Carl Jung: Jesus, God and how childhood neurosis affects later thinking

In the last post I discussed Jung’s creation of the little figure which he kept as a secret treasure in the attic and a number of times in the months following this creation he was able to think about this figure and it helped him regain confidence. Even when feeling crushed and ‘forlorn’ Jung remembered that he was also the ‘Other’ – the person with the secret who had the black stone and the little man in frock coat and top hat.
Later thinking back to this time Jung wonders about the connection between Jesus – or the Jesuits in their black robes – and the men he saw wearing frock coats and top hats standing by the grave. He also connects the grave with the underground temple of the phallus and the placing of the figure in the pencil case. He sees all these as aspects of unconscious development: ‘they are like individual shoots of a single underground rhizome.’ From his accounts it is quite clear why Jung was later so ambivalent about Jesus – as a representative of the hero archetype who tries to save the world and meets their own destruction. He writes that as a child it became increasingly impossible for him to have a positive attitude towards Jesus although from the age of 11 the idea of God began to interest him. Jung felt that God was untainted by Jung’s fear and distrust – he didn’t wear a black robe nor the brightly coloured clothes which Jesus often wears in pictures – rather he was unique and could not be dealt with so familiarly as people seemed to do with Jesus. God might be like a powerful old man but it was impossible to draw any firm conception of him. Again Jung felt a certain analogy with the secret in the attic and the secret nature of God.
At school Jung found divinity classes unspeakably dull and mathematics impossible, but he was also often fearful and distrusting and wonders whether this links back to an early abandonment by his mother but at the age of 12 Jung had an experience of neurosis which taught him a great deal. He began to have fainting spells whenever he had to go back to school or do his homework and for six months stayed away from school doing what he wanted to do. He was able to plunge into the world of the mysterious – growing more and more away from the world – but as he writes ‘I had the obscure feeling that I was fleeing from myself.’ Jung, shamed by overhearing his father sharing his worries about the boy with a friend, eventually conquered the neurosis by sheer willpower and was able to understand how and why the neurosis had come about. This became a shameful secret but he acknowledges the attraction of being away from the world and delighting in solitude. ‘Nature seemed to be full of wonders, and I wanted to steep myself in them. Every stone, every plant, every single thing seemed alive and indescribably marvellous. I immersed myself in nature crawled, as it were, into the very essence of nature and away from the whole human world.’ It’s interesting to consider that if he had continued on this path Jung would have been following the mystical tradition and we might know about him in a different context. However one of the things that stands out from his account is the strengthening then of his ego and later, much later, Jung draws on this again when he begins to delve into his deepest unconscious. However his early ambivalence towards Jesus and his dislike of institutional religion is revealed in his later writings and I think clouds his ability to accept anything outside of the psyche or beyond his own ideas of the God – image. It is this early embedded perspective that makes the breakdown in his later relationship with Victor White almost inevitable.