Skip to content →

Richard Noll’s ‘New Preface’ for ‘The Jung Cult’

ABSTRACT: Richard Noll is a historian of psychiatry who wrote two controversial volumes on C.G. Jung in the 1990s: The Jung Cult (1994) and The Aryan Christ (1997). A third volume, Mysteria, was also set for publication by Princeton University Press (1994/1995), but was suppressed at the behest of the Jung family. Noll has previously made his ‘New Preface’ to the paperback edition of The Jung Cult available to scholars through gated communities such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate. However, with the permission of the author, the ‘New Preface’ for ‘The Jung Cult’ (1997) is now made available in an ungated format for the first time. – OJJT.

Preface to the New Edition

IT IS WITH great pleasure that I introduce this first paperback edition of my book to readers who may have had a difficult time finding the hardcover edition in bookstores.

When The Jung Cult appeared in September 1994 it was met by tremendous international controversy. Within a few weeks of its appearance, its publisher, Princeton University Press, was inundated with telephone calls and letters from around the world expressing objection to the conclusions I reached in this book. These conclusions were reached only after a careful analysis of published and archival sources on C. G. Jung. Many people who objected to the book never read it, and their reactions came from what others—often their Jungian analysts—told them was in it. The strong reaction to what many heard was in this book still, unfortunately, echoes the opinions of many who consider themselves “Jungians.” A typical reaction was that of a close associate of Jung’s later days who described my work as lacking “even a hook for projection.”

My hope is that this new paperback edition will find its way into the hands of those who find C. G. Jung a fascinating—or perplexing—figure and who want to learn more about the historical context of his ideas. No other book currently exists that can give you, the reader, an inside look into the historical reality of C. G. Jung’s world during the most creative years of his life (1913-1925). But be warned: this is a book that the Jungian analytic community and the Jung family consider to be forbidden fruit.

Despite its portrayal as such in Jungian journals, this book is not an exercise in debunking Jung. There is much that I admire about Jung and I owe much—personally and professionally—to some aspects of his work. I am not a fundamentalist Christian (nor a Christian of any sort) looking to burn Jung at the stake for his polytheism and paganism, and I am not a Freudian out for revenge, as some reviewers have incorrectly surmised. What I have tried to do is what Jung himself said many times he preferred: to be seen as the vividly unconventional man that he truly was, warts and all. If there are those who read this book and feel a sense of disappointment, it is because my attempt to put Jung back into history, to show how his ideas were rooted in the cultural currents of his age, conflict with the usual spiritualized—and highly unreal—images of Jung that are found in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. MDR is a book falsely passed off as his autobiography, and its contents are widely disseminated in a vast Jungian literature which uncritically accepts this distorted picture.

For those who are not scholars and who rely only on what they are told about C. G. Jung in Jungian books and journals, I can understand how some of the material I present in this book may be shocking. If so, the fault lies not in these pages but in the implicit conspiracy of silence concerning the historical truth about Jung and his movement One of the critical issues I raise early in this book is that for generations those near Jung knew the truth behind the distortions that were deliberately presented to the public concerning him; and yet, for various reasons, they kept their silence. The truth about Jung’s conscious falsification of his evidence for a collective unconscious, or about his racialist attitudes and anti-Semitism, or about his lifelong practice of polygamy were all known by people like C. A. Meier and Aniela Jaffé and many others who were in his inner circle for decades — but, to preserve the image of Jung as a guru-like holy man or god-man, they all kept quiet or lied about the evidence. It is ironic that a movement priding itself on making the unconscious conscious can continue to be so resistant to accepting Jung as a human being who lived in a particular cultural context and in a particular era of history. For a variety of complex reasons, there seems to be a great need on the part of not only Jungian analysts but also Jung’s family to keep him out of historical view.

Why should a historical work on C. G. Jung be so controversial?

Let me see if I can explore some of the reasons that have made The Jung Cult a topic of hot debate in newspapers throughout Europe, England, South America, and the United States, where a front-page story on the controversy appeared in the New York Times on June 3, 1995.

The first reason may seem innocuous initially, but it draws our attention precisely to the greater problem at hand: this book is the first comprehensive treatment of the historical context of the early life and work of C. G. Jung. True, there have been books on Jung before this one; however, without exception, they have all imprisoned him within the context of his relationship with Sigmund Freud. Although this was a very important relationship for Jung, his life both before and after Freud has been sorely neglected by scholars because of the almost exclusive focus on his Freudian years. This is true even for a useful book on Jung by Peter Homans, Jung in Context, which unfortunately is ahistorical in its approach and now seems quite out-dated because of this characteristic. But other than the work of Homans and an excellent book by John Kerr, who again puts Jung under the Freudian lens, there is nowhere for an intelligent person with an interest in Jung to go for serious scholarly information. There are armies of Freud scholars; it is a very telling fact that only now, 35 years after Jung’s death, are Jung historians beginning to appear. As I point out in The Jung Cult, Jungians as a rule have always been metaphysicians, not historians. Like Jung, they have traditionally been much more interested in mystery than in history.

And when believing in myth becomes more important than attempting to discern historical fact, we have a very serious problem indeed.

Because most Jungians seem to have little interest in history — including their own — they were shocked by what I uncovered and presented in this book. In particular, many expressed disbelief (again, without sifting the evidence for my argument) in my hypothesis that during the years of the Great War Jung deliberately set out to form a religious cult based on Aryan mysticism and polytheistic paganism. In December 1913 Jung had an experience (documented in this book) in which he underwent a visionary initiation into the Hellenistic mysteries of Mithras — the oldest of all the Aryan mystery cults of the Hellenistic world. At the climax of his initiatory experience he became a god — but not just any god: he became the Aryan Christ. Jung believed and acted — consciously — like a religious prophet who sought to bring about a new spiritual age. His “psychological” theories and his therapeutic techniques were based on these core experiences. I argue in this book that his psychological theories of the collective unconscious and the archetypes are essentially masks, a pseudoscientific cover to hide the practices of what was essentially a new religious movement in which Jung taught people to have trance visions and to contact the “gods” directly.

Jung was a bitter enemy of the orthodoxies of Judeo-Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Because— and this is what his disciples have long forgotten—Jung believed that Christianity was a Jewish cancer, a “foreign growth” imposed on the Germans (such as himself), which cut them off from their biological and spiritual roots and made them ill. Jews were too “civilized,” too cut off from the natural religion of the sun and sky that the Germans practiced only a thousand years ago. They had no concept of “rebirth” nor any mystery cults, and therefore they could not be redeemed. To maintain the racial purity of his cult in Switzerland, he denied membership to Jews for decades, and in later years maintained a quota on their membership. As late as 1944 Jung’s closest associates, including C. A. Meier, drew; up a secret document which set a “Jewish quota” to Jung’s Psychological Club in Zurich. Jolande Jacobi, Aniela Jaffé, and many other familiar Jungian authors and analysts knew of this and kept silent. Not surprisingly, there was much pro-Nazi sentiment among those in Jung’s Psychology Club in the 1930s. To my knowledge, even as of this late date (1996) no one in Zurich—certainly no one in the Jung family—has ever attempted to make a formal apology for these attitudes or actions.

Raising such issues only served to open old wounds that Jung’s disciples and his family would have rather kept closed. Although they had been apprised of The Jung Cult and its contents and conclusions many months before it appeared, no one in Jung’s family seemed to take much notice until the hardcover edition of my book finally appeared in September 1994. And then Jung’s family pressured Princeton University, the publisher of that edition, to stop its publication and distribution.

Princeton University Press is the publisher of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung and of many occultist works of pseudo-scholarship that promote Jungian ideas. Books like the I Ching, Esther Harding’s The 1 and the Not-1, and Erich Neumann’s bizarre works of mystical/Jungian archaeology are, like the Collected Works, part of the publishing program that has earned Princeton—and the Jung family substantial sums over the years. Given the fact that the Jung family and the Jung estate are important to this Ivy League publisher, when complaints about my book came from Switzerland, the editors of Princeton University Press took it quite seriously — so seriously, in fact, that in February 1995 the director of Princeton University Press, two editors, and a retired consultant all flew to Zurich for a weekend of meetings with the Jung family, the agents of the Jung estates (Niedieck Linder), and the keepers of the flame at the Psychological Club in Zurich.

As I was told by my editor after her return from Zurich, Franz Jung—C. G.’s 86-year-old son—and others in Zurich demanded that The Jung Cult be immediately taken out of distribution. This demand was refused. However, a planned anthology of Jung’s writings on the ancient mysteries, which I edited and to which I had contributed a lengthy introduction, was soon cancelled. Although from a legal point of view the cancellation of the book was entirely legitimate, these actions raised ethical issues which affect not only me but all scholars who may want to do serious scholarly research on C. G. Jung.

One of the most distressing subtexts to the controversy surrounding The Jung Cult involves the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. In the course of polishing The Jung Cult for publication, I learned that a photocopy of the copious clinical notes (and other materials) belonging to an early associate of Jung’s had been deposited at the Library of Congress. These documents were the personal papers of J. J. Honegger, a young physician and assistant to Jung who committed suicide in the spring of 1911. Honegger left no legal provisions for the disposition of his papers, and they subsequently came into the possession of C. G. Jung. Jung kept them for decades, and then one day turned them over to his associate, C. A. Meier. Meier sat on them for years, and then finally deposited them in the archives of the E. T. H. university library in Zurich, where many of Jung’s professional papers are housed. A Jungian disciple in America got possession of photocopies of these documents, kept them himself for some time, and then in November 1993 deposited them in the Library of Congress.

However, when the Jungians in Switzerland learned that these papers had been deposited in the Library of Congress without their prior knowledge or permission, they demanded that Honegger’s papers be immediately sent back to Switzerland. For two years the Library of Congress refused to send them back to Switzerland, and it was ultimately able to keep them, subject to certain restrictions imposed by the Jung family and their associates. Thus, the Library of Congress refused access to the papers unless the permission of certain Jungians in Zurich was first gained in writing. This proved to be an insurmountable problem. My letters to the Jungians in Switzerland went unanswered—not surprisingly, for apparently they didn’t want anyone to read these documents. I also made persistent requests to the Library of Congress. After the flap over the proposed Freud exhibit that was “postponed,” the Library of Congress answered my requests with a letter stating that the documents were being sent back to the American Jungian from whom they had been received. Case closed.

Why are Honegger’s papers so important that the Jung inner circle does not want anyone to see them? I believe, and I argue in this volume, that it is because they contain the clinical notes of 1909-1910 on the famous case history of the Solar Phallus Man, which Jung pointed to as the most convincing evidence he had ever encountered of the collective unconscious. The Solar Phallus Man was an institutionalized patient who saw a phallus hanging from the sun. Jung argued throughout his life that this patient was describing an image from an ancient mystery cult liturgy that had only been translated and published in 1910— supposedly years after the delusion had been reported. Jung thought the delusion was based on material arising from an archaic, phylogenetic layer of the unconscious mind. As I demonstrate in this book, Jung had a tendency to lie about many, indeed most, of the details of this case over the course of his career. These clinical notes likely contain the truth — but it is perhaps a truth that the Jung family and Jung’s remaining disciples do not want revealed. There is a distinct possibility that the publication of the Honegger papers will demonstrate conclusively not only that C. G. Jung was mistaken about his idea of a collective unconscious but that he lied about this case later in order to cover up his mistake.

Unless and until the Jung family releases Honegger’s papers, the public will not know the facts of the matter.

That said, there is much work yet to be done for young scholars who want to fill in the missing parts of the story of C. G. Jung. I wrote The Jung Cult with future generations of scholars in mind. There is no need to wait for the Jung family to open Jung’s personal documents to historians. Tucked away, unread, in archives all over the world is a wealth of material that can add to our woefully incomplete knowledge of this extraordinary man and his life. Jung had not only colleagues to whom he wrote but also several generations of disciples, many of whom kept dream diaries and other documents. Since the latter were generally wealthy and had a sense of history, they were able to provide for the safety of this material, so that a surprising number of such items have survived.

This volume, then, is a beginning. I leave it to others to complete the story.

Richard Noll, Ph.D.

Published in Richard Noll