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The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead Unknown Binding – 1982


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  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B001U9S50W
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Many decades later Jung commented thus upon these sermons: “All my work, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies ... everything that I accomplished in later life was already contained in them, although at first only in the form of emotions and images.”
The seven sermons deal with the self as the androgynous being Abraxas, with the message that self-knowledge may be attained by the conscious assimilation of the contents of the subconscious, in order to achieve unity. The “dead” are those who stopped growing spiritually by not questioning their egos. By not growing, they are in essence the living dead.
Jung considered his own work a link in the golden chain from ancient gnosticism via philosophical alchemy to the modern psychology of the subconscious. Just as in those ancient texts, his work reveals a fragmented self in which the image of the divine may be found.
The author made his own translation of the sermons and provided a comprehensive preface, exegesis of the sermons and afterword in which he comments grippingly on Jung, gnosticism and the current era. His views on the survival of the pansophic/theosophic tradition (through the arts) are particularly enlightening.
Jung’s central doctrine of individuation is an ancient concept of the western esoteric tradition – the tendency of the individual consciousness not to surrender its light into nothingness. Unlike many eastern spiritual systems, the Western tradition never knew the permanent dissolution of the individual consciousness in the divine.
Already in the first sermon this question is discussed, i.e. how to remain an individual while simultaneously achieving an optimal degree of unity with the ineffable greatness of the pleroma within us.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 April 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a life-changer, a paradigm shifter. For understanding Jung the Gnostic and his enlightened works in the light of his roots in Gnosticism -- hell, just for a definitively clear enunciation of Gnosticism -- this book is a jewel. It is well-written and philosophically transforming. I intend to read it again, immediately.
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By ian on 11 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this book cintains much more than jungs sermons and more than a critique of them. there is a wealth of discussion concerning gnosis that is helpful to the inquisitive
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on 22 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Noll created quite a stir some years ago when he claimed that the Jungians were a bunch of sun-worshipping, neo-pagan cultic crackpots, and that Jung believed himself to be the Aryan Christ (of all people). These claims are made in Noll's notorious books "The Jung cult" and "The Aryan Christ". Regardless of what one may think of Noll's wilder claims, Jung has always fascinated real neo-Gnostics and New Age believers. I don't think that's a co-incidence. "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" shows Jung's worldview to be pantheistic, animistic, Gnosticizing and opposed to Christianity as traditionally conceived. Even his scientific pretensions are similar to the "scientism" of the later New Age.

The author of "The Gnostic Jung", Stephen Hoeller, is pro-Jung while interpreting the old man in a decidedly and explicitly Gnostic fashion. To Hoeller, Jung was a modern Gnostic, period. The book is published by Quest Books, the publishing arm of the Theosophical Society Adyar. Since it contains positive references to Madame Blavatsky, I suppose Hoeller is a member of TS Adyar.

The book contains the full text of "Seven Sermons to the Dead", the most explicitly Gnostic work of Jung, written under the pseudonym Basilides (the real Basilides was a Gnostic teacher in ancient Alexandria). According to "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", Jung's house in Switzerland was at one point haunted by the ghosts of deceased crusaders (!!). The restless spirits were not amused, and in order to calm them down, Jung wrote "Seven Sermons to the Dead". Satisfied, the ghost found peace and evaporated without further ado. Apparently, this story is supposed to be taken literally...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 28 reviews
116 of 117 people found the following review helpful
Wake up... and read this book! 12 Oct. 2002
By Anne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The dead came back from Jerusalem, where they did not find what they were seeking." So begins the short esoteric treatise "The Seven Sermons to the Dead" by the late C.G. Jung, reproduced here with an introduction and extensive commentary and analysis by the learned and insightful Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller.
Who are the dead? They are really the living dead, the spiritually dead -- those who are ignorant of "the knowledge of the heart", or Gnosis. Why do they return from Jerusalem? Because it is the symbolic home of the dogmatism and "dead creeds" which have blinded men to their own true nature.
This book is part gnostic treatise and part academic exegesis of Jung's "Seven Sermons". It serves as an extremely enlightening introduction to both Gnosticism and Jungian psychology. Hoeller clears up many misunderstandings about the ancient Gnostics, who have been vilified by mainstream Christians as "heretics" since ancient times. He also restores dignity to the notion that we (post)moderns can draw on a store of "ancient wisdom". New Age gurus who can't hold a candle to Hoeller bandy this phrase about ad nauseum. Hoeller's knowledge of history and primary texts and his own insight and wisdom shine through to create a unique and vital synthesis that puts the New Age crowd to shame.
Hoeller's writing is intellectually sound and spiritually compelling. There is no dry analysis or tedious language here. Indeed, Hoeller clearly loves the English language and uses it more creatively and adeptly than many native speakers (English is not his first language). His style tends toward the esoteric, but such is the clarity of his thought that the sometimes archaic vocabulary doesn't distract one's attention for an instant. To give an example, Hoeller explains the symbolism of the rooster-head found on images of the ancient Gnostic "god" Abraxas as follows:
"The head of the rooster symbolizes vigilant wakefulness and is related to both the human heart and to universal heart, the sun, the rising of which is invoked by the matutinal clarion call of the chanticleer."
If such highbrow style isn't your cup of tea -- well, then, this book isn't for you. As for me, I found joy on every page and give Stephan Hoeller's "The Gnostic Jung" the highest possible recommendation.
78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful, moving and true 2 Sept. 2002
By Pieter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Many decades later Jung commented thus upon these sermons: "All my work, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies ... everything that I accomplished in later life was already contained in them ..."
The seven sermons deal with the self as the androgynous being Abraxas, with the message that self-knowledge may be attained by the conscious assimilation of the contents of the subconscious, in order to achieve unity. The "dead" are those who stopped growing spiritually by not questioning their egos. By not growing, they are in essence the living dead.
Jung considered his own work a link in the golden chain from ancient gnosticism via philosophical alchemy to the modern psychology of the subconscious. Just as in those ancient texts, his work reveals a fragmented self in which the image of the divine may be found.
The author made his own translation of the sermons and provided a comprehensive preface, exegesis of the sermons and afterword in which he comments grippingly on Jung, gnosticism and the current era. His views on the survival of the pansophic/theosophic tradition (through the arts) are particularly enlightening.
Jung's central doctrine of individuation is an ancient concept of the western esoteric tradition - the tendency of the individual consciousness not to surrender its light into nothingness. Unlike many eastern spiritual systems, the Western tradition never knew the permanent dissolution of the individual consciousness in the divine.
Already in the first sermon this question is discussed, i.e. how to remain an individual while simultaneously achieving an optimal degree of unity with the ineffable greatness of the pleroma within us. Jung gives us an undivided model of reality in which both causal and acausal connections, spirit and matter, are reconciled.
As for belief, Jung convincingly argues that human beings have a religious need - not a need for belief, however, but one for religious experience. This is a psychical experience that leads to the integration of the soul. Inner wholeness - gnosis - is achieved not by belief in ideas, but by experience.
In the place of a god to believe in, Jung thus offers us an existential truth that we can experience. He rejects the "god of belief" in favor of a symbol of lasting validity, and instead of the much abused concept of "belief", he offers the power of the imagination as the way to gnosis, just as in the magickal and alchemical traditions.
The seven sermons are gripping and poetic, while the commentary is full of insight and enriched by quotes from inter alia the Nag Hammadi texts, Plotinus, Helena Blavatsky, Emerson and others. The most beautiful is a moving poem by the mystic Angelus Silesius, of which I quote a part:
"God is such as he is,
I am what I must be;
If you know one, in truth
You know both him and me.
I am the vine, which he
Doth plant and cherish most;
The fruit which grows from me
Is God, the holy ghost."
This text, and Basilides' thoughts on the pleroma (fullness of god), reminded me of Patti Smith's song "Hymn" on her album Wave:
"When I am troubled in the night
He comes to comfort me
He wills me through the darkness
And the empty child is free
To take his hand, his sacred heart
The heart that breaks the dawn, amen.
And when I think I've had my fill
He fills me up again."
I highly recommend this book as a bridge between psychology and religion, or rather the religious experience in the human psyche. It ought to be read together with William James' "The Varieties of Religious experience" and Richard Maurice Bucke's "Cosmic Consciousness", for a breathtaking metaphysical and metatextual experience.
64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Speaks to the sense of truth within... 2 April 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Firstly, I am neither scholar nor religious zealot, and that this book, while it touched me very deeply, is only the first that I have read concerning gnosticism or the spiritual inquiries which drove much of Jung's psychological work. That said, this review is intended more for those who have little or no knowledge of the gnostic gospels who are curious if this book is a good point to embark upon a path of gnostic study. Before his exposition of Jung's Seven Sermons, Hoeller attempts to give the reader an understanding of Jung's life and work, a description of gnosticism, and how Jung's individuation through depth psychology work and the gnostic pursuit of wholeness through spiritual experience are inevitably related. The Sermons themselves, translated by Hoeller, are, to say the least, amazing. "Seven Sermons to the Dead" makes for an intimidating title, and while it is not literal, it is perhaps just as frightening in its true meaning. The dead, as Jung refers to them, are those who have ceased to grow into their higher self. They have ceased to question their existence as desirous egos, and so no longer do they continue to grow into their innately known, true self. Proceeding no further in their path to enlightenment, they are, essentially, the living dead. The sermons are a short discourse on the truths missed if one carries on blindly through their short stint at life. Hoeller then goes on giving his interpretation of the sermons, which are thoughtful and well written. Throughout the entire book, Hoeller managed to set the tone for the proper absorption of the material. His interpretations could easily be taken as a definitive word on the Seven Sermons, however, I think it must be impossible to read the sermons without already having some perspective of your own already, as it addresses issues which are inherently part of every man or woman's continuing search for wholeness. This book was a jewel to find, uniting different philosophies of mine so that they can be placed in one hat, alleviating the confusion I had in their differences. I shall keep these words in mind for a long time to come, and my hope is that they could widen the scope of your thoughts as well it did mine.
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Drunk With Light 4 Jan. 2002
By Arch Llewellyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Gnosticism was a late antique worldview contemporary with early Christianity that claimed the human soul was a stranded fragment of the divine and uncreated Light from which all binaries, including God and the Devil, emanate. Our purpose in life is to transcend the base world of matter--the creation of an evil God--and find our way back to the Pleroma or source of all being.
In 1916 Jung wrote a short set of "sermons" under the name of the ancient Gnostic Basilides. He had them privately printed and later cited them as the inspiration for his subsequent psychological theories. This book not only makes a vivid case for Jung's thought as "a psychological restatement of Gnosticism," but also defines the major Gnostic doctrines with clarity and sympathy. Hoeller is a Gnostic himself and wants to recover this "heresy" from the accusations that drove it underground when Rome colonized Christianity. He takes on many critiques of the Gnostics, which run the gamut from early Church Fathers to modern thinkers like Martin Buber, and shows how Jungian psychology gives Gnosticism a new lease on life by transforming its beliefs into powerful symbols of the human psyche. That he's not afraid to step down from the lectern and argue as a believer gives the study an urgency you rarely find in more academic accounts of the Gnostics (see, for example, James M. Robinson's excellent introduction to the one-volume Nag Hammadi Library).
I finished the book with two minds about Gnosticism, which seems about right for a worldview so taken with binaries! On the one hand, the Gnostics insist on our essential divinity. Each individual carries a piece of the light within and is free to develop it without the constraints of dogmas or moral laws. With 9/11 so fresh on the brain, that must sound appealing to anyone reading this right now. On the other hand, the view of creation as evil, or at least inferior to the higher realities of the spirit, troubles me. I agree with Hoeller that it's probably unfair to brand the Gnostics as "World Haters." But to revive this ancient sect, even in Jung's symbolic form, I think you have to come to grips with its disdain for the material world of bodies and atoms and things that modern science makes more attractive to us all the time. With so much power in our merely human hands, the point shouldn't be to escape physical reality, but redeem it. Why save your own soul if you lose the whole world? That sounds pretentious even as I write it! But I'm clearer on where I stand after reading this lucid book and I think you will be, too.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The Modern Gnostic 24 Dec. 2003
By C. Middleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After Carl Jung broke with Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis because of a difficult personal and intellectual dispute over specific tenets of the new discipline, it is known that Jung fell into a long period of depression and introspection. Separating proved to be much more complicated than either of the men first envisaged. Jung was heralded to be the "Crown prince" of the fledgling movement, but disagreements with the master over core doctrines proved to be far too radical for Jung to attempt to create reconciliation. After this break they never uttered a word to each other again. During this time Jung fell into a period of self-analysis that he has written about in his autobiography, 'Memories, Dreams and Reflection'. It was also during this time that he wrote a curious text that he titled ' The Seven Sermons of the Dead". He reports that strange phenomenon in his house began before the writing: loud retorts from invisible sources; a series of disturbing dreams experienced by Jung and his children. At one point he said the house seemed to fill with an invisible presence, a crowd. It was at this stage that he was compelled to write, ordered, in a sense, to scribe what is now known as this text. The esoteric, magical and ultimately Gnostic overtone of the work is without question. Curiously, Jung was not the 'author' of the text, but the ancient Alexandrian Gnostic heretic, Basilides. The work begins:
VII Sermones ad Mortuos
'Seven exhortations to the dead, written by Basilides in Alexandria, the city where East and West meet.'
In chapter three we are given the seven sermons in their entirety. The remaining chapters are devoted to interpreting and analysing the contents, sermon by sermon.
One does not necessarily need to have a strong acquaintance with Gnosticism in order to fully appreciate this book. Hoeller clearly provides the reader with enough background information on the subject in order to follow his well-written exegesis on the sermons themselves. Hoeller's arguments centre on the indisputable connection between the sermons and Jung's depth psychology with Gnosticism. The 'sermons' are clearly Gnostic and expound, symbolically, on the spirit and its relationship with the Divine.
Stephen Hoeller is an excellent writer and his passion and knowledge of philosophy and comparative religion shines forth from every page. He believes Jung to be the modern Gnostic, bringing the once and future Gnosis with us again. This is an important book as it guides us to look within ourselves to possibly discover what we all are consciously or unconsciously searching for.
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