Vocati Atque Non Vocati Mortui Adsunt: C.G. Jung and the Dead: The Red Book and Memories, Dreams, Reflections 1896-1916

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The dead who appeared in the dreams and visions of C.G. Jung profoundly influenced the psychologist’s experience and understanding of the unconscious. Jung’s model of the psyche emerged from his numerous encounters with figures of the unconscious, yet principally among these were the recurrent appearances of the dead. Until the publication of The Red Book the dead were interpreted metaphorically and very little research focused on how Jung used the term. The Red Book now reveals a great deal of material in which Jung interacts with the dead who are specifically identified as discarnates or disembodied souls. These encounters, I suggest, influenced Jung’s concept of the unconscious and appear to have played a much more central role in the genesis of Jung’s psychological model than was previously considered. Rather than a symbolic interpretation, the dead as literal players in Jung’s discoveries can now be credited with having contributed to Jung’s ideas about the unconscious and its workings.

By way of a chronological analysis of Jung’s personal material between 1896 and 1916, this thesis closely examines Jung’s encounters with the dead considering their literal significance. These varied and detailed exchanges demonstrate how Jung experienced the dead alongside other figures of the unconscious who acted like splitoff parts of his personal psyche. As a result, these interactions assisted Jung in grasping the dynamic nature of the unconscious as both place and process and one in which he effected change through participation.

Jung’s personal thoughts about the dead included in his commentaries in The Red Book highlight how he considered these encounters, the role of the dead in his life, and his obligation to them as a community. As a result, his work titled Septem Sermones Ad Mortuos, included in the section titled Scrutinies, can now be reinterpreted as a work composed specifically for the dead in preparation for their lives as newly discarnate figures, and ultimately stands as Jung’s gesture of service to them.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish

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