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Hoy, D.J. (1983). Numinous Experiences: Frequent or Rare?. J. Anal. Psychol., 28(1):17-32.

(1983). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 28(1):17-32

Numinous Experiences: Frequent or Rare?

Daniel J. Hoy, B.A, M.A.


Jung Was not a rigorously systematic thinker. When reading through the Collected Works we have a feeling of being in touch with seminal ideas rather than rigidly defined terms within a system. Returning to Jung's works can serve to refresh our conceptualisations by expanding them or by redirecting them in a way that can refocus our vision as therapists.

Evaluating Jung's use of the adjective ‘numinous’ runs into many difficulties. The concept is an important one for him, and can get caught up into many problems, such as that of good and evil, or the monotheism/ polytheism issue as put forth by Hillman. I think it is fair to say that numinosity and the monotheistic self are closely allied in Jung's works. Numinosity is generally used there in the context of the process of individuation and is close to the problem of good and evil.

However, nothing is quite so clear as that, in Jung's less than rigorous systematisation; there is room to question in his writings the relations between numinous experiences, the concept of the self, and the problem of possible numinous evil as well as of numinous good

It should not be surprising that theological problems, such as those of monotheism and polytheism, or of good and evil, occur alongside with the term ‘numinous’. The term first appears in Jung's Psychology and religion (JUNG 14), and its etymology indicates a nod (of the head; in a narrower sense, the god showing his will by nodding the head) (JUNG 25, ii, p. 483).

Because numinous experiences are so central to Jung, the consideration of any aspect of them raises questions of fundamental importance. For instance, in what sense is Jung's psychology of numinous experiences a phenomenology of religious experiences? What characterises the essential element in Jungian psychology, whose ‘main interest’ is to approach the numinous? How does psychological change of any kind relate to the total purpose of the individual human being (i.e.,

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