Profiles in Jungian-Christian Dialogue:
Murray Stein - DVD
(transcript online below)

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Profiles in Jungian-Christian Dialogue with Adrian Cunningham
Profiles in Jungian-Christian Dialogue with Murray Stein



Profiles in Jungian-Christian Dialogue: Murray Stein
28 Minutes

Profiles in Jungian-Christian Dialogue: Adrian Cunningham
17 Minutes

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Christianity has a tremendous need for a psychology like Jung's, and the wide-spread interest on the part of Christians in his psychology can be taken as a recognition of that fact. But the Jungian-Christian dialogue has been going on for more than 40 years and something keeps it from flourishing. In this series of profiles we are going to meet people involved in different facets of this dialogue, try to discover what is happening in it today, and what hopes there are for it in the future.

In this video we are in Evanston, Illinois, visiting Murray Stein, a training analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago. He is the author of Jung's Treatment of Christianity and Practicing Wholeness, as well as the editor of Jungian Analysis and co-editor of Jung's Challenge to Contemporary Religion. In this video he looks at the hopes and frustrations of a true Jungian-Christian dialogue.

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More on Murray Stein

He has two new books:
     1. Transformation - Emergence of the Self
     2. Jung's Map of the Soul, An Introduction

He can be contacted at:
400 Linden Avenue
Wilmette,IL 60091
Tel. 847-256-2722
Fax. 847-256-2202

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 Online Transcript:

Jim: Christianity has a tremendous need for a psychology like Jung’s, and the wide-spread interest on the part of Christians in his psychology can be taken as a recognition of that fact, but the Jungian-Christian dialogue has been going on for more than 40 years, and something keeps it from flourishing. In this series of profiles we are going to meet people involved in different facets of this dialogue, and try to discover what is happening in it today, and what hopes there are for it in the future.

Today we are in Chicago near the Baha’i temple to visit with Murray Stein.

Stein: My name in Murray Stein, and I am a Jungian analyst. I live here in Willamette, Illinois and have been practicing analysis for 23 years. I had my training in Jungian methods at the Jung Institute in Zurich, I studied there from 1969 to 1973, and before that I was a student at the Yale Divinity School where I received a Masters in Divinity in 1969, and where I discovered Jung for the first time. I started reading Jung with one of the professors there in my last year. After I graduated from the Institute in Zurich and came back to this country, I went to the University of Chicago and received a doctorate in religious and psychological studies under the direction of Peter Holman. I wrote a dissertation which became the book, Jung’s Treatment of Christianity. Since then I have had an interest in the areas of psychology and religion, and have edited a number of books on the subject: Jung’s Challenge to Contemporary Religion is one. I have given some lectures and workshops, and so on. That is my biography and my interest.

When I started looking at Jung’s writings on Christianity which began intensively after 1940, his essays on the Trinity, on the transformation symbolism in the Mass, his work on alchemy was part of it, and gnosticism, Gnostic materials, and then his whole interest of the Christian tradition in Aion and Answer to Job. In the decade of the 1940s and early 1950s he seemed almost obsessed with the subject, and I wanted to understand why. What was his interest, where was he coming from, and what was he trying to say, because he was trained as a psychiatrist. He had been a Freudian psychoanalyst, he developed his own theory of psychology, he worked with patients, why was he turning so powerfully and with so much interest now to his own background of the religious tradition of Christianity? His father had been a minister in the Swiss Reformed Church, he had six uncles who were also in that ministry, his grandfather had been a minister, so it was definitely in his background, but he hadn’t shown very much interest in it until this point. And so I studied those texts with his psychology in the back of my mind, and trying to understand what he was attempting to do, and what I came up with finally was that he was taking a therapeutic approach to Christianity because he felt it was ill, it was in need of treatment, and looking at Europe in the 1930s and 1940s you can see why. The continent that had been most heavily influenced by Christianity in its 2000 years of existence was basically falling apart and becoming demonized by the tyrants Stalin and Hitler, and the Nazis and the Communists, and the Soviet Union, and he was feeling that the tradition that had supported Western civilization to this point, the Christian tradition, was in bad need of renewal and revitalization and therapy. And so I titled my book, Jung’s Treatment of Christianity, playing on that word "treatment," that he was basically taking Christianity into his practice as a patient, and therapeutizing it. So I wrote my book from that point of view. Jung made a diagnosis of what was wrong with Christianity, he had some suggestions for a treatment of how it could be healed, or fixed, and he had some notions of a prognosis of the future where it could possibly go, and become a healthier and further developed tradition that he felt at this point had gotten stuck and was in a bad situation, a bad malaise. The patient would come in with a depression, a mid-life depression, or an old age depression, falling apart, thinking he has no life left, and Jung found there was potential for more life in this tradition, but it would have to go through a process of transformation, and that transformation process would amount to healing some splits that could be traced back into its formative years, to its childhood, so to speak, where there had been a very strong polarization between the opposites of good and evil that Jung felt had polarized to the point of becoming irreconcilable opposites. That needed to be healed, and so his suggestion was that Christianity should stop theorizing about God as all good, sumum bonum, but should consider that God, or the ultimate principle of the cosmos, of the universe, of being, is a combination of so-called good and evil factors, and that the definitions of good and evil are really ego definitions, what from our point of view looks good, and what from our point of view looks evil, in and of itself. It is simply entropy and megentry, or constructive and destructive processes, that are at work throughout nature and throughout the human psyche. We shouldn’t polarize these. We should try to keep the object whole, and so since God is reality as such – that would be his definition of God – what is God? God is reality. If you want to think clearly about reality, you have to take into account there are these two opposing principles at least. And then he also felt that Christianity, while it had made some attempts to deal with the gender issue – the masculine and the feminine – hadn’t really resolved it, and that the feminine needed to be redeemed, so to speak, or lifted up into a higher place in the concept of deity itself, so the notion that God is masculine and feminine should be a part of theology. He is supposed to have rejoiced in the early 1950s when Pope Pius declared that the Virgin Mary had gone to heaven, and had entered the sacred chamber of the Eros, the sacred precincts, body and all, plumbing and all, as someone had once said to me, and that meant that the Catholic theology, the Christian theology, was preparing itself to include the body in a new way, the physical world in a new way, and the feminine in a new formulation of divinity. Now that would be highly disputed by orthodox theologians that they were preparing the way for a goddess religion, or a reconciliation between god and goddess, but what would be a mythological way to talk about that.

These proposals that Jung made in his texts have been taken up by various other thinkers and used piecemeal, and I tried to see what his intention was, what was driving those formulations and those recommendations. I think the basic impulse was a therapeutic one on his part, that he really had Christianity’s long-range future at heart, and he wanted it to continue into the next millennium, if possible, but in a transformed form. So he wasn’t a person who was trying to get past Christianity, or leave it behind, nor was he trying to kill it off, nor was he trying to preserve it in its present form. He was trying to facilitate a transformation process which is what he would do with a patient in the middle to late years.

On the other hand, there are certainly texts in Jung that would suggest that he taught that Christianity had more or less run its course. Its 2,000 years of existence was about as far as it was going to go, and was in its last days, and that a new type of religion would replace it, perhaps taking some aspects of it into a new formulation, but leaving the form that we have known as Christianity behind, and in 500 years or so he was supposed to have said that new religion would be in place and evident, although it is very hard to see right now. And when he speculated about what that might be, he would say things like, well, it certainly would be based on a quaternity rather than a Trinitarian principle. There will be 4. 4 will be the number instead of 3, and it will be inclusive rather than exclusive. It will be embracing of the opposites rather than dividing the opposites. It will hold masculine and feminine together, it will hold good and evil together. It will be a world religion. It will not be a tribal religion. It will be universal.

So the question of a dialogue between Jungian psychology and Christianity – certainly there has been a lot of discussion on this subject. There have been a lot of books written, conferences held, lectures given, but I think most of us would agree it hasn’t been a very fruitful dialogue. It breaks down at certain points. I think Victor White would probably be the classic instance of it breaking down. Victor White, who was a very sophisticated theologian steeped in the Catholic Thomistic tradition with an interest in Jung’s psychology, studied Jung’s psychology deeply, and he and Jung had conversations, but they did break down at a certain point, and I think it is easy to see that Jung was at least partly responsible for that. Jungians tend to say it was Victor White’s fault for not understanding Jung as a psychologist, and probably Victor White’s people say it was Jung’s fault for not understanding Victor White and what his presuppositions were. I think just going from there to start, I think it would be fair to say that Jung did cut out the ground from under a method that would not start with and stay with the experience of psychological material, and images, and limit itself pretty much to personal experience, the individual’s experience. As soon as you begin abstracting from that, he would start getting uneasy, and as soon as you get into certainly metaphysical language, or theological language, his typical response would be, "Well, that’s nothing but psyche. You have just dressed up psychic images in another terminology." And that does cut the ground from under the theologian and the philosopher so they can’t really say that much if they agree, or they can just disagree with that. In other words, dialogue breaks down. You can’t get very far if you don’t respect each other’s starting points. And I think that has been a problem. For people who are well-versed in Jungian thought and committed to its procedures, its methods, they often don’t know very much about philosophy and theology, and don’t respect those methodologies, and it is also possibly the case that it comes the other way, that philosophers and theologians don’t really understand the methodology of Jung and Jungians. So I think the dialogue would have to start with an exchange on methodology and a respect for methodology, and an attempt to understand each other’s methodologies.

The way I understand Jung’s theory is that while he began and stayed for a long time with the empirical material, the images of the psyche, and the dreams and the visions and the intuitions, and so on, the ideas that he could relate to his psychological views, at a certain point he did go beyond them to theorize about non-psychological or extra or trans-psychological reality. So on the one hand, while he bills himself as a Kantian and says we can only know what we can experience – we can’t know anything beyond personal experience, beyond the psyche – his theory does go beyond the psyche in the sense that when he talks about the archetypes and the instincts, both, they are rooted in the body, which at a certain point leaves off being psychic. So he has a term for that – psychoid. The instincts are psychoid, they are psyche-like, but they aren’t purely psychic, and at a certain point you can no longer experience them. They are rooted in the cellular nature of your physical being, your physiology, and so they go beyond the psyche, and yet they impinge on the psyche. They come into the psyche as impulses, as drives, and so on. So the instincts are rooted in a reality beyond the psyche. It is manifest in the psyche as image, intuitions, visions, dream experiences, and so on, but it is not limited to the psyche. When he starts speaking about the archetype per se, he says it can’t be experienced. It goes beyond the psyche. What can be experienced is the psyche. Once you are into something that can’t be experienced directly, you are into the non-psyche. So he believed there was something beyond the psyche, that these psychic images pointed to it, they were evidence for it, and if you did comparative studies you would see that throughout history, throughout time, throughout cultures, the same forms and images tend to appear, and that those are produced by what he believed and theorized was a non-psychic level of reality that he, at one point at least, called the spirit, that the archetype was rooted in spirit. The instinct is rooted in soma, and he doesn’t say very much about what that spirit is, but it is clearly not body, and it’s not psyche. It is something else. I think of it as nous, or non-biological mind, and then he theorized further that archetype and instinct are united somewhere. For one thing, they are united in the psyche where the images of the archetype and the impulses of the instinct come together, so they are united in psychological experience, but they are also united back behind the psyche, so to speak, in a unified field that unites spirit and matter and produces synchronicity. That’s why synchronicity happens. It comes into the psyche, but it is also beyond the psyche. There is a meaningful correspondence between inner and outer experience, and the reason that can happen is that the world is unified in some way that we can’t experience directly, but we can deduce from experience. And so he does go beyond his empirical methodology when he speculates this way, and he roots the archetype in a reality beyond the psyche. My own view is that, and I think this is very much within the Jungian canon, many other Jungians would have talked something like this even if they wouldn’t have said it exactly this way, that the great religious and mythological traditions of humankind have over centuries and millennia collected these experiences of non-psychic reality from the spirit world, so to speak, have collected them in their myths, in their doctrines, in their theologies, in their belief systems, in whatever form, all of them limited by their own experience and culture, but if you put them all together you can get a more or less approximate view of their extension and depth, and that if you do that, and you take the whole range of manifestations of archetypal symbols, and images in these traditions, and put them together, that you have our approximation to this thing that Jung called the self, which is the unified field beyond the psyche. And I think if you look at Christianity, for instance, and you look at its collaborations from its beginnings in New Testament times, its theological use of those materials, its elaboration of those experiences in its theology and mythology, if you will, into the figure of a transcendent Christ – the pan creator – the universal man, the universal figure, that Christ became in the early centuries in the doctrinal formulations and in the imagination, if you will, of the theologians, and the believers, in that image, I think you have an approximation to – and Jung appreciated this and even wrote this – that Christ is an image of the self, that is, the Christ figure, not the limited historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth. He felt that it was limited in its expression. His suggestion was that one could add to that figure, particularly the elements of the feminine and the shadow side, but that it’s a pretty good approximation.

In my own experience, in my own dreams and active imagination, I have to say that at bottom, the Christ figure is about the best approximation to the self that I’ve even experienced personally, so that makes me a Christian even if I am uncomfortable in what I feel to be the very limited Christian expressions available in our time and our culture, that at bottom I would locate myself there as opposed to being a Hindu with an experience of Ganesh, or a Buddhist with such an experience of Buddha. I do believe those traditions experience the self, or this ultimate unifying factor, in their own ways, but being located in the tradition that I am, for me it is Christ. Now the dialogue that could take place I think between Jungians and Christians would perhaps have to do with methodology, as well as with content, and an examination of the materials that become available through experience as well as through thought. I do think also that Jungian psychology could use a lot of help in the philosophical area, in the metaphysical area, in building out the theory of the archetype. I say archetype as singular because I think Jung really felt there was one archetype, the self, and that all the other archetypes or archetypal images were derivative from it, but ultimately he was a monist. There was a unified single field that he called the self. It is very complex, it is a unio compositorum, and all that, but the ultimate term is a single term, the self.

So am I optimistic that a serious dialogue between Christians and Jungians will take place? I’d say no, I’m not, and I’ll tell you why. Among Jungians that I know, and I know a lot of them, I’ve been in this field for 20 odd years and I’ve visited all parts of the world where there are Jungians – almost all, not quite all – I know a lot of them – there is a group of perhaps if we gathered them all together 50 Jungian analysts in the world with a pretty good background – theology and Christian studies and interests, and a detailed knowledge of Jungian psychology sufficient to be Jungian analysts, at least. Of those 50 there might be 10 who are really good thinkers OK, and could carry on a serious dialogue, and then of those 10 there might be 2 who really would do it, OK, who, A, would have the time to do it seriously because they are mostly practitioners, and would have the motivation to do it. So there aren’t very many in the Jungian camp when you get right down to that level of seriousness and ability. In those 50 there are a lot of them who write about psychology and religion from time to time, who give clinical examples of the spiritual dimensions of their patients, and in their practice, you get a lot of material coming up, but at the level of dialogue we are talking about, I’d say there are very few with the interest and the ability and the motivation to do it.

On the other side, I don’t know who they would be, either. Maybe yourself. Maybe you have found somebody else out there who would come from the Christian side with sufficient Jungian interest and knowledge to have a good conversation, and a sophisticated dialogue. So I’m not optimistic that very much will come out of it. On the other hand, I think if you look back at all the materials that have been written and published in the last 20 or 30 years on the subject, there is a huge mountain of it, and I imagine that will continue for some time to come, and maybe in that sort of hit or miss fashion, not as a "let’s sit down and really work on this systematically" kind of dialogue, but on a more ad hoc, catch as catch can, in that form the dialogue is engaged and will continue. Maybe somebody, one person, will bring these two things together in his own mind and really be a Thomas Aquinas and be able to put it together and take it a step further. I think that would be an extraordinary individual to do that because there are two such vast areas. I think it would have to be a person who is more or less academically engaged, and paid by some organization to do that kind of systematic thinking because it is very intense. It takes a lot of time, and you can’t be doing a lot of other things while you are doing that. But I don’t think it will be done in conferences or seminars or two or three scholars gathering. So I guess my short answer is I am not very optimistic. On the other hand, I would hold out some hope that in the long run something come out of it, and there might be a miraculous appearance of somebody who will arise and write the definitive volume on this. It seemed like there were such people around a few years ago. I had some faith in Durand and Heisig, but they seemed to have fallen by the wayside from the Christian side, and from the Jungian side I don’t see anybody who is up to the task.

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