Carl Gustav Jung was born in Switzerland on July 26th 1875. His grandfather was a physician of the same name and who was, at one time, rumored to be the illegitimate son of the, then famous poet, Goethe (Feist, Feist & Roberts, 2013). His father was a Protestant Clergyman with whom Carl rarely saw eye to eye (Tower, 2002). His father’s side of the family contained a prevalence of religion and medicine while his mother’s side possessed a prevalence in spiritualism and mysticism (Feist, et al. 2013). Upon graduating high school, Carl had initially wanted to study archeology but he also held interest in history, philosophy and natural sciences (Feist, et al. 2013). He decided to go to medical school and naturally fell into the field of psychiatry. Over the course of his career, Jung developed an intense relationship with Sigmund Freud, a prominent psychologist, and their conversations became legendary. Their friendship led to many things including the selection of Jung to be appointed the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Association. It is interesting to note that The International Psychoanalytic Association is still currently active and by the end of 2009 had more than 12,000 members (IPA.org, 2013). The friendship between Jung and Freud dissolved after underlying tension went from a simmer to a boil and the split caused Jung to embark on a trip through the underground of his own unconscious. This journey was referred to as “creative illness” and was similar to Freud’s self-analysis (Feist, et al. 2013 pp.107). Once this journey had been completed Jung achieved what he termed ‘individuation’ and experienced what could be a called a psychological rebirth (Feist, et al. 2013 pp.107).
A simple Google search of the name Carl G. Jung will pull hundreds of articles referencing Jung’s relationship with the occult. Before expounding further on Jung’s activities within occultism, let’s first look at what occultism is. Miriam Webster defines Occultism as “belief in, or study, of the action or influence of supernatural or supernormal powers” (Miriam Webster, 2013). The Oxford Dictionaries define it as both a noun, “supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices or phenomena: a secret society to study alchemy and the occult and as an adjective “of, involving or relating to supernatural, mystical, or magical powers or phenomena: a follower of occult practices similar to voodoo; beyond the range of ordinary knowledge or experience and communicated only to the initiated (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013).
The work that best links Jung with occultism is one of his first works titled “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena.” He begins his paper correlating the relationship between hysteria and epilepsy and it’s interesting to note, as well, that during the early periods of psychology professionals believed “that in essence hysteria and epilepsy are not fundamentally different, but that the cause of the disease is the same but is manifest in a diverse form, in different intensity and permanence” (Jung, 1916. pp. 1). This correlation belief shows just how far current psychology has come with the diagnosis of neurological disorders and the effect that technology had and continues to have on the study of psychology and, by extension, parapsychology.
Two of Carl Jung’s prominent case studies include the case of Miss Elise K., and of a young girl whom Jung refers to as S.W. in order to protect the identity of the family. Miss K was 40-year-old single, book-keeper who was described as kind-hearted, gentle, well-educated and joyous in nature that, throughout the course of an episode of mental exhaustion, began seeing dead people and was subsequently hospitalized and observed. Jung concluded that Miss Elise K was suffering from a “psychopathic defective with a tendency to hysteria” (Jung, 1916. pp. 15)
The second case study of 15 ½ year old S.W. covers a series of séances and experiments with a young girl who claims to communicate and travel with the spirits. At this point it is necessary to point out that it was well-known at the time that Jung had spent a good amount of time with his first cousin, Helene Preiswerk observing séances. Therefore, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to identify S.W. as Helene. Jung goes on in the paper to describe the communications that Helene has with her “guide” which was identified as her grandfather which she never knew and he documents her physical status in relation to her mental status. In a step that could correlate Jung’s concept of the inner self as the primary force of individuation he includes Helene’s drawing that explains her mystic system which indicates that “in the centre stands the primary force, which is the original cause of creation and is a spiritual force (Jung, 1916 pp. 41-42). His account of the study of Helene is quite lengthy and sheds a bright light on Jung’s direction into the occult. He references the “table-turning” that she (Helene) had first come across as a game and the possibilities of auto-suggestion and partial hypnosis then continues on and touches on the topics of automatic writing, hallucinations, and the corresponding change in the subjects character with the relation to the ‘hysterical attack’ and the relationship to the unconscious personality. He concludes by saying that “these experiments are, so to speak, the prototype of those rarer and incomparably more astonishing cases of intuitive knowledge displayed at times by somnambulists” (Jung, 1916. pp. 92).
It is easy to see that in the early 1900’s, many of the things that were once considered occultist or paranormal can now be explained through modern medicine. Carl Jung’s work added a layer to the study of psychology which, given the era, was quite mysterious. The impact that his interest in the occult had, however, took him on a journey that is still taught and applied in the field of psychology and parapsychology today.
Jung, C.G., Long, Constance E. (1916). On the psychology and pathology of so-called occult phenomena. Analytical Psychology. pp. 1-93 doi: 10.1037/10663.001
Jung, C.G. (2009). Carl Gustav Jung-The Origin of Evil [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNKvbT_3b0s&list=PLsz9pGdWKczO7BYNssw4C0LlxJ6J8Zbxu
Miriam Webster (2013). An Encyclopedia Britannica Company. Retrieved from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (2013). The world’s most trusted dictionaries. Retrieved from: http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/occult
Tower, M (2002). Psyography: Carl Jung. PSYography: Internet Sources for Biographies on Psychologists. Retrieved from: http://faculty.frostburg.edu/mbradley/psyography/carljung.html