The Healing Power of the Numinosum

… the doctor has an urgent case on his hands. He cannot wait… but will seize upon anything that is “alive” for the patient and therefore effective…. by dint of careful and persevering investigation, he must endeavor to discover just where the sick person feels a healing, living quality which can make him whole….

Jung (1952)[1]

It must gradually be dawning on any responsible doctor what a tremendously important role the spiritual element plays in the psychic economy.

Jung (1952)[2]

… archetypes have about them a certain effulgence or quasi-consciousness, and… numinosity entails luminosity. Paracelsus seems to have had an inkling of this. The following is taken from his Philosophia sagax: “And as little as aught can exist in man without the divine numen, so little can aught exist in man without the natural lumen. A man is made perfect by numen and lumen and these two alone. Everything springs from these two, and these two are in man, but without them man is nothing,…

Jung (1946)[3]

… the dramatic jolt provided by illness—a jolt for the sake of a new conscious and existential orientation—is a challenge to ego conservativism and to its resistance to deep structural changes. The ego’s ways of responding to the impact of the challenge are therefore of fundamental importance in respect to illness or health.

Edward Whitmont M.D. (1993)[4]

By analyzing the data in our study, I found that those who have experiences of light are the ones who have the greatest transformation. And the deeper that experience of light the greater the transformation. It doesn’t matter who has the experience—Marines, punk rockers, real-estate agents, corporate executives, housewives, ministers, or holy men—they are all transformed by their exposure to the light.

Melvin Morse M.D. (1992)[5]

In the previous essay “The Religious Impulse in the Human Being,”[6] I said I would discuss how the Divine helps us heal. In that essay I made the point that the Divine was not defined by Jung with reference to any particular creed.[7] When people press me to associate the Divine with a specific religion I reply with a question, asking my questioner to identify a religion, sect, denomination, cult or group for whom gravity does not work. In the decades over which I have had this discussion not a single person has been able to identify a group because gravity works for everyone. Then I add that the Source of gravity also works for everyone, and by the Source of gravity I mean the Divine. When he noted that every human being has an innate “religious instinct,”[8] Jung also used “religion” in a non-creedal way.

Having been taught Latin by his father at a very early age,[9] Jung was as fluent in it as he was in German, and he used Latin terms frequently in his writing. Numen and numinosum are two of these which I defined in an earlier essay archived on this blog site.[10] Rather than assume readers of this essay will refer back to that essay, I will repeat my definitions of these terms, along with the English adjective “numinous” here. Then I will give some features and examples of the numinosum, followed by a discussion of state-specific forms of knowing (which make any treatment of numinous experiences and objects more difficult).[11] Then I will move into a section on definitions and re-perceptions of illness, as Jungians regard it, followed by an examination of healing and the power of the numinous to heal and cure. I will conclude with some reflections on how we usually respond to the challenge of illness.

Some Definitions

Numen is a Latin word, deriving from the verb nuere, meaning “to nod.”[12] Its original meaning was “a nod.” You might well wonder how it comes to have anything to do with the Divine. It came to mean “divine will or divine power of the gods”[13] from the Greek and Roman practice of going to a temple to consult the will of the gods, at times when a person confronted a serious decision. In the temple the supplicant would stand before a statue of the god, state his problem, ask the god for guidance and then watch the statue. If it seemed to nod, the person knew the god approved the tack he planned to take. Over time numen came to be synonymous with “deity,” “Godhead,” divinity or “divine majesty.”[14]

Three other words derive from numen—numinous, numinosum and numinosity—and Jung used them all frequently. “Numinous” was an invented word, coined in 1917 by a German professor of theology, Rudolf Otto, in his book Das Heilige (translated in 1923 as The Idea of the Holy).[15] Why the invention? Otto felt the need for a specialized word to describe the concept of “holy” without the “moral factor” or rationality that we usually attach to “holy.”[16] He sought to describe “… this ‘extra’ in the meaning of ‘holy’ above and beyond the meaning of goodness.”[17] To create his neologism Otto started with numen and then looked for analogies. He found one in “omen,” the adjectival form of which is “ominous.” The adjective form of numen thus would be “numinous.”[18] Otto used “numinous” to describe categories of value within the sense of “holy,” and also to refer to a state of mind.[19]

Modern English dictionaries[20] define “numinous” several ways. It can mean “spiritual, holy, divine” and also “ethereal, nebulous, intangible.” In Otto’s and Jung’s usage, “spiritual,” “holy,” “divine” and “intangible” capture most accurately the qualities they mean.

Numinosum is a word Jung used repeatedly.[21] He may have borrowed it from Otto; perhaps the original German text had this Latinized version of “numinous.” I have not found it in the English translation. In his essay “Psychology and Religion” Jung provides a definition of numinosum:

“… a dynamic agency or effect not caused by an arbitrary act of will…. The numinosum—whatever its cause may be—is an experience of the subject independent of his will…. The numinosum is either a quality belonging to a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness….”[22]

Note that, in Jung’s thinking, the numinous can be both a quality and an experience. What kind of quality and what sort of experience?

Qualities, Features and Examples of the Numinosum

Otto and Jung provide a wealth of explicit qualities people are likely to feel when in the presence of the holy. First, it must be noted that the numinosum is a paradox,[23] containing both positive and negative, both of which we may experience simultaneously in any encounter with the Divine.

Some of the positive qualities of the numinosum include : sublimity, awe, excitement, bliss, rapture, exaltation, entrancement, fascination, attraction, allure[24] and what Otto called an “impelling motive power.”[25] Not so pleasant are other qualities like: overwhelment, fear, trembling, weirdness, eeriness, humility (an acute sense of unworthiness), urgency, stupor (blank wonder), bewilderment, horror, mental agitation, repulsion, and haunting, daunting, monstrous feelings[26] that “overbrim the heart.”[27] Otto speaks at length of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the fascinating mystery that makes us tremble (in awe). Because it “grips or stirs the mind,”[28] such an experience is not one we forget.[29]

But, while it is memorable, the numinous is not easily put into words. “Ineffable” is another of its features.[30] The numinous “eludes apprehension in terms of concepts.”[31] Being bigger and beyond oneself, it induces speechlessness.[32] Being a mystery, it bewilders the rational mind.[33] Being divine, it links us to the “ground of the soul.”[34] Being “unevolvable,” it is not to be derived from any other feeling.[35] It is magical, spell-binding[36] and cannot be controlled by the ego mind: it will intrude where and when it pleases.[37]

Another feature of the numinous is its luminosity. As the quote at the beginning of this essay indicated, the 16th century alchemist Paracelsus recognized the connection between numen and lumen.[38] The Divine is and always has been associated with light, and Paracelsus saw human beings as having both within, both the spark of the Divine, and the light associated with it, being essential to life: “… without them man is nothing,…”[39] We will speak more of numen and lumen later in this essay.

Because many of my students respond with blank stares and obvious confusion when I discuss the numinosum, it might be useful to provide examples of how it can show up in life. It can manifest in objects, symbols, persons, archetypes and experiences.

Objects like trees, mountains, rivers, gold and silver can manifest numinosity.[40] Trees certainly had numinous qualities for the Druids. Certain mountains are regarded as holy by various indigenous people.[41] Rivers can come to have numinosity, especially if they mark boundaries between nations or people or are associated with a religious tradition.[42] Objects that call up feelings of fascination, awe or fear—like the eye of the hurricane,[43] wolves, whales, dragons, and snakes[44]—are numinous. Sometimes numinosity is in the eye of the beholder, e.g. gold has numinosity for those who externalize their locus of security;[45] Earth, as a planet, has numinosity for those who regard it as “Mother.”[46]

Mother, father and the child are 3 examples of numinous people, in part because these are archetypes, like the Devil, the Savior, the witch, the warlock, the werewolf and the ghost.[47] Being a universal feature of archetypes, it is not surprising that we sense numinosity in religious symbols like the cross, the Ark of the Covenant, Mt. Sinai, the grave, the Sun, fire, the burning bush, Behemoth, and Leviathan.[48]

Religious history is full of examples of numinous experiences. The Jews encountered the numinous after they crossed the Red Sea.[49] The “Merkabah” vision of Ezekiel before he began his prophetic work,[50] Job’s encounter with God in the whirlwind,[51] Elijah’s experience of the “still, small voice,”[52] and Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus[53] are all examples of collective or individual experiences of the numinous. Paul described it as “… the peace which passes all understanding.”[54] The author of the New Testament book of Hebrews found it fear-inducing.[55] In the 14th century Meister Eckhart described it as the “primal bottom” grounding the soul.[56] Two centuries later Martin Luther referred to the numinous as the deus absconditus et incomprehensibilis,[57] the hidden and incomprehensible god.

Experience of the numinous is not limited to religious contexts. In the 18th century Friedrich Schleiermacher suggested the numinous was the “intuition and feeling of the infinite.”[58] The 19th century cultural historian John Ruskin described the “instinctive awe, mixed with delight; an indefinable thrill…” that he got in the presence of the numinous.[59] A later contemporary of Ruskin, the American psychologist William James, studied the varieties of religious experience and referred to the numinous as “a sense of reality, a feeling of objective presence, a perception of … something there.[60] Jung also had numerous experiences of the numinous, in his own life and in his work with his patients.

Not all of these experiences were pleasant, leading Jung to define God/the numinous as

“… an apt name given to all overpowering emotions in my own psychic system, subduing my conscious will and usurping control over myself. This is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse.”[61]

“Overpowering,” “usurping,” “willful,” upsetting, incomprehensible, passing all understanding—these are some ways we might experience the numinous. Adjectives and phrases like these bespeak the unique quality of the numinosum: An encounter with it cannot really be put into words or adequately described unless you have had such an encounter yourself. This is because it is a state-specific experience.[62]

State-Specific Forms of Knowing

Psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists[63] and law enforcement officials have come to recognize the concept of state-specific or state-bound knowledge. Have you ever awakened from a dream knowing that you had the solution to a problem but found you couldn’t remember it? In the dream state you knew the answer, but in waking consciousness you didn’t. The dream state is one state or condition of consciousness, waking reality another.

In laboratory experiments, researchers have gotten volunteers drunk, taught them specific tasks while they were drunk, and then allowed them to sober up. The volunteers were then tested on the tasks they had been taught but none could do them. But once they were drunk again, and tested in the drunken state, they could do the tasks.[64] Like sleep, inebriation is a specific state of consciousness and we learn and retain information in that state that we don’t have access to in the sober state of consciousness.

Mystics and long-term meditators also experience state-bound knowings that they cannot adequately describe to other people.[65] We speak of “being on someone’s wave length” when we can easily grasp what they are saying. But the adept meditator and the mystic during his or her mystical experience are not on the wavelength of waking consciousness, and so the experiences they have cannot be easily communicated to others.

In a similar way, when we handle archetypes (which have numinosity) or try to recount numinous experiences, we come up short because waking consciousness offers what Jung calls “mere words:”

The mere use of words is futile when you do not know what they stand for. This is particularly true in psychology, where we speak of archetypes like the anima and animus, the wise man, the great mother, and so on. … if they are mere images whose numinosity you have never experienced, it will be as if you are talking in a dream, for you will not know what you are talking about. The mere words you use will be empty and valueless. They gain life and meaning only when you try to take into account their numinosity—i.e. their relationship to the living individual. Only then do you begin to understand that their names mean very little, whereas the way they are related to you is all-important.[66]

How does the concept of state-specific knowledge relate to the theme of this essay? It is important because it explains why it is sometimes difficult for us to understand illness. Why do we get sick? What is the cause of dis-ease, of my disease? What’s going on with my body? We ask questions like this in our waking consciousness but the answers are “state-bound information” that we don’t have access to at that level of consciousness. We need to shift to other levels—like the mythological, magical or dream levels[67]—to re-perceive illness and recognize the numinosity of the body.

Jungian Interpretations of Illness

Given the deep materialism of our culture we don’t think of our bodies as numinous objects, but Jungians do,[68] and they aren’t alone: Thousands of years ago the author of Psalm 139 recognized the awesome nature of the human body—that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”[69]—and Judaism has retained this numinous appreciation of our materiality. One of the more awesome aspects of the human body is the vix medicatrix naturae, the healing force of Nature.[70] I often identify this force in discussions with my students by referring to the body’s amazing capacity to heal a cut: When we get a cut we don’t have to figure out how to heal it. We can’t figure out the healing process with our rational minds: it is “state-bound information” and the ego mind does not operate in that “state.” Independent of the ego mind healing happens; the body knows what is needed and sets to work, with its own healing force, to mend up the broken skin.

Our bodies hold levels of intelligence or consciousness that our ego minds cannot access in waking consciousness. But in the dream space we are sometimes given insights into the condition of our bodies, ways we might conserve our energy, how to stave off illness or foster healing if we get sick. Via “prodromal” dreams[71] we can get bits and pieces of the “state-bound” information the body holds and, in this way, a regular dream practice can help us tend our physical system and maintain good health.

But sometimes we find the dreams hard to interpret, or we lose the dream while waking up, or we get caught up in the materialist paradigm of our culture, which sees illness as due to something “out there,” germs, epidemics, etc. While I don’t intend to deny Pasteur’s great discovery of the “germ theory”—there are pathogens that can afflict the physical system—I think Jungians are on to something valid when they probe more deeply,[72] to inquire as to why a certain pathogen can afflict one body and not another, why some succumb in an epidemic while others don’t, why some people heal and others die.

To understand how Jung and his followers interpret illness, we need to widen our conventional definition of “disease” as “an unhealthy, disordered or bad condition”[73] and come to think of illness more as “a sign that we have to sacrifice some cognitional, behavioral or emotional pattern that the ego is attached to.”[74] or as a condition that has divine power imbedded in it.[75] The Jungian psychiatrist Edward Whitmont defines illness as a “dramatic jolt”[76] while the Jungian analyst Albert Kreinheder felt illness was a “treasure”[77] meant to foster new consciousness and changes in life. In other words, Jung & Co. regard illnesses as purposive: they “can be seen as a divine intervention”[78] in our lives that result when we resist “the ‘breaking in’ of new … energies… which are potentially ‘meant” to differentiate and renew life and awareness….”[79] We get sick because we don’t want to change, to grow, to reconfigure our lives. Life calls for new “themes” and our ego minds cling to the old and familiar patterns. If we don’t want to make the sacrifices that are necessary to move into the new life meant for us, we might get sick.[80]

Jung was a great believer in “entelechy,” a concept he took over from Aristotle.[81] It means the goal or destiny of a living thing. The entelechy of an acorn is an oak tree. The entelechy of the generic human being is the Anthropos, the archetype of the human in the fullness of his/her being. Just how this might show up in an individual life is what Jung meant by “individuation.” Each of us is subject to Fate; each of us has a destiny.[82] But just how that manifests is part of our uniqueness, and is also subject to our free will.[83] We can try to avoid our destiny and run away from what we are meant to do and be. But, if we do, life does not work very well, and our physical health can suffer.

Jung and his followers would have us re-perceive illness. What may seem like a calamitous sickness we might consider instead as “… a meaningful dramatic crisis” that then requires “our discovering the inherent ‘intent’ of the crisis.”[84] To the extent that we are able to do this and to “integrate new growth possibilities,”[85] we heal. Dis-ease, in other words, is a part of the path of individuation, the “psychosomatic aspect” of a process “that may be both human and cosmic.”[86] The “cosmic” part might require that we explore what’s going on through dreams and other altered states of consciousness, as this level would be beyond the ego mind’s ability to comprehend.

While the positivistic materialism of science regards us “as hapless victims” of external causes like germs, our cultural tradition, with its notions of sin and guilt, would have us believe that illness is due to some flaw or fault: we didn’t live right, eat right etc.[87] Such notions don’t help in getting at the root cause of disease. Much better is a shift in thinking that poses such questions as: How might I be deaf to the Vox dei,[88] the call of the Self, my inner divine core, to grow and change? Is there some way in which I have been erecting defenses against the Self and its demands of me? Am I avoiding adapting to changing circumstances? “Where is the power, the creativity, the healing energy?”[89] Jungians like Edward Whitmont believe that “Any form of being out of tune with the entelechy of the Self—even though its intents are not directly accessible to our awareness and have to be intuited by trial and error—constitutes a one-sidedness and creates pathology.”[90]

Living a “one-sided” life (e.g. all work and no play) creates the potential for disease. Living with an emotional pattern of overresponsibility can cause illness (especially cardiac problems).[91] Inability to assimilate an emotional shock can cause a health crisis (often cancer).[92] Inability to express aggression can show up physically in gall-bladder problems.[93] Repression of drives can spark hypertension.[94] Various organs in the body seem susceptible to specific emotional, psychological and spiritual conditions. Nothing is coincidental and there are always deeper emotional, mental and spiritual aspects to any physical ailment.[95]

The Self sets the timing, pattern and intentionality of an illness. Seen in this way, an illness can be reinterpreted as one form of “grace,”[96] calling us to heal toward greater wholeness.[97] Transpersonal forces, which the ego does not recognize, are asking to be accepted, taken in and integrated in our being. Doing so implies sacrifice of the status quo: We must give up behaviors, attitudes or emotional patterns that the ego is attached to.[98] Dreams, active imaginations and meditation can help us identify what these patterns might be.[99]

An example from my own recent experience might help illustrate this. About a year ago I began to feel awful: tired all the time, with a low grade headache, pains in all my muscles, swollen joints and itchy eyes. Friends who happened to come for a visit suggested that I might have a yeast infection and they got me a book[100] that had both recipes and a short quiz to determine if that might be the cause of my malaise. I took the quiz and came out on the borderline. Then I read the book and realized that if, indeed, I had a yeast infection, I would have to change my diet: no bread, no yeast, no vinegar, no citric acid, no sugars in any form (including all fruits but lemons). Then I went to the store and began to read labels, only to discover that almost all processed foods (i.e. stuff that comes in boxes, cans or jars) contain sugar, vinegar, citric acid or wheat. Sigh.

So, as you might imagine, I fell into a huge resistance! I did not want AT ALL to completely reconfigure my diet, my thinking and my life! I had to give up attitudes, emotional patterns and behaviors: the attitude that I had a healthy lifestyle and diet, the feeling that I was in tune with the Self (is that pride or what???) and the behavior of “fast-food eating,” cooking out of boxes, cans and jars.

It took the better part of 6 weeks of wrestling with myself before the ego finally gave in and I opened myself to change. Totally new type of diet, much more time in the kitchen (leading a more balanced lifestyle), eating “humble pie” rather than blueberry pie, as my ego became more amenable to direction by the Self. All through these past months I have wondered what I was to learn, aside from the obvious fact of how recalcitrant the ego can be. Several lessons come to mind: First is just how much our food supply is adulterated with all sorts of additives, especially sugars in all its forms. Second is how readily the body responds when we open ourselves to change (I began to feel better in a couple of weeks). Third is the extent to which illness involves dying: a good part of my self-image had to die in this process of healing (along with about 30+ pounds of fat that disappeared!). Finally I learned that, as Edward Whitmont notes, if we can “contain” the agony of being sick, the agony attracts transpersonal support, the Self is activated and brings about a transformation.[101] While I showed up and did my part, the Self worked the healing. Which brings us to the final part of this essay.

Healing and the Numinosum

While the Self will bring us the pain of illness, it also brings us the growth of healing in that mysterious “state-specific” sort of way the ego mind cannot comprehend. The Self Jung defined as the “healing living quality which can make a [person] whole…”[102] Jung felt the doctor’s task was to spot where the patient feels this quality and then seize on it.[103] Jung knew that we each have within an archetypal Healer—the “healing force of Nature” mentioned above—which is the “transpersonal wisdom of the organism.”[104] If we can surrender to this transpersonal power,[105] it is possible for us to heal simply through trust

Jesus witnessed this with the centurion whose servant was paralyzed and suffering. Having complete confidence that Jesus had the power to heal, the centurion only needed Jesus to say the word. Jesus replied with a key phrase that is central to the healing process: “As you trust it will be so, so it is done to you.”[106] Doctors have documented many instances of the power of trust—trust in the doctor, or trust in an experimental medication (even when it was just the placebo in the “blind trial”), trust in the power of a voodoo curse,[107] or trust in the Inner Healer—to work amazing transformations in people.[108]

Paracelsus distinguishes 5 types of healers: The naturales who, like modern allopathic physicians, use techniques to counterbalance and remove physical symptoms; healers who heal through the forma specifica, like modern homeopaths, acupuncturists, osteopaths and chiropractors; the spirituales, like shamans, who can command nature spirits and heal by relieving the pressure on the sick person, giving him/her some space to heal; the characterales, who Whitmont likens to our modern psychotherapists, who heal through the force of their personalities; and the fideles, healers who are trusted by the sick person and encourage him/her to surrender to transpersonal power. Since the Self lies within us, it is possible to be one’s own fidelis and heal by one’s trust in the Self.

But, Whitmont reminds us, while healing via trust is the ideal, it is often not actually possible due to our “ego-based inertia and psychological immaturity.”[109] By “ego inertia” and “psychological immaturity” I think Whitmont must mean that we have not gone deeply enough in our inner work to come to the point of trusting the Self implicitly, that we aren’t yet sufficiently aware of just how inadequate the ego is as the driver of our lives, and, finally, that we are lazy. As I saw in my own life in January 2012, we would just as soon continue in the patterns, attitudes and behaviors we are used to. We don’t want to make the efforts or the sacrifices that healing requires.[110]

Genuine healing is not just the removal of symptoms or discomfort (which is how allopathic medicine defines healing).[111] True healing is holistic: it works on all levels, enlarging our reality, and transforming body, mind, soul and spirit, with the object of launching us toward a new way of life and moving us closer to wholeness.[112] Nor is healing necessarily curing: a person can be healed—that is, can achieve a transformation of soul and spirit—and still die, because healing deals with the integrity of the individual in the fullness of his or her being, and the ego rarely understands adequately what “integrity” and “fullness of being”[113] mean. The ego says “healing = curing,” but the Self has a different perspective.

As Jesus demonstrated repeatedly,[114] healing via contact with the numen can be miraculous in its speed, profundity and totality.[115] One does not need to be a member of an organized religion to meditate, to pray (i.e. to enlist the guidance and cooperation of the Self), to set the intention to attune oneself to the Self, or to invoke divine power (e.g. by working with symbols or by some type of ritualistic act).[116] But we do need to strike a delicate balance between neither resisting too much nor allowing ourselves to be too easily overwhelmed.[117] This is not easy in the best of times, and when we are sick we aren’t in the best of times. Hence, it often helps to have assistance: healers, therapists or others who trust in the reality of the Inner Healer and share our understanding of what is going on, what is needed to effect change, and how to foster the healing process.[118]

Paracelsus, alchemist, healer and favorite of Jung, recognized that humans are “made perfect by numen and lumen and these two alone. Everything springs from these two, and these two are in man,…”[119] One of Jung’s students and Jungian analyst, Erich Neumann, noted that the Self can appear as a white light.[120] So Paracelsus is referring to the Self and the light that flows from it. Both numen and lumen are within us. When we contact these inner energies we feel “liberation and relief.”[121] The Self heals, bringing “enlargement of the personality”[122] and a sense of well-bring,[123] and the light, apparently, often plays a major role in the process of transformation.

The power of the inner light has been studied by a variety of people researching the Near-Death Experience (NDE).[124] Melvin Morse, a physician who undertook the “Transformations Study” of over 400 people who had experienced a NDE, discovered that the most intense transformations occurred in people who experienced the “white light” which they saw, were bathed in, or felt close to during the interval when they were clinically dead.[125] Described as “a light that has everything in it,”[126] a light containing “all good things,”[127] and “loving,”[128] the inner lumen can bring about instantaneous healing even in cases medical doctors regarded as incurable.

Most near-death experiencers say their experience of the light is ineffable, but it seems to be a form of energy that “powers their life,”[129] and it seems to be similar, in its transformational impact, to what mystics experience when they come in contact with light.[130]  While Morse never cites Paracelsus, his research seems to bear out the alchemist’s insight. Jung too recognized how contact with the numen could result in an “intense experience of illumination.”[131]

Morse believes that our “spirit guardians” are a link to the light within us.[132] So we might work consciously in activities like dream work, meditation, and active imagination,  to create an on-going relationship with these energies, to foster greater trust in the Self on which we can draw when confronted with the challenge of illness.


Are we likely to do so? The sad, but truthful answer is “No.” As I discovered last year when I  fell ill, we resist. Why? For many reasons:

Because of hubris—our ego pride: we like to think that we can run our own lives, that we are in control, that we don’t need guidance.[133]

Because we are “hopelessly muddled”[134] about mysticism and fear it, leading to the denial or repression of anything numinous.

Because we don’t like feeling overwhelmed or made small or overpowered.

Because we don’t want to surrender to archetypal experience.[135] Given the materialism of our culture, our minds are no longer “receptive to the numinous,”[136] especially when it comes with sacrifice, disruption of our routine and the “shaking up of our inert life structures.”[137]

So why bother? Several reasons come to mind as to why we should work to build our trust in the Self. First, such trust helps in internalizing a locus of security.[138] If the economy slows, the banks crash, our family and friends disappear, and all external supports are gone, trust in the Self will still be with us, if we have developed this trust prior to critical times. Second, trust in the Self helps us clarify our purpose for living and how best to live our purpose out, so life has more meaning. Third, when sickness comes upon us, trust in the Self helps us heal. And fourth, when we work to heal ourselves, we are helping not only ourselves but the whole cosmos. Our individual psychological accomplishments leave some permanent spiritual residue that augments the collective treasury of humanity.[139] And—I speak now from my own experience—when we give up resistance and follow the guidance of the Self, we feel better, life works better, and we grow.


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[1] Collected Works 11, ¶452. Hereafter Collected Works will be abbreviated CW.  Note well: The Jungian Center is not a clinic; we do not dispense medical advice, nor is anything in this essay meant to represent or suggest cures or treatment protocols. The intention in this essay is to describe the power that lies in our connection with our inner divine power. Neither the author nor the Jungian Center is engaged in presenting specific medical, psychological or emotional advice. Nor is anything herein intended to be a diagnosis, prescription or cure for any specific kind of medical, psychological, or emotional problem. Each person has unique needs and this essay cannot take these individual differences into account. Any person suffering from an illness should consult a health care professional.

[2] Ibid., ¶453.

[3] CW 8, ¶388.

[4]  Whitmont (1993), 130.

[5] Morse (1992), 68.

[6] Archived on this blog site.

[7] CW 11, ¶9.

[8] CW 10, ¶659.

[9] Jung (1965), 17. He was 6 when his Latin lessons began.

[10] See “Jung and the Numinosum.”

[11] Whitmont (1993), 63.

[12] Lewis & Short (1969), 1224.

[13] Ibid., 1225.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Otto (1958), 6.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., 7.

[19] Ibid. We will return to the idea of “numinous” to refer to a state of mind later in this essay, when we consider state-specific forms of knowing.

[20] World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, II, 1329.

[21] Cf. CW 8, ¶216; CW 10, ¶864; CW 11, ¶6,7,9.

[22] CW 11, ¶6.

[23] Otto (1958), 29.

[24] Ibid, 17,23,31,37,140.

[25] Ibid., 67.

[26] Ibid., 10,13,14,20,23,26,31,37,39,42,54,80,135; cf. Kreinheder (1991), 25.

[27] Ibid., 80.

[28] Ibid., 12.

[29] Plato noted that “… in the olden days the soul was known to be feathered and the goose bumps that arise on the skin [e.g. when we connect with the numinosum] are the sprouting of the feathers of the soul.” Kreinheder (1991), 26. Albert Kreinheder healed himself of rheumatoid arthritis through the practice of active imagination and contact with the Self.

[30] Otto (1958), “Foreword.”

[31] Ibid., 5.

[32] Ibid., 11,17.

[33] Ibid., 31.

[34] Ibid., 36.

[35] Ibid., 44.

[36] Hollis (1995), 14.

[37] Monick (1987), 27.

[38] Quoted in Jung, CW 8, ¶388.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Cf. CW 18, ¶598; Edinger (1995), 74; Whitmont (1993), 47.

[41] E.g. Mt. Sinai by Jews; the San Francisco mountains in Arizona by the Hopi; Uluru by Australian Aborigines.

[42] E.g. the Ganges River in India.

[43] Schoen (1998), 21.

[44] Cf. CW 18, ¶586; Edinger (1986), 55; Dourley (1984), 22; and Edinger (1996), 150.

[45] Whitmont (1993), 49.

[46] CW 18, ¶584.

[47] Ibid., ¶586.

[48] Cf. CW 11, ¶433; Edinger (2004), 29; Edinger (1995), 77; Dourley (1992), 76; Edinger (1984), 73; Edinger (1986), 55.

[49] Edinger (1995), 145.

[50] Exekiel chapters 1-3; cf. Edinger (1996), 182.

[51] Edinger (1996), 143.

[52] 1 Kings 19:12.

[53] CW 11, ¶9; cf. Acts 9:1-12.

[54] Philippians 4:7.

[55] Hebrews 10: 31.

[56] Quoted in Otto (1958), 106.

[57] Ibid., 135.

[58] Ibid., 215.

[59] Ibid.

[60] James (1961), 62. Italics in the original.

[61] Jung, “Letter to M. Leonard, 5 December 1959,” Letters, II, 525.

[62] Whitmont (1993), 63.

[63] Walsh (1996), 190-193.

[64]  D.W. Goodwin et al. wrote about these experiments in “Alcohol & Recall: State-Dependent Effects in Man,” Science (1969), v. 163, p. 1358.

[65] Underhill (1911), 74.

[66]Jung (1964), 88. How might you, the reader of this blog essay, get past the “mere words” to comprehend what I’m talking about here? When I discuss archetypes, numinosity and state-specific knowledge with my students I ask them to try to remember an experience they had when they felt awe, delight, deep peace, wonder or joy—perhaps out in Nature, seeing a sunset or a rainbow, sensing the deep quiet of a forest, listening to the lapping of the waves at the seashore etc. I often find that modern people can conjure up a memory of a numinous experience that’s connected with Nature. My students tell me of other situations that have called up the numinous, e.g. giving birth, having sex, watching the violence of Nature during a hurricane or thunderstorm.

[67] Whitmont (1993), 63.

[68] Kreinheder (1991), 40.

[69] Ps 139: 14.

[70] Pelletier (1979), 119; cf. Kreinheder (1991), 95.

[71] Guiley (1998), 192.

[72] Whitmont (1993), 133-134.

[73] World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, I, 568.

[74] Whitmont (1993), 174.

[75] Kreinheder (1991), 59.

[76] Whitmont (1993), 130.

[77] Kreinheder (1991), 48.

[78] Whitmont (1993), 119.

[79] Ibid., 127.

[80] Ibid., 174.

[81] CW 13, ¶41; cf. Whitmont (1993), 55.

[82] Whitmont (1993), 127.

[83] Jung, “Letter to Rudolf Jung, 11 May 1956,” Letters, II, 297.

[84] Whitmont (1993), 35.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid., 48.

[87] Ibid., 109.

[88] Ibid., 111; cf. Kreinheder (1991), 65.

[89] Kreinheder (1991), 98.

[90] Whitmont, 115; cf. Kreinheder (1991), 37.

[91] Whitmont (1993), 129.

[92] Ibid., 120.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Our current allopathic medical system, with its single-minded focus on the material plane, is completely inadequate in its handling of disease. It treats only symptoms, which usually leads to a return of the pathology, often in a more serious form. Cf. Whitmont (2993), 49.

[96] Schwartz-Salant (1982), 18.

[97] Kreinheder (1991), 25.

[98] Ibid., 16.

[99] Kreinheder gives several examples of the use of active imagination in the healing of illnesses in ibid., 35,42-46,81-82,89-94.

[100] The Candida Albicans Yeast-Free Cookbook; Connolly (2000).

[101] Whitmont (1993), 152.

[102] CW 1, ¶452. Albert Kreinheder felt that healing was a form of individuation; Kreinheder (1991), 54.

[103] Ibid.

[104] Whitmont (1993), 155; cf. Kreinheder (1991), 32.

[105] Kreinheder (1991), 49.

[106] Matt 8:13. This verse is usually translated “As you believe, so it is done to you.” but the Greek verb pisteuo, means “to trust” or “to rely on,” which implies far more than believing. For a fuller discussion of the trust/faith distinction and Jung’s thoughts on it, see the following blog essay.

[107] Pelletier (1979), 103. Larry Dossey recounts his experience as an intern with an old man who felt he had been hexed, a vivid account that illustrates the power of belief to harm or heal; Dossey (1982), 3-6. For more on the power of belief in healing, see Lipton (2008) and Pert (1997).

[108] Miracle cures are possible when the human meets the divine. Jungians remind us that the divine lives within us; we must perceive its physical presence; Kreinheder (1991), 25-27.

[109] Whitmont (1993), 155.

[110] One effort we must make is to “see the disease in its non-physical dimensions,” i.e. to look at the “soul” of the disease; Kreinheder (1991), 52.

[111] Ibid., 49.

[112] Ibid., 38, 51, 65.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Cf. Matt. 4:23-24; 8:3,8-11,28-32; 9:2-7,21-22,25,29,33,35; 12:13,15,22; 14:14; 15:28-30; 17:18; 20:34.

[115] Morse (1992), 143; cf. Kreinheder (1991), 62.

[116] Hillel (1983), 358; and Kreinheder (1991), 57,76,95,97,102. Kreinheder suggests we “… find… an image, a fantasy, a story, that goes with the illness.”

[117] Whitmont (1993), 133.

[118] Ibid., 87.

[119] Quoted by Jung, CW 8, ¶388.

[120] Neumann (1990), 184.

[121] CW 13, ¶342.

[122] Sharp (1998), 147.

[123] Whitmont (1993), 49.

[124] Cf. Moody (1975), Eadie (1992), Ritchie & Sherrill (1978), Malz (1978), and Carter (2010). Of these Carter is the most scientifically oriented.

[125] Morse (1992), 163.

[126] Ibid., 67.

[127] Ibid., 147.

[128] Ibid., 196.

[129] Ibid., 147.

[130] Ibid., 159.

[131] CW 14, ¶776.

[132]Morse (1992), 170.

[133] Schwartz-Salant (1982), 15.

[134] CW 11, ¶274.

[135] Ibid., ¶222.

[136] Sharp (1998), 96.

[137] Whitmont (1993), 139.

[138] For more on this see the essay “Components of Individuation,” archived on this blog site.

[139] Whitmont (1993), 220-221.