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The collected works of C. G. Jung Volume 18 – The Symbolic Life

What are religions? Religions are psychotherapeutic systems. What are we doing, we psychotherapists?

We are trying to heal the suffering of the human mind, of the human psyche or the human soul, and religions deal with the same problem.

Therefore our Lord himself is a healer; he is a doctor; he heals the sick and he deals with the troubles of the soul; and that is exactly what we call psychotherapy.

It is not a play on words when I call religion a psychotherapeutic system. It is the most elaborate system, and there is a great practical truth behind it.

I have a clientele which is pretty large and extends over a number of continents, and where I live we are practically surrounded by Catholics; but during the last thirty years I have not had more than about six practising Catholics among my patients.

The vast majority were Protestants and Jews.

I once sent round a questionnaire to people whom I did not know, asking: “If you were in psychological trou- ble what would you do?

Would you go to the doctor or would you go to the priest or parson?”

I cannot remember the actual figures; but I remember that about twenty per cent of the Protestants said they would go to the parson.

All the rest were most emphatically against the parson and for the doctor, and the most emphatic were the relatives and children of parsons.

There was one Chinese who replied, and he put it very nicely. He remarked: “When I am young I go to the doctor, and when I am old I go to the philosopher.”

But about fifty-eight or sixty per cent of the Catholics answered that they would certainly go to the priest.

That proves that the Catholic Church in particular, with its rigorous system of confession and its director of conscience,
is a therapeutic institution.

I have had some patients who, after having had analysis with me, even joined the Catholic Church, just as I have had some patients who now go to the so-called Oxford Group Movement—with my blessing!

I think it is perfectly correct to make use of these psychotherapeutic institutions which history has given to us, and I wish I were still a medieval man who could join such a creed.

Unfortunately it needs a somewhat medieval psychology to do it, and I am not sufficiently medieval.

But you see from this that I take the archetypal images and a suitable form for their projection seriously, be- cause the collective unconscious is really a serious factor in the human psyche. Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 370