Shuck and Jive

Monday, September 10, 2007

Religion and the Psyche

I have been reading Carl Jung's, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. In the chapter entitled, "The Modern Spiritual Problem" he writes:

There has never, of course, been a time when the psyche did not manifest itself, but formerly it attracted no attention--no one noticed it. People got along without heeding it. But today we can no longer get along unless we give our best attention to the ways of the psyche.

It was men of the medical profession who were the first to notice this; for the priest is concerned only to establish an undisturbed functioning of the psyche within a recognized system of belief. As long as this system gives true expression to life, psychology can be nothing but a technical adjuvant to healthy living, and the psyche cannot be regarded as a problem in itself. While man still lives as a herd-being he has no "things of the spirit" of his own; nor does he need any, save the usual belief in the immortality of the soul. But as soon as he has outgrown whatever local form of religion he was born to--as soon as this religion can no longer embrace his life in all its fulness--then the psyche becomes something in its own right which cannot be dealt with by the measures of the Church alone. It is for this reason that we of today have a psychology founded on experience, and not upon articles of faith or the postulates of any philosophical system. The very fact that we have such a psychology is to me symptomatic of a profound convulsion of spiritual life. (pp. 202-2)

I have found a similar thing within my ministry and within myself. The theological systems, unless radically reinterpreted in such a way that they are able to express experience, do not seem to work for many people. At the same time, rationalism is ineffective in addressing the power of the psyche and particularly the unconscious. I wonder if the Church will be able to be effective in helping people to address their spiritual problems without first letting go of the need to first explain the psyche in an external metaphysical system.

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