Jung and Gurdijeff

Monday, 22 February 2010

The biography that Barbara Hannah wrote on Carl Gustav Jung is still on my mind many times a day. Just before he died, at the age of 80 or more, Jung did an interview with the BBC. It is a pity that that there are video’s of interviews with Jung when he was younger, but also at the age of 80 he was sharp as a knife:

Around 2:50 he tells he had his awakening experience at the age of 11. His theories and models are based on this experience.

Since Jung lived in the same period as Gurdijeff, I wondered what the two thought of each other, or if they had even met. They were obviously fishing in the same pond. I cannot remember than in any book from or about Gurdijeff that Jung is mentioned. But on the Internet I found information that answers half of my question:

The following extract is from a letter written by Jung to Fernando Cassani of Caracas, Venezuela on 13 July 1954. It is of interest not only because it lays out Jung’s attitudes toward Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, but also touches on his own unique position as an “empiricist of experience” — a position which often causes considerable consternation among casual readers of his work, taking it to mean that he is a “scientist” rather than a “mystic,” which, of course, is incorrect; he was a “scientist of the mystical experience,” or one who, having encountered God, chose to describe it in the language of science rather than mysticism.

??”I am not a philosopher … but an empiricist who describes the progress of his [inner] experiences [with the higher Self]; thus, my work has no absolute beginning and no all-encompassing end. It is like the life of an individual, which suddenly becomes visible somewhere but rests on definite though invisible foundations, so has no proper beginning and no proper end, ceasing just as suddenly and leaving questions behind which should have been answered. You
do not know my later (and perhaps more important works yet. I therefore
enclose a list of them. ??
As for the writings of Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, I know enough to satisfy me that I have no time for them. I seek real knowledge and therefore avoid all unverifiable speculation. I have seen enough of that as a psychiatrist. You might as well recommend Mme. Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled or the compendious opus of Rudolph Steiner or Bo-Yin-Ra (why not Schneiderfranken [the latter’s real name]? Anyway, I thank you for your good intentions. It is so difficult to establish facts that I detest anything that obscures them …”

It is strange that Jung shows no interest in the work of Gurdijeff, who, in my opinion, operated in exact the same area and who came up with better models of the mind than Jung himself. Not that I all this is very important: to be or not to be, that is the only thing that really matters.