Phanes Volume 3 – 2020

Review of On Theology & Psychology. The Correspondence of C.G. Jung and Adolf Keller. Edited by Marianne Jehle-Wildberger.

Translated by Heather McCartney with John Peck. Philemon Series. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020 ISBN: 978-0-691-19877-4. 336 pp.

Since 2003, the Philemon Foundation has not only produced high standard scholarly editions of Jung’s hitherto unpublished primary texts such as the Liber Novus (2009), the ETH Lectures (2019ff.) or the Black Books (2020), but has also been instrumental in the proper contextualisation of these works through the publication of Jung’s most important correspondences: The Jung-White Letters (2007),

The Correspondence of C.G. Jung and Erich Neumann (2015) and now The Correspondence of C.G. Jung and Adolf Keller (2020).

Whereas the letter exchange with Erich Neumann is closely linked thematically and biographically to Jung’s correspondence with James Kirsch (2011), the letters with reformed protestant minister Adolf Keller (1872-1963) have strong ties with the correspondence with the
Catholic priest Victor White (1902-1960).

Both clergymen were respected theologians in their field and offered Jung the opportunity to discuss Christian spirituality against the background of his psychological theory of individuation.

However, whereas the contact with White only began in 1945, when the main pillars of Jung’s psychology stood already firm in the ground, the personal contact with Keller reaches all the way back to 1907—at that time based on the shared interest in Freud’s psychoanalysis.

In contrast to his friend and fellow clergyman Oskar Pfister (1873-1956), Keller decided to stay with Jung after the schism within the psychoanalytic movement and the formation of an independent Swiss group.

His wife, Tina Keller-Jenny, became a patient of Jung around 1915 in the midst of Jung’s psychological self-exploration minutely recorded in the Black Books. Thus, it is fair to say that the Kellers were close to the beating  eart of the newly emerging psychology that is so intricately linked to Jung’s personal experience.

During Jung’s subsequent attempts to find an expression for these visionary experiences within an existing conceptual framework the discussions and correspondences with theologians like Keller became of significant importance.

Jung grew up in a pastor’s home and was well versed in the liturgy and teachings of the Swiss Reformed Church.

His formative years fell into heyday of liberal theology with its historico-critical reading of the Holy Scriptures. Clergymen like Jung’s father experienced a weakening of their personal faith, something that his son did not forget to notice in his memoirs (MDR, p. 53).

Keller experienced a similar unsettling encounter with liberal theology during his first semesters of studies in Basel.

Later in Berlin he came across the teachings of Julius Kaftan, whose theology centred more around the practical concerns of the human spirit.

As the editor of the correspondence, Marianne Jehle-Wildberger pointed out in her seminal study Adolf Keller.

Ecumenist, World Citizen, Philanthropist (2013) that Keller belonged to the so-called ʻtheological meditators’ who tried to find common ground between the different fractions of the theological debate in German Protestantism.

His mediating standpoint would also allow for a rather frictionless inclusion of Jung’s psychology into his personal theological understanding.

This started to change when Keller came across Karl Barth’s The Epistle to the Romans, which, in its second edition of 1921, could be seen as the swan song of liberal theology.

Once Keller started to embrace Barth’s dialectical theology, his position was more difficult to reconcile with Jung’s psychological image of God.

Barth’s notion of God as ʻthe complete otherʼ seemed diametrically opposed to the personal and intimate experience of God that Jung had in mind when he cited the writings of Meister Eckhart and other mystics.

Jung strongly rejected dialectical theology on the ground of its inability to speak to the human soul.

It was therefore not surprising that Jung’s interest shifted towards more spiritually inclined Protestant circles in the 30s, and to Roman Catholicism in the 40s (Liebscher 2020).

How the friendship between Jung and Keller was able to navigate these theoretical differences over a period of more than forty years is one of the fascinating aspects of this correspondence.

The editor, Marianne Jehle-Wildberger, has meticulously carved out many more noteworthy facets of this letter exchange in her masterful introduction.

This is a piece of original and authentic historical research and, as always in the Philemon Series, the result of many years of intense scholarly work.

This correspondence together with the accompanying research by Jehle-Wildberger will set the tone of the debate on Jung’s understanding of religion for many years to come. ~Martin Liebscher, PHANÊS Vol 3, 2020 • PP. 180-183


Barth, Karl.[1922]. Der Römerbrief (Zweite Fassung), ed. by Cornelis van der Kool and Katja Tolstaja. Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich,

Jehle-Wildberger, Marianne. 2013. Adolf Keller. Ecumenist, World Citizen, Philanthropist. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock; Cambridge: Lutterworth Press.

Jung, Carl Gustav / Jaffé, Aniela. [1962]. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, tr. Clara and Richard Winston. New York:Vintage Books, 1989.

———. 2009. The Red Book. Liber Novus, edited by S. Shamdasani, translated from the German by M. Kyburz, J. Peck and S. Shamdasani. New York: Philemon Foundation and W.W. Norton & Co.

———. 2019. History of Modern Psychology. Lectures Delivered at the ETH Zurich. Volume 1, 1933-34, edited by Ernst Falzeder, translated
by Mark Kyburz, John Peck, and Ernst Falzeder. Philemon Series. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
———. 2020. The Black Books, edited by Sonu Shamdasani, translated by Martin Liebscher, John Peck and Sonu Shamdasani. Philemon Series. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
———& James Kirsch. 2011. The Jung-Kirsch Letters. The Correspondence of C.G. Jung and James Kirsch, ed. By Ann Conrad Lammers, tr. by Ursula Egli and Ann Conrad Lammers. London & New York: Routledge.
———& Erich Neumann. 2015. Analytical Psychology in Exile: The Correspondence of C. G. Jung and Erich Neumann, edited and
introduced by Martin Liebscher, translated by Heather McCartney. Philemon Series. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
———& Victor White. 2007. The Jung-White Letters, edited by Ann Conrad Lammers and Adrian Cunningham, with consulting editor
Murray Stein. Philemon Series. London & New York: Routledge.