Jung, Christianity, and the
Evolution of the Western God-Image
According to C. G. Jung, symbols emerging from the dreams and fantasies of his patients indicated that the Western God-image – the imago dei – was evolving in a way that contemporary Christian institutions could no longer contain and mediate. Jung felt that, if Western culture is to survive, we must engage these emerging symbols so that they may once again help us to mediate the dynamic, instinctual energies of the psyche in life-affirming ways. If we fail to do this, we run the risk of becoming possessed and driven by these unconscious instincts in chaotic and destructive ways.
Often, people fail to recognize the effect of the human psyche on culture. One reason for this is the difficulty of fully grasping the scope of Jung’s vision, which must include an appreciation of the role of mythology in his work, and of the function of mythology in human culture. According to Jung, mythology provides healing and balancing energies from the deep unconscious psyche. It provides access to these energies both for individuals, and for culture at large through its mediating function. For Jung, all religions are essentially mythological systems, and the over-riding mythological system that has dominated Western culture for centuries is the Christian myth.
Without these essential insights, it is impossible to understand Jung’s constant preoccupation with the artifacts of Christianity, especially during the last twenty years of his life. For Jung, Christianity was and is a mythological system which had long since ceased to provide its adherents access to the healing and balancing energies of the deep psyche. He saw this in the clients who populated his consulting room on a daily basis. Day after day, he saw people who were psychologically adrift, people who were alienated from, and had no connection to, their own instinctual energies.
With these concerns in mind, Jung initiated a detailed social history of Christianity in the same way he might embark on a study of an individual client’s social history when they began consulting with him. He paid particular attention to those Western cultural artifacts which had been explicitly repressed by Christian institutions, including but not limited to Gnosticism, astrology, alchemy, magic, and essentially all ‘pagan’ mythologies. Beginning with studies of Gnosticism, and culminating in his remarkable small book ‘Answer to Job’, Jung documents what he came to understand as the emergence of an evolving imago dei – a new Western God-Image, something Joseph Campbell referred to as a new myth.
Join us on Saturday, October 10th for a free introductory class on Jung’s study of Christianity and how it informed his understanding of the emerging and evolving Western God-Image. Our journey will take us through a close examination of his basic psychotherapeutic methods, how he applied these methods to his study of Christian institutions, and how they informed his understanding of the healing symbols of astrology, alchemy, and a variety of Western mythologies.
This free class will also serve as an introduction to our upcoming eight-week, college-level course on Jung, Christianity, and the evolving Western God-Image, beginning on Saturday, October 17th.