Francis Xavier Charet
Like many of my generation, I experienced the shift from an understanding of life based on traditional values to one more directly related to personal experience. This shift led me on a number of outer and inner journeys, from Western spirituality and philosophy to ashrams in India, travels in the Middle East and Europe, teaching, and, ultimately, to develop the concentration in Consciousness Studies in the Graduate Institute at Goddard college in Vermont.
As an itinerant academic with a Ph.D. in Psychology of Religion, I have taught in a number of universities and colleges and have given a variety of courses, seminars and workshops, most concerned with the spiritual traditions of the planet, Eastern and Western philosophy, the depth psychological traditions, and the history of psychiatry and psychology.
Jung and the Spirits
The lavishly illustrated, facsimile edition of The Red Book of C.G. Jung appeared in 2009 with considerable fanfare and greeted widely as though an arcane illuminated manuscript that had at last seen the light of day. Its long delayed publication was hailed by online trailers, magazine articles, and public showings of its illustrations, accompanied by discourses on its deeper significance and place in the large and ongoing corpus of Jung’s work. Like all such happenings that become media events, it has since been replaced by others and copies of the oversized, lavishly produced and expensive volume sits on many a shelf, its illustrations glanced at, its text largely unread. For those who are captured by the remarkable images that seem to come from beyond and are drawn to the text that accompanies them, replete with ghostly conversations with inner images, The Red Book fills a gap in Jung’s life and thought. This has less to do with the clinical and psychotherapeutic applications of Jungian psychology than with Jung’s own spiritual journey. That journey has its roots in and ongoing contact with the broad phenomenon of Spiritualism.1
Surprising as such an assertion might be, close examination of Jung’s life and thought actually demonstrates this in abundant detail. In fact, Jung’s encounter with the belief and practice of interacting with spirits can be understood as unfolding in a number of stages: Spiritualism in Jung’s early life, Jung’s philosophical critique of Spiritualism, Jung’s psychological interpretation of Spiritualism, and Jung’s speculation on the relation between spirit and matter. As these stages unfold, the picture that emerges offers a continuous development in Jung’s thinking around experiences commonly associated with Spiritualism, namely the communication between this world and the next through the medium of a technique, an individual, or group.