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The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga

Munich, 30 May 1930. At a memorial for his deceased colleague, the sinologist Richard Wilhelm, Jung echoed these dramatic events:

If we look to the East: an overwhelming destiny is fulfilling itself. . . .

We have conquered the East politically.

Do you know what happened, when Rome subjugated the near East politically?

The spirit of the East entered Rome. Mithras became the Roman military god. . . .

Would it be unthinkable that the same thing happened today and we would be just as blind as the cultured Romans, who marvelled at the superstitions of the Christians? . . .

I know that our unconscious is crammed with Eastern symbolism.

The spirit of the East is really ante portas. . . .

I consider the fact that Wilhelm and the Indologist Hauer were invited to lecture on yoga at this year’s congress of German psychotherapists, as an extremely significant sign of the times.

Consider what it means, when the practising doctor, having to deal directly with suffering and therefore susceptible people, establishes contact with an Eastern system
of healing! ~Carl Jung, Kundalini Seminars, Pages xvii-xviii

Inasmuch as I regard the psychoanalytical and psycho-synthetic methods likewise as means of self-improvement, your comparison with the yoga method seems thoroughly plausible to me.

It appears to me, however, as one must emphasize, that it is merely an analogy which is involved, since nowadays far too many Europeans are inclined to carry Eastern ideas and methods over unexamined into our occidental mentality.

This happens, in my opinion, neither to our advantage nor to the advantage of those ideas.

For what has emerged from the Eastern spirit is based upon the peculiar history of that mentality, which is most fundamentally different from ours. ~Carl Jung, Kundalini Seminars, Page xxi.

Jung specified his psychological understanding of tantric yoga as follows:

Indian philosophy is namely the interpretation given to the precise condition of the non-ego, which affects our personal psychology, however independent from us it remains.

It sees the aim of human development as bringing about an approach to and connection between the specific nature of the non-ego and the conscious ego.

Tantra yoga then gives a representation of the condition and the developmental phases of this impersonality, as it itself in its own way produces the light of a higher supra-personal consciousness. ~Carl Jung, Kundalini Seminars, Page xxiii

Fowler McCormick, who accompanied Jung on this trip, recalled an experience of Jung’s that had tantric overtones:

As we would go through temples of Kali, which were numerous at almost every Hindu city, we saw the evidences of animal sacrifice: the places were filthy dirty—dried blood on the floor and lots of remains of red betelnut all around, so that the colour red was associated with destructiveness.

Concurrently in Calcutta Jung began to have a series of dreams in which the colour red was stressed.

It wasn’t long before dysentery overcame Dr. Jung and I had to take him to the English hospital at Calcutta. . . .

A more lasting effect of this impression of the destructiveness of Kali was the emotional foundation it gave him for the conviction that evil was not a negative thing but a positive thing. . . . The influence of that experience in India, to my mind, was very great on Jung in his later years. ~Fowler McCormick, Kundalini Seminars, Page xxviii.

I will be silent on the meaning of yoga for India, because I cannot presume to pass judgment on something I do not know from personal experience.

I can, however, say something about what it means for the West.

Our lack of direction borders on psychic anarchy.

Therefore any religious or philosophical practice amounts to a psychological discipline, and therefore a method of psychic hygiene. ~Carl Jung, Kundalini Seminars, Page xxviii.

The Indian concepts are alien to us Westerners; most people are incapable—it is just the theosophists who prove this—of acquiring an inner relation to them.

Moreover, physiologically we are all Christians, whether our consciousness recognizes this or not.

Thus every doctrine which continues in the Christian spirit has a better chance of taking hold of our innermost being than the profoundest doctrine of foreign origin. Carl Jung, Kundalini Seminars, Page xxxi.