Carl Jung’s Fascinating 1957 Letter on UFOs


Deities, con­spir­a­cies, pol­i­tics, space aliens: you don’t actu­al­ly have to believe in these to find them inter­est­ing. Just focus your atten­tion not on the things them­selves, but in how oth­er peo­ple regard them, what they say when they talk about them, and why they think about them the way they do. Psy­chother­a­pist and one­time Freud pro­tégé Carl Gus­tav Jung treat­ed UFOs this way when he wrote his book Fly­ing Saucers: A Mod­ern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, which exam­ines “not the real­i­ty or unre­al­i­ty” of the tit­u­lar phe­nom­e­na, but their “psy­chic aspect,” and “what it may sig­ni­fy that these phe­nom­e­na, whether real or imag­ined, are seen in such num­bers just at a time” — the Cold War — “when humankind is men­aced as nev­er before in his­to­ry.” As what Jung called a “mod­ern myth,” UFOs qual­i­fy as real indeed.

In 1957, with Fly­ing Saucers to appear the fol­low­ing year, New Repub­lic edi­tor Gilbert A. Har­ri­son want­ed to get this Jun­gian per­spec­tive on UFOs in his mag­a­zine. At the top of this post, you can see (via The Awl) a scan of Jung’s response to Har­rison’s query, the text of which fol­lows:

the prob­lem of the Ufos is, as you right­ly say, a very fas­ci­nat­ing one, but it is as puz­zling as it is fas­ci­nat­ing; since, in spite of all obser­va­tions I know of, there is no cer­tain­ty about their very nature. On the oth­er side, there is an over­whelm­ing mate­r­i­al point­ing to their leg­endary or mytho­log­i­cal aspect. As a mat­ter of fact the psy­cho­log­i­cal aspect is so impres­sive, that one almost must regret that the Ufos seem to be real after all. I have fol­lowed up the lit­er­a­ture as much as pos­si­ble and it looks to me as if some­thing were seen and even con­firmed by radar, but nobody knows exact­ly what is seen. In con­sid­er­a­tion of the psy­cho­log­i­cal aspect of the phe­nom­e­non I have writ­ten a book­let about it, which is soon to appear. It is also in the process of being trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish. Unfor­tu­nate­ly being occu­pied with oth­er tasks I am unable to meet your propo­si­tion. Being rather old, I have to econ­o­mize my ener­gies.

Jung, as you can see, dou­bled his own inter­est in the sub­ject by not only con­sid­er­ing fly­ing saucers a social phe­nom­e­non, but as a real phys­i­cal phe­nom­e­non as well. Seri­ous enthu­si­asts of both Jung and UFOs might con­sid­er bid­ding on the orig­i­nal let­ter, now up for auc­tion. Esti­mat­ed sale price: $2,000 to 3,000.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Face to Face with Carl Jung: ‘Man Can­not Stand a Mean­ing­less Life’

Carl Gus­tav Jung Explains His Ground­break­ing The­o­ries About Psy­chol­o­gy in Rare Inter­view (1957)

Carl Gus­tav Jung Pon­ders Death

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

by | Permalink | Comments (17) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (17)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • I won­der what Jung would think about the Crop Cir­cle Field For­ma­tions now appear­ing in the USA.

  • Nemo says:

    Accord­ing to Mircea Eli­ade’s “Im Mit­telpunkt” after hav­ing come to believe that UFOs were real Jung got very dis­ap­point­ed, almost incon­solable and lost all inter­est in the phe­nom­e­non.

  • Gregory Wonderwheel says:

    The tes­ta­ment to our col­lec­tive igno­rance is that so few peo­ple in the “smart class” of the uni­ver­si­ties and psy­chi­atric med­i­cine could ever appre­ci­ate Jung’s PSYCHOLOGICAL per­spec­tive. The sci­ence lovers throw out psy­chol­o­gy as “just myth” and the doc­tors throw out psy­cho­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­na as “just imag­in­ing.” Nei­ther mate­ri­al­ist sci­ence nor mate­ri­al­ist med­i­cine can under­stand that Jung is not a mate­ri­al­ist but a psy­chol­o­gist who says that the sci­ence of mind must start with mind, that is, a world view based on the psy­che, not with a mate­r­i­al world view. UFOs is a good exam­ple of this so that the UFO peo­ple were dis­ap­point­ed with Jung for not going all the way to assert “there are UFOs” and the sci­ence peo­ple were quick to call him a quack even for con­sid­er­ing that a UFO event, as a report­ed phe­nom­e­non, at the very least must be accept­ed as a psy­cho­log­i­cal event. Sci­ence peo­ple can’t seem to see that the word “myth” does­n’t mean “false”; it means “psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly ori­en­tat­ing world view.”

  • Andrew says:

    Jung clear­ly believed in UFOs. Every­one ref­er­ences him with­out ever read­ing him. Here is a quote from the book men­toned “So far as I know it remains an estab­lished fact, sup­port­ed by numer­ous obser­va­tions, that Ufos have not­non­ly been seen visu­al­ly but have also been picked up on the radar screen and have left traces on the pho­to­graph­ic plate.” He also rec­om­mends peo­ple read Key­hoe’s books on the top­ic. Yes, he gave a psy­cho­log­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of them, after all he WAS a psy­chol­o­gist. But he also admits after study­ing the top­ic for 10 years they DO exist and they DO come from oth­er plan­ets.

  • Andrew says:

    @Larry Hoover Jr
    By endors­ing Key­hoe’s books he is endors­ing Key­hoe’s cen­tral argu­ment: That UFOs are real and are of ET ori­gin. If he only accept­ed the first part of the argu­ment and not the sec­ond he would have said so. Ref­er­enc­ing was­n’t exact­ly his weak point.

    More impor­tant­ly why has this arti­cle been so dras­ti­cal­ly changed?? The orig­i­nal arti­cle said Jung believed UFOs had psy­cho­log­i­cal roots and noth­ing more which is bla­tant­ly incor­rect (that’s why I com­ment­ed in the first place). Here you’ve com­plete­ly changed the arti­cle and are now admit­ting he acknowl­edged their phys­i­cal exis­tence but ulti­mate­ly pre­ferred the psy­cho­log­i­cal expla­na­tions instead. This is mis­lead­ing. Jung was a great writer and often intro­duced his more com­pelling the­o­ries in an “under the radar” man­ner. It’s an effec­tive tech­nique (and not untyp­i­cal for the peri­od) for get­ting the read­er to accept an oth­er­wise con­tro­ver­sial idea with­out them notic­ing too much. He admit­ted to using this tech­nique and I believe he is using it here: “As a mat­ter of fact the psy­cho­log­i­cal aspect is so impres­sive, that one almost must regret that the Ufos seem to be real after all.” How regret­ful, Dear Read­er, it turns out UFOs are in fact REAL.

  • Andrew says:

    BTW in my first post I men­tion the book where Jung speaks about UFOs being real phys­i­cal objects: ‘Civ­i­liza­tion in Tran­si­tion’ page 413. Who­ev­er runs this site has since REMOVED that part of my post alto­geth­er! They have also com­plete­ly removed their own orig­i­nal arti­cle and replaced it with this one which seems to be in response to my point­ing out the arti­cle’s obvi­ous errors. Pre­vi­ous­ly this site used Dis­qus to host the com­ments but now they’ve revert­ed to this more gener­ic for­mat which makes edit­ing com­ments a lot less more notice­able. Let me give you guys some advice: next time one of your read­ers takes the time to com­ment on your site don’t do a hatch­et job on what they say and even on what YOU said in order to cov­er up your lack of knowl­edge on the sub­ject — Go back and do your home­work and THANK that read­er for point­ing you in the right direc­tion. There’s noth­ing wrong with being wrong, in fact peo­ple will admire you for it. But doing hack edit­ing in order to con­ceal your lack of knowl­edge makes you look even more igno­rant and will turn peo­ple against your site.

  • Paul says:

    This is infor­ma­tion is out­dat­ed. In 1959 Jung met with the famous avi­a­tor Lind­bergh where they dis­cussed UFOs amongst oth­er things. Jung flat­ly told Lind­bergh he was no longer inter­est­ed in the psy­cho­log­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of UFOs as he was con­vinced they were real objects and the US Air Force was keep­ing this fact a secret from the pub­lic.

  • Giorgio Piacenza says:

    Jung admit­ted that at least some Fly­ing Saucers were a phys­i­cal­ly real phe­nom­e­non but, per­haps by try­ing to be polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect and respect­ful to nat­ur­al sci­en­tists, he didn’t want to impinge on their fields more capa­ble of ascer­tain­ing what is phys­i­cal­ly real and there­fore he didn’t pub­licly over-empha­size his admis­sion. As most aca­d­e­mi­cians, he also had to tread care­ful­ly when refer­ring to “fly­ing saucers” in order not to ham­per his care­ful­ly con­struct­ed the­o­ret­i­cal edi­fice and well-earned (even if con­tro­ver­sial) aca­d­e­m­ic respéct. Inter­est­ing­ly, he gave us a great UFO-use­ful clue about the con­nec­tion between physics and the psy­che: His use of the word “myth” was more sophis­ti­cat­ed than is nor­mal­ly under­stood and referred to some­thing even more real than just phys­i­cal­ly real but that sub­tle con­no­ta­tion was not under­stood by fly­ing saucer debunkers of the inter­plan­e­tary and/or extrater­res­tri­al hypoth­e­sis who took “myth” to sim­ply mean some­thing mere­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal­ly “unre­al.” In his under­stand­ing about uni­ver­sal sym­bols, the uncon­scious and its sym­bols can be asso­ci­at­ed with psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful “acausal” (or – in my view – non-clas­sic and essen­tial­ly causal­ly unknown) phys­i­cal effects or “syn­chronic­i­ties.” He first asso­ci­at­ed the ’round disc’ with the cir­cu­lar shape rep­re­sent­ing ‘uni­ty’ as a uni­ver­sal sym­bol now need­ed and applic­a­ble to a mod­ern frag­ment­ed world but lat­er on real­ized that oth­er UFO shapes didn’t fit in well with his pro­posed inter­pre­ta­tion.

  • Albert Ramos says:

    I’m not so sure Jun­gian psy­chol­o­gy is reli­able enough to explain UFOs. I have a prob­lem with his Col­lec­tive Uncon­scious con­cept. I remem­ber read­ing a book­let by Christo­pher Par­tridge, which was about a speech he gave con­cern­ing alien abduc­tions. There­in, he gives a brief his­to­ry of UFOs that even­tu­al­ly led up to alien abduc­tions. Par­tridge made the point that sight­ings were influ­enced by media-cov­ered and sen­sa­tion­al­ized pri­or reports, which wound up influ­enc­ing the Pop­u­lar Con­cious­ness. Such UFO reports have been described accord­ing to its cul­tur­al­ly-bound motifs, i.e. cig­ar-shaped fly­ing saucers.

    I talk about these issues in my lat­est book, Why Mod­ern Soci­ety Invent­ed UFOs. It is avail­able through–1

  • Jung con­clud­ed that UFOs were real and that they were a prod­uct of the col­lec­tive uncon­scious. This is because the entire uni­verse is a pro­jec­tion of the col­lec­tive uncon­scious which is why the Law of Attrac­tion works with­out flaw when uti­lized prop­er­ly and can be used to invoke para­nor­mal phe­nom­e­na. This is also why UFOs can be man­i­fest­ed using the pow­er of coher­ent con­scious thought very eas­i­ly. They are not delu­sion or hal­lu­ci­na­tion — once man­i­fest­ed they can be photographed/filmed. Delu­sions and hal­lu­ci­na­tions do not show up on cam­era. Try it your­self — learn about Coher­ent Thought Sequenc­ing and CE5 ini­tia­tives which thou­sands of peo­ple world­wide are tak­ing part in. You can PROVE unequiv­o­cal­ly to your­self that this phe­nom­e­na is absolute­ly real. More info in my upcom­ing book, Secrets Behind The UFO Dis­clo­sure Move­ment.

  • Paul Budding says:

    I agree with Lar­ry Hoover Jr: “No, he does not say they come from oth­er plan­ets”.

  • Paul Budding says:

    Jung does­nt use the word “real” in the same way that those who are using the word “real” think he does. Nor does he use the word “myth” in the same way that peo­ple here think he does. But I will prove this rather than just stat­ing it. Marie Louise Von Franz was Jung’s clos­est col­league for decades. She con­tributed research for Jung’s col­lect­ed works. There­fore the Jun­gian researcher Den­nis Still­ings sought out Von Franz to answer whether or not Jung believed in the bio­log­i­cal ET the­o­ry of the UFO Phe­nom­e­non? Her answer could not have been more clear… a defin­i­tive and straight­for­ward “No”. (See pages 96/97 of this book:

  • Paul Budding says:

    Jung him­self refut­ed this news­pa­per report, see “the mod­ern myth of Jung”… at bot­tom of this wikipedia arti­cle:

  • Eric says:

    That is very inter­est­ing. So basi­cal­ly he pre­ferred the myth ver­sion than the real­i­ty.

  • Heidi Rausch says:

    Hel­lo. In Mem­o­ries Dreams and Reflec­tions Carl Jung wrote, “For me, the divid­ing walls are trans­par­ent. ” This state­ment, when tak­en in con­text with today’s space craft real­i­ty, was his dec­la­ra­tion of his own ongo­ing incar­na­tion, i.e. his impend­ing rein­car­na­tion and his sci­en­tif­ic achieve­ments re.the pow­er source behind space trav­el. And you are right in affirm­ing the impor­tance of the pysche. That Jung could see him­self “in the beyond” can be attrib­uted to his recog­ni­tion of the psy­che at work in artists. Those two cute lit­tle boy cherubs with wings for ex, so wide­ly fea­tured in art. For Jung and his asso­ciate Erich Neu­mann, those wings trans­late into noth­ing less than space trav­el. Because their minds could bridge this expanse the last go round, they also rec­og­nized them­selves as those very same cherubs:their future rein­car­na­tions and today’s incar­nate real­i­ty. Cur­rent ages for Neu­mann and Jung are 27 and 24 respec­tive­ly. Names giv­en upon request. Have a won­der­ful day. Hei­di Rausch

  • Enzo anfuso says:

    Inter­est­ing !!!!!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.