Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung is a modern thinker whose theories and concepts have a very Gnostic theme. Jung was known to be absorbed with the occult and was also known to have attended séances and was a regular participant in experiments. Jung was close friends with Sigmund Freud, but the two experienced a falling out. Jung referred to the following four years as “The Dark Years”. It was during this time that Jung explored his own dreams and fantasies. Many believe that this is what caused his “creative illness”, as he emerged from those four years with his own Gnostic theory of personality.
Jung’s components of personality are very Gnostic in nature. He believed that the personality is divided up into three main components: the ego, personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. Jung referred to the ego as everything of which we are conscious. It is concerned with thinking, feeling, remembering and perceiving. The personal unconscious is material that one was once conscious of, but has repressed or forgotten. The personal consciousness contains emotionally loaded thoughts called complexes. The collective unconscious reflects the collective experiences that humans share throughout their evolutionary past. It may be thought of as the past deposits of ancestral experience from untold millions of years. It is interesting to note that the three components of Jung’s personality theory are all concerned with knowledge – gnosis itself.
Jung is also known for his notable Gnostic writing, The Seven Sermons of the Dead. Jung authored this under the pseudonym Balisades of Alexandria, a Gnostic teacher in Alexandria. The Seven Sermons to the Dead was originally written only for Jung’s friends. Jung rejected that this was a Gnostic writing – however, the Gnostic themes and attributes are impossible to ignore. In the writing, Jung creates images of a “mother heaven” and a “father earth”. This was his attempt to warn one against giving humanity over to an archetype.
Jung’s analytical psychology mirrors ancient Gnostic mythology, especially the teaching of Valentinus and the Gnostic doctrine the Apocryphon of John. For example, Jung equated the emergence of the Demiurge from the unified monadic source of the spiritual universe by gradual stages to the emergency of the ego from the unconscious. One could argue that the Jungian process of individuation involves the addition of an unconscious psychic to the consciousness to achieve a trans-conscious centre to the personality as inarguably Gnostic. However, Jung did disagree with the Gnostic desire to seek a return to the supreme Godhead. Jung believed that this is “psychologically dangerous”. Jung did appropriate Gnosticism by turning it into psychological theory – he created a dualist myth in the psyche.