Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why the Church Needs Jung: The Problem of Opposites

To begin, some quotes:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding, V

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

"The way upward and the way downward are the same."
Heraclitus, Fragment 60

At the self-same moment, you died and you were born; and that water of salvation was both your grave and your mother.
Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystical Catechesis

The Rev. Robert Haden, Episcopal priest and founder of the Haden Institute which offers conferences on Christianity from a Jungian perspective, addresses this very separation, “Carl Jung expressed a Deep and abiding fear. His deep and abiding fear was that the Church was losing the experience of the Divine. If the Church lost the experience of the Divine, the Church would go down the drain, And if the Church went down the drain, Western Civilization would go down the drain with it.”

Few people in the West have explored human and divine more deeply and extensively than Carl Jung. For this reason, I call Jung, not a psychologist, but a theologian. His work bridges so many gaps between the physical sciences and the humanities, that it is a kind of unified field theory of the soul. Following Jesus’ own teaching in Jerusalem that “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” Jung explored many forgotten and rejected corners of the West’s intellectual and experiential history, Gnosticism and alchemy being his most obvious and famous examples. Gnosticism and alchemy are important, because the rejection of both resulted in orthodoxies, the first, the religious orthodoxy which hardened into Inquisition and witch burning in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, the second, the scientific orthodoxy which sought to brand much spiritual experience as psychiatric deviance. In both Gnosticism and alchemy, the tensions between the material and the spiritual world were explored. If the Gnostics denied physical reality, today’s scientism rejects spiritual reality.

My truth may be different than your truth, but my truth cannot exclude your truth. By shining the light of history and science upon the exploration of individual truth, Jung shows us a way to live this paradox.

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