What drove a famous man like Carl Jung to such intense spiritual reflection later in life?
In the early months of my intense spiritual experiences in spring of 2019, I dug into psychological literature regarding paranormal experiences and the concepts of the collective unconscious. It was clear to me that somewhere, somehow, I had made an intellectual mistake. If I had experienced not one, but multiple, abnormalities where other observers also heard both a ghost and a good friend of mine saw a UFO, then either we were all losing our minds or there was some truth to a spiritual realm - or some realm. There was some truth to paranormal experiences, anyway. Not much else could be said. Certainly there was enough abnormality that it felt at least that an intelligence was paying attention to me.
In my desperate search, I quickly discovered that mainstream websites and books on the paranormal typically fall into three categories:
It was the third category that quickly interested me most. After all, my own personal story was intense, overwhelming, and difficult to explain. And I was not remotely famous and soon discovered how hard it was to make a story like this go "viral". When I would find a buried YouTube video or a side-note on a famous person's life in their writings, I was beyond intrigued. People who are not driven by a desire for power or money but simply out of fear and curiosity and bewilderment seemed the most easily trusted.
Jung's paranormal stories are not well known. As I read his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections, I was taken aback by the depth of his inner spiritual/psychological life. His synchronistic experiences were never talked about in school. Why did the entire psychological establishment skip these stories? Were they just too awkward for a scientific method that claimed to have all the answers?
The relationship between doubt and close-mindedness fills Jungs writing. He never takes any dogmatic stance on his experiences. He tends to weave the emotional experience of life into the intellectual experience and see patterns where few of us dare to even enter. Here, for example, is an excerpt from Memories, Dreams, Reflections when talking about "Christian dogmatics":
"That finished it for me. The weighty tome on dogmatics was nothing but fancy drivel; worse still, it was a fraud or a specimen of uncommon stupidity whose sole aim was to obscure the truth. I was disillusioned and even indignant, and once more seized with pity for my father, who had fallen victim to this mumbo-jumbo." - Carl Jung
This was as accurate a summary of my own feelings when I left Christianity at 23 for a brief agnosticism and then full atheism. I could certainly connect with Jung's skepticism, but the stories he tells of synchronicity left me perplexed with the question of what, exactly, did he believe?
" I wondered at the sureness with which they [friends] could assert that things like ghosts and table-turning were impossible and therefore fraudulent, and on the other hand at the evidently anxious nature of their defensiveness. I, too, was not certain of the absolute reliability of the reports, but why, after all, should there not be ghosts?" - Jung
Reading a little further:
"Dread of what? I could find no explanation for this [materialistic view]. After all, there was nothing preposterous or world-shaking in the idea that there might be events which overstepped the limited categories of space, time, and causality... There were dreams which foresaw the death of certain persons, clocks which stopped at the moment of death, glasses which shattered at the critical moment. All these things had been taken for granted in the world of my childhood." - Jung
Later in the book, Jung tells of an experience I had never heard of in all my classes in biology, psychology, or philosophy and these "missing stories" reveal a lot about how much Freud's materialistic perspective won in the culture war over Jung's:
"During the summer holidays, however, something happened that was destined to influence me profoundly. One day I was sitting in my room, studying my textbooks. In the adjoining room, the door to which stood ajar, my mother was knitting. That was our dining room, where the round walnut dining table stood. The table had come from the dowry of my paternal grandmother, and was at this time about seventy years old. My mother was sitting by the window, about a yard away from the table. My sister was at school and our maid in the kitchen. Suddenly there sounded a report like a pistol shot. I jumped up and rushed into the room from which the noise of the explosion had come. My mother was sitting flabbergasted in her armchair, the knitting fallen from her hands. She stammered out, "W-w-what's happened? It was right beside me!" and stared at the table. Following her eyes, I saw what had happened. The table top had split from the rim to beyond the center, and not along any joint; the split ran right through the solid wood. I was thunderstruck. How could such a thing happen? A table of solid walnut that had dried out for seventy years-how could it split on a summer day in the relatively high degree of humidity characteristic of our climate? If it had stood next to a heated stove on a cold, dry winter day, then it might have been conceivable. What in the world could have caused such an explosion? "There certainly are curious accidents," I thought...
A little further:
Some two weeks later I came home at six o'clock in the evening and found the household - my mother, my fourteen-year-old sister, and the maid-in a great state of agitation. About an hour earlier there had been another deafening report. This time it was not the already damaged table; the noise had come from the direction of the sideboard, a heavy piece of furniture dating from the early nineteenth century. They had already looked all over it, but had found no trace of a split. I immediately began examining the sideboard and the entire surrounding area, but just as fruitlessly. Then I began on the interior of the sideboard. In the cupboard containing the bread basket I found a loaf of bread, and, beside it, the bread knife. The greater part of the blade had snapped off in several pieces. The handle lay in one corner of the rectangular basket, and in each of the other corners lay a piece of the blade. The knife had been used shortly before, at four-o'clock tea, and afterward put away. Since then no one had gone to the sideboard.
The next day I took the shattered knife to one of the best cutlers in the town. He examined the fractures with a magnifying glass, and shook his head. "This knife is perfectly sound," he said. "There is no fault in the steel. Someone must have deliberately broken it piece by piece." " - Jung
This book is a great read, and is a stream-of-consciousness weaving dreams and stories like these into a tale that in many places defies logic. Once, when arguing with Freud over whether paranormal activity should be included in clinical practice, Freud became angry and Jung rebuked him. A loud thump was heard from the wall. Jung then said that if Freud persisted it would happen again. Freud made a negative remake and the thump once again resounded, almost prophetically. In the annals of history, Freud clearly won this argument but if Jung was right perhaps our rejection of the spiritual realm is exactly what Jung was almost unknowingly warning against.
For most stories it would be easy to dismiss these synchronistic or paranormal events as flukes, but some of these stories from even well-known intellectuals defy all reason.
Jordan Peterson is quite famous, but again his paranormal stories are not nearly as well known:
I believe that one thing we forget with highly philosophical or spiritual people is that their deepest motivations may be coming from a logic-defying spiritual or overwhelmingly paranormal experience they cannot even begin to describe.
It is easy to see with a story like this video above why Jordan Peterson connects so much with Carl Jung.
Later in life, Jung was exploring the UFO phenomena and even wrote a book about it, called Flying Saucers : A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. I have not read the book yet, so in full disclosure I will not comment on it. However, the mention of myth is interesting, especially given the recent revelation by the Navy, Pentagon, and the Department of Defense that - perhaps - the UFO phenomena has been real this whole time.
Scientists looks for patterns, and breaks in the patterns are often the greatest sign of a new type of pattern we did not originally think about. Or perhaps a break in the pattern is a sign of intentional tampering with the underlying foundational variables. In any case, curious people at the very least should not throw out data that does not fit their preconceived notions of reality.
In many ways I think this it what sets men like Carl Jung and Jordan Peterson apart. They are keenly aware of breaks in the patterns of time and space. They know that their methods have limits and are well aware of the arrogance of treading where angels dare to go. And for this, I think, it is an intellectual "sin" to avoid the paranormal.