This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 21, number 3 (1999). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
The theories of C.G. Jung are profoundly opposed to Christianity. More sorcerer than true psychologist, Jung proposed a “Quaternity,” with Satan as one of the four Persons of the Godhead. He held not that good should overcome evil, but that it should reconcile with evil. Fascinated by occultism, he used channeling as a path to insight and healing. Two obstacles to exposing his danger are that his writings were composed in a misleading style and that his teachings twisted truth rather than merely ignoring it. Informed Christians, however, can surmount both of these obstacles.
In recent years the psychology of a breakaway disciple of Sigmund Freud, named Carl Gustav Jung, has gained significant influence not only in the New Age movement and poplar culture but also in some Christian circles.1 Yet Jungian psychology is profoundly antithetical to the claims and practice of the Christian faith.
Jung is best understood as he understood himself — not as an ordinary psychologist, but as a psychological sorcerer. His occult beliefs concerned a supposed unity of good and evil in the human psyche and in God. His occult practices included alchemy, casting omens, and what New Age people call “channeling” (mediumship). In this article I describe and document these beliefs and practices, call attention to Jungian influence on Christian teaching and popular culture, and explain how informed Christians might respond.
DESCRIPTION OF JUNG’S OCCULT BELIEFS
What is evil? According to the classical privatio boni theory, traditionally held by Christians, evil has only a parasitic or derivative existence. Just as a shadow is not a form of radiation opposite to light but rather is the absence of light, so evil is not a “substance” opposite to good but is only a distortion of, or deficiency in, good. Satan himself is not an “evil God” but a created being. He has reality only insofar as God permits him to retain the God-given goods of intelligence and power. He is on God’s leash.
Jung falsely things this privatio boni theory trivializes evil Rejecting it leaves him with only two alternatives: (1) dualism, the theory that good and evil are two equal and opposite substances created by equal and opposite gods; (2) pantheism, the theory that God includes and embraces both good and evil, or is somehow beyond them. On this view, the opposition between good and evil is a human illusion, deeply felt but without any reflection in reality.2
Since he rejects dualism, Jung must embrace pantheism. He believes God includes and embraces both good and evil. Pantheism in turn leads him to criticize the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, God as three Persons in one substance — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Instead, he proposes a “Quaternity,” four Persons in one substance — Father, Son, Spirit, and Devil. He arrives at this conclusion through another route by dropping the distinction between the Creator and His creation. Rather than holding that all things are made by God who is distinct from them, Jung holds that they are all “splinters” of God.3 Given this premise, if there is both good and evil in the world, then there is both good and evil in God.
Not only do these theories put Jung far outside Christian teaching about God,4 but they also have grave consequences for his thinking about the soul. Christians see the restoration of human wholeness as requiring the victory of good over the evil within us through Christ. Jung sees it as a requiring the reconciliation of good with the evil within us through occult psychology.
To be sure, Jung does not think that the opposition between good and evil can be completely abolished. “Life…needs the opposites,” he says, “for without opposition there is…no energy.” But he does think that the opposition can be moderated. Indeed, “integration cannot take place and be put to a useful purpose unless one can admit the tendencies bound up with the shadow and allow them some measure of realization — tempered, of course, with the necessary criticism.” He says, “This leads to disobedience and self-disgust, but also to self-reliance, without which individuation is unthinkable.”5
The preceding term, “shadow” refers both to what is repressed and what is evil in the human personality. Not recognizing this double meaning, many assume that what Jung speaks of drawing strength from the “dark” or “shadow” side of the self, he merely means recognizing what is unconscious. Actually, he also means accepting the evil as the partner of good. This shocking second meaning — clear in his writing for insiders,6 blurred in his writing for general readers7 — is crucial to his thought.
Once we recognize the importance to Jung of “integrating” evil with good, we can also see the true significance of the way he lived. He was a grossly immoral man. Jung had sexual relations with a number of his psychological patients and induced his wife to accept his mistress within the very walls of the family home.8 He would say such behavior was necessary to “admit the tendencies bound up with the shadow” and thereby achieve his goals of “self-reliance” and “individuation.”
DESCRIPTION OF JUNG’S OCCULT PRACTICES
Jung’s occult practices were central to his theory. In one of his books he said that “we can no longer practice any psychology that ignores the existence of…parapsychology.”9 In a similar vein, he said in Memories, Dreams, Reflections that his “dreams and visions” form “the prima materia of [his] scientific work.”10 In most of these “dreams and visions” Jung was really channeling; thy were visual, auditory, and tactile experiences in which he communicated with entities whom he accepted as guides.
Did he regard these entities as spirit being or as mere projections of his unconscious mind? For Jung himself, the question was probably irrelevant because of his belief in synchronicity — a supposed correspondence between interior or mental things and events, and exterior or physical things or events. In his view this correspondence goes so far that the world has no reality apart from the mind that experiences it.11 Therefore, he dismissed the question whether his “personal myth” is “true.”12 It ends up making no difference whether his gurus or guides were real spirits or just fantasies. At times he says they were mere projections of is unconscious mind, while at other times he attributes to them minds and wills of their own. When he describes the way they affect him, he uses adjectives like “demonic” and “diabolical.”
DOCUMENTATION OF JUNG’S OCCULT BELIEFS
Jung’s frankest confession of his occult beliefs is in Psychology and Religion: West and East. Typical is the following passage from Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
In our diagram, Christ and the devil appear as equal and opposite, thus conforming to the idea of the “adversary.” This opposition means conflict to the last, and it is the task of humanity to endure this conflict until the time or turning-point is reached where good and evil begin to relativize themselves, to doubt themselves, and the cry is raised for a morality “beyond good and evil,” In the age of Christian and in the domain of trinitarian thinking such an idea is simply out of the question, because the conflict is too violent for evil to be assigned any other logical relation to the Trinity than that of an absolute opposite. In an emotional opposition, i.e., in a conflict situation, thesis and antithesis cannot be viewed together at the same time. This only becomes possible with cooler assessment of the relative value of good and the relative non-value of evil. Then it can no longer be doubted, either, that a common life unites not only the Father and the “light” son, but the Father and his dark emanation. The unspeakable conflict posited by duality resolves itself in a fourth principle, which restores the unity of the first in its full development. The rhythm is built up in three steps, but the resultant symbol is a quaternity…. Looked at from a quaternity standpoint, the Holy Ghost is a reconciliation of opposites and hence the answer to the suffering in the Godhead, which Christ personifies.13
We see that where Christianity teaches that God is good, Jung teaches that God is beyond good and evil. Where Christianity teaches that the differences between good and evil is absolute, he teaches that it is relative. And where Christianity teaches that Satan is a rebellious and fallen angel, conquered by Christ on the cross, Jung teaches that he is part of God, joined with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
DOCUMENTATION OF JUNG’S OCCULT PRACTICES
The most straightforward confession of Jung’s practice of channeling is the sixth chapter of Memories, Dreams, Reflections.14 One might quote many passages — the accounts of his experience in an underworld, of his encounter with a horde of spirits for whom he wrote, “Seven Sermons to the Dead,” and of a dream of his son, which might be interpreted as a prophecy of his own relationship with the church. For the sake of brevity, I will offer only the following musings as representative of Jung’s thought:15
Soon after this fantasy [here Jung refers to visions of entities called “Elijah,” “Salome,” and “a black snake”] another figure rose out of the unconscious. He developed out of the Elijah figure. I called him Philemon. Philemon was a pagan and brought with him an Egypto-Hellenistic atmosphere with a Gnostic coloration…
Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, “If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them.” It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche….
Psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight. He was a mysterious figure to me. At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru.
…I could have wished for nothing better than a real, live guru, someone possessing superior knowledge and ability, who would have disentangled for me the involuntary creations of m imagination. This tasks was undertaken by the figure of Philemon, whom in this respect I had willy-nilly to recognize as my psychagogue. And the fact was that he conveyed to he many an illuminating idea.
Jung goes on to describe a conversation with an elderly Indian 15 years later:
We talked about Indian education — in particular, about the relationship between guru and chela. I hesitantly asked him whether he could tell me anything about the person and character of his own guru, whereupon he replied in a matter-of-fact tone, “Oh yes, he was Shankaracharay.”
“You don’t mean the commentator of the Vedas who died two centuries ago?” I asked him.
“Yes, I mean him,” he said, to my amazement.
“Then you are referring to a spirit?” I asked.
“Of course it was his spirit,” he agreed.
At that moment I thought of Philemon.
“There are ghostly gurus too,” he added. “Most people have living gurus. But there are always some who have a spirit for a teacher.”
Jung Concludes: “This information was both illuminating and reassuring to me. Evidently, then, I had not plummeted right out of the human world, but had only experienced the sort of thing that could happen to others who made similar efforts.”
Although Jung was right to think that what he had experience could happen to others, he was wrong to find the fact reassuring. Holy Scripture warns against all contact with “unclean spirits,” for the Lord is God, and there is no other.
JUNG IN POPULAR CULTURE
Although seldom recognized, ideas like Jung’s are widely diffused throughout popular culture, especially in the products of Hollywood. Notice, for example, the concept of the Godhead that informs the popular Star Wars movies. God in these films becomes an impersonal power pervading the universe. Though presented as deserving religious awe, this power is morally ambiguous, for villains draw their strength from the “dark side” of the same “Force” from which heroes draw theirs. The idea that good and evil are merely different expressions of a single cosmic unity.
At least in the Star Wars movies the good “side” is ultimately presented as stronger. More startling is an episode of the original Star Trek television series in which it is actually presented as weaker.16 A transporter malfunction divides fictional Captain Kirk into two persons, one representing the good half is depicted as rational and altruistic, but also listless, frail, and irresolute; the evil half is depicted as irrational, cowardly, and selfish, but also decisive and resolute. Just why good should be identified with listlessness, frailty, or irresolution is never made clear. In the end of the story, the good side recognizes that in order to be a whole personality it needs evil. Tearfully embracing on the platform of the newly repaired transporter, the two halves of the captain’s divided personality are merged into one. The same motif of accidental division and deliberate reuniting of the good and evil sides of the personality appears in The Dark Crystal, a much-praised children’s film populated with Jim Henson muppets and released to theaters several times during the past 20 years.
Needless to say, few people who watch such movies are even aware of the views of good, evil, God, and the human soul that they are absorbing from them. If they were, they might reject them. If may well be enough for Christians to raise their level of awareness so that this rejection can begin to take place.
CONFRONTING THE ERRORS OF JUNGIANISM
Jungianism is based on damnable lies about the nature of good, evil, God, and the human soul. Yet these lies are being taught in ostensibly Christian seminaries and promoted by ostensibly Christian psychotherapists. I shudder when I spoke to a Christian lady who said that her minister had been teaching her to “gain strength from her dark side.”
How can these dangerous teachings be confronted? Most Christians simply have never heard of Jungianism. They merely need to be informed. To others, Jungianism has to be presented merely as a kind of psychoanalysis, like Freud’s but more open to “spirituality.” They need to be wared that for Jung, “spirituality” means evil spirits. A third group of people has actually read a little of Jung but has been confused by the cagey way he speaks when he is addressing people who are not insiders. For them, Jung must be stripped of his rhetorical disguises. The difficulty is that there is a little truth even in Jung’s lies. Through a little twist, he turns the truth that for the time being God tolerates certain evils into the lie that God is beyond good and evil. Through another twist, he turns the truth that we must reckon with what we repress into the lie that we must achieve a reconciliation with what is evil. To dispel this kind of confusion, we need to identify each truth, but show how he distorts it.
Then there are the wolves in the flock — people who are deeply versed in Jung, grasp fully what his ideas mean, and teach them anyway. Like the Gnostics against whom St. Paul the early church waged spiritual battle, these people don’t need instruction, but rebuke. Christ gave disciplinary authority to the church for a reason. He meant it to be used.
J. Budziszewski, Associate Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of the Christianity Today award-winning book Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (InterVarsity Press, 1997) and The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man (Spence, forth-coming: October 1999).
- For an appreciative New Age account of Jungianism, see Colin Wilson, Lord of the Underworld: Jung in the Twentieth Century (Wellingborough, North Hampshire: Aquarian Press, 1984). For an example Jungian penetration into Christianity, see John A. Sanford, Evil: The shadow Side of Reality (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1982). Sanford is an Episcopalian priest.
- For a clear explanation of why Christians reject dualism and pantheism, see C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 43-56. Scripture, of course, is clear. God is wholly good: Exodus 33:18-19; 234:6; Psalm 106:1; 145:7-9; John 3:16; 1 Peter 1:16; and 1 John 1:5. Though evil is real, God detests it: Psalm 5:4; Amos 5:14; Habakkuk 1:13; Malachi 2:17; James 1:13; and 3 John 1:11. Yet evil cannot defeat God, and instead He defeats it: Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 6:12-13; 1 John 5:4; and Revelation 21:1-4.
- See his autobiography, C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. and trans. Aniella Jaff (New York: Vintage Book, 1965), 4.
- God is one: Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Mark 12:28-30. Yet the one God is not only personal but also tripersonal: Isaiah 6:1-3; Matthew 28:19; John 14-16; 2 Corinthians13:14; Galatians 4:6; and 1 Peter 1:2. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together, as in creation (Col. 1:16), the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16-17), and the Atonement (Eph. 2:18; Heb. 9:14). They also have the same attributes; for example, the Father is everywhere (Jer. 23:24), the Son is everywhere (Matt. 18:20), and the Holy Spirit is everywhere (Ps. 139:7). Both the Old and New Testaments speak of the relationship between the father and the Son (Ps. 2:7; Isa. 9:6; Heb. 1:1-13), between the Father and the Holy Spirit (Exod. 31:3; Luke 11:13; John 15:26), and between the Son and the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; 2 Cor. 3:12-18). Moreover, God is the transcendent Creator; Genesis 1:2, Psalm 100:3; 104; 148; Isaiah 42:5-8; and Revelation 4:11. All that He made is good: 1 Timothy 4:1-5. There is not excuse, however, for confusing Him with His creation: Romans 1:25.
- G. Jung, “A Psychological Approach to the Problem of the Trinity,” Psychology and Religion: West and East, trans. R.F.C. Hull, 2d ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958, 1969), 196, 198.
- See, e.g., Psychology and Religion: West and East.
- See, e.g., C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self, trans. R.F.C. Hull (New York: New American Library, 1958).
- See, among other sources, John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Spielrein (New York: Knopf, 1993).
- The Undiscovered Self,
- Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 4.
- Jung, The Undiscovered Self, 58.
- Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 3.
- Ibid., 174-76
- Ibid., 185-84.
- Irrespective of any possible influence of Jung on his thinking and fiction, it should be noted that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a secular humanist who apparently did not embrace pantheism. Pantheism is incorporated into some of the later Star Trek spin-off stories.