Jungian Psychology and the New God Image
Pamela J. Brown

Community Unitarian Universalist Church
Daytona Beach, Florida
June 04, 2000

Today I want to talk to you about a European shaman who for an increasing number of people might be viewed as "he who brought the sunset to the earth". I speak of Carl Gustav Jung, M.D., a Swiss psychiatrist who was born in 1875 and died in 1961. The son of a clergyman, Jung grew up in the Swiss Reformed Church of his father. He accepted its Christian symbolism and dogma with respect, even though he saw no inspiration in his father and even though he had different religious symbols in his dreams. Like the shaman boy in the children's story, Jung was both introverted and intuitive. He was given to dreams and visions which he experienced as profoundly real. Jung's imaginal experiences impacted him dramatically, but as a youth he had no context for understanding them. The dreams and visions from Jung's early and middle childhood would shape the course of his life. They ultimately led to the gift of Jungian psychology for the people of the world.

As a child, though, Jung clung to Christianity. Thus, young Carl was devastated when he experienced a lack of religious encounter at his first communion. Of this event Jung wrote late in his long and prolific life, "...I was empty and did not know what I was feeling. Only gradually, in the course of the following days, did it dawn on me that nothing had happened. I had reached the pinnacle of religious initiation, had expected something to happen, and nothing at all had happened. I knew that God could do stupendous things to me, things of fire and unearthly light, but this ceremony contained no trace of God, not for me at any rate." (MDR).

Jung was unable to relate to the structures in Christian ritual and dogma after this experience, and until university, at least, he was painfully isolated from others in the matters that were most important to him. These were his ongoing mystical experiences of what he would later call the autonomous or objective psyche. Jung was influenced by Kant, Freud, his patients at the Burgholzli mental hospital in Zurich and others in such a way that he came to view the objective psyche as the source of religious experience. He understood the symbols in the myths and religions of the world to be projections from this source.

Jungian psychology postulates that dreams and visions, and fairy tales, myths and rituals come from a place deep inside of us all -- a level of the psyche or being that connects us as well. Jung named this realm the collective unconscious. He observed universal patterns in the collective unconscious which he called archetypes. Archetypes produce images and experiences of meaning. The young artist's vision in the children's story can be seen as arising from the archetypes of the Great Father and the Great Mother, two of many archetypes Jung identified. Now, Dr. Jung observed a central and unifying archetype in the collective unconscious. This he called the Self with a capital S. The Self is the God Archetype and the images and experiences to which it gives birth are the meaning-laden God-images of humanity: Temples, cathedrals, mandalas, castles, cities, magical fish, birds and land animals and forests and trees are among the Self symbols that appear in dreams. A symbol such as these will be a true expression of the archetype if it engenders a sense of awe in the dreamer upon dream recall.

When Jung said of his lack of religious experience at his first communion, "I knew God could do stupendous things to me, things of fire and unearthly light," he was speaking of this archetype.

Light is one of the manifestations of the activated Self archetype in dreams and waking dreams or visions: So is a disembodied voice that speaks with a spiritual authority. Some Jungians have speculated that Paul's blinding vision of unearthly light on the Road to Damascus was an activation of the Self archetype. They have speculated that the Self archetype is the same thing as the Inner Christ, and that Paul was experiencing the ability to engage the numinous reality of the New God-image two thousand years before it would emerge as a conscious possibility for everyone. The new God-image, by the way, refers to the psychological level which understands religious symbolism as the vocabulary of images of the objective psyche.

Jung recognized that the God archetype had the potential to overwhelm an individual if it was experienced directly. An interesting story that illustrates the danger comes from the Eastern Orthodox tradition: During the funeral procession of the Virgin Mary someone touched the bier and was either injured or died just like in the Old Testament when somebody touched the Ark of the Covenant when it was being carried in a procession. The theological connection is the understanding that Mary is the ark of the New Covenant. In Eastern Orthodoxy she is called the Theotokos, which means God-bearer in Greek. From a Jungian perspective religious symbols such as these reveal the awesome power of the central archetype and the need for protection from direct encounter for most people. Religious symbols can be seen as step-down transformers that contain and control the power of the raw archetype. Jung believed the next two thousand years would be a time of increasing awareness in the individual of the God center as it lives within each of us. He also felt we were developing a capacity to relate to it directly without being obliterated.

Jung knew his ideas challenged the clergy and theologians of his day. Thus he wrote, "I am not addressing myself to the happy possessors of faith, but to those many people for whom the light has gone out, the mystery has faded, and God is dead. For most of them there is no going back, and one does not know either whether going back is the better way. To gain an understanding of religious matters, probably all that is left us today is the psychological approach. That is why I take these thought-forms that have become historically fixed, try to melt them down again and pour them into molds of immediate experience." (Answer to Job).

What about dreams? They provide access to immediate religious experience over time. They are deeply meaningful. Many of us don't remember our dreams. B complex vitamins, sleeping on our right sides, and a desire to recall our dreams will help us to remember them. A pad by the bed before we retire for the night will show the unconscious that the desire to relate to it is there. Dreams will come, and if the dreamer writes them down and works with them over time, he or she will begin to see the archetypes. Eventually at times one will dream dreams of a people, archetypal dreams, not just dreams of one's own personal life.

Here is the archetypal dream of a Jungian analyst who dedicated himself to the path of individuation, to the unconscious conscious through dream work:

A temple of vast dimensions was in the process of being built. As far as I could see: ahead, behind, right and left -- there were incredible numbers of people building on gigantic pillars. I, too, was building on a pillar. The whole building process was in its very beginning, but the foundation was already there, the rest of the building was starting to go up, and I and many others were working on it.

Jung was told this dream and his remark was, "Yes, you know, that is the temple we all build on. We don't know the people because, believe me, they build in India and China and in Russia and all over the world. That is the new religion." (Edinger, The New God Image, 1996)

I have spoken of the new God-image without speaking of the old. Briefly, there are six stages in the transformation of the God-image in the western psyche and they all mark advances in consciousness. The six stages are 1) animism 2) matriarchy, 3) hierarchical polytheism, 4) tribal monotheism, 5) universal monotheism and 6) individuation or the discovery of the psyche. All six stages exist as levels in the unconscious. In very conscious people like Jung it is possible for all stages to be activated at times. The six stages can be uncovered in a Jungian dream analysis, with the most recent developments in the God-image being experienced first and the original level, being experienced further down the road. During his retreats in his old age Jung would talk to his pots and pans. He experienced them as embodied with spirit. These levels can also be seen in schizophrenia, but HERE there is no strong and mature ego to relate to the power of the activated autonomous psyche.

One of the wonderful things about Jungian psychology with its discovery of the new God-image for Unitarian Universalists is that it undergirds all of our diversity. We have UU Humanists, and UU Christians and UU Buddhists, and UU Pagans. All of us have dreams, and all of us, because of our freedom from dogma and our difficulty identifying with Jung's, "happy possessors, of faith" are quite likely to be building on the universal structure of the dream I have given you.

Jungians believe they serve something greater than themselves. They believe they are serving God by witnessing God's progressive incarnation as it expresses itself in their dreams. Many Jungians believe there is a transcendent God and that the God-image is the way It expresses Itself on the INSIDE. Christian Jungians may believe that Christ and His life are the first expression of the progressing God-image on both the OUTSIDE and the INSIDE in an individual human being. Jungians feel they help give God a place in human affairs by becoming more conscious. Partly they become more conscious through acknowledging and withdrawing projections. Through their commitment to making the unconscious conscious, they believe they are helping God to become more human as they in turn are coming into an awareness of their divinity. Speaking of living his own life as a commitment to the unconscious, Jung wrote, "But it seems to me that life was never wanting, and in the blackest night even, and just there, by the Grace of God, I could see a great light. Somewhere there seems to be a great kindness in God." (Cited in a lecture by Brewster Beach as a portion of a late letter).

Students of Jungian thought are often not churchgoers, but if they are they tend to be members of Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic congregations. A number of them are Protestant ministers, Episcopalian priests, and Roman Catholic nuns and Spiritual Directors. They can be found in Islamic Sufi orders, Buddhist gatherings and in Jewish temples. Jungians are indeed Universalists, because archetypes are universal and the collective unconscious feeds all people like an underground stream. Local UUs might be interested to learn that in many cities that house official Jung Institutes such as San Francisco, the Jung Institutes offer their public programs at UU churches.

Jungians write down their dreams. They work with their dreams, associating to the dream images and amplifying them with contents from world religions, myths, fairy tales, and classical works of art and literature. For guides they use books and conferences and teachers. They often undergo formal Jungian analysis for a while. They spend time in nature and cathedrals and in other sacred places and they create sacred spaces. They may go on pilgrimages and keep the Sabbath. They honor God wherever they find God. In many ways, perhaps, they experience God as the Holy Spirit. (Incidentally, Jung said that the Age of Yahweh, which corresponds to tribal monotheism, was the age of the Father. The Age of Christ, which corresponds to universal monotheism was the Age of the Son. And the next two thousand years, corresponding to the New God-image or Individuation, is the Age of the Holy Spirit.) Jungians may attend religious services of their own and other traditions, recognizing the universal archetypes beneath their culturally colored expressions.

Jungians, work with sand trays and with art supplies, drawing and painting what they have seen of meaning in their dreams and on vision quests. They find that as they turn a loving face to the unconscious with its central God archetype, they are blessed with meaningful dreams and synchronicities. In owning their own shadows or dark sides as they see them revealed in dreams -- owning them so as not to project them or act them out, Jungians believe they are doing a moral task that is making the world a better place.

Engaging with the new God-image as a conscious way of life involves attention to and development of the interior life. It is a mystical path, and it is not everyone's call. Perhaps, like Little Gopher and C.G. Jung, one does not even choose. It is chosen for one. Benefitting from the psychology which Jung discovered and gave to the world, however, is something all of us can enjoy. We speak of complexes, psychic energy organized around archetypes, like a mother complex or father complex. We reflect on introversion, extroversion and psychological types, all legacies of Jung. When we embrace the Jungian paradigm, we are able to understand collective religious expressions in a way that can render them meaningful. For example, the feminine aspect of the Divine comes to life in the symbol of Mary when considered from a Jungian standpoint. In 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Ascension of the Blessed Virgin. Jung set high value on the dogma because of the importance it attributes to the feminine element which stands for nature and matter. The declaration of the physical ascension of Mary leads to the presumption that nature/matter can be received into the metaphysical realm. According to the earlier view, this realm was reserved to the masculine principle, to spirit alone. When we are out gathering water for our collective pond during our travels this summer, or spending time in nature, or recycling, we might want to reflect on the beauty of this dogma.

I would like to conclude my presentation with these words of Carl Gustav Jung: "I thank God every day that I have been permitted to experience the reality of the [Image of God] in me. Had that not been so, I would be a bitter enemy of Christianity and of the church in particular. Thanks to this act of grace, my life has meaning and my inner eye was opened to the beauty and grandeur of dogma. No matter what the world thinks of religious experience, the one who has it possesses a great treasure, a thing that has become for him a source of life, Meaning, and beauty, and that has given a new splendor to the world and to mankind. He has a [living faith] and a peace." (C.G. Jung, Word and Image).

Suggested Readings (All available at Amazon.com)

Edinger, Edward F.

The Creation of Consciousness
Ego and Archetype
The New God Image

Johnson, Robert A.

Balancing Heaven and Earth (autobiography)
Contentment: the Art of True Happiness
Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth
He: Understanding Masculine Psychology
She: Understanding Feminine Psychology
Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche

Jung, Carl G.

Answer to Job
The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious
Man and His Symbols
Memories, Dreams, Reflections (autobiography)
The Portable Jung