Abstract Carl Gustav Jung has influenced many facets of modern psychology and counseling with his unique spiritual approach to personality theory. Herein lies a biographical address of Jung’s life, a comprehensive overview of the principle tenets of his personality theories, and a Christian evaluation of his work. Specific attention is given to comparing and contrasting Jung’s theory of a collective unconscious with a Christian’s understanding of the spiritual world.
In addition, a guide is provided to Christians looking to mine Jung’s work for techniques that might help their clients, while at the same time avoiding others that cannot coincide with orthodox Christian beliefs. EVALUATING JUNG FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE Evaluating Jung From A Christian Perspective Carl Jung lived a very interesting life, and has provided the fields of psychology and counseling with valuable perspective and insight. A modern Christian psychologist or counselor would do well to mine Jung’s theories for useful application today.
The difficulty is found in moving past Jung’s cloud of mysticism and properly applying orthodox Christian beliefs to Jung’s work. The Life Story of Jung Boyhood Carl Gustav Jung was born in 1875 in Kessnil, Switzerland (Jung, 1989). It is quite telling that very early in Jung’s autobiography he describes how he came to his understanding of Jesus as a boy. Jung (1989) described how the natural dangers around his home led to untimely deaths, how his father presided over these funerals, and how Jung lost trust in Jesus because Jesus allowed or caused these people to die.
He admits, “In later years and until my confirmation, I made every effort to force myself to take the required positive attitude to Christ. But I could never succeed in overcoming my secret distrust” (Jung, 1989, pp. 13-14). Jung wrote his autobiography while he was in his eighties and only a few years before he died. Either Jung was a little boy particularly sensitive to his faith, or as an old man he superimposed some of his mature hostility to Christianity onto his memories of early life. Either way, it seems Jung would admit that he was never a Christian.
Another strange phenomenon in Jung’s early life was a strange experience he described as occurring while he was around eight or nine years old and playing on a favorite rock he had: Often, when I was along, I saw down on this stone, and then began an imaginary game that went something like this: “I am sitting on top of this stone and it is underneath. ” But the stone also could say “I” and think: “I am lying here on this slope and he is sitting on top of me. ” The question then arose: “Am I the one who is sitting on the stone, or am I the stone on which he is sitting?
” (Jung, 1989, p. 20) It is possible to dismiss this event as a child’s whimsy and miss the significant dissociative quality that affected Jung. As if Jung anticipated this, he follows this memory with another even more emphatic. He carved a two-inch long manikin out of his school ruler, dressed it, made a stone for it, and secretly hid it in his attic (Jung, 1989). His thoughts show how divided and anxious his personality had become. “No one could discover my secret and destroy it. I felt safe, and the tormenting sense of being at odds with myself was gone” (Jung, 1989, p.21).
This introspective dialogue confirms Jung struggled with a personality disorder himself. Young Adulthood and Parents Not surprisingly, these two themes of distrust toward Christianity and an increasingly manifest disorder continued into Jung’s formative years. “As a school boy, Jung began to experience himself and be convinced that he was both the child he objectively seemed to be and also an authoritative wise old man who had lived in the eighteenth century” (Sollod, Wilson, & Monte, 2009, p. 157). According to Sollod et al.
(2009) while trying to understand himself, Jung also struggled with understanding his parents and his home life. Jung’s father was a pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church who struggled with his own faith, and his mother seemed to possess two personalities. Sometimes she was a sweet mother and wife, and at other times she was a “witch, prophetess, and seeress who communicated with spirits” (Sollod et al. , 2009, p. 157). The two themes most obvious in young Jung are the same two themes that dominated the lives of his parents. EVALUATING JUNG FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE Adulthood.
Later, Jung (1989) proved to be a good student and was considering a career as a medical man when he was strongly influenced by paranormal events in his house. Curious, he began to attend seances with his family and included these events in his doctoral thesis. After finishing that, Jung (1989) says, “On December 10, 1900, I took up my post as assistant at Burgholzi Mental Hospital, Zurich” (p. 111). It was there Jung became interested in the mentally ill and Freud’s work. Freud and Jung became close, and Jung learned much from Freud. However, a bitterness developed between them and they began to break apart.
Sollod et al. explains: By 1913, the break with Freud and the Freudians had become permanent. As we have seen, this period also signaled Jung’s development of the most distinctive aspects of his own theorizing and his own personal voyage into the depths of what he termed the “collective unconscious. ” (2009, p. 159) From this association and then public break with Freud, Jung and his ideas began to gain in popularity. He began to develop many independent theories in addition to the collective unconscious, but the basis of his personality theories remain rooted in Freudian thought.
Still, most of Jung’s theories were inspired from his own personal, spiritual experiences (Boa, 2004, p. 97). Jung’s Theories The Collective Unconscious It is good to begin discussing Jung’s theories in relation to his break with Freud. We can draw from our understanding of Freud the concepts of psycho-sexual unconscious drives, repression, and the id, ego, and superego to gain an understanding of where Jung began. Jung looked deeper into the concept of the unconscious and found a collective element there: If we analyze the persona we remove the mask and discover that what appeared to be an individual is at bottom collective.
We thus trace “the Little God of the World” back to his origin, that is, to a personification of the collective psyche. Finally, to our astonishment, we realize that the persona was only the mask of the collective psyche. Whether we follow Freud and reduce the primary impulse to sexuality, or Adler and reduce it to the elementary desire for power, or reduce it to the general principle of the collective psyche which contains the principles of both Freud and Adler, we arrive at the same result: namely, the dissolution of the personal into the collective. (Jung, 2008, p.38)
Jung believed this collective unconscious was a natural result of the evolutionary process in humans, and therefore “is morally and aesthetically neutral and should not be regarded as an enemy to be avoided” (Boa, 2004, p. 97). Christian Response To The Collective Unconscious Jung’s collective unconscious might excite the Christian who is thinking of the biblical descriptions of angels, demons, heaven, hell, and the entire spiritual world. Is Jung tapping into a part of all of us that comprehends these spiritual things? Both the Christian’s understanding of the spiritual world and Jung’s collective unconscious are unseen.
And both views believe all humanity participates or will participate in their unseen world. However, Jung’s view is specifically amoral, whereas Scripture describes God’s revealed morality for humans in the material world and angels and demons in the spirit world (2 Pet 2:410 NASB). For the collective unconscious to encompass all the Christian understands about the spiritual world, it would have to be under God’s authority and therefore moral. A Christian understands God as eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, and thus God would have sovereignty over the collective unconscious if it did exist.
In addition, a Christian’s understanding of the spirit world is that it exists as a real space even though it cannot be seen. A Christian believes this spirit world cannot be entered by a human voluntarily. These two beliefs are antithetical to Jung’s understanding of the collective unconscious. Not only does Jung claim to have voluntarily entered the collective unconscious, but much of his later work is based on his return from this place including a mysterious little red book.
His writings in that red book were very different from most of his professional work: Instead, the book was a kind of phantasmagoric morality play, driven by Jung’s own wish not just to chart a course out of the mangrove swamp of his inner world but also to take some of its riches with him. It was this last part – the idea that a person might move beneficially between the poles of the rational and irrational, the light and the dark, the conscious and the unconscious – that provided the germ for his later work and for what analytical psychology would become. (Corbett, 2009, ¶ 16).
The orthodox Christian is forced to conclude that Jung’s theory of a collective unconscious has no bearing on the reality of the spiritual world. Archetypes Jung, however, believed in the reality of the collective unconscious and devoted much of his life to its experience and study. From this work came his understanding of archetypes. He defined archetypes loosely as primal images and experiences shared in humanity’s unconscious world (Sollod et al. , 2009, pp. 161-162). These archetypes include names such as the Mother, the Trickster, the Shadow, the Hero, the Anima, and the Animus.
Freud believed archetypes on the unconscious side and instincts on the conscious side combined to drive a human (Boa, 2004, p. 159). Or, put another way, Daryl Sharp (2001) explains an archetype is “… a universal tendency to form certain ideas and images and to behave in certain ways. Instincts are the physiological counterparts of archetypes” (p. 14). The general and inclusive nature of the collective unconscious and archetypes made Jung popular among secular and religious spiritualists. Here was a theory they could united behind and put its tenets to work in a practical psychology.
Christian Response To The Archetypes Jung easily used the idea of archetypes to interact with Christianity. All of the major historical figures and many icons associated with Christianity can all be explained through archetypes. However at its core Jung’s creation of archetypes is not compatible with Christianity as Boa (2004) explains: Disagreement exists among theologians as to whether Jung’s system repudiates or is compatible with Christianity, some arguing that it undermines biblical authority, and others claiming that it illuminates and enhances the Christian message.
However, the psychological interpretation of Christianity in works like Symbols of Transformation and Answer to Job denounces the scriptural portrait of Yahweh and Christ and rejects traditional Christianity as inadequate for modern culture. (p. 101) The orthodox Christian must not reduce God to the status of one archetype among many, and is encouraged to view the historical figures mentioned in the Bible as literal. One may also study Jung further to read of his aversion to orthodox Christianity more clearly. Word Association Test.
Whereas Freud relied on hypnosis and forcing a subject to concentrate to draw out unconscious tangles in a person, Jung developed a word association test. Jung would provide the subject with a card with a stimulus word written on it, would ask the subject to respond to the word, and would record reaction times. This method was very successful in identifying unconscious problems. Jung would later improve on this technique to measure more physical responses from the subject (Sollod et al. , 2009, p. 148). Christian Response To The Word Association Test.
Jung’s word association test would be improved on and expanded to the many different versions of psychological tests we see today. This method, and methods like it, are useful in determining where a client might need to focus or might be hurting and not realize it. This test would be particularly useful with children or with clients who are unaware of the nature of their psychological baggage. Unlike the incompatable differences associated with the collective unconscious and archetypes theories, the word association test is a useful tool that any Christian should consider. The Introvert and the Extrovert.
Jung also developed a model for understanding personality types by observing the differences between Freud and Adler. Jung believed there was a continuum between introversion and extroversion and that everyone fell on a different place on that continuum. Jung also broke those two general types into more specific types, and used this model to fit personalities into categories (Sollod et al. , 2009, pp. 166-171). Later Hans Eysenck, influenced by behaviorist and cognitive schools of thought regarding personality theory, expanded on Jung’s ideas of introversion and extroversion.
He performed tests that partially confirmed the basis of Jung’s descriptions, and then described how the ideas Jung postulated had been around since the times of ancient Greece. Nevertheless, Eysenck’s evaluation and expansion of Jung’s work has led to an understanding of personality types that is useful today Sollod et al. , 2009, pp. 501-506). In addition, “Web sites based on the dimensions Jung outlined have proliferated, and one can find a number of well-researched tests of Jungian types.
Foremost among these are the Myers-Briggs test and the Kiersey temperament survey” (Sollod et al. , 2009, p. 170). Christian Response To The Introvert and Extrovert Types Similar to the word association test, Jung’s formulation and the subsequent development of personalty type theories based on introversion and extroversion are helpful diagnostic tools. While observing the view that a human does not completely fit into a single personality type, and humans’ personalities change, these tools should be utilized in a modern psychology or counseling setting in addition to usual methods.
A Christian can counsel another Christian with scripture in truth and love while better understanding that client in terms of their general personality bent. Summary There is no doubt that Carl Gustav Jung lived a troubled life and regularly interacted with the occult. Were he alive today, it’s likely the fields of psychology and counseling would treat him more as a patient than a contributor. Nevertheless, his ideas and views help shape each of those fields and influenced many others who also helped shape those fields.
A Christian would do well to mine Jung’s life and work through a filer of orthodox belief. Even though Jung was a nonbeliever, a troubled man, and was hostile to orthodox Christianity, his unique insights are still useful in doing God’s will in today’s world. After studying Jung, a counselor is better equipped to help people. References Boa, K. (2004). Augustine to Freud: What theologians & psychologists tell us about human nature and why it matters. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. Corbett, S. (2009, September 16). The Holy Grail of the Unconscious.
The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www. nytimes. com Jung, C. (2008). The Conception of the Unconscious. In M. W. Schustack & H. S. Friedman (Eds. ), The Personality Reader, (2nd ed. , pp. 36-40). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Jung, C. (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books. Sharp, D. (2001). Digesting Jung: Food for the journey. Toronto, ON: Inner City Books. Sollod, R. N. , Wilson J. P. , & Monte C. F. (2009). Beneath The Mask? : An introduction to theories of personality (8th ed. ). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.