Interview with Richard Noll, Author of "The Jung Cult"
THE WANDERER INTERVIEWS RICHARD NOLL
by Paul Likoudis
Richard Noll, 34, the author of The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic
Movement is a clinical psychologist and a post-doctoral fellow in the
history of science at Harvard University. Educated at the Brophy College
Preparatory School in Phoenix, he studied political science at the
University of Arizona and then received his Ph.D. in psychology from the
New School for Social Research in New York.
He told The Wanderer he considers himself a "lapsed Catholic," who
stopped going to church at age 14, when he could no longer believe what he
was professing in church.
His book, The Jung Cult, he explained, "just kind of materialized" while
he was teaching psychology at the University of West Chester in
Pennsylvania. "All the material just started falling into place."
The Wanderer conducted a telephone interview with Dr. Noll from his home
Q. I suspect The Jung Cult has come as a very unwelcome intrusion to many
Jungians, who have probably never considered his historical and cultural
background. The Jung you present is a rather base product of his milieu,
who acquired a smattering of bad science bad theology, bad philosophy, bad
history, added a large share of occult mysticism, theosophy, and sexual
libertinism, and came up with modern psychotherapy.
Is this perception correct?
A. I would eliminate the word "bad" in your list.
Jung's background must be seen in his German cultural context- a context
that frankly has been lost to history because of the gross obscenity of
Adolf Hitler. It has taken so many generations for us to assimilate
National Socialism that the world of pre-Hitler central Europe has largely
been forgotten. Historians have focused so much on National Socialism and
Hitler that they have neglected the period in the 1920s when he was
amassing his movement. There was a lot going on besides Adolf Hitler.
Q. As a psychologist, do you make a judgment call on the intellectual
"culture" of Germany in the early 20th century, preoccupied, as it was,
with notions of racism, anti-Semitism, philosophical idealism, the occult,
A. It may seem crazy, but this was their world. It made sense to them. When
you examine history and try to understand historical figures, the main task
is to try to figure out which category the actors were acting in. It's
almost as if you have to figure out which category the actors were acting
in. It's almost as if you have to time travel and leave your values at
home, and transmit yourself back to that world. There were all sorts of
unusual and kooky things going on.
Actually, the Nazis got their eugenics ideas from the United States. We
were the ones sterilizing people under sterilization laws which made it
mandatory for the insane, criminals, and other groups.
Q. You seem to make a great effort to distance Jung's anti-Semitism from
Hitler's anti-Semitism, and to exculpate Jung from the charge that he was
one of the intellectuals who prepared the way for Hitler.
Why do you do this when it seems, at least to this reader, that the two
matured under exactly the same intellectual and mystical influences-the
only difference being that the one obtained real political and military
A. As I tried to point out in the book, the world was a racist world. It
was accepted in bourgeois middle-class society. The society accepted the
belief that there were great biological differences between Jews and non-
Jews, that was what educated people thought.
Frankly, Jung wasn't big enough at all to influence Hitler's rise. Back in
the 1920s, everyone was talking about Count Hermann Keyserling, who did
have a very strong anti-Semitic influence and connections to people who
became some of the leading Nazis. Jung was not a big player in Zurich. He
was attracting mostly people from England and the United States. I can't
lump him in with Hitler, despite his views on women, Jews, and other
issues. Jung was never interested in a political movement. He wanted a
Q. Can you explain to a layman how it could be that so many of Jung's
insights were obtained from people suffering from mental disease, and these
insights were then applied universally? Doesn't it seem odd to project the
problems of sick people on all people?
A. Jung, to his credit, really was able to see the positive aspects of
suffering. He tried to find the meaning in it, in a way Freud did not. Jung
realized there is no such thing as normal.
Q. Over and over again, you write that Jung's mission in life was to form a
new religion of psychotherapy with the specific intention of overthrowing
Christian orthodoxy, which he judged responsible for all the neuroses in
the world, due to its sexual teaching.
Can you explain why Jung was so angry with orthodox Christianity?
A. First of all, Jung didn't give up his identity as a Christian until he
was 37. He was brought up in a very strict Protestant household. Jung grew
up being absolutely terrified of the Catholic Church.
He lived in very Protestant Switzerland, and was taught that Catholics were
idol-worshipers, that the Pope was a mean, dictatorial character in Rome,
that Catholic belief in transubstantiation was akin to cannibalism, and all
this was drummed into Carl Jung's head, so much so he couldn't enter a
Catholic church until his 30s.
Despite many trips to Italy, he could never visit Rome.
Q. Part of Jung's mission was to tap into the power of the occult and to
re-establish the Cult of Mithras, to revive goddess worship in order to
replace "patriarchy," and to deliberately work to erode the tradition of
monogamous marriage. At the same time, he saw his friends involved in these
practices mentally deteriorate, even to the point of committing suicide.
Why didn't he see that these were cults of self-destruction?
A. In his view, there was no guarantee that anyone who tried to individuate
(to renew themselves that is, fully realize themselves) would come out
okay. He expected casualties and he took no responsibility for them. He
thought this was nature at work. He really looked at the natural world,
where there was no morality, where there was only root, raw life, and it
was not always pretty.
Q. Based on your research, has Jung unlocked the power of the occult for
A. Let me put it this way. Second only to Julian the Apostate, Jung is
probably the most successful pagan prophet in the last 2,000 years. Jung is
a very similar figure; he was a polytheist. He was a pagan in the old sense
of the word. He believed in the multitude of gods and spirits, and he
believed that what made modern man diseased was essentially Judeo-
Christianity-that you had to believe in one God and only one God and
believe in dogma.
In his way of viewing the world, that was the great trauma of world history
- the imposition of monotheism on the people of Europe.
Q. As a professional psychologist, can you explain and describe the purpose
and the effect of such Jungian practices as "discovering the god within,"
"dream analysis, " "psychodrama," "journaling," "journeying," and other
A. It's a very complex issue. Number one, the first thing you have to
realize is that to enter the Jungian world you have to pay a lot of money
to someone who has the right intuition, the right perception of the
transcendent world, to help you achieve the things you want.
This puts people in a dependent situation. People who feel attracted to
Jungian therapy feel out of touch with God, and they are assuming, because
the analysts themselves market themselves as in touch with all the deeper,
more spiritual things in life, that Jungian analysts have some special
connection with a transpersonal world-the collective unconscious, a greater
People pay because they want that experience, too; they think the analysts
are further along the path.
This situation is just right for cultism. You have troubled people looking
for help, and they are trusting these analysts.
In most people who make this their life-and that's not everybody,-because
most just dabble- frankly, it's just confusing them. It's trying to make
the next high. "Well, I'm going to go to a dream group this week, or a Tai
Chi workshop, or hear a guru from India." People get trapped on this phony
path to spirituality, which I usually call the "way of the workshop. "
The Jungians are almost at the point where they are going to have to
declare themselves an organized religion.
People are seeking hidden knowledge, they want to see it directly. They
don't want to hear a religious message from a Pope or a Bible. They want to
feel it. These programs are ways to tap into "hidden knowledge." Instead of
calling it the occult, they like to call it New Age or Jungian. They want
to get in touch with the mother goddess.
What we are really dealing with is paganism. There is a serious revival of
paganism for the first time in 1,600 years. We are back to the way we were
What is so clear to me is that you cannot be a Catholic and Jungian, and
yet there are so many Jungians who claim to be Catholic.
Q. As I read the book, I was constantly struck by Jung's involvement with
the occult and his determination to subvert and destroy the Catholic
Church, and yet today, Catholic spirituality as it is taught in the
majority of U.S. dioceses is almost entirely Jungian.
Look at any "spirituality" or retreat program sponsored by a diocese or a
religious house, and there is probably an 85% chance the leader will be a
certified Jungian therapist or a priest or a nun who is teaching Jungian
therapies. What is your reaction to this?
Does it strike you as strange?
A. Yes, it strikes me as strange, and it exemplifies the level of ignorance
of what Carl Jung was up to.
And I repeat: Anyone who is a true Catholic, and I would include
charismatics, cannot teach these things. Jungian teachings are antithetical
to Christianity. You can't have it both ways, at least from a Catholic
From a pagan perspective you can. Probably what has happened is that, as
the United States became paganized, people didn't want to let go of the old
It looks like Catholicism is lost in this country, because you have people
who think they are Catholic, and they practice Jungian teachings about
contacting the great mother goddess, or some other mythical figure.
Essentially, to me, it looks like the battle is over. The people who claim
to be both Jungian and Catholic are pagan in the old sense of the word.
That's how it was in Julian's world. You could get up in the morning and
offer a sacrifice to one god, and burn incense to another in the afternoon,
and still call yourself a Christian to your friends.
Anyone who claims he accepts both Jung and the Catholic Church is a pagan.
This article was taken from the December 29, 1994 issue of "The Wanderer,"
201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. Subscription Price:
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