In the words of ... Carl Gustav Jung

14th November 2022. Reading Time: 6 minutes General, In the words of:. 869 page views. 0 comments.

While many paranormal investigators know Carl Jung for his theories of synchronicity and the collective unconscious, what did he think about ghosts? Here are some extracts from Jung's writings.

While many paranormal investigators know Carl Jung for his theories of synchronicity and the collective unconscious, what did he think about ghosts?

The following are extracts from Psychology and the Occult: (From Vols. 1, 8, 18 Collected Works) C G Jung January 1, 1978

Below each extract is my own thoughts and takeaways.  You may have your own interpretations that differ and that is what this in the words of the series is all about.  

The Psychological Foundations of Belief in Spirits

The "haunted house" has not yet become extinct even in the most enlightened and the most intellectual cities, nor has the peasant ceased to believe in the bewitching of his cattle. On the contrary, in this age of materialism —the inevitable consequence of rationalistic enlightenment —there has been a revival of the belief in spirits, but this time on a higher level. It is not a relapse into the darkness of superstition, but an intense scientific interest, a need to direct the searchlight of truth on to the chaos of dubious facts. The names of Crookes, Myers, Wallace, Zollner, and many other eminent men symbolize this rebirth and rehabilitation of the belief in spirits. Even if the real nature of their observations be disputed, even if they can be accused of errors and self-deception , these investigators have still earned for themselves the undying moral merit of having thrown the full weight of their authority and of their great scientific name into these endeavours to shed fresh light on the darkness, regardless of all personal fears and considerations. They shrank neither from academic prejudice nor from the derision of the public, and at the very time when the thinking of educated people was more than ever spellbound by materialistic dogmas, they drew attention to phenomena of psychic provenience that seemed to be in complete contradiction to the materialism of their age.

Hull, R. F.C. and C. G. Jung. Psychology and the Occult: (From Vols. 1, 8, 18 Collected Works)

I find the above extract quite fascinating, especially Jung's thoughts on the idealisation of haunted houses.  It makes me wonder how he would feel about the paranormal field today with not just the belief in haunted houses, but how it has somewhat evolved to include demonic hauntings (thanks to reality television) and how paranormal research has veered in someways away from scientific research and is seen by a large percentage of the population as entertainment. Of course, there is still genuine scientific work happening out there and Jung's comments about famous researchers speak volumes.  While he had his own view which you can determine from the above quote, it seems he respected the worth ethic and determination to forge a path forward even while facing ridicule, something that many of us have felt during our time in the paranormal field.

The Soul and Death

Youth—we should like to think—has purpose, future, meaning, and value, whereas the coming to an end is only a meaningless cessation. If a young man is afraid of the world, of life and the future, then everyone finds it regrettable, senseless, neurotic; he is considered a cowardly shirker. But when an ageing person secretly shudders and is even mortally afraid at the thought that his reasonable expectation of life now amounts to only so and so many years, then we are painfully reminded of certain feelings within our own breast; we look away and turn the conversation to some other topic. The optimism with which we judge the young man fails us here. Naturally we have a stock of suitable banalities about life which we occasionally hand out to the other fellow, such as "everyone must die sometime," "you can't live forever," etc. But when one is alone and it is night and so dark and still that one hears nothing and sees nothing but the thoughts which add and subtract the years, and the long row of those disagreeable facts which remorselessly indicate how far the hand of the clock has moved forward, and the slow, irresistible approach of the wall of darkness which will eventually engulf everything I love, possess, wish for, hope for, and strive for, then all our profundities about life slink off to some undiscoverable hidingplace , and fear envelops the sleepless one like a smothering blanket.  Many young people have at bottom a panic fear of life (though at the same time they intensely desire it), and an even greater number of the ageing have the same fear of death. Indeed, I have known those people who most feared life when they were young to suffer later just as much from the fear of death. When they are young one says they have infantile resistances against the normal demands of life; one should really say the same thing when they are old, for they are likewise afraid of one of life's normal demands. We are so convinced that death is simply the end of a process that it does not ordinarily occur to us to conceive of death as a goal and a fulfilment, as we do without hesitation the aims and purposes of youthful life in its ascendance. Life is an energy-process. Like every energy-process, it is in principle irreversible and is therefore directed towards a goal. That goal is a state of rest. 

Hull, R. F.C. and C. G. Jung. Psychology and the Occult: (From Vols. 1, 8, 18 Collected Works)

Is there life after death?  This is something I guess we will never know until the time comes.  Something that is poignant and that I personally take away from this and it is something I often say, is that while we are searching for those answers, it is important to also live in the present and not take for granted what we have for today.  In our search within the darkness, we must remember to look to the light and not let the years or even the obsession pass us by.  We are all destined to the same end, and while we don't know what that is, it is inevitable.

The following is an extract from Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle C.G. Jung, (1960)


We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the wheel depends. We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends. We pierce doors and windows to make a house; And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the utility of the house depends. Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the utility of what is not.

C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle

I can't have an in the words of post about Jung and not include at least something about synchronicity. I find this quote in particular something that we can apply to the way we think about the paranormal.  We spend a lot of time trying to work out what the paranormal is, when maybe we should also be focusing on what it isn't.  Perhaps that is a small connecting piece of the puzzle on our way to answers and a new perspective to consider.  Once we can start eliminating what it isn't, what are we left with?

You can read more about synchronicity here:

Do you have any quotes or extracts from Jung you find interesting?  Tell me in the comments below

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Claudia Richter (2021) Carl Jung and the Ghosts, Psychological Perspectives, 64:4, 513-531, DOI: 10.1080/00332925.2021.2043705

Hull, R. F.C. and C. G. Jung. Psychology and the Occult: (From Vols. 1, 8, 18 Collected Works). Princeton University Press, 2020. Project MUSE

C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (1960)

Cover Image: ETH-Bibliothek 

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