Carl Jung was immensely interested in the symbolism and rituals of religion and in his explorations he writes about bringing analytical psychology into relationship with Christianity and in particular the question of Christ as a psychological figure.
Jung in his study of Psychology and Alchemy shows the parallelism between the Christ figure and the central concept of the alchemists – the lapis or stone. Whilst he was preoccupied in the studies for this publication he describes how he had a vision:
‘One night I awoke and saw, bathed in bright light at the foot of my bed, the figure of Christ on the Cross. It was not quite life-size, but extremely distinct and I saw that his body was made of greenish-gold. The vision was marvellously beautiful, and yet I was profoundly shaken by it…
I had been thinking a great deal about the Anima Christi, one of the meditations from the Spiritual Exercises [of Ignatius Loyola]. The vision came to me as if to point out that I had overlooked something in my reflections…’
Jung goes on to describe this as an alchemical vision of Christ with the green gold and expression of the life-spirit – the anima mundi – who animates the whole cosmos. This life force has poured himself out into everything – and is even present in metal and stone where there is a union of the spiritually alive and physically dead matter.
In Carl Jung’s work Aion he looks at Jesus Christ as an archetype primordial image, as God’s own Son who stands in opposition to the ruler of this world. In his work Psychology and Religion Jung sees Jesus Christ with all the attributes of the hero’s life:
‘improbable origin, divine father, hazardous birth, rescuing in the nick of time, precocious development, conquest of the mother and of death, miraculous deeds, tragic, early end, symbolically significant manner of death, post-mortem effects (re-appearances signs and marvels, etc.). As the Logos, Son of the Father … Redeemer and Saviour, Christ is himself God, and all embracing totality, which like the definition of godhead, is expressed iconographically by the circle or mandala.’
Jung saw Job as a kind of prefiguration of Christ with the link between them the idea of suffering. Christ is the suffering servant of God, and so was Job.
Jung saw the problems of the world and the religious problems of his patients as encapsulated in the idea of Christ as representative of the self where there is interplay between conscious and unconscious with the development of consciousness from the unconscious. The symbol of Christ occurs in dreams and projections and the content of all such symbolic products is the idea of an overpowering, all embracing, complete or perfect being. This archetypal idea is a reflection of each individual’s wholeness, i.e. of the self, which is present in each of us as an unconscious image. Carl Jung sees that it is this archetype of the self in the soul of each person that responds to the Christian message… Christ realized the idea of the self.