Carl Jung on Gnostic, Gnosticism, and Gnosis. [Anthology]

The new Gnostic churches are all new inventions of old things, like soup warmed up again, they have no direct relation. ~Carl Jung, Dream Analysis Seminar, Page 240

Gnosis, as a special kind of knowledge, should not be confused with. “Gnosticism.” ~Carl Jung, Footnote #13, Psychology and Religion, Page 45.

We find in Gnosticism what was lacking in the centuries that followed: a belief in the efficacy of individual revelation and individual knowledge. This belief was rooted in the proud feeling of man’s affinity with the gods. ~Carl Jung, Psychological Types, Page 242.

At the Reformation two things happened which upset the absolute attitude of that day: (a) Crucifixes were found in Mexico, which undermined the belief in the uniqueness of the Christian religion where the crucifixion was the central teaching, (b) The rediscovery of Gnosticism, the Dionysian myth and so forth, which showed that teachings similar to Christianity had been prevalent before the birth of Christ. ~Carl Jung; Cornwall Seminar; Page 15.

A woman is oriented towards the animus because it is the son of the unknown father, the Old Sage, whom she never comes to know. This motive is hinted at in the Gnostic texts where Sophia in her madness loves the Great Father On the other hand a man does not know the mother of the anima. She may be personified, for example, in Sophia or the seven times veiled Isis. ~Carl Jung, Conversations with C.G. Jung, Page 30.

This process of becoming human is represented in dreams and inner images as the putting together of many scattered units, and sometimes as the gradual emergence and clarification of something that was always there. The speculations of alchemy, and also of some Gnostics, revolve around this process. It is likewise expressed in Christian Dogma, and more particularly in the transformation mystery of the Mass. ~Carl Jung; “Transformation Symbolism in the Mass”; CW 11, par. 399.

I . . . have the feeling that this is a time full of marvels, and, if the auguries do not deceive us, it may very well be that . . . we are on the threshold of something really sensational, which I scarcely know how to describe except with the Gnostic concept of [Sophia], an Alexandrian term particularly suited to the reincarnation of ancient wisdom in the shape of ΨA. ~Carl Jung, The Freud/Jung Letters, Page 439.

Further, according to an early Christian-Gnostic idea, the spirit which appeared in the form of a dove was interpreted as Sophia-Sapientia—Wisdom and the Mother of Christ. Thanks to this motif of the dual birth, children today, instead of having good and evil fairies who magically “adopt” them at birth with blessings or curses, are given sponsors—a “godfather” and a “godmother.” ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung; Page 63.

The doctrine that all evil thoughts come from the heart and that the human soul is a sink of iniquity must lie deep in the marrow of their bones. Were that so, then God had made a sorry job of creation, and it were high time for us to go over to Marcion the Gnostic and depose the incompetent Demiurge. Ethically, of course, it is infinitely more convenient to leave God the sole responsibility for such a Home tor Idiot Children, where no one is capable of putting a spoon into his own mouth. But it is worth man’s while to take pains with himself, and he has something in his soul that can grow. It is rewarding to watch patiently the silent happenings in the soul, and the most and the best happens when it is not regulated from outside and from above. I readily admit that I have such a great respect for what happens in the human soul that I would be afraid of disturbing and distorting the silent operation of nature by clumsy interference. ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung; Pages 362-363.

Therefore the center of the circle which expresses such a totality would correspond not to the ego but to the self as the summation of the total personality. (The center with a circle is a very well-known allegory of the nature of God.) In the philosophy of the Upanishads the Self is in one aspect the personal atman, but at the same time it has a cosmic and metaphysical quality as the suprapersonal Atman.

We meet with similar ideas in Gnosticism: I would mention the idea of the Anthropos, the Pleroma, the Monad, and the spark of light (Spinther) in a treatise of the Codex Brucianus:

This same is he [Monogenes] who dwelleth in the Monad, which is in the Setheus, and which came from the place of which none can say where it is. . . . From Him it is the Monad came, in the manner of a ship, laden with all good things, and in the manner of a field, filled or planted with every kind of tree, and in the manner of a city, filled with all races of mankind. . . . This is the fashion of the Monad, all these being in it: there are twelve Monads as a crown upon its head. . . . And to its veil which surroundeth it in the manner of a defense. there are twelve gates. . . . I his same is the Mother-City-begotten. ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung, Page 367.

In alchemical literature this prophetess is taken to be Maria Prophetissa, also called the Jewess, sister of Moses, or the Copt, and it is not unlikely that she is connected with the Maria of Gnostic tradition. Epiphanius testifies to the existence of writings by this Maria, namely the “Interrogationes magnae” and “Interrogationes parvae,” said to describe a vision of how Christ, on a mountain, caused a woman to come forth from his side and how he mingled himself with her. ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung, Page 406.

So the union of the two is a kind of self-fertilization, a characteristic always ascribed to the mercurial dragon. From these hints it can easily be seen who the philosophical man is: he is the androgynous original man or Anthropos of Gnosticism, close parallel in India is purusha. Of him the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says: “He was as large as a man and woman embracing. He divided his self [Atman] in two, and thence arose husband and wife. He united himself with her and men were born,” etc. The common origin of these ideas lies in the primitive notion of the bisexual original man. ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung, Pages 407-408.

The Son of Man is an anticipation of the idea of the self: hence the Gnostic adulteration oi Christ with the other synonyms for the self among the Naassenes, recorded by Hippolytus. The also a connection with the symbolism of Horus: on the one hand, Christ enthroned with the four emblems o\~ the evangelists—three animals and an angel; on the other. Father Horus with his four sons, or Osiris with the four sons of Horus. Horus is also the rising sun and Christ was still worshiped as such by the early Christians. ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung, Page 443.
That there is a general interest in these matters a denied, however much it offends against good taste. I am not thinking merely of the interest taken in psychology a science, or of the still narrower interest in the analysis of Freud, but of the widespread and every interest in all sorts of psychic phenomena, including spiritualism, astrology, Theosophy, parapsychology, and so forth. The world has seen nothing like it since the end of the seventeenth century. We can compare it only to the flowering of Gnostic thought in the first and second centuries after Christ. The spiritual currents of our time have, in a deep affinity with Gnosticism. There is even an “eglise gnostique de la France,” and I know o( two schools in Germany which openly declare themselves Gnostic. The most impressive movement numerically is undoubtedly Theosophy, together with its continental sister, Anthroposophy; these are pure Gnosticism in Hindu dress. Compared with them the interest in scientific psychology is negligible. What is striking about these Gnostic systems is that they are based exclusively on the manifestations of the unconscious, and that their moral teachings penetrate into the dark side of life, as is clear!) shown by the refurbished European version of Kundalini-yoga. The same is true of parapsychology, as everyone acquainted with it will agree. ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung, Page 467.

Modern man, in contrast to his nineteenth-century brother, turns to the psyche with very great expectations, and does so without reference to any traditional creed but rather with a view to Gnostic experience. The fact that all the movements I have mentioned give themselves a scientific veneer is not just a grotesque caricature or a masquerade, but a positive sign that they are actually pursuing “science,” i.e., knowledge, instead of faith, which is the essence of the Western forms of religion. Modern man abhors faith and the religions based upon it. He holds them valid only so far as their knowledge-content seems to accord with his own experience of the psychic background. He wants to know —to experience for himself. ~Carl Jung, The Portable Jung, Pages 467-468.

I have purposely cited the ecclesiastical allegories in greater detail here, so that the reader can see how saturated Gnostic symbolism is in the language of the Church, and how, on the other hand, particularly in Origen, the liveliness of his amplifications and interpretations has much in common with Gnostic views.

Thus, to him as to many of his contemporaries and successors, the idea of the cosmic correspondence of the “spiritual inner man” was something quite familiar: in his first Homily on Genesis he says that God first created heaven, the whole spiritual substance, and that the counterpart of this is “our mind, which is itself a spirit, that is, it is our spiritual inner man which sees and knows God.” ~Carl Jung; Aion; Page 215.
The Pleroma, or fullness, is a term from Gnosticism. It played a central role in the Valentinian system. Hans Jonas states that “Pleroma is the standard term for the fully explicated manifold of divine characteristics, whose standard number is thirty, forming a hierarchy and together constituting the divine realm” (The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity [London: Routledge, 1992], p. 180).

In 1929, Jung said: “The Gnostics … expressed it as Pleroma, a state of fullness where the pairs of opposites, yea and nay; day and night, are together, then when they ‘become,’ it is either day or night. In the state of ‘promise’ before they become, they are nonexistent, there is neither white nor black, good nor bad” (Dream Analysis: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1928-1930, ed. William McGuire [Bollingen Series, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984], p. 131)

He [Man] must know something of God’s nature and of metaphysical processes if he is to understand himself and thereby achieve gnosis of the Divine. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 747.

The message of the Christian symbol is Gnosis, and the compensation effected by the unconscious is Gnosis in even higher degree.  ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Page 25.

These various formulations indicate the same being that we find in the Gnosis as the ethereal man, light and diaphanous, identical with gold, diamond, carbuncle, the Grail, and, in Indian philosophy, with the Purusha or personified as Christ or Buddha. ~Carl Jung, ETH, Page 118.

I use the word “Gnosis” intentionally, because alchemy retained, or rediscovered, a great many things which played a very important role in the early days of Christianity.  ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture V. Page 162.

The Gnosis is a disturber of the peace of the Church, but it is full of psychological truths, many yet undiscovered. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 8March1935, Pages 199.

This leads us over to the secret gnosis of the Middle Ages, when it takes the form of alchemy. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 8March1935, Pages 198

The characteristic difference is that God’s incarnation is understood to be a historical fact in the Christian belief, while in the Jewish Gnosis it is an entirely pleromatic process symbolized by the concentration of the supreme triad of Kether, Hokhmah, and Binah in the figure of Tifereth. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 91-93.

 

  1. is certainly all wet when he thinks that the Jewish Gnosis contains nothing of the Christian mystery. It contains practically the whole of it, but in its unrevealed pleromatic state. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 91-93.

 

It is your theological standpoint that is a gnosis, not my empiricism, of which you obviously haven’t the faintest inkling. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 244-245.

 

They [Symbols] are just no Gnosis, no metaphysical assertions. They are partly even futile or dubious attempts at pronouncing the ineffable. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 291.

 

In the history of Gnosis, this figure plays a great role, and every sect claims to have been founded by such a one. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 101

 

 

 

At the Reformation two things happened which upset the absolute attitude of that day: (a) Crucifixes were found in Mexico, which undermined the belief in the uniqueness of the Christian religion where the crucifixion was the central teaching, (b) The rediscovery of Gnosticism, the Dionysian myth and so forth, which showed that teachings similar to Christianity had been prevalent before the birth of Christ. ~Carl Jung; Cornwall Seminar; Page 15.

 

A woman is oriented towards the animus because it is the son of the unknown father, the Old Sage, whom she never comes to know. This motive is hinted at in the Gnostic texts where Sophia in her madness loves the Great Father On the other hand a man does not know the mother of the anima. She may be personified, for example, in Sophia or the seven times veiled Isis. ~Carl Jung, Conversations with C.G. Jung, Page 30.

 

This process of becoming human is represented in dreams and inner images as the putting together of many scattered units, and sometimes as the gradual emergence and clarification of something that was always there. The speculations of alchemy, and also of some Gnostics, revolve around this process. It is likewise expressed in Christian Dogma, and more particularly in the transformation mystery of the Mass. ~Carl Jung; “Transformation Symbolism in the Mass”; CW 11, par. 399.

 

I . . . have the feeling that this is a time full of marvels, and, if the auguries do not deceive us, it may very well be that . . . we are on the threshold of something really sensational, which I scarcely know how to describe except with the Gnostic concept of [Sophia], an Alexandrian term particularly suited to the reincarnation of ancient wisdom in the shape of ΨA. ~Carl Jung, The Freud/Jung Letters, Page 439

 

We find in Gnosticism what was lacking in the centuries that followed: a belief in the efficacy of individual revelation and individual knowledge. This belief was rooted in the proud feeling of man’s affinity with the gods. ~Carl Jung, Psychological Types, Page 242.

 

The idea of angels, archangels, “principalities and powers” in St. Paul, the archons of the Gnostics, the heavenly hierarchy of Dionysius the Areopagite, all come from the perception of the relative autonomy of the archetypes. ~Carl Jung, CW 7, Page 66, Para 104.

 

For my private use I call the sphere of paradoxical existence, i.e., the instinctive unconscious, the Pleroma , a term borrowed from Gnosticism.  ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 59-63.

 

It is of course extremely difficult, in judging Gnostic images, to tell how much is genuine inner experience and how much is philosophical superstructure. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 553-554.

 

Behind Gretchen stands the Gnostic sequence: Helen-Mary-Sophia. They represent a real Platonic world of ideas (thinking and sensation on the mystic level).  ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 264-266.

 

The serpent is a Gnostic symbol for the spinal cord and the basal ganglia, because a snake is mainly backbone. ~Carl Jung, ETH, Lecture XI, Page 97.

 

The snake is a personification of the unconscious, for, as early as the Gnostics, it was used as a symbol for the spinal cord and the basal ganglia, where the vegetative psyche is localized.  ~Carl Jung, ETH, Lecture XIII, Page 111.

 

Since the time of the old Gnostics, the serpent has been the symbol for the brain and its appendages; that is, for the lower centres of the brain and for the spinal cord, partly on account of its shape, but also from introspective reasons. ~Carl Jung, ETH, Alchemy, Page 216.

 

Christianity really arose from the spirit of Gnosticism, but came into conflict with it later, because the Gnostics threatened to dissolve Christianity with their philosophical  speculations.  ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture V. Page 162.

 

I use the word “Gnosis” intentionally, because alchemy retained, or rediscovered, a great many things which played a very important role in the early days of Christianity.  ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture V. Page 162.

 

These signs appear in Gnosticism, St. Paul’s sayings are undoubtedly connected with Gnosticism. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 8March1935, Pages 199.

 

On Gnostic gems we find the symbol of the vase, the vase of sin. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 8March1935, Pages 199.

 

Anthropos: Original or primordial man, an archetypal image of wholeness in alchemy, religion and Gnostic philosophy. There is in the unconscious an already existing wholeness, the “homo totus” of the Western and the Chên-yên (true man) of Chinese alchemy, the round primordial being who represents the greater man within, the Anthropos, who is akin to God. ~Carl Jung, CW 14, par. 152.

 

My whole life I have worked to know the soul and these people [Valentinian Gnostics] already knew it. ~Carl Jung to Gilles Quispel, Meeting with Jung, Page 150.

 

Looked at theologically, my concept of the anima, for instance, is pure Gnosticism; hence I am often classed among the Gnostics. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 460.

 

It is certainly remarkable that my critics, with few exceptions, ignore the fact that, as a doctor and scientist, I proceed from facts which everyone is at liberty to verify. Instead, they criticize me as if I were a philosopher, or a Gnostic with pretensions to supernatural knowledge. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 461.

 

Behind Gretchen stands the Gnostic sequence: Helen-Mary-Sophia. They represent a real Platonic world of ideas (thinking and sensation on the mystic level ). ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Page 265.

 

That Buber has a bad conscience arises from the fact that he only publishes his letters, but does not grant me a fair representation because I am just a Gnostic and at the same time he has no idea about what motivated the Gnostic. ~Jung to Neumann Correspondence, 30 Jan 1954.

 

I have been alternately accused of agnosticism, atheism, materialism and mysticism. ~Carl Jung, Wounded Healer of the Soul, Page 207.

 

They [Gnostics] were concerned with the problem of archetypes, and made a peculiar philosophy of it. ~Carl Jung, Evans Conversations, Page 17.

 

Gnosticism was stamped out completely and its remnants are so badly mangled that special study is needed to get any insight at all into its inner meaning. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Page 97.

 

I postulate the psyche as something real. But this hypothesis can hardly be called “gnostic” any more than the atomic theory can. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 53-55.

 

But I wonder how it comes that so many people think I am a gnostic while equally many others accuse me of being an agnostic. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 53-55.

 

Unfortunately I have no copy of the letter to the Prot. Theologian. But I will send you an offprint of my answer to Buber who has called me a Gnostic. He does not understand psychic reality. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 61.

 

I therefore don’t quite understand how you can smell “gnostic” arrogance in this attitude. In strictest contrast to Gnosticism and theology, I confine myself to the psychology of anthropomorphic ideas and have never maintained that I possess the slightest trace of metaphysical knowledge. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 64-65.

 

It is evident that Buber has a bad conscience, as he publishes only his letters and does not represent me fairly, since I am a mere Gnostic, though he hasn’t the faintest idea of what the Gnostic was moved by. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 64-65.

 

I would abandon the term “Gnostic” without compunction were it not a swearword in the mouths of theologians. They accuse me of the very same fault they commit themselves: presumptuous disregard of epistemological barriers. . ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 147.

 

Nobody would assume that the biological pattern is a philosophical assumption like the Platonic idea or a Gnostic hypostasis. The same is true of the archetype. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 152.

 

You overlook the facts and then think that the name is the fact, and thus you reach the nonsensical conclusion that I hypostatize ideas and am therefore a “Gnostic.” ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 245.

 

Considering that the light of Christ is accompanied by the “dark night of the soul” that St. John of the Cross spoke about, and by what the Gnostics of lrenaeus called the umbra Christi, which is identical with the chthonic aspect mentioned above, the life of Christ is identical in us, from the psychological point of view, with the unconscious tendency toward individuation. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 268.

 

Somehow, as the Gnostics surmised, we have “collected” ourselves from out of the cosmos. That is why the idea of “gathering the seeds of light” played such an important role in their systems and in Manichaeism. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 268.

 

Buber has been led astray by a poem in Gnostic style I made 44 years ago for a friend’s birthday celebration (a private print!), a poetic paraphrase of the psychology of the unconscious. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 571.

 

There is no reason whatever to assume that all so-called psychic phenomena are illusory effects of our mental processes. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 333-334.

 

In strictest contrast to Gnosticism and theology, I confine myself to the psychology of an thropomorphic ideas and have never maintained that I possess the slightest trace of metaphysical knowledge. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 64-65.

 

But becoming Man, he becomes at the same time a definite being, which is this and not that.  Thus the very first thing Christ must do is to sever himself from his shadow and call it the devil (sorry, but the Gnostics of Irenaeus already knew it!). ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 133-138

 

You overlook the facts and then think that the name is the fact, and thus you reach the nonsensical conclusion that I hypostatize ideas and am therefore a “Gnostic.” ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 244-245.

 

It seems to me one more proof of the overweening gnostic tendency in philosophical thinking to ascribe to God qualities which are the product of our own anthropomorphic formulations. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 254-256.

 

Mythology as a vital psychic phenomenon is as necessary as it is unavoidable. In this discussion, it seems to me, the gnostic danger of ousting the unknowable and incomprehensible and unutterable God by philosophems and mythologems must be clearly recognized, so that nothing is shoved in between human consciousness and the primordial numinous experience. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 254-256.

 

Somehow, as the Gnostics surmised, we have “collected” ourselves from out of the cosmos. That is why the idea of “gathering the seeds of light  played such an important role in their systems and in Manichaeism. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Page 563.

 

It is the famous symbolism of the vessel, a symbolism that survives till 1925—see Parsifal. It is the Holy Grail, called the Vase of Sin (see King: The Gnostics and Their Remains). Also it is a symbol of the early Gnostics. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 107

 

What Buber misunderstands as Gnosticism is psychiatric observation, of which he obviously knows nothing. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 570-573