A Psychological Approach to Christianity

One cannot grasp anything metaphysically, one only can do so psychologically. Therefore I strip things of their metaphysical wrappings in order to make them objects of psychology. In that way I can at least extract something understandable from them and avail myself of it, and I also discover psychological facts and processes that before were veiled in symbols and beyond my comprehension. In doing so I may perhaps be following in the footsteps of the faithful, and may possibly have similar experiences; and if in the end there should be something ineffably metaphysical behind it all, it would then have the best opportunity of showing itself.
[Jung, CG, “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’,” CW 13, par. 73.]

Jung’s psychological approach to Christianity, his “natural theology,” is an understanding of religious experience, church ritual and dogma, the disillusionment some feel with traditional religions, and the Fundamentalism embraced by others in terms of depth psychology. Our psyche contains a religious function which is indifferent to our intellectual, rational beliefs and makes itself known both in those with faith and in those who have lost or consciously discarded their faith. Depth psychology gives us a new understanding of this unconscious function and practical, viable tools for establishing, re-establishing, or enhancing our connection with the divine.

In this class, I will briefly present a psychological basis for religion including the role of myth and the inevitability of “unscientific” dogmatic statements meant to be believed and not dissected. It is through an appreciation of the psychic origins of religion that we can come to terms with the loss of faith so many are experiencing today and begin to understand the reasons why “the light has gone out, the mystery has faded, and God is dead.”

With this foundation, in the second class I will present some “practical applications” of this psychological approach to Old Testament stories and New Testament doctrine. These examples will provide you with a way to consciously approach and try to make meaning of what traditional Christianity requires to be taken on faith alone. They will also emphasize the correlation of religious experience with the individual depth experience, i.e. our own individuation.

A basic familiarity with the terms and concepts of Jungian psychology is helpful but is not a requirement for this class.