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Not Always So


Ghostly Gurus

The other personality was there, within him, for as long as the boy could remember. He called it Personality Number Two.

Most of the time, the young Carl Jung was an ordinary child. But Personality Number Two was "grown up -- old, in fact -- skeptical, mistrustful, remote from the world of men, but close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon, the weather, all living creatures, and above all close to the night, to dreams, and to whatever 'God' worked directly in him." That was how Jung described the feeling, in his autobiography, many years later.

Later, Jung would come to feel that Personality Number Two was his spirit guide, a sort of inner guru that Jung named "Philemon." When Philemon first fully announced himself to Jung, he caused what can only be described as poltergeist-like experiences in Jung's home and then, over the next three nights, proceeded to dictate long passages of text. With the help of Philemon, Jung channeled several books, including the well-known Seven Sermons To The Dead and the magnificent, but only-recently-published, Liber Novus. Unnerved, Jung consulted a respected mentor. "'There are ghostly gurus, too,'" the friend told him. "'Most people have living gurus. But there are always some who have a spirit for a teacher.'"

Most people know, of course, that Carl Jung grew up to be a doctor and a famous psychologist, second in historical importance only to his teacher Sigmund Freud. But Jung's many occult experiences are less well-known, and it has seldom (if ever) been pointed out that Jung's spiritual experiences match up surprisingly closely with those of Aleister Crowley, the famous twentieth-century magician.

Crowley was Jung's contemporary, in the sense that they lived during the same time period, but it is doubtful that the two ever met. I have not yet been able to determine if Jung was even aware of Crowley's existence, though Crowley was certainly aware of Jung, to whom he made (typically acerbic) reference in his writings more than once, with comments such as "There must be something in this deep down.  I wonder what!  (Ask Jung!)" It is unlikely, however, that Jung's private experiences had any influence on Crowley who, though extremely well-read, was far more interested than in magic than he was in psychology. Besides, Jung's autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, wherein he describes his experiences in real detail, was not even published until well after Crowley's death. In every sense of the word, the two men truly moved in different circles.

Yet Crowley also had intense experiences with what today might be popularly called a "spirit guide" named Aiwass, though the term that Crowley preferred was "Holy Guardian Angel." Like Philemon, Crowley's Holy Guardian Angel also manifested with a bang, causing an apparent mental breakdown in Crowley's wife and an attending series of staggering synchronicities that made Crowley, who was in a deep period of doubt at the time, eventually recommit to his spiritual path. And like Philemon, Aiwass wanted to dictate a book over the course of three days. These three days, and the book that came of them, were to be as spiritually influential to Crowley as Jung's encounters were to him.

Jung's and Crowley's separate spirit encounters occurred within just a few years of each other, and were both accompanied by apocalyptic visions of global catastrophe. Both men interpreted World War One, which started shortly afterward, as fulfillment of these prophecies.

Crowley insisted that Aiwass manifested to him in physical form, though he was unable to look at him directly. Jung's experience of Philemon was lifelong, but total. He reported that once he began to pay attention, "sometimes it was as if I were hearing it with my ears, sometimes feeling it with my mouth, as if my tongue were formulating words; now and then I heard myself whispering aloud. Below the threshold of consciousness everything was seething with life."

In the end, as with many such stories, we are left with more questions than answers. Who were these beings? Is it possible that they were connected, perhaps some sort of warning from the earth about the unprecedented devastation that was coming with World War One? And what was the significance of the three day time period? The "contact" experiences themselves were so personal that we will probably never fully understand them, but the connections between Jung and Crowley are a topic that continues to fascinate me. I'll return to it again.


The Confessions of Aleister Crowley by Aleister Crowley.

Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by C.G. Jung.