Jung, Spirituality and the erosion of the Christian myth
The Christian myth is suffering an erosion, and, in this age of extreme materialism, new gods are entering the world arena. Human beings yearn for happiness. In past centuries, this objective was assured, at least to Westerners, by joining a Christian church. After two thousand years dominating the Western minds, the Christian myth is losing its radiance. This should concern us since every civilization needs a sustaining myth to support it.
Edward Edinger, a well-known writer and Jungian analyst, opens his book, The Creation of Consciousness, saying: “History and anthropology teach us that human society cannot long survive unless its members are psychologically contained in a central living myth. Such myth provides the individual with a reason for being.”
Jung was worried about this wearing of the Christian myth and tried to approach the Catholic Church offering some suggestions to revert this trend. He had several conversations with his friend Father White, but his efforts failed.
Could Jung have any chances of succeeding? I doubt it. Jung was a scientist that approached psychology from an empirical standing. He posited that human beings bring inside their unconscious an archetype – the Self – that he also called the Image of God. Jung knew that the Great Force we call God cannot be known by the human psyche. Maybe the mystics could have direct access to this Intelligent Force, but their experience cannot be transmitted to us due to the shortcomings of human language. Our only possibility of talking to God is through the Self.
Human beings yearn for the divine
Why was Jung worried with religion? Because he was convinced that human beings carry inside their psyche a yearning for the divine. He once mentioned that he did not know of any person living a psychological crisis in the second half of life that could solve the problem without some kind of spiritual work.
In my view, the chances of Jung’s success in helping the revival of the Christian myth were null. How could he convince the Vatican to change his entrenched position, based on old dogmas that were consolidated in the fourth century?
Christian dogmas and the Gnostics
Dogmas such as the virgin birth, the divinity of Christ, the body resurrection of Christ were established in the fourth century A.D., in the Council of Nicaea. Until that time, there were different views that were branded, in this council, heretic or Gnostics
There is not one unique opinion among the Gnostics, but it may be safe to say that they generally accepted the dogmas but interpreted them metaphorically. The resurrection, for instance: the orthodox Christians stated that Christ relived in a body while the Gnostics saw it as a resurrection in spirit.
Despite Jung repeated statements that he was not dealing with religion, but with the human psyche, that what he called God was the Image of God inside the psyche, that he was not a theologian or a philosopher, the Vatican rejected his ideas. To act differently, they would have to review their sacred dogmas; they would have to create a new religion.
Spirituality and Religion
In my view, Jungian psychology, as well as any psychology, is incompatible with religion. But religion and spirituality are not the same thing. Religion is a particular case of spirituality, but spirituality encompass more than religion. You can live a spiritual life without joining any established church or religion.
There are many paths that take you to the top of a mountain. You can choose to climb through the South, or the North, or the East. Likewise, to live a spiritual life you have many alternatives: prayer, meditation, dream work, active imagination, etc..
Jung developed a method – Active Imagination – that allow us to talk to the personalities inside our psyches, including the Self, our interior God. This he called living a symbolic life. If you want to learn more, I suggest you read a precious books: Inner Work, by Robert Johnson.
My daughter uses to caution me, saying I am too repetitive with this idea that we need to live a spiritual life. She says that I may be boring my readers. It is true. I keep repeating this idea in my books, articles and posts. The traditional Gods are dying, and the new gods – money, power, status, fame – are dominating the Western World; This worries me, and I see myself as a crusader, trying to awake our fellow human beings to the need of living a spiritual life.
In Search of happiness
If we are in search of happiness, and we all are, we should worry about this issue. Maybe we have to find our personal myth.