Jung’s Struggle with Astrology


I have been always fascinated by the Astrology. as a child, I’d wished to have a telescope just to watch into the sky and follow the stars to know each. but it never happened though, the feeling still remains 😉
here is an amazing article about how genius Dr Jung had explored his power in this issue.

via https://www.astro.com/astrology/aa_journal_e.htm



Babs Kirby

Babs Kirby MA, DFAstrolS, FIAPA went to her first astrology seminar in 1976 with Charles Harvey on Harmonics and Midpoints. It was way out of her depth, but she’s been immersed in the astrological world ever since, serving on various committees over the years. Currently, she’s a Urania Trust trustee. Babs retired as a psychotherapist in 2011. Website: www.babskirby.com.

At the moment I am looking into astrology, which seems indispensable for a proper understanding of mythology. …I shall return laden with rich booty for our knowledge of the human psyche. For a while longer I must intoxicate myself on magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in the abysses of the unconscious.
(Freud/Jung Letters, 254J, p421.)

There are many strong clues to Jung’s abiding interest in astrology despite his ambivalence – such as his stone carvings of planetary glyphs which may be the subject of a conspiracy of silence.

Carl Jung had a life-long struggle trying to reconcile his need for scientific respectability (Saturn) with his more mystical, intuitive leanings (Neptune) and never more so than with astrology. In this article, abridged from my Astrological Association 2018 talk (recording details at the end of this piece), I look at his astrological stone carvings and at the numerous contradictory statements he made on astrology throughout the course of his life.

Idea for dissertation

Those of you who have been around in astrology for some time will recognise that this idea was born at the AA’s Eclipse Conference held in Plymouth in 1999 (see chart). What I’m still struck by is that Pluto is rising – I speculated that I was entering a taboo territory – and the unaspected Moon, at 23°46′ of Gemini, is exactly conjunct my 3rd-house North Node.

That was 19 years ago; a whole cycle of the Moon’s nodes has passed, and much has transpired since. The MA in the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the Sophia Centre in Bath Spa, later to move to Lampeter, which has spawned so many graduates in our field, had not yet begun, nor had the MA in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred at Canterbury Christ Church University.

This has been an extraordinary 19 years, which has revolutionised the study of astrology and taken it to a whole new level.

And Jung’s Red Book had yet to be published. Various esteemed astrologers have spoken about the importance of the Red Book and what it reveals, and I understand further Red Book-type revelations are to come. However, I am drawing on work that Jung chose to put in the public domain. Immediately after handing in my dissertation I found new avenues to explore.

Jung and his chart

First, let’s look at Jung and his chart (see hand-drawn chart). Many of you will be familiar with his chart but I’ll just point out some key configurations that are relevant to today’s article. Jung’s Sun is closely square Neptune – he was very much a mystic, looking to the Eastern traditions and mythology for inspiration in developing his own ideas. He has Aquarius rising with Saturn, his chart ruler, in Aquarius in the 1st house. More than anything, he wanted to be taken seriously and find a scientific basis for his concepts.

Jung is popularly thought of as sympathetic to astrology. There is much by way of hearsay concerning Jung’s attitude to astrology as being unequivocally positive. His daughter, Gret Baumann-Jung, claims she learned astrology in the first place so that she could supply her father with the horoscopes of his patients.

This oral tradition is not substantiated in the Collected Works, which gives only one example of Jung using astrology with a patient (CW9i, para 606). Jung’s attitude varies: at times he is dismissive, distancing himself from astrology which he describes as unscientific and primitive; at times he explains astrology as a projection of the unconscious onto the stars in the same way that he explains alchemy as a projection onto the contents in the vase; at other times he expresses his perplexity in trying to make sense of astrology.

Jung first refers to Firmicus Maternus’ Matheseos Libri VIII in CW5, (paragraphs 274n, 487n, 535+n, 596n, 662) which he wrote in 1911-12. Firmicus Maternus was an astrologer writing in the 4th century and his book is one of the most complete works of astrology of the classical world. Jung’s copy of Matheseos Libri VIII was published in 1894, so it is clear that he was acquainted with Maternus’ thinking when, in May 1911, he wrote to Freud:

At the moment I am looking into astrology, which seems indispensable for a proper understanding of mythology. …I shall return laden with rich booty for our knowledge of the human psyche. For a while longer I must intoxicate myself on magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in the abysses of the unconscious.
(Freud/Jung Letters, 254J, p421.)

This undoubtedly means Jung intended to further his then understanding of the psyche through the study of astrology. At that stage, Jung starts to demonstrate his astrological knowledge in his writing. He refers extensively to the zodiacal signs and their meanings, starting in 1911 and continuing throughout his life (CW5 para 290).

Jung also makes much of the ‘precession of the equinoxes’, especially that Christ was born at the time that the vernal equinox was in Pisces (CW9ii, para 72- 94, para 162-266, Visions 2, p724-738). As Maggie Hyde writes: “Jung’s thinking on the Age of Pisces has been seminal for astrologers.” (Hyde, 1992, p26.)

In Aion, Jung gathers together, makes accessible and extends classical and medieval astrological thought. A consequence of the precession of the equinoxes is the separation of the signs of the zodiac from the fixed star constellations on which they are based. Jung had difficulties with this development in Western astrology and believed it hampered the scientific validity of astrology (CW5 paras 295+n). This is something he continues to refer to throughout his life (CW9i, para 7, Jung Letters Vol.2, p429).

What is interesting about his usage in the early stage is that it is something he simply incorporates into his writing, as if there were nothing controversial about it. For example, Jung writes that the “Sun and Moon, as divine equivalents of the parent archetype…” (CW5 para 576) is an ancient concept that remains significant for modern psychological astrology.

Jung was familiar from a young age with the ancient philosophers that underpin astrological ideas. In Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Jung writes:

Between my sixteenth and nineteenth years…I began systematically pursuing questions I had consciously framed. I read a brief introduction to the history of philosophy…I found to my gratification that many of my intuitions had historical analogues. Above all, I was attracted to the thought of Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Empedocles and Plato, despite the long-windedness of Socratic argument.
(MDR, p 87.)

This interest dates from 1891 to 1894. The philosophers Jung mentions are still studied as part of the core curriculum in the history of astrology. As Nicholas Campion writes:

The early Greek philosophers were astronomers rather than astrologers, for astrology was virtually unknown to them but step-by-step they built up the intellectual structure which was to be combined with Mesopotamian divination to produce modern astrology. It may be argued that astrology became the most popular method of divination in the Western world precisely because it inherited the intellectual depths of Greek philosophy.
(Campion, 1982, p16.)

Tower House

Going back to the year 2000, as a way to celebrate completing our MAs, a friend and I travelled to Switzerland to walk in the great man’s footsteps. It was a kind of pilgrimage and not intended as a journey of discovery, which it proved to be.

We visited Jung’s Tower House, Bollingen, on Lake Zurich, a place of immense significance for Jung and was most illuminating for us. On Bollingen, Jung wrote:

At Bollingen I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself. …There is nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked. Here, everything has its history, and mine; there is space for the spaceless kingdom of the world’s and psyche’s hinterland…In 1950 I made a kind of monument out of stone to express what the Tower means to me. …The stone stands outside the Tower and is like an explanation of it. It is a manifestation of the occupant, but one which remains incomprehensible to others.
(MDR p252-5.)

While there I took this photograph of the stone Jung carved. What is interesting and was for me tremendously exciting about this stone is that the inscription includes the planetary glyphs.

In Memories Dreams Reflections the words are translated, but no mention of the planetary glyphs is made. None of the biographies I’ve read mention the glyphs. It seems to me that, while not keeping the fact of the glyphs a secret, there is nevertheless a conspiracy of silence. (Back to my Pluto rising chart.)

Although there is an image of this stone in Word and Image, edited by Aniela Jaffé, the fact that his carving includes the astrological glyphs is not commented upon. In the many sources where his text is translated, no mention is made that the planetary glyphs are an integral part of his carving.

The translation of his text is:

Time is like a child – playing like a child – playing a board game – the kingdom of the child. This is Telesphoros, who roams through the dark regions of this cosmos and glows like a star out of the depths. He points the way to the gates of the sun and to the land of dreams.

The first sentence is a fragment from Heraclitus; the second sentence alludes to the Mithras liturgy, and the last sentence, to Homer. (Odyssey, Book 24, verse 12). (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, CG Jung, page 254.)

Astrological carving

The question I’ve been posing is: what do the planets, arranged in the way they are on the inscription, signify? Is this an alchemical arrangement? What we do know is that the stone had enormous personal significance for Jung. He carved it late in his life and this demonstrates his continuing and abiding involvement with astrology.

The fact that Jung says it remains incomprehensible to others could be seen as a challenge: that the stone represents him and that he cannot be understood. He claims it represents him yet is incomprehensible, and indeed it seems he is right. It may be that no one has been sufficiently fascinated by the stone to want to unlock its meaning. Or it may be that, because it depicts the astrological glyphs, others have been reluctant to explore it further.

I spoke about this some time ago to the Cambridge Jungian Group. And after that, Prudence Jones, an astrologer and academic-at-large, sent me a detailed list of her thoughts and understanding, which sheds some light on the stone.

Prudence says:

The picture, being a mandala, is of the whole universe; it contains all seven planets. Mercurius is in the middle, with the Sun and Moon, flanking the masculine and feminine benefics respectively, to the sides of him, and the two malefics above and below.
His inscription quotes Heraclitus verse 123, which refers to the cycles of time. Aion, which he translates just as “time” (he was writing the book Aion at the time he carved the stone) is like a child playing a game of pessoi (rather like draughts) which must have been a game of skill rather than chance. The verses before say how men are like children to the gods, so this verse presumably indicates that even eternity is but a drop in the ocean of time. In Plato, later on, the cycles of the planets are seen as the wheels of Fate, but I can’t make any connection to the board game here unless it is to the idea that fixed rules and trajectories govern all things.
Telesphoros, which means ‘bringer of the goal, accomplisher’, is a real god from the early Common Era. He was attached to Asclepius as his son and helper, in which role some commentators see him as the god of convalescence. He is always shown as a child or dwarf wearing a woollen hooded cloak, as in Jung’s image. Some Mithraic images also have Telesphoros with Mithras as the latter is slaying the bull. Mme Blavatsky says the number 7 (as we know, the number of planets) was also called Telesphoros. The seven planets are shown on Jung’s stone and of course feature in Mithraic ritual. (Prudence couldn’t find the Mithraic ritual from which “the dark regions of the cosmos” quotation comes.)
The gates of the sun are a Mesopotamian idea adopted into Greece in which the Sun rises between two gates and pursues its path which led out of them. Gatekeepers in Mesopotamian and Greek myth were weird creatures because they were liminal. From the context, Homer’s gates are probably the western gates of the setting sun, but the constellations Cancer and Capricorn are also gates of the Sun’s travel throughout the year and were said by Plato to be the points of ingress and escape of souls from earthly life. (Prudence thought Homer’s “land of dreams” was relevant here to the role of Telesphoros in healing incubation and of course Jung’s own work.)
The alchemical ‘Axiom of Maria’ is expressed by the three zigzag lines and one wavy line on the mandala. This axiom apparently says that the one becomes the two, becomes the three and then the four, all as the one. 
So, Telesphoros, the Accomplisher, seems to be here both in his Aesculapian and his Mithraic roles. He is pictured as the cucullatus who appeared in one of Jung’s visions, and this equated with Aion, the subject of the book which Jung was then writing, examining astrological Mithraic religion. Jung had placed the seven planets symbolically at the corners and the centre of his mandala and tied them into Pythagorean numerology (7 as Telesphoros) and alchemy. And Telesphoros, the Accomplisher, is both the physician’s helper and the assistant of Mithras in his job of slaying the bull of lunar consciousness and the old Aeon. 
So, the Tower is where Jung’s inner psyche is linked with the symbolic structure of the outer cosmos as celebrated in the time of rituals of Mithraism and the transformative rituals of Alchemy”.

I am extremely grateful to Prudence for her thoughts and research.

We know that Jung had a number 1 and number 2 personality, and that he considered his number 2 personality to be his true one.

Jung acknowledges that his number 1 personality enabled him to adapt to the world and study science and states, with reference to his number 2 personality: “He also disappeared when I was studying science.” (MDR, p93.)

This split occurred early in Jung’s life. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung describes a manikin he carved and kept hidden, with a specially painted black stone, in a locked pencil-case in the attic (MDR, p36). The need to keep a part of himself secret can be seen as an intimation of what Jung later calls his number 2 personality.

Stone carvings

In studying psychiatry Jung thought he had found a way to integrate his number 1 and number 2 personalities and to look for scientific evidence to substantiate his intuitive knowledge. “It was as though two rivers had united and in one grand torrent were bearing me inexorably towards distant goals.” (MDR, p131.)

Jung was undoubtedly in his number 2 personality when he created this stone, and in fact for the whole of his time spent at Bollingen. This was one reason why it was so important to him. It was here, after his break with Freud, that he explored his unconscious via active imagination. And it was from this intense interaction with his own unconscious that most of his concepts were born.

Yet Jung’s attitude to astrology was in the main ambivalent, and it seems his problem with astrology was its lack of any coherent, scientific, epistemology. In 1947, when writing to the Indian astrologer Professor Raman, Jung laments the lack of statistical research “by which certain fundamental facts could be scientifically established”. (Jung Letters, Vol. 1, p476.)

One of Jung’s struggles was whether astrology was causal or acausal, as appears in his later correspondence.

Writing to Aniela Jaffé in 1951, Jung states:

I must rework the chapter on astrology. An important change has to be made – Knoll put me on to it. Astrology is not a mantic method but appears to be based on proton radiation (from the sun). I must do a statistical experiment in order to be on the sure ground.
(Jung Letters Vol. 2, p23.)

Writing about astrology in 1952, Jung says:

My thoughts have been hovering over similar problems for several years and I assume they still are in a way, i.e. my unconscious thinking is definitely rotating around the problem of time…In a way it is connected with the subject of a recent discussion in the Society of Physical Research, where Dr J. R. Smythies has proposed a new theory of absolute space or absolute time-space… How he is going to explain the astrological…is dark to me, also I’m unable to find out what the questions fertilising future experimental work and issuing from this conceptual basis might be.
(Ibid. p38.)

Here, at this late date in his life, Jung is still searching for an explanation.

And two years later, writing to the French astrologer, André Barbault, Jung says:

In any case, astrology occupies a unique and special position among the intuitive methods, and in explaining it there is a reason to be dubious of both a causal theory and the exclusive validity of the synchronistic hypothesis.
(Ibid. p177.)

In 1958, Jung writes; “I would be inclined to rank astrology among the natural sciences”. (Ibid. p 429.) But later in the same year, Jung reasserts that astrology is acausal: “Astrology does not follow the principle of causality, but depends, like all intuitive methods, on acausality”. (Ibid. p464.) 
The question of causality versus acausality remained unresolved and is crucial in Jung’s thinking if we are to make sense of his astrological experiment. This was meant to demonstrate synchronicity and for this to have validity, astrology had to be acausal, like other mantic systems, yet this was never something Jung was certain of. Jung writes:

Astrology would be an example of synchronicity on a grand scale if only there were enough thoroughly tested findings to support it. But at least we have at our disposal a number of well-tested and statistically verifiable facts which make the problem of astrology seem worthy of scientific investigation. Its value is obvious enough to the psychologist since astrology represents the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity. The fact that it is possible to reconstruct a person’s character fairly accurately from his birth data shows the relative validity of astrology. It must be remembered, however, that the birth data are in no way dependent on the actual astronomical constellations but are based on an arbitrary conceptual time system. Owing to the precession of the equinoxes, the spring-point has long since moved out of the constellation of Aries into Pisces, so that the astrological zodiac on which the horoscopes are calculated no longer corresponds to the heavenly one. If there are any astrological diagnoses of character that are in fact correct, this is due not to the influence of the stars but to our own hypothetical time qualities. In other words, whatever is born or done at this particular moment of time has the quality of this moment of time.
(CW15, paras 81-82.)

The above, written in 1930, before Jung went on to conduct his own astrological experiment in an attempt to demonstrate synchronicity, outlines some of the contradictions he experienced in his attitude to astrology. Jung wanted something that was proven. Jung refers here to “the problem of astrology” which is really the problem he has in his struggle either to understand it scientifically or to dismiss it, in both of which he ultimately fails.

Next, Jung acknowledges his debt to astrology, that it “represents the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity”. But then his dilemma is back to the scientific basis of astrology, and his concern that, because of the precession of the equinoxes, somehow this makes astrology even less scientific. He then backtracks on his earlier statement, “… that it is possible to reconstruct a person’s character fairly accurately from his birth data shows the relative validity of astrology”. By wondering, in the same paragraph: “Whether there are any astrological diagnoses of character that are in fact correct”. He then postulates a theory of why astrology might work, something he’s struggling to understand so that his own scientific objections can be quietened.

Part of Jung’s struggle with astrology is its lack of any coherent, scientific epistemology. The empirical scientist, personality number 1 in Jung, could not reconcile itself with astrology, while the intuitive side of Jung, personality number 2, could not walk away from it, and so an uneasy relationship within himself ensued. At times Jung draws on classical and medieval astrological thought and at other times he distances himself from these ideas.

Jung’s daughter, Gret Baumann-Jung said: “Shortly before his death, as we talked about horoscopes, my father remarked: ‘The funny thing is that the darned stuff even works after death'”. (Baumann-Jung, 1975, p55.) This quote, in an intimate situation where Jung would feel no need to be defensive, demonstrates that his perplexity in trying to make scientific sense of astrology continued to the end of his life.

In my dissertation, I discussed how some of Jung’s concepts may have been derived from astrological thought. Here, I have shown the extent of his perplexed and ambivalent attitude to astrology. While it is important to acknowledge that there were collective and cultural pressures, I believe he chose to distance himself publicly from astrology because it would have tarnished the respectability he craved from the psychoanalytical community.

This is an abridged version of a lecture Babs Kirby gave at the Astrological Association Conference on 24 June 2018 and draws on her MA dissertation at Essex University in 2000, titled ‘Jung’s View of Astrology – A Critical Enquiry into the Role of Astrology in Analytical Psychology’. To buy the complete recording of the talk (as CD or download), visit astrologicalassociation.com.

Bair, Deidre (2004), Jung – A Biography, Little Brown, London.
Campion, Nicholas, (1982) An Introduction to the History of Astrology, Institute for the Study of Cycles in World Affairs, London.
….(1983/4) Roman Astrology –Part 1 and 11, Astrology, Vol. 57 No 4 and Vol. 58 No 1 London.
Charet, F.X., (1949, 1993) Spiritualism and the Foundations of C.G. Jung’s Psychology, State University of New York, New York.
Giegerich, Wolfgang, (1998) Is the Soul “Deep?” – Entering and Following the Logical Movement of Heraclitus’ “Fragment 45” in Histories, Spring 64, Connecticut.
Hillman, James, (1975, 1992) Re-Visioning Psychology, Harper Perennial, New York.
Howe, Ellic, (1967,1972) Astrology and Psychological Warfare during World War 11, Rider and Co. London.
Jaffé, Aniela, (1979, 1983) C.G.Jung: Word and Image, Princeton/Bollingen Series XCVII, Switzerland.
Jung, C.G., (1963) Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Fontana Press, London.
….CW1 to CW20, Routledge.
….(1967) C.G. Jung Bibliothek Katalog, Kusnacht, Zurich, Kristine Mann Library, New York.

First published by The Astrological Journal, Jan/Feb 2019

2 thoughts on “Jung’s Struggle with Astrology

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.