Frontispiece to Schultz, Documente der Gnosis, 1910.

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The Search for Roots

 

 


The Gnostic Society Library

Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis

C. G. Jung Institute, Zurich – February 2013
Lance S. Owens, MD



About the Zurich Lectures...

C. G. Jung repeatedly stated that the ancient tradition of Gnosis was the historical root of his psychology. The depth of Jung's personal affiliation with the tradition of Gnosis has, however, been a subject of on-going controversy.  Publication in 2009 of The Red Book has opened entirely new perspectives on Jung's life-long association with, and affinity to, Gnostic tradition. In this series of three lectures presented at the C. G. Jung Institute Zurich in February of 2013, Dr. Lance Owens provides the first detailed analysis of Jung's encounter with Gnostic vision during the years he was composing Liber Novus.

In 1957, Jung summarized the importance of Gnostic tradition to his psychology:

When I began to understand alchemy I realized that it represented the historical link with Gnosticism, and that a continuity therefore existed between past and present. Grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed the bridge on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious.  … The possibility of a comparison with alchemy, and the uninterrupted intellectual chain back to Gnosticism, gave substance to my psychology.

Based on a new reading of primary source documents, Dr. Owens illustrates how Jung embedded the ancient motifs of Gnostic mythology in Liber Novus, and then traces the ways in which Gnostic mythology permeated Jung's subsequent life work. By carefully evaluating Jung’s many associations with the Gnosis, these lectures open transformative insights into the nature, the history, and the future of Jung’s psychology and vision.  

Please note that these are not "introductory level" lectures...

This material was oriented to an audience acquainted with Jung's biography and writings, including his Red Book (Liber Novus). While the first lecture requires little introductory knowledge, the last two talks suppose some familiarity with Liber Novus and Jung's later writings – and more than a casual interest in the genesis of Jung's work.

As a result of these lectures, a book has also now been published, The Search for Roots: C. G. Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis. Dr. Alfred Ribi authored the German edition of this work a decade ago. The new English edition (published in August 2013) includes an extended Foreword in which I address Jung's encounter with Gnosis in the Red Book; that Foreword was based on these lectures. You may download my complete Foreword in pdf format—it summarizes and expands on themes in the lectures. (See below for more information on the book.)

On occasion of the release of the book, a lecture introducing The Search for Roots was presented at the Gnostic Society in Los Angeles, California. This lecture is now also available online (click here to listen or download).

Two additional lectures delivered in preface to the Zurich presentation are provide at the bottom of this page; they provide further context and introduction to the material presented in Zurich. For a general introduction to C. G. Jung and his Liber Novus, and as preparation for the material presented in this series, we suggest you first sample the lectures by Dr. Owens on C. G. Jung and the Red Book.

These lectures were recorded live and are each about 90 minutes long. You are welcome to email question or comments about this material to MD.

A catalog of other online presentations by Dr. Owens is available here.

 


C. G. Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis

The Zurich Lectures

Available online in mp3 audio - see below


 

Lecture I: The Hermeneutics of Vision

The unearthing in 1945 of the Nag Hammadi Library – a cache of ancient parchment codices containing Gnostic writings once thought lost to history – initiated an intensive modern reexamination of Gnosticism.  While scholars continue to argue over a proper technical and historical definition of “Gnosticism”, most readers agree that careful study of these primary texts validates C .G. Jung’s basic intuition about the experiential and psychological nature of Gnosticism.

In this initial lecture we will introduce the rediscovered Gnostic “sheets of parchment with characters of bygone languages,” and briefly examine their historical origins.  As Jung stated, “The Gnostics were concerned with the problem of archetypes. They made a peculiar philosophy of it, as everybody makes a peculiar philosophy of it when he comes across it naïvely and doesn't know that the archetypes are structural elements of the unconscious psyche.”  

We will engage a psychologically informed definition of Gnosticism in terms of its primary experiential roots, and then consider how a “hermeneutics of archetypal vision” was foundational to Gnostic tradition. 

Jung stated:

“When I began to understand alchemy I realized that it represented the historical link with Gnosticism, and that a continuity therefore existed between past and present. Grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed the bridge on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious.” (MDR p201 )  

We will critically examine what Jung may have meant about this bridge that linked Gnosticism with modern psychology.

Play or Download this lecture

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File"

 

Lecture II: The Father of the ProphetsPhilemon - The Red Book

In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung hints at the nature of his relationship with Philemon, “At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him….” Jung names Philemon as his teacher and “guru”.  But in private comments to Cary de Angulo (Baynes) in 1923, Jung describes Philemon as something ineffably greater.  He was, in multiform manifestations, an avatar of “the Master”, “…the same who inspired Buddha, Mani, Christ, Mahomet - all those who may be said to have communed with God.” (Cary F. Baynes papers, Jan 26, 1924, LN p213.)

Above Philemon’s image painted on folio page 154 of Liber Novus (one of the few images from the Red Book released for publication in prior decades) Jung penned an appellation in Greek:  “Father of the Prophets, Beloved PHILEMON”; on the mural of Philemon at the Bollingen Tower, he restated the appellation: “PHILEMON the prophets’ forefather".
           
In this lecture we will examine in detail Jung's encounter with Gnostic mythology during the period he was composing his Red Book (Liber Novus). Was there a connection between Jung’s vision of Gnosis and what historians now understand as Gnostic tradition? Who were Basilides and Simon Magus? And who, or what, is the “Father of the Prophets”?

Play or Download this lecture

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File"

 

Lecture III: The Prophet's BrideLiber Novus folio 155, image of Sapientia

In 1911 Jung wrote to Freud, “We are on the threshold of something really sensational, which I scarcely know how to describe except with the Gnostic concept of Sophia.”  Three years later, C. G. Jung consciously engaged an inner mythic reality, and that confrontation led him into intimate relationship with the Gnostic myth of Sophia. For the remainder of his life, Jung followed the implications of the experience.  He identified his master, Philemon as an Alexandrian Gnostic. Philemon subsequently disclosed himself as Simon Magus, whose bride Helena was the incarnation of Sophianic wisdom. Jung pondered that story of a bride.

Jung’s explorations pointed inexorably toward a summation experience he perceived as having been witnessed within his tradition – a mysterium coniunctionis. Historically it had been symbolized in the holy wedding of two natures named with many names: divine and human, male and female, eros and logos, king and queen, salt and sulfur, inner and outer, sense and nonsense, Above and Below. In classical Gnosticism, the summation event was called the Mystery of the Bridal Chamber (though Jung did not have access to the primary ancient texts that now document this fact). In this lecture we will meet the Prophet's Bride.

Play or Download this lecture

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File."

 



Additional Introductory Material

Jung, Psyche and Gnosis

More? Well, yes, more.... Two lectures were prepared in preface to the Zurich lectures and delivered in Salt Lake City during November 2012. They were part of an extended seminar dedicated to Jung and Liber Novus, and provide an introductory foundation to the Zurich lectures.

The first lecture reviews the insights Jung derived from Liber Novus, placing them in the context of the first interpretive work he published thereafter, Psychological Types. The second lecture introduces texts and concepts found in classical Gnosis, noting themes that were important to Jung. These two lectures are provided here as a supplement to the Zurich lectures, above, and are intended only for those people seeking still more background material. The first lecture in this presentation is about 75 minutes long; the second part is about 60 minutes long.

Play or Download Part 1

Play or Download Part 2

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File."

 

The Search for Roots: Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis

On occasion of the publication of The Search for Roots: C. G. Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis, an introductory lecture was presented by Dr. Owens at The Gnostic Society in Los Angeles, California. This lecture is also now available for listening online.

Play or Download this Lecture

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File."



Now available online:

Jung and Aion: Time, Vision and a Wayfaring ManPsychological Perspectives 54:3

by Lance S. Owens

Jung and Aion: Time, Vision and a Wayfaring Man is featured in the "Epochal Anniversaries" issue of Psychological Perspectives (Journal of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, Vol.54:3, Fall 2011) commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jung's death and the 60th anniversary of the publication of his book Aion. The journal can be ordered though the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles bookstore.

Article Abstract:

C. G. Jung stated in 1957 that the visionary experiences recorded in The Red Book: Liber Novus were the foundation of his life work: “My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream ... the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.” Liber Novus is now historically placed in a hermeneutic relationship with Jung’s subsequent writings.

Jung composed the first page of Liber Novus in 1915. On this introductory folio leaf he graphically intertwined a prophecy of the future and the coming of a new aeon: an epochal turning-point in human consciousness. Though this revelation was foundational to his subsequent life work, Jung did not initially feel free to publicly disclose its keynote.

After several extraordinary near-death visions in 1944, Jung realized it was his duty to finally and openly communicate the central revelation recorded in Liber Novus. The first manuscript page of Liber Novus penned by Jung in 1915—deeply considered, dense with verbal and pictorial imagery formed in response to the Spirit of the Depths—and the complexly crafted commentary in Aion, composed three decades later, are fundamentally wed. They both declare the dawning of a new aeon. While each work might be studied as an independent text, one can only comprehend Jung and his struggle with Liber Novus in their conjunction. (Psychological Perspectives, Vol. 54:3, Fall 2011, p252.)


Now available online, in print and on Kindle:

The Search for Roots

The Search for Roots:
C. G. Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis

by Alfred Ribi, Foreword by Lance Owens

Excellent book... Ribi has the feel of Gnosis and knows his sources, both ancient and modern... There is no doubt that it was Jung, and not Hans Jonas, who rediscovered Gnosticism and its importance for modernity.”

- Gilles Quispel, Professor of Early Christian History, Utrecht University


(For a preview of the book, download the complete Foreword by Lance Owens in pdf format. This Foreword was based on the Zurich lectures, offered above.)

The publication in 2009 of C. G. Jung's The Red Book: Liber Novus has initiated a broad reassessment of Jung’s place in cultural history. Among many revelations, the visionary events recorded in the Red Book reveal the foundation of Jung’s complex association with the Western tradition of Gnosis.

In The Search for Roots, Alfred Ribi closely examines Jung’s life-long association with Gnostic tradition. Dr. Ribi knows C. G. Jung and his tradition from the ground up. He began his analytical training with Marie-Louise von Franz in 1963, and continued working closely with Dr. von Franz for the next 30 years. For over four decades he has been an analyst, lecturer and examiner of the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, where he also served as the Director of Studies.

But even more importantly, early in his studies Dr. Ribi noted Jung’s underlying roots in Gnostic tradition, and he carefully followed those roots to their source. Alfred Ribi is unique in the Jungian analytical community for the careful scholarship and intellectual rigor he has brought to the study Gnosticism. In The Search for Roots, Ribi shows how a dialogue between Jungian and Gnostic studies can open new perspectives on the experiential nature of Gnosis, both ancient and modern. Creative engagement with Gnostic tradition broadens the imaginative scope of modern depth psychology and adds an essential context for understanding the voice of the soul emerging in our modern age.

A Foreword by Lance Owens supplements this volume with a discussion of Jung's encounter with Gnostic tradition while composing his Red Book (Liber Novus). Dr. Owens delivers a fascinating and historically well-documented account of how Gnostic mythology entered into Jung's personal mythology in the Red Book. Gnostic mythology thereafter became for Jung a prototypical image of his individuation. Owens offers this conclusion:

“In 1916 Jung had seemingly found the root of his myth and it was the myth of Gnosis. I see no evidence that this ever changed. Over the next forty years, he would proceed to construct an interpretive reading of the Gnostic tradition’s occult course across the Christian aeon: in Hermeticism, alchemy, Kabbalah, and Christian mysticism. In this vast hermeneutic enterprise, Jung was building a bridge across time, leading back to the foundation stone of classical Gnosticism. The bridge that led forward toward a new and coming aeon was footed on the stone rejected by the builders two thousand years ago.”

Alfred Ribi's examination of Jung’s relationship with Gnostic tradition comes at an important time. Initially authored prior to the publication of Jung's Red Book, current release of this English edition offers a bridge between the past and the forthcoming understanding of Jung’s Gnostic roots.

Visit our publishing site, Gnosis Archive Books, for more information. Available from Bookstores and Amazon.com. For a preview of the book, download the Foreword by Lance Owens (pdf format).

Buy the book at Amazon.com.

 

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