Edited by Gloria Lee
In 1944, Carl Jung had a heart attack which gave him what is now called an NDE, or near death experience.
It seemed to me that I was high up in space. Far below I
saw the globe of the Earth, bathed in a gloriously blue
light. I saw the deep blue sea and the continents. Far
below my feet lay Ceylon, and in the distance ahead of me
the subcontinent of India. My field of vision did not
include the whole Earth, but its global shape was plainly
distinguishable and its outlines shone with a silvery gleam
through that wonderful blue light. In many places the
globe seemed colored, or spotted dark green like oxidized
silver. Far away to the left lay a broad expanse – the
reddish-yellow desert of Arabia; it was as though the
silver of the Earth had there assumed a reddish-gold hue.
Then came the Red Sea, and far, far back – as if in the
upper left of a map – I could just make out a bit of the
Mediterranean. My gaze was directed chiefly toward
that. Everything else appeared indistinct. I could also see
the snow-covered Himalayas, but in that direction it was
foggy or cloudy. I did not look to the right at all. I knew
that I was on the point of departing from the Earth.
Later I discovered how high in space one would have to be
to have so extensive a view – approximately a thousand
miles! The sight of the Earth from this height was the most
glorious thing I had ever seen.
After contemplating it for a while, I turned around. I had
been standing with my back to the Indian Ocean, as it
were, and my face to the north. Then it seemed to me that
I made a turn to the south. Something new entered my
field of vision. A short distance away I saw in space a
tremendous dark block of stone, like a meteorite. It was
about the size of my house, or even bigger. It was floating
in space, and I myself was floating in space.
I had seen similar stones on the coast of the Gulf of
Bengal. They were blocks of tawny granite, and some of
them had been hollowed out into temples. My stone was one
such gigantic dark block. An entrance led into a small
antechamber. To the right of the entrance, a black Hindu
sat silently in lotus posture upon a stone bench. He wore a
white gown, and I knew that he expected me. Two steps
led up to this antechamber, and inside, on the left, was the
gate to the temple. Innumerable tiny niches, each with a
saucer-like concavity filled with coconut oil and small
burning wicks, surrounded the door with a wreath of
bright flames. I had once actually seen this when I visited
the Temple of the Holy Tooth at Kandy in Ceylon; the gate
had been framed by several rows of burning oil lamps of
As I approached the steps leading up to the entrance into
the rock, a strange thing happened: I had the feeling that
everything was being sloughed away; everything I aimed at
or wished for or thought, the whole phantasmagoria of
earthly existence, fell away or was stripped from me – an
extremely painful process. Nevertheless something
remained; it was as if I now carried along with me
everything I had ever experienced or done, everything
that had happened around me. I might also say: it was with
me, and I was it. I consisted of all that, so to speak. I
consisted of my own history and I felt with great
certainty: this is what I am. I am this bundle of what has
been and what has been accomplished.
This experience gave me a feeling of extreme poverty, but
at the same time of great fullness. There was no longer
anything I wanted or desired. I existed in an objective
form; I was what I had been and lived. At first the sense
of annihilation predominated, of having been stripped or
pillaged; but suddenly that became of no consequence.
Everything seemed to be past; what remained was a “fait
accompli”, without any reference back to what had been.
There was no longer any regret that something had
dropped away or been taken away. On the contrary: I had
everything that I was, and that was everything.
Something else engaged my attention: as I approached the
temple I had the certainty that I was about to enter an
illuminated room and would meet there all those people to
whom I belong in reality. There I would at last understand
– this too was a certainty – what historical nexus I or my
life fitted into. I would know what had been before me,
why I had come into being, and where my life was flowing.
My life as I lived it had often seemed to me like a story
that has no beginning and end. I had the feeling that I was
a historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding
and succeeding text was missing. My life seemed to have
been snipped out of a long chain of events, and many
questions had remained unanswered. Why had it taken this
course? Why had I brought these particular assumptions
with me? What had I made of them? What will follow? I
felt sure that I would receive an answer to all the
questions as soon as I entered the rock temple. There I
would meet the people who knew the answer to my question
about what had been before and what would come after.
While I was thinking over these matters, something
happened that caught my attention. From below, from the
direction of Europe, an image floated up. It was my
doctor, or rather, his likeness – framed by a golden chain
or a golden laurel wreath. I knew at once: ’Aha, this is my
doctor, of course, the one who has been treating me. But
now he is coming in his primal form. In life he was an
avatar of the temporal embodiment of the primal form,
which has existed from the beginning. Now he is appearing
in that primal form.’
Presumably I too was in my primal form, though this was
something I did not observe but simply took for granted.
As he stood before me, a mute exchange of thought took
place between us. The doctor had been delegated by the
Earth to deliver a message to me, to tell me that there was
a protest against my going away. I had no right to leave
the Earth and must return. The moment I heard that, the
I was profoundly disappointed, for now it all seemed to
have been for nothing. The painful process of defoliation
had been in vain, and I was not to be allowed to enter the
temple, to join the people in whose company I belonged.
In reality, a good three weeks were still to pass before I
could truly make up my mind to live again. I could not eat
because all food repelled me. The view of city and
mountains from my sickbed seemed to me like a painted
curtain with black holes in it, or a tattered sheet of
newspaper full of photographs that meant nothing.
Disappointed, I thought, “Now I must return to the “box
system” again.” For it seemed to me as if behind the
horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been
artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in
a little box. And now I should have to convince myself all
over again that this was important! Life and the whole
world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond
measure that I should again be finding all that quite in
order. I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had
come about that I – along with everyone else – would again
be hung up in a box by a thread.
I felt violent resistance to my doctor because he had
brought me back to life. At the same time, I was worried
about him. “His life is in danger, for heaven’s sake! He has
appeared to me in his primal form! When anybody attains
this form it means he is going to die, for already he
belongs to the “greater company.” Suddenly the terrifying
thought came to me that the doctor would have to die in my
stead. I tried my best to talk to him about it, but he did
not understand me. Then I became angry with him.
In actual fact I was his last patient. On April 4, 1944 – I
still remember the exact date I was allowed to sit up on
the edge of my bed for the first time since the beginning
of my illness, and on this same day the doctor took to his
bed and did not leave it again. I heard that he was having
intermittent attacks of fever. Soon afterward he died of
septicernia. He was a good doctor; there was something of
the genius about him. Otherwise he would not have
appeared to me as an avatar of the temporal embodiment
of the primal form.
~ Carl Jung
Thanks to Ben Gilberti for posting this on Facebook.