Carl Jung’s Near Death Experience, From His Autobiography

It should be noted that at the time Jung underwent his near death experience, no images of the Earth from space existed.  The first image from space was taken in 1946.  Color images of the Earth from space did not exist until the DODGE satellite in 1967.  His account of the Earth is striking in its accuracy.  Jung’s autobiography was published in 1962, one year after his death.

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Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Carl Jung MD.

A THE BEGINNING of 1944 I broke my foot, and this misadventure
was followed by a heart attack. In a state of unconsciousness I
experienced deliriums and visions which must have begun when I
hung on the edge of death and was being given oxygen and
camphor injections. The images were so tremendous that I myself
concluded that I was close to death. My nurse afterward told me, “It
was as if you were surrounded by a bright glow” That was a
phenomenon she had sometimes observed in the dying, she
added. I had reached the outermost limit, and do not know whether I
was in a dream or an ecstasy. At any rate, extremely strange things
began to happen to me.

It seemed to me that I was high up in space. Far below I saw the
globe of the earth, bathed in a gloriously blue light. I saw the deep
blue sea and the continents. Far below my feet lay Ceylon, and in
the distance ahead of me the subcontinent of India. My field of
vision did not include the whole earth, but its global shape was
plainly distinguishable and its outlines shone with a silvery gleam
through that wonderful blue light. In many places the globe seemed
colored, or spotted dark green like oxydized silver. Far away to the
left lay a broad expanse the reddish-yellow desert of Arabia; it was
as though the silver of the earth had there assumed a reddish-gold
hue. Then came the Red Sea, and far, far back as if in the upper left
of a map I could just make out a bit of the Mediterranean. My gaze
was directed chiefly toward that. Everything else appeared
indistinct. I could also see the snow-covered Himalayas, but in that
direction it was foggy or cloudy. I did not look to the right at all. I
knew that I was on the point of departing from the earth.

Later I discovered how high in space one would have to be to have
so extensive a view approximately a thousand miles! The sight of
the earth from this height was the most glorious thing I had ever
seen.

After contemplating it for a while, I turned around. I had been
standing with my back to the Indian Ocean, as it were, and my face
to the north. Then it seemed to me that I made a turn to the south.
Something new entered my field of vision. A short distance away I
saw in space a tremendous dark block of stone, like a meteorite. It
was about the size of my house, or even bigger. It was floating in
space, and I myself was floating in space.

I had seen similar stones on the coast of the Gulf of Bengal. They
were blocks of tawny granite, and some of them had been hollowed
out into temples. My stone was one such gigantic dark block. An
entrance led into a small antechamber. To the right of the entrance,
a black Hindu sat silently in lotus posture upon a stone bench. He
wore a white gown, and I knew that he expected me. Two steps led
up to this antechamber, and inside, on the left, was the gate to the
temple. Innumerable tiny niches, each with a saucer-like concavity
filled with coconut oil and small burning wicks, surrounded the door
with a wreath of bright flames. I had once actually seen this when I
visited the Temple of the Holy Tooth at Kandy in Ceylon; the gate
had been framed by several rows of burning oil lamps of this sort.
As I approached the steps leading up to the entrance into the rock,
a strange thing happened: I had the feeling that everything was
being sloughed away; everything I aimed at or wished for or
thought, the whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence, fell away or
was stripped from me an extremely painful process. Nevertheless
something remained; it was as if I now carried along with me
everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had
happened around me. I might also say: it was with me, and I was it. I
consisted of all that, so to speak. I consisted of my own history, and
I felt with great certainty: this is what I am. “I am this bundle of what
has been, and what has been accomplished.”

This experience gave me a feeling of extreme poverty, but at the
same time of great fullness. There was no longer anything I wanted
or desired. I existed in an objective form; I was what I had been and
lived. At first the sense of annihilation predominated, of having been
stripped or pillaged; but suddenly that became of no consequence.
Everything seemed to be past; what remained was a fait accompli,
without any reference back to what had been. There was no longer
any regret that something had dropped away or been taken away.
On the contrary: I had everything that I was, and that was everything.
Something else engaged my attention: as I approached the temple I
had the certainty that I was about to enter an illuminated room and
would meet there all those people to whom I belong in reality. There
I would at last understand this too was a certainty what historical
nexus I or my life fitted into. I would know what had been before me,
why I had come into being, and where my life was flowing. My life as
I lived it had often seemed to me like a story that has no beginning
and no end. I had the feeling that I was a historical fragment, an
excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing.
My life seemed to have been snipped out of a long chain of events,
and many questions had remained unanswered. Why had it taken
this course? Why had I brought these particular assumptions with
me? What had I made of them? What will follow? I felt sure that I
would receive an answer to all these questions as soon as I entered
the rock temple. There I would learn why everything had been thus
and not otherwise. There I would meet the people who knew the
answer to my question about what had been before and what would
come after.

While I was thinking over these matters, something happened that
caught my attention. From below, from the direction of Europe, an
image floated up. It was my doctor, Dr. H. or, rather, his likeness
framed by a golden chain or a golden laurel wreath. I knew at once:
“Aha, this is my doctor, of course, the one who has been treating
me. But now he is coming in his primal form, as a basileus of
Kos.[1] In life he was an avatar of this basileus, the temporal
embodiment of the primal form, which has existed from the
beginning. Now he is appearing in that primal form”.

Presumably I too was in my primal form, though this was something
I did not observe but simply took for granted. As he stood before
me, a mute exchange of thought took place between us. Dr. H. had
been delegated by the earth to deliver a message to me, to tell me
that there was a protest against my going away, I had no right to
leave the earth and must return. The moment I heard that, the vision
ceased.

I was profoundly disappointed, for now it all seemed to have been
for nothing. The painful process of defoliation had been in vain, and
I was not to be allowed to enter the temple, to join the people in
whose company I belonged.

In reality, a good three weeks were still to pass before I could truly
make up my mind to live again. I could not eat because all food
repelled me. The view of city and mountains from my sickbed
seemed to me like a painted curtain with black holes in it, or a
tattered sheet of newspaper full of photographs that meant nothing.
Disappointed, I thought, “Now I must return to the ‘box system’
again.” For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos
a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which
each person sat by himself in a little box. And now I should have to
convince myself all over again that this was important! Life and the
whole world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond
measure that I should again be finding all that quite in order. I had
been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I along
with everyone else would again be hung up in a box by a thread.
While I floated in space, I had been weightless, and there had been
nothing tugging at me. And now all that was to be a thing of the
past!

1 Basileus king. Kos was famous in antiquity as the site of the temple of
Asklepios, and was the birthplace of Hippocrates. A. J.

I felt violent resistance to my doctor because he had brought me
back to life. At the same time, I was worried about him. “His life is in
danger, for heaven’s sake! He has appeared to me in his primal
form! When anybody attains this form it means he is going to die,
for already he belongs to the ‘greater company’!” Suddenly the
terrifying thought came to me that Dr. H. would have to die in my
stead. I tried my best to talk to him about it, but he did not
understand me. Then I became angry with him. “Why does he
always pretend he doesn’t know he is a basileus of Kos? And that
he has already assumed his primal form? He wants to make me
believe that he doesn’t know!” That irritated me. My wife reproved
me for being so unfriendly to him. She was right; but at the time I
was angry with him for stubbornly refusing to speak of all that had
passed between us in my vision. “Damn it all, he ought to watch his
step. He has no right to be so reckless! I want to tell him to take
care of himself.” I was firmly convinced that his life was in jeopardy.
In actual fact I was his last patient. On April 4, 1944 I still remember
the exact date I was allowed to sit up on the edge of my bed for the
first time since the beginning of my illness, and on this same day
Dr. H. took to his bed and did not leave it again. I heard that he was
having intermittent attacks of fever. Soon afterward he died of
septicemia. He was a good doctor; there was something of the
genius about him. Otherwise he would not have appeared to me as
a prince of Kos.

During those weeks I lived in a strange rhythm. By day I was usually
depressed. I felt weak and wretched, and scarcely dared to stir.
Gloomily, I thought, “Now I must go back to this drab world.” Toward
evening I would fall asleep, and my sleep would last until about
midnight. Then I would come to myself and lie awake for about an
hour, but in an utterly transformed state. It was as if I were in an
ecstasy. I felt as though I were floating in space, as though I were
safe in the womb of the universe in a tremendous void, but filled
with the highest possible feeling of happiness. “This is eternal
bliss,” I thought. “This cannot be described; it is far too wonderful!”
Everything around me seemed enchanted. At this hour of the night
the nurse brought me some food she had warmed for only then was
I able to take any, and I ate with appetite. For a time it seemed to
me that she was an old Jewish woman, much older than she
actually was, and that she was preparing ritual kosher dishes for
me. When I looked at her, she seemed to have a blue halo around
her head. I myself was, so it seemed, in the Pardes Rimmonim, the
garden of pomegranates, [2] and the wedding of Tifereth with
Malchuth was taking place. Or else I was Rabbi Simon ben Jochai,
whose wedding in the afterlife was being celebrated. It was the
mystic marriage as it appears in the Cabbalistic tradition. I cannot
tell you how wonderful it was. I could only think continually, “Now this
is the garden of pomegranates! Now this is the marriage of
Malchuth with Tifereth!” I do not know exactly what part I played in it.
At bottom it was I myself: I was the marriage. And my beatitude was
that of a blissful wedding.

Gradually the garden of pomegranates faded away and changed.
There followed the Marriage of the Lamb, in a Jerusalem festively
bedecked. I cannot describe what it was like in detail. These were
ineffable states of joy. Angels were present, and light. I myself was
the “Marriage of the Lamb.”

That, too, vanished, and there came a new image, the last vision. I
walked up a wide valley to the end, where a gentle chain of hills
began. The valley ended in a classical amphi-theater. It was
magnificently situated in the green landscape. And there, in this
theater, the hierosgamos was being celebrated. Men and women
dancers came onstage, and upon a flower-decked couch All-father
Zeus and Hera consummated the mystic marriage, as it is
described in the Iliad.

All these experiences were glorious. Night after night I floated in a
state of purest bliss, “thronged round with images of all creation.”
[3] Gradually, the motifs mingled and paled. Usually the visions
lasted for about an hour; then I would fall asleep again. By the time
morning drew near, I would feel: Now gray morning is coming again;
now comes the gray world with its boxes! What idiocy, what
hideous nonsense! Those inner states were so fantastically
beautiful that by comparison this world appeared downright
ridiculous. As I approached closer to life again, they grew fainter,
and scarcely three weeks after the first vision they ceased
altogether.

2 Pardes Rimmonim is the title of an old Cabbalistic tract by Moses
Cordovero (sixteenth century). In Cabbalistic doctrine Malchuth and Tifereth
are two of the ten spheres of divine manifestation in which God emerges
from his hidden state. They represent the female and male principles within
the Godhead.

3 Faust, Part Two.

It is impossible to convey the beauty and intensity of emotion during
those visions. They were the most tremendous things I have ever
experienced. And what a contrast the day was: I was tormented and
on edge; everything irritated me; everything was too material, too
crude and clumsy, terribly limited both spatially and spiritually. It was
all an imprisonment, for reasons impossible to divine, and yet it had
a kind of hypnotic power, a cogency, as if it were reality itself, for all
that I had clearly perceived its emptiness. Although my belief in the
world returned to me, I have never since entirely freed myself of the
impression that this life is a segment of existence which is enacted
in a three-dimensional boxlike universe especially set up for it.

There is something else I quite distinctly remember. At the
beginning, when I was having the vision of the garden of
pomegranates, I asked the nurse to forgive me if she were harmed.
There was such sanctity in the room, I said, that it might be harmful
to her. Of course she did not understand me. For me the presence
of sanctity had a magical atmosphere; I feared it might be
unendurable to others. I understood then why one speaks of the
odor of sanctity, of the “sweet smell” of the Holy Ghost. This was it.
There was a pneuma of inexpressible sanctity in the room, whose
manifestation was the mysterium coniunctionis.

I would never have imagined that any such experience was
possible. It was not a product of imagination. The visions and
experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about
them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.

We shy away from the word “eternal,” but I can describe the
experience only as the ecstasy of a non-temporal state in which
present, past, and future are one. Everything that happens in time
had been brought together into a concrete whole. Nothing was
distributed over time, nothing could be measured by temporal
concepts. The experience might best be defined as a state of
feeling, but one which cannot be produced by imagination. How can
I imagine that I exist simultaneously the day before yesterday, today,
and the day after tomorrow? There would be things which would not
yet have begun, other things which would be indubitably present,
and others again which would already be finished and yet all this
would be one. The only thing that feeling could grasp would be a
sum, an iridescent whole, containing all at once expectation of a
beginning, surprise at what is now happening, and satisfaction or
disappointment with the result of what has happened. One is
interwoven into an indescribable whole and yet observes it with
complete objectivity.

I experienced this objectivity once again later on. That was after the
death of my wife. I saw her in a dream which was like a vision. She
stood at some distance from me, looking at me squarely. She was
in her prime, perhaps about thirty, and wearing the dress which had
been made for her many years before by my cousin the medium. It
was perhaps the most beautiful thing she had ever worn. Her
expression was neither joyful nor sad, but, rather, objectively wise
and understanding, without the slightest emotional reaction, as
though she were beyond the mist of affects. I knew that it was not
she, but a portrait she had made or commissioned for me. It
contained the beginning of our relationship, the events of fifty-three
years of marriage, and the end of her life also. Face to face with
such wholeness one remains speechless, for it can scarcely be
comprehended.

The objectivity which I experienced in this dream and in the visions
is part of a completed individuation. It signifies detachment from
valuations and from what we call emotional ties. In general,
emotional ties are very important to human beings. But they still
contain projections, and it is essential to withdraw these projections
in order to attain to oneself and to objectivity. Emotional
relationships are relationships of desire, tainted by coercion and
constraint; something is expected from the other person, and that
makes him and ourselves unfree. Objective cognition lies hidden
behind the attraction of the emotional relationship; it seems to be
the central secret. Only through objective cognition is the real
coniunctio possible.

After the illness a fruitful period of work began for me. A good many
of my principal works were written only then. The insight I had had,
or the vision of the end of all things, gave me the courage to
undertake new formulations. I no longer attempted to put across my
own opinion, but surrendered myself to the current of my thoughts.
Thus one problem after the other revealed itself to me and took
shape.

Something else, too, came to me from my illness. I might formulate
it as an affirmation of things as they are: an unconditional “yes” to
that which is, without subjective protests acceptance of the
conditions of existence as I see them and understand them,
acceptance of my own nature, as I happen to be. At the beginning
of the illness I had the feeling that there was something wrong with
my attitude, and that I was to some extent responsible for the
mishap. But when one follows the path of individuation, when one
lives one’s own life, one must take mistakes into the bargain; life
would not be complete without them. There is no guarantee not for a
single moment that we will not fall into error or stumble into deadly
peril. We may think there is a sure road. But that would be the road
of death. Then nothing happens any longer at any rate, not the right
things. Anyone who takes the sure road is as good as dead.

It was only after the illness that I understood how important it is to
affirm one’s own destiny. In this way we forge an ego that does not
break down when incomprehensible things happen; an ego that
endures, that endures the truth, and that is capable of coping with
the world and with fate. Then, to experience defeat is also to
experience victory. Nothing is disturbed neither inwardly nor
outwardly, for one’s own continuity has withstood the current of life
and of time. But that can come to pass only when one does not
meddle inquisitively with the workings of fate.

I have also realized that one must accept the thoughts that go on
within oneself of their own accord as part of one’s reality. The
categories of true and false are, of course, always present; but
because they are not binding they take second place. The
presence of thoughts is more important than our subjective
judgment of them. But neither must these judgments be
suppressed, for they also are existent thoughts which are part of our
wholeness.

—————

Jung’s experience is a classic deep NDE that shares numerous characteristics with thousands of other NDE reports. Pay particular attention to the concept of time as Jung describes it in his vision.  Virtually every NDE that I’ve read says the same thing.  His loss for words to accurately describe it is also extremely common.  The human language simply doesn’t have words for a state of existence that the living do not experience.

Jung’s experience is incredibly similar to another famous doctor’s NDE.  Listen to Harvard neurosurgeon Eben Alexander describe his NDE here: