Psychology and Religion: West and East (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11)

They think they have to do with rational facts, whereas it entirely escapes them that it is and always has been primarily a question of irrational psychic phenomena.

That this is so can be seen plainly enough from the unhistorical character of the gospels, whose only concern was to represent the miraculous figure of Christ as graphically and impressively as possible.

Further evidence of this is supplied by the earliest literary witness, Paul, who was closer to the events in question than the apostles.

It is frankly disappointing to see how Paul hardly ever allows the real Jesus of Nazareth to get a word in

Even at this early date (and not only in John) Christ is completely overlaid, or rather smothered, by metaphysical conceptions: he is the ruler over all daemonic forces, the cosmic saviour, the mediating God-man.

The whole pre-Christian and Gnostic theology of the Near East (some of whose roots go still further back) wraps itself about him and turns him before our eyes into a dogmatic figure who has no more need of historicity.

At a very early stage, therefore, the real Christ vanished behind the emotions and projections that swarmed about him from far and near; immediately and almost without trace he was absorbed into the surrounding religious systems and moulded into their archetypal exponent.

He [Christ] became the collective figure whom the unconscious of his contemporaries expected to appear, and for this reason it is pointless to ask who he “really” was.

Were he human and nothing else, and in this sense historically true, he would probably be no more enlightening a figure than, say, Pythagoras, or Socrates, or Apollonius of Tyana.

He opened men’s eyes to revelation precisely because he was, from everlasting, God, and therefore unhistorical; and he functioned as such only by virtue of the consensus of unconscious expectation.

If nobody had remarked that there was something special about the wonder-working Rabbi from Galilee, the darkness would never have noticed that a light was shining.

Whether he lit the light with his own strength, or whether he was the victim of the universal longing for light and broke down under it, are questions which, for lack of reliable information, only faith can decide.

At any rate the documentary reports relating to the general projection and assimilation of the Christ-figure are unequivocal.

There is plenty of evidence for the co-operation of the collective unconscious in view of the abundance of parallels from the history of religion.

In these circumstances we must ask ourselves what it was in man that was stirred by the Christian message, and what was the answer he gave ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 228