Psychology and Religion

The fact that the symbolism connected with the mandala traces its near relatives back to pagan sources casts a peculiar light upon these apparently modern psychological occurrences. They seem to continue a Gnostic trend of thought without being supported by direct tradition. If lam right in supposing that every religion is a spontaneous expression of a certain predominant psychological condition, then Christianity was the formulation of a condition that predominated at the beginning of our era and lasted for several centuries.

But a particular psychological condition which predominates for a certain length of time does not exclude the existence of other psychological conditions at other times, and these are equally capable of religious expression.

Christianity had at one time to fight for its life against Gnosticism, which corresponded to another psychological condition.

Gnosticism was stamped out completely and its remnants are so badly mangled that special study is needed to get any insight at all into its inner meaning. But if the historical roots of our symbols extend beyond the Middle Ages they are certainly to be found in Gnosticism.

It would not seem to me illogical if a psychological condition, previously suppressed, should reassert itself when the main ideas of the suppressive condition begin to lose their influence. In spite of the suppression of the Gnostic heresy, it continued to flourish throughout the Middle Ages under the disguise of alchemy.

It is a well-known fact that alchemy consisted of two parts which complement one another on the one hand chemical research proper and on the other the “theoria” or “philosophia.”

As is clear from the writings of Pseudo-Democritus in the first century, (See Alchemy of the Greeks by Berthelot), the two aspects already belonged together at the beginning of our era. The same holds true of the Leiden papyri and the writings of Zosimos in the third century. The religious or philosophical views of ancient alchemy were clearly Gnostic. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 160.