What is the Current State
of the Jungian-Christian Dialogue?

If we compare the Jungian-Christian dialogue to the robust dialogue that can be found between Christians and Buddhists, we can say that the Jungian-Christian dialogue barely seems to exist. It lacks, for the most part, the formal structures of conferences and periodicals, and more importantly, a sense of adventure, and a hope for genuine discoveries.

It is true that many Christians are deeply interested in Jung’s psychology, and it is also true that Christian and Catholic Christian clergy and religious have become Jungian analysts, but neither one of these things, despite their great importance, has managed to create a thriving Jungian-Christian dialogue.

The Catholic Church has a tremendous need for a psychology like Jung’s which it could apply with great benefit to a multitude of pastoral issues, and to the spiritual life, as well. It has no empirical psychology, and has suffered greatly from this lack. It needs the tools by which it can analyze more deeply issues as diverse as psycho-sexual problems among the clergy, how women are treated in the Church, and the psychological lives of those who are proposed for canonization. But even this great need has not been enough to create a full-fledged Jungian-Christian dialogue.

What, then, has been keeping this dialogue from flourishing? There are two major factors. From the Christian side many Christians lack the kind of psychological knowledge that comes from a deep exploration of the unconscious of the kind that is found in Jung’s psychology. Therefore, they are not able to see how important this knowledge could be in the life of the Church. Further, a certain fear of Jungian psychology exists that feels that if Jungian psychology were admitted into the bosom of the Church, it would try to replace religion with psychology.

From the Jungian side, there is a certain Jungian attitude which can be traced to Jung, himself, that tends to look at Christians as belonging to some kind of "pre-Kantian" age in which they still naively believe in a knowledge of things beyond what psychic images can tell them. This tends to cut the ground from under Christian belief and reinforce the fears that Christians already possess about Jungian psychology.

Any dialogue that would have the courage to confront these issues would probably have the energy to succeed.

Now it is your turn to contribute to this discussion. Send us your questions and comments: arraj@innerexplorations.com

A Response

I cannot forbear writing you and asking why anyone would want to integrate (as in make one) the teachings of Christianity and the teachings of Jung? Jung is Jung, now deceased and what he left us are principles of human being and growth that can serve as a vehicle, if you will, to help us to explore our inner self and inner cycles of growth and then we are better able to work to accept our Christian faith with clear eyes and to integrate it into our heats and
actions. But Jung is Jung and Christianity is Christianity. Jung is (was) a psychoanalyst who fearlessly followed the human trail, Christ was and is the Son of God, second person of the Trinity - how can they be made to say exactly the same things? Allowing Jung's insights to assist us, we can know ourselves and our relationship to God better, but they will never be the same, and probably cannot be woven together into a string of beliefs.

Peace, Nijoc@aol.com

Another Response

Dialogue and experience must go hand in hand. In the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta we are advancing both together. A lay-led parish program that began in 1991 at Emmanuel Church in Athens, Georgia, offers an introductory class on the principles of Jungian psychology in a Christian context. The class, offered twice a year, meets one evening a week for twelve weeks and is structured as a study group centered on a textbook, "Natural Spirituality: Recovering the Wisdom Tradition in Christianity," which was written specifically for this purpose. Graduates of the class may join the parish's dream group, which has been meeting weekly, year around, for almost nine years. A Jungian library supports both the introductory class and the dream group. Individuation happens in the dream group. Lives change and religious experience deepens. The program emphasizes self-education in Jungian psychology and an intensified participation in traditional Christian life. It is traditional Christianity that provides the safe container that keeps the inner work on its true path. (See www:emmanuel-athens.org and follow the links: Parish Life/Christian Education/Natural Spirituality).

In this new Jungian-Christian dance, the lead has shifted from the analyst-centered Jungian world to the Christ-centered Christian world. This is producing a much livelier outcome than did the old, going-nowhere dance of which you speak in your opening discussion. With the publication of the textbook, "Natural Spirituality," the natural spirituality paradigm has spread to other churches, both inside and outside our diocese. We are very excited about this in our part of the country. We feel that once we have made Jungian inner work a reality in our churches, the Christian theologians will awaken to it and begin to catch up the Jungian-Christian dialogue to meet the experience of the local congregations who have gone forward as leaders in this area.

I welcome queries about the program and/or the book. Email: jrhpub@mindspring.com; Postal address: JRH Publications, P.O. Box 9425, Danielsville, GA 30633

Now it is your turn to contribute to this discussion. Send us your questions and comments: arraj@innerexplorations.com

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