The Gnostic Jung

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The Gnostic Jung And the Seven Sermons to the Dead

Reviewed by Frank Thomas Smith – Quest Books: 4th printing 1994

The Seven Sermons to the Dead is a mysterious, little known or understood work of C. G. Jung’s, which was privately printed in German, without copyright or date, sometime between 1920 and 1925, and distributed to a select group of friends. Stephan A. Hoeller copied, then translated it from the original. Then he wrote a book in which he not only calls The Seven Sermons a Gnostic document, but also claims that Jung himself was a modern Gnostic.

The Gnostic Jung is essentially an attempt – and a very good one at that – to interpret the Seven Sermons, and they certainly need interpretation. Along the way Hoeller, an almost worshipful admirer of the “Wise Man of Küsnacht”, gives us a clear, skillful elucidation of some of Jung’s essential ideas. But the question is: Was Jung really a Gnostic? Certainly he admired Gnostic thought and his works are liberally sprinkled with references to them. But he never called himself a Gnostic; on the other hand, he never identified with any philosophical or religious stream but his own psychoanalytical specialty.

Without doubt Jung’s kind of psychoanalysis was different, approaching what could be called a path of initiation, the analyst becoming a hierophant and the patient a neophyte, or disciple. Mental illness was considered to be a divided or incomplete condition and health as a state of spiritual wholeness – or near wholeness. Jung always insisted that his writings were based upon empirical evidence and personal experience – and not mystical speculation. After his death and the publication of his autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, and disclosures by his most intimate disciples, it became clear that Jung underwent an intense period of spiritual experience between 1912 and 1917. This may explain his insistence on the word “empirical” to describe his investigations. The only fragment of his writings from that period which he permitted to be published was The Seven Sermons to the Dead, using terminology and style of second century Gnosticism. Jung attributes the authorship to Basilides, a Gnostic sage who taught in Alexandria around A.D. 125-140. Whether this implies some sort of mediumship or automatic writing is a matter of speculation. However, it should be borne in mind that it was the practice for centuries to ascribe authorship of spiritual treatises to someone who the real author considered to be more spiritually advanced than himself.

It would be futile to attempt a synopsis of Hoeller’s interpretation of The Seven Sermons to the Dead here. At best we can consider a few aspects which especially interested this reviewer.

Western materialism has caused many seekers of spirituality to direct their search toward Eastern mysticism. Jung, surprisingly, contended that the search for the wisdom of the East had almost darkened the mind of the West and that it is a search that continues to lead many astray. It isn’t only the impact of alien cultures that can be dangerous to the Western soul. Much of Hindu and Buddhist thinking is directed towards the obliteration of individual consciousness (ego-lessness).

When desire is snuffed out by a variety of meditation and concentration practices, what remains is a psychic corpse from which the libidinal cosmic force of the vital urge has been artificially removed. One can perish of psychic pernicious anemia as well as from its physiological analogue, and the fulfillment of such objectives as desire-lessness and ego-lessness may very well lead to just such a condition. The desire for self-knowledge is just as much a desire as the desire for food or sex.

In his work The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious Jung restates the message contained in the Second Sermon when he says: “Evil is the necessary opposite of good, without which there would be no good either. It is impossible to even think good out of existence.” Jung was insistent especially on the reality and titanic magnitude of evil, for he felt that western humanity, beginning with Christian theology, has consistently and disastrously dwarfed the picture of evil as arising from the unconscious of humanity. In Civilization in Transition he wrote that evil “is of gigantic proportions, so that for the Church to talk of original sin and to trace it back to Adam’s relatively innocent slip-up with Eve is almost a euphemism. The case is far graver and is grossly underestimated.”

President Bush was criticized for calling bin Laden and the terrorists responsible for the World Trade Center destruction “evil”. The critics are not saying that bin Laden is “good”, rather are they implying that evil doesn’t exist, and we should look for reasons in socio-economic injustice. Although it is not possible to deny that social injustice exists in the world, it would be difficult indeed to characterize these terrorist acts as anything but evil, if we take Jung’s point of view seriously. Of course, there are many other kinds of what seems to be pure evil in the world. According to Jung, good and evil are not two opposite poles of a linear dimensionality. They resemble a circle wherein going far enough in either direction is likely to associate one with the opposite polarity. He said that there is no good that cannot produce evil and no evil that cannot produce good. Read more…

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Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, The Inside Story of the World’s Best-Documented UFO Incident, by Nick Pope, with John Burroughs, USAF (Ret.), and Jim Penniston, USAF (Ret.). Published by Thomas Dunne Books, An Imprint of St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

The first encounter, in the early hours of December 26, 1980, was an actual landing of the UFO craft. The second encounter, on the night of December 26, involved the sighting by personnel of D-Flight of a fiery red/orange object that descended slowly into the forest. It was surrounded by an eerie blue/white corona. The third encounter took place from the evening of the 27th through the next morning, and several challenging UFOs with beaming lights were witnessed.

On December 26, the strange intense lights of the first encounter were seen in the forest outside the East Gate of the Woodbridge US Air Force base. At that time the Bentwaters and Woodbridge NATO bases, on British soil, were staffed by Americans. The twin bases were in “the sleepy county of Suffolk on the cold, exposed coast of the East of England,” an area described as “creepy” and “weird” by service personnel. The Rendlesham Forest was between the two bases. The red and blue lights were spotted by Airman First Class John Burroughs, who had been patrolling Woodbridge near the East Gate. He contacted his supervisor, Staff Sergeant Bud Steffens, and both drove out to a small track that led into the forest. An odd white light had also become visible. They returned to the base to inform others, including the on-duty flight chief at Woodbridge, Staff Sergeant and NCO James (Jim) W. Penniston, who thought there might have been an aircraft crash. As it turned out it was not a crash, it was a landing. “In the clearing was a small, metallic craft. It was about three meters high and maybe three meters across at the base. The craft was roughly triangular in shape … It had a bank of blue lights on its side and a bright white light on the top. There was no sound whatsoever. Penniston “had the presence of mind to take a number of photographs.” Unfortunately, the photography failed, probably due to high radiation levels. But Penniston managed to sketch both the craft and its symbols in his police notebook.

He also “plucked up the courage to touch the object. It felt hard and smooth, like a smooth, opaque glass.” However, when he touched the symbols, “they were rough, like running my hands over sandpaper.” The craft responded to Penniston’s touch with a white light at the top that “flared up and became so intense that Penniston was fear struck and temporarily blinded …” After a time, the craft rose above the trees, taking two or three minutes, and then “accelerated away in an instant.” It was noticed that three indentations were left on the hard, frozen ground, and that the line between them formed a near-perfect equilateral triangle. Later, plaster molds were made of the indentations. Read more…

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Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization

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México Profundo, Reclaiming A Civilization, by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (1935-1991), is translated by Philip A. Dennis and was published by the University of Texas Press in 1996, with eight paperback printings through 2009. From the back cover, Mexican studies; anthropology:For Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, the remaining Indian communities, the ‘de-Indianized’ rural mestizo communities, and vast sectors of the poor urban population constitute the México profundo. Their lives and ways of understanding the world continue to be rooted in Mesoamerican civilization… Since the Conquest [Hernan Cortés, 1519-1521] Bonfil argues, the peoples of the México profundo have been dominated by an ‘imaginary México’ imposed by the West.”

Philip A. Dennis is a Professor of Anthropology at Texas Tech University. The book opens with his Foreword of 1995: “Guillermo Bonfil Batalla’s book México profundo: una civilización negada seems prophetic in retrospect. He predicted the collapse of what he called the imaginary Mexico and hoped that the strengths of the “México profundo” would serve as a basis for building a new Mexico. According to Bonfil Batalla, Mexico is not a mestizo country. Rather, it is a country whose majority population continues to be rooted in Mesoamerican civilization and whose way of life reflects cultural patterns and values with thousands of years of history … The México profundo erupted into national consciousness on January 1, 1994, when the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de la Liberación Nacional – EZLN) took over four towns in the southeastern state of Chiapas. Their struggle provoked a still-unresolved confrontation with the Mexican government. Most of the EZLN fighters are Maya Indians from a poor state whose population includes more than a million Maya people. Their rebellion responds to years of injustice and oppression. In recent years in Chiapas, large cattle ranchers have continued to usurp Indian land, with the support of paid gunmen and the judicial police. Land and wealth and political power in Chiapas are highly concentrated in the hands of the local elite, while the Indian and peasant majority live in extreme poverty.”

“Guillermo Bonfil Batalla had a distinguished career in Mexican anthropology, cut tragically short by his death in an automobile accident in July 1991 … Bonfil Batalla began his career as one of the early critics of indigenismo, a continent-wide movement concerned with Indian welfare, but directed by non-Indians. He and other Mexican anthropologists of the early 1970s concluded that the paternalistic stance of indigenismo obscured the truly multicultural nature of Mexico, and they supported, instead, Indian efforts at self-determination.”

The book is divided into three parts (each with two to five subheadings): Part I, A Civilization Denied; Part II, How We Came to Be Where We Are; and Part III, The National Program and the Civilizational Project. From Bonfil Batalla’s summary that precedes Part I: “What unifies them [the México profundo] and distinguishes them from the rest of Mexican society is that they are bearers of ways of understanding the world and of organizing human life that have their origins in Mesoamerican civilization and that have been forged here in Mexico through a long and historical process … The civilization of Mesoamerica has been denied but it is essential to recognize its continuing presence.” Later in Part I, under the subheading Cultural Schism, he writes: “Cultural diversity is not a problem in itself … The problem lies in the dual, asymmetrical structure that underlies the plurality. At this point it is indispensable to return to the origin of this problem, which is none other than the colonial situation from which current Mexican society is derived. This is a past whose basic, antagonistic duality has not yet been superseded. To the contrary, it is expressed in every facet of national life. It is an original sin that has not yet been redeemed.” Read more…

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The Stones Cry Out, What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible, by Dr. J. Randall Price. The book is Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon; Copyright 1997 by World of the Bible Ministries, Inc.

The author received his Master of Theology degree in Old Testament and Semitic Language from Dallas Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has participated in field excavations at Tel Yin’am in the Galilee, as well as at Qumran, the site of the community that discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In the Preface of his book, under the subheading The Popularity of Biblical Archaeology, the author writes (from Jerusalem, Shavuot, 1997): “It is for the popular audience that I have written this book … My purpose, however, is not to ‘prove’ the Bible, which as an archaeological document is proof itself. Rather, it is to show from the stones that the Scriptures are reliable and reveal to us the Scriptures in such a way impossible without them …”

Regarding the title, The Stones Cry Out, two Biblical quotes are given:  

Habakkuk 2:11: Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, and the rafter will answer it from the framework.

Luke 19:40: When leaders sought to silence those praising Jesus’ Messianic entry into the rock walls of Jerusalem, he answered and said, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

This 346-page book is presented in three Parts: What Can Archaeology Prove, New Discoveries in Archaeology, and Listening to the Stones Today. Throughout the entire book the author never loses his enthusiasm – at times his contagious joy – for the fact that the Old and New Testaments have both been confirmed by today’s science of archaeology to be historically accurate. In the first chapter, he writes: “Archaeology has revealed the cities, palaces, temples and houses of those who lived shoulder to shoulder with the individuals whose names appear in scripture. Such discoveries make possible for us what the Apostle John once voiced to authenticate his message: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life, these things we write. – John 1:1-4.” In the same chapter the author also quotes a foremost authority in archaeology, the dean of the old school of biblical archaeology, Professor William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971): “Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details and has brought increased recognition of the value of the Bible as a source of history.”

Part I – What Can Archaeology Prove? – has four chapters in which the author details the basics of the science of archaeology. He defines a tel as an unnatural mound created by the repeated destruction and rebuilding of ancient cities and villages on the same site. Excavation areas are called digs. The archaeological finds of greatest value are inscriptions or written words (So Shall it be Written So Shall it be Found) on papyrus, parchment, clay, metal, stone, and pottery fragments called ostraca. An example of a Stratigraphy of a Tel shows thirteen layers of the ground, from the present ground level to the Early Bronze IV period (2300-2100), beneath which is the original level of virgin soil. In addition, the book offers scientific charts of Major Inscriptions and Major Tablets of Old Testament Significance, and maps, graphs, models, and many photographs of ancient sites, such as the Great Hall of Columns, Karnak, the Rosetta Stone, and the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (which is located in the ancient Assyrian city of Calah, modern Nimrud). Pictures or paintings from the past also offer proof. For example, the remarkable Beni-Hasan Mural, on the walls of a tomb that is south of Cairo on the east bank of the Nile. It is 8 feet long and 10 feet high and pictures Semites in Egypt, from about 1890 BC, as a “parade of foreigners, eight men, four women, three children, and donkeys (one of which carries the two smaller children) and other animals, all being led by Egyptian officials.” The author writes that “the importance of the painting lies in its visual depiction of what people looked like in the time of the patriarchs.” Read more…

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Turing’s Vision, The Birth of Computer Science, by Chris Bernhardt, was published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2016, with the first MIT Press paperback edition published in 2017. Chris Bernhardt is a Professor of Mathematics at Fairfield University, a Catholic University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954), was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. He emerged into public awareness largely as a result of the 2014 American film, The Imitation Game. The film is based on the biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma, although it is highly dramatized.

Chris Bernhardt’s book is about Turing’s great contribution to theoretical computer science in a paper that Turing wrote in 1936, when he was twenty-four years old. His talents had been recognized and he was then a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. The paper is titled On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem (decision problem). “But don’t be discouraged by the title,” writes Bernhardt, “because it contains a wealth of elegant and powerful results. It also contains some remarkably beautiful truths… This book is for the reader who wants to understand these ideas. We start from the beginning and build carefully. The reader doesn’t have to know much mathematics – high school provides enough – but it does require some mathematical aptitude and also a little work … Turing is not saying trivial things about computation, but saying deep and nonintuitive things. That said, many people find these ideas quite fascinating and the work rewarding.”

The book has a Contents section; a helpful Introduction including paragraphs of information about each of its nine Chapters; a section for Further Reading; Notes for each of the Chapters (e.g., how Boolean algebra works); a Bibliography, and an Index. The Contents section lists all of the topics in each chapter. For example, Chapter 1, Background, includes Mathematical Certainty, Boole’s Logic, Mathematical Logic, Securing the Foundations of Mathematics; Hilbert’s Approach (David Hilbert, German mathematician, 1862-1943); Gödel’s Results (Kurt Gödel, Austrian mathematician, 1906-1978); and Turing’s Results.

From Chapter 1: “Gödel had completely destroyed Hilbert’s program as it stood in 1920. Nevertheless, there was still the Entscheidungsproblem.” Read more…

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