Remo F. Roth

Dr. oec. publ., Ph.D.

dipl. analyt. Psychologe (M.-L. v. Franz)




English HomePage

©  2003 by Pro Litteris, Zurich, Switzerland and Remo F. Roth, Horgen-Zurich. All Rights Reserved. Republication and redissemination of the contents of this screen or any part of this website are expressly prohibited without prior written consent.

With many thanks to Gregory Sova, Ph.D. (LA, CA) for translation assistance


The New Mysticism and the Life after Death




part 1:

1. What Is Mysticism?

2. The Conflict of the Mystics with the Clerics

3. The Mysticism of the World Religions

4. Identity Mysticism and Relationship Mysticism

5. Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious and the New Mysticism

6. An Example: The Mysticism of the Swiss Saint Nicholas von Flüe

7. The Mysticism of Alchemy

part 2:

8. The alchemical myth of God’s transformation and redemption


The New Mysticism and the Life after Death

Lecture, of 6/6/1997 

at C.G. Jung Institute, Stuttgart, Germany

 Part I  


1. What is Mysticism?  

As the title of my lecture indicates, today we are occupied with mysticism on the one hand, i.e., with a new kind of mysticism, and on the other hand with conceptions about the life after death.

In the first part I will give you an introduction to the new mysticism. In a second part we are then occupied with the topic of a possible life after death. These two topics have a close relationship. This is the reason why I choose to discuss them together.

If I tell you of a new mysticism, I must first explain, what mysticism actually is. Etymologically regarded the word mysticism comes from the Greek myein, i.e., "closing the eyes." Mysticism thus primarily means a mental condition, in which one withdraws oneself from the outside world and in an act of introversion turns inward, by closing eyes, ears and mouth.

In addition mysticism always refers to something divine. Together with the above etymological derivative we can therefore conclude that mysticism represents an occupation with God or with the divine in oneself. A mystic is thus occupied with images and voices, which come out from the inside; the direction of motion is thus from inside to outside.

These circumstances are very beautifully represented in a vision of the Swiss mystic Nicholas von Flue (more about his life see (see figure 1).    

 Figure 1: The Frightening Vision of God’s Face


In this vision Nicholas sees the face of God, whose eyes ears and mouth are each pierced by a spear tip. If one imagines this very concretely, one comes to the conclusion that the challenge of such a human is it to close the ears, the eyes and the mouth for the purpose of not listening, not looking and not speaking anymore to the outside. Such a human is thus forced to become a mystic, i.e., to turn to one’s own interior world. If one follows this process, it will proceed from the inside outward – as the second three spear tips in Nicholas’s vision. They point from the head outward, thus from the inside outward.

With this symbolism the process of a mystic is very beautifully described: They turn inward, by closing mouth, eyes and ears, from which one experiences that something flows from the inside outward. This flow corresponds to the visions seen during the mystical process.

However, in the image it is actually God whose "extraverted sensation organs" are pierced. This means that the ability to meditate and to become a mystic rises from a divine center in the human soul. Nicholas thus became pulled into this divine inner process, so that in the long run he was not able to do anything else but live the life of a mystic.  


2. The Conflict of the Mystics with the Clerics  

Here a serious problem of the mysticism of all religions immediately shows up. Since mystics perceive a God-image, which emerges from their inside and takes the form that reflects the very individual roots of the persons religious background, it can differ from the dogmatically proclamated image of God. Thus for example the Christian mystic Cusanus (Nicholas of Kues) described God as a coincidentia oppositorum, a union of all contrasts in God. A necessary conclusion from this fact is that God includes both good and evil. This contradicts the Christian God-image, which proclamates that God is pure love, and in Him there is no evil at all.

Thus conflicts naturally develop between the mystics and the teachings of the clerics, which regard the theology and teaching of the dogmatism of a specific God-image as their occupation. This conflict is still with us very much yet today. In the year 1945 about 50 lost Gnostic gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Since then we know that there are many further gospels beside the four Canonical gospels (see Pagels, Elaine: The Gnostic Gospels). In these gospels, written in the tradition of Christian mysticism, Jesus Christ is somewhat differently represented than in the four official gospels. But although these Gnostic gospels are already published for more than twenty years, they are not taken by the Christian theologians as part of their knowledge. The dogmatism of the Church does not want to have anything to do with these mystical Gnostic gospels.

The mystic experiences the divine by the looking within, by a deep state of introversion. Like this he experiences a very individual God-image. As we will see, it is exactly this experience of the divine which connects one to ones own roots, and which gives new meaning to ones life.

The cleric does not know this experience therefore he/she must replace direct experience by a faith in contents of the holy writings, which is frequently defended with fanatical zeal. Symbolically speaking clerics do not close their eyes, but keep them open, in order to be able to read the contents of these holy writings. They are thus deeply occupied with the outside or an extraverted religious experience.  


3. The Mysticism of the World Religions

Mysticism appears in all of the world religions. Their mystics form an introverted counter pole to the extraverted clerics, who concern themselves with the interpretation and distribution of the holy writings.

Christian mysticism begins in the 11th Century with Bernhard von Clairvaux who was, indeed, also the initiator of the first crusade. Christian mysticism becomes in the centuries after Bernhard von Clairvaux an eminent German affair. It culminates and degenerates finally in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Mysticism.

However, the most important Christian mystics hushed up by the official church are the alchemists, to whom we will return later. For the moment I will only make reference to the fact that the alchemists, for example Paracelsus, looked for the Deus absconditus, the hidden God in ones own soul. This is also the deeper reason, why C. G. Jung was occupied so intensively with alchemy (see: Jung, CG: Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12, Princeton University Press, 1978).

Jewish mysticism is laid down in the writings of the Kabbalah (see: Gershom Sholem: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism). Here the divine is represented as an abstract tree, the famous Sefiroth tree. In addition a highly differentiated number mysticism belongs to the Kabbalah. The number becomes therein the carrier of the characteristics of the divine. It is not only used for counting and paying, but each number is imbued with a certain quality. For example the number nine symbolizes the transcendental world and thus also the mysticism, because nine is a threshold number that allows for the transition to a new world, i.e., to the world of the two digit numbers (10 to 99).

The Muslim, the followers of Islam, also possess their own kind of mysticism, Sufism. This mysticism is one of the greatest and richest of all (see Schimmel, Anne-Marie: Mystical Dimensions of Islam). Last but not least we also know about the mysticism of Buddhism and Hinduism, i.e., Tantrism, which is so well known today.

In addition mysticism occurs in areas that have, at first glance, nothing to do with religion. Quantum physics, the physics of the subatomic elementary particles, is some sort of a projected mysticism. This is why the physicists find structures in the macrocosm, which are very similar to the God-images the mystics see in their microcosm. (see Roth, Remo F.: Die Gottsucher – Eine Vereingiung der Christlichen Mystik und der Quantenphysik in der Synchronizität C.G. Jungs, Frankfurt a/M., 1992; in German).  


Overview 1: The World Religions and their Mysticisms


If one now asks oneself, what humans of today who are close to Esoterics are looking for, then it is noticeable that very many occupy themselves with Sufism, Tantrism and the Kabbalah. Obviously they look for a way that will satisfy their need for mystical experience. However, they again, in a typically Western fashion, look outside for finding this experience, i.e., they are fascinated by a mysticism of some exotic religion outside their cultural roots.

Therefore, little attention is given to the mysticism of our own roots, the Medieval alchemy.  


4. Identity Mysticism and Relationship Mysticism

In most general terms we can propose that to be a mystic means to be occupied with the divine in one’s own soul. Here we must now differentiate two completely different kinds of mysticisms that appear in the world: mysticism through identification and mysticism through relationship.

In the mysticism by identification the mystic tries to become like the divine or become God. So for example the Buddhist Tantrism is identity mysticism. The Tantrist would like to become identical with the "nothing", with the Nirvana, which in his case is the divine principle.

Today, the identity mysticism is - especially since the physicist Fritjof Capra has brought it together with quantum physics – the preferred way in the Esoteric mainstream. It possesses however a very dangerous aspect for us Western humans. Due to our psychological conditions we are not prepared to become divine or God-like. An identity mystic, who has a God experience, is in the danger of falling into a so-called inflation (Carl Jung), i.e., a megalomania. Such humans transform into a god-like being, like this blow themselves up and begin with missionary zeal to preach their latest revelation. A new guru is born…!

The contrast to the identity mysticism is the relationship mysticism. We find the relationship mysticism in all three Semitic religions: in the Jewish Kabbalah, in the Muslim Sufism and also the in Christian mysticism. They all are stamped by the fact that the mystic looks for a relationship with God or with the God-image hidden within themselves. This mysticism is also called Ich-Du-Mystik (English translation: I-You-Mysticism) Therefore, a Christian or Sufi mystic would never say, that they have become God (as the identity mystic does), but instead stresses the relationship aspect. Such a mystic remains human and does not identify with the divine.

Without any exception the human heart is the location for this relationship with God the relationship mystic tries to reach. This evening we want, therefore, to be occupied with the relationship mystical experience.


5. Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious and the New Mysticism

Why do I use the term "new mysticism?" In order to clarify this circumstance, we also must now include the discoveries of the depth psychology.

All depth psychological theories rely on the use of the term unconscious. Historically Sigmund Freud is credited with the discovery of the unconscious. The use of the word "unconscious" means to imply that it is all the contents of which I am not conscious. This means that there exists another realm in my soul, about which I do not actually know anything about and I am therefore unconscious of it. Thus, the unconscious is first a mere hypothesis.

The revolution created by the founder of depth psychology, Sigmund Freud, was the fact that when he published his Traumdeutung (Dream Interpretation) in the year 1900, for the first time someone began to deal with dreams empirically. This means that he recognized that the subconscious realm of the soul can have observable effects on consciousness. One can notice the effects of the unconscious on the conscious, and therefore its existence is proven exactly by this observation. This method is the usual procedure of natural science; therefore Sigmund Freud’s empirical proof of what he called the subconscious was the first time that psychology began to deal with the unconscious in the way of natural science’s methodology.

The most famous example today of such an effect of the unconscious on the conscious are the so-called Freudian slips of the tongue (Freudian slip). One would like to say something, but an unconscious complex interferes, and one says a different thing.

Sigmund Freud assumed that all that is unconscious was once conscious. These contents became unconscious by forgetting or repression – the latter being the most important term of Freudian psychology of today. Above all unpleasant things, negative feelings, the bad conscience, and especially sexual fantasies in Freud’s Vienna of the 19th century were all repressed. Freud’s unconscious is therefore a kind of trash can for all these unpleasant thoughts and fantasies (see figure 2).


Figure 2: The structure of the psyche after Freud and Jung

In the terminology of Carl G. Jung the Freudian unconscious represents the so-called personal unconscious or the shadow. Already Sigmund Freud noticed however that there are dreams, which contain so-called "archaic vestiges". These contents of "archetypal dreams" (Carl Jung) cannot be explained out of the personal psychology of the dreamer. In other words they concern dream contents, which did not develop due to a repression into the unconscious, but must have been contents since eternal times.

So C .G. Jung, for example, saw in the dreams of a psychotic patient at the Burghoelzli psychiatric hospital the motif of a sun phallus. The patient told again and again of this image of the sun, which had a hose that hung down to the earth. This is a motif, which occurs only in the Gilgamesh Epic, a Babylonian mythological legend, which had not yet been translated at that time into a Western cultural language. The dreamer could thus know nothing of it, and yet the motif appeared nevertheless in the patient’s dreams and fantasies. Due to these and similar general human experiences – especially also his own - Jung saw that under the personal unconscious discovered by Freud (his subconscious) there had to be a deeper layer. Jung called it the collective unconscious. Its contents are collective in the sense of the fact that they concern thereby mankind-specific ideas, which always were in the unconscious and therefore could not have resulted from repression. These contents Jung called archetypes.  

[Remark of November 11th, 2003: Later, in the year 1946, Carl Jung expanded on the meaning of the term archetype. He then defined it not only as the structural dominant of the collective unconscious, but also as having a psychoid aspect, as being a part of a world behind or beyond it. This world he called the unus mundus, the united world of matter and psyche. Its empirically observable content is what he called synchronicity.]  

Under the archetypes one imagines usually something unbelievably complicated. To get an alive conception of an archetype, there exists however a very simple procedure: If one remembers a dream, which occurred many years or decades ago, then it is in all likely hood a dream out of the collective unconscious, in which such "archaic vestiges" or archetypal motifs spring up. As an example, I would like to mention the archetype of the nourishing principle or the positive mother archetype, which can be represented in these dreams by many different pictures such as for example the tree, the cave, the toad, the turtle, the dinosaur, and so on.

In the works of Carl Jung one sees that what he calls the collective unconscious is really something numinous. Behind this numinousness the divine hides itself. Thus for him the collective unconscious possesses god-like qualities. We must however keep in mind that Jung never speaks of God or of the divine. This concept of the theologians is a metaphysical one, and therefore no subject of an empirical science. To describe this deepest archetype of his analytical psychology, he uses the term the God-image. In contrary to the metaphysical god of the theologians the God-image is the empirically observable image in our soul. This God-image can differ from the canonized, i.e., from the image Christians have of their God, and is – as Jung noticed in thousands of dreams – represented by a symmetric mandala structure.

Therefore, for Carl Jung the center of the collective unconscious is the (individual) God-image. One of the most important tasks of the so-called individuation process he defined as the challenge of our life, is thus to find this inner God-image in one’s own soul and to find the right individual relationship to it.

The graphic representation of the collective unconscious looks thus about as shown above (see figure 2): The main archetype, the God-image, is placed in the center and around it are grouped its many different characteristics, the other archetypes of the collective unconscious.

And now you understand why I speak of the new mysticism. If the collective unconscious possesses divine qualities and the center of it even corresponds to the individual inner God-image, an occupation with the archetypal dreams and visions of the collective unconscious emerges as an inner relationship with the divine. This relationship with the divine in one’s own soul represents however mysticism in the broadest sense of the word.

We know from the history of the mystics - above all from the feminine mystics – that the content of their visions and dreams from the collective unconscious were modified by their confessors. All visions, which were not compatible with the official church doctrine, were condemned as a whispering of the devil.  Thus most of the visions of Christian mystics have been falsified and thus cannot be used to compare with today’s mystical experiences.

However, the visions of the Swiss saint Nicholas von Flue are an exception. Since he did not live in a monastery, the clerics did not have any power over his visions. And his life as a simple Swiss farmer likewise protected these visions from the know-it-all dogmatic "wisdom" of the clerics. It is to be owed to these circumstances that we have his visions in the original and thus unpurified form. As Marie-Louise von Franz has shown, in them the whole Germanic mythology lays hidden (see Marie Louise von Franz: Die Visionen des Niklaus von Flüe, 2nd ed., Daimon, Zurich,1980; to be published in English).

In the history of the mystics it was thus tried again and again to force the contents of their visions to agree with the dogmatic teachings of the Church’s God-image. The real new aspect of the mysticism I suggest consists therefore – in contrast to the procedure of the censorship practiced by the Christian clerics - in an objective and unbiased encounter with the visions and archetypal dreams emerging from the collective unconscious. In this way confessing Christians discover perhaps in their unconscious a Tantric God-image and they will have the task to combine the Christian God-image with the Tantric. Or convinced Christians find in the collective unconscious remnants of the Jewish God-image, which they must now bring in agreement with the Christian, and so on.  


6. An Example: The Mysticism of the Swiss Saint Nicholas von Flüe

Briefly said the new mysticism consists in a completely unprejudiced way of dealing with one’s visions and dreams from the collective unconscious and trying to understand of which individual God-image they speak. More than 500 years ago this was the burden the Swiss mystic Nicholas of Flüe had to bear (see also The Wheel Image of Nicholas von Flüe).

Already in his youth he was overwhelmed by visions that spoke of a God-image which greatly differed from the approved Christian view. We see this fact again in the vision of the frightening face of God (see figure 1). In his consciousness Nicholas of Flüe believed that there were three persons in one God, in the so-called Holy Trinity. This means that God consists of the three male persons; God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit. However, in the collective unconscious of Nicholas a completely different God-image was constellated, i.e., one that corresponded to a double trinity, which is symbolized by the two groups of three lance points pointing in opposite directions. During an inner process of several years, Nicholas transformed this vision in his today famous image of the wheel (see figure 3).  


 Figure 3: The Wheel Image of Nicholas von Flüe

Besides the very undogmatic double triadic structure, in Nicholas’ renewed God-image and apart from the Holy Spirit a goddess also appears. Nicholas’ image of the wheel corrects therefore the Christian God-image and supplements it with the feminine principle, which had been excluded by the church fathers. Nearly 500 years later Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumptio Mariae, the dogma of the corporal ascension of the God mother Maria – and was laughed at by most theologians. For Carl Jung this acknowledgment of the female as divine principle was however a large hope for the spiritual future of the Christian world.  

[Remark of November 11th, 2003 : In the year 1953 the physicist and Nobel laureate Wolfgang Pauli criticized the Assumptio in a letter to Carl Jung [Atom and Archetype, letter [58], p. 84-101] as a Neoplatonic procedure and therefore criticized also Jung, who compared the Assumptio with the quaternarian archetype of the Self, he defined as the center of the collective unconscious. Pauli argued that by this procedure it was only "disinfected matter", i.e., a defective feminine principle, which was liberated and sent to the Christian Heaven. Like this, he argued, matter, the archetypal feminine principle, was not transformed in concordance with Hermetic alchemy.  

In Hermetic alchemy there existed a symmetry between matter and spirit: In the so-called coniunctio, the sexual union of the God and the Goddess as the final process of the Hermetic alchemical opus, the latter was first defined as an anti-trinity, too. Second, it transformed into the masculine divine principle as well as the trinitarian masculine into the feminine. By this procedure an "intermediate reality" was created (and not the all spiritual principle of Neoplatonic alchemy), out of which the incarnatio, the incarnation of the so-called infans solaris (the sun’s child) or the extraction of the red tincture happened. This red tincture Pauli compared with an extended comprehension of radioactivity, seen on a deeper, psychophysical level which is itself the unus mundus, the (empirically observable) psychophysical reality out of which new creation (i.e., newly animated matter) is born. As I have shown elsewhere, this today created newly animated matter are the UFOs and their inhabitants, encounter and abduction victims experience as a subtle body reality in their mind and body.]  

Nicholas von Flue spent nearly his whole life with the confrontation with this novel God-image constellated in the collective unconscious, which compensated the Christian Trinity that he consciously believed in. Likewise today there are already many humans, in whom such new God-images are constellated. Since the dreams and visions from the collective unconscious speak an enigmatic and dark language, they cannot be easily understood without a certain skill and a deepened knowledge about the symbols they contain. Therefore modern humans search on the outside and let the treasures of their own soul go unacknowledged. This is the deeper reason why so many people imitate today far Eastern mysticism and the related meditation techniques.

But more and more humans begin to understand that the real wisdom comes from the inside, and that the deepest meaning of one’s life lies in recognizing the individual God-image constellated in the deepest regions of one’s own soul. This is only possible by searching after it in one’s own dreams and visions. Like this these humans become the mystics of our time. They work – all of them in their own way – at trying to consciously realize the individual God-image of the 21st century.  


7. The Mysticism of Alchemy

At the beginning of my lecture I mentioned that alchemy represents the mysticism of Christianity (see also Paracelsus and the Renewed God-Image). It is hardly amazing therefore that in dreams and visions of my client’s, symbols arise again and again that relate to the alchemical process of God’s transformation. It seems that more and more humans today have the task to understand and consciously reconstruct this alchemical process and its goal. In the following I would like therefore to show to you this inner spiritual process of the transformation of the God-image.

Before I can deal with this extremely heretical alchemical myth I must first try to rectify the widespread prejudice concerning the ancient practice of alchemy. Today most humans still believe that alchemy was about the making of gold in the Middle Ages. This uninformed belief holds that the nature of alchemy consisted in the attempt of certain people who tried, with the use of base metals, for example with lead or copper, to make gold. Carl Jung proved that this is a great misunderstanding. Of course, there were money-greedy alchemists, who really believed that they could make gold in any mysterious kind. But the more intelligent among them saw however the Opus, the alchemical work, as a symbolic task. The making of gold was a symbolic expression for the "creation" of the divine, thus of the indestructible, the incombustible, the eternal. Basic material for the divine was thereby the prima materia, which itself was hidden in matter. Especially the physicians under the alchemists, especially Paracelsus and his student Gerhard Dorn (Gerardus Dorneus) thought it to be in the human body out of which the so-called subtle body, a divine principle, had to be created. By the way I would like to point out that this alchemical idea corresponds completely to the central idea of the Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism.

I want to show you by the following example how these alchemical motifs can spontaneously emerge in the dreams of modern humans. During a very critical phase of life one of my clients experienced the following vision:  

I am with a fairy in a round village square. I am brought here and tied to a stake in order to be burned. In burning, my body transforms into a dove and flies away.  

Some humans who hear of this vision will most likely assume that it talks of Reincarnation. My client would assume in this case that she would have been burned in an earlier life, during the so-called witch hunt, because she believes in Reincarnation. Whether this interpretation applies or not, one will never be able to prove empirically. The Reincarnation idea will always remain a speculation. It is a matter of the personal choice if one believes in it or not. Further, in the above vision this interpretation does not explain the motifs of the fairy and of the dove.

If one now instead accepts that this vision originates from the timeless and spaceless realm of the collective unconscious – which by definition cannot be in the past of mankind but is what I call the always/everywhere – then one could try to understand this product of the unconscious with the help of the empirical based interpretation method of C.G. Jung. Thus one could ask oneself, what is the task in the here and now and what future prospects are described by this vision. In such a manner we refer such archetypal dreams and visions to the present and a future task and challenge of the humans concerned. The question thus does not read, what could this vision say about an earlier life, but rather one asks oneself, what could it mean for the here and now and the future of the visionary. In this way also the past is however consulted for the purpose of inquiring what the motifs in the vision or dream could have meant in earlier days.

To find out about this task for the here and now, I apply the so-called amplification method of Carl Jung. In it one searches for parallels to the dream or vision motifs in the history of mankind. If one finds out, what at that time these parallel motifs meant, one can understand also the deepest sense of an archetypal dream or of a vision for the present and the future of humans concerned.

Since this aspect is very important, I want again to briefly point out the difference between Reincarnation theory and the approach I call new mysticism. Representatives of the Reincarnation hypothesis refer such dreams and visions, like the above-mentioned burning at the stake, to an earlier life. For Carl Jung however in them archetypal motifs are described, which want to teach the individual concerned something about his/her future development. Jung thus refers such a dream to the here and now and to the future, includes however the past with the help of the amplification of the dream’s or vision’s contents.

Applying Jung’s amplification method for understanding our vision, one sees that the motif of the fire that does not destroy belongs to the famous Phoenix myth. Therein the Phoenix bird burns itself and its nest up by its own body heat. From its own ashes it is born again and is now immortal.

The main goal of alchemy is also this production of the indestructible and the immortal, the "gold". However, in the vision of my client a dove emerges from the ash. Obviously this dove represents the goal of her current life. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit on the one hand, and on the other an attribute of the Greek-Roman goddess Aphrodite/Venus. Thus the vision is concerned with a divine female spirit, which arises from the ash of the burned body. Since this spirit is connected with the goddess Venus/Aphrodite, it seems to be substantially connected with the Eros principle. The vision tells us therefore that the process of the new mysticism consists for this woman in the challenge of liberating the Eros principle out of her physical body.  

After the break we will see that this divine female principle is on the one hand the so-called World Soul (anima mundi), on the other the subtle body. In addition it will become clear how the redemption of the World Soul and of the subtle body are connected with the new mysticism.


part 2

see also

Some Thoughts about the Relationship of Carl Jung’s Depth Psychology to Quantum Physics and to Archetypal Psychosomatics

Neotantrism and Body Centered Visualization

A Body Centered Visualization for Arrhythmias of the Heart

English Homepage Remo F. Roth