Carl Gustav Jung: Enemy of the Church

by Dr Pravin Thevathasan

The danger to the Church represented by Jungian thinking

JUNG’S theories have penetrated more deeply inside the Catholic Church than those of any other therapist. There is an apparent mystical aura which surrounds his name as compared to the overt atheism of Freud or humanism of Carl Rogers. His friend, the Dominican father Victor White, wrote that assessing a person’s dream sequence seemed like an interior religious pilgrimage.

Jungian analysis superficially appears to resemble religious retreats, and religious retreats are often no more than exercises in Jungian therapy. Indeed, the Myers-Biggs Type Indicator – a Jungian based technique that helps one choose the type of prayer that fits one’s personality – has been all the rage in retreat centres. Hawkstone Hall – a Catholic pastoral centre – offers “imaginative work inspired by CG Jung”. It is one of many.

Jung repeatedly stated that he was writing his own personal myth which cast him in a prophetic rather than a merely psychological role. His own brand of psychology thus becomes dogma and every aspect of religious belief is interpreted in its light. The following sections are intended to summarize his findings with regard to religion.


Jung claimed that he was interested in religion from a psychological perspective. Psychology “opens peoples’ eyes to the real meaning of dogmas”. For Jung religious experiences and ideas are found in the human psyche and not in the supernatural. He developed a particular interest in gnosticism and claimed that the Gnostics were great psychologists – the highest compliment possible.

From 1920 onwards he became fascinated by the I Ching, the Chinese oracle book. While practising it he claimed that all sorts of remarkable phenomena occurred. He explained the “ghosts” he saw during seances as “exteriorizations” of archetypal images within his mind, originating in the collective unconscious of the human race. At the core of Jungian therapy lies the occult.

He had an obsession with alchemy, the maternal darkness that compensates for Christianity’s paternal light. To become whole, we need light and darkness made one.

Jung claimed to have identified Three Stages of religious evolution. The first stage was the archaic age of Shamans. This was followed by the ancient civilization of prophets and priests. Then came the Christian heritage of mystics. At every stage of religious history all human beings share the inner divinity, the “numinous”. Within the psyche, the divine and the self merge.

It can be seen that for Jung, the archetypes of the collective unconscious are the true sources of the supernatural. He had absolutely no interest in objective truth. What matters for the individual is to create his own personal “myth” in order to gain wholeness. His own psychology developed from contact with his spirit-guide who he named Philemon.

In 1916, Jung’s house felt haunted, his daughters had seen ghosts and he saw a crowd of spirits bursting into the house. As the ghosts disappeared he went into a three day state of automatic writing, leading to the production of his work “The Seven Sermons”. He was already far beyond the realms of psychology.


For Jung the doctrine of the Trinity is replete with psychological meaning. The Father symbolizes the psyche in its original undifferentiated wholeness. The Son represents the human psyche and the Holy spirit the state of self-critical submission to a higher reality.

Not surprisingly Jung found similar Trinitarian ideas in the Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek mystical traditions. However, he believed in a quaternity, the fourth person being the principle of evil: without the opposition of Satan, who is one of God’s sons, the Trinity would have remained a unity. In Jungian terms, without the opposition of the shadow (the “fourth” person) there would be no psychic development and no actualisation of the self.

Jung perceived the dogma of the Assumption as the Church’s attempt to create a quaternity without shadow, without evil, for the devil had been excluded. The Gnostic Jung, however, believed that the principle of evil had in fact been introduced into the Trinity by the material presence of the Mother of God. From a Gnostic perspective, Mary becomes a diabolical presence, the maternal darkness, within the Trinity.

In his essay on Job, Jung contends that Yahweh desired the love of mankind but behaved like a thoughtless, irritable tyrant who is indifferent to human misery. Like Adam, who is mythically married to both Lilith, daughter of Satan, and to Eve, so is Yahweh married to Israel and to Sophia, who compensates for Yahweh’s behaviour by showing human beings the Mercy of God. Her appearance in the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel leads to a fundamental change: God transforms Himself by becoming man. Yahweh has wronged the creatures who have outdone Him and only by becoming man can he atone for His injustice.


Maintaining a tradition put forward by Gnostics, Jung believed that Christ is the symbolic representation of the most central archetype, the self. He may be compared to other Mythic Gods who die young and are born again.

The sublime goodness of Christ means that from a psychological perspective, He lacks archetypal wholeness. Missing is the dark side of the psyche, the element of evil. Christ receives wholeness in the person of the Antichrist. The Incarnation leads to the Apocalypse and the unleashing of evil by an inexorable psychological law.

Christ’s death and Resurrection are full of psychic meaning, representing the human drama of following the hard road of individualism, allowing the ego to be put to death in order that the self – the Son of God – may become incarnate within.


In his essay on the Roman Mass, Jung wrote that the liturgy arose from the psychic process underlying other ancient pagan rituals. Transubstantiation occurs symbolically in the bread and wine but more authentically in the participant who is transformed, exalted and self-enhanced.

The Mass is the outcome of a process that began in ancient times with gifted Shamans whose isolated experiences gradually became universalized with the progressive development of consciousness

The Church teaches that Christ died in order to save us. For Jung, this is a misleading rationalisation for an otherwise inexplicable cruelty: the angry Yahweh of the Old Testament is full of guilt and in need of atonement. Jesus dies on Calvary to expiate the sins of God the Father.

The masculine wine and feminine bread represents the androgynous nature of Christ, signifying the union of opposites within Him. What is sacrificed is nature, Man and God, all combined in the symbolic gift.

In Jungian terms, the heart of the Mass lies in the rich, emotional experiences encountered by the participants. A man-centered liturgy enables the mystery of the Eucharist to transform the soul of empirical man into his totality.


It should come as no surprise to learn that Matthew Fox sees Jung along with Teilhard de Chardin and a select few others as founders of the New Age Movement. Barbara Hannah of the CG Jung institute writes that visualization is considered the most powerful tool in Jungian psychology for achieving direct contact with the unconscious.

Father John Dourley, a professor of religious studies and a Jungian therapist has written that a religious myth should not be reduced to historical fact and that the Christian mysteries belong to the human psyche. Upholding Dourley’s view that the Resurrection should be seen in Jungian symbolic terms is the Episcopalian minister, Wallace Clift, who sees a new age of consciousness brought about by a reinterpretation of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

The Episcopalian theologians John Sanford and Morton Kelsey – both Jungian therapists – see religious practice as a healing inner-journey towards wholeness and meaning and dreams should be seen as sources of religious insight. Kelsey writes that witchcraft, sorcery and other forms of Shamanism are not evil in themselves but can be used for good. Clairvoyance, telepathy and other forms of ESP are manifestations of the power of God. In typical Jungian fashion, he concludes that spiritual reality is ultimately a construct of the human unconscious.

Logically enough, the Jungian who goes to Confession would wish to accept himself as he is and to integrate the good and evil aspects of his personality. Acceptance replaces absolution”. (ln this context, it is of interest to note the number of priests who have left the priesthood in order to marry and become psychotherapists).

The homosexual who has the courage to “come out”, for example, is welcoming and integrating the darker and opposite-sex side of the personality. There can be no moral condemnation when wholeness is achieved.


Wholeness for Jung means the union of good and evil. As the notion of good and evil are central to Jungian doctrine, he cannot be assessed purely as a psychologist.

Throughout his life, Jung made a number of remarkable predictions which came true. A famous example occurred on 4.4.44 when he predicted the death of the doctor who was treating him. This followed a dream that he had of the doctor’s “primal form”. On the day of the prediction, the doctor took to his bed and did not leave it again. One wonders whether Jung’s interest in the paranormal and his participation in seances had paid off in unexpected ways.

In sum the teachings of Jung are wholly at variance with the Church. There is little scope for dialogue and none for a Christian-Jungian synthesis.


1. David Wulff: Psychology of Religion (John Wiley and Sons).
2. David Hunt: The Seduction of Christianity (Harvest House Publications).
3. CG Jung: Collected Works (Princeton University Press).
4, Victor White: God and the Unconscious (Harvill Press).

This article first appeared in the December 1998 edition of Christian Order.

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