What did Jung Really Say about Christianity?

Jung had an extensive Christian background. His father was a pastor in the Swiss Reform Church, and eight of his maternal uncles were clergymen, as well. Thus, his whole upbringing was steeped in the institutional church, and it was almost inevitable that he would have to struggle with how to relate his psychology to his Christian roots. This struggle only seemed to intensify as he got older, for it was in his later years he wrote some of his powerful works on subjects like the suffering of Job and on the meaning of the Trinity.

But when all was said and done, it is hard to make a case that Jung, however deeply interested in Christianity and sympathetic to Christians he was, could really be called a Christian, himself. It was not as if his psychology was one thing, and his religious outlook quite another. His psychology was his religious outlook, and the limits of his psychology as a way of knowing were his own personal limits.

This, I believe, comes across in Jung’s own writings, and can be examined in detail in books like Murray Stein’s Jung’s Treatment of Christianity. I don’t think that the facts of the matter are in dispute. The real issue is whether we agree with Jung’s identification of the way psychology knows with the limits that ought to be imposed on how religion knows things. If we know no more than what is knowable by Jung’s psychology, then Jung’s psychology is as much of a religion as any religion can be, and indeed, is more of one because it is more objective and less presumptuous about what it knows. Christianity in this view is no more than the process of individuation written in the language of Christian symbols. This, of course, doesn’t leave much room for a genuine Jungian-Christian dialogue.

Now it is your turn to contribute to this discussion. Send us your questions and comments: arraj@innerexplorations.com

" I think that one of the greatest barriers to a dialogue between Jungian thought and Christianity lies in Jung's attacks on the view of God as all-good, put forth in his controversial treatise "Antwort auf Hiob" (1952). This flies in the face of what many orthodox Christians believe, and indeed, in the face of the theology of the Johannine epistles. What I think Jung is trying to do in this book is take a position that is actually closer to the Old Testament views of God than New Testament views of God (heretical as such a claim may seem, there are passages in the Old Testament - some arguably dating from as late as the time of Isaiah - that would justify such a view). A difficulty that I have with "Antwort auf Hiob" (aside from the fact that it is one of Jung's most poorly structured works - evidence that he had serious liver trouble shortly before the book was published) - is that it rests too strongly on the assumption that the John who wrote the Book of Revelation was the same John who wrote the Johannine Epistles. There is no evidence that he was - in fact, modern Biblical scholars are more likely to argue that he was not - but if the author of the Book of Revelation and the author of the Johannine Epistles were different people, it seems to me that some of the key arguments in "Antwort auf Hiob" have to be discarded.

Jung believed that the Trinity - the traditional symbol of orthodox Christianity - needed to be replaced by a Quaternity. However, it is not quite clear whether he saw the fourth person of this Quaternity as the dark, evil side of God (defending the highly heterodox and, some would argue, dangerous heresy referred to above) or the much more palatable position that this fourth person is the feminine side of God. It is not difficult to see why many Christian feminists would find this position highly offensive - being as it is only a few steps away from equating evil and the feminine.

Fortunately, Andrew Samuels has coined the term "post-Jungian". One can presumably learn from Jung's insights without necessarily sharing Jung's highly controversial theological position. Perhaps a dialogue between post-Jungians and Christians will be easier than a dialogue between classical Jungian thought and orthodox Christianity." Anthony Edwards, ANTHONY.EDWARDS@NENE.AC.UK

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