Monthly Archives: February 2015

Carl Jung and Christianity

This is a huge subject but worth raising in brief because Jung is one psychotherapist who had a long dialogue with Christian doctrine and belief and indeed its theological representatives. The Jungian Murray Stein suggests that Jung took it upon himself to offer Christianity psychotherapeutic treatment for its ‘deeply ingrained tendency to split the physical and the spiritual aspects of the human psyche’ – in other words Jung treated Christianity as the patient in need of analysis and attention. Jung corresponded with the Dominican Victor White and one central aspect of their dialogue was on the problem of evil – White saw this as an absence of God. Jung maintained that it is not possible to have good without evil – one without the other and this raises a dilemma if the Christian believes that God is light (all good) and in him there is no darkness at all (no evil).  It is suggested that Jung’s seminal work Answer to Job was in part addressed to White and to what Jung saw as an inherent weakness in the Christian religion. The central theme of the book is the shift from the Bible and Christian teaching to the inner world, in other words to the psychological. Jung thought that it is here that there needs to be a reconciliation of the opposites, this is where the work needs to happen. The message the reader is left with from Answer to Job is somewhat bleak. There is no consolation as humankind is left in the state that Job was in and as Jesus was left hanging on the cross alone and with evil on the loose. Therefore for Jung the only way to move is forward into the psychological. After Answer to Job was published the relationship between Victor White and Carl Jung unsurprisingly foundered.

However in other work and indeed in Jung’s work on the Mysterium Coniunctionis published after Answer to Job Jung turns to the power of love to heal the opposites, even those that appear irreconcilable. Here is the idea of the transcendent function first written about in 1916 and then reworked in 1958 where a third state or position or experience arises from what appears impossible opposites, a function that both integrates and is more than both of those. In other words is transcends…. perhaps here the Christian can gain some solace. And of course most important of all God is so much more than all our reasoning and suppositions, even more than Jung’s thinking (!) and within that great cloud of unknowing and mystery that we can only approach in faith lies something more meaningful and reconciled that we can even begin to imagine.

Silence and the still small voice

I’ve just found an old leaflet based on an extract from a publication called The Power of Silence which was written by John Edward Southall (1855 – 1928) a lifelong and strongly convinced Quaker who describes his experience of silence as the vital element in his approach to religion and life. He writes how God was waiting in the depths of his being to talk to him if only he could get still enough to hear the voice. He goes on to say that he thought it would be an easy matter but as he began to get still he had a perfect pandemonium of voices that reached his ears, a thousand clamouring notes from without and within, until he could hear nothing but their noise and din. Whilst he understood that some were his own voice and his questions and prayers, others were the voices of the world’s turmoil. I like the way he says ‘never before did there seem so many things to be done, to be said, to be thought; and in every direction I was pushed and pulled, and greeted with noisy acclamations of unspeakable unrest.’

Southall goes on to say whilst it seemed necessary to listen to some of the voices he was reminded that God said ‘be still and know that I am God’… And setting aside the conflict of what had to be done the next day, the various duties and cares, he still remembered ‘be still’. And as he listened and slowly learn to obey and shut his ears to the sounds he found that after a while when the other voices either ceased or he stop listening there was a still small voice in the depths of his being that began to speak with ‘an inexpressible tenderness, power and comfort’. He writes that this was God’s prayer in his secret soul and was God’s answer to all his questions, was God’s life and strength for soul and body, and became the substance of all knowledge, and of all prayer and all blessing – ‘for it was the living God himself as my life and my all’. He goes on to say how this is our soul’s greatest and deepest need how we can’t go through life strong and fresh on constant express trains but we need these quiet hours in secret places and times of waiting upon the Lord he then says that we go forth from that experience of deep silence ‘like the flower that has drunk in, through the shades of night, the cooling crystal drops of dew. But, as the dew never falls on a stormy night, so the dews of his grace never come to the restless soul’.

The Quaker pamphlet had been reprinted many times my copy was the 29th and I picked that up in 1982 but of course the message is timeless.

Sukiyaki

The film Inherent Vice has a great soundtrack, and it includes the 1960s hit and from the early 1960s too Sukiyaki sung by Kyu Sakamoto. It’s recognizable as a middle of the road classic which apparently sold around 13 million records. Try:

Sukiyaki (Ue o Muite Arukou) – Kyu Sakamoto (English Translation and Lyrics)

On this version the Japanese words are translated into English and have such a melancholy ring though the song is somehow at the same time terribly hopeful. Perhaps it’s the smile of the singer. The song is  basically about continuing despite all the sad feelings and so on. Here’s a taster:

I look up when I walk /So that the tears won’t fall

And in a later verse

Sadness lies in the shadow of the stars/Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

What’s interesting is the song was written as the aftermath of a protest. it’s terribly catchy!

Unconditional love

Infancy is really the only time in our lives where we can each be loved for just being alive, loved for just being born and here. If all goes well we are beloved for just being us. The psychoanalyst R.D. Laing described a patient he saw who expressed it like this:

Everyone should be able to look back in their memory and be sure he had a mother who loved him, all of him; even his piss and shit. He should be sure his mother loved him just for being himself; not for what he could do. Otherwise he feels he has no right to exist. He feels he should never have been born.
No matter what happens to this person in life, no matter how much he gets hurt, he can always look back to this and feel that he is lovable. He can love himself and he cannot be broken. If he can’t fall back on this, he can be broken.

For this experience of being loved, for just being alive, can, and only too quickly will, change and we become loved rather more for secondary values – how we look or what we can do, or for how we behave.

if this experience of unconditional love didn’t happen as a small baby then there is the hard graft of learning to love your self unconditionally but that is difficult if you are programmed to be loved for what you do, or how you look or behave. This is where God can come in and offer a way for self-love and compassion to develop. Jesus was told that he was the beloved before he began his ministry and how encouraging is that. We can learn to believe and trust that God is love and perhaps start to experience this in the inner world. Karl Barth the great theologian was asked to sum up his life’s work and responded with ‘ Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so!’ It sounds like he too had to work hard to feel valued for himself.