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Carl Jung


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Carl Jung and Meister Eckhart

Terry Curtin

Talk delivered to Canberra Jung Society, 6 September 2019

In his early 80s – he was about 82 – Dr Jung began recounting his memories to his secretary, Aniela Jaffe.  The ensuing book, Memories Dreams and Reflections, which had such a big impact on me – I first read it over 30 years ago - was published in 1962, the year after his death.  He recalls being about 16/17 when he was avidly reading history and philosophy.  2 “Above all” he said “I was attracted to the thoughts of Pythagoras, Heraclitus , Empedocles and Plato .. their ideas were beautiful and academic ..but somewhat remote.  Only in Meister Eckhart did I feel the breath of life - not that I understood him”1. 

Jung’s “feel” for Eckhart persisted throughout his life.  He referred to him in his writings, it is claimed, about 40 times
.  In a letter written in his early 80s he said “I often thought of Meister Eckhart who was entombed for 600 years..”3  Over the last few months I too, now at the same age as Dr Jung was when he wrote that letter, have been thinking of Meister Eckhart.  Who was he and how did he influence Carl Jung ? 
Entombed for 600 years,” said Dr Jung.  It was March 1329 when Pope John XXII condemned 28 of his propositions.  As far as the Church was concerned he was effectively buried.  In the late 1950s, I was studying Thomas Aquinas, Eckhart’s contemporary, and, while other luminaries of that time were prominent in our studies - Albertus Magnus, Duns Scotus , Bonaventura, - we never heard of Meister Eckhart.  We were immersed in a training regime generated by the Council of Trent in the 16
th C and pretty well unchanged since then.   Condemnation of heresy was a dominant theme of Trent.  Eckhart would have seemed like poison to us.  How things have changed!   

Eckhart today is now very highly regarded.  One scholar of medieval mysticism, Anne Bancroft, says
3“.. he is now ranked as one of the great teachers of all time.  Rudolf Otto has compared him to Shankara the Vedantist philosopher of the 8th C.  Dr Suzuki believes him to be the equal of the Zen patriarchs; the philosopher Hegel took him as a teacher as did Martin Heidegger”

Eckhart von Hockheim was born in eastern Germany in about 1260 AD.  The Church at the time was markedly “worldly”.  An eminent authority on the medieval church, Professor Richard Southern, tells us;

“secular motives were everywhere uppermost and everywhere prevailed... many contemporaries were beginning to think that the church was a conspiracy between secular and ecclesiastical authorities for the exploitation of ecclesiastical wealth, and the pope as head of this conspiracy was in fact anti-Christ.  These views were not yet very influential but they were disturbing and they were destined to grow”5.   

It is not surprising that many people became disillusioned with the institution as a vehicle for personal salvation.  That God was to be found primarily within the soul of the individual was to become Eckhart’s central message.  It may well be that Eckhart has something to say today to the many people who no longer find the “breath of life” in the institutional church.

When he was about 15, Eckhart joined the Dominican order.  He was an outstanding student and was sent by his order to the University of Paris, the then world centre of learning.  He returned to his native Thuringia in the 1290s where he was appointed Vicar of the province and Prior of the Dominican community at Erfurt.  Within a few years he was again sent to Paris for more advanced study.  At the beginning of the 14
th C the order was expanding rapidly.  In 1304 Eckhart was put in charge of the province of Saxony and in 1307 made vicar general of the Province of Bohemia.  Apparently he was a very capable and popular administrator as well as an eminent theologian.  In 1311 his order again appointed him to the chair of theology at Paris.  Two terms at Paris was a rather rare honour, shared with only one other, Thomas Aquinas.  He acquired the status of Master, so known thereafter as Meister Eckhart.  After Paris, he went to Strasbourg where he served as Vicar general with pastoral responsibility for the many women’s convents in southern Germany. He was closely associated with the Beguines, women who lived religious lives in structured communities and whose views often disturbed the bishops.  It seems clear that Beguines like Marguerite Porete (burnt at the stake for heresy in 1310) and Mechthild of Magdeburg influenced his thinking. 6  

In 1324 his last appointment was to the centre of Dominican studies in Cologne.  Today Dominicans speak of the three towering figures in the history of the famous Cologne institution, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart.  In 1326 the first accusations of heresy were made against him leading eventually to his condemnation in 1329.  He was often asking for trouble with church authorities with a style of preaching to the ordinary people that could be seen as dismissive of the institution.  He assured his listeners that they didn’t have to go to a church to find God. 
“If indeed a man thinks he will get more of God by meditation, by devotion, by ecstasies or by special infusion of grace than by the fireside or in the stable – that is nothing but taking God, wrapping a cloak around his head and shoving him under a bench.”

There were other factors in his condemnation.  Being “in tune” to some extent with the feminine beguine fringe troubled the hierarchy.  Matthew Fox suggests his radical critique of the dominant merchant mentality of Cologne at the time irritated both ecclesial and civil authorities.
8  The rivalry between Dominicans and Franciscans played an important part.  Eckhart’s chief accuser was the Archbishop of Cologne, reportedly a Franciscan.9   Accusations of heresy were not uncommon.  The Dominican Thomas Aquinas was cited for heresy 3 times.  The Pope who condemned Eckhart was himself declared heretical by the Pope who succeeded him.   

Meister Eckhart was both a scholastic theologian and a preacher.  The primary role of a Dominican was to preach.  His scholarly treatises were written in Latin, as was his defence against the charges of heresy.  His sermons were in German, Middle High German was the designation given. They were given to students, to nuns and to the common people.  Apparently he was regarded as a master of the German language and is credited as being a significant figure in the flowering of the language.  No surprise that the German speaking Carl Jung was comfortable with him.  Not only comfortable but also quite familiar.  Luther and the other Reformers found in Eckhart support for their criticisms of Rome.  Jung’s father and uncles were Protestant pastors.  Doubtless the young Carl Jung would have been exposed to Eckhart’s thought in the family discussions which often focussed on theological issues.

In this presentation I’ve selected a few specific references by Dr Jung to Meister Eckhart.
5  Why these references?  Because they give, to me at least, a sense of the “the breath of life” that I feel Dr Jung was referring to.  I’ve grouped them under the following headings:

        Direct knowledge of God 
Relativity of the concept of God 
Search for Meaning  
The Value of the Soul 
“God winks at our sins” 
Motherly aspect of God and the birth of the Divine child  
The “way” of letting go 


The Bible in one hand and Aristotle in the other.  That’s the image of the scholastic theologian of the 13th and 14th Cs.   Meister Eckhart was both a biblical scholar and steeped in the traditions of the pre Christian Greek and Latin masters.  So was Carl Jung.  They often referred to the same ancient authorities.  For example Eckhart often refers to non Christian Seneca (1BCE – 65CE) who wrote about the presence of God in the soul.11  So did Jung.12  As far as I can see, Meister Eckhart’s usual practice, whether in his scholarly Latin treatises or his popular German sermons, was to begin with a biblical text and elaborate on it in the light of reason and the teachings of past authorities.  Augustine of Hippo, Albert the Great, Aquinas, John Scotus Eriugena, Dionysius the Aeropagite, Jerome, Aristotle, Plato, Avicenna, Moses Maimonides, Seneca, the list goes on, were often referred to.  Meister Eckhart built on existing teachings, expanding them to offer new insights but he also experienced direct knowledge that he felt came from God.  

He would use the expression,
“..this is a truth beyond speculation that has come directly from the heart of God.”
13  Some of these would be shocking to many.  For example, “..that God is God, of that I am a cause.”   He would go on to say, if you don’t understand this don’t worry about it. And he could even laugh at himself – he would say he was compelled to preach these things and that even if the church was empty he would preach them to the poor box.  But it is little wonder that ecclesiastical eyebrows were raised.  He was censured for exposing “simple” people to ideas which could lead them into error.   

Dr Jung seemed in awe of what Meister Eckhart had achieved through personal experience as distinct from discursive knowledge.  In one of his major later works,
Aion, he said:

“The world embracing spirit of Meister Eckhart knew without discursive knowledge, the primordial mystical experience of India as well as the Gnostics and was itself the finest flower on the tree of life of the “Free Spirit” that flourished at the beginning of the 11
th C.  Well might the writings of this master lie buried for six hundred years, “for his time was not yet come.”  Only in the nineteenth century did he find a public at all capable of appreciating the grandeur of his mind.”14

 As already noted, Jung said that when he was exploring the big questions in life, he was impressed by Plato and Pythagoras etc, but they seemed “remote“.  There was nothing remote about the young Carl Jung’s sense of God.  If you are familiar with
Memories, Dreams and Reflections, you will recall his account of being overwhelmed by the image of God destroying the Basle cathedral by dropping an enormous divine turd on it from a throne in the sky
15.  Hypothetical discourse about God had nothing to do with what, for Jung, was a living reality.  Even the leading scholastic thinker of the middle ages, Thomas Aquinas, seemed to him to be “as dry as the desert.” He fumed at the theologians - “They want to prove a belief to themselves whereas it is a matter of experience. They seemed to me like people who knew by hearsay that elephants existed but had never seen one and were now trying to prove by rational arguments that on logical grounds such animals must exist..”16  This how Dr Jung remembered his early impressions.  Later he would write, 

“I find that all my thoughts circle around God like the planets around the sun and are as irresistibly attracted by Him.  I feel it would be the grossest sin if I were to oppose any resistance to this force.”
17  6


Jung’s most extensive reference to Eckhart appears in Psychological Types, first published in 1921.  Five years or so prior to Psychological Types, Jung engaged, over a 3 year period, in deep introspection that finally came to light in about 2009 with the publication of the Red Book, some 45 years after his death.  He said, “the years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important in my life .. materiel burst forth from the unconscious ... it was the prima materia for a life’s work.”   Psychological Types, a landmark book, likewise drew on this “prima materia.”  In the section, some 17 pages long, entitled “The Relativity of the God Concept in Meister Eckhart,” 18Jung asserts that Eckhart understands God as a function of the soul and the soul as a function of God.  What did the Meister have to say and where did it come from?   

“Materiel burst forth from the unconscious
,” Jung said about his “Red Book” experiences.  He felt Meister Eckhart must have had similar experiences.  

  “Strangely appealing”,
says Jung, “is Eckhart’s sense of inner affinity with god... We feel ourselves transported back into the spacious atmosphere of the Upanishads.  Eckhart must have experienced a quite extraordinary enhancement of the value of the soul, ie his own inner being, that enabled him to rise to a purely psychological and relativistic conception of god and of his relation to man”19 

“..purely psychological and relativistic conception..”  That is not quite the full picture.  Eckhart, along with a number of other scholastic theologians, distinguishes between what he calls the God of creatures and the Godhead. Jung acknowledges this.  He refers to Eckhart’s own words:

“By being created the soul created God, for he did not exist until the soul was made.  A little while since and I declared, I am the cause that God is god!  God is gotten of the soul, his Godhead he has of himself.

God comes into being and passes away.

Because all beings declare him, God comes into being.  While I yet abode in the ground and the depths of the Godhead, in its flood and source, none asked me whither I went or what I did; none was there who could have questioned me.  But when I flowed forth, all creatures declare God... And why did they not declare the Godhead?  All that is in the Godhead is one and of that there is nothing to declare.  Only God does:  Godhead does nothing, there is nothing it can do, and never has it looked for anything to do.  God and Godhead are as different as doing and non doing.  When I come home again in God, I do nothing more in myself, so this, my breaking through, is much more excellent than my first going out. For truly it is I who bring all creatures out of their own into my mind and make them one in me.  When I come back into the ground and the depths of the Godhead, into its flood and source, none asked me whence I came or whither I went.  None missed me.  God passes away.”

The Meister is not easy reading.  Even Carl Jung could not understand him at first.  It doesn’t help that most of his sermons have survived in the form of notes taken by the audience, often the nuns in whose convents he often preached.  There are bound to be some departures from what he actually said.  However scholars have matched his sermons with his written treatises and are confident that what we have is faithful to his thought.

 Jung discusses Eckhart’s theology in Aion.  He says
“Eckhart’s theology knows a Godhead of which no qualities except unity and being can be predicated  .. it presents as an absolute coincidence of opposites”
22.  He quotes Eckhart on Godhead as follows “But it’s simple nature is of forms formless, of beings beingless, of things thingless”.  His language is difficult, often paradoxical.  And so too is Jung’s.  You can’t get far with either Eckhart or Jung unless you can live with paradox.  

Jung does not deny a metaphysical God.
23 He professes, most of the time, to say nothing about the metaphysical God.  He is concerned with the psyche and the images it produces.  In this case the God image.   Eckhart’s statement that God’s existence is dependent on the soul is equivalent to Jung’s position that the God image rises out of the unconscious in the human psyche.7  Jung stresses this does not mean the God idea is “made up.”  He insists, “The God image is not something that is invented, it is an experience that comes upon man spontaneously.”248 The God image is a fact; a psychic fact, but no less a fact than a material fact.  Jung warns us not to de- value God, as just a psychic entity.  A central thrust of Jung’s work was to establish the objective reality of the psyche and the images it experiences.  He insists “We must repudiate the arrogant claim of the conscious mind to be the whole of the psyche and to admit that the psyche is a reality which we cannot grasp with our present means of understanding”25  How the images arise in/through the psyche is not clear.  Jung says “It cannot be decided whether the God-image is created or whether it creates itself.”26  

We have been speaking of the relativity of the God concept, or the God-image, in terms of its coming into being.  There is another sense in which the God-image is relative to human consciousness.  It concerns the content of the image and the changes and transformations in it over time.  While the Godhead is unchanging and unchangeable, the god-image, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, has become increasingly complex over time.  We have seen a creator god, a god expelling Adam and Eve from Eden, a god as friend in intimate conversation with the patriarchs, an angry god punishing by flood, a rescuing god in the exodus from Egypt, a covenant making god, a jealous god, an amoral god in the book of Job and an all perfect loving father god as proclaimed by Jesus.
27   Jung says “These utterances on the nature of the deity express transformations of the god-image which run parallel with changes in human consciousness”28   9 

 “Revelation” experiences arising from who knows where – Jung would say arising from the unconscious  - are not uncommon.  Many individuals have them.  Some of the god images that arise become collective, resulting in the birth of cultic practices and religious institutions.  Moses’s personal “burning bush” experience on Mt Sinai for example became the foundation of the “Yahweh” cult which developed into Judaism.  Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was the wellspring for his particular understanding of the Christian god image which he elaborated in a series of letters – an example of consciousness reflecting on a foundational experience arising from the unconscious, Jung would say.   Collective god images vary from one culture to another.  As we know problems can arise when adherents assert that only their particular tradition is the “true” one.


Jung used the quotation in
Psychological Types to illustrate Eckhart’s psychological and relativistic concept of the God-image.  However it does more than that.  It also summarises Eckhart’s understanding of the nature and purpose of his life, what might be called his personal myth.

Eckhart speaks of the creation of the world as a “flowing out” from the Godhead.   
“When I flowed out,” says Eckhart, he presents himself as the “I-ness” of the cosmos.  There is a sense of identity between the observed and the observer, for Eckhart between the individual and God.  He had a nice way of putting it. “The eye wherein I see god is the same eye wherein god sees me; my eye and god’s eye are one eye, one vision, one knowing, one love.
29  Jung made a similar remark. “Man is the mirror which god holds up before him, or the sense organ with which he apprehends his being.”30  10 

After the original “flowing out” there is a “flowing back” into the Godhead.  It is a homecoming.  “
When I come home again in God,” Eckhart says. This is not a new idea. Plotinus (204 -270 C E), the father of Neo Platonism, saw life as a process of returning the divided and differentiated ideas that constitute created reality back to their original place in the chain of emanation, which began with the One
31.  The similarity with Eckhart’s “flowing out” and “flowing back” is obvious.   

So for Eckhart our destiny as conscious beings - and note it is the same destiny for the universe because the conscious person “
takes all creatures out of their own into his own mind and makes them one”
32 - is to be reabsorbed into the nothingness of the primordial One.  To be reabsorbed into nothingness is not a prospect readily marketable today.  But for Eckhart it is the highest delight.  He says “The highest delight that is granted to the soul is to flow back again into the nothingness of its primordial image and- as the self- to be entirely lost there.”33 11 

The notion of a return to an eternal unknown state was familiar, and perhaps attractive, to Dr Jung.  He felt it to be a characteristic of the archetype of the wise old man.  He gave the example of Lao-tzu, whom he admired as a great philosopher. He was, Jung wrote – and you get the sense that he felt this way about himself  - 

“the example of a man with superior insight  ... who at the end of his life desires to return into his own being, into the eternal unknown meaning” 34 

Jung writes of his search for a myth of his own.  He describes an event in 1925 in a game park near Nairobi.  While gazing on massive herds of wildlife he was overcome by a powerful numinous experience. He wrote,
“The cosmic meaning of consciousness became overwhelmingly clear to me.”  He went on to say,12

“I had been looking about without hope for a myth of my own. Now I knew what it was, and knew even more: that man is indispensable for the completion of creation; that he himself in fact is the second creator of the world, who alone has given to the world its objective existence. Human consciousness created objective existence and meaning and man found his indispensable place in the great process of being.”

He expands on this a bit later reflecting on the consciousness of a human being;  

” Though consciousness he takes possession of nature by recognising the existence of the world and thus as it were confirming the creator”36 13 

Note the similarity with Eckhart’s
“Truly it is I who bring all creatures out of their own into my mind and make them one in me”   Note too Eckhart’s  understanding that he is a unifying  agent, he makes all things “one.”  Achieving “oneness” can be seen as synonymous with achieving “wholeness.” 

“Wholeness”, the finding of wholeness, is an important element in Jung’s understanding of the meaning of life.  Reality is a complex of opposites.  Nothing new about this.  Good/bad, hot/cold, up/down, passive/active, expansion/contraction, male/female, divine/human etc.  Heraclitus taught it in the 5
th C before the common era.  Ying and Yang have been a central feature of Chinese philosophy since at the least the 3rd C BCE.  Modern cosmologists assert that the ongoing existence of our universe depends on a delicate balance between the forces of matter and anti-matter or the forces of expansion and contraction that exploded into being with the Big Bang. 

The human psyche is also a complex of opposites. We are all aware of competing drives and energies within us. The achievement of wholeness for Jung, which he calls the individuation process, involves the harmonization of opposites, a balance of competing energies. The God-image which is experienced by the psyche is also a complex of opposites.  In his remarkable book,
Answer to Job Jung presents an amoral God being challenged by Job and as consequence becoming conscious of his internal contradictions, becoming conscious that he is both just and unjust.  Jung sees in Job a model for how human consciousness can provide a service to god.  The provision of such service came to be, for Jung, an important life goal. He writes about this in Memories Dreams and Reflections where he talks of finding an explanatory myth which satisfies him.14

“The unavoidable internal contradictions in the image of a creator god can be reconciled in the unity and wholeness of the self as the conjunctio oppositorum... In the experience of the self it is no longer the opposites of God and man that are reconciled as it was before but rather the opposites within the God-image itself.  This is the meaning of divine service, of the service that man can render to god, that light may emerge from the darkness, that the creator may become conscious of His creation and man conscious of himself.

That is the goal, or one goal, which fits man meaningfully into the scheme of creation and at the same time confers meaning on it.  It is an explanatory myth which has slowly taken shape within me in the course of decades.  It is a goal I can acknowledge and esteem and which therefore satisfies me.”

This relationship, which Jung sees as one of mutual interdependence of god and man, is hinted at in the famous painting of Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.
15 It presents as a duality, god and man as separate figures, but it can also be perceived as a unity, as man and god being two halves of a composite unity.  Jung’s concept, referred to earlier, fits this nicely. “Man is the mirror which god holds up before him, or the sense organ with which he apprehends his being.”


Jung, in discussing Eckhart’s psychological conception of god, referred to his sense of the value of his soul. The reference, mentioned earlier, was,

  “Strangely appealing is Eckhart’s sense of inner affinity with god... We feel  ourselves transported back into the spacious atmosphere of the Upanishads.  Eckhart must have experienced a quite extraordinary enhancement of the value of the soul, ie his own inner being, that enabled him to rise to a purely psychological and relativistic conception of god and of his relation to man”

Eckhart is cautious when talking about the soul.
“ He who wants to name the soul such as it is in itself, in its simplicity in its clarity and in its nakedness will find no name to fit it....God who is without name – he has no name – is ineffable; and the soul in its ground is likewise ineffable: just as ineffable as he is.”
40 Rather than define the soul, Eckhart calls it a place. ”The soul is the place where god works compassion.”41  Note that for Eckhart “compassion” is not pity.  The “com passio”is better understood in its latin sense, that is to “feel with”, so the soul, for Eckhart, is the place where God is united in experience with the human person, it is a place of personal relationship with God. He says 17 

“..the highest work of god is compassion and this means that god sets the soul in the highest and purest place it can occupy: in space ,in the sea, in a fathomless ocean; and there god works compassion. Therefore the prophet says   “Lord have compassion on the people who are in you.”  In other words, in some fashion we are in god and such a being-in is a land of compassion, of togetherness, of love, of non-dualism, of non-pity, of union”

Jung writes extensively about the soul. In “
Psychological Types” he has about 8 pages on definition of the soul.
43  I struggled with them. Jung can be mentally exhausting.  In the Red Book, on the other hand, he takes a different approach. He cries out, “My soul where are you? Do you hear me?  I speak, I call you – are you there?44  He is more interested in a relationship with the soul than an intellectual understanding of what it is.  

He recalled the time he resigned from the University of Zurich because scientific work was hindering him connecting with the “spirit of the depths”. 
18He wrote, “I thought and spoke much of the soul.  ..  I turned her into a scientific object.  I did not consider that my soul cannot be the object of my judgement and knowledge; much more my judgement and knowledge are the objects of my soul.  The spirit of the depths forced me to speak to my soul, to call upon her as a living and self-existing being.”
45  There is quite a litany of references to the soul in the Red Book.  One that caught my attention was his experience of meeting with his soul.  He writes “..the woman throws back her veil, and she is a beautiful maiden with ginger hair. She says to him, “I am your soul.”4619 


Jung uses this saying of Eckhart’s as support for his contention that “
life itself flows from springs both clear and muddy...all excessive purity lacks vitality..every renewal of life needs the muddy as well as the pure”
47 20   What Eckhart said was, 

“God is willing to bear the brunt of sins and often winks at them mostly sending them to those whom he has destined for great things... in the Old Testament and the New he has shown this to be true of those who afterward were far the dearest to him; and still today one seldom finds that people come to great things without they first go somewhat astray.”

 For anyone sweating under the spectre of a judgemental God, Eckhart’s words would offer some relief.    I wonder how far Eckhart would take his “god winks” assurance.  In referring to the Old Testament, Eckhart surely had King David in mind.  King David did go “somewhat astray”.  He fancied Bathsheba and arranged to have her husband killed.   And he did “come to great things” as the King of a united Israel.  Carl Jung was no saint and he came to great things.  I think he liked what Eckhart had to say. 

To accept the muddy aspects of life is to be close to nature. Both Jung and Eckhart were close to nature.  In his school years
21 Jung was aware of an aspect of himself – personality number 2- who was “close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon the weather, to all living creatures and above all close to the night, to dreams and to whatever god worked directly in him.”
49 In his later years he again sought the solitude and simplicity of nature around his house in Bollingen. 

 Eckhart was deeply influenced by Celtic spirituality.  It is very much a spirituality of the earth.  God was to be found in the sky, the rivers, the trees and every kind of animal. Eckhart’s advice to scholars was,
“ let those who bring about wonders in big black books take an animal - perhaps a dog - to help them.  The life within the animal will give them strength. For equality gives strength in all things.”


Jung saluted the “
world embracing spirit of Meister Eckhart.”
51    He considered that medieval mysticism which Eckhart embodied, involved a reversion to a more primitive connection with “Mother Earth the prime source of all power”.52   Indeed Eckhart speaks of the motherly aspect of god.  22“The maternity bed is in the Godhead...God lies like a woman on a maternity bed who has given birth in every good soul that has learned to let go...”53 Eckhart stresses the importance of the birth of the divine child, the son, in each soul. “God does this.  He begets his only begotten son in the highest part of the soul. At the same time as he begets his only begotten son in me, I beget him.....”54 

In the section of the Red Book entitled the “Way of What is to Come” Jung speaks of an inner child to be created in him.  The human psyche will be the birthplace of the new god-image.  As the Red Book puts it,

The spirit of the depths taught me that my life is encompassed by the divine child. From his hand everything unexpected came to me, everything living.  This child is what I feel as an eternally springing youth in me.”
55 23

Jung declares his love for the yet to be born child - a divine child - as an expectant mother would. He prays,

"My god, I love you as the mother loves the unborn whom she carries in her heart.  We need your light O child.  Since we go in darkness lighten up our paths. May your light shine before us, may your fire warm the coldness of our life.”

The divine child will be the offspring of a heavenly wedding.  Jung writes of the heavenly wedding in his
Answer to Job. 

“The reappearance of Sophia  .. points to a coming act of creation.  She realizes God’s thoughts by clothing them in material form which is the prerogative of all feminine beings.  Her coexistence with Yahweh signifies the perpetual hieros gamos from which worlds are begotten and reborn.  A momentous change is imminent: God desires to regenerate himself in the mystery of the heavenly nuptials

Jung had a vivid experience of the heavenly nuptials
.  “The most tremendous things I ever experienced” said Jung.  They occurred when he was near death in 1944. He writes, “I was in the Padres Rimmonim, the garden of pomegranates, and the wedding of Tipareth and Malchuth was  taking place...   I cannot tell how wonderful it was....I do not know what part I played in it.  At bottom it was myself; I was the marriage...then there came the last image..the hierosgamos was being celebrated..the all Father Zeus and Hera consummated the mystic marriage... there was a pneuma of inexpressible sanctity in the room...”

Jung understands Tipareth and Malchuth to be male and female principles in the Godhead according to the Kabbalah.
59  The Kabbalah is an esoteric understanding of Hebrew theology.   Jung was heavily influenced by the Kabbalah.  He wrote “I only wish the theologians would accept the as to proclaim still more clearly how God reveals himself.”60 The Kabbalah and Jung, that’s another story.

You will recall the prayer of Jung to the divine child who is to come,
“we need your light O child.”  Jung hoped that the birth was imminent.  He wrote “The dogmatization of the “Assumptio Mariae” points to the hieros gamos in the pleroma and this in turn implies the future birth of the divine child.”
61   “Assumptio Mariae” refers to the proclamation of the doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary, the Mother of Jesus into heaven.  The proclamation made by Pope Pius XII in 1950 was in Jung’s view the most important religious event since the Reformation.  Jung was not alone in seeing a heavenly wedding symbolism in this doctrine.  The popes proclamation specifically declared that the “the place of the bride whom the father had espoused was in the heavenly courts.”62

The divine child who is to come, as Jung imagines it, will not be the first divine child.  The infant of Bethlehem, Jeshua bar Joseph, who became known as the Christ, was a God-man.  But Jung sees the need for a new God-image.  Jesus as God was the sinless one.  For Jung, he was not the typical empirical human being. There was no dark side.  The new god image, for Jung must contain all the opposites, including the good and the evil.  The coming divine child says Jung,
“will choose as his birthplace the empirical man.”
63  Birth of the new Christ child in empirical humanity, shadow side and all, brings about what Jung calls “a “Christification of many.” 64 24 

Eckhart too, as has already been noted, stresses the birth of the Son in the individual soul.   But for Eckhart this giving birth is not an event isolated in time, a “one off” in the person of Jesus.  It is a continuous process occurring in each soul. He even goes so far as to say it makes no sense unless this birth occurs in him.  Citing Augustine he says, 

“St Augustine says; “What does it avail me if this birth (the birth of Christ the Son in eternity) is always happening if it does not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what matters.” Therefore we shall speak of this birth, of how it may take place in us..”

Eckhart never uses them term
“christification”, as far as I know, but I’m sure he would be comfortable with it given his total familiarity with the writings of Paul.  Galatians 2:20 “I live now not I but Christ lives in me” and Ephesians 3:14 “May your inner self grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts”.


Eckhart called his realisation of identity with the Godhead a “Breakthrough,” because it involved a radical letting go; a letting go of willing, of knowing and having, including letting go even any image of God that we might have.  Any image of God we might have is bound to be inadequate. “
Therefore we pray God to rid us of “God,”
66 he said.  

Eckhart’s way of letting go became important for Jung.  In his commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower, where he was attempting to build a bridge of psychological understanding between the East and the West, he wrote about liberation experience in the East.  He asked;

What did these people do to achieve the development that liberated them?  A far as I could see they did nothing but let things happen... the art of letting things happen, action through non action, letting go of oneself as taught by Meister Eckhart became for me the key opening the door to the way.  We must be able to let things happen in the psyche.  For us this actually is an art of which few people know anything.

Perhaps the most difficult, most stressful “letting go” for Jung, was
“to do without meaning, to have my joy of explaining taken away.”
68 He appreciated the human need “for the word which has only one meaning.. so that you escape boundless ambiguity” but he felt he must obey the “urge towards forbidden knowledge”.  He felt called “to wait without knowing what for.”69 

It’s not an easy thing to do, to wait without knowing what for. How long am I supposed to wait?  What should I be doing about it in the meantime?  I wonder what advice Meister Eckhart might have had for Dr Jung.  I feel sure Meister Eckhart would have both liked and admired Carl Jung.  They were both spiritual revolutionaries, they both experienced rejection.  I think the Meister would emphasise the totality of letting go.  I think he would remind him of his own personality number two, who as
21 mentioned a little earlier was “close to... whatever god worked directly in him”.
70  So his advice might be, 26“The more you can be totally detached from personal achievement the more you will be open, to use your own words, to whatever god wishes to work directly in you”

Over the last several months I have become acquainted, if only in an introductory way, with Meister Eckhart.  It has been a journey of new insights and spiritual growth.  Dr Jung has been and continues to be for me an important visionary. I find in both of them a breath of life. 


Armstrong, K  A History of God  Random House NY 1993 

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                   Defence, Paulist Press, N.J.  1981 

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   “             Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower, internet site SCRIBD. 

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*** * ***

Local Jung Society member Terry Curtin, BA(Psychology) BTheology, MA(Theology), Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, will reflect on how a 13th-century Dominican theologian/mystic had such a profound impact on Carl Jung. Terry’s philosophical and theological journey began in 1950. From a tribal Irish catholic culture he felt called to be a priest. Seminary training was structured around the “infallible” dogma of the Catholic Church.

His perception of what it means to be human and how humanity is related to the great and mysterious “Other” has gradually but radically changed.  After 10 “monastic” years he left the seminary. Marriage, children, and careers in the public service, private enterprise and voluntary services over nearly 60 years followed. His encounter in about 1980 with Carl Jung’s “Memories Dreams and Reflections” was transformative. 

By 1965 he had a BA degree from Adelaide University majoring in Political Science and Psychology but Jung was rarely if ever mentioned.  Pavlov’s dogs got more attention. In Jung he felt the “breath of life”, theologically, psychologically and spiritually. He continued part time studies in theology, transpersonal psychology and biblical Hebrew and undertook training in the Tarot and Kabbalah. He has had a long term relationship with the Jung society. He first joined the Jung Society in Canberra in about 1985 and later the Melbourne Jung Society.  Returning to Canberra in 2018 he rejoined the Canberra Jung Society. In a recent conversation with a fellow Jung society member the question arose, “who the ... was Meister Eckhart?”