Carl Jung on exploration

Tuesday May 16, 2006

(7:50 a.m.) Dr. Jung, can you provide some context for what is going on here? I’m beyond suspecting that I am “making this up” except that the more I think about it the less I have any idea what’s really going on, how I should really be looking at all this. I’m not really simple enough to take all this at its face value either as legitimate contact or as construct of my own mind. No, that isn’t the way to put it. I mean to say, I am not simple enough to be sure of anything! So, I would appreciate how it seems to you – even while recognizing that asking your opinion is like – well, anyway –

You are in deep waters, and you prefer to be able to stand firmly on the bottom.

Boy that’s the truth!

And yet you want to go sailing. Very well, if you wish to sail and you cannot swim, it is well for you to not fall out of the boat, or else go sailing wearing always a life preserver! But life preservers are not much fun, so you must learn to swim, or be sure to not fall out of the boat, or stay ashore.

Staying ashore does not appeal to me.

Of course, or what would you be doing out of sight of land? And you do not quite know how to swim – although, you float quite vigorously! – and so you are confined to your boat and in fact are confined a bit in what you dare do in your boat lest you fall off.

But enough of analogy. “Your boat” really refers to the concepts you use in order to make sense of your experiences. This is necessary if you are to sail farther and acquire even newer experiences. Otherwise you are swimming alone and the strangeness could overwhelm you.

Robert Monroe’s strength was in allowing himself to be led to new experiences regardless that he had no concepts to fit them into. This made him a good explorer. But what made him a good map-maker is that when he returned to a mundane frame of reference he did not seek to reconcile his experiences with existing material, but instead pieced it together himself. This does not mean that he produced accurate maps. It means that he produced first-hand maps.

Your strength is somewhat the same, but your context is very different. You are immersed at a broad but shallow level in many connections. You have read extensively in areas he had not encountered – including books that became possible only because of his journeys and books and technology and [TMI residential] programs. So your map-making differs from his not so much by experience – though here too they are profoundly different – as by temperament and context.

For example, Monroe had no theology, and he saw no value to theology. He respected science and wanted to function as a scientist. Much of what each of you lives among is terra incognita to the other.

I’m not sure I’ve got a very good connection here. The feel of this fades in and out and I wonder if I am putting in words to fill blanknesses.

Breathing. Settling in. Slowing.

Thanks. Better.

Yes. All right then –

Your question is, what is going on? Who are you talking to? What is the process? You had a working hypothesis. Why do you feel the need to abandon it or modify it, and why use me rather than yourself?

Well surely it is obvious. I don’t know if my explanation is right – and how can I find out by asking part of the manifestation if it is what it seems to be!

Precisely. So – nevertheless you ask. Having called spirits from the vasty deep you ask them if they are really spirits, and if they are really from the vasty deep, or if you are making the whole thing up.

And it’s ridiculous, I know. It is exactly like asking somebody if they exist outside of my own mind. In the nature of things, the answer is inside the frame of reference. I don’t suppose we could ever really prove that anybody else exists, really – because all the evidence that seems to be sensory has been processed by our own mind.

And so you should ask yourself, why does this question remain important to you? Regardless what the answer is, the fact that you are presented with is that the question exists and is real for you and important.

And for someone else, it might not be.

That’s right. Your questions define you much more than your answers do.

I have been working on the assumption that this experience is for the sake of others, not just for me. The fact that I am willing to experiment in public is – I take it – one of my qualifications for the job. Well, if this is true, setting out my doubts and problems is a good thing, surely, so as to encourage others to begin or continue. But it seems to me that some tentative structure is equally important.

Yes, but anyone doing something by following another person’s example has a pitfall to deal with that the first person does not. The very fact that you have recorded your experiments makes them more real, more objective, gives them greater weight, to the person reading of them or hearing of them. It tempts followers to assume that you know more, can do more, are more, than they.

Yes I see that all the time now. And I see how I have done just that.

Of course. It can scarcely be avoided. Perhaps it shouldn’t be avoided, for in its own way it can be an encouragement. But wrongly used – or rather, revered instead of being used – it becomes a pitfall.


Well, you know, when you read of another’s efforts and you sympathize with them, there is a temptation to set the experimenter higher than yourself in your estimation. Were you not told that too much admiration sets a distance between people that hampers communication?

Yes. I see. So do you think it would be a bad thing, or say a useless thing, to try to make a structure to contain this in?

Why should you wish to contain it? To contain it is to confine the ship to the harbor. You know the saying about ships and harbors.

Yes I do. Ships are safe in harbors but that isn’t what ships are made for.


So how about it we at least sketch out the structure of the ship itself?

To reassure the sailors, presumably.

Well, sure, that. And to give – no, I guess that’s what it amounts to.

Very well, look at it this way. You are a consciousness, a part of which is confined within a body and the body’s experiences. To the degree that you restrict your awareness to that part of your consciousness only, you will live in a world of senses and, perhaps, thoughts. But that world will be haunted by dreams and the irrational. Things will occur that are seemingly external to you, seeded from chaos. Life may become a struggle for sanity.

Religions were created for many reasons, not least of which to provide a formal social acknowledgement that the consciousness of the senses is not the end of the story. The idea, you see, is just what you were proposing – by giving people a framework, perhaps they would feel more comfortable, exploring.

But not everyone needs religion for that purpose. Some find their consciousness ranging far and wide beyond the body, and some find this exhilarating and some find it frightening and some don’t think much about it, taking it as natural. In this difference in reaction you may see a difference in types, as I studied long ago.

In a time in which religion is alive to people and they do not overspill it – that is, in a time created within the religion – anyone’s imaginings, dreams, experiences, visitations, apparitions, communications are fitted into the framework the religion provides, and thus they make sense, pretty easily.

These are not the kind of times you live in – or wish to live in, or you would be living in other times! In your times, the old religion – the old way of linking up, which is what the word religion means – has lost its vitality. New myths, new containers, are being shaped, as you live through the process. Your great-grandchildren will live within a new myth that more closely matches their psychic reality. There is nothing wrong with the process, neither the making of myths nor the outgrowing of myths. How else is chaos to be contained, save in form? How else is growth to occur, save in the breaking of form?

Living as you do – as I did, but in an earlier phase – in which the old gods have left the forms that society had become accustomed to, you have a transitory freedom of exploration that has its advantages and disadvantages.,

No one can see God’s unshielded face, religious tradition tells us. What does this mean? One meaning is simply that the created cannot comprehend that which created it. Another meaning is that the consciousness while confined within form cannot comprehend the formless, but immediately and inevitably attempts to confine the formless in some sort of definition that consciousness-within-form can grasp. You know the Sufi saying, it is very true: “Words are a prison. God is free.”

Well, if you cannot really see the infinite as it is – not from want of will or want of intensity or want of depth or want of sustained effort but in the nature of things – then you must resign yourself to the knowledge that whatever glimpse you get is precious, but incomplete; infinitely valuable, but misunderstood and not very communicable. In times between eras, times between myths, times between religions – in times when the Gods have left their former habitations and have not yet had new houses built for them by man – in your time, in other words, you can see this inability to comprehend the infinite. The times between gods (if you care to look at it that way) allow people to see between the cracks and remember how little we ever see. Later, when we are worshipping the gods in these new houses, we will find it easier to forget that still we do not see them face to face.

Now what does this have to do with Mr. Robert Monroe, and you who use his tools of exploration? This should serve as a reminder that the fact that you do not know is actually a good thing, for it merely means that for the moment you are awake to a reality that persists but is forgotten. You can never know at any absolute level. Given that you cannot know if pink looks to your neighbor as it does to you, can you expect to compare visions of the formless? There is no harm, and much use, in making such comparisons provided that you remember the limits to your certainties. But it is precisely this remembering that you will find very hard to do. The continual recurring temptation will be to fall into certainty or to cease to explore.

Thank you very much. (9:05 a.m.)

2 thoughts on “Carl Jung on exploration

  1. I’m finding these journal posts fascinating. I’m glad you are rereading your writings and posting them here. There’s lots of good things to chew on, to ponder.

    Some things that popped out for me:
    – “Your questions define you much more than your answers do.” I really like that. It gives me goose bumps!
    – Monroe’s strength as an explorer was he allowed himself to be led into unknown territory and didn’t try to fit what he learned into existing experience. He made maps, not necessarily accurate, but first hand.
    – I have profited from Bob’s maps and experience. I have gone on to make my own maps. My strength lies in that I’m not afraid to try, to stand up to the plate and bat. What I’ve learned is to not be so quick to analyze or to fit information into my existing structures. I sit with it and wait for guidance to help me understand. Big jump for me.

    Thanks, as always.

  2. This has been a really inspirational session for me this morning. I’m glad to be alive at a time between frameworks, to get to experience this “transitory freedom” that’s part of this shift in consciousness, to see how we’ve broken from the previous form and to get to see how the next mythical framework is formed. I can see how we create it, out of our own shift in ideas on what’s beyond normal consciousness and how to access it. Thanks, Frank.

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