Psychology and Religion

The sequence of creeds illustrates the evolution of the Trinity idea through the centuries. In the course of its development it either consistently avoided, or successfully combated, all rationalistic deviations, such as, for instance, the so-plausible looking Arian heresy.

The creeds superimposed on the Trinitarian allusions in the Holy Scriptures a structure of ideas that is a perpetual stumbling-block to the liberal-minded rationalist.

Religious statements are, however, never rational in the ordinary sense of the word, for they always take into consideration that other world, the world of the archetype, of which reason in the ordinary sense is unconscious, being occupied only with externals.

Thus the development of the Christian idea of the Trinity unconsciously reproduced the archetype of the homoousia of Father, Son, and Ka-mutef which first appeared in Egyptian theology. Not that the Egyptian model could be considered the

archetype of the Christian idea. The archetype as I have explained elsewhere, is an “irrepresentable” factor, a “disposition” which starts functioning at a given moment in the development of the human mind and arranges the material of consciousness into definite patterns.

That is to say, man’s conceptions of God are organized into triads and trinities, and a whole host of ritualistic and magical practices take on a triple or trichotomous character, as in the case of thrice-repeated apotropaic spells, formulae for blessing, cursing, praising, giving thanks, etc.

Wherever we find it, the archetype has a compelling force  which it derives from the unconscious, and whenever its effect becomes conscious it has a distinctly numinous quality.

There is never any conscious invention or cogitation, though speculations about the Trinity have often been accused of this.

All the controversies, sophistries, quibbles, intrigues, and outrages that are such an odious blot on the history of this dogma owe their existence to the compelling numinosity of the archetype and to the unexampled difficulty of incorporating it in the world of rational thought.

Although the emperors may have made political capital out of the quarrels that ensued, this singular chapter in the history of the human mind cannot possibly be traced back to politics, any more than social and economic causes can be held responsible for it.

The sole reason for the dogma lies in the Christian “message,” which caused a psychic revolution in Western man.

On the evidence of the gospels, and of Paul’s letters in particular, it announced the real and veracious appearance of the God-man in this humdrum human world, accompanied by all the marvelous portents worthy of the son of God.

However obscure the historical core of this phenomenon may seem to us moderns, with our hankering for factual accuracy, it is quite certain that those tremendous psychic effects, lasting for centuries, were not causelessly called forth, by just nothing at all.

Unfortunately the gospel reports, originating in missionary zeal, form the meagerest source imaginable for attempts at historical reconstruction.

But, for that very reason, they tell us all the more about the psychological reactions of the civilized world at that time.

These reactions and assertions are continued in the history of dogma, where they are still conceived as the workings of the Holy Ghost.

This interpretation, though the psychologist has nothing to say in regard to its metaphysical validity, is of the greatest moment, for it proves the existence of an overwhelming opinion or conviction that the operative factor in the formation of ideas is not man’s intellect but an authority above and beyond consciousness.

This psychological fact should on no account be overlooked, for any theoretical reasons whatsoever.

Rationalistic arguments to the effect

that the Holy Ghost is an hypothesis that cannot be proved are not commensurable with the statements of the psyche.

A delusional idea is real, even though its content is, factually considered, nonsense. Psychology’s concern is with psychic phenomena and with nothing else.

These may be mere aspects of phenomena which, in themselves, could be subjected to a number of quite different modes of observation.

Thus the statement that dogmas are inspired by the Holy Ghost indicates that they are not the product of conscious cogitation and speculation but are motivated from sources outside consciousness and possibly even outside man. Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 222.