Carl Jung built on and extended Otto’s portrayal of the “numinosum.” Jung (1938, p. 4) describes a numinous experience as one that “seizes and controls the human subject . . . an involuntary condition . . . due to a cause external to the individual. The numinosum is either a quality of a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence causing a peculiar alteration of consciousness.” Elsewhere, it is noted that Jung’s notion of numinous is “rooted in experience and not just in ideation. The numinous is an experience which the individual undergoes and not simply the nonrational quality of dream-thoughts and mythologems. The numen or object present in or to the numinous state of mind is experienced as a powerful and meaning-filled other. It transcends conscious intention and control.”(Chapman, 1988, p. 89)
The numinous experience for Jung can be evoked by an exceptionally beautiful sunset or by the overwhelming prospect of a loved one’s death. It can be evoked by a particularly powerful interpersonal relationship—one filled with lust, love, compassion or hatred. In Johari terms, the numinous experience speaks directly to Quad Four and elicited responses from Quad Four that can break directly into Quad One or that can be manifest indirectly through either Quad Two or Quad Three. Thus, our fourth quadrant, from a Jungian perspective, is filled not just with unconscious ideas or assumptions, but also with a wealth of rich and even overpowering experiences that align in some manner with our own inner beliefs and values.
More generally, Jung seems to be speaking to the gradual evolution of human consciousness when writing about the numinostic experience. As one of his protégés, Eric Neumann (1954), has noted, human consciousness (replicating the evolution of organic life) begins in an undifferentiated state (which Neumann calls the “uroborous”). This state is represented in many symbolic forms, ranging from the many images of chaos (floods, wind, ocean) to the more stylized image of the snake that is circling around to begin devouring its own tail. Jungians suggest that the experience of the numinous (and the comparable role played by Quad Four in the Johari model) represent the reemergence or re-solicitation of the uroborous.
We experience this undifferentiated Quad Four state when outside sensations are cut off—as in the case of sensory deprivation or the absence of feedback (theorized by some as a cause of schizophrenia). The undifferentiated Quad Four state (and experience of the uroborous) can also be experienced when the opposite occurs—when there is excessive sensations from outside or from both outside and inside (as in the case of many hallucinogenic drugs). Perhaps the high-volume rock concert produces a numinous experience (undifferentiated) state through its excessive stimulation. Might we expect to witness direct or indirect expressions of Quad Four during these concerts?
Jung suggests that the numinous experience is quite frightening and often not welcomed. He proposes that we build societal norms and institutional structures to protect us from the numinous. Jung nominates the Catholic Church as an institution that has provided protection from the numinous, though its rituals and priestly roles. He suggests in Psychology and Religion that the Protestant revolution shattered this protection and left those who adhere to a Protestant faith fully exposed to the powerful presence of the numinous. (Jung, 1938, pp. 22-23) Without this religious institutional protection, Protestants have looked elsewhere for a barrier that can be erected between self and numinous (and blocks intrusion of Quad Four material). In Psychology and Religion (based on the pre-World War II 1937 Terry Lectures), Jung suggests that the Nazi regime in Germany may powerfully and horribly exemplify the substitution of a secular institution for a religious institution in blocking the emergence of numinous experiences.1K Club