Psychology and Religion (The Terry Lectures Series)

[Carl Jung on the Catholic Church.]

The Catholic Church, for instance, administers the sacraments for the purpose of bestowing their spiritual blessings upon the believer; but since this act would amount to enforcing the presence of divine grace by an indubitably magical procedure, it is logically argued that nobody can compel divine grace to be present in the sacramental act, but that it is nevertheless inevitably present since the sacrament is a divine institution which God would not have caused to be if he had not intended to lend it his support. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 7.

Although the Catholic Church has often been accused of particular rigidity, she nevertheless admits that dogma is a living thing and that its formulation is therefore capable of change and development.

Even the number of dogmas is not limited and can be multiplied in the course of time.

The same holds true of the ritual.

Yet all changes and developments are determined within the framework of the facts as originally experienced, and this sets up a special kind of dogmatic content and emotional value. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 10.

The Catholic who has turned his back on the Church usually develops a secret or manifest leaning towards atheism, whereas the Protestant follows, if possible, a sectarian movement. The absolutism of the Catholic Church seems to demand an equally absolute negation, whereas Protestant relativism permits of variations. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph, 34.

What is ordinarily called “religion” is a substitute to such an amazing degree that I ask myself seriously whether this kind of “religion,” which I prefer to call a creed, may not after all have an important function in human society.

The substitute has the obvious purpose of replacing immediate experience by a choice of suitable symbols tricked out with an organized dogma and ritual.

The Catholic Church maintains them by her indisputable authority, the Protestant “church” (if this term is still applicable) by insistence on belief in the evangelical message.

So long as these two principles work, people are effectively protected against immediate religious experience.

Even if something of the sort should happen to them, they can refer to the Church, for she would know whether the experience came from God
or from the devil, and whether it is to be accepted or rejected. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 75.

In my profession I have encountered many people who have had immediate experience and who would not and could not submit to the authority of ecclesiastical decision.

I had to go with them through the crises of passionate conflicts, through the panics of madness, through desperate confusions and depressions which were grotesque and terrible at the same time, so that I am fully aware of the extraordinary importance of dogma and ritual, at least as methods of mental hygiene.

If the patient is a practicing Catholic, I invariably advise him to confess and to receive communion in order to protect himself from immediate experience, which might easily prove too much for him.

With Protestants it is usually not so easy, because dogma and ritual have become so pale and faint that they have lost their efficacy to a very great extent. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 76.

The Catholic “director of conscience” often has infinitely more psychological skill and insight. Protestant parsons, moreover, have gone through a scientific training at a theological faculty which, with its critical spirit, undermines naivete of faith, whereas the powerful historical tradition in a Catholic priest’s training is apt to strengthen the authority of the institution. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 77.

I cannot refrain from calling attention to the interesting fact that whereas the central Christian symbolism is a Trinity, the formula presented by the unconscious is a quaternity. In reality the orthodox Christian formula is not quite complete, because the dogmatic aspect of the evil principle is absent from the Trinity and leads a more or less awkward existence on its own as the devil.

Nevertheless it seems that the Church does not exclude an inner relationship between the devil and the Trinity.

A Catholic authority expresses himself on this question as follows: “The existence of Satan, however, can only be understood in relation to the Trinity.”

“Any theological treatment of the devil that is not related to God’s trinitarian consciousness is a falsification of the actual position.” ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 103.

The miraculous liquid, the divine water, called sky or heaven, probably refers to the supra-celestial waters of Genesis 1:7.

In its functional aspect it was thought to be a sort of baptismal water which, like the holy water of the Church, possesses a creative and transformative quality.

The Catholic Church still performs the rite of the benedictio fontis on Holy Saturday before Easter.

The rite consists in a repetition of the descensus spiritus sancti in aquam.

The ordinary water thereby acquires the divine quality of transforming and giving spiritual rebirth to man.

This is exactly the alchemical idea of the divine water, and there would be no difficulty whatever in deriving the aqua permanens of alchemy from the rite of the benedictio fontis were it not that the former is of pagan origin and certainly the older of the two. ~Carl Jung, Depth Psychology, Paragraph 161.

The Catholic Church is liberal enough to look upon the Osiris-Horus-Isis myth, or at any rate suitable portions of it, as a prefiguration of the Christian legend of salvation. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 178.

This is how things stand in the Protestant camp.

The situation in the Catholic camp is more subtle.

Of especial importance here is the ritual with its sacral action, which dramatizes the living occurrence of archetypal meaning and thus makes a direct impact on the unconscious.

Can anyone, for instance, deny the impression made upon him by the sacrament of the Mass, if he has followed it with even a minimum of understanding?

Then again, the Catholic Church has the institution of confession and of the director of conscience, which are of the greatest practical value when these activities devolve upon suitable persons.

The fact that this is not always so proves, unfortunately, to be an equally great disadvantage.

Thirdly, the Catholic Church possesses a richly developed and undamaged world of dogmatic ideas, which provide a worthy receptacle for the plethora of figures in the unconscious and in this way give visible expression to certain vitally important truths with which the conscious mind should keep in touch.

The faith of a Catholic is not better or stronger than the faith of a Protestant, but a person’s unconscious is gripped by the Catholic form no matter
how weak his faith may be.

That is why, once he slips out of this form, he may easily fall into a fanatical atheism, of a kind that is particularly to be met with in Latin countries. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 285.

The gross concretism of the vision is so striking that one might easily feel tempted, for aesthetic and other reasons, to drop the comparison with the Mass altogether.

If I nevertheless venture to bring out certain analogies, I do so not with the rationalistic intention of devaluing the sacred ceremony by putting it on a level with a piece of pagan nature worship.

If I have any aim at all apart from scientific truth, it is to show that the most important mystery of the Catholic Church rests, among other
things, on psychic conditions which are deeply rooted in the human soul. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 404.