The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead

By Stephan Hoeller

Carl Gustav Jung is known as a pivotal 20th century psychologist, but besides being a man of science and reason, he also was an intuitive with a mystical streak, as exemplified in The Seven Sermons to the Dead. As both a psychiatrist and an individual, Jung was on a quest for the return to wholeness of the human psyche.

Jung distributed only a few privately-published copies of The Seven Sermons amongst his most trusted friends, fearful that the manuscript would not be understood by his peers and thereby damage his professional reputation. However, it is now regarded as an important source of his later scientific work. 

Jung signed The Seven Sermons to the Dead with the name Basilides, a 2nd century AD gnostic sage from Alexandria. The text evokes the atmosphere of gnostic Egypt, describing concepts such as the ‘pleroma’ (divine fullness) and paradoxical entities such as a rather disturbing supreme deity called Abraxas, who is both god and devil in one. This god-image is not surprising because, to Jung, the Divine is not a theological idea but a psychic experience, in which images of the Divine rise up from the unconscious in order to bring meaning to our lives. 

Jung’s Seven Sermons is translated by Stephen Hoeller who also provides us with a profound and clarifying commentary. It is recommended to those who wish to get to the core of the mystical Jung.