Jungian Psychology and Spiritual Direction:
A Visit with Don Bisson - DVD  (transcript online below)

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Don Bisson is a Marist Brother and a pioneer in exploring the deeper levels of the Jungian-Christian dialogue. Out of his own experience of Jungian analysis and the inadequacies of traditional spiritual direction, he has created a new form of spiritual direction that integrates Jung's process of individuation with the quest for a deeper life of prayer, and he refined this kind of spiritual direction in his work with members of the inner city parish in Oakland, California, where he lived.

In Jungian Psychology and Spiritual Direction he explains the nature of this kind of spiritual direction, illustrates it with case studies, and sets it within the larger context of the Jungian-Christian dialogue.

Visit Don's website at http://www.donbisson.org/


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Online Transcript:

My name is Donald Bisson. I am a Marist Brother of the Schools. I have been involved in the Jungian-Christian dialogue for the last 7 or 8 years. I live and work in the inner city in Oakland, California. My experience in spiritual direction has been an integration with not only Jungian methods and techniques, but also in Jungian thought in trying to do this dialogue, yet at the same time trying to keep together the faith dimension and the community dimension of the Church.

I entered the Marist Brothers when I was 18 years old, and like most 18-year-olds, didn’t really know what I was doing on a conscious level, yet at the same time was trying to discern a vocational call. As a person I think I was a perfectionist and a hard worker, and went up the ladder of success very easily. I was a director by the time I was 26 and a novice director by the time I was 29. But at 30 my life kind of came apart, and in a sense my introduction to Jung, like so many people’s introduction to Jung, was when one’s external life’s structures no longer make sense, and no longer meaningful. I left the Brothers for 2 years and went through an inner challenge and turmoil and pain, and did analysis, and started recording dreams for the first time in my life. These big dreams were coming through. And my experience was that when I was going to a spiritual director at the time, they did not know at all what to do with me. All the classical Ignatian training for them in terms of discernment and everything didn’t seem to fit what my experience was. Therefore I kind of went on a separate journey of doing dream work, analysis, learning about my own type, realizing the kind of person I am, and getting in touch with my process of individuation in my 30s transition.

At the end of this 2 year process I decided to return to religious life and that my faith was not diminished by it. It actually was enhanced by this transition, and the Jungian model actually helped me develop deeper into my prayer life and into my own spiritual life. When I came to Oakland I lived and worked in the inner city, and started teaching in the inner city Catholic high school, and worked in the parish. My intellectual curiosity about Jung continued, and I began doing a lot of reading, I did a post-graduate certificate in spiritual direction and Jung at the University of San Francisco, and then I was looking for a program to do kind of an integrative study of Jung and spiritual direction because I was so moved by the fact that my own experience of spiritual direction was impotent in dealing with critical issues of spiritual people. I did a doctor of ministry at the Pacifica School of Religion in kind of a resynthesizing, reinvisioning Christian spiritual direction with this ongoing dialogue with Jung. I had found it very beneficial not only for myself, but I have been gradually taking on more directees in the parish, I have 20 spiritual directees, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, economically with a great diversity, and I have found that this type of spiritual direction is very effective in helping people encounter their true selves, face the issues of individuation on a new level, and see this as a conversion experience in deepening their own Christian awareness. All of these directees are practicing Catholics. Many of them have only high school or less education, some are educated and have graduate degrees in various areas, so there is a whole spectrum. I find that in journeying with them I have seen the power of God working through the dream work, through the issues of the soul work that goes on in spiritual direction in this method. I am also doing a lot of work at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California doing workshops on dialoguing with these issues of transpersonal psychology and Jung with Christian topics, Christian issues, and working with Sr. Margaret Buchanan who is a Mercy Sister who studied at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. We have formed like a team of working out many of the issues that are really important for people who are struggling to find answers, and oftentimes don’t find them in the traditional ways in the Church, and yet at the same time don’t seem to be satisfied with the classical Jungian approach which does not accept faith as an experience.

This model of spiritual direction is somewhat different from the more classical approach to what has been spiritual direction in the last few centuries. I think what has happened is that the Christian community in many ways has lost touch with the issues of soul, the reality of the psyche as a human experience, but also a point where God works in and through, that God works within the context of our own psyche by revealing to us in a very personally individualistic way our own unique issues that are happening in our souls, and I think the more classical approach has not taken into consideration on a serious level some of the material which Jung has given us to really look at. For instance, I think the issues of the shadow as brought up in Jungian psychology can be very helpful in dealing with a Christian who is moving into a greater awareness of themselves and their own self-knowledge, and their awareness of God.

So often we were raised in Christian tradition to be perfect, to be perfectionistic, and to dismiss our own instinctual nature, our own human nature, and by doing this it created very one-sided people, people that were religious on the outside, but in many ways were not spiritually motivated, didn’t have a sense that they were carrying God within them in their own souls, and that God was directly involved in their lives, that somehow they had to earn God by being perfect, and the moralism that was coming across so often in Church communities, including spiritual direction work. I think this model of spiritual direction takes the person where they are totally in terms of their human experience, and also in terms of their own reality of their soul at the moment given the fact that the director and the directee both wait and listen to how through the dreams is revealed what is happening in their souls. So oftentimes the shadow is the first element that comes out. I think of a case study where there was a woman who came for direction who was really had been suffering for a long time, had gone to several directors, and couldn’t really deal with the essential problem. The case was this: she had married in her early 20s, and after about 5 or 6 years into the marriage her husband developed MS, and through this experience she, after having 2 children in this marriage, she took care of her husband for some 30 years, and she was the perfect Christian. She was a daily communicant. Her faith in a sense kept her together. She had a deep sense of God. She loved God profoundly, and yet she was depressed, angry, and yet oftentimes I think to send her simply to a therapist would not have really done the job in this situation. I found that when she came to direction, what we did was, particularly through the dream work, her shadow and the repression of all of the anger and rage of what had been going on her life came to the fore, and she was given permission in a faith context to allow herself to be angry at God, to allow herself to be angry at the events of her life, and yet she felt very deeply that she did the right thing. She didn’t regret anything she had done, but she realized that so much of her own life now needed to be celebrated in a different way, and the dream material, which seemed so fearful at the beginning, in the evolution of the direction gradually evolved in such a way that we saw her becoming freer and freer and more loving towards God. In a sense what happened was, she didn’t lose her faith as she entered into encountering the shadow. It was very fearful for her. It was very scary, and at times she realized she was dealing with things she had buried for a long time. But in the long haul, it was really profoundly spiritual.

We had discussed how we were going to close this direction process. I always keep the Eucharist in the direction room, except the directees don’t know this – I have never made it a point to tell them – but I always keep the Eucharist there, and at the end of our little ritual closing, and we had done a little litany of gratitude, and praise of God, and I just took the Eucharist out and put the Eucharist there, and said, "God has been with us through this journey." There was a kind of synchronicity that occurred. All of a sudden she said out loud, "Has He has always been there?" I said, "Yes. The Eucharist has always been there." But then what happened was, on a conscious level what happened to her was what she got in touch with was that God had always been there over these last 30 years, and that she had experienced God in a very profound way through her life, and also through wrestling in those 3 years in spiritual direction in really embracing her shadow and the part that she had to bury in order to survive. And now I think as she wept with the awareness that God had always been there, she knew in a very profound way that in all those 30 years, and particularly in wrestling with the shadow material that came out in the direction process, she felt more whole, more complete, she could celebrate her life and affirm her life. And I think that a lot of the "shoulds" that had been part of her spiritual formation had to be unraveled and reintegrated in a new way.

The charism of spiritual director is somewhat different than simply putting a shingle out there and saying, "I am a spiritual director." Spiritual direction in the history of the Church has always been seen as a charism, a gift. At the same time it is a gift that has to be recognized by someone if it is going to be seen as a valid expression in the life of the Church. What happened in my case was as I was doing this reevaluation of spiritual direction, and a kind of resysthesis for my own life, a couple of people from the parish asked to see me to talk. I agreed, and gradually we set up a kind of normal meeting times, and I got my first spiritual directees. My first directee was a Hispanic man, a truck driver, a pretty solid Catholic. He would go to the Eucharist on Sundays and participated on some levels of the Church, but he was really wrestling with a lot of his own personal issues about his own transitions in life, and so forth. Another one was a housewife in her 50s, and gradually what I discovered was that I was discovered, and that’s kind of what happens in spiritual direction. The word gets out in the community that there is this person who speaks to people about their experiences of God and their experiences of themselves, and something happens. So gradually over a few years I started having 5, and then 10, and then evolved as many as 20 people. This is all done within a parish setting. If I go to Church on Sunday, I might see 10 or 15 ex-directees in the parish sitting around me. I might see somebody being the reader in the Eucharist, or somebody who is teaching CCD. What evolved from this whole experience was I realized that spiritual direction can be a very significant way of renewal, not only for the individual, but for the Church community. Spiritual direction, unlike Jungian analysis or a kind of a set issue, is a community experience. There was power when a number of my directees would be at daily Eucharist, or I would meet them at a parish meeting. What I noticed was that two kinds of evolution occurred. One evolution was that a number of them discerned that they were being called to become spiritual directors, and with great enthusiasm on my part, and really just trying to discern with them if this was really a call from God, that I set them up with programs within the Bay area to become spiritual directors. Since that time there are at least six people who have gone through training for being spiritual directors, and have come back to the parish, and have made themselves available to the community to journey with people. I was very fortunate in sitting down with a few of these people with the pastor of the parish saying, "Where are the needs? Where do you hear that there is a need in the parish?" He asked one woman if she would kind of journey with recent widows in their journey of grief and of faith and of reintegration into the parish community. This woman very simply connects, go out to walks with, and they go into very deep issues of women’s grief, and women who are now in transition into their own lives, and being supported and loved by the community of faith, and also in their experience of sharing their experience of God. A number of people have gotten involved in the Oakland community organization, which is in the inner city. They are an advocacy group to deal with major problems in the neighborhood, crack houses, or problems of dealing with drugs, or setting up a drug-free zone around the elementary school. One of the directees has become like a key figure in that area of moving the community of becoming aware of social change. A number of these people have joined as ministers of Communion, or lectors, there seems to be a natural evolution that once they have encountered spiritual direction and encountered this need to experience God through other people, not only within their own souls. It seems that the networking of people within this, and oftentimes because of the confidentiality of spiritual direction, sometimes people don’t even know that they are in spiritual direction with me as they kind of connect in this, and yet there is this kind of a yeast effect in the community. I believe that this model of spiritual direction could be extremely useful in all aspects of renewal. One of the women who has been coming for direction is now doing spiritual direction with candidates in the RCIA program. Lay people are thirsty not only for receiving spiritual direction, but lay people are seeing themselves as being empowered now to do spiritual direction, and in the doing of spiritual direction to empower others for spiritual ministry, not only for the parish but also for the greater community.

I would like to talk a little bit about a spiritual directee that began this process approximately 7 years ago. She presently is a spiritual director and is working in the parish in very subtle ways in doing renewal with women. She came to spiritual direction because she was a practicing Christian, no major personal issues. She just felt that she wanted to grow in her relationship with God. She had always been kind of standard Catholic – always went to Church on Sunday, and never had any major issues – but just felt that there was a need for growth, which is so often the reason why people come for spiritual direction. I asked her to start recording her dreams. She was very enthusiastic about it, and the dreams came. One of the first things that most of us face in this journey on a conscious level is the shadow, and in her life she was somewhat upset about the fact that her neighborhood, which had been a fairly stable neighborhood, was changing, and minority groups were now moving into the community, particularly Mexican-American. She had this dream that I would like to share with you because it was an important dream that we worked with, not only for her own relationship to this issue, but also in her spiritual development. In the dream she states: "My neighbor who is Mexican and two mutual Mexican friends are on my front stairs with a large dresser balanced very precariously on the edge of one of the steps. They are trying to remove the finish, and are using a very strong-smelling remover. All the gunk they are scraping off is falling all over our stairs, and the place is a real mess. I tell them the remover is dangerous to their health, and that they shouldn’t be breathing it. I also tell them to take the dresser over to the dirt in their own yard and finish removing it." When we worked with the dream, on the first level she thought that this was pretty much, simply on her conscious level, how she felt oftentimes with the Mexicans moving into the neighborhood, that they brought a lot of gunk and dirt and noise and all this stuff into the neighborhood. She just wrestles with all the kind of Christian "shoulds" that she normally had. She is a Christian woman, and she really "shouldn’t" feel this way. So we dealt with the fact that maybe these Mexicans are part of her shadow figure, that since they came in the dream, they were really dimensions of herself. Soon, as we were working on this, we saw that what was happening was that they were stripping off her fašade, they were stripping off the things that she had identified herself with being a good person. She also realized that there was a sour quality to it, and that her own relationship to the shadow had a sour quality to it, and in her own Christian path had really diminished a lot of the aspects that she identified with the Mexicans.

What we did is I had asked her to go back to the dream, and to see if they had anything else that they wanted to give her. We did some active imagination, and as she reentered into the dream sequence, she realized that there were also some women on the steps, and allowing the women to emerge, that they were bringing food, and they were bringing some things for a fiesta. I said, "How does that gel with this whole issue?" And she realized that a large part of her own feminine self had been denied celebration. She has always wanted to be much more celebrative and joyous and spontaneous, that she also identifies as a quality in the Mexican-American community. What happened was that these foreigners who were moving into her neighborhood no longer became foreigners because they became friends that she would be befriending within her, and she also realized that they were chiseling away and working in her own self.

In her spiritual life she realized that she wasn’t finished. There was still a lot yet to be done. There was stripping that was going on, that God in a very real way was using the Mexican-Americans in her community to continue to work on her, and actually to take off the old paint, the old persona, the old shapes of her way of doing things. And it does create a mess. And she realized that as she was moving on this journey, she had always been a person that wanted things nice and neat and tidy, and discovered that by coming into spiritual direction, she was getting in touch with the gunk right away, and this was a very important dream for her because it was also the potential for naturalness around her issues of prayer. She began to let go of the rigidity and the structures of what her prayer life was, and she saw that attitude of the Mexicans and spontaneity in festivity, in celebration, was also a part of her own shadow material that was emerging.

So with time she realized that God was working on her prejudices, was lifting up her own persona issues so that she could identify that there were deeper materials that what other people just thought of her. She grew in her humility, and she brought to prayer her need and her desire for festivity. Through these experiences she moved further and further in her development. Again, in this dialogue with Jung, we oftentimes realize that the animus or the anima, that contrasexual aspect of our psyche, is the part that brings us even deeper into our souls and into our relationship with God. She had a beautiful dream about a young man and her garden I would like to share with you. In this dream she identified the young man as her spiritual growth. "There is a young man with me in my garden. I have just turned the soil, and it is light and fertile for planting. We are kneeling in the soil, sifting it through our fingers. He takes a seed in his hand and looks at it. Suddenly the shell falls away, the seed splits open, and the sprout appears. The man stands up and raises his hands with the sprout to the sky. Then from the tops of his fingers more sprouts appear and grow skyward. From the bottom of the seed roots start to emerge and begin to grow downward through his veins and muscles and out the bottoms of his feet into the ground. The young man has become a tree rooted in the soil of the garden." This is a very numinous dream for her, a very powerful dream, and she saw that what was happening in her spiritual life was that she was becoming more rooted. Her spiritual life had been so ethereal and otherworldly that it hadn’t taken much root, and in dealing with the Mexicans over a period of time, and dealing with her shadow material, she saw that there was a new rootedness going on in her life that was producing new life, new enthusiasm. And the tree, the archetypal symbol of the spirit rooted in the earth rising to the sky became for her a very important symbol for her spiritual development. We also went into the Concordance and took out scriptural passages that related to tree. She sat with the scripture passages and underlined the scripture passages that really spoke to her soul, and she would use these passages over a period of months. The tree experience was such a numinous one for her that she realized that God was rooting Himself into her experience of prayer, into her experience of the earth again, and she began to celebrate and to enjoy. In a very real way Kay, the directee, is a very spiritual person, but this spiritual direction process shifted her consciousness of her spirituality into the earth. In a very real way it reincorporated her full person into her spiritual development, not simply her prayer time or meditation time separate for the rest of her life. She saw herself more and more growing into this spiritual person where she grew in great confidence. In many ways I tried to encourage her that she had wonderful listening skills, and a great sensitivity. With my enthusiastic backing and prodding she started the spiritual direction institute in Burlingame and has become a spiritual director. There was a dream that she identified as to the way in which she was going to do spiritual direction. In the dream she says, "I see small cups like tea cups in a Chinese restaurant. They are full of steaming hot chicken soup, dispensed to the hungry from a small opening in the side of a house. We decide to take the cup we have emptied inside to see who is this kind person who has been feeding us. It is a bag lady who is very poor herself who has been feeding us." When she saw this dream, she identified it and was right in the process of discerning for spiritual direction, I think she felt somewhat intimidated because of my education and my background that every spiritual director had to have these credentials, and what I tried to have her understand is that her credentials came from God, came from her willingness to listen to people, and her sensitivity to the soul. What she discovered in this dream was she was the bag lady with the cups of tea, and when people came, she simply gave out of herself, and she felt that the cups of tea were a symbol for her of that generosity, that welcoming, that kind of desire to help other people. Kay identified the symbol as a real discernment of becoming a spiritual director. That symbol empowered her to let go of her feelings of inadequacy and realize that even a cup of tea, given in hospitality and in love is a very powerful symbol. In her own journey, when she decided to terminate spiritual direction as a process for herself and to go into supervision now as she is doing spiritual direction, she realized that this form of spiritual direction opened her up to aspects of her spiritual life, including the rootedness in the earth, wrestling with the shadow, seeing that the animus as it was developing within her was part of her spiritual growth, and that from this, the smallest cup of tea given in love was the way in which she was going to communicate this ongoing spiritual direction work.

This form of spiritual direction is definitely not Jungian analysis, and there are major distinctions. First of all, spiritual direction by its very nature, its core purpose is to share one’s journey with God, to God, in God, and that the whole issue of spiritual direction is to realize that one is being called and brought forth to God, that we are on a journey. Jungian analysis in any kind of psychiatric situation is much more problem orientated. There is either a fixation, or a lack of growth, there is a kind of brokenness at some point. Now obviously people who come to spiritual direction are going to have many of the same issues of people going to analysis, yet spiritual direction’s focus is primarily dealing with one’s relationship with God. What I have discovered in my own journey in doing Jungian analysis is that Jungian analysis was not sufficient for me, both in terms of healing, and certainly not in dealing with my relationship with God. To give you an example, when I deal with spiritual direction, I presume that the dream work will enhance what is truly happening in the soul, what‘s happening at this moment in this person’s life, and how this is effecting this person’s relationship with God. I find so often that before, my experience of doing spiritual direction as a directee rather than a director, that my core issues in my relationship with God were never really identified. There was a kind of a gloss over because my soul really wasn’t revealed, and I was living out of, on a conscious level, what I knew of myself. It was very much a partial identity in a very real way because of some woundedness in my own life, it was a false self, it was a part of me that was trying to cover up so much of myself in order to meet God, and in some ways the pain of having to rip off the mask, and the persona, of what I was was only to reveal that there was more to me than what I thought I was. In a sense, spiritual direction has to deal with that key issue. As C.S. Lewis said, it’s got to be the true self before the true God, and in some ways the Jungian dimensions of what I use is to try and allow the true person to emerge, the real issues of the soul to emerge, that the truth of who they are and what they are struggling with becomes the real issues. I found that in my experience when direction didn’t work any longer is that there were too many other things and layers and cover-ups, that the real me was not really being discussed here. It was in a sense what I should have been, or could have been, and there were too many other layers of expectations that were not true to my own experience.

I find that when somebody comes to spiritual direction, my aim is that they may truly be themselves. They will allow the truth of their own lives to emerge because only then can they encounter God. If they are spending all their energy hiding behind the lies of their life, or the fears of their life, then God cannot be God for them. So when I use typology, or when I use dream work, or when I use any issues that are Jungian, it is in a bigger schema of understanding that this material is to be used so that the soul may be free to encounter God more fully, and that the emphasis is simply not individuation, it is individuation in order to be free to be in relationship with God. I think what is really key also is that this model of spiritual direction takes very seriously that God lives within, that the self is a place that is already in harmony and union with God, that there is a dimension of our souls that is already in that deep relationship, and that we need to make that difficult journey there. Unlike Jungian writing today, so much of the writing by Edinger and others who are talking about a new dispensation is really saying that the outside external religion no longer has any power. This is medieval. This has no more significance to people, and that is by far not my experience, that faith is a living thing, that my directees when they come are having real experiences in prayer and in their faith life and in their church life. They don’t want to throw it all out, and yet at the same time they need to have a method or way to get to the core issues of their own soul that can be emerged, that can somehow be freed up to enter into dialogue.

One of the things that I think is this new synthesis, this new way of doing spiritual direction takes the soul seriously, and that God lives within the soul, but also does not deny the reality of a transcendent God, does not deny in any way the life of the church, or the life of the community, the need for sacraments, the need for reconciliation, the kinds of things that still make community and church so vital in our world and in our society. I think so often people who are searching today and are practicing Catholics and Christians are caught between either doing soul work, or losing their faith, or holding onto their faith, and fearfully not wanting to go interiorly to look at the issues within. This spiritual direction is saying that you can do both, that you can be a person of faith, you can be a practicing Christian, and at the same time deal with the issues of the interior life, the interior journey, and discovering that the spirit is indwelling in us, and that the mystical is not for a few, but the mystical experiences and the mystical way is for any person that journeys within the soul, and for a Christian that has such a wealth and beauty of tradition, it can only be enhanced by the experience of going within.

If this form of spiritual direction is going to go forward, I think one of the most important aspects is that the very formation of spiritual directors have to be radically changed, that the formation of spiritual direction has to take into consideration the reality of the psyche and of the soul. The spiritual director has to go through their own conscious movement within, and working out issues of persona, shadow, looking at their type and seeing where they are being stretched and where they need to grow, their own issues of sexuality and the animus and the anima, and also moving into seeing that the self is a living entity and reality within the human soul. If the spiritual director himself or herself can experience that, then they will be the facilitators and the people who are able to help their directees move in that same vein. I think that the formation of spiritual directors has often been very intellectually sound, theologically sound, but even the psychology that has been given has been kind of problematic. If this person has this problem, then they should be sent to a therapist. If this person has this issue… it is kind of like a problem-solving issue. I am not looking at the human person as a problem, but as a living, breathing, vibrant soul force where their life story has to be accepted as part of the agenda of spiritual direction, not with the focus of healing problems, or letting them move simply to wholeness, but the human soul has to be the place where the material for the with the tradition comes in. For instance, oftentimes when people have dreams that have symbols that are obviously connected to our Christian tradition – water, bread, trees – so many universal archetypal symbols, that with amplification and with work in scripture, it brings new meaning to old scripture. I find so often that the passages of scripture that I ask them to reflect on is coming from the images in their own soul, and therefore the meaning, the power, and the context of not only their personal transformation, but their experience of prayer becomes different.

I would envision that if spiritual directors were trained in this format and then were seen as ministers within the Christian community, that is, within a parish setting, that there are explicit members of the community that have been trained, that are prepared, that are willing, that are able to journey with people in faith in their spiritual lives, that I think the very fabric of the Church would have to change. For instance, how you prepare people for marriage would have to radically change. The issue of the catechuminate and the conversion experience that brings them to the Church, the formation of that spiritually would have to change. The issue of understanding how to prepare people for liturgy, and the use of symbolism to bring back the power in our Christian symbols. So often our liturgies and our religious rituals seem to lack power, seem to lack enthusiasm because it is not connecting with our souls, it is not connecting with our spirits. I see that this form of spiritual direction through a changed format for formation, and then empowering the people in the parish could really go into every aspect of the Church community and bring new life to an otherwise at times deadening experience. This is where I think the whole issue with faith and experience that Jung wrestled with so much – Jung dismissed faith as an absence of experience – I think maybe because of his own lack of experience of faith that led him to that. Maybe what we need to do is to enhance the faith through soul work, that the dialogue between faith and soul can go on in an enthusiastic way within a community setting, which could unleash spiritual power in Christianity again.

The main obstacles I think come from the two ends of the spectrum. I think from a psychological point of view I think people see psychology as problem-orientated, and I think one of the difficulties that I have with Jungian psychology is that it is so esoteric, it is so oftentimes cut off from community. It is also expensive, and it is not available to very many people, and I just find that it really upsets me that I see that the going rate for a Jungian therapist is $90-$120, and it is not available for people to move towards individuation. On one side I think there would be some who would say this is watered down therapy, this is watered down experience of problem-solving. On the other end of the spectrum I think there is still a fear among church people about religious experience. I think the church is still suspect about the whole issue of personal revelation, or the issue that people, especially lay people, should be empowered in their spiritual lives, and that it is not coming from the institution. So in some ways I think this is stretching both poles, and not maybe acceptable to both poles. But in some ways I think a new form or new synthesis could be a very creative alternative. I see lots of problems because I think it is so experientially based, and so difficult for people to take a very serious approach to their inner world, and being the fact that in our society we are so negative towards interiority and introspection, and soul, in general, I think there would be a lot of fear put out there, even by the institution. So in some ways I see lots of obstacles ahead, but more than anything else I find enthusiastic about it is that I think it meets the needs of real people, and once it starts meeting the needs of real people, it can’t stop.

Many people now are reading about Jung, and many Christians, Catholics in particular, are very interested in this area. Many times it is on a workshop arena, particularly with dreams or typology. A lot of people read Jung in a peripheral way through somewhat easy texts that have a very optimistic way of seeing minimal problems in this Jungian-Christian dialogue. I think we need to be aware, not that there are dangers involved in dealing with Jung, because as soon as people start talking about dangers, then there is an avoidance principle, and there are tremendous power and tremendous possibilities in this dialogue, but I think Christians shouldn’t assume to be too na´ve as to simply address the Jungian material as totally integrated. I think there are various forms of reading that are out there. There is the material that is coming from Jungian analysts that are looking at Christian material only from psychic phenomena, and only from a symbolic language issue, and basically see Christianity as a dead issue, that Christianity is at the end of its life, not in a renewal state. I think there are those Christians who are writing books that are also being very optimistic in their approach towards Jung, assuming that there are no problems, in a kind of total assimilation of one side to another. I think that’s rather na´ve, and I think we have to be careful and read critically when we deal with issues of Jung. Most people read about Jung, and don’t read Jung, and I think part of that is because he is so difficult to read and his reading can be very convoluted, and almost contradictory at times, but I think someone who is going to be really serious about Jung needs to read Jung, himself, and really plough through some of the material, as difficult as it is, to do some real, honest synthesis and dialogue. I believe what is necessary in the future are almost an institute or a place where people can do honest dialogue, which doesn’t mean assimilation, but it means where Christians can hold onto their own personal identity and see the value of a psychology that can speak to the soul. I think one of the most critical issues in the church is that I think we have lost our souls to a certain extent in many real ways. It is almost as if the message is not touching us any longer. It is like the words are so familiar they just kind of roll off the tongues of preachers and teachers, and the young people in particular, who are looking for personal experience, are not finding it in traditional places. I think it is really key that we are open to religious experience in this method, and at the same time keep ourselves focused, keep ourselves clear as to who we are and how we are approaching the material. There is a lot of work to be done. I really believe this is only threshold work. I don’t think we have done the kind of work that needs to be done yet. In some ways we are all experimenting with something that is really very powerful, but it needs to take on a life of its own and an exterior position.

I feel that being on the threshold is such an exciting experience. Eliminality brings a lot of energy, but it also feels painful at times because you are being stretched in two different poles. We are not quite there yet. I am going to Zurich this summer. I feel that networking is taking place. I think practicing Christians are experientially beginning to talk to one another about this kind of soul work. I am finishing my work in high school ministry, and I am now moving full-time into this kind of work. I am taking a sabbatical. I am going to be studying, and writing and really trying to wrestle with some of these critical issues. I think we need to look to the future with a lot of deep questions like what’s the relationship of consciousness to holiness? I think there are a lot of problems and areas of confusion around that. I think there is a problem that maybe the Jungians are thinking of establishing kind of a subtle, individual religion where there is a deification of the soul and where the reality of an external transcendent god isn’t there, and it can be very confusing. Christians have to look at what is the difference between doing soul work and deifying the soul. I think there are a lot of New Age people out there and movements that are good to some extent, but also dangerous. I sense a lot of New Age people struggle between inflation because they are not rooted in a tradition. They get in touch with the self, and they get in touch with spiritual issues and spiritual powers, and yet without believing in a transcendent god and worship and prayer. I think there is a danger to a kind of psychic inflation that can happen with people. I think there are a lot of issues that need to be discussed and worked with. I think there is a great deal of work to be done in the future, but I think, given the fact that we are on a threshold, these insights, when incorporated and when brought into fruition, could be one of the most exciting renewal parts of the Church since Vatican II, and I think maybe since the beginning of renewal. I think so often we have been talking about renewal, but we haven’t done it in the soul. We’ve only done it in externals, and it hasn’t really brought new life to people. I think this ministry and this vision attempts to bring new life to individuals, and to bring new life to the Church.

 

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