“Spirituality a Process and a Goal”

WHEN SPIRITUALITY IS INTRINSIC to the psyche from the point of view of Jung and other theorists, for example the physicist John Hitchcock – the realisation of the self, or individuation, becomes paramount and spirituality is both a process and a goal. Spirituality is a distillation and a refinement of spirit-matter. Jung argues that the origins of religious experience are in the human psyche itself.[i]

Heisig argues that Jung did not at any time claim that he could “prove” or “disprove” the existence of a transcendent God and in fact his personal views on a transcendent God are largely a matter for speculation. Those who call him an atheist or a pantheist have some justification and support. “On the whole it seems that he saw God as an ultimately unknowable and uncontrollable power at work within, yet not coextensive with, the collective unconscious in its widest sense”. [ii]

Dourley puts it more strongly: for Jung a conception of God as “wholly other” than humanity is “wholly inconceivable” and “one of the major pathologizing features of the Western religious tradition. For it removes from the fabric of life itself the psychic energies which fund life, “or it projects the source of these energies beyond life into transcendent deities whose ability to lend energy to life is greatly impaired by the projection itself ”.[iii] God can not be seen as discontinuous or wholly transcendent to human consciousness. “Jung’s psychology locates the origins of human historical religions and their symbolic content in the interplay between human consciousness and its unconscious generator and precedent.” [iv]

THIS HAS BEEN ATTACKED as undermining religion. It challenges the foundations of an external creation and redemption found in Judaism and Christianity and so Jung’s dialogue with various representatives of orthodox and transcendentalist positions both Christian and non-Christian was not always happy.[v] For Jung the deepest spiritual insights cannot be defined or proved, only experienced.[vi] The God image, or Imago Dei, comes from within the psyche. It is an archetype.

“The idea of God is an absolutely necessary psychological function of an irrational nature, which has nothing whatever to do with the question of God’s existence. The human intellect can never answer this question, still less give any proof of God. Moreover, such proof is superfluous, for the idea of an all-powerful divine Being is present everywhere, unconsciously if not consciously, because it is an archetype.”[vii]

THE GOD-IMAGE ARCHETYPE displays the struggle of the psyche for self-realisation; [viii] self-realisation is the spiritual goal for both the individual and all of humanity. It is an inner imperative. The realization of the self is more than a neutral therapeutic goal; it is the religious goal of Jung’s psychotherapeutic system. Individuation is both a process and a goal.[ix]

Curtis Smith argues that for Jung

“the ultimate authority in life is not an external one – be it church or state – but an internal one. In this light the realization of the self is more than a pentultimate issue; rather, for Jung it is raised to the level of a religious concern for all of humanity”.[x]

Again, the idea of ‘spirituality’ or ‘the divine’ within, is an ancient one. Jung held a very similar, if not identical, theory to the ancient Gnostics. As John Pennachio points out:

“Gnosis is defined as an intuitive process of knowing oneself. It is a series of secret mysteries and higher teachings maintaining that self-discovery at the deepest level is identical to knowing human destiny and God. Gnosticism took issue with institutionalized Christian dogma about the nature of the divine. For these reasons it was regarded as a Christian heresy and was systematically destroyed by the orthodox church in the early years of Christianity.”[xi]

WHAT THE CHRISTIANS regard as literal, the Gnostics regard as symbolic. Both Jung and the Gnostics held that ultimate knowing or truth only emerges as a result of an inner journey: “As is true for Jung, crucifixion, suffering and resurrection are interpreted as symbolic milestones on the way to spiritual enlightenment.”[xii]

For the Gnostics and Jung the inner journey and search for the centre is a religious quest and a search for the divine. Thus Pennachio concludes that “for Jung and the Gnostics spirituality is an intrinsic property of the psyche”.[xiii]

This view that spirituality is inherent in the psyche, hence God or Gods are archetypes inherent within our psyche, constitutes an enormous challenge to monotheism.[xiv] Both the foundational and factual historicity and the external objectivity of monotheistic patriarchal religion is challenged by the primacy of the view that spirituality is inherent in the psyche.

ULTIMATELY, SPIRITUALITY is sourced in the psyche and is intrinsic to the psyche. The idea of spirituality as within, or ‘intrinsic to the psyche (soul)’ and its archetypes, is both a recent and a very ancient conception, which has always posed a serious challenge to monotheistic religions and theology.

In the second half of the book it will be shown that spirituality manifests in our landscapes phenomenologically via our Gods and archetypes. First, however, what is landscape? It is to an exploration of the ‘landscapes’ of the geographers that we now turn.

[i] C.G. Jung, The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol.12. para.9. See also The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol.11, ‘Psychology and Religion: West and East’.

[ii] James W. Heisig (1979) Imago Dei, 138-9.

[iii] John P. Dourley, ‘The Challenge of Jung’s Psychology for the Study of Religion’, Studies in Religion, v.18, no.3 (1989), 302-3.

[iv] Ibid, 310.

[v] Ibid, 297 & 310. See also Dourley, ‘The Jung, Buber, White Exchanges: Exercises in Futility’, Studies in Religion, vol.20. pt.3.(1991), 299-309; ‘Some Implications of Jung’s Understanding of Mysticism’, Toronto Journal of Theology, vol.6. pt.1, (1990), 15-26.

[vi] Jung states; “Religious experience is absolute, it cannot be disputed. You can only say that you have never had such an experience, whereupon your opponent will reply: ‘Sorry, I have.’ And there your discussion will come to an end.” (C.G. Jung (1953-78). The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul), vol.7, para 167; see also Anthony Stevens (1986) ‘Thoughts on the Psychobiology of Religion and the Neurobiology of Archetypal Experience’, Zygon, v. 21. no.1 (1986), 21.

[vii] Jung, Ibid, para 110; cf Stevens, Ibid, 20.

[viii] James W. Heisig (1979) Imago Dei, 134.

[ix] Curtis D. Smith, ‘Psychological Ultimacy: Jung and the Human Basis of Religious Meaning’, Religious Humanism v.25, no.4( 1991), 174.

[x] Ibid, 178-9.

[xi] John Pennachio, ‘Gnostic Inner Illumination and Carl Jung’s Individuation’, Journal of Religion and Health v.31, no.3, Fall ( 1992), 238.

[xii] Ibid, 239. See also Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Vintage, 1979).

[xiii] Ibid, 245.

[xiv] John P. Dourley (1989) ‘The Challenge of Jung’s Psychology for the Study of Religion’, 297-311. Dourley argues that “possibly the most significant implication of Jung’s thought for religious studies and theology remains his challenge to those who engage in either to experience individually and immediately the energies that birth the material with which they deal. In doing so Jung’s approach could cultivate a newer and more extended empathy in the study of religion itself through the transformation of the consciousness of those who engage in it” (p.311).

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