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Teaching Jung$

Kelly Bulkeley and Clodagh Weldon

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199735426

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735426.001.0001

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Jung's Engagement with Christian Theology

Jung's Engagement with Christian Theology

Chapter:
(p.93) 6 Jung's Engagement with Christian Theology
Source:
Teaching Jung
Author(s):

Charlene P. E. Burns

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735426.003.0007

Abstract and Keywords

The author of this chapter teaches Jung's analysis of Christianity in her undergraduate religious studies courses at the University of Wisconsin, Eau-Claire. Many of the students come from conservative Christian backgrounds, so their encounter with Jung's ideas regularly elicits strong responses and sometimes surprising transformations. As her chapter explains, the author has discovered that Jung's own methodological commitments provide the necessary tools for effective teaching in religious studies and other disciplines. In her classes, the students examine the epistemological, philosophical, and theological underpinnings of Jung's ideas, particularly in relation to Immanuel Kant's philosophy and Friedrich Schleiermacher's theology. This gives students a broader context in which to understand Jungian theory and their reactions to it. The chapter draws attention to possible problems and pitfalls generated by the arousal of cognitive dissonance in educational experience, such as when a lifelong Christian first encounters a psychological analysis of religious belief, and shares methods for avoiding those problems and transforming the students’ personal reactions into a positive force in religious studies pedagogy.

Keywords:   Christianity, faith, Jung, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, cognitive dissonance

Teaching Jung's analysis of Christianity to undergraduates can be problematic no matter the setting, but doing so in a psychology of religion course designed for general education credit at a publicly funded American university presents unique challenges. In terms of content, the factors complicating such a teaching project include the neglect of his work generally in the academy, the advanced interdisciplinary nature of his theorizing, and—most important for this project—the controversial nature of his interpretation of core doctrines of the faith. In terms of student makeup and setting, complicating factors for my teaching of Jung's theories cluster around the religious and academic backgrounds of the students. Most are conservative Christians, many of whom come to the university from Lutheran or Roman Catholic homes, yet become active on campus in very conservative nondenominational religious groups like Student Impact (Campus Crusade for Christ) and Navigators. Academically, they have mixed backgrounds, since the only prerequisite for the course is RELS 100, Introduction to the World's Religions. Although most of the students are majors or minors in either religious studies or psychology, a quarter to as much as half of the class each semester consists of majors in neither area. Making matters even more challenging, the psychology program here at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire follows the general trend of undergraduate psychology programs in giving little attention to psychoanalytic psychology beyond introduction to the Freudian approaches. Those few students who have heard of Jung are likely to have encountered him through New Age Jungian pop psychology books.1

(p.94) In spite of these challenges, teaching this subject matter can bring rewards, and sometimes even transformation, to those involved. What follows here is a reflection on the methods I have found to be most effective in teaching Jung on religion to undergraduates in this secular and somewhat conservative Midwestern setting. Following a brief discussion of the ways I have learned to address Jung's absence from the academic study of psychology in the United States, I explore the issues that are more specific to my teaching context. In my efforts to negotiate the unique challenges of American religious studies education, I have discovered that Jung's own methodological commitments provide the necessary tools for effective teaching. Examination of his epistemological, philosophical, and theological underpinnings—particularly in relation to Immanuel Kant's philosophy and Friedrich Schleiermacher's theology—is quite enlightening for my students. My own awareness of and attention to the problems and pitfalls offered by arousal of cognitive dissonance in learning further enhances the educational experience.

David Tacey has written extensively on the issue of teaching Jung in a secular (Australian) setting, and in a recent article, he developed a useful taxonomy of approaches generally found in the teaching of Jung's work (see also chapter 1 of this volume). Tacey's four categories are (1) fitting in or conforming, (2) updating or restructuring, (3) soul making or overturning, and (4) keeping pure or standing still.2 I find that, as my methods evolve over time, I tend primarily to use the first two methods to varying degrees, depending on the class makeup and responses to the subject matter. Tacey's third and fourth methods are bound to fail in a setting such as mine, since they involve a kind of advocacy for “Jungianism” that smacks of religious fervor. The soul-maker approach involves attempts to revolutionize the academy in accordance with Jungian themes, and the puritan preaches Jung with a kind of fundamentalist desire to avoid contamination by new ideas. The first time I taught Jung at this university, I discovered that few students had heard of him and, for reasons discussed more fully in the next section, found the most fruitful way forward was to begin the unit on Jung's psychology with a focus on demonstrating the validity or “respectability” of his theories—falling into Tacey's first category of fitting Jung into the academy.

Dealing with Jung's Absence

One problem in teaching Jung arises from the fact that although there does exist a strong if somewhat isolated Jungian analytic tradition, there is virtually “no academic Jungian tradition.”3 This is the case in spite of some resurgence of interest in his work over the last two decades. Jungian psychology is usually glossed over, if not entirely ignored, in college and university psychology classrooms, and as a result, Jungian studies have tended to be self-referential, including very little critical engagement.4 In spite of the efforts of Jungian scholars, his work continues to be marginalized in the study of psychology at American universities. When it does find a place, it is often in religious studies (p.95) (as is the case at my university) or English courses, usually in connection with examinations of the meaning of myth. When psychology majors and minors express confusion at having never been taught about Jung, the challenge to demonstrate his importance to psychology generally and psychology of religion in particular is intensified.

An effective tool in helping these students overcome their understandable skepticism regarding Jung's importance to the psychology of religion, given his absence from their prior education, is to show students that the well-known phrase “Electra Complex” has been misattributed to Freud.5 When polled as to the origins of the term, my students nearly always credit Freud, and none has ever realized that it actually originated with Jung. To reassure students that their educational deficit is far from unique, I present the results of a 1997 study in which Kilmartin and Dervin surveyed introductory course books for psychology classes. In this study, they found that of the books using the term “Electra Complex,” none attributed it to Jung. Of those texts using the term, 72 percent either directly attributed it to Freud or made vague statements implying the term was Freud's.6 The fact that so many textbooks are mistaken on this point helps support the claim that Jung's marginalization is unmerited.

In this unit of study, we discuss the Freud-Jung relationship, the work they accomplished together during this time, and their parting of ways. I explain that before he split with Freud, Jung adopted the term complex (another term they tend to attribute to Freud) to identify the unconscious collection of beliefs and ideas around emotional content that affects behavior and feelings, and that he first used the phrase “Electra Complex” in an early essay to describe the female child's jealousy toward her mother's relationship with her father.7 I point out that Freud did not accept the term, and I ask students to read his 1920 essay in which he writes that he saw no advantage to using it at all. This simple exercise goes a long way toward helping students overcome the tendency to question Jung's importance, given his absence from their education to that point. It also helps to place Freud in perspective as a foundational figure who was shaped by interaction with colleagues, not the solitary pioneering demigod of psychoanalysis he sometimes seems to have been.

Another useful tool in overcoming skepticism regarding Jung's importance is the textbook I have chosen for the course, David Wulff 's masterful survey, Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary. Wulff covers the history and scope of the field more thoroughly than any other text accessible to undergraduates, and when used with carefully selected primary source materials, the book helps to ensure a thorough introduction to the subject matter. He has included chapters covering experimental, social, and biological approaches, which are the forms of research most familiar to the students who have taken psychology courses. He also has devoted significant attention to psychoanalysis and the schools of thought flowing from it, like Erickson's work, object relations, self psychology, and existential. The fact that Wulff devotes an entire chapter to Jung adds weight to claims about Jung's importance for psychology of religion. Any remaining skepticism regarding Jung's place in the history of psychology is usually dispelled by a discussion of his theory of (p.96) personality types as the foundation for the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. Since many students have taken the Myers-Briggs or a variation of it through church activities or career counseling programs, this serves as a powerful means for validation.

Teaching Jung's Interpretation of Christianity in a State University: Epistemology

The enterprise of teaching religious studies in a state-funded postsecondary institution in the United States offers a particular set of challenges for professor and students; teaching a course in the psychology of religion within such a context is especially challenging. In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a distinction must be made between teaching about religious ideas and advocacy for or against them. In light of this restriction, in my classrooms I strive to bracket off the purely confessional approach so as to model the use of academic methods that allow exploration of confessional positions without advocacy.8 Jung's own methodological commitments are quite helpful in dealing with this issue. Since these methodological issues are also beneficial in addressing concerns generated for students by some aspects of his writings on Christianity, I will address these issues in concert.

Jung's engagement with Christian thought is unfortunately one of the most controversial and misunderstood facets of his work. This is regrettable because his interpretation of major themes and doctrines through the lens of depth psychology can be invigorating for Christians who struggle with the place of concepts like transubstantiation, the reality of evil, or God as Trinity in modern life. This exploration can also be enriching for those who have yet to investigate the complexity of these doctrines. Given the kinds of students who take my class, setting the stage is therefore very important. In Wulff 's introductory chapter to the survey text, he discusses the importance of studying a theorist's “personal equation” in developing a deeper understanding of his or her work, and subsequent chapters begin with an overview of pertinent biographical information. In Jung's case, the personal equation is so integral to his psychology of religion that it is perhaps not an overstatement to say that it is impossible to understand one without knowing something of the other. For this reason, we spend at least one full class exploring Jung's life story before we attempt to delve into his theories. The facts that Jung's father was a minister, that Jung himself was raised in the Swiss Reformed Church, and that he struggled with the doctrines of Christian belief resonate powerfully with my students. One episode of Jung's early years to which many can directly relate is the anticlimactic nature of his first Communion after Confirmation; students often report that they stopped attending church after Confirmation for similar reasons. All of this helps to establish common ground between the students and this towering twentieth-century intellect. Criticism of Christianity from a perceived insider is easier for these students to entertain than from someone like Freud, whom they tend to find unappealing because his theories are, to them, (p.97) “all about sex” and also because they perceive him to have been an outsider to Christianity.

Following an outline of Jung's general theories related to the personal and collective unconscious and archetypes, but before introducing Jung's writings on Christianity, I address issues related to Jung's own claims about his epistemological stance. As is well known among those of us who study and teach Jung's work, although he was not always consistent in expression, Jung repeatedly stated that he did not intend his statements about God and our experiences of the divine to be metaphysical in nature. For example, he wrote plainly in one letter, “I make no metaphysical assertions. My standpoint is purely empirical and deals with the psychology of such assertions.”9 Although many have debated how successful he really was at this, it was his intent to remain true to the idea that whereas “religion looks to the imprinter, psychology studies the imprint.”10 I encourage my students to keep this in mind as we study his works. It turns out, in fact, that this is the most important tool I have found for helping conservative Christian undergraduates overcome the urge to shut down and avoid critical engagement with Jung. Once I discerned the importance of this information for overcoming resistance to seriously exploring the implications of Jung's work, I expanded the amount of time devoted to the topic. I now also include a brief introduction to Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1883), who were important to Jung's development, so as to ground Jung solidly in the Christian philosophical and theological traditions. Given space limitations, I can only sketch the outlines of this material (developed more fully elsewhere) here.11

Jung's commitment to the idea that it is possible to detach metaphysical from psychological assertions was based in his profound respect for Kant's philosophy. He thought that Kant had established the foundations for building a scientific understanding of the human psyche. Speaking of Kant's epistemology, he once wrote that this theory of knowledge opened the door to new possibilities, and “on that threshold minds go their separate ways: those that have understood Kant, and the others that cannot follow him.”12 Unfortunately, those words could have been written about his own work, a sad truth that largely resulted from the failure of some interpreters to grasp the importance of Kant's writings for Jung.

As the reader probably knows, Kant's epistemology is a kind of mediating response to radical empiricism, wherein knowledge is said to derive solely from sense experience, and the rationalism of his day, wherein reason was thought to provide genuinely objective knowledge uncontaminated by experience. While acknowledging the kernel of truth in both positions, Kant was troubled by their implications regarding objectivity. Against the empiricist position, he argued that it is mistaken to claim that we are capable of complete objectivity. Against the rationalists, he argued it is equally wrong to claim we are incapable of objectivity; this position is particularly problematic since, if correct, it makes scientific knowledge impossible. As a solution, Kant offered a synthesis in which both reason and experience are essential to knowing. The knowledge gained through our senses is actively organized in the mind by means of a (p.98) priori categories or concepts that are presupposed by experience. The a priori categories function as mental structures, having no ontological or metaphysical significance. He argued there must be something like these categories; if not, the unity of self-conscious experience, in which our sensory experience and the thoughts that label that experience our own occur simultaneously, is inexplicable.13 The categories apply to the objects of possible experience (phenomena) and not to objects knowable only to thought (noumena). At this point in our discussion, I warn students that there is a good bit disagreement among philosophers about Kant's use of these terms, phenomena and noumena.14 Since we are only interested in the terms because of their importance to Jung, we can ignore the scholarly arguments and concentrate on the interpretation that Jung accepted, which I briefly summarize as follows.

The phenomenal world, the world as we experience it, is distinct from the noumenal, ultimate, or absolute reality. We can only hypothesize the existence of noumenal reality on the basis of perception. The only referent we have to noumenal reality is the mental construct; for Kant, “noumenal” functions as a marker for the limits of human knowing. All we can say about it is that it is beyond our capacity to know. “God” is a noumenal aspect of human experience, and so metaphysical arguments about God go beyond the limits of human reason. Even though it is impossible for the human mind to reach beyond the limits of the phenomenal world, we naturally seek the God's-eye view. This is so because we are aware that each of us has a particular point of view, and the desire for common ground leads us to seek that point of view that encompasses them all. This exercise of “pure reason” leads us astray, since it attempts to reach a perspective-free viewpoint; it leads humanity to develop ideas about God and immortality.

Kant's claims about reality's phenomenal and noumenal aspects solved some of the problems inherent in strictly empiricist or rationalist systems, but he left us with a problematic gap between mind and world, or the “I” and the “I think.”15 Some critics have accused Kant of creating such a wide gap that he “lost the self.”16 And some have criticized Jung for his acceptance of Kant's problematic disjuncture.17 Since the most important aspect of Jung's methodology for helping students open themselves to his insights into Christianity's place in the modern world is the phenomenal-noumenal distinction, briefly demonstrating the connections between Jung and Friedrich Schleiermacher, who attempted to close the Kantian gap, is helpful at this point in our study.

In a 1953 letter, Jung acknowledged a connection to Schleiermacher, who had baptized his grandfather: “The vast, esoteric, and individual spirit of Schleiermacher was part of the intellectual atmosphere of my father's family. I never studied him, but unconsciously he was for me a spiritus rector.”18 Jung never explained just how he understood Schleiermacher to have been his spiritus rector (spiritual ancestor or unconscious inspiration), and this connection has received virtually no attention in the vast literature on Jung. I am a theologian with some background in Schleiermacher's theology, and once I read Jung's letter referring to the great nineteenth-century theologian, the connections between their works became quite clear. As I have demonstrated in depth (p.99) elsewhere, there are discernible hints of Schleiermacher's thought throughout Jung's psychology of religious experience.19 Uncovering these hints for my students helps many of them along the path to understanding Jung.

According to Schleiermacher, Kant's gap resulted from his granting too much privilege to the human mind: “Demonstration presupposes acknowledgment of something else, but cognition of God is the original cognition that underlies all other cognition.”20 The idea of God and that to which the idea refers must not be confused. As a remedy to this problem, Schleiermacher sought something within human nature that could maintain the distinction between the “ungiven” God in se and the idea of God.21 The reader familiar with Jung will readily discern the connections here.

Regarding the relation between sense experience and knowledge, Schleiermacher believed that we are not fully determined by sense experience, although experience is essential to any kind of knowing: “We cannot think except under the form of being… Knowing is the congruence of thinking with being as what is thought.”22 He believed Kant had overlooked the fact of embodiment; in Kant, there was nothing to link the a priori categories of understanding to the external world of objects, for unless being is linked to thinking, it becomes impossible to understand how it is that we are aware of our connection to the world.23 In other words, there was no connection between the “I think” and the pure “I,” between the physical self and the thinking self. Kant inadvertently created a perpetual circle in which the self signifies that which the concept of thought entails; the Kantian self is both that which is aware and that of which it is aware.24

Schleiermacher sought the solution to this circular argument through an attempt to understand the body's role in linking us to God, by finding a way to affirm “being” without reducing it to “thought.” To solve the problem, he argued in favor of that which the intellect cannot grasp: feeling. Feeling, he said, is “subject-less awareness,” the unity or oneness of being, or unmediated and immediate self-consciousness, and the relation between subject and object is one of “twofold contrast.” The world is both determined by and determinate of the subject, and so if the subject is described as active, the world necessarily will appear as passive, and vice versa. Schleiermacher extends this twofold contrast to describe the unity of the self as physical and ethical. The capacity to imagine, to fix things in consciousness, is the pure “I.” The pure “I” is the agency that makes thought possible; it is not the thought itself. The self, then, might be thought of as pure potentiality. The point where one thought ends and another has not yet begun, called the “nullpoint,” is the transition between two moments of consciousness (thinking and being), with the self serving as the means of transition.

At the nullpoint, which for Schleiermacher is the gap between Kant's phenomenal and noumenal realities, thinking both reaches its limit and is the limit. The point at which one thought has ended and another not yet begun is objectless awareness, objective consciousness empty of thought. This is an embodied, experiential, empirical encounter of unmediated awareness or intuition, a transcendental standpoint unknowable through concepts or judgments. (p.100) The subjective complement to objectless awareness is subjectless awareness, or Gefühl in German. This term has usually been translated as “feeling,” but it is not sensation, which has to do with the organic determinate “I.” Gefühl is the immediate unmediated self-consciousness, the experience of unity or oneness of one's own being. This means that intuition is awareness of the nullpoint from the standpoint of objective consciousness, and feeling is awareness that “I = I from one moment of consciousness to the next.”25 At the nullpoint, the self is undetermined and indistinguishable from all of life. Objectively, it is empty with regard to content. Subjectively, it is full since the self is conscious of self. Consciousness of the nullpoint is felt or experienced in the identity of physical and ethical—we do not think or will the rupture into consciousness, we feel it. For Schleiermacher, this unbounded state is “ ‘the birth hour of everything living in religion.’ ”26 This unmediated awareness of oneness links being to thinking. It is “the sheer embodied self that is the counterbalance to the [Kantian] ‘I think.’ ”27 The subjectless, objectless experience at the nullpoint is a sort of cancellation of “being” as self-determining agency. This leads to the “feeling of utter dependence,” which Schleiermacher said is the religious element in life, through which God is represented in human consciousness. Religion is “the consciousness of being absolutely dependent, or which is the same thing, of being in a relation with God.”28

“The feeling of absolute dependence, accordingly, is not to be explained as an awareness of the world's existence, but only as an awareness of the existence of God, as the absolute undivided unity.”29 We feel the rupture of consciousness and yet sense that something holds the self, maintaining it as a unity across the gap. This something is God, that upon which we have the awareness of utter dependence. This feeling is a precognitive awareness, followed by a moment of consciousness that is the religious element—our own self-consciousness is experienced as consciousness of God. Although the nullpoint does refer to the absolute or ultimate reality, the experience of it does not provide knowledge of God in se.

Schleiermacher had an evolutionary view of the Incarnation, saying that the human nature in Christ has been eternally “coming to be” within the process of the world,30 and the Incarnation was itself a manifestation of “God-consciousness” that is present in all humanity. Although all humans have this consciousness, in Jesus the God-consciousness was a “perfect indwelling.” In us, it manifests as the “sense and taste for the infinite,” or prereflective awareness of being “absolutely dependent” for our very being on God. Schleiermacher believed this human awareness has the potential to evolve to greater and greater levels of knowing God. Christ differed from us in degree, not in kind, and the difference in degree was in “the constant potency of [Jesus’] God-consciousness, which was a veritable existence of God in Him.”31

For Schleiermacher, then, religious experience, the unmediated awareness of oneness with and dependence upon that which maintains the self as a unity across the gap between the end of one thought and another, closes the gap left by Kant. Viewed through this lens, Jung's psychology of religion stands on firmer ground, both theoretically and in the minds of young religiously conservative students prone to rejecting ideas that challenge their beliefs.

(p.101) For Jung, the “knowing subject is part of a wider knowledge pool with which the individual is in interaction.”32 He considered consciousness to be an adaptive accomplishment, and the unconscious as the source of the archetypes, the forms or categories that regulate the instincts.33 The archetypes are patterns of instinctual behavior arising from the collective unconscious, which is a repository of the universal “ancestral heritage of possibilities of representation” containing the “whole spiritual heritage of [hu]mankind's evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual,” that account for the common themes in humanity's dreams, myths, legends.34 Here, a basic understanding of Kant's epistemology comes into play for my students, since Jung insisted that the primordial images are not part of phenomenal experience. They are noumena and as such can only be intuited psychologically. Religious realities have a transpersonal basis, arising as they do from the collective unconscious, but because they are filtered through subjective experience, they can never be absolutes. The most we can say about God from the Jungian psychological standpoint is that “an archetypal image of the Deity” exists.35 The god-image and statements about it are “psychic processes which are different from their transcendent object.”36

Once we become alert to Jung's familiarity with Schleiermacher, new facets in his work appear. The archetypes, for example, take on new significance for students with strong commitments to conservative Christian beliefs. As the reader is no doubt aware, the Self archetype represents for Jung the unity of a mature psyche, which he sometimes referred to as “the God within.”37 The archetypes are “the hidden foundations of the conscious mind…the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrower sense but in the world in general.”38 They function as “the bridge to matter in general.”39 Recall Schleiermacher's nullpoint, the “bridge” that closes the gap between thinker and thought, matter and spirit, phenomenal and noumenal, the point at which thought and action cease and “consciousness of being absolutely dependent…of being in a relation with God” arises.40 For Jung, we encounter archetypal images and themes in dreams, myths, and religions. These images form the basis for our awareness of God, and through encounter with the depths of the human psyche, the phenomenal ceases in the face of the noumenal “God within.” In an interview, Jung was once asked whether he believed in God. His response was “Difficult to answer. I know. I don’t need to believe. I know.”41 This certainty suggests that Jung's Self and Schleiermacher's “feeling,” as the unmediated awareness of oneness with and dependence on that which maintains the self as a unity across the gap between the end of one thought and another, point to the same reality. My goal in asking students to consider the resonance between Jung's Self archetype and Schleiermacher's “feeling” as the source of all religious expression is to challenge claims that Jung reduces God to psychology or that he undermines divine transcendence, which is an especially important concept for conservative Protestants.

According to Jung, it is “psychologically quite unthinkable for God to be simply the ‘wholly other’ for a ‘wholly other’ could never be one of the soul's deepest and closest intimacies—which is precisely what God is.”42 Through the (p.102) archetypes, we encounter God in the depths of consciousness as an intimate reality. Schleiermacher's theology of the Incarnation as perfect “God consciousness” resonates with this perception, as does his evolutionary interpretation of the Incarnation. Divinity-in-humanity eternally unfolds within the process of the world. What manifested in Jesus perfectly is found potentially in all humanity. Introducing students to these theological resonances with Jung helps tremendously in study of what is often considered Jung's most difficult work for Christians, Answer to Job. Since Clodagh Weldon's chapter in this volume examines Answer in detail, I will only point out here that the evolutionary aspect of the divinity-in-humanity and our consciousness of God are central: Jung believed that the “real history of the world is the progressive incarnation of the deity,”43 and in Answer he develops this theme.

Jung on Christianity as Therapy: Dealing with Cognitive Dissonance

The most useful interpretive framework I’ve found for building on the foundation established by this brief examination of the influence of Kant and Schleiermacher on Jung is Murray Stein's thesis that Jung's work on Christian doctrine can best be understood as a long-term psychotherapeutic project. Stein argues that Jung's intent was neither reductionist nor apologetic—it was “an evolutionary-transformational” effort aimed at healing the splits, repressions, and one-sidedness that developed over Christianity's two-thousand-year history.44 This reading illuminates Jung's profound respect for and fascination with the doctrines of the faith without glossing over the highly critical aspects of his work. These tools, which tend to fall under Tacey's “updating” classification, help students connect with Jung at a more personal level. Once I began teaching the material through this lens, I found that, although some do remain unconvinced in the end, few maintain the out-of-hand dismissal that so often can happen with conservative Christian readers of Jung.

Initially, students are troubled by Jung's major criticism of the doctrines of Christ and of the Trinity. His claims that these concepts need to include the Shadow and that, so long as denial of the Shadow remains, Christianity cannot achieve its full potential as a means of world transformation are shocking for many. They have been taught the traditional theology of divine goodness, and many are quite comfortable with a fairly literal understanding of Satan as a fallen angel whom God permits to wreak havoc on Earth because of original sin. These students accept the strong Augustinian view that humanity inherits the guilt for Adam and Eve's first sin. This allows them to explain the suffering of humanity in terms of justice: because of that original sin, the image of God was lost, and so war, murder, and poverty are all simply humanity's just deserts. Natural disasters and disease are accounted for by the claim that nature itself was corrupted by that first sin. Because God loves humanity and wants us to freely choose to follow Him (God is quite masculine for these students), He does not intervene except in allowing His Son to pay for our sins by dying a (p.103) horrendous death by crucifixion. Most have never critically examined these doctrines, so when challenged by Jung to consider the possibility that their own images of God might be one-sided, a great deal of cognitive dissonance is generated. We all know that cognitive dissonance is important to the educational experience, but I have found few who consciously acknowledge this in their teaching. Studies support the claim that without it, genuine transformative learning does not occur and also show us that if the teacher pushes too hard once dissonance has developed, things can backfire.

Cognitive dissonance theory is a well-established model of social learning, but I suspect that explicit consideration of its impact in teaching challenging material like Jung's critique of Christianity happens rarely among educators.45 A cursory survey of the literature on teaching Jung supports this suspicion. Others have noted the tendency among certain types of students to shut down to “get the piece of paper,” “defensively bolster” their own belief systems to maintain “a primitive critical condition,” or drop out of class,46 but without making an explicit connection to the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. Conscious reflection on the power of dissonance in learning helps identify the areas most likely to generate conflict and resistance for certain types of students and helps us be more intentional about the methods we use.

The theory assumes that we seek consonance between thoughts and behaviors. When a credible new cognition or behavior challenges a previously existing belief, we experience psychological dissonance. This is an adaptive response that functions to warn when something is psychologically, but not necessarily logically, inconsistent. Our knowledge of the world needs to be consonant with what we believe.47 Like all discomfort, the unease generated in dissonant situations motivates us to alleviate it in some way. The more important the concepts, the greater the dissonance, and the greater the dissonance, the more intense the need to reduce it. Since it is the case that dissonance is greater when those concepts most important to us are challenged, students who are asked to consider the possibility that their own images of God might be one-sided are ripe for genuine learning but also for rejection of the new information and entrenchment of their own challenged beliefs. Here, the educator must handle with care!

Once dissonance has arisen, it can be reduced in several ways: the learner can reject the new idea by denying the dissonant elements, reduce the importance of the dissonant ideas, increase the importance of consonant ideas, or add new consonant elements to justify the dissonant situation.48 The worst-case scenario here is, of course, the student who rejects out of hand the new information.

The experience of dissonance and efforts to alleviate it operate somewhat outside conscious awareness. In the case of a conservative Christian who believes that God is not the source of evil, when introduced to Jung's writings on the Trinity's “missing fourth” and asked to consider the contradictory nature of the classical theodicy problem (why an all-powerful and pure loving God chooses to do nothing about suffering), she will experience dissonance. She will be aware of the discomfort and of its source. She will strive to find a way to (p.104) eliminate the discomfort, but she will not be consciously aware that this is her motivation. For the student, it is simply a matter of attempting to make sense of or reject conflicting information.

Complicating things further is the phenomenon known as the hypocrisy effect, documented in a 1975 study of young Christian women. If too much dissonance is generated, increased commitment to the challenged beliefs can result. Participants in a Christian youth program were asked to state whether they believed that Jesus was divine. They then answered a questionnaire designed to assess how orthodox their general beliefs really were. Afterward, they were exposed to information aimed at disconfirming the divinity claim. Those who believed that Jesus was divine and also accepted that the disconfirming information was authentic demonstrated intensified belief in the divinity of Jesus. Those who either did not believe in the doctrine or did not accept the disconfirming information as true showed no change in their position.49 This phenomenon is important to this discussion because many of my students not only hold conservative beliefs but also devote considerable time and effort to sharing these beliefs publicly through involvement in numerous on-campus faith-based organizations. For these students, merely to consider the possibility that Jung's critique of Christianity might be valid is enough to stimulate the hypocrisy effect.

Material useful in dampening the impact of excessive cognitive dissonance and the hypocrisy effect can be found in Jung's own writings. When this material is combined with Stein's interpretation of Jung's relationship to Christianity as a therapeutic one aimed at helping it fulfill its potential for humanity as “the psychological prototype of the only meaningful life,”50 I have found it possible to guide students toward a more sophisticated understanding of their own beliefs and of Jung's work. Most students are willing to “hear” Jung once they learn from the historical record that doctrines like those of the Trinity and Incarnation evolved over time. When they learn to see doctrine as the product of human effort to make sense of the experience of God, Jung's thesis becomes less threatening, since they come to understand that Jung's agenda was to understand how doctrine evolved so as to help us see where it needs transformation.

Most students have studied environmental and gender inequality issues in other courses by the time they sign up for the psychology of religion class, and framing portions of Jung's critique in conversation with what they have learned of those issues helps them understand what he means when he says that both Protestant and Catholic forms of the faith need to heal the split between nature and spirit, to achieve union of body and spirit, and must find a way to incorporate the feminine into our images of God. Here I practice a kind of updating method in which the numinous aspect is preserved through demonstrating the ways Jung's work can illuminate present-day theological concerns. Unfortunately, when it comes to the issue of incorporating the Shadow into our images of God, things become more difficult, as previously outlined, but briefly mentioning recent theological trends like those influenced by process philosophy is sometimes a helpful form of updating.

Understanding what Jung intends by the claim that the Trinity is incomplete offers perhaps the greatest challenge. When addressing this aspect of Jung's (p.105) work, I find it helpful to remind students of his relationship to Christianity and his agenda. Offering quotes from his writings, like this one from a letter to Martin Buber, help to keep things in perspective: “Here, just for once, and as an exception, I shall indulge in transcendental speculation and even in ‘poetry’: God has indeed made an inconceivably sublime and mysteriously contradictory image of himself, without the help of man, and has implanted it in man's unconscious.”51

Concluding Thoughts

Teaching Jung to undergraduates is quite challenging, no matter the setting. It can also be immensely rewarding for students and the instructor. Asking conservative Christian undergraduates to struggle with Jung's diagnosis and prescription for their faith is, I believe, asking quite a lot. The student who signs up for a course in the psychology of religion does not understand herself to be entering into a psychotherapeutic relationship. However, if we teach Jung so as to engage the whole self, as most experienced instructors of his work advocate, the encounter between student, instructor, and Jung cannot help being transformative. Because the encounter with Jung can be so very enlightening and challenging, I am always mindful of the potential for crossing the line that separates teaching from “doing therapy without a contract.” Students who open themselves to understanding Jung often find their deepest commitments challenged in what can be frightening ways. They sometimes seek counsel from the teacher, who may well have become the object of some transference. When these students do seek us out, we must be careful to restrict our interactions to the academic arena as much as possible to avoid the abuse of power that has been granted us in this situation. This applies perhaps even more to those teachers who have counseling practices outside the university than to those whose work is purely academic. The additional layer of hurdles arising from the need to avoid approaches that convey an advocacy stance regarding religious ideas creates at times a very tricky situation.

Out of respect for the risks my students take, I approach the material gently, always conscious of how demanding the process of coming to understand Jung's thought can be. I offer support through ongoing dialogue, interject frequent reminders of Jung's agenda and of the personal benefits that await those willing to take these risks, and avoid the temptation to “therapize” when students express difficulty along the way. In the end, the rewards of teaching the work generated by Jung's lifelong engagement with Christianity exceed by far the difficulties one encounters during the journey toward understanding.

Notes

(1.) Roger Brooke, “Jung in the Academy: A Response to David Tacey,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 42 (April 1997): 285.

(2.) David Tacey, “Negotiating the Numinous: The Challenges of Teaching Jung in the University,” in Who Owns Jung? ed. Ann Casement (London: Karnac, 2007), 62–65.

(p.106)

(3.) Renos Papadopoulos, “Is Teaching Jung within University Possible? A Response to David Tacey,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 42 (April 1997): 299.

(4.) David Tacey, “Jung in the Academy: Devotions and Resistances,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 42 (April 1997): 269.

(5.) Jill Scott, Electra after Freud: Myth and Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 8.

(6.) C. Kilmartin and D. Dervin, “Inaccurate Representation of the Electra Complex in Psychology Textbooks,” Teaching of Psychology 24 (April 1997): 269–70.

(7.) C. G. Jung, “The Theory of Psychoanalysis,” in Collected Works of C. G. Jung (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1931–1961), 4:154–55.

(8.) In the 1963 ruling School District of Abington v. Schemmp, Justice Brennan wrote: “The State must be steadfastly neutral in all matters of faith, and neither favor nor inhibit religion.” For a more detailed exploration of these issues, see Charlene P. E. Burns, “Do Cognitive Dissonance Theory and the Induced-Compliance Paradigm Raise Concerns for Teaching Religious Studies?” Teaching Theology and Religion 9 (January 2006): 3–8.

(9.) Jung, Letters, ed. Gerhard Adler and Aniela Jaffé, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973–1974), 2:518–19.

(10.) Murray Stein, Jung's Treatment of Christianity: The Psychotherapy of a Religious Tradition (Wilmette, IL: Chiron, 1986), 142.

(11.) For a more complete exploration of the relationship among Kant, Schleiermacher, and Jung, see Burns, More Moral Than God: Taking Responsibility for Religious Violence (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

(12.) Jung, Letters, 1:375.

(13.) Roger Scruton, Kant: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 44.

(14.) Allan Wood, Kant (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), for example, argues that Kant offered two incompatible interpretations of the phenomenal and noumenal and says that attempts to reconcile them are simply wrong.

(15.) Eckhart Förster, “Is There a ‘Gap’ in Kant's Critical System?” Journal of the History of Philosophy 25 (October 1987): 533–55.

(16.) Thandeka, “Schleiermacher's ‘Dialektik’: The Discovery of the Self That Kant Lost,” Harvard Theological Review 85 (October 1992): 433–52.

(17.) For criticisms of Jung's epistemology and methods, see Marilyn Nagy, Philosophical Issues (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991); and Michael Palmer, Freud and Jung (London: Routledge, 1997).

(18.) Jung, Letters, 2:115.

(19.) Burns, More Moral, 100–109.

(20.) Friedrich Schleiermacher, Dialectic, or the Art of Doing Philosophy. A Study of the 1811 Notes, trans. Terrence N. Tice (Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1996), 29.

(21.) Thandeka, The Embodied Self: Friedrich Schleiermacher's Solution to Kant's Problem of the Empirical Self (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 22.

(22.) Schleiermacher, Dialectic, 15n25, 16–17.

(23.) Thandeka, Embodied Self, 3.

(24.) Ibid., 23–29.

(25.) Ibid., 95.

(26.) Ibid., 96.

(27.) Ibid., 99.

(p.107)

(28.) Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, ed. H. R. MacIntosh and J. S. Stewart. (Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark, 1989), 12.

(29.) Schleiermacher, Christian Faith, 132.

(30.) Ibid., 12.

(31.) Ibid., 132.

(32.) Renos Papadopoulos, “Jung's Epistemology and Methodology,” in The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice, & Applications, ed. Renos K. Papadopoulos (London: Routledge, 2006), 41.

(33.) Jung, Collected Works, 8:283–342.

(34.) Ibid., 9i:73.

(35.) Jung, Psychology & Religion, the Terry Lectures (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1938–1966), 73.

(36.) Jung, Collected Works, 11:558.

(37.) Ibid., 9ii:34, 63, 109.

(38.) Ibid., 10:31.

(39.) Ibid., 8:420.

(40.) Schleiermacher, Christian Faith, 12.

(41.) Jung, C. G. Jung Speaking Interviews and Encounters, ed. William McGuire and R. F. C. Hull (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977), 428.

(42.) Jung, Collected Works, 12:11n6.

(43.) Jung, Letters, 2:435–436.

(44.) Stein, Jung's Treatment, 19.

(45.) For a more complete discussion of these issues, see Burns, “Cognitive Dissonance,” 3–8.

(46.) Tacey, “Teaching Jung,” 5.

(47.) Eddie Harmon-Jones, “Toward an Understanding of the Motivation Underlying Dissonance Effect: Is the Production of Aversive Consequences Necessary?” in Cognitive Dissonance: Progress on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology, ed. E. Harmon-Jones and Judson Mills (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999), 95.

(48.) Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957), 1–31.

(49.) Christopher T. Burris, E. Harmon-Jones, and W. Ryan Tarpley, “‘By Faith Alone’: Religious Agitation and Cognitive Dissonance,” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 19 (1997): 17–31.

(50.) Jung, Collected Works, 17:180.

(51.) Ibid., 18:667.

References

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Notes:

(1.) Roger Brooke, “Jung in the Academy: A Response to David Tacey,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 42 (April 1997): 285.

(2.) David Tacey, “Negotiating the Numinous: The Challenges of Teaching Jung in the University,” in Who Owns Jung? ed. Ann Casement (London: Karnac, 2007), 62–65.

(3.) Renos Papadopoulos, “Is Teaching Jung within University Possible? A Response to David Tacey,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 42 (April 1997): 299.

(4.) David Tacey, “Jung in the Academy: Devotions and Resistances,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 42 (April 1997): 269.

(5.) Jill Scott, Electra after Freud: Myth and Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 8.

(6.) C. Kilmartin and D. Dervin, “Inaccurate Representation of the Electra Complex in Psychology Textbooks,” Teaching of Psychology 24 (April 1997): 269–70.

(7.) C. G. Jung, “The Theory of Psychoanalysis,” in Collected Works of C. G. Jung (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1931–1961), 4:154–55.

(8.) In the 1963 ruling School District of Abington v. Schemmp, Justice Brennan wrote: “The State must be steadfastly neutral in all matters of faith, and neither favor nor inhibit religion.” For a more detailed exploration of these issues, see Charlene P. E. Burns, “Do Cognitive Dissonance Theory and the Induced-Compliance Paradigm Raise Concerns for Teaching Religious Studies?” Teaching Theology and Religion 9 (January 2006): 3–8.

(9.) Jung, Letters, ed. Gerhard Adler and Aniela Jaffé, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973–1974), 2:518–19.

(10.) Murray Stein, Jung's Treatment of Christianity: The Psychotherapy of a Religious Tradition (Wilmette, IL: Chiron, 1986), 142.

(11.) For a more complete exploration of the relationship among Kant, Schleiermacher, and Jung, see Burns, More Moral Than God: Taking Responsibility for Religious Violence (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

(12.) Jung, Letters, 1:375.

(13.) Roger Scruton, Kant: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 44.

(14.) Allan Wood, Kant (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), for example, argues that Kant offered two incompatible interpretations of the phenomenal and noumenal and says that attempts to reconcile them are simply wrong.

(15.) Eckhart Förster, “Is There a ‘Gap’ in Kant's Critical System?” Journal of the History of Philosophy 25 (October 1987): 533–55.

(16.) Thandeka, “Schleiermacher's ‘Dialektik’: The Discovery of the Self That Kant Lost,” Harvard Theological Review 85 (October 1992): 433–52.

(17.) For criticisms of Jung's epistemology and methods, see Marilyn Nagy, Philosophical Issues (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991); and Michael Palmer, Freud and Jung (London: Routledge, 1997).

(18.) Jung, Letters, 2:115.

(19.) Burns, More Moral, 100–109.

(20.) Friedrich Schleiermacher, Dialectic, or the Art of Doing Philosophy. A Study of the 1811 Notes, trans. Terrence N. Tice (Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1996), 29.

(21.) Thandeka, The Embodied Self: Friedrich Schleiermacher's Solution to Kant's Problem of the Empirical Self (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 22.

(22.) Schleiermacher, Dialectic, 15n25, 16–17.

(23.) Thandeka, Embodied Self, 3.

(24.) Ibid., 23–29.

(25.) Ibid., 95.

(26.) Ibid., 96.

(27.) Ibid., 99.

(28.) Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, ed. H. R. MacIntosh and J. S. Stewart. (Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark, 1989), 12.

(29.) Schleiermacher, Christian Faith, 132.

(30.) Ibid., 12.

(31.) Ibid., 132.

(32.) Renos Papadopoulos, “Jung's Epistemology and Methodology,” in The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice, & Applications, ed. Renos K. Papadopoulos (London: Routledge, 2006), 41.

(33.) Jung, Collected Works, 8:283–342.

(34.) Ibid., 9i:73.

(35.) Jung, Psychology & Religion, the Terry Lectures (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1938–1966), 73.

(36.) Jung, Collected Works, 11:558.

(37.) Ibid., 9ii:34, 63, 109.

(38.) Ibid., 10:31.

(39.) Ibid., 8:420.

(40.) Schleiermacher, Christian Faith, 12.

(41.) Jung, C. G. Jung Speaking Interviews and Encounters, ed. William McGuire and R. F. C. Hull (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977), 428.

(42.) Jung, Collected Works, 12:11n6.

(43.) Jung, Letters, 2:435–436.

(44.) Stein, Jung's Treatment, 19.

(45.) For a more complete discussion of these issues, see Burns, “Cognitive Dissonance,” 3–8.

(46.) Tacey, “Teaching Jung,” 5.

(47.) Eddie Harmon-Jones, “Toward an Understanding of the Motivation Underlying Dissonance Effect: Is the Production of Aversive Consequences Necessary?” in Cognitive Dissonance: Progress on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology, ed. E. Harmon-Jones and Judson Mills (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999), 95.

(48.) Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957), 1–31.

(49.) Christopher T. Burris, E. Harmon-Jones, and W. Ryan Tarpley, “‘By Faith Alone’: Religious Agitation and Cognitive Dissonance,” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 19 (1997): 17–31.

(50.) Jung, Collected Works, 17:180.

(51.) Ibid., 18:667.