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.