In 1944, world famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung slipped on some ice and broke his foot. While in the hospital he suffered a heart attack. Jung hung on the edge of death as the doctors battled to save him.
A nurse described Jung’s unconscious body as being surrounded by a strange glow. When he regained his senses, Jung spoke of a vivid series of visions. He believed he had experienced a near death experience, also known as an NDE.
Jung said, at first, he was floating 1,000 miles above the earth. He felt as free as a bird and about to leave orbit. And then as quick as a flash a huge black temple caught his attention.
At the temple’s entrance, Jung saw a Hindu man sitting cross-legged. As he neared the temple he felt that everything artificial in his personality was being stripped away. All that remained was something he described as the “essential Jung.”
Jung knew that within the temple the ultimate mystery of his existence and life’s purpose would be revealed. He was about to cross the threshold when he was stopped in his tracks. Rising up to pull him back to his earthly existence was the King of Kos, the island site of the temple of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. He explained to Jung that he had no right to leave the earth and he must return. Upon hearing this, Jung awoke from his NDE.
Jung would always recall the sting of disappointment at being brought back to earth. He wrote “Life and the whole world struck me as a prison. I had been so glad to shed it all.” For three weeks Jung could take no pleasure in life. But slowly he began to take comfort from his visions. For locked within was a valuable lesson.
In his professional life as a psychologist, Jung argued that our unconscious mind consists of both personal experiences and those that we inherited from our ancestors, which he called the collective unconscious. Jung believed the collective unconscious contained universal images which are eternal and which we all instinctively know. He called these images archetypes, and he claimed that he saw some of them during his near death experience. For example, he believed the King of Kos represented his actual doctor, while the Hindu man was not only an archetype of his own higher self, but also of the god-image within us all.
For the rest of his days, Jung would stress that his NDE came from something real and eternal. He wrote, “It was only after the illness that I understood how important it is to understand one’s own destiny.”