Jung and Theosophy


“As mankind multiplies, and with it suffering – which is the natural result of an increasing number of units that generate it – sorrow and pain are intensified. We live in an atmosphere of gloom and despair, but this is because our eyes are downcast and riveted to the earth, with all its physical and grossly material manifestations. If, instead of that, man proceeding on his life-journey looked – not heavenward, which is but a figure of speech – but within himself and centered his point of observation on the inner man, he would soon escape from the coils of the great serpent of illusion. From the cradle to the grave, his life would then become supportable and worth living, even in its worst phases.… ” ( – H. P. Blavatsky, “The Origin of Evil”, “Lucifer,” October, 1887)
“Human nature is an abyss which physiology and human science, in general, has sounded less than some who have never heard the word physiology pronounced. Never are the high censors of the Royal Society more perplexed than when brought face to face with that insolvable mystery – man’s inner nature. The key to it is – man’s dual being.” – H. P. Blavatsky (BCW 3, “Are Dreams but Idle Visions,” pp. 433-38)
About 30 years ago I read a bunch of the popular books by Carl Jung, but haven’t read in him since except for his “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” for the second time last year. (edited by Aniela Jaffe, Vintage edition, 1989). I like the book, quite a lot in some sections. Theosophical opinion of Jung ranges from advocating him to a few regarding him as akin to a Theosophical anti-christ.

Was Jung a Nazi sympathizer, as claimed by one Theosophical writer, for instance? [1] Decidedly not, as Jung in “Reflections” calls the Nazis a “manifestation of naked evil”, and along with the Bolshevism of the time that “Evil…. has become a visible Great Power.” (pp. 328, 331) In the Wikipedia article for “Carl Jung” under sub-heading “Response to Nazism,” Jung is quoted as saying:

“It must be clear to anyone who has read any of my books that I have never been a Nazi sympathizer and I never have been anti-Semitic, and no amount of misquotation, mistranslation, or rearrangement of what I have written can alter the record of my true point of view. Nearly every one of these passages has been tampered with, either by malice or by ignorance.”

While Jung may have been sometimes wandering in the “abyss” of the Inner Nature or Subconscious, and had some opinions not easily allied with Theosophy, it is just dishonest to create of him a monster as well as Nazi sympathizer as Aveline does, and could only reveal some gross misunderstanding of Jung and misapplied defense of Theosophy on the part in the writer.

Jung definitely wasn’t a Theosophist, but he shares in common the search for Truth, and he definitely found a lot of truth. Even though it wasn’t Blavatsky’s area of emphasis, the human subconscious exists. “Know Thyself” is found many times in her literature. Blavatsky’s philosophic message in its basics was for everyone, and digging deep into the subconscious definitely is not for everyone. Who knows what the private studies are of the inner members of the Eastern School she represented?

One observation by Jung in “Reflections” which I found interesting and has corollaries with Theosophy was his idea that there were two personalities in people, one mundane and every-day, and the other appearing rarely and with profound observations and “uncanny.” He first observed it in his mother, who was a woman with depth but chained in a very conventional life. These “two personalities” can corresponds with the Higher and Lower Selves in Theosophy, one the personality of one lifetime, the other which gathers the worthwhile of each lifetime and reincarnates. Jung makes makes many observations related to this bifurcation. [2] He writes:

“In the course of my life it has often happened to me that I suddenly knew something which I really could not know at all. The knowledge came to me as though it were my own idea. It was the same with my mother. She did not know what she was saying, it was like a voice wielding absolute authority, which said exactly what fitted the situation.” (p. 51)

Jung wasn’t a materialist and was well aware aware of the occurence of psychic phenomena, of which he had many. An experience of clairvoyance he attributed to the “collective unconscious,” which “is common to all” and is the “foundation of what the ancients called the ‘sympathy of all things'” (p. 138) – a thoroughly Theosophical idea.

Jung did not believe in reincarnation most of his life but reconsidered it again in late life. (p. 319) “It is true that I did not believe in reincarnation, but I was instinctively familiar with the concept the Indians call karma.” (p. 234) He goes into a long speculation on the concept pp. 316-19 in “Reflections.” What he seems to object to most about the concept is the supposed Eastern idea of reincarnation going on forever without a goal, and that the Western mind needs a goal. I always assumed that the Eastern idea of Reincarnation has the ideal of a goal and spiritual evolution as innate in it, although it may have been corrupted into an endless chain of goal-less incarnations in the conventional viewpoint. The idea of spiritual evolution is the essence of the Theosophical system. We learn from each lifetime and progress on the chain of being, and I have to believe this is the unescapable essence of Hinduism and Buddhism as well. Jung had at least no understanding of Theosophy at all if he didn’t see this.

The Wikipedia article on Blavatsky claims that Jung was harshly critical of Theosophy, but as far as I’ve seen, he had read no genuine Blavatsky-oriented Theosophy at all! In a letter, for instance, [3] he equates Rudolph Steiner and Theosophy. His criticisms are mostly just for later versions of “Theosophy” in the writings of Leadbeater, Besant and their school of altered “Neo-theosophy” and the various off-shoots, as much of this material is the wildest of personaly imaginings, while Blavatsky’s writings are suffused with thousands of references to classic and current writings.

Jung’s approach is different from Theosophy. He has to prove each point or insight for himself, and this approach can be respected except that one man in one lifetime can have only minimal results in discovering the grand scheme and details of things in one lifetime – it is a thoroughly impossible task. Jung often refers to himself as “empirical,” and Theosophy would agree, along with Buddha, that doubt and self-testing is part of the path. Blavatsky Theosophy does present a system that claims to be the result of the reseaches of the Adepts of all ages, and as such it can’t be definitely proved by the individual in a lifetime except in gradual limited progress. Anyone could make claims from his own wild imaginings, and many, many do, so one has to depend on his intuition as to genuiness or not of Theosophy, as well as the impressive supportive outlay of literature Blavatsky provides from seers, philosophers and religion of the past.

How does Jung’s psychological system correspond with the Seven Principles that Theosophy describes human nature with? There aren’t two separate universal Consciousnesses in existence, so they are the same, perhaps described through different senses. A superficial opinion about the subconscious is that it is all “sex and violence,” and in the coarsest levels this has some truth in it. The subconscious is our Past – individually, and deeper for the race generally, and for existence itself in the deepest level. Consciously we give direction to our lives and are creating our subconscious as we go along in the grand scheme. Those parts of our past which we wish to evolve beyond we ignore or “throw out” and eventually they have less hold on us. However, at our own peril we can’t ignore our deeper basic nature which has nothing to do with “sex and violence.” Perhaps what we _are_ is our subconscious, while what we are becoming is our conscious self. “We spend 99% of our time rationalizing whatever the subconscious has already decided to to do,” to paraphrase science fiction writer Charles Sheffield.

Four states of consciousness are often referred to in Theosophical writings:

“…. jagrat, the waking state; svapna, the dream state; sushupti, the state of dreamless sleep; and, highest, the turiya, which is relatively complete egoic or spiritual consciousness on interior planes. From this last state of perfect awakenment, the jagrat or physical waking state is the farthest removed; what is to us the dream state (svapna) is a closer approach; and sushupti, which to us is complete loss of physical brain-mind consciousness, is actually the closest approach to the complete consciousness experienced by the ego in turiya.” [4]

Our state of Deep Sleep of which we have no memory, sushupti, and enter unconsciously to our ego consciousness is a “higher” or “deeper” state of consciousness, from which we get respite every night to continue later our normal human lives. It is significant that we go through the dream-state of the subconscious to get there. It is the same level of consciousness the yogi is able to enter consciously in meditation. So the same state of higher/deeper consciousness is reached through the subconscious as through conscious meditation.

I would consider a genuine feeling of _remorse_ as something that always wells up from the subconscious. We don’t decide to be remorseful, we just are. The Theosophical Teacher K.H. says that remorse is always “proceeding from the Sixth Principle,” (“Mahatma Letters,” TUP, p. 188) – or the universal “Buddhi” in the Theosophical system of Seven Principles – so here we have a cross correspondence of what is regarded as the subconscious with the second-highest of the Theosophical seven Principles.
– – – – – – – – –

Upon reading “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” life-long Theosophist W. Emmett Small writes on Jung in his esoteric article “Jung, The After-Death State, and Rebirth” [5] :

“One of his key thoughts is that his self, our self, has several selves. Jung puts it this way in recalling a dream he had after an illness in 1944: ‘My self retires into meditation and meditates my earthly form…. assumes human shape in order to enter three-dimensional existence.’ He uses the word ‘meditate’ as a transitive verb, as though by some strange magic the human form is meditated into existence by the power of the invisible Self. To what purpose? To pass through, he suggests, ‘the experience of the three-dimensional world, and by greater awareness take a further step toward realization….'”


“What Jung speaks of as his ‘unconscious prenatal “wholeness”‘ is the Spritual Monad or Ego-part of the Thread-Self and embracing the lesser selves – in which the human Ego in its after-death state of dream or Devachan rests while that greater Self peregrinates through the celestial spheres. This seemingly marvelous mystery is more than hinted at in the Neoplatonic philosophy of Plotinus, [‘Enneads,’ III, iv, 5, ‘Our Guardian Daimon.’] …. and even more explicitly in the enunciation of the Ancient Wisdom presented by H.P. Blavatsky and G. de Purucker since the founding of The Theosophical Society in 1875.”

There are many Theosophical writers through the years trying to deal pro and con with Jung’s writings. During Blavatsky’s time Psychology was just in its infancy in the West, and there is little directly to the point. In the Aug. and Oct., 1935 “Canadian Theosophist” there is a very interesting exchange between Maude Bernard and W.F. Sutherland, and in which Bernard takes many quotes from Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” which correlate with Jung, sometimes even in language. Sutherland writes:

“It is true, as Miss Bernard points out, that Jung’s ‘unconscious’ may be considered to parallel H.P.B.’s anima mundi, and in an abstract philosophical sense it is true that ‘The Astral Light stands in the same relation to Akasa and Anima Mundi as Satan stands to the Deity – they are one and the same thing seen from two aspects.’ (S.D. I., 197) ….. And it is likewise reasonable as she also says: ‘Alaya is literally the ‘soul of the world’ or Anima Mundi, the “Over Soul” of Emerson… (S.D. I., 48.)”

1. C. Aveline, “Jung Writes Against Theosophy,” “Freud, Jung and Ethics,” “Psychology and Ethics are Inseparable,” http://www.Esoteric-Philosophy.com, http://www.filosofiaesoterica.com/ler.php?id=1878#.VxfYl9QrJ3A
2. “Memories, Dreams, Relections,” pp. 48-52, 45, 66, 68, 72, 75, 87-90, 96, 105, 107, 148, 155, 225, 234, 237.
3. “Jung Writes Against Theosophy,” Aveline, www. Esoteric-Philosophy.com, http://www.filosofiaesoterica.com/ler.php?id=1878#.VxfYl9QrJ3A
4. “Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary,” “Sleep,” Theosophical University Press, online
5. “Theosophia,” no. 95, Summer, 1963, reprinted in the “American Theosophist.”


5 thoughts on “Jung and Theosophy

  1. Nice article – Memories, Dreams, and Reflections is my favorite of his. I like Jung mainly for the excellent iconographic research – his books are nice, but I find that you read 500 pages and get fairly little of practical value – he apparently met and taiked with GRS Mead and was influenced by him – What Rudhyar did with Jung in astrology, I find more interesting than Jung’s writings themselves – the recently published Red Book has perhaps some connections with theosophical mystical expererience…


    1. I think Jung’s methods was a genuine type of approach and spiritual path, but what its limitations are and just how it synchs with Theosophy I don’t have an adequate handle on, but get an insight once in a while. Here is a link to a book I compiled from tapes about 25 years ago that I personally have gotten a lot of value from, but it is not for everyone: http://www.gatesofthemind.com/At%20Home%20With%20the%20Inner%20Self%20-%20J%20B%20.htm


      1. thanks – looks like a real interesting text – modern psychology sort of began during the early theosophical boom – so the theosophical influence is there – the importance of dreams or the dream states, as you’ve pointed out, is a strong common point – Jung’s voluminous writings are hard to avoid in twentieth century spiritual scene – lots of interesting ideas, synchronicity,etc.. although I balk at his modernism i.e. the alchemist texts are the result of unconscious projections,etc… I have one of the Bendit books, who have quite a system of Jungosophy going there and I’ve met a few theosophists who use as much Jungian terminology as theosophical – I have to appreciate the insights of modern psychology…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you out-read me (or at least if I did read them I can’t remember them anymore!) Burns was like one of those giant weeds that pop up out of nowhere. He got all his understandings from “going within” and wasn’t well-read or part of any system. “Alaya” or universal Buddhi in Blavatsky’s system might have correspondence with Jung’s Collective Unconscious. Jung obviously meets a need that people are feeling today. The race is probably undergoing some mental changes and difficulties. The internet itself certainly causes some mental changes and problems not have to have been dealt with before.


  3. Another angle on Theosophy and Depth Psychology might be Blavatsky’s statement that there are seven keys or methods, maybe paradigms, for understanding and interpreting everything esoterically. Three of these Keys are Astronomy, Geometry and the Human (SD II, pp. 291 & fn, SD II, p. 471.) She cites the Noah’s Ark story as it is found in Zorastrian literature in an interpretation using the “Human” key. The “Ark” is Man, and he carries a representative of everything within him. The microcosm within the macrocosm in Hermetic thought, or “As Above so Below.” Real Psychology, going within to see what processes are there, within the “Ark” of man, would seem to be part of the “Human” Key (along with the 7 principles.) She says the Secret Doctrine only attempted to deal with 3 or 4 of the Keys, and I believe somewhere she said she intended to write a book on Psychology if she got the time, which she didn’t. Probably most of even Depth psychology is dealing with the lower mind and the astral realm, as even it has been in development for millions of years. Joseph Campbell could have probably made much of the “Red Book” from the few images I’ve seen of it.


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