C. G. Jung and Numinosity

Copyright © Michael W. Clark
All rights reserved.

This essay was written in 1994 at the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

My thinking has matured since that time but I post it here (with some minor edits) for its sound coverage of Jung’s ideas and for its extensive asides.

When citing this essay please use one of the standard citation styles for online sources.


In the Beginning…God said, “Let there be light”

~ Genesis 1-3

This paper will outline the significance of numinosity in C. G. Jung’s analytical psychology and, by implication, its relevance for those who may be termed, ‘persons of numinosity.’ It will be suggested, ala Jung, that both the positive and negative aspects of numinosity may be potentially useful for human psychological and spiritual development. Last, Jung’s stance on inflation and numinosity will be applied and contrasted to the Christian – especially Catholic – view of numinosity as spiritual influence.

* * *

Jung’s use of numinosity is modified from its long standing roots in the etymological tree. According to The Encyclopedia of Religion,(1) Numinosity is adapted from the Latin term numen, based on the Indo-European root neu-, from which the similar Greek term, neuma, arose.(2) Numen is further derived from the verbs adnuere and abnuere which respectively translate to “agree with a nod of the head” and “refuse with a nod in the head;” the term therefore has encoded within its linguistic past a dual meaning which as we shall see, is reflected in Jung’s definition of numinosity.

Before we look at Jung, however, mention of the German scholar, Rudolf Otto, is essential. Otto popularized the term numinosity*(3) [fn* A similar form was used by philosopher Immanuel Kant (see endnote 3)] in his ‘classic'(4) The Idea of the Holy,(5) which bears the test of time perhaps partly due to Otto’s travels in the Asian subcontinent and his knowledge of Sanskrit, the language which Indian scholars claim is phonetically suited to communicate the experience of the numinous.(6) As a Lutheran interested in the mystical aspects of Martin Luther’s life, however, Otto reveals a distinct bias for his own tradition; while for Otto the Judeo-Christian tradition contains a mature, “supreme and unparalleled”(7) form of religious mysticism, he suggests experience of the numinous may not be confined to it.

In defining numinosity, Otto designates it as an actual and powerful aspect of religion. That is, unlike his French contemporary, Emile Durkheim,(8 ) who saw religious experience as a fundamentally biological, emotional “effervescence” generated by socio-religious rites and rituals,(9) Otto terms the numinous in the converse—not in the Durkheimian ‘below to above’ (essential ‘ground of being’ resting in the physical, empirical world), but in an ‘above to below’ mode (essential ground in a non-physical, supramundane locus or loci). This “science/religion” dichotomy,(10) initiated perhaps at the dawn of human history,(11) is continued throughout social and intellectual history and remains today with diverse paradigms and systems of approach co-existing – often uneasily – within the international political, denominational, and pedagogical spheres: i.e. in the overall societal scene.(12)

For Otto, the numinous does not replace, but supplements and vivifies the socio-structures of religion. Otto describes the numinous as an awe-filled encounter with ultimate reality (UR).(13) UR is designated by Otto as a mysterium tremendum(14) and a majestus(15) as it is experienced as a powerful sentient force, worthy of utmost respect. It inspires not only awe, but also fear. While the subject is urgently attracted to this ineffable source of creation, it may in some instances frighten, humble and ‘purify.’ Otto also notes subjects may perceive some sense of creaturely wretchedness and unworthiness, standing naked, as it were, in the face of a great and powerful, “wholly other”(16) UR-Creator-God.(17)

This is Otto’s version of UR as found within Christianity. The numinous, however, may take an ‘inferior,’ ‘dark’ form; for Otto, this is found in other religious systems and in pantheism.(18 ) The human psychological experience of the presence of a ‘lesser’ pagan god may translate into an impressive instance of numinosity, but not necessarily equal in character and quality to the Christian variety.(19) This rather basic distinction of Otto’s is important, for Jung too makes a somewhat elementary distinction between types of numinosity, and like Otto, he too displays what I shall term a ‘Christocentric’ preference.

Jung’s concept of numinosity is essential to the dynamic of change and growth within his model of the Self.(20) According to Jung, through what he metaphorically describes as an ‘alchemical'(21) process, the Self undergoes something akin to the ordeal of a lobster, or the dismemberment of Osiris—it ‘dies,’ ‘cooks,’ ‘boils,’ is torn apart, and yet through numinosity it is also properly cooked or reconfigured; in psychological parlance, it is restored to a new and balanced sense of life, what Jung terms ‘wholeness.'(22) Jung adapts Otto’s definition of numinosity to refer to unusual, non-ordinary or heightened modes of psychological awareness. To fully understand Jung’s development of the term numinosity, however, we must briefly look at his notion of the archetype.(23)

The archetype acts as an underlying organizing principle where constellations of collectively unconscious libido(24) impulses are rendered into recognizable and meaningful gestalts to be grasped by the human ego. According to Jung

Archetypes, so far as we can observe and experience them at all, manifest themselves only through their ability to organize images and ideas, and this will always be an unconscious process which cannot be detected until afterward.(25)

Jung differentiates the archetypal image from the archetype itself by suggesting the archetype proper is never amenable to representation(26) and cannot reach ego consciousness.(27) The diverse ‘crystal lattice’ structures of the archetypes are represented through various archetypal images and ideas.(28 ) These imagos are expressed in art, architecture, religion – i.e, human civilization – and are individually experienced either in dream or waking consciousness with corresponding ‘feeling values.’ It is these feeling values which may take the form of the ‘numinous.’

For Jung, the precipitating object of numinosity may be externally or inwardly perceived stimuli. In the latter, the object is not immediately subject to verification through observable consensus.(29)

The numinosum is either a quality belonging to a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness.(30)

Thus not perceptible in itself, one of the hallmarks of the archetype’s influence on the ego is numinosity.

Numinosity from archetypal experience may appear simply destructive, but if properly guided through the analytical, or some other functional process, it aids the individuation process of the Self. Success for, and the uniquely individual outcome of, individuation depends on many factors. One’s cultural location – to include gender, ethnic, and socio-economic status – to a large extent influences the optimal relation between the numinous and the ego.(31)

For Westerners, then, if regulated and made conscious by the ego, Jung says archetypal numinosity is enriching; on the negative side, it may invoke regression or a host of other psychological maladies.(32) Concerning one of these, Jungian inflation, I would like to elaborate on its relation to numinosity. For this, Jung’s account of inflation is useful:

An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with…inflation is a regression of consciousness into unconsciousness(33)

Elsewhere(34) I have noted the monumental role the ego plays in mediating the various internal and external demands of the psyche/world continuum as postulated by Jung’s theory. While inflation represents one of the dangers involved in the individuation process, Jung says it should not be confused with conscious self-aggrandizement.(35) Inflation is entirely hidden and unconscious. The distinguishing feature is the subject’s ability or inability to “discriminate” between conscious and unconscious contents, which for Jung is the “sin qua non of all consciousness.”(36)

In comparison with the Christian aspiring towards the ideal of perfection instead of completeness, in this instance the power of discrimination does not vanish; it is, however, altered and renamed. Discrimination becomes ‘discernment’ (“the gift for judging spirits”)(37) and instead of ‘discriminating’ between consciousness and unconsciousness, certain sectors of Christian faith(38 ) contend the ego ‘discerns’ between things good (of God) and evil (of Satan). This discernment ideally takes place both within one’s own self and towards other selves. That is, the true discerner recognizes the influence of evil spirits within her or his own consciousness and has also been given the ability to recognize this dynamic in others.(39)

Unfortunately this monochromatic world view is contradicted within both the parameters of Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular. The Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian and United Churches disagree on key and fundamental issues – for example the role of women, lesbians/dikes, and gays/queers(40) in the “good vs. evil” diad – and the Catholic Church which claims legitimate authority to deliver a chosen portion of individuals to salvation through discernment itself lacks integration, and despite its newly released catechism, is rife with internal disagreement, sometimes taking the form of protectionism and other alleged issues.(41)

The official Papal response to such failings asserts that faulty praxis does not invalidate infallible doctrine. That is, it attempts to incorporate evil within the original premises of Catholicism, these being reinforced by various ‘church-verified’ apparitional appearances said to have emanated from Mary, the Madonna.* [fn* At Mudjegorje the apparitions but not the messages are authorized by the church. The overall discourse, nonetheless, is important to Catholic belief and practice]. In essence, these alleged contemporary manifestations of Mary inform believers, “excuse me for this, but you must realize that Satan exists”…this is “the hour of Satan.”(42) To summarize the discourse reportedly given to Mirjana Dragicevic at Medjugorje:

Lucifer went to God’s throne and asked permission to unleash his minions of evil – demons – throughout the Church for one century [ours]. God granted his evil and fallen archangel such license so as to submit the Church to a period of trial and to fulfil Old and New Testament scripture for ultimately good reasons impossible to mortal comprehension.(43)

Satan, Catholics(44) now believe, is present in the Church. His evil influence makes the importance of discernment even greater than before, where the church apparently could be relied on for ‘good counsel.'(45)

If Satan has just recently infiltrated the church, internal myopia to the greed and horrors of the crusades, inquisitions and political poisonings makes Jung and specifically, inflation, again relevant. The Catholic discernment of evil spirits adhering to the true self is loosely analogous to Jung’s differentiation of the shadow from mature ego consciousness. From Jung’s standpoint, however, rather than being “wise like serpents and harmless as doves,”(46) Catholics are the opposite. They are hypnotized by their own unconsciousness, and their ‘discernments’ emerge from within the bounds of a relatively small archetypal area—that is, they are unwittingly fixated in an unconscious type and must view everything external from within the ‘borders’ of that socio-psychological structure, or ‘space’ (a space created by highly intransigent, more or less rigid and largely inert rules and regulations).(47) Interestingly, they retain ego consciousness, but as Jung suggests, it seems limited and un-whole,(48 ) at times discerning between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ on what from a scholarly perspective seems not merely insipid, but unethical and perhaps even clannishly destructive. Consider ex-journalist and Catholic Michael H. Brown’s lamentations concerning the influence of Satan in postwar popular culture:

Instead of Yoruba drums, we had movies, the stereo, the television. One of the hit TV shows was called Bewitched.(49)

As exemplifying the careless – or perhaps careful – selectivity of the Catholic approach, Brown overlooks the fact that the Yoruba themselves distinguish between good and evil,(50) that stereos and televisions may be used to further one’s relation to a believed in God (for surely that same Catholic-defined omniscient God directs all of creation), and concerning Bewitched, he also overlooks the fact that the protagonist, ‘Samantha,’ was depicted as a good witch who declined to use her powers unless absolutely necessary—usually as a countermeasure to her meddling Mother, Endora.(51) While Judeo-Christian saints and wonder-workers with similar powers emphasise personal humility, attributing all agency to God, Brown disregards the NT statement of “ye are gods.”(52) For the NT Son of God himself says the ‘gods’ may act as he does—in the service of the creator-God.(53) Regarding the possibility of miraculous abilities, Jung would contend such ‘powers’ originate from an archetype.(54) In occidental societies that often misconstrue numinosity as indicative of deviance, popular depictions of unearthly abilities – as in Bewitched – could inspire personal and mass acceptance of the potentially numinous aspects of psychological growth.*(55) [fn* See my graduate paper, “Synchronicity: Carl Jung, Consciousness and Chance” for Dr. Naomi R. Goldenberg at the University of Ottawa (April, 1994:10) re the temporary utility of inflation for the traumatized personal unconscious. I would suggest that personal complexes created in the childhood/family/significant-other spheres and deposed to the ‘personal’ unconscious ultimately stem from both interpersonal and collective-historical forces of human development. That is, a seemingly personal cumulative trauma may be transmitted – unconsciously – to progeny, throughout generations (studies of child molestation demonstrate a statistically high percentage of repeated generational abuse. And if not physically repeated, it may be psychologically)]

Concerning inflation, Jung links it to numinosity when it evokes the experience of an archetype. Although rendered in a philosophical-scientific code for acceptance for a primarily scientific audience, Jung’s “archetype” is alternately represented within other discursive areas – both positively and negatively – by such competing terms as ‘ghost’ ‘spirit,’ ‘god,’ ‘Devil,’ and ‘God,'(56) to note a just a few. And with Jung’s division of the archetypal ‘image’ from the ‘archetype proper,’ theological philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine likewise suggest that ‘angels’ manifest themselves in forms recognizable to humans, yet not in accordance with their true unmanifest angelic character,(57) which is comparable – but not identical -to Jung’s description of the archetypal image—a numinous psychological content which mediates a tension of opposites via the ‘transcendent function,’ leading the ego but never fully connecting it to the ‘psychoid’ aspect of the archetype. However, Jung’s recency does not instantly provide his ideas a higher degree of accuracy over Aquinas’ ideas, or any other so-called ‘great’ thought. This fallacy of chronological progress over linear time(58 ) is often used to justify scholarly emphasis on “current thought” while valuable insights from the past may be overlooked or simply and unknowingly reiterated.

At any rate, to close with a challenge to, instead of a mere summary of, Jung’s thoughts on numinosity, the Indian guru and the Judeo-Christian nun, monk, saint, or religious/spiritually-minded lay-person offer alternatives to Jung’s view. Here a human individual is, as Max Weber puts it, “empowered to distribute grace,” and to some extent sanctified – and/or rejected(59) – by others. In this interactive model, the Jungian shadow contents, or in the Catholic sense, ‘hindering spirits’ and ‘demons’ are transferred from the afflicted person to an apparently benevolent religious who in the process of prayer, ritual and/or concentration on God (or some godly manifestation of God) rids her or himself – and by implication, the first person – of the evil and is propelled to a higher level of self-knowledge.(60) We could imagine such a system of reciprocal yet upwardly sequential sanctification to increase endlessly, or near endlessly up to the heavens (as the OT account of Jacob’s Ladder might be interpreted to indicate).(61)

A tentative parallel of this to Jungian thought is found in his distinction between devouring (regressive or inflatory) and nurturing (healing, purifying and/or humbling)(62) types of numinosity, and Jung mentions, if in a comparatively underdeveloped way, the possibility of an interactive, interpersonal dynamic to numinosity.(63) Yet while the other-worldly theodicean doctrine of St. Irenaeus views ‘necessary evil’ as something that propels believers towards an eternal afterlife in a paradisal heaven, Jung suggests in a more worldly vein that if regulated, the entire ‘alchemical’ process of both devouring and nurturing archetypal numinosity is conducive to individuation in this world. Moreover, while many Catholics(64) might see the numinous influences of various archetypes as the workings of evil gods, Jung suggests these ‘lesser gods’ may be integrated within his concept of the Self as a psychic totality, consisting of the conjunctio oppositorium. As Jung sees it:

On account of his sinlessness Christ…lives in the Platonic realm of pure ideas whither only man’s thoughts can reach but not he himself in his totality.(65)

* * *

This brief survey of the various goals and orientations of Jungian and religious models of the psyche will be developed in subsequent work. The key, and it must be stressed, general difference, however, seems to be an increased concern for one’s afterlife status in most religious models,(66) while Jung emphasizes this-worldly life, describing it as a possible but unproved(67) precursor to other-worldly afterlife.

With his discussion on numinosity, Jung continues the ongoing science vs. religion debate noted at the outset. As a psychologist, he hopes to harness the psychological power and grace of the numinous by appropriating philosophies and religions of antiquity. By so doing he attempts to straddle positivist and mystical methodologies as most of his cosmological data suggest a temporal, effete, earthly ‘becoming’ which undergirds, supports,(68 ) or precedes finer afterlife realms of ‘true being.'(69) Thus claiming to use but extending positivism to the edge of the ineffable, Jung echoes Plato’s view on life as something of a ‘preparation’ for death—that is, new life in an eternal world of Forms.(70)


1) The Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 11, Mircea Eliade ed. (New York: Macmillan Pub. Co., 1987: 21-22, 178 ).

2) Daryl Sharp, C. G. Jung Lexicon (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1991: 92).

3) Immanuel Kant’s realm of the noumena is ineffable in itself but ‘practically’ known by the “intelligible order of things” in the world of phenomena. Immanuel Kant cited in Roger Scruton, A Short History of Modern Philosophy: From Descartes to Wittgenstein (London: Ark Paperbacks 1984: 157).

4) See endnote 20(a) and (b).

5) Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, John W. Harvey, trans. (London: Oxford University Press, 1973 (1923)).

6) Ibid., 192-193.

7) Ibid., 142.

8 ) Durkheim was the first Jew admitted to the Catholic École Normal Superieure in France.

9) Originally a Jew, Durkheim converted to Catholicism. In his theoretical work, however, he argued the ‘science’ of sociology could justifiably describe religious and economic activity as ‘social facts.’ See the discussion on ‘totemism’ in Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, Joseph Ward Swain trans. (London: Allen & Unwin 1964).

10) P. D. Ouspensky suggests this split may be traced to the ‘Scholastic’ philosophy of Aristotelian logic where truth was approached by reasoning from “seemingly incontestable premises,” vs. the “more or less occult” approach of Platonic and Pythagorian schools apparently derived from Egyptian philosophy (the ‘Hermetic’ philosophy founded by Hermes Trismegistus). P. D. Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe (New York: Vintage Books, 1971 (1931): 196).

11) Perhaps cave-persons debated the relative importance of sketching gods on cave walls versus tool-making and hunting. Likely, the two were seen as intertwined—i.e. the ‘god’ represented on the wall was also believed to inspire (via spiritual influence) technological inventions. Whether or not the cave-persons saw it as such, or if this indeed was so, is open to debate.

12) On the ‘scientific’ side of the spectrum, current studies link specific types of numinous experience to physio-biological alterations. Henry James, for example, notes a relationship between neuroendocrine activity, emotion, and the religious archetype. He suggests early family/social events engender biological “triggers” that internally enhance psychological experience during such “sacred moments” as mother-infant bonding. In the event of psychic trauma, access to emotions and archetypes [Jung postulates these as biologically encoded] is inhibited. See Henry P. James, “Religious Experience, Archetypes and the Neurophysiology of Emotions” Zygon, 1986 Mar Vol 21(1) 47-74 in PsycLIT Database, American Psychological Assn. (1987). Disregarding the reference to archetypes, James’ study may be partially explained by Freudian theory. Freud, himself a neurologist, precursed the notion of afferent and efferent neurons with his theory of defence mechanisms. For Freud trauma blocks libidinal energy and in fact re-directs it to protect the stricken area through the defence mechanism of repression or any one of the various other types of defences which stem from and/or are elaborations of this ‘master’ mechanism. Notes from undergraduate course conducted by Dr. Donald Carveth (York University: Fall, 1981). While Jung is often seen as underemphasizing what he terms the personal unconscious, he does point out that an undifferentiated personal unconscious will distort one’s perceptions of an essential archetypal purity, and potentially project the distortion onto objects in one’s surroundings. C. G. Jung, Alchemical Studies in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 13, 348; and C. G. Jung, in Sharp, Jung Lexicon, 104.

13) The term ‘ultimate reality’ is borrowed from the Christian scholar, Joachim Wach, who separates religious from magical experience: The former is a continuous (yet with intermittences) response to a “powerful, comprehensive, shattering, and profound” experience of UR that must simultaneously involve the hierarchical elements of intellect, affect, and volition, and which leads to definite and imperative action, while the latter is a mere series of “unconnected thrills.” Interestingly, Wach’s ‘action’ includes contemplation, and in distinguishing this from slothful indifference, Wach notes William James’ pragmatism: “Our practice is the only sure evidence even to ourselves, that we are genuinely Christians.” In Joachim Wach, The Comparative Study of Religions, Joseph M. Kitagawa ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958: 31-35).

14) Otto, The Idea of the Holy, 12.

15) Ibid., 19.

16) Ibid., 25-27, 28.

17) Ibid., 8-49.

18 ) Ibid., 29, 31-33.

19) Ibid., 142.

20) (a) Various current publications on numinosity seem to reinforce both Otto and, as we shall see, Jung’s position. This is impressive for both Otto and Jung, who could be seen as the ‘Founding Fathers’ [see (b) below] for the discursive formulation of an apparently non-discursive phenomenon. In comparing the near-death experience to the numinosum, for instance, Sally Leighton argues a high degree of similarity. Sally M. Leighton, “God and the God Image,” Journal of Near-Death Studies, 1991 Sum Vol. 9(4) 233-246 in PsycLIT Database APA (1992). Likewise, in contrast to the experience of artists, Paul Pruyser suggests aspects of the artistic process may relate to the numinous element of religious experience, yet the latter apparently has a unique and indivisible quality not found in the former. Paul W. Pruyser, “Lessons from Art Theory for the Psychology of Religion,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1976 Mar Vol. 15(1) 1-14 in PsycLIT Database APA (1976). In this connection, William Henkin describes a personal semi-conscious encounter with a numinous female figure which later fostered his artistic creativity. William A. Henkin, “Two Non-Ordinary Experiences of Reality and their Integration,” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1983 Vol. 15(2) 137-142 in PsycLIT Database APA (1985). From this it would seem the numinous spawns creativity and not the converse. (b)Feminist scholars point out that most intellectual and social history is written within a patriarchal context (attributed to men, by men, from a male perspective), and does not credit novel ideas to women by largely ignoring their contributions, persepectives, and actual accounts (except a salient few, such as Joan of Arc).

21) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 427-428.

22) Not to be confused with the Christian sense of the term, wholeness. As described more fully in pp. 5-7, Christian ‘wholeness’ implies complete rejection of all ‘evil’ and the reception of a new level of existential grace to be carried into afterlife, while Jung’s term advocates an at times volatile integration of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to realistically combat the pressures of earthly life, and to prevent the projection of one’s shadow onto others.

23) The three paragraphs following this note have been modified from my unpublished graduate paper “Ego, Archetype and Self: C. G. Jung and Modernity” for Dr. Naomi R. Goldenberg at the University of Ottawa (May, 1993:2-3).

24) Jung’s definition of libido has been critically assessed in my unpublished paper, “Plumbing the Depths: Carl Jung, Freud and Hinduism” for Dr. N. Goldenberg, Graduate Studies in Religious Studies, University of Ottawa. Jung defines libido as: …an energy value which is able to communicate itself to any field of activity whatsoever, be it power, hunger, hatred, sexuality, or religion, without ever being a specific instinct. Jung, Symbols of Transformation in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 5, 137.

25) Ibid, 231.

26) C. G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 8, 214. Jung seems to overlook the fact that the words he writes are a type of representation.

27) Ibid, 213. Granted Jung’s formulation of archetypal images and ideas, we must still ask: if the numinosity of the archetypal image or idea originates from the archetype, is not the ego at least dimly aware of that archetypal source which it ‘feels’?

28 ) Ibid, 214.

29) Jung claims to have to overcome the problem of consensus by correlating a vast amount of what he interprets as analogous dream and mythological material. As only a select few dreams were published, we are impelled to trust he did indeed observe a great number of them. See Jung, Psychology and Alchemy in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 12, 46.

30) C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion: West and East in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 11, 7.

31) Ibid, 205.

32) C. G. Jung, Civilization in Transition in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 10, 237.

33) Jung, The Collected Works Vol. 12, 480-481.

34) Unpublished graduate paper “Ego, Archetype and Self” (2, 9-10).

35) In a similar vein, Joseph Campbell argues that cultural notions of God’s (or gods’) immanence may take the form of mythic identification (ego absorbed by spirit), mythic inflation (spirit overcome by aggrandized ego), mythic subordination (ego is instrument of spirit) or mythic dissociation (ego has a ‘relationship’ with God). Whether or not the examples Campbell provides to support these categories indeed reflect actual social-historical conditions remains open to question. See Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology (New York: Penguin Books, 1962: 80, 101-107).

36) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 12, 480-481.

37) Michael H. Brown, Prayer of the Warrior (Milford, OH: Faith Publishing Co., 1993: 193).

38 ) Michael Brown being an excellent example.

39) Compare to Jung’s definition of ‘demonism.’ As Jung contends: Demonism (synonomous with daemonomania=possession) denotes a peculiar state of mind characterized by the fact that certain psychic contents, the so-called complexes, take over the control of the total personality in place of the ego, at least temporarily, to such a degree that the free will of the ego is suspended. In certain of these states ego-consciousness is present, in others it is eclipsed. C. G. Jung, The Symbolic Life in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 18, 648.

40) In citing 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 and Romans 1:26,27, Catholic writer Michael H. Brown views homosexuality as possession by a contrasexual spirit or spirits. See Brown, Prayer, 180-186.

41) To the point of sheltering numerous priest and brother child molesters from public notice and other allegations. Brown, Prayer 129-131. We must remember that the only publicly verified allegations are about sex abuse and sheltering offenders. All the rest outlined by Brown in Prayer remain mere allegations strongly denied by the Vatican (Michael Clark, November 2, 2008 ).

42) Brown, Prayer, 67-68.

43) Ibid.

44) My observations on “Catholics” are in part from an ongoing participant observational study conducted for approximately 1 year, in both Ottawa and Toronto. This involved ‘undercover’ practice as a pseudo Catholic (as far as Papally permitted for non-Catholics) and interviews with several priests, the Vicar General of Ottawa, a current Cistercian monk, an ex-Franciscan monk, and with various laity in bookstores, churches, and devotional outlets.

45) A major 20th century and ‘Church-approved’ mystic, Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska writes in the context of confession, now re-termed reconciliation: “A priest who is not at peace with himself will not be able to inspire peace in another soul.” Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of the Servant of God Sister M. Faustina Kowalska (Stockbridge, Mass.: Marian Press, 1987: 38 ). This rather heroic statement made by a 1920’s convent nun implies one should regulate the openness of one’s confidences in confession according to the purity of the priest—perhaps a truism for secular individuals confiding amongst themselves. If uttered in the medieval era, Faustina likely would have been branded as a witch, tortured by trial, and executed for heresy, in accordance with legitimized church practice. See Stuart Gordon, The Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends (London: Headline House, 1993: 735-737).

46) Matt. 10:16

47) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 109-200.

48 ) Ibid.

49) (a) Brown, Prayer 103. This type of cultural and individual scapegoating is hardly unprecedented. See J. G. Frazer, “The Transference of Evil,” “The Public Expulsion of Evils” and “On Scapegoats in General” in The Golden Bough, abridged (London: Papermac, 1987: 538-582).

50) Ulli Beier, ed. Yoruba Myths (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980).

51) Endora embodies the Jungian ‘trickster’ archetype: not evil, but mischievous ultimately to a good end.

52) John 10:34; Brown, Prayer, 149.

53) John, 10:34.

54) In less contemporary terms, Greek pre-Socratics believed this power emanated from a ‘god’ (in the OT sense of pagan ‘gods’) and operated in the service of a master deity, Zeus. This idea is repeated in Virgil where various superhuman beings must inevitably “submit to the divine will.” Virgil, The Aeneid, Betty Radice and Robert Baldick eds. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1956: 133).

55) (a) Using abstract mathematics to argue the limits of rationalistic materialism, Robin Robertson argues that common, ‘physical reality’ is no more nor less actual than common ‘mystical realities.’ Robin Robertson. “Godel and Jung: The Twilight of Rational Consciousness?” in Psychological Perspectives, Fall Vol. 18/2, 1987: 304-318 in PsycLIT Database APA, 1988. (b) Jung defines the numinous as if it occurs rarely, yet seems to imply its recurrence throughout his own and the life of his patients. See Daniel Hoy, “Numinous Experience, Frequent or Rare?” in Journal of Analytical Psychology, Jan. Vol. 28/1, 1983: 17-32 in PsycLIT Database APA, 1983.

56) Vera M. Buhrmann suggests occidental fear of the numinous has lead to its general rejection, with acceptance only in highly circumscribed social contexts—such as Jungian analysis. Vera M. Buhrmann’s “correspondence” to Daniel Hoy [see endnote 55 (b)] in Journal of Analytical Psychology Jan: Vol. 29/1 1984:79-80 in PsycLIT Database APA, 1985.

57) See St. Thomas Aquinas, “Whether Angels Assume Bodies” in The Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Anton C. Pegis ed. (New York: Random House, 1945:493) where it is argued angels intercede via imagination -Jung’s archetypal image – or in bodily form. St. Augustine makes a simpler distinction between angelic ‘celestial’ and ‘earthly’ bodies. St. Augustine, On the Free Choice of the Will, Anna S. Benjamin and L. H. Hackstaff, trans. (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril Co., 1984:114).

58 ) See the discussion on temporality in my unpublished graduate paper “Synchronicity: Carl Jung, Consciousness and Chance” for Dr. Naomi R. Goldenberg, at the University of Ottawa (April, 1994:8 ).

59) (a) Weber notes in his treatment of prophets that miraculous powers are said to originate from the godhead; the socio-political system and the specific nature of the prophet, he contends, determines their expression. See Max Weber, “The Prophet” and “Soteriology and Types of Salvation” in The Sociology of Religion, Ephraim Fischoff, trans. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964 (1922):46-59, 184-206, 189). (b) Mircea Eliade notes that Tungus shamans abandon their special vocation if not recognized nor supported by their culture. He further notes that potential shamans usually undergo a spiritual crisis marked by confusion; an experienced spiritual teacher acts as guide towards the disciple’s new supramundane vocation. See Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, trans. Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series LXVIII (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964: 17, 33. (c) The influence of greater socio-cultural evaluation of ‘nonordinary experience’ is noted by Larry G. Peters, “The Tamang Shamanism of Nepal” in Shamanism: An Expanded View of Reality, Shirley Nicholson, ed. (Wheaton, IL.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987: 166-167).

60) (a) In the case of the Shaman, s/he is believed to ‘travel’ – while in inviolate trance – to an otherworld abode of spirits to recover ‘stolen’ souls to the rightful bodies of afflicted individuals. See Eliade, Shamanism, 309. (b) In discussion with two Catholic monks and one Catholic religious layperson, they suggested one would receive ‘evil’ and ‘human spirits’ from other people, but ultimately benefit from the process.

61) Here angels are described as “ascending and descending.” Gen. 28:12

62) C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, revised, ed. Aniela Jaffé, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1961:154).

63) Jung says projected psychic facts may influence others in a magical manner. See C. G. Jung, Alchemical Studies in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 13, 24-25.

64) This is based on statements made in the field of actual practice by lay, priestly and monastic Catholics in discussing Jung and non-Catholic and non-Christian religions (See endnote 44). Opinions varied, from non-Catholic ‘otherness’ representing or partially representing Satan, to being highly acceptable; interestingly, the Cistercian Monastery in Orangeville, Ontario, sells non-Catholic books, and the liason Monk-Priest appreciated Japanese art and seemed to convey approval when informed I had lived in India. Likewise, the Catholic monk Thomas Merton advocates the poetic discourse of the Chinese philosopher Chaung Tzu (circa 300 B.C.) and expresses kinship with other non-Catholics who find “something they vastly prefer in solitude.” The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton, ed., secondary trans. (New York: Penguin, 1965: 10).

65) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 177. Jung overlooks that Plato’s ‘pure ideas’ exist on a wholly different ontological level than imperfect ‘human thoughts.’ Likewise, Judeo-Christian scripture (and most mystics of that tradition) claim heaven to be ‘higher’ than human thoughts. See for instance, Isaiah 55:6-9.

66) Hindu and Judeo-Christian perspectives contain ‘this-worldly’ elements: for example, Swami Vivekananda’s ‘Practical Vedanta’ and the Protestant emphasis on ‘good works.’ Believing Jehovah’s Witness anticipate an immortal physical, earth-bound life on the basis of OT passages pertaining to inheritances of land “for ever and ever.” Sam. 7:16, 1 Chron. 17:23-27. See Swami Vivekananda, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1955: 54-55), and Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Talcott Parsons, trans. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958:53-54, 108 ).

67) Elizabeth Kübler-Ross would disagree; she claims to have studied 20,000 cases of people declared clinically dead and then restored to life, and regards their testimonials as proof of an afterlife. Regarding visions of dead friends and relatives she suggests: The only thing that prevents…people from sharing their experience…is the incredible tendency to label, to belittle, or to deny such stories when they make us uncomfortable and don’t fit into our own scientific or religious model. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Life After Death (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 1991: 9, 55-56).

68 ) Both Egyptian and Indian ‘gods’ reportedly require human devotees to sustain their divine life. Frazer, The Golden Bough 52.

69) (a) A view proposed by Platonic, Christian, and much ‘New Age’ discourse. Not to imply these to be identical, however. In Orhpic and Homeric cosmologies, for instance, one goes to the abode of death in much the same manner as he or she existed in earthly life (warriors take their human form and even weapons) whereas in the NT the faithful believer is transformed into something like an angel, “neither male nor female.” See Vittorio D. Macchioro, From Orpheus to Paul: A History of Orphism (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1930: 32-52); Matt. 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:36. (b) Jung speaks of blissful “deliriums and visions” experienced while ill and likens death to “stepping out of a tight shoe.” See Jung, Memories, 289-298.

70) Jungian legend has it that as Jung died his favourite tree in the garden at Küsnacht was struck by lightning, and on the day before hearing of Jung’s death his old friend Laurens van der Post dreamed Jung waved to him and said ‘I’ll be seeing you.’ Gordon, Encyclopedia of Myths, 385.



  1. I am trying to understand the idea of spiritality. I have been reviewing the theory of the unconscious effect on human and animal behavior. In this process the word numinosiy needed a definition. Thank you Google for your help.


  2. Absolutely brilliant. It is a pleasure to finally read someone that has taken the time to really understand Jung’s “Universe” Well Done Mr. Clark


  3. Thank you so much for making this accessible to the random explorer of the airwaves … ’tis quietly thoughtfully wonderful. GVM


    • Thanks, I’ve always felt it important to develop theory about this kind of thing. But my enthusiasm has often been thrown back in my face by worldly or, perhaps, non-integrated individuals whose thoughts, feelings, intuitions and actions haven’t fallen into a coherent, ethical whole.


  4. You did a real fine job in copying a lot of Jung’s catch phrases and jargons. I felt like i was reading a super watered down and gone-beyond-generic version of one of his essays. This was so dreadful that i couldn’t even finish reading the damn thing. You’re a disgrace to psychology and the mind world in general, and all in the name of trying to lure in stupid sheep to look at the worthless adverts on your subpar website and or sign on for that retarded email alert that pops-up and can not be closed.


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