This is the final topic for this series, and it will take us into an area that some might find a little too intellectual. Perhaps framing the issue in the form of a few questions might catch your interest, however.
1. What does all that we have learned about psychological types tell us about our human nature?
2. What light does Jung's psychology shed on issues like spiritual transformation and dark nights of the soul?
3. Is the individuation process the same thing as the Christian spiritual journey? If not, then what is the relationship between these processes?
These are not new questions, and people have been writing about them for a few decades now. Two extreme responses to them are as follows:
A. Jung's psychology tells us clearly what Christian theology and metaphysics only hinted at. In fact, since we now have Jung's psychology and a clearer understanding of human differences and the individuation process, it seems that Christian teaching has just been using religious language to describe the same thing. There is no longer any need to frame human growth in terms of a religious or spiritual journey unless one just enjoys the poetic or metaphoric language.
- what Jung calls the psyche is what Christianity has called the soul;
- what Jung calls the Ego is what Christianity has called the individual personality;
- what Jung calls the Self is what Christianity has called God;
- what Jung calls regressions of the Ego in the service of transcendence is what Christianity has called dark nights of the soul;
- what Jung calls libido or kundalini is what Christianity calls the Holy Spirit;
And so forth.
B. Jung's psychology has no real contribution to make to helping us understand human nature or the Christian spiritual journey. Why? Because Jung drew from occult sources and his research is therefore contaminated by demonic influences. Also, the study of psychological types makes us focused on self instead of God, which is exactly what the demons want. Using Jung's psychology in the context of Christian spirituality is therefore very dangerous and should be discouraged. You'll find this attitude among fundamentalists and right-wing Catholics.
So those are the extremes, and there is no shortage of books and essays representing both positions.
As you might expect, however, there is also another option, which is neither of the above, but which sifts through some of these points to come up with a more nuanced position on how we might make use of Jung's psychology in Christian spirituality. Among the best writings on this topic are those of my good friends, Jim and Tyra Arraj, whose works we have used throughout this series. Listed below are a few of their resources speaking directly to this issue:
Jungian Christian Dialogue - a collection of links
Jungian and Catholic?
- see especially chapter 4 on the Psychoid Unconscious and chapter 9 on Jesus and the unconscious.
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Discussion and Reflection
1. What relevance do you think an understanding of psychological types has for Christian spiritual growth?
2. Re. the two extreme positions outlined above: what is your response to them?
3. What questions or comments do you have about Jung's psychology, theology, and spirituality?
4. Continuing open discussion on the innerexplorations.com resources listed above.
It seems the ultimate goal for Jung and the Christian spiritual journey is toward individuation/wholeness. If one believes and espouses that we are all created in the image and likeness of an all-loving God, then we may be drawn more to the terminology and growth processes involving God, personality, soul, Holy Spirit, etc. It seems that Christians can take the Jungian philosophy and look at it through the lens of Christian theology and belief. Perhaps I am naive, but I don't see why there needs to be a dichotomy between Jungian psychology and Christianity.
I see you've worked your way through the material, Janice. Nice going. This group's been quiet for awhile, but we're constantly adding new members and maybe someone else will add reflections sometime.
I agree with your point that one need not choose between Jung's psychology and Christianity. Most writers don't present it as an either/or proposition. As you probably know, however, EWTN has done a series on the New Age, in which Jung's psychology was condemned; Mitch Pacwa, SJ, who is one of their regulars, also denounced it rather strongly in one of his books. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are a few who have taught that Christian teaching is just a metaphor for what Jung describes better. So the either/or people are out there, but, happily, seem to be in the minority.
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