The Enigmatic Origins of the Jung Cult(?)

By Dr. Jan Garrett

Written: 1999; this preface last revised: February 29, 2012

Aware of how the term "cult" is sometimes used polemically to dismiss a minority perspective without doing justice to it, I have just (2/29/12) added the question mark to the title of this talk. The reader will need to make up her own mind as to whether Jung was building a cult as she defines it.

The following is a talk presented to the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Bowling Green KY in April 1999. It reflected my understanding and perspective at the time I wrote it. (I had read some original books by Jung himself, but never claimed to be a Jung scholar.) The talk was primarily based on Richard Noll's two historical studies of Carl Jung and the origins of the Jungian movement:

The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement (Princeton University Press, 1994), abbreviated TJC;

The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung (Random House, 1997), abbreviated TAC.

I also made use of Don McGowan, What's Wrong with Jung, (Prometheus, 1994), referred to as "McGowan."

Note added February 2011; modified August 2011: I have received a note from a Ph D candidate in English who describes himself as a Jung scholar; he takes issue with my reliance on Noll and recommends Sonu Shamdasani's Cult Fictions (published March, 1998) as a scholarly corrective. I was unaware of this book at the time I prepared the talk. If I had time to read Shamdasani's book, it is possible that I would revise what I have written here. I have no personal stake in holding onto mistaken views. The reader is welcome to read Shamdasani's book and make up his or her own mind. Perhaps this essay can serve as a stimulus for reflection even if it is mistaken on some points.


Jung-lovers with anger issues—and I grant that not all Jung-lovers have serious anger issues—are advised not to read this talk. Given some of the email I have received lately, I can predict that it may upset you and tempt you to say intemperate things.

If you still wish to read this talk, be my guest.