Jung on Religion – A Summary of his Religious Experiences and Belief
Many of you have been asking me to summarise Jung on Religion. It is a difficult task as it is a complex topic, but today, I attempt to summary Jung on Religion in 9 key points. Here goes…
- There is a religious instinct in all human beings – an inherent striving towards a relationship with someone or something that transcends human power (a higher force or being).
- Jung’s conviction about the universality of religion led him to view religion as a manifestation of the collective unconscious. Both religious practice and religious experience found their source in the collective unconscious. Religious experience was NUMINOUS (direct contact with the divine) which revealed itself through dreams and visions. Religious practice (rituals and dogmas) were necessary to protect people from the awesome power of such a direct experience of the numinous.
- Jung had something to say about the irrationality of religion. Modern people had a near-religious faith in the power of rational thinking and technology. It was a mistake to dismiss religious phenomena because of their irrationality.
- The process of INDIVIDUATION was central to Jung’s psychology. This takes place in the second half of life, but, even so, it is not for everybody. In the first half of life, an individual attempts to establish themselves in society (job, house, family), which is the period of the EGO (the hero). But, when the individual has shown their power and mated, perhaps the death of this ‘hero’ is the turning point in life. The ego relinquishes the seat of power and the second-half of life begins. People who are ‘successful’ and ‘busy’ often neglect the civilisation of the second half of life. But Jung recognises that the process of individuation in a fundamentally religious notion. In the process of INDIVIDUATION, the masks of the self are stripped away to uncover the true self.
- The discovery of the self through the process of INDIVIDUATION leads naturally to Jung’s attitude to the notion of God. Jung believed that only by recognising some higher authority than the ego, could a person detach themselves sufficiently from sexuality, the will to power and all the other compulsions of the world. Without a God, a person will make a God out of something else – sex, power or reason itself. Jung writes ‘the soul must contain in itself the faculty of relation to God, i.e. a correspondence, otherwise a connection could never come about. The correspondence is, in psychological terms, the archetype of a God-image.’ (Psychology and Alchemy)
- In more general terms, religion can never be replaced by science because it provides the language of the archetypes. The deep patterning in the consciousness, the archetypes (first forms) could only be named in mythological language and religious symbolism of which there is a great abundance across the world’s religious cultures.
- Jung on religion and evil – Jung had much to say about the notion of evil. He was very critical of the Church’s doctrine of the privato boni – evil as the absence of good. As to be expected after seeing how Jung tried to cope with his father’s religious crisis, he warns us against trying to be better than we are. Strive not so much for forced ‘goodness’ but for consciousness. Live not out of ideals we cannot keep, but from an inner centre which alone can keep the balance. To strive to be good, and disregard one’s darkness, is to fall victim to the evil in ourselves whose existence we have denied. The ‘shadow’ is Jung’s term for the dark, unwanted, feared side of our personality. The rejected qualities do not cease to exist simply because they have been denied direct expression. They live within us in the form of a secondary personality – the ‘shadow‘. The shadow personality can also be thought of as the unlived life. The devil is a personification of the repressed aspects of the human psyche. Jung wanted to include the shadow in the Godhead. The Trinity needs to be transformed into a Quaternary if we are to speak the wholeness of God.
- The figure of Jesus Christ – In Christ, A Symbol of the Self, Jesus Christ exemplifies the archetype of the self. Jung found a ‘perfect’ Christ meaningless. If Christ was perfect, he could not be ‘whole’. To be whole or holy, a person must reintegrate the shadow side of their personality. If the anti-Christ is not recognised within, it will appear externally in a malevolent form. Buddha could also be viewed as a symbol of the self – Christ saved the world through sacrifice, Buddha through inner peace.
- Jung believed that the deepest urge within every living creature was to fulfil itself. Religion is essential for true sanity.
I hope that you enjoyed this summary of Jung on religion and found it helpful for your studies. Follow this link for a background on Carl Gustav Jung,