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Carl Jung and Catholicism and Protestantism


8dec6 church

C.G. Jung Letters, Vol. 1: 1906-1950

To Pastor H. Wegmann

Dear Pastor Wegmann, 6 December 1945

Your standpoint, I think, is sufficiently clear.

I have nothing against it in principle, since Protestantism stands or falls by it.

There must be individual freedom in Biblical exegesis.

The only question seems to be whether this freedom should be exclusive or not.

Being gripped by Christ, as you yourself say, is no unambiguous matter.

Even those who persecute him are gripped by him.

For one person he is a human being, for another God.

•Now, the sermon is not a dialogue between two individuals but an address to a collectivity consisting of widely divergent mind .

Hence, quite rightly, the gospel should be preached, i.e., something that has the support of a consensus.

One can, it seems to me, go to extremes in two opposite directions: one man preaching his subjective standpoint, the other moving exclusively along traditional lines.

The one stirs up polemics, the other peters out in conventionality.

One need not, however, go to extremes, but only remember that the community has different needs.

Thus the fact that there is a genuine religiosity in the Catholic Church proves the existence of a need for fixed and immovable ideas and forms.

But you also come across this need with Protestants, particularly as the Bible guarantees no solid foundation.

You mention for instance the Book of Job .

For every thinking person the question arises:

What about God’s omniscience?

What, above all, about his morality?

He dickers with the devil, lets himself be bamboozled by him and torments the wretched Job simply because he is unsure of himself.

It is as if a potter made a bet with his apprentice as to whether the pot he had fashioned would go kaput if he hurled it to the ground.

What does the pot, which in this case is a human being, say to that?

What does it mean when he calls upon God to help him against God?

And how does this conception of God square with the New Testament one?

How, come to that, does the layman square it with the ambiguous figure of Christ, not only with the discrepancy between the Synoptic and the Johannine Christ but also with the biographically elusive, so-called “personal” figure?

It took many centuries of the most strenuous mental effort to produce anything like a unified conception which a “keen” Protestantism deems itself entitled to cold-shoulder.

This discontinuity gives me much food for thought.

I always have the feeling of being torn up by the roots.

Protestantism pur sang strikes me as something dynamic but unbalanced which, lacking a counterweight, plunges ahead and dissolves into countless subjectivisms.

If I had any say in the matter I would suggest calling this manifestation of the individuation process, now emerging more and more clearly, no longer a denomination and not squeezing it into an ostensible Church, since Protestantism is by its very nature anti-ecclesiastical.

A Church must have a common foundation, and that foundation is certainly not the Bible nor is it the figure of Christ, which has provoked the most divergent views among the theologians themselves.

Why the devil didn’t the Protestant theologians of the day travel to the Tridentinum when safe conduct was nevertheless assured them?

The Protestants are equally to blame for it that the evolutionary process within the Church has not proceeded more rapidly.

The individuation process is a development on the native soil of Christianity.

But Protestantism is not a Church and will not be a Church, and particularly not a Counter church, although it is rooted in the Church, namely the primitive Church and its tradition.

Whatever the specialist may think about Meyer’s exegesis, I regard it as a signpost that should not be overlooked .

He brings the foundations of Protestantism closer again to the primitive Church and allows the lone wanderer, the fate-marked heretic (significantly derived from aip£’iv, to take, choose, decide for something! ) to divine something of that maternal foundation where he is connected with the whole of Christendom.

And since the outpoured Holy Ghost is himself a great heretic, he also inflicts choice and agonizing decision, on all those solitaries who disturb and loosen up the Ecclesia by enriching her-provided of course that they can and want to link back to a maternal Church.

Whether the earthly Church recognizes this linking-back or not is perhaps a painful, personal, subsidiary question.

The main thing is that the linking-back should occur in the spirit, and in a spirit of childlikeness and humility.

Should the earthly Church not be present at this act, then the case is no different from that of the priest who, in the absence of a congregation, celebrates the Mass by himself.

The space the congregation otherwise fills will not be empty, and if the mother does not succour her children, then the grandmother will, who always intervenes when the mother fails.

The grandmother is less exclusive than the mother.

The Magna Mater has already had pagan children and as Ecclesia spiritualis she embraces a Christendom as huge as it is fragmented.

You write that the Protestant dynamism is endangered by the spirit of tradition.

In my opinion this danger appears only where the dynamism of the Holy Ghost is at work, that is, where a solitary heretic must strike a new path through the primeval jungle.

But where the “Holy Ghost” can be damped down by tradition, it is no longer a question of a “holy” Ghost-who cannot be damped down -but of a man-made secession which had probably better be stopped.

In Protestantism diversionary tactics have virtually been elevated into a principle, which on the one hand hinders the linking-back to the immemorial collective origin and on the other hand renders any agreement on what has been achieved impossible.

Because of his narrow spiritual foundation the Protestant is constantly driven into spiritual arrogance, of which, as you know, we have some terrifying examples before our eyes.

The Catholic, however, has to squander his best energies in papering over the crumbling Church walls, while the religious problems slip out of his hands into those of the Protestants, who create the greatest confusion by carrying them to extremes.

Meyer’s book has opened my eyes again to the truly neurotic situation of the Christian today.

The highest cultural principles of the West glower at each other across the schism-the Christian is split within himself.

Therefore it is quite possible that the devil will overrun the world.

A universal Church would have more authority than a split one.

It is clear that the Catholic Church cannot give up her claim to catholicity without collapsing into nothing.

If on the other hand Protestantism were to give up its ambitious claim to be itself a Church, it would have lost nothing but only gained itself, whole and complete.

You cannot have both, Church and freedom, and if both want both undiminished, no Solomon will be found to pronounce judgment.

Anyone who wants both must sacrifice something on both sides.

The tragedy is that the two creeds cannot bring this to pass.

Ecclesia semper catholica aut nihil, but Protestantism culminates in the individual.

The claim of the Church is legitimate in principle, and so is the individual’s.

To share in the tradition the Protestant would definitely have to sacrifice some of his subjectivism and spiritual arrogance, and for the sake of catholicity the Church
would have to make some radical exceptions to the rule.

Forgive me, my dear Pastor, that this letter has turned out so long.

Your decisive standpoint has enabled me to formulate my thoughts about the schism in the Church.

And for that I am sincerely grateful to you.

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung

~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 395-398.