Jung, Steiner, and Evolution of Consciousness

A living mystery

A living mystery

A recent seminar on Jung and Steiner and their contributions to an evolution of consciousness, held at the C. G. Jung Institute in San Francisco, was well attended by individuals schooled in both camps. This seems to be happening more and more: finding the common ground of these two men’s great works.

Although contemporaries, Carl Jung and Rudolf Steiner never met. And although they did not have much good to say about the other, they shared a common philosophical ancestor, Wolfgang von Goethe. (Rumor has it that Jung may have shared more than a philosophical lineage as his grandfather may have been an illegitimate offspring of Goethe’s!) Both men studied Goethe’s book length poem Faust as teenagers, Jung at the suggestion of his mother, and Steiner encouraged by a teacher who was editing Faust at the time. Goethe’s work presents an alternative approach to the natural world and the psyche, from the mechanistic way that has developed since Descartes. It reflects an approach that perceives the whole as a living substance, whether that be the human psyche or the flower growing along the roadside. Goethe developed techniques to communicate with the living substance of a plant, techniques which quiet the mind and require the use of imagination, love, and receptiveness.

Both Jung and Steiner developed their approaches based on this communication with the living substance, but for Jung, it was with the unconscious, and for Steiner, with the living Spirit, whether that be human or other spirits.

Is there a wisdom in these two men’s teachings being kept separate for the most part these 100 years? Steiner was esoteric, being fiery and airy; Jung sought refuge from judgment in “the scientific” and was more earthy. Is it possible these last years have afforded a development of these men’s ideas, and now we are in a time of purifying the good thinking of both men from the dogmatism that has also developed? Any philosophy is also a biography of a man’s soul. To the extent that this is true for analytical psychology (Jung) and anthroposophy (Steiner), perhaps we are in a time critical for a distillation of their works, purifying them of the impurities of personalities and the aberration of dogmatism that comes from followers.

Is the common ground of these men’s works a kind of feminine holding, of sorts, marrying an esoteric way of soul development back into a consciousness grounded in psychological development? To what end might this come? —dissolving back into the ethers fixed beliefs about our known disciplines and seeing what re-emerges? Will Goethe’s respectful approach to living substance, a guiding force in both men’s works, be a healing essence that remains?