology, the 22-year-old Jung said that the soul does exist,

it is intelligent and immortal, not subject to time and space. He

declared the reality of spirits and spiritualism, on the evidence of

telekinesis, messages of dying people, hypnotism, clairvoyance,

second sight, and prophetic dreams.

On another occasion in a letter of

May 8, 1911, Jung wrote “The meeting in Munich is still very

much on my mind. Occultism is another field we shall have to

conquer—with the aid of the libido theory, it seems to me. At

the moment I am looking into astrology, which seems

indispensable for a proper understanding of mythology. There

are strange and wondrous things in these lands of darkness.

Please don’t worry about my wanderings in these infinitudes. I

shall return laden with rich booty for our knowledge of the

human psyche. For a while longer I must intoxicate myself on

magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in

the abysses of the unconscious.”



However in later life, Jung tried to explain most of the ‘occult phenomenon’ that he came across on the basis of his theory of individual and universal subconscious:

The plurality of souls indicates a plurality of relatively autonomous
complexes that can behave like spirits. The soul-complexes
seem to belong to the ego and the loss of them appears pathological.
The opposite is true of spirit-complexes: their association
with the ego causes illness, and their dissociation from it
brings recovery. Accordingly, primitive pathology recognizes
two cause’s of illness: loss of soul, and possession by a spirit. The
two theories keep one another more or less balanced. We therefore
have to postulate the existence of unconscious complexes
that normally belong to the ego, and of those that normally
should not become associated with it. The former are the soul complexes,
the latter the spirit-complexes.
This distinction, common to most primitive beliefs, corresponds
exactly to my conception of the unconscious. According
to my view, the unconscious falls into two parts which should
be sharply distinguished from one another. One of them is the
personal unconscious; it includes all those psychic contents
which have been forgotten during the course of the individual’s
life. Traces of them are still preserved in the unconscious, even
if all conscious memory of them has been lost. In addition, it
contains all subliminal impressions or perceptions which have
too little energy to reach consciousness. To these we must add
unconscious combinations of ideas that are still too feeble and
too indistinct to cross over the threshold. Finally, the personal

unconscious contains all psychic contents that are incompatible
with the conscious attitude. This comprises a whole group of
contents, chiefly those which appear morally, aesthetically, or
intellectually inadmissible and are repressed on account of their
incompatibility. A man cannot always think and feel the good,
the true, and the beautiful, and in trying to keep up an ideal
attitude everything that does not fit in with it is automatically
repressed. If, as is nearly always the case in a differentiated person,
one function, for instance thinking, is especially developed
and dominates consciousness, then feeling is thrust into the
background and largely falls into the unconscious.
The other part of the unconscious is what I call the impersonal
or collective unconscious. As the name indicates, its contents are
not personal but collective; that is, they do not belong to one
individual alone but to a whole group of individuals, and generally
to a whole nation, or even to the whole of mankind. These
contents are not acquired during the individual’s lifetime but are
products of innate forms and instincts. Although the child possesses
no inborn ideas, it nevertheless has a highly developed
brain which functions in a quite definite way. This brain is
inherited from its ancestors; it is the deposit of the psychic functioning
of the whole human race. The child therefore brings
with it an organ ready to function in the same way as it has
functioned throughout human history. In the brain the instincts
are preformed, and so are the primordial images which have
always been the basis of man’s thinking—the whole treasure house
of mythological motifs. It is, of course, not easy to prove
the existence of the collective unconscious in a normal person,
but occasionally mythological ideas are represented in his

dreams. These contents can be seen most clearly in cases of
mental derangement, especially in schizophrenia, where mythological
images often pour out in astonishing variety. Insane
people frequently produce combinations of ideas and symbols
that could never be accounted for by experiences in their individual
lives, but only by the history of the human mind. It is
an instance of primitive, mythological thinking, which reproduces
its own primordial images, and is not a reproduction of
conscious experiences.
The personal unconscious, then, contains complexes that
belong to the individual and form an intrinsic part of his psychic
life. When any complex which ought to be associated with the
ego becomes unconscious, either by being repressed or by sinking
below the threshold, the individual experiences a sense of
loss. Conversely, when a lost complex is made conscious again,
for instance through psychotherapeutic treatment, he experiences
an increase of power. Many neuroses are cured in this
way. But when, on the other hand, a complex of the collective
unconscious becomes associated with the ego, i.e., becomes
conscious, it is felt as strange, uncanny, and at the same time
fascinating. At all events the conscious mind falls under its spell,
either feeling it as something pathological, or else being alienated
by it from normal life. The association of a collective content
with the ego always produces a state of alienation, because
something is added to the individual’s consciousness which
ought really to remain unconscious, that is, separated from the

ego. If the content can be removed from consciousness again,
the patient will feel relieved and more normal. The irruption
of these alien contents is a characteristic symptom marking
the onset of many mental illnesses. The patients are seized by
weird and monstrous thoughts, the whole world seems changed,
people have horrible, distorted faces, and so on.
While the contents of the personal unconscious are felt as
belonging to one’s own psyche, the contents of the collective
unconscious seem alien, as if they came from outside. The
reintegration of a personal complex has the effect of release and
often of healing, whereas the invasion of a complex from the
collective unconscious is a very disagreeable and even dangerous
phenomenon. The parallel with the primitive belief in souls and
spirits is obvious: souls correspond to the autonomous complexes
of the personal unconscious, and spirits to those of the
collective unconscious. We, from the scientific standpoint, prosaically
call the awful beings that dwell in the shadows of the
primeval forests “psychic complexes.” Yet if we consider the
extraordinary role played by the belief in souls and spirits in
the history of mankind, we cannot be content with merely establishing
the existence of such complexes, but must go rather
more deeply into their nature.

Jung’s final conclusion on this subject was – After collecting psychological experiences from many people and many
countries for fifty years, I no longer feel as certain as I did in 1919, when
I wrote this sentence. To put it bluntly, I doubt whether an exclusively psychological
approach can do justice to the phenomena in question. Not only the
findings of parapsychology, but my own theoretical reflections, outlined in
“On the Nature of the Psyche,” have led me to certain postulates which
touch on the realm of nuclear physics and the conception of the space-time
continuum. This opens up the whole question of the transpsychic reality
immediately underlying the psyche.

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