Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings

Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings

Gary Lachman
New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2010. 258 pages, hardcover, $24.95.

Anne Tyler wrote, “Things are changed by what comes after,” and nothing could be more apt to say about the life of the great Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung. The first generation of his followers, those who knew him, are all passed away, yet Jung’s ideas live on at a level that that generation’s world could not have understood or accepted. Now comes Gary Lachman’s outstanding new biography, Jung the Mystic, and this is a book whose time has come indeed. Lachman himself (a long-time Quest contributor) is a man of the current generation, since he started out in his youth as a musician with the band Blondie (for which he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) before a serious change of career turned him into an accomplished scholar and biographer of esotericists such as Rudolf Steiner and G.I. Gurdjieff.

Lachman’s past seems to have prepared him well for this present work, and it is indeed an important one, as he discloses how Jung broke the limitations of psychiatry and offered the world a glimpse into other dimensions bordering on spiritual gnosis. As such, Jung earned the informal title of “Prophet for the Age of Aquarius,” the era we are already in the process of entering. Chronicling the life of such a man is no small feat, but one Lachman does with competent objectivity. The result is impressive.

The book is true to the facts of Jung’s life as described in other biographies, but with a twist. Lachman traces the origins of Jung’s mysticism, his tormented rejection of them, and the resulting conflict between the rational “Professor Herr Doktor” and the apparently nonrational mystic. The conflict resulted in a psychotic break, consciously observed and recorded, and the personal suffering endured while continuing his life as a therapist, a husband, a father, and a distinguished worldwide lecturer and world traveler! The two most important women in Jung’s life–his understanding, wise, and patient wife, Emma, and his mistress and soror mystica, Toni Wolff–are both partakers in Lachman’s account. The result is a tour de force and gives us a fresh portrait of one outstanding man of his time.

Lachman also introduces us to many important and creative people who are fortunately still with us. Sonu Shamdasani is just one of them, the editor of the glorious edition of Jung’s personal journal, The Red Book, now attracting worldwide attention, and which dominated the cover of The New York Times Magazine only last year.

I was particularly intrigued by the chapter that described Jung’s role helping the Allies in World War II, in which he collaborated with the American agent Allen W. Dulles (who later became the first head of the Central Intelligence Agency) in preparing psychological profiles of the leaders of the Third Reich. Dulles was later quoted as saying, “Nobody will probably ever know how much Professor Jung contributed to the Allied cause during the war.” As I was a teenager in Switzerland at the time, the chapter has some personal interest, mentioning quite a few people my parents knew and and whom I remember meeting.

Jung became depressed at times, fearing no one would understand what he was trying to give the world. He might have been greatly cheered had he known that one Gary Lachman, fifty years later, would lift the curtain on one of the most important aspects of his remarkable life and offer us such a fair and objective account of his life and work, warts and all. I believe that this book proves, without a doubt, that things are indeed changed by what comes after. Bravo to a superb achievement!

Alice O. Howell

Alice O. Howell is author of The Dove in the Stone, The Web in the Sea, and The Heavens Declare: Astrological Ages and the Evolution of Consciousness, all published by Quest Books.