Transcript from CG Jung on Death

Q.  Well now, you told us that we should regard death as being a goal and that to shrink away from it is to evade life and life purposes.  What advice would you give to people in their later life to enable them to do this when most of them must, in fact, believe that death is the end of everything?

A.  Well, you see, I have treated many old people and it’s quite interesting to watch what their conscience is doing with the fact that it is apparently threatened with complete end.  It disregards it.  It – life behaves as if it weren’t going on.  And so, I think it is better for old people, to live on, to look forward to the next day.  As if he had to spend centuries.  And, then he lives properly.  But when he is afraid, when he doesn’t look forward, he looks back, it petrifies him, he gets stiff, and he dies before his time.  But when he is living on, looking forward to the great adventure, that is ahead.  Then he lives.  And that is about what your conscience is intending to do.  Of course it’s quite obvious that we’re all going to die and this is the sad finale of everything.  But nevertheless there is something in us that doesn’t believe it, apparently.  But this is merely a fact – a psychological fact.  Does it mean to me that it proves something?  It is simply so.  For instance, I may not know why we need salt, but we prefer to eat salt, because you feel better.  And so when you think in a certain way, you may feel considerably better.  And I think if you think along the lines of nature – then you think properly.

‘Full circle from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb’

There are more people alive today than have ever died.

"Beyond the grave" or "on the other side of death" means psychologically, "beyond consciousness."  There is positively nothing else it could mean, since statements about immortality can only be made by the living, who, as such, are not exactly in a position to pontificate about conditions "beyond the grave."  BW 165

Leaving aside the rational arguments against any certainty in these matters, we must not forget that for most people it means a great deal to assume that their lives will have an indefinite continuity beyond their present existence.  They live more sensibly, feel better, and are more at peace.  One has centuries, one has an inconceivable period of time at one’s disposal.  What then is the point of this senseless mad rush?   MDR 301

A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure.  Not to have done so is a vital loss.  For the question that is posed to him is the age-old heritage of humanity: an archetype, rich in secret life, which seeks to add itself to our own individual life in order to make it whole.  Reason sets the boundaries far too narrowly for us, and would have us accept only the known -  …. Cont’d   MDR 302

If there were to be a conscious existence after death, it would, so it seems to me, have to continue on the level of consciousness attained by humanity, which in any age has an upper though variable limit.  There are many human beings who throughout their lives and at the moment of death lag behind their own potentialities and – even more important – behind the knowledge which has been brought to consciousness by other human beings during their own lifetimes.  Hence their demand to attain in death that share of awareness which they failed to win in life.  MDR 309

And so it is – death is indeed a fearful piece of brutality; there is no sense pretending otherwise.  It is brutal not only as a physical event, but far more so psychically: a human being is torn away from us, and what remains is the icy stillness of death.  There no longer exists any hope of a relationship, for all the bridges have been smashed at one blow.  Those who deserve a long life are cut off in the prime of their years, and good-for-nothings live to a ripe old age.  This is a cruel reality which we have no right to sidestep.  The actual experience of the cruelty and wantonness of death can so embitter us that we conclude there is no merciful God, no justice, and no kindness.   MDR 314

From another point of view, however, death appears as a joyful event.  In the light of eternity, it is a wedding, a mysterium coniunctionis.  The soul attains, as it were, its missing half, it achieves wholeness.  MDR 314


One widespread myth of the hereafter is formed by the ideas and images centering on reincarnation.  In one country whose intellectual culture is highly complex and much older than ours – I am, of course, referring to India – the idea of reincarnation is as much taken for granted as, among us, the idea that God created the world, or that there is a spiritus rector.  Cultivated Hindus know that we do not share their ideas about this, but that does not trouble them.  In keeping with the spirit of the East, the succession of birth and death is viewed as an endless continuity, as an eternal wheel rolling on forever without a goal.  Man lives and attains knowledge and dies and begins again from the beginning.  Only with the Buddha does the idea of a goal emerge, namely, the overcoming of earthly existence. 

After Death Rebirth Reincarnation