Wolfgang Smith: Cosmos and Transcendence

Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief

Angelico Press/Sophia Perennis, 2008 (1984)     Amazon

Book Description:

Wolfgang SmithIn the present work, Wolfgang Smith presents an insider’s critique of the scientific world-view based upon the sharp but often overlooked distinction between scientific truth and scientistic faith. With elegance and clarity he demonstrates that major tenets promulgated in the name of Science are not in fact scientific truths but rather scientistic speculations – for which there is no evidence at all. Step by step the reader is led to the astonishing realization that the specifically “modern” world is based intellectually upon nothing more substantial than a syndrome of Promethean myths. But this is only half of what the book accomplishes. Its primary contribution is to recover and reaffirm the deep metaphysical and religious insights that have come down to us through the teachings of Christianity. And herein lies the true worth of this remarkable treatise: having broken the grip of scientistic presuppositions, the author succeeds admirably in bringing to view great truths that had long been obscured.


Cosmos and Transcendence is an excellent book, and would be an asset in any course dealing with science and philosophy, or the history of science. It is also most fascinating reading, and would be a welcome addition to any library.”  Harold Hughesdon, The Wanderer

“We are astounded to see the revival of philosophical doctrines long thought dead in a scientific context. . . . This book will repay study, especially its brilliant third chapter, ‘Lost Horizons’.”  John C. Caiazza, Modern Age

“His chapter on ‘The Deification of the Unconscious’ is superb and totally destroys the pretensions of Jungian psychology…”  Rama P. Coomaraswamy, Studies in Comparative Religion

“Having traced the degeneration of the mechanistic outlook into subjectivism and pseudoscience, Dr. Smith concludes his book with a profound reflection on the fall of man and its implications for the pursuit of knowledge…This is a serious work which will repay close attention.”  Robert P. Rooney, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

“This is a very interesting book for the general reader as for the scientist.”  Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter

“Wolfgang Smith is as important a thinker as our times boast.”  Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions

About the Author:

Wolfgang Smith graduated from Cornell University at age eighteen with majors in physics, philosophy, and mathematics. After taking an M.S. in physics at Purdue, he pursued research in aerodynamics, where his papers on diffusion fields provided the theoretical key to the solution of the re-entry problem for space flight. After receiving a Ph.D. in mathematics from Columbia University, Dr. Smith held faculty positions at M.I.T., U.C.L.A., and Oregon State University, where he served as Professor of Mathematics until his retirement in 1992. In addition to numerous technical publications (relating to differential topology), Dr. Smith has published three previous books and many articles dealing with foundational and interdisciplinary problems. He has been especially concerned to unmask conceptions of a scientistic kind widely accepted today as scientific truths.

2 Responses to “Wolfgang Smith: Cosmos and Transcendence”

  1. 1 Marcus Schmieke October 23, 2016 at 10:37 am

    The criticism is of course very much from the perspective of a Christian point of view. Let me summarize his main points of criticism on Jung and comment on it from my perspective:

    – “all manifestation is in opposites”; as a physicist I can agree on this point of Jung as even all particles need to have an antiparticle to exist and even mass happens to exist positively and negatively. Physical energy is created by potential always having two poles like plus and minus or up and down (gravity on earth). Vibration processes always transform one type of energy into another like potential into kinetic energy. Wolfgang Pauli saw it the same way and discussed this at lenghts with Jung. In psychology it also seems to be one of the main principles. In vedic philosophy we find this idea in the three gunas. Rajas (order) and tamas (chaos) are the two poles and sattva is the dynamic balance of this two poles. Vedic spirituality is also buildt on opposites like spiritual-material, manifest-unmanifest, purusha-prakriti, nirguna-saguna etc.

    – “Good and Evil come from God”; In Ramanujas Suddha-Advaita Bhagavan/God is considered the original cause of everything. Without his sanction nothing happens. Good, Evil, everything in this world and the other is accordiing to his will. Caitanya Mahaprabhu additionally stressed the independence of the living entity as the cause of suffering but as this universe allows and supports suffering, causing of suffering to others etc. in such a large scale it seems to be intended and desired in this way. The Gaudiya Vaishnava Vedanta also sees evil as the shadow of God and doesn´t accept any independent Satan figure to be responsible for all evil. The greatest demons, doing evil, are incarnations of Jay and Vijay acting under the direction of Krishna. Krishna is not good but beyond the duality of good and evil as the Jungian Self as Imago Dei also points to God to be beyond this duality. I don´t see that Jung idealizes Satan to beome a full member of the Christian Quaternity. If he states this he just describes the christian psychology. He rather stated that if the female is not accepted as the fourth it turns into the placeholder of the evil as a perfect screen for the projection of all shadow principles. Jung was fascinated by Goethes Mephisto, who always desires the evil but does the good anyway. But the resason for this contradiction is being unconscious about the evil within oneself.

    – “Jung reduces the vedic concept of Brahman to the collective uncoscious”; yes to me it seems he does so; and if the collective unconscious is reduced to the collective psychological heritage of mankind this is definitely not a spiritual concept; still I see the concept of the collective uncoscious to be very close to the understanding of Brahman if one doesnt see it in the context of the evolutionary history but sees it on an ontological level. In a wider sense it connects on a deep internal level transpersonally not only all human beings but also animals, plants, stones, nature and all other beings like enlightend sages, demigods (if you believe in their existence) etc. The concept is wide enough to be analogous to Brahman. On the level of the collective unconsicous the duality of matter and spirit is resolved. It becomes the unus mundus, one existence. Jung also called it the One mind. I think one has to take Jungs ideas out of the scientific context in which Jung liked to see it and see what they can do in a spiritual context. Exactly this Jung did when he used his concept to deal with Yoga, the Tibetian Book of Death etc.

    – “the collective unconscious can not be the universal norm of spirituality”; if it contains everything it also contains the norm which the enlightend beings like Buddha or Christ set. Still it is not the collective unconscious which is setting the norm. It is just the matrix of archetypes which are activated in time by the Self, which is the conductor in the back. And the Self according to Jung is just the Imago Dei, the image of God in the psyche. Not God itself.

    – “All regligions and spiritual traditions have warned us from entering too deep into the depths of the psyche”; yes because it is dangerous, if one does it in the first phase of life or prematurely or without proper guidance and for the most people it is not recommended at all; also I see a big difference between the christian theology and the vedic perspective; in the Gaudiya understanding Krishna is within the heart, he resides within; also bhakti resides within; by the process of Bhakti the mind becomes purified and is able to perceive Krishna

    – “Is there a reality beyond psyche or not?”; Smith is complaining about the contradictions in Jungs writings regarding the ontological status of the psyche; Obviously here one leaves the realm which classical two valued logical systems on which common language and logics is based can handle; describing levels which are transcending consciosness have to be contradictory within two valued logical systems based on the 3 axions of Aristoteles classical logics. But thats a limitation of logic and language. Jungs concepts need to be thought and described in a polycontextural logic with definitely more than two values of truth. Still to me the contradictions allready resolve if one understands the Jungian thoughts within two polarities instead of one. It is not only about psyche and matter, but about psyche as the conscious-unconsicous internal polarity and matter-spirit (Geist) als the external polarity. On the conscious level matter and spirit are perceived as different and also different from the psyche. On the deeper unconscious level, the matter-spirit polarity and the psyche-outside polarity resolve. This is the Jungian Quaternito which points towards an at least four dimensional logical system as we find it in quantum logics or in the work of the german logican Gotthard Günther. His disciple Gerhard Thomas was one of my main teachers.

    – the main point of all this is that the psyche in Jungs terms on its deepest level is not anymore individual but becomes one with the inner space of all other beings. The deeper one goes, the less individual the psyche is. It is completely individual on the level of self consciousness or ego but non individual on the level of the Self. This understanding is close to acintya bedha abedha tattva. It overomes duality by still keeping it on the level of consciosness.

    Smiths conclusions of calling it a “Jungian Cult of Self Worship” or a “religion for atheists” is christian polemics which doesnt have any objective ground.

    Still his thoughts helped me to become more clear about some of Jungs concepts as I have internalized them.

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"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi