Essay 1: “My Religious Development”
My Religion has always been essential to me.
I would define it as the possibility of the small human being to make contact with “divine” suprapersonal forces.
Very early in life I felt intuitively an “invisible world” around me and I imagined I belonged to it.
I tried to take refuge in this imagination when I was uncomfortable in the so-called reality.
Gradually the vast background which my intuition sensed was identified with what I was told about God and Jesus.
My parents were not “religious” people.
They had a humanist and rational philosophy, but they were very sincere in acting on what they believed in.
They said religion meant “doing right.”
This did not satisfy me.
As I was a fear-ridden child, I knew that I needed help from some suprahuman power, as I could not overcome fear by my own strength.
I had a governess who would pray with me when I was so afraid at night; I could feel how real religion was to her.
By comparison, the little verses we were taught as prayers seemed quite artificial.
So I felt different from my parents at an early age and I became more and more separated from them because I felt they could never understand me in my religious need and feeling.
Yet I am extremely grateful for their integrity, the sincere efforts they made to educate their children in the best way they knew.
They would sacrifice any personal pleasure to their ideals, but I missed the joy of seeing them as happy people.
My father took great pride in me, his eldest, and he expected much of me.
I am sure that this attitude made me self-sure and confident that I would always be liked and succeed.
Growing up in the atmosphere of a Victorian home I fled into imagination and felt at home in a mysterious invisible world.
I missed companions as we had private lessons.
Sunday school was a treat because of meeting other children and I loved the singing.
The village pastor had much the same attitude as my parents, so his teaching had no impact on me.
When I was about 12 years old, we lived for over a year in England and I was sent to an English boarding school where I was the only foreigner amongst 40 English girls.
I had been well prepared by the governess and spoke and wrote English fluently.
Though I was shy and homesick, it was a delight to learn with other girls.
I loved the lessons and was much liked by the teachers, as I had a better preparation than most of the others.
But the strongest impact was religious. We went to the Episcopal Church every Sunday and this corresponded to my need.
There, with the ritual, the participation of the parish, and the music, my religious feeling was satisfied as never before. I wished I could have belonged to that church!
Then there was the headmistress to whose religious instruction I responded; I felt how real religion was to her.
But we moved back to Switzerland and I was more a stranger than ever.
I was confirmed, as was the custom, at about 16 in the village church and I believe I substituted through my imagination that which I missed in outer reality.
I was then supposed to be grown up; it was still the time when most girls did not get the same education as boys.
Life was boring and I was full of curiosity and had energies that would have needed to be used.
I was unhappy but somehow did not see clearly enough what I wanted to be able to fight for it.
I was about 18 when my father wanted my younger sister to go to an excellent college for girls in England.
So I asked him to let me go also, to which he agreed.
In spite of having sustained financial losses, he felt education was the best capital he could give to his children.
Yet he did not know that such a year in an English college needed a follow-up if it were to lead to a practical goal.
He did not think of a career for his daughters; marriage was the goal of a woman as he saw it and I did not see clearer.
You can imagine how often when I later studied medicine I wondered about those “wasted” years.
If I had then wanted to study medicine and felt the certainty that came later, my father could easily have been persuaded.
Now looking back, I see that I needed those many years of latency.
I needed the escape into imagination, where everything was fluid and “wings” were growing that might be a hindrance from the practical point of view, but that kept me from ever being satisfied with the realistic aspect of things.
I was not meant to study medicine; if so, I would have done it before marriage.
I had a vocation and the experience as a nurse, then as wife and mother, that was as much part of it as the medical studies and psychology.
From the objective standpoint, I was not a good student when I studied in later years, but because of the experience I had already acquired, I was aware of many other problems and I learned just what I needed for the work I was meant to do.
So I must be grateful that my eyes were not yet open and that I could not see and find the opportunities I was not yet ripe for.
The year in the English college was certainly a strong and very beneficial influence on me.
There were women who belonged to the modern world, where I felt to belong also.
I was treated as a grownup person and my horizons widened.
There were excellent teachers and many of the girls were preparing for careers.
When we left college we joined “the guild of old girls,” who were expected to continue to educate themselves by reading and to make their lives, in whatever way, serve not only personal interests, but society.
Again religion played a primary role and I was happy to be able again to go regularly to the Episcopal Church.
We had regular prayers at the college, which no one liked to miss, and the short addresses given were impressive and to the point.
Here again I met women whose religion was very real.
On coming back to my home I knew I wanted to serve and I had decided to learn nursing.
This seemed a feminine profession and I wanted to be feminine.
I thought of marriage, but only if I met the “right” man; never would I look for him.
I trusted God would send him at the right time.
I went out to dances, but the young men I met there were not to my liking.
Now and then an English friend of my mother had parties with foreign students where there I felt much freer.
At last when I was past 20, I could enter a hospital and try out whether I had the necessary health and strength for the strenuous work as a nurse.
My parents thought I would soon be disappointed and glad to return to a more comfortable life.
But I was very happy; now life seemed worthwhile.
To the astonishment of my parents, I thrived in this hard work because I was so satisfied.
I wanted to continue to go to a regular nursing school where I would pass examinations and earn a diploma.
Now I took the necessary initiatives to find the training I wanted and got my parents to agree.
The first hospital was run by a protestant religious order; here nursing was part of service to God.
I was never tempted to become part of the order because I was much too attached to the world, but all I did was done in a religious spirit and my preoccupation was a religious one.
I felt I had a vocation; I wondered whether that meant that I could not marry. Was it not more important to love God than to love a man?
I was a nurse for about 2 years; before completing the training and receiving my diploma I met my future husband and got engaged.
I had no doubt that this was the “right” man God had sent to me and this conviction lasted through all the 51 years of marriage and beyond.
Even when marriage presented many difficulties and even when I was unhappy, I still knew that this was the “right” man for me.
I was incredibly happy when my husband led me out of the narrow restrictions of my home into a life with wide horizons.
My husband came from a peasant family.
They had known poverty, but they radiated contentment and happiness as I had not known in my home.
How glad I was that my husband did not belong to the sophisticated society like the young men I had met at dances!
My husband was dose to nature; everything was natural including the way he led me into sexuality.
I who had grown up in a Victorian home whose mother felt sex to be a “duty” and who repressed all expressions of exuberance.
I came to experience sex as an “ecstasy” and I just “knew” that this was a religious sacrament. Joy, including the body and its pleasure, became for me part of religion.
My husband was a minister and I disliked this profession.
How could any man believe he knew what God’s message to man was?
It seemed arrogant that any man would assume he could interpret God to man!
But I loved this man and so I accepted his profession although I was very glad when later he gave up the ministry to be secretary of an international organization for the relief of the churches that had suffered through the first world war.
I saw the artist in my husband.
He was very musical and when he played the piano he spoke to my heart.
This meant more than any words.
Also in the way he lived, he seemed like an artist; he did not drive himself as I did, but was just absorbed in a project and then able to relax again.
Work never seemed to tire him because his interest was so fully in it; when he felt disinclined he did not force himself and worked with new zest the next day.
I felt him to be deeply religious, not because of what he said, but because of his life.
He was never afraid, wherever he went; he felt “safe in the everlasting arms.”
I who knew fear, I felt fearlessness to be the proof of real faith.
My husband also considered that it was his religious belief that gave him such confidence.
But gradually I came to another theory.
I think his harmonious nature, the fact that his parents were not such opposite characters as mine were, meant that he was not torn inside and did not have to fight such internal battles.
He had absorbed his mother’s child-like faith and he grew up in the country where the rhythm of nature is part of religion.
It seems to me that up to his death he had this harmonious relatedness to all life.
For years I believed with him that his harmony was due to his “faith.” He was sure that if l would just have “faith” I would feel safe as he did.
I tried very hard to identify with the beliefs he expressed, but my fears did not lessen.
In fact during the time I was a nurse I had almost lost fear and now, happily married, fear was worse than ever.
I wonder whether the independent and strong attitude I assumed during my professional work made me feel free, while now I was much more passive, almost a “clinging vine.”
My husband said he could and would not have a “neurotic” wife, and I think it was healthy that he thus prevented me from making him my psychotherapist.
Because of my fears, which irritated my husband, I eventually became a patient of Dr. Jung’s, who was a friend of his.
I had heard Dr. Jung speak and was fascinated, but I did not like him as a man; he was so sarcastic and he said terrible things when he made fun of people.
It was good for me to go to someone so different in attitude to my husband. He attacked my pseudo faith, which I now defended with my husband’s arguments against Dr. Jung’s cynicism.
He spoke to me, the minister’s wife, in the vein he later wrote about in his book Answer to Job,2 attacking the belief in a “good father God” and challenging my unconscious doubts.
It was awful and I fought desperately for the Christian faith I stood for.
I certainly gained strength in that fight! I stood between my husband’s and Dr. Jung’s ideas.
Both men were absolutely sincere, yet each saw the world with different eyes.
Dr. Jung maintained if religion is to be alive for a person, it must be a real inner experience.
My husband said that in Christ God had sent his message to humanity once and for all; that was enough, we must only believe it.
It seemed that my husband saw faith as something one could acquire by will, by prayer or by submission, although he could not say how.
But Dr. Jung recognized that some people simply cannot believe without a real inner experience and he also knew that sometimes a crisis brought the conditions that brought such an experience.
If I was so tormented by fear it proved that my faith was not real.
At length I was defeated and had nothing to hold on to.
I do not remember how long this desperate feeling lasted, it may have been one or several weeks.
Then one night I woke up and had a real living religious experience.
It was nothing spectacular, no vision or special light, but it brought an inner certainty.
Next day I was so elated, I expected that now life would be different.
But it was only a “seed” which needed time to grow.
Still, from this small beginning, a real faith, rather an “inner knowing,” has continued to grow.
For a long time I could still think within the framework of traditional religion.
I went to church and as we moved to Geneva, I went regularly to the English or the American Episcopal Church. I was later confirmed in the latter.
I had meanwhile become a practicing psychotherapist and, just as in my childhood, I knew that only with the help of higher invisible powers could I do my work well.
A religious attitude continued to be essential for me and for all I did.
In 1948, after 20 years in Geneva, we moved back to Zurich and I built up my practice there.
I was very well received by the doctors, some of whom had been students with me at the beginning of our medical training.
In Geneva I had been more of an outsider among the doctors.
In Zurich I learned to speak to groups and began to write articles; I was much appreciated, but remained outside the Jungian group.
I had for many years been interested in body awareness and had experienced myself the beneficial results of movement lessons.
This non-verbal approach had helped me more in many respects than psychotherapy, where so often words did bring insights to the mind, but did not reach my total person.
Through movement lessons I had been changed and helped toward more harmony.
More and more I realize how regular practice in body awareness and movement, as well as lessons with excellent artist-teachers has been the means of inner development of my whole person.
I have a gratitude to some of these teachers that I cannot feel for the psychotherapists who worked with me, except perhaps for Miss Toni Wolff.
I increasingly realize how the one-sided development of reason and intellect which was certainly a necessary step, gradually led to man’s alienation from the body and therefore also from contact with the environment.
The body is our only instrument to make such contact.
Other psychotherapists are also stressing the same need; movement groups and training courses in body-awareness are springing up on all sides.
As I understand through my own work we are still a long way from finding that naturalness of being “at home” in the body without losing the values some generations before us have struggled for.
Here again the religious attitude is essential.
When I said sex had been for me an ecstatic religious experience this was certainly so because I had never “experimented” before, never “played” with what seemed to me to express my deepest and fullest reality.
I agree with those psychologists who believe that if our whole body were again as in childhood or in primitives alert to the multitudes of sensory stimulation, sex would not play the exaggerated role it does in modern life.
Modern man is not happy and lacks basic satisfactions.
I do not believe that this lack is to be sought in any individual factor, but rather in the alienation that does not allow the body to draw the necessary
satisfactions from the environment.
I had very strongly felt the difference between my husband’s body and also the children’s and my lack and rigidity.
If we artificially separate nature from spirit, our religion, our reaching out for contact with a greater and higher world, automatically becomes one-sided, excluding physical reality.
It was most important for me that in my healing experience through “the Earthmother,” my religious imagery ceased to be one-sided.
Yet I still catch myself having inhibitions here and there because of the habit of logic and “patriarchal” imagery.
I was leading a sober and useful life in Zurich and expected to continue in this routine when an entirely new adventure opened.
I was led out of my restricted surroundings to the wide horizons of California.
My elder son was established there.
He had emigrated when a youth of 19 and I had not seen him since.
I had always felt that in some way his rebellion was related to mine, that he had felt my unrest as a boy and my unused energies that pushed toward expression.
While I was fighting my inner battles my boy was trying out his strength in a country of wide possibilities and hard realities.
Now his father who was spending the winter in the sunny climate, fell ill and I came to join him.
The way I was helped to overcome fear, the way I was guided in every respect, was in itself a deep religious experience.
All parts of my varied life seemed to flt into a design of which this new phase and the meeting with my son in his manhood was an integral part.
I began to write my autobiography in the new and vast environment where I had much time alone.
I needed to turn inward.
I gave up my home in Switzerland and put my things in storage doing away with much that I had clung to.
All this was part of the necessary detachment and the effort to come to essentials.
At first I meant my writing as a continuation of my therapeutic work; I thought of writing to an audience.
Then I found that what I wrote was in the first place important for myself.
There was much in my life I had not come to terms with, particularly my analysis with Dr. Jung.
His image stood there like an enormous block hindering me from going on my way.
Formerly I had admired beyond all reason and become a follower without real discrimination.
Then I had become more and more critical and angry, emotionally rejecting and still not having a clear standpoint of my own.
So I entered a long and heated inner battle, reading, thinking, evaluating.
Of course my religious attitude played a primary role in this.
I could not identify with Jung’s psychology, which he seemed to confuse with religion.
Psychology calls itself a science and is therefore based on reason.
I felt that this was too narrow a premise because religion has other dimensions.
Religion means stepping out of our reasonable everyday perception, where we measure and compare and because of our logical language are confronted with opposites that seem to exclude each other.
In our everyday existence in the here and now these conditions exist as the consequence of the limitation of human brains and consciousness.
Yet as one reads religious writings, the New Testament or Zen for instance, one finds contradictory statements which, because of another, wider state of consciousness are not exclusive but complementary.
All mystics describe their experiences in paradoxes.
I suddenly thought of my ecstatic experience of sex, which had been at the same time the greatest fulfillment of self and selflessness, a total giving and a total receiving at the same time.
In religious experience we somehow reach another level.
When I passed from the psychological into a level of wider dimensions, I realized that I had stepped beyond the limitation of the reasoning brain into another quality of experience.
I then also remembered my impression of Dr. Jung, when I had visited him in hospital, as he was recovering from a serious illness that had brought him close to death.
He spoke of his “visions” and how their reality had so captured him that he did not want to return to the restricted earth existence.
As he spoke, I felt another dimension that was not psychology.
I regret that later Dr. Jung tried to fit also these experiences into his psychological theories, saying that his concept of the “collective unconscious” contained everything we do not know, identifying it with religion.
I recognized more and more the limitation of the attempt to express all experience in psychological terms; it is like a two dimensional picture of a many dimensional reality.
I was then reading widely, psychological books and also books attempting to go beyond psychology.
With an intense relief I was able to step into a place of wider dimensions.
At that point I met Dr. and Mrs. Bendit, who were lecturing in the United States and living for a time in California.
Both had had Jungian analysis and had written books separately and together.
With them I found much understanding; they shared my views and were trying to express experience in a much wider context.
They knew, as I did, that some patients are troubled by parapsychological classification.
Psychology cannot help such people, but they need someone who knows that such experiences exist and to whom they can speak openly.
I never could believe that finding the causes of our troubles would produce a solution; for me, understanding a problem was a far cry from being able to tackle it.
It also seems to me quite ineffectual to try to change outer behaviour unless a new basic attitude can be found.
When a person’s attitude changes fundamentally, he then emanates another “atmosphere,” so that what he does or says has another connotation.
The same words or deeds then have a totally different effect.
But a fundamental change of attitude can only happen when a person begins to feel differently, when depression and anxiety change to joy and confidence, when the person experiences self value and anticipates happiness.
This is the result of a true religious experience of being in contact with the source of life and feeling in some ways what is described as being “a child of God.”
Psychology cannot bring about this change of attitude, yet it may help to eliminate some of the blocks on the way.
I knew that to be really effective to help people I must learn to make contact with the healing powers.
Dr. Jung was right when he kept insisting that the therapist’s own personal development was the most important factor.
I had worked at my development and I knew I was growing, but I am very aware how much is lacking.
I can see how many sources of error there are when trying to help people and sometimes one wonders whether often people would not do better to struggle alone; the danger of dependency is very great and people are too passive.
Sometimes I feel as if I stood at a new beginning, almost as when I was a child in the vast unlknon.
As I tolerate this situation I begin to orient myself and it is as when in a dark place gradually the eyes begin to distinguish some contours.
Even as a child I felt I belonged to that invisible world, and now also there is something in me that “knows” and “belongs.”
I am convinced there is another kind of knowledge accessible to us, which is beyond the senses and beyond reason.
We have latent faculties which can develop and give access to new knowledge.
I have found it helpful to read about the discoveries of modern science.
A whole revolution has taken place in view of the world as modern science sees it, a change of outlook as great as the one implied by the discovery of the earth as a globe revolving around the sun.
As a result of the discoveries of Einstein and Planck and others, matter and energy are seen as different aspects of one unknown reality.
Time and space are found to be relative, part of a four dimensional aspect of the world.
Where formerly it was believed that man was on the way to more and more knowledge, modern science shows how restricted the human senses are, so that there is a limit to the possibilities of new discoveries, even with more perfected instruments.
Only a tiny fraction of the realities around us can ever reach the senses.
Ancient peoples acquired knowledge through intuition in a way that is lost to us.
Parapsychology is showing that most people have extrasensory faculties that maybe can be developed.
Orientals have developed training systems that give astonishing results.
When we Westerners no more place so much value on material and scientific development, we may also discover new inner powers that can enrich the lives of men.
Many men have in special moments experienced a more inclusive consciousness.
As we cultivate the inner life such wider consciousness can become more frequent and produce a lasting change of attitude, so that we may grow toward a condition of wholeness and fulfillment. ~Tina Keller, Tina Keller Memoir, Pages 113-123