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Dehing, J. (1990). Jung And Knowledge: From Gnosis to Praxis. J. Anal. Psychol., 35(4):377-396.

(1990). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 35(4):377-396

Jung And Knowledge: From Gnosis to Praxis

Jef Dehing, M.D.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet).

I don't believe, I know. (C.G. Jung).


In his ‘Reply to Martin Buber’ Jung observed with a wry grin that after having been characterised as ‘unspiritual’ (by Count Keyserling), he found himself classified (by Martin Buber) as an early Christian gnostic. This is the more funny, he added, since ‘an authoritative theological source’, at the very same moment, is accusing him of agnosticism. Why is so much attention devoted to the question of whether I am a Gnostic or an agnostic?, he asks, arguing that he is a psychiatrist whose prime concern is to record and interpret his empirical material. And he is quite pleased with a quotation in the British Medical Journal which says: Facts first and theories later is the keynote of Jung's work. He is an empiricist first and last (Jung 20).

In spite of Jung's assertion, intriguing as it is, I want to take up the question again, not as an academic exercise, but because it has so many clinical and ideological implications.

A close investigation of Jung's writings, particularly those concerned with Gnosis, actually reveals the existence of a logical contradiction in Jung's thinking: although he repeatedly defines his standpoint as empirical, phenomenological and agnostic, this does not prevent him, at times, from lapsing into assumptions that are truly Gnostic.

A possible interpretation of this ambiguity will be proposed, founded on an analysis of biographical data.

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