Abstract: Jung argues that the symbols of Christianity are no longer alive, and as a result they have lost their healing function. As a restorative he professes an immanent Godhead, symbolized by the quaternity. The devil, or the alchemical Mercurius, shall be elevated as the fourth person of the Godhead. The article evaluates Jung’s quaternarian theology and measures it against trinitarian theology. Jung’s metaphysical postulates, such as the mental unconscious, are criticized. The spiritual plight of modern man is discussed. Luther’s theology ought to be complemented with a good understanding of summum bonum.
Keywords: quaternity, trinity, nature of evil, the Self, Christ, complexio oppositorum, summum bonum, privatio boni, theology of the cross, Jung, Luther.
• Introduction • The problem of evil • Luther and the Reformers • Metaphysical dualism • Christology • Misreadings of historical texts • The problem of the fourth • Immanentization • No mental unconscious • Utopianism versus original sin • Summum Bonum • Compensatory dreams • The modern illness • Conclusion • References
In the collected works of psychologist C. G. Jung (1875 – 1961) the name Jesus is mentioned frequently. He often alludes to the biblical canonical texts, shows familiarity with Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and readily quotes the Church Fathers. He once had a distinct waking vision of the crucified Christ (cf. Jung, 1961, pp. 210-11). Jung possessed a markedly religious temperament. In his writings, he expresses strong views about Christian religion in general and the doctrine of the Trinity in particular. Mankind’s relation to the divine must build not on faith but experience. He is critical of the way in which theology, as he sees it, minimizes the problem of evil. Christian religion has become too spiritual and its Godhead too light. Jung formulates a unique conception of God that lacks, as far as I know, historical antecedents. He puts forward a ‘psychic’ God image in the form of a complex of conflicting opposites in an unsteady state of equilibrium. A perplexing corollary is that God is equally good and evil.
Not without reason, Jung has been called “a pastor without a pulpit.” Victor von Weizsäcker relates that “[t]o him, neurosis was a symptom of the man who loses his support in religion. Publicly he spoke about that only later, but once he said to me in conversation: ‘All neurotics seek the religious’ ” (Weizsäcker, 1957, p. 72). Jung’s theology is integrated with his psychology. Even if Jung claims that he only relies on psychological facts, his thought is strongly determined by Emanuel Swedenborg’s dualistic theology and metaphysics. Jung is read by many people, and his views have also had an impact in Christian circles. For this reason it is worthwhile to investigate his theology to see if it holds up to scrutiny. It requires that we measure it against Christian theology.
The problem of evil
Jung again and again rebukes the Christian doctrine of summum bonum, because he misunderstands the term as signifying the definition of God as perfect goodness (CW 9: 2, § 80, and elsewhere). Although it could be used in this sense, it is misleading and the concept is impoverished thereby. The term was introduced by the pagan philosopher Cicero as signifying the principles that will lead to the best possible life. In Christian philosophy, summum bonum is defined as the righteous life; a life led in communion with God according to Christian ideals. Kenneth E. Kirk (1966) explains that it is connected with “aspects of the problem of discipline in its widest sense” (p. xix), especially the activity of worship. In a traditional understanding, it shall lead to a vision of God (visio beatifica). Thus, it has also “been set forward in such a way that the primary purpose of life is to achieve ‘religious experience’…” (p. xviii).
However, ‘seeing God,’ explains Kirk, also includes “the joy, companionship, orderliness and conformity to the divine will implied by membership of ‘the kingdom’ ” (p. 466). Thus, when non-mystical Christians use this concept they are really searching for a path to follow while sustaining a godly passion for life. How can we, so to speak, create a little paradise for ourselves during our earthly sojourn? The answer that theology evolved is that we shall become happy through leading a virtuous life yet avoiding the extremes (p. xx). There’s no reason at all for Jung to criticize this concept, considering that it bears some similarity with his own ideal of the fulfillment of life. In a philosophical discourse it is important to understand the meaning of words, or else it will cause confusion. Anyway, we must discuss what Jung himself means by it. The following excerpts summarize his view:
When one considers with what intensity and exclusiveness not only Christ’s teaching, but the doctrines of the Church in the following centuries down to the present day, have emphasized the goodness of the loving Father in heaven, the deliverance from fear, the Summum Bonum, and the privatio boni, one can form some conception of the incompatibility which the figure of Yahweh presents, and see how intolerable such a paradox must appear to the religious consciousness. (CW 11, § 685)
Persian influences have been conjectured as mainly responsible for the Christian devil. But the real reason for the differentiation of this figure lies in the conception of God as the summum bonum, which stands in sharp contrast to the Old Testament view and which, for reasons of psychic balance, inevitably requires the existence of an infimum malum. No logical reasons are needed for this, only the natural and unconscious striving for balance and symmetry. (CW 11, § 470)
We can certainly hand it to Augustine that all natures are good, yet just not good enough to prevent their badness from being equally obvious. (CW 9: 2, § 95)
The doctrine of privatio boni (evil as the privation of good) is not as unrefined as Jung apparently thinks. For example, Thomas Aquinas’s theology allows that good has evil consequences. The metaphysical principle of privatio boni has come to dominate modern thought only because it is logically indisputable; but it never played a big role in Christian history. Proclus’s view of evil, as a parasitic hypostasis (parhupostasis), dominated the medieval intellectual discourse (Proclus, De mal. § 50). Nor has the doctrine of privatio boni ever been preached to the people in the pew. In Christian history, the wrath of God was always an important theme, and the Reformers continued in this vein. The Church kept reminding people of the horrifying consequences of sin. (“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people…”; Romans 1: 18.) The many scary images in medieval churches are evidence for this.
Jung laments that Christianity has promulgated a view of God as perfectly benevolent. With respect to the late modern era, this view is not entirely unwarranted, but in the historical record the picture is more balanced. In biblical and theological exegesis we do not find such an uncomplicated view of God. He is not only the God of Love but also the God of Judgment and eternal perdition. The other side of the coin is a punitive or even tyrannical God. God is “good” in a much deeper sense than being mild, caring and benign. Throughout the Christian epoch, the dominating picture of God is that of a righteous judge, reminding believers that He takes sin seriously (“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne”; Psalm 89: 14). So worshippers better take charge of themselves, or they will suffer the dire consequences. To Augustine, good and evil belong to the dialectics of the world, and he understands that predation in nature fulfils a function in the whole. Augustine says:
For God would never have created any men, much less any angels, whose future wickedness He foreknew, unless He had equally known to what uses He could put them on behalf of the good, thereby adorning the course of the ages like a most beautiful poem set off with antitheses. […] This is quite clearly explained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, in the following way: ‘Good is set against evil, and life against death: so is the sinner against the godly. So look upon all the works of the Most High, and these are two and two, one against another.’ (The City of God, XI: 18)
Luther and the Reformers
However, this kind of theodicy could be criticized for being too tidy and not quite sincere. Jung’s father, Paul Achilles Jung, was a pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church. This makes it all the more surprising that Jung never exploited the discourse on evil in Reformed theology. John Calvin (1509 – 1564) says:
The poison of Satan is the antidote and remedy for pride. What kind of a doctor, I ask, can Satan be, who learned only to kill and destroy? But God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness (II Cor 4.6), has marvellously brought salvation out of the depths, as it appears, and turned darkness into light. What Satan does, Scripture affirms to be from another point of view the work of God. By this is meant that God holds Himself bound in obedience to His own providence and turns His face so that He may direct attention to His own ends. (Calvin, 1997, X. 9) […]
From this it is easy to conclude how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be not by His will, but merely by His permission. Of course, so far as they are evils, which men perpetrate with their evil mind, as I shall show in greater detail shortly, I admit that they are not pleasing to God. But it is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them. (Calvin, 1997, X. 11)
So God may perform his work out of the darkness of evil. The basis for the radical view of evil among the Reformers is their unmitigated determinism: “The will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things.” That’s why Reformed theologian John Piper, in a radio program about the Twin Towers terrorist events, said that God had ordained that it be permitted or caused (Piper, 2021). Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) formulated the most sophisticated theology around sin and evil, known as the theology of the cross (theologia crucis). On the surface, his theology comes close to dualism. However, Luther reasons not in metaphysical terms, but in terms of good versus evil will, which makes it possible for him to apply Proclus’s principle of evil as parasitic on good. Thus, not only good will, but also evil will is seen as an active, positive force. In metaphysical terms, evil is indeed nihil, but in the human soul it remains an active power.
Human will is only partially free. In the realm of religion and morality it is entirely determined by either God or devil: “…free choice without the grace of God is not free at all, but immutably the captive and slave of evil, since it cannot of itself turn to the good” (Luther, 1969, p. 141; 2005, De Servo, sect. XXVI). In the encounter with evil, we stand under God’s All-power in the form of His law and His wrath: “…if the Law is the minister of sin, it is at the same time the minister of wrath and death” (Luther, 1999, verse 17, p. 39). God’s wrath takes the appearance of devil, sin, unfaith, death, hell and law. These are “the tyrants.” God is indeed good; He has not created evil. Nonetheless, His divine will has evil consequences. Good, just because it is good, must animate good as well as evil. An increase of good must needs lead to an increase of evil. This comes from the fact that evil is a byproduct, a parasitic hypostasis that culls energy from the good. Jung, on the other hand, sees evil as an indispensable metaphysical (i.e., archetypal) counterpart to good, whose existence is required in order to maintain a balanced state of neutrality. It must be that way, in conformity with unconscious nature, which is neutral (cf. CW 18, § 607). Everything revolves around achieving a balanced state between equal opposites.
In Luther’s theology, given that God works through the will, rather than creating a metaphysical or naturalistic good, one gets the impression that the divine All-power is neutral and unqualified. In fact, although God effectuates an increase in both good and evil, both outcomes serve the purpose of salvation:
In this way God promotes and perfects his proper work by means of his alien work, and by a marvellous wisdom compels the devil to work through death nothing else than life itself, with the consequence that as the devil is working his damnedest against the work of God, he is by dint of his own work but working against himself and forwarding God’s work. In this way he worked death in Christ, which Christ swallowed up into himself and rose again in glory. (Luther, 2007, Lectures on Hebrews, ch. 2 (2: 14); LW 29)
Luther sees the operation of the law as God’s alien works (opus alienum) and the operation of the Gospel as God’s proper works (opus proprium). The former hides behind the latter. Because of the fallenness of the world, God must come forth out of His opposite. Heaven comes out of hell, righteousness out of sin, love out of wrath. In Christ’s death, God’s alien works reached its maximum. In opus alienum God saves the sinner by becoming to him a devil, aggravating his anxiety and guilt. As things go, sin will overflow and become obvious in its consequences. The nature and work of the hidden God (deus absconditus) is only recognizable “under the opposite form.” There can be no natural knowledge of God. It is always indirect, and revelation is possible only in concealment (cf. von Loewenich, 1976, p. 141). Thus, God has become visible precisely in the things that we perceive as other than the divine, such as misery, weakness and strife. Only faith can have this vision, never the intellect:
The visible and hinder parts of God are set over against those which are
visibleinvisible. These invisiblevisible parts mean the humanity of God, his weakness, his foolishness […] so that from now on it could never be enough for a man, nor could it benefit him to know God in his glory and majesty unless he knows him at the same time in the humility and shame of the cross. (Luther, 2006, The Heidelberg Disputation XX; LW 31: 52) [My corrective.]
As a consequence of the Fall, natural man is egocentric (incurvatus in se). For this sinful condition to heal, a theocentric ideal must come to replace anthropocentrism (to which Erasmus’s humanism belongs). God’s good will, equal to His divine law, only exacerbates egocentrism in the human subject. It is received as devilish wrath, only pushing the subject deeper into sin, until he is finally driven into despair. The sinner must bottom out, become symbolically crucified, before he can open the eye of faith and see God’s grace in Christ and the Gospel: “God can be found only in suffering and the cross” (LW 31: 53). Only self-abandonment in faith can lead us out of the hell of the freedom of the will.
We cannot become right with God by the following of rules. It only aggravates our sorrowful condition. Participation in Christ is not possible as long as the individual remains egocentric and relies on his corrupt will in matters of religion and morals. It is doubly sinful to think that I myself can do good and be good, because it is equal to putting myself in God’s place. That which natural man perceives as good and right must by faith be broken. Among aboriginals, as Mircea Eliade has shown, exists a corresponding idea. In order to be instituted in society and attain status as a citizen proper, an adolescent must overcome natural man. This is typically brought about by initiation rites symbolizing death and rebirth (cf. Eliade, 1987, ch. IV).
By worshipping a perfectly good God and adhering to the doctrine of privatio boni, Jung is worried that Christianity has laid evil at man’s door, creating the danger of negative inflation:
This prejudice [underestimation of evil] is all the more serious in that it causes the psyche to be suspected of being the birthplace of all evil. The Church Fathers can hardly have considered what a fatal power they were ascribing to the soul. One must be positively blind not to see the colossal role that evil plays in the world. Indeed, it took the intervention of God himself to deliver humanity from the curse of evil, for without his intervention man would have been lost. If this paramount power of evil is imputed to the soul, the result can only be a negative inflation — i.e., a daemonic claim to power on the part of the unconscious which makes it all the more formidable. (CW 9: 2, § 114; see also: CW 14, § 86; CW 11, § 458)
Jung is strangely given to self-contradictions. It is he himself who imputes evil to the human soul in the form of the Self (the ambivalent God archetype), equally good and evil (cf. CW 9: 2, §§ 116-17). In truth, the Church Fathers possessed a warfare theology according to which evil has its roots in spiritual beings under the leadership of Satan (and Augustine did not repudiate this theodicy). This is the classical model, which Luther finally managed to make sense of. Ragnar Bring says:
The fact that [Luther] sets man’s free will against God’s will and activity leads, through his assertion of the bondage of the will, to the conclusion that everything depends on God’s will and activity. Men’s doings and makings, their goodness and evil, have their source in God’s will and pervasive action. Thus, man’s evil, in a way, has its source in God rather than the devil. As the devil is introduced into this picture, he seems to be assigned the role of a power that God takes into his service and compels to serve His purposes. (Bring, 1929, p. 264, my transl.)
In contradistinction, Jung’s dualistic metaphysics is what determines his view of good and evil. In a letter to Fr. Victor White, Jung illustrates his dualistic model with an egg become rotten:
Good then would be corruptible, i.e. it would possess an inherent possibility of decay. This possibility of corruption means nothing less than a tendency inherent in the Good to decay and to change into Evil. That obviously confirms my heretical views. (Letters, vol. 2, p. 59)
He concludes that “Evil derives from Good” (ibid.), and this is supposed to refute privatio boni. It seems that Jung barges into an open door, considering that theology does not deny that evil has its impetus from good. However, it does not imply the decomposition of the Good as such. Nor do we expect the mathematical laws to decompose. Augustine did indeed know that everything in the postlapsarian world decays with time. What he wants to say is that evil is neither a substance nor a ‘thing.’ Rather, evil and sin come to expression whenever something is losing its orderliness. The privatio boni refers de facto to the metaphysics, not the physics, of good and evil. What is good and what exists (equal to having metaphysical being) has measure, form and order (modus, species, ordo) (cf. Augustine, 2021, De natura boni, ch. 3). A rotten egg can no longer produce a chicken and is therefore no longer functional. It is losing its measure, form and order, until it has finally ceased to exist. However, the substance of the rotten egg, as such, isn’t evil. Everything that exists is more or less good (i.e., it has some degree of measure, form and order), or else it could not exist. So the question of evil has nothing to do with material or spiritual substances, which is also the view adopted by modernity.
According to Jung the fresh egg and the rotten egg illustrate that good and evil are equally substantial and balance each other out, following the natural “striving for balance and symmetry.” In fact, a fresh egg is vastly superior to a rotten egg, considering that it can produce a chicken. Morphogenesis is a wonder that biologists are still struggling to understand. So what Jung is really saying is that order is always counterbalanced by an equal amount of disorder, having equal metaphysical status. He says that “it is no exaggeration to assume that in this world good and evil more or less balance each other, like day and night…” (CW 11, § 253). Such a Manichaean view of things not only clashes with our experience of the world, but also contradicts the science of thermodynamics. If it were true, then the average person would at the one moment behave properly and at the next reprehensibly, and the weather system would cause calamity each other day. On the contrary, we experience a world that is, for the most part, orderly and stable, and that’s why we see God as good. The sun is good, too. Nobody could reasonably argue that the sun is equally good and evil, just because sunlight can scourge the earth and burn our skin. People have always believed that God aims at upholding the good order against the constant attacks of the Evil One. But the devil has not such a power that he can overthrow God’s divine order. Indeed, a rotten egg can produce a great stink, but it does not compare to the creative powers of a fresh egg.
Jung maintains that “[e]very archetype contains the lowest and the highest, evil and good, and is therefore capable of producing diametrically opposite results” (CW 10, § 474). This is why Jung often cautions against an impending invasion of the collective unconscious. However, most people remain unaware of an unconscious evil power forever threatening their existence, and Jung’s warnings go unheeded. Our inner nature is experienced as benign in that it contributes to self-healing. At any rate, people do not see it as equally good and evil. From a Darwinian point of view, it is highly improbable that evolution could have selected for a hostile side of the organism that is equally strong as the side promoting life. Below conscious level the brain works to maintain bodily and mental health, promoting harmony and vitality of life. It may require that we change our ways or tackle a pressing problem, which is probably why the dream function sometimes produces a scare. It has barely anything to do with archetypal evil.
The definition of the archetype as both good and evil amounts to a metaphysical statement. It conflicts with Jung’s repeated assertion that good and evil are opposite poles of the moral judgment of consciousness. Evil is not absolute but relative; it depends on the present situation and the subject’s frame of reference (cf. CW 11, § 247; CW 10, §§ 858-86). How can we make heads and tail of a theory that both objectivizes and relativizes evil? The subject determines good and evil relatively, yet is himself affected by objective good and evil in archetypal form. How does this square? Arguably, the subject must be able to determine whether or not the unconscious impetus is good or evil, in which case also archetypal good and evil is relativized. It means that, as long as we linger in unconsciousness, we remain subject to forces of good and evil in the objective sense. Conscious increase, however, implies that the ego acquires a position above good and evil.
Jung’s obsession with symmetrical opposites reveals a marked dependency on Emanuel Swedenborg (for more on this dependency, see Winther, 2013). In Neoplatonism, the farthest emanation from the original source (the One) has no longer any likeness to the noetic Form at all. Accordingly, Plato and Plotinus reject the concept of negative Form, such as the Form of Ugliness or the Form of Excrement. In the Platonic view, an ugly thing participates to a much lesser degree in the Form of Beauty. Similarly, darkness derives from the reduction of light, and evil from the reduction of good. In Swedenborg’s system, however, there is no emanative degeneration. The same thing which in Platonism is regarded as privative and degenerate is in Swedenborg participating in negative Form. It is a mirror-image of the noetic Form, as it were. Accordingly, evil has its own Form, and so have filth and excrement. Swedenborg says about the residents of Hell:
Those that have spent their life in mere pleasures and have lived delicately and indulged their palate and stomach, loving such things as the highest good that life affords, love in the other life excrementitious things and privies, in which they find their delight, for the reason that such pleasures are spiritual filth. Places that are clean and free from filth they shun, finding them undelightful. (Swedenborg, 1946, § 488)
The inhabitants of Hell find rotten eggs to be delightful food. The Form of the Rotten Egg is the metaphysical mirror-image of the Form of the Fresh Egg. Jung zealously follows this principle:
We name a thing, from a certain point of view, good or bad, high or low, right or left, light or dark, and so forth. Here the antithesis is just as factual and real as the thesis. It would never occur to anyone — except under very special conditions and for a definite purpose — to define cold as a diminution of heat… (CW 11, § 457)
As a matter of fact, we do regard cold as a diminution of heat, and dark as a diminution of light. We may also have an intellectual understanding of phenomena and not only see them as expressions of emotionally laden archetypes. We do not always think of ‘darkness’ in aesthetic terms, as portrayed in poetry and fairy tales. “A rotten egg is unfortunately just as real as a fresh one,” Jung quips (ibid., note). But to equate two things because they are both material, is pointless. It has no relevance for the metaphysics of good and evil. In fact, we think of the former as having less value, even negative value. In the thought of Augustine and Plotinus, such a thing as a rotten egg is further down on the scale of being. It has less Form in that it is a much more primitive and degenerate thing, and we value it accordingly.
Swedenborg’s controversial theory involves both Form and anti-Form, in contrast to the regular Neoplatonic formula of positive Form and its downward gradations. Jung’s archetypal theory, shaped after Swedenborg’s metaphysical dualism, leads to the most extreme version of psychologism, according to which “[a]ll mythological ideas are essentially real, and far older than any philosophy” (CW 18, § 742). It allows Jung to create a theory of psychic hegemony, where the psychic has the highest reality status: “…in certain respects there can be no ‘principles’ or valid judgments at all, but only phenomenology — in other words, sheer experience” (ibid., § 1738). It is the experience of darkness that counts, and this experience is equally real as the experience of daylight.
So what about photons (particles of light), the absence of which equals darkness? Central to Jung’s thought is that “the essence of so-called reality is of a mysterious irrationality” and there is no way around the fact that we “must view the world, too, as a psychic phenomenon” (CW 8, §§ 41-45). All the concepts of science and philosophy are “variants of archetypal ideas” (§ 342) and “every science is a function of the psyche, and all knowledge is rooted in it” (§ 357). Psychology’s position is privileged, because its “object is the inside subject of all science” (§ 429) and “the real vehicle and begetter of all knowledge is the psyche” (CW 9: 2, § 268). What underlies physical science is psychology. Thus, the photon is a psychic expression of something mysterious that we will never come to know. Jung employs his own version of Kantian epistemology. He even claims that “[t]here are no natural laws, only statistical probabilities, included in ‘God’ ” (Letters, vol. 2, p. 275). He could rightly be accused of out-and-out psychologism, as evident from these excerpts:
Our science is phenomenology. In the nineteenth century science was labouring under the illusion that science could establish a truth. No science can establish a truth. (CW 18, § 694)
[Psychology] includes philosophy and theology and many other things besides. For underlying all philosophies and all religions are the facts of the human soul, which may ultimately be the arbiters of truth and error. (CW 8, § 525)
[P]sychology occupies an exceptional position. The sciences of law, history, philosophy, theology, etc., are all characterized and limited by their subject-matter. This constitutes a clearly defined mental field, which is itself, phenomenologically regarded, a psychic product. (CW 17, § 165)
Jung maintains that Christians see Jesus Christ as the lumen de lumine, a much too light and exceedingly spiritual person. It seems like he has no shadow and carries no darkness (cf. CW 18, § 1634). What characterizes human beings is that they are corruptible because of original sin, whereas Jesus is wholly sinless. Considering that he lacks the human attribute of corruptibility, Jesus cannot be regarded authentically human and must therefore be viewed as a god (cf. Jung, 1977, p. 387). Jesus is too light to approximate the archetype of wholeness — the Self — which is complete man (cf. CW 6, §§ 789-91). Jung keeps returning to this argument by which he turns Christology upside-down. Jesus is de facto the only person whose human nature is complete. The rest of humanity participates to a lesser degree in the human Form. Without taking the metaphor too far, Jesus is the only fresh egg, whereas all others are in different stages of decomposition.
In the Incarnation Jesus adopted our fallen human nature. Although he never committed any sin, he took upon himself the sinful nature of mankind. In this way human nature is successively healed. Jesus Christ is, according to Luther, maximus et solus peccator, the singular and greatest sinner (LW 26: 277–78). Yet, due to his divinity, in him is also invicta justitia, invincible righteousness. In Platonic language, he managed to heal the Form of Man so that humanity could participate in the New Adam rather than the Fallen Adam. Given that the Christ carries the sins of the world, he is not without a shadow; but he is the radiant light that absorbs the stygian darkness. Jesus is not righteous according to the law. Rather, as the Son of God, he is righteousness itself. Thus, he has the power to carry the sins of the world and achieve victory over Satan.
In the following of Christ, every Christian is now simul justus et peccator, at once righteous and a sinner (LW 26: 232). Says Luther: “Paradoxically, a Christian is both right and wrong, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God” (Luther, 1999, p. 54). However, in ourselves the conflict is less intense than in Christ, to the extent that he carries our sins for us. At the same time we partake in the righteousness of Christ. Victory has been ensured, but in the person of faith the battle continues. Christ is ever victorious in the battle that rages in the souls of men. This ensures salvation, as the individual is ever born anew as spirit.
It’s important to understand that sin and righteousness are not like communicating vessels; low in sin does not necessarily mean high in righteousness, or vice versa. Given that they are both expressions of positive and active will, the two wills are independent. In Luther’s theology, while God powers both good and evil, righteousness may indeed go along with sinfulness, heightening the conflict. We are always simul justus et peccator — holy and profane, saved and damned. Hostility endures between two powers of will, not two metaphysical powers. Jesus Christ is the paramount example of this duality. Whereas Jung asserts that “[Jesus] became the symbol of the self under the aspect of the infinite goodness” (CW 18, § 1655) theology sees it differently: Jesus is void of original sin, and it is his invincible righteousness that enables him to envelop the darkness of the world. Still, Jung maintains that Christianity has occasioned a split between the equal powers of good and evil:
The self is a unit, consisting however of two, i.e., of opposites, otherwise it would not be a totality. Christ has consciously divorced himself from his shadow. Inasmuch as he is divine, he is the self, yet only its white half. (Letters, vol. 2, p. 164)
The confrontation of two moral wills seems to give the lie to Jung’s argument that “on the level of the Son there is no answer to the question of good and evil; there is only an incurable separation of the opposites” (CW 18, § 1553). He ignores that Christ heals the split by taking upon his shoulders the sins of the world — and yet, the infernal darkness carried by the Christ is vastly outshined by His divine light. Christ is capable of integrating darkness, and in his salvational work defeat evil, thanks to His invincible righteousness. Jung never engages with theology on this point. He simply identifies Christ as a being of light, and then forgets about the rest of the story. His antinomian metaphysics leads him to the conclusion that the Christ represents only the light half of the Self whereas “[t]he other half appears in the Antichrist” (CW 9: 2, § 79).
The reason why Jung mishandles Christology is that he thinks in metaphysical categories and not in terms of human and divine will, according to which evil will has relative autonomy as parhupostasis. He is not acquainted with this principle which has dominated Christian thought, and instead keeps harping about privatio boni. This is a metaphysical term relevant to the nature of evil, but of little consequence in coming to terms with moral evil and our personal experience of the same. The bottom line is that, although evil has no power of its own, it can have independent existence as evil will by parasiting on good. Thus, privatio boni is wholly compatible with evil as parhupostasis. The former is metaphysics, highly relevant to our understanding of evil generally, whereas the latter is employed to understand moral evil. We may conclude that Jung is wide of the mark when he says things like this:
According to this theory [of the privatio boni ] even the devil, the incarnate evil, must be good, because he exists, but inasmuch as he is thoroughly bad, he does not exist. (CW 18, § 1593)
On the contrary, Luther makes clear that evil will has both permanence and being:
Now, Satan and man, having fallen from God and been deserted by God, cannot will good, that is, things which please God or which God wills; but instead they are continually turned in the direction of their own desires, so that they are unable not to seek the things of self. This will and nature of theirs, therefore, which is thus averse from God, is not something nonexistent. For Satan and ungodly man are not non-existent or possessed of no nature or will, although their nature is corrupt and averse from God. That remnant of nature, therefore, as we call it, in the ungodly man and Satan, as being the creature and work of God, is no less subject to divine omnipotence and activity than all other creatures and works of God. (Luther, 1969, p. 232; 2005, De servo, sect. LXXXIV)
He also explains how it comes that God works evil:
Since, then, God moves and actuates all in all, he necessarily moves and acts also in Satan and ungodly man. But he acts in them as they are and as he finds them; that is to say, since they are averse and evil, and caught up in the movement of this divine omnipotence, they do nothing but averse and evil things. […] It is the fault, therefore, of the instruments, which God does not allow to be idle, that evil things are done, with God himself setting them in motion. It is just as if a carpenter were cutting badly with a chipped and jagged ax. Hence it comes about that the ungodly man cannot but continually err and sin, because he is caught up in the movement of divine power and not allowed to be idle, but wills, desires, and acts according to the kind of person he himself is. (ibid., pp. 232-33)
A tree casts a shadow because light shines on the tree. It is as if darkness needs light to exist, although light does not need darkness to exist. The sharper the light the deeper the shadow, which is due to a contrast effect. Augustine comments on Genesis 1:
Thus [God] said, “Let there be light, and the light was made.” He did not say, “Let there be darkness, and darkness was made.” One of these he made; the other he did not make. But he ordered both of them, when God divided the light and the darkness. (Augustine, 1991, De Genesi, 5. 25)
By analogy, God is pure light. The stronger the light emitted by His good will the stronger becomes the secondary evil will. In a sense, darkness is fed by light; and that’s why, in Christian theology, evil is parasitic on good. Catholic theologian Douglas B. Farrow says:
Now to follow this line of thought it is necessary to observe that evil does not coexist with God and is not created by God; hence it has neither form of its own nor any natural stability. Grounded only in rebellion, it is strictly parasitic on created goods, and without these goods it has no potential at all, for it is chaotic and self-destructive. The greater the good, then, the greater the potential for evil. Evil flourishes only with the good, indwelling what is otherwise healthy and true, building within it and upon it, until it reaches the boundary beyond which God will not permit it to go. That boundary is the day of the Lord, the day of the Rider on the White Horse, the day when divine judgement is executed in all the earth. […]
The politics of the eucharist is not the politics of success by any worldly measure. We do not live in an age from which evil is gradually disappearing, as many prefer to think. On the contrary, evil continues to grow by perverting the goods that belong to the church, often through clever and subtle parodies, like a virus mimicking the structure of healthy cells. The parousia of the lawless one — that is, of the man who has decisively repudiated the dialogue of salvation but perfected its simulation — is the precondition for the parousia of Jesus Christ. It is the precondition for the end of the dialectic of presence and absence. (Farrow, 2011, pp. 96-98)
Instead of painting a warped picture of Christianity, it would have been better if Jung had addressed its real problems. They are, in Farrow’s view, the thoroughgoing secularism that turns the Religion of Christ to the Religion of Humanity; the way in which the Church’s mission is seen in moralistic terms and the offering is reduced to ethics. As I see it, the humanist philosophy of Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) (Luther’s nemesis) rules the day; so it’s no wonder that Luther’s theology of the cross is today almost forgotten. It is a surprising turn of events, in view of the fact that Erasmus could not stop the tide of Lutheranism, and he was forgotten by the time of his death.
Jesus forgives sins and offers his miraculous act of mercy; but he also says: “Go, and sin no more.” For some mysterious reason people tend to remember the first part but forget about the second. If the warning isn’t heeded, “something worse may happen to you” (John 5: 14). Christianity has a light side and a dark, and the latter is connected with God’s wrath. Although Luther emphasizes this dualism, it is toned down in public consciousness. Jung, in accordance with his “phenomenological” view, believes that it is only his subjective experience of Christianity that counts, and he takes no real interest in theology. He simply points to the light side of Christianity and keeps insisting that this is all there is to it. Jung, if anybody, should know to acknowledge the repressed and dark side of any phenomenon, including Christianity.
Luther teaches that the impulsion towards evil comes from God, even though it is our sinful nature that turns divine good into evil. By analogy, although the sun is good, it sometimes scorches the earth, which is when life-giving light is not absorbed. Luther speaks the unpleasant truth; but some theologians weaken his teaching. Lutheran theologian Edgar M. Carlson says:
The dualistic element in Luther’s theology is recognized by every important student of Luther, Ritschl considers it a remnant of medievalism which must be expunged from Luther’s theology. Theodosius Harnack seeks to reduce it to an epistemological dualism. Reinhold Seeberg reduces it to a psychological dualism. The Swedish handling of it is quite different. For them, Luther’s belief in the Devil is not one idea to be ranged with other ideas. It is a fundamental framework which provides the background in the light of which every idea must be understood. (Carlson, 1945)
This watering-down of theology, by focusing on the light side, continues to this day. Phillip Cary (2019) even claims that Luther at an early stage abandoned his theology of the cross. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is thematic in De Servo Arbitrio, and he forcefully returns to the theme in Lectures on Isaiah (written between 1527 and 1530; LW 17). Indeed, in his sermons he often communicates that the law puts to death the old Adam in us daily. Bengt R. Hoffman (1976; 1998) criticizes the way in which Lutheran theology has followed a rationalistic and externalistic path and thrown out the mystical side.
Jung does not convey the whole picture of Christianity. Rather, his critique is directed against a shallow and pedestrian version. As a result, his readers get the wrong picture of Christianity. He never takes sides with healthy and sound Christianity, but turns a blind eye to it. Jung’s parochial version is not represented in the Church Fathers; nor can we find it in Luther, whose theology remains congenial with the Church Fathers, although it is more radical and reaches greater depths. We shall see how Jung makes use of historical sources in a devious way, to strengthen his case and communicate his biased picture of Christianity.
Misreadings of historical texts
Nine times in his collected works, Jung cites a Latin phrase “Omne bonum a Deo, omne malum ab homine” (CW 11, § 458, and elsewhere). He references two second century Greek texts; Oratio ad Graecos by Tatian (c. 120–c. 180 AD) and Ad Autolycum by Theophilus of Antioch (–c. 184 AD) (cf. CW 9: 2, § 81). He calls it an ‘axiom’ (ibid.), a ‘proposition’ (ibid., § 74), and a ‘dictum’ (CW 11, § 458) of the Church, and translates it as: “Nothing evil was created by God; we ourselves have produced all wickedness” (CW 9: 2, § 81). He claims that it is derived from the privatio boni. This can’t be right, considering that the concept of the privation of evil first originates with Plotinus in the third century. I find that it is a corrupt translation of a sentence in Tatian’s Oratio ad Graecos:
ούδεν Φαύλον Όπο τού θεού πεποιηται, την πονηρίαν ήμείς άνεδείξαμεν’ οι δε άναδείξαντες δυνατοι πάλιν παραιτήσασθαι.
Philip Schaff translates it as:
Nothing evil has been created by God; we ourselves have manifested wickedness; but we, who have manifested it, are able again to reject it. (1885, Tatian’s…, ch. XI)
Molly Whittaker translates it as:
God has done nothing bad, it was we who exhibited wickedness; but we who exhibited it are still capable of rejecting it. (1982, ch. 11)
It is not formulated as an axiom, but is part of the text. Tatian does not say that mankind has “produced all wickedness” in the sense of creating all evil. He says that we have given expression to wickedness, and this is something with which we all can agree. Tatian was influenced by Gnostic views and could not have thought that all evil comes from man. Further down he says: “The profligacy of the demons has made use of the productions of nature for evil purposes, and the appearance of evil which these wear is from them, and not from the perfect God” (Schaff, ch. XVII). According to Tatian, after the Fall mankind came under the influence of Satan and the demons, who wished to separate mankind from God, so that we might serve not God but them.
Jung references the 19th century Latin translation by J. P. Migne. The sentence cannot be found in this work. In fact, Migne gives the correct translation: “Nihil mali factum est a Deo : nos ipsi improbitatem produximus. Eam vero qui produxerunt, denuo repudiare possunt” (Migne, 2006, ch. 11). ‘Produximus’ is first-person plural. It means that we have ‘brought forth,’ ‘disclosed,’ ‘exhibited,’ ‘promoted’ or ‘exposed’ something. The other source that Jung gives is Ad Autolycum by Theophilus of Antioch. Nor can the dictum be found in this treatise, not even in a derived sense. The only thing that comes reasonably close is this excerpt:
Wild animals (thēriα) are so called from their being hunted (thēreuesthαi). They were not originally created evil or poisonous, for nothing was originally created evil by God; everything was good and very good [Gen. 1: 31]. The sin of man made them evil, for when man transgressed they transgressed with him. (Grant, 1970, II: 17)
It relates to the biblical story of the Fall. Theophilus knew, of course, that Adam and Eve were enticed by the serpent:
The maleficent demon, also called Satan, who then spoke to Eve through the serpent and is still at work in those men who are possessed by him, addressed her as ‘Eve’ because she was at first deceived by the serpent and became the pioneer of sin. He is called ‘demon’ and ‘dragon’ [cf. Rev. 12: 9] because he escaped [apodedrakenai] from God; he was originally an angel. (ibid., II: 28)
Neither Tatian nor Theophilus uses Jung’s dictum, and neither lays the whole blame for evil on mankind. Rather, human evil is connected with demon possession. I strongly doubt that this magnificently hubristic formula can be found in any historical text. It seems, then, that Jung has fabricated this Latin phrase which he claims is an axiom of the Church. Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Jung had a way of seeing what he wanted to see, and then he created from it a false memory. The most blatant example is his grave misreading of Nicolaus Cusanus (1401 – 1464). Psychoanalyst David Henderson says: “C. G. Jung’s use of Nicholas of Cusa is a case study in how he adopts and subverts historical resources to build his own theory” (Henderson, 2010).
Jung’s God image is predicated on his view of the Self, defined as a complex of psychic opposites in a state of tension. As with all archetypes, the Self is ambivalent in its effect on consciousness, and thus potentially a source of evil. Jung originally saw the Self as the regulating center of the psyche. This view was later abandoned in all but name (cf. Winther, 2020). He argues that “the self is a complexio oppositorum precisely because there can be no reality without polarity” (CW 9: 2, § 423; see also CW 11, §§ 716, 552). Eleven times in his collected works he implicates Cusanus as an exponent of this view, and claims that “…Nicholas of Cusa defined God himself as a complexio oppositorum” (CW 8, § 406). Jasper Hopkins understands him differently: “[God] is one both in the sense that there exists only one God and in the sense that there is no plurality in this one God’s nature” (Cusa, 1990, p. 8). Cusanus says:
Therefore, as regards the movement of reason: plurality or multiplicity is opposed to oneness. Hence, not “oneness” but “Oneness to which neither otherness nor plurality nor multiplicity is opposed” befits God. This is the maximum name, which enfolds all things in its simplicity of oneness; this is the name which is ineffable and above all understanding. For who could understand the infinite Oneness which infinitely precedes all opposition? — where all things are incompositely enfolded in simplicity of Oneness, where there is neither anything which is other nor anything which is different, where a man does not differ from a lion, and the sky does not differ from the earth. (ibid., De Docta Ignorantia I, 24)
So Cusanus has a transcendental concept of God beyond all plurality. The plurality of things arises from the Divine Mind, in which the many are present without plurality, because they are present in Enfolding Oneness (cf. De Docta Ignorantia II, 3). This concept of God, as transcendental and simple, is central to Neoplatonism and Christian theology. It is utterly foreign to Jung’s concept of God as a complexio oppositorum. However, this presents no problem for Jung, in view of the fact that “Cusanus does not seem to have really known what he was talking about…” (CW 18, § 1637). (In other words, what he really wanted to say is that God is complex.) Jung argues that “[n]aturally the conjunction can only be understood as a paradox, since a union of opposites can be thought of only as their annihilation” (CW 9: 2, § 124) but “the spontaneous symbolism of the complexio oppositorum points to the exact opposite of annihilation, since it ascribes to the product of their union either everlasting duration or […] supreme and inexhaustible efficacy” (CW 11, § 278). On this view, God must remain a paradoxical plurality, or else the opposites can no longer exist. But the latter is exactly Cusanus’s view.
In practice, Jung uses ‘simple’ as a metonym for ‘unity.’ Answering a question about God’s nature, he says that “…I fully accept the traditional inference of this absolute oneness (μονὀτης) and this complexio oppositorum (Letters, vol. 2, p. 275). The latter view scarcely occurs in history, however. He relies on Ezekiel’s vision of wheels that “were covered with eyes all around” (Ezekiel 1: 18). This symbol “would indicate a multiplicity of conscious centres which are co-ordinated into a unity like the many-faceted eye of an insect” (CW 14, § 271). It is a creative interpretation; but the general view is that it signifies God’s omniscience. Another example of Jung’s questionable use of sources is the oft-cited verse from Codex Bezae (Luke 6: 4). The complete verse is:
On the same day he saw a man working on the Sabbath, and he said to him: Man, if thou knowest what thou art doing, thou art blessed (μακάριος); but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed and a transgressor of the law. (Montefiori, 1909, p. 884)
Jung always curtails the verse, so that it begins with “Man….” Thus, it acquires a more general meaning. This is one of Jung’s favourite sayings. He submits that it “might well be the motto for a new morality” (CW 11, § 291). In the way he presents it, one gets the impression that we may do whatever we want, including any criminal deed, as long as we do it very consciously. Again, Jung sees what he wants to see. Instead of doing a proper theological analysis he simply cuts it out from its Christian context and appropriates it for Jungian psychology. He connects it with the moral effort necessary for the development of consciousness: “[T]he toughest roots of all evil is unconsciousness” (ibid.); but it “is never accepted as an excuse; on the contrary there are very severe penalties for it” (ibid., § 745). In that case the saying has the general meaning of a call for conscious development, which will place the subject over and above good and evil.
As a matter of fact, the verse is perfectly Pauline. C. G. Montefiori argues that “[t]he saying is in all probability not authentic. It is for one thing too subtle and Pauline (cp. Romans xiv. 14, 20-23)…” (Montefiori, 1909, p. 884). The point is that we are all transgressors of the law; but if we have submitted to Jesus as Lord, then we are saved. In that case the man transgresses the law in the knowledge that he is saved. But if he has not received the happy tidings, then he will become victim of God’s wrath. Luther would have cited it as often as Jung, if he had known about it. Citing this verse, Jung thinks he argues for a “new morality,” when he really argues for a Christian morality.
The Monad (“the One”) is a name for something ultimate and indivisible, such as a simple, unextended point. The alchemist and mathematician John Dee (1527 – 1608/9) says that it is “by virtue of the point and the Monad that all things commence to emerge in principle” (Monas hieroglyphica, Theorem II). Among the Gnostics, it was “the invisible One who is above everything” (Apocryphon of John). The alchemists associated it with the simple substance, the Quintessence, and the Philosophers’ Stone. The Monad corresponds to Cusanus’s Neoplatonic picture of God, in which opposites are enfolded. To Jung it symbolizes the Self, despite the fact that opposites are not enfolded in Jung’s definition of Self (cf. CW 14, § 372, and elsewhere). On the contrary, they are always in a state of tension. Simplex is the opposite of complex. To say that they correspond in meaning is like saying that ‘left is right’ or ‘up is down.’ The conclusion is that Jung unjustifiably equates ‘simple’ with ‘unity.’ A unity, such as an automobile, is made of parts. Everything that exists in the world is a composite unity. Also Jung’s complexio oppositorum (or coniunctio oppositorum) is a unity; but it is not a simple. So his many references to simple or monadic symbols (monad, soul-spark, scintilla, punctum solis, etc.) are completely unjustified as symbols of the Self. They contradict his antinomian view of Self and God.
The problem of the fourth
Jung views God as a mental wholeness. It creates a serious logical problem owing to his metaphysical postulate that “[e]verything requires for its existence its own opposite, or else it fades into nothingness” (CW 11, § 961). If God is a complex of opposites, then He is a ‘thing’ that requires an opposite. Even if Satan is integrated into the Godhead to form a quaternity (ibid., § 249), such a wholeness cannot exist without its opposite. It doesn’t help if this is integrated in turn, because then the new unity requires an opposite, and so on ad infinitum. This is a vicious regress. There is no way of resolving it, other than abandoning the maxim that “there can be no reality without polarity,” or by adopting the Christian Godhead of divine transcendence and simplicity. In either case, Jung’s edifice erodes.
As a remedy, Jung tries to argue that because the quaternity is a true wholeness it is the only thing that requires no opposite (cf. CW 9: 1, § 426). It is obviously false, because then it is even more a unity, which needs a counterpart to exist. Provided that God (or the Self) is not identical to everything that exists, then He is a unity, which means that Jung’s antinomian rule applies also to the quaternarian deity. It doesn’t help to say that God is ‘complete.’ He reasons metaphorically and says that “if the wholeness symbolized by the quaternity is divided into equal halves, it produces two opposing triads. This simple reflection shows how three can be derived from four…” (ibid.). His point is that a quaternity need not be complemented with its opposite, because it is already contained in the quaternity. But we also get two triangles by drawing a perpendicular bisector in an equilateral triangle. These are true mirror images of each other, unlike the triangles in Jung’s example, which are the same. Furthermore, we may form four triangles by joining the midpoints of the sides of a given triangle. It shows that four can be derived from three. John Dee says that “the Quaternary is concealed within the Ternary” (Monas Hieroglyphica, Theorem XX). The quaternity is secondary and derived.
Jung’s geometrical example is more than a metaphor, however, because he keeps returning to this argument that “[e]mpirically, a triad has a trinity opposed to it as its complement” (CW 9: 2, § 351). In fact, the only reason why he can find no ‘lower’ quaternities in the history of religion is because there are no ‘upper’ quaternities. The triad is not only a popular religious symbol; nature has a strong preference for it, as well. Protons and neutrons, the particles that constitute stable matter, consist of a triad of quarks. The protonic triad is believed to be the only composite thing in the universe that is eternal (cf. Wiki, ‘Proton’).
Arguably, we have a psychological preference for three ‘things’ rather than four, due to the fact that one of the things always takes a central position, thus keeping them all together. The apex of the triangle is the ruling ‘father.’ There is no reason to call the trinity a “defective quaternity,” or a “stepping-stone” towards a quaternity proper (ibid.). It is rather the reverse; a configuration of four things, lacking a dominating centre, is experienced as unstable. Remember that Ezekiel’s vision does not depict a quaternity but a quincunx.
As a last resort, Jung could always argue that logics is philosophy, to which psychic reality takes precedence — the psyche is always capable of upholding a paradox. However, if logical consistency isn’t required, but only ‘psychological truth,’ then it relativizes Jung’s own theological speculations. Despite a lack of convincing evidence, Jung keeps repeating his own truth that, contrary to threeness, fourness is a true symbol of wholeness (cf. CW 9: 1, § 426). Taking his cue from Swedenborg, Jung rejects the Christian Trinity:
As the adversary of Christ, [the devil] would have to take up an equivalent counterposition and be, like him, a “son of God.” […] A further logical inference would be the abolition of the Trinity formula and its replacement by a quaternity. (CW 11, § 249)
The quaternarian Godhead (CW 11, § 258)
Jung advocates that ‘a fourth’ be added to form a quaternity, even though the divine has seldom, if ever, revealed itself as a quaternity. On the other hand, there are plenty of triads in religious history (cf. Genesis 18:1-2; Wiki: ‘Triple deity’; Encyc.: ‘Triads’). In order to empirically validate the quaternity, he makes much out of little, such as the fact that mandalas, as symbols of the Self, tend to have a fourfold structure (cf. CW 9: 1, § 716). But this would depend on a simple geometrical fact, namely that it is easy enough to divide a circle into four quarters, but more difficult to divide it into three. The four directions of the compass derive from the same geometrical fact. It has barely anything to do with a quaternity archetype.
It deserves saying that the divinization of the devil does not imply giving free rein to evil. Rather, it means to take evil seriously and keep it under our watchful eye. As long as we remain unconscious of our dark side we cannot control it. It may go on a rampage, as in the Third Reich, or it may surreptitiously, and perhaps inadvertently, have a pernicious effect on the surrounding (cf. Lammers, 1994, pp. 182-83). So Jung has taken the step to hypostatize a central tenet of Jungian psychoanalysis. Although it sounds logical, we must question if it accords with scientific facts that we, behind our everyday persona, conceal a mental shadow nature that remains unconsciously active. As the evidence stands today, there exists no mental unconscious, as we shall see below. In that case there can be no shadow working behind the scenes, and Jung’s solution to the problem of evil must be declared defunct, together with his divine quaternity. Instead, Luther must be studied seriously again.
It must have been a source of frustration for Jung that he could not find in the alchemists the notion that a fourth element must be added to the triad. Instead he gets to hear, from Gerard Dorn, that “the quaternity is in truth a ‘diabolical fraud’ or ‘deception of the devil’…” (CW 11, § 104). However, Jung thinks Dorn’s attitude merely expresses Christian resistance to the integration of the devil in the Godhead. He readily cites John Dee about the four elements and the monad (CW 14, § 41), but omits to mention that Dee in the same treatise contradicts the quaternary theory. Dee says that “[t]his point [centre of our Cross] cannot by any means be abstracted from our Ternary” (Monas Hieroglyphica, Theorem XX). In fact, “the Quaternary is concealed within the Ternary” (ibid.). Dee continues:
O thrice and four times happy, the man who attains this (almost copulative) point in the Ternary, and rejects and removes that sombre and superfluous part of the Quaternary, the source of vague shadows. Thus after some effort we obtain the white vestments brilliant as the snow. (ibid.)
This is exactly the thing that Jung would not want to hear. He has omitted the important parts of the text and extracted peripheral phrases that in a loose sense could support his theory of the Self.
Ezekiel was Jung’s favourite prophet, judging from the many references to him. The number four figures much in Ezekiel’s visions, such as the four seraphim alongside God’s “throne-chariot” and the four fiery wheels beside them. But on the sapphire throne the One is seated, in the likeness of a man (Ezekiel 1). The number four occurs in the picture because a throne has four legs and a chariot four wheels. It is also a reference to the omnipresence of God, in that it is emphasized that the throne-chariot “went toward any one of four directions….” Ezekiel had been forced into exile together with his people. It must have caused them anguish and suffering to become separated from their God and His cult in the Jerusalem Temple. Ezekiel’s vision alleviates their sorrow: God is not confined to the Temple. He effortlessly goes wherever he wants, and He takes his temple with Him!
Jung, of course, gives it a more archetypal explanation: “Psychologically the vision of Ezekiel is a symbol of the self consisting of four individual creatures and wheels, i.e., of different functions” (CW 14, § 269) and “[t]he quaternity of the self appears in Ezekiel’s vision as the true psychological foundation of the God-concept” (ibid. § 273). He ignores that the most important ‘individual creature,’ namely the Son of Man seated in the centre, makes the structure pentadic. It is a quincunx and not a quaternity.
Three of the seraphim have animal heads and one a human head. These images were adopted as symbols of the four evangelists, appearing in iconography, murals and stone carvings. Such images, called “Christ in Majesty,” show Christ in the centre surrounded by the four evangelists, thus forming a quincunx. Neither do these images depict the quaternity, although Jung likes to say so. The number four symbolizes the world whereas the number five symbolizes Christ as the ruler of the world. Accordingly, Irenaeus explains that the gospels are four because there are four zones of the world and four principal winds. He says that “…He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit” (Against Heresies, III, ch. 11: 8). It is important that the four are ruled by a fifth element in the center, or else they would fly apart. Jung’s interpretation of Ezekiel is yet another example of how he extracts from a source only what is pertinent to himself, without relating to the whole picture.
The most important fourfold structure that Jung provides is his theory of four opposing psychic functions: thinking versus feeling and intuition versus sensation (CW 6, §§ 666ff). He says that “feeling can never act as the second function alongside thinking, because it is by its very nature too strongly opposed to thinking. Thinking, if it is to be real thinking and true to its own principle, must rigorously exclude feeling” (§ 667). However, this theory is today defunct. Psychologist Nick Chater points out that this view of thought and feeling, as sharply distinguished, has been with us ever since it was introduced by Plato. Today we know that “having an emotion at all is a paradigmatic act of interpretation, and hence of reasoning” (Chater, 2018, p. 99). Research shows that cognition requires the cooperation of feeling and thinking (cf. Winther, 2021). The conclusion is that the psychic functions are not antagonistic and not grouped as a quaternity.
Plato begins the Timaeus with “One, two, three — but where, my dear Timaeus, is the fourth of those guests of yesterday who were to entertain me today?” Jung thinks this enigmatic opening concerns the problem of “[t]he transition from three to four” (CW 14, § 279), pertaining to the integration with the Godhead of dark and repressed content, such as sexuality, the feminine, evil, and so forth. However, from the standpoint of Christian theology, the fourth stands for the world, as such. The world is ontologically inferior to the Trinity — for one thing it is perishable. The natural world is undoubtedly “repressed” as a consequence of the Fall. This sorrowful disunion of God and the world will remain until the Parousia. We cannot repair the split, only try and ameliorate its harmful effects.
From this perspective, the problem of the fourth has to do with the relation between a given wholeness and ‘the other.’ For example, a written sentence is a wholeness of three: subject, predicate (i.e., verb) and object. It is a triunity of meaning, such as the simplest biblical definition of the Trinity: “The Father loves the Son” (John 3: 35 and 5: 20). The fourth, then, would be the reader of the sentence; an outsider that is somehow needed, considering that there is not much point in formulating a sentence if it is never read. Is there any point in the sun emitting light if there is no life-giving earth to receive it? For what purpose shall God emit grace if there is nobody to accept it? It seems that a wholeness that is a carrier of meaning and has self-sufficiency, independence, and autonomy, is nevertheless lacking an extraneous ‘fourth’ as a receptacle.
In the Timaeus Plato introduces “the Receptacle” (49a), which is like a neutral pre-cosmic womb that receives the impressions of the Forms and where they multiply and grow, under the guidance of the Demiurge, into the particulars of the cosmos. From the trinitarian perspective, Plato’s theory of the Receptacle puts forward a suitable picture of ‘the fourth.’ It is other than the Trinity and can therefore receive its impressions. Accordingly, the movement goes outward in the shaping of the fourth. For Jung the movement must go in the other direction and the fourth be integrated in the Godhead. It is inconsistent with Plato’s theory, given that the world of Forms is already perfect. Jung does not strengthen his case by his many references to the Timaeus. ‘Where is the fourth?’ is best understood as ‘Where is the passive receiver?’ The fourth, as the feminine principle, must needs be outside of the unity of three. After all, should it become integrated, then the problem only repeats itself: we are back with a wholeness that needs a receptacle for its creative power.
A keynote in Jung’s theology is the immanentization of the divine:
The use of the comparative method shows without a doubt that the quaternity is a more or less direct representation of the God who is manifest in his creation. We might, therefore, conclude that the symbol spontaneously produced in the dreams of modern people means something similar — the God within. (CW 11, § 101)
Accordingly, “the Self is empirically indistinguishable from a God-image” and “self-realization — to put it in religious or metaphysical terms — amounts to God’s incarnation” (CW 11, § 233). This explains why the integration of ‘the fourth’ (the shadow side of our culture), in personal psychology, amounts to the immanentization of God. It brings about the integration of God with His dark and unconscious side (§§ 638-39). The individual human being can contribute to the healing of the Godhead, because in a certain respect “the creature has surpassed the creator” (§ 640). In the Book of Job, argues Jung, “Job stands morally higher than Yahweh” (ibid.). Thus, he has finally arrived at the conclusion that the human ego in a sense even surpasses God, because God (i.e., Yahweh), although having vastly greater scope, is an “unconscious being who cannot be judged morally” (§ 600). From a Christian perspective, this is reminiscent of Luciferian self-exaltation: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God … I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14: 13-14).
The Self is an unconscious archetypal complex. Given that God is indistinguishable from the Self it follows that God has His abode in the human unconscious, where He remains in a relatively unconscious state. Whereas the Christian God resides in Heaven, equal to the transcendent realm, the Jungian God is immanent and, so they claim, resides in the collective unconscious. Says Jung:
It is only through the psyche that we can establish that God acts upon us, but we are unable to distinguish whether these actions emanate from God or from the unconscious. We cannot tell whether God and the unconscious are two different entities. Both are border-line concepts for transcendental contents. (CW 11, § 757)
The cornerstone of Jungian psychology is the unconscious, a metaphysical postulate laden with meaning, almost equated with God. It contains the multitudinous archetypes, carriers of mythological motifs or primordial images. They have a distinctly numinous or “spiritual” character, and a quasi-consciousness, or a luminosity of their own, and are continuously present and active (cf. CW 8, §§ 325, 388, 405, 427). Says Jung: “Therefore we would do well to think of ego-consciousness as being surrounded by a multitude of little luminosities” (§ 387). Accordingly, Jung defines the unconscious as “multiple consciousness,” as if there were “a plurality of souls in one and the same individual” (§ 365; cf. § 387). The unconscious psyche has a far greater scope than the conscious mind. It is the “unknown psychic” in that it contains mental processes that proceed in parallel with conscious processes (§§ 382, 385, 387).
This is the psychoanalytic unconscious, which Jung has in common with Freud, although Freud’s ‘subconscious’ is not nearly as voluminous. However, Freud has a corresponding concept of ever-present “unconscious mental activity,” typically in the form of ‘unconscious fantasies.’ He sees this as a further expansion of “primitive animism” (cf. Freud, 1989, pp. 576-77). The psychoanalytic concept of ‘unconscious mind’ is an important factor behind the modern movement that has as goal the ‘re-enchantment’ of the world, equal to the immanentization of the divine. After all, the concept of autonomous entities of mind is very similar to the ancient concept of ‘spirits.’
Unfortunately, no evidence is forthcoming of an unconscious mind running in parallel with consciousness. So there can be no archetypal complexes or autonomous ‘mind-entities’ that remain active alongside consciousness. It appears to be a fantasy, perhaps an illusion fabricated by the brain. Yet, people admire the concept as much as they admire the emperor’s new clothes.
There is no mental unconscious
Decades of psychological experiments have shown that the brain can only focus on a single problem at a time, and thus there is no place for all manner of thoughts running along below conscious awareness (cf. Chater, 2018, p. 130). In fact, the mind is “flat.” Consciousness is analogous to the ‘read-out’ of a pocket calculator (p. 175). It reports the answers of the brain’s neural activity, of which there is no awareness at all. Consciousness is astonishingly sparse and is situated immediately “on top of” the brain, without any mental layer in between.
Accordingly, Nick Chater explains that “[u]nconscious problem-solving, and unconscious thought of all kinds, is a myth” (p. 165). In fact, “almost everything we think we know about our own minds is a hoax, played on us by our own brains” (p. 15). Contemporary neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists firmly reject the idea of an unconscious level of mentation. Psychologist Vesa Talvitie says:
There seem to be just two spheres or levels — the neurophysiological (the body-brain), and conscious states (feelings, mental images, and so on). There is no need to talk about unconscious mental matters — the term “unconscious” merely refers to brain processes. (Talvitie, 2009, p. 83)
What characterizes mentation is ‘intentionality.’ Given that unconscious states are not experienced and therefore not intentional, it leads us to conclude that the idea of a mental unconscious is oxymoronic (ibid., p. 86). We have greatly underestimated our powers of invention, not knowing that the brain’s left hemisphere is a master storyteller (cf. Chater, 2018, p. 220). The upshot is that “[t]here is no mirror of nature, no inner copy of outer reality, no churning unconscious, no unfathomable depths from which our conscious thoughts break through” (p. 53). There can be no background processing, for the reason that available brain circuits required for a parallel activity are ‘blocked’ by the conscious brain processes of the moment. This is to prevent an overlapping that could cause disturbance (p. 131). Chater says:
Many believe that with the right meditative practice, psychotherapy or even hallucinogenic drug, the doors to the rich inner world of the unconscious might be prised open. […] But all of this depth, richness and endless scope for exploration is utterly fake. There is no inner world. Our flow of momentary conscious experience is not the sparkling surface of a vast sea of thought — it is all there is. And, as we shall see, each momentary experience turns out to be startlingly sketchy — at any moment, we can recognize just one face, or read just one word, or identify just one object. (ibid., p. 8) […]
Yet we are often seduced by a very different picture — that the confusions and contradictions in our thoughts and lives must represent a clash between multiple, and conflicting, selves. Perhaps, for example, we believe that we are the product of a conflict between a ‘conscious self’ and also a hidden, perhaps dark, atavistic ‘unconscious self.’ But the incoherent nature of the ‘self,’ and the thoughts, motives and beliefs it is supposed to contain, is not explained by adding extra selves, any more than the incoherence of Peake’s description of Gormenghast Castle is resolved by postulating multiple castles. (ibid., p. 33)
It appears, then, that Jungian theology has come up against a brick wall, although Jungian therapy might not be affected to the same degree. The Self cannot be equated with a God-image, in view of the fact that there is no such thing as unconscious mental autonomy. According to Jung, the integration of the unconscious is the path leading to salvation. But it cannot work, for the simple reason that the mental unconscious does not exist! However, both Talvitie and Chater explain that humanity cannot fare without metaphors. Especially in the consulting room it is necessary to work with symbols and metaphors. After all, “a psychotherapist is paid neither for true explanations nor scientifically correct use of terminology, but for promoting the well-being of his or her patients” (Talvitie, 2009, p. 170).
Talvitie submits that “the ‘scientific’ terminology of neurosciences and philosophy of mind is mainly useless in the praxis of psychotherapy” (p. 171). However, he doesn’t mean to legitimize all psychoanalytic parlance: “…an instrumentalist use of the concepts is legitimate only if it supports the aims of psychotherapy…” (p. 180). The neural processes, which are inaccessible as such, must be ‘narrated’ for healing to occur, and for this reason “neural matters (unconscious detections and neural loops) lacking meanings are ‘mentalized’ and become expressed in the scope of linguistic system…” (pp. 159, 179).
We may process emotions by constructing memories of them. As a result the emotion itself is no longer active, regardless if the encoding image is “real” or not. Even though there are no pre-existing unconscious archetypes ready to be integrated, we need imaginative metaphors to make sense of the world and ourselves. Dreams could be helpful in this respect, and concepts such as ‘unconscious’ and ‘soul’ are probably indispensable, provided that they are not reified but remain figurative. We must not forget to add to the picture that strange secondary form of consciousness, namely ‘dream consciousness.’ It has contributed to the illusion of a mental unconscious.
Adversity has two aspects, an existential and a scientific. When something really bad happens, we are emotionally distraught. This is the existential side of life. On such occasions it doesn’t help to think of good and evil in metaphysical terms, i.e., in terms of order and disorder. Rather, we need to grasp the bad experience in terms of metaphorical narrative, because it has a therapeutic effect. On the other hand, if events have not an immediate emotional effect in our personal life, then we ought to understand evil in Augustinian terms, because this is the scientific side of life. For example, if we get ill, this is simply bodily malfunctioning (privation of good). In such a case we ought to restore the good function by scientific methods, a way of seeing things that caused a great advance in health science during the Enlightenment (cf. Winther, 2020).
From a neuroscientific perspective, it might seem that we are nothing more than ‘creatures of habit.’ “Not at all,” says Chater, “it is our remarkable ability to make imaginative leaps, both large and small, that breaks us free of blind repetition” (Chater, 2018, p. 202). Chater has a very important point to make. What is seen through the narrow window of consciousness is not delivered as reports from an already organized inner world. Rather, with the aid of imagination, and memory traces of previous experiences, our conscious world is cleverly and subtly invented in an improvisatory way (ibid. pp. 82-83). Thus, we must learn “to regard our thoughts and emotions as transitory creations, mere commentaries on the moment, rather than as bearers of undeniable truth” (p. 105). Chater says:
The belief that emotion is an inner revelation, rather than a creation of the moment, is, I think, not only widespread, but potentially dangerous. The illusion that words and actions generated in the heat of the moment, when our interpretations of our lives and of others are likely to be at their most incoherent, burst out from our inner core, can lead us vastly to overrate their importance. […] To believe that our capricious and inventive minds are pouring out hidden truths at moments of crisis can also lead the religious to doubt their faith, the brave to suspect their own cowardice, and the good to undermine their own motives. (p. 104)
If we probe our mental depths, for the explanation of an emotional incident, social misstep, or any kind of blunder, then we are bound to fail, because there are no mental depths to probe. What the psychoanalytically informed person believes are infallible messengers from our inner world, are really only the products of flimsy and confused interpretations of the moment. In fact, it seems that our brain operates at the edge of chaos. Chater exemplifies with the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who went out bicycling one afternoon, and suddenly realized that he had fallen out of love with his wife. In psychoanalytic parlance, he had had a “realization,” followed by the integration of an unconscious content. Says Chater:
[H]e interpreted it as an indisputable revelation, breaking through from a hidden subterranean emotional world. This proved to be a disastrous interpretation, at least for their relationship, which foundered rapidly… (p. 105)
In this way, the very thought is taken as its own justification. But such erratic experiences could be compared to going for a walk, during which one stumbles on a stone and immediately regains balance. One ought to forget about it, because it means nothing. Jung, believing that the unconscious permeates also the outer world, took this kind of everyday experience to be a ‘synchronicity,’ a meaningful coincidence (cf. CW 8, ch. VII). He took seriously the capricious impulses of his brain to the extent that he became a very capricious person. Presumably, he thought he was being genuine and honest, a whole and integrated person, who allowed room for the darkness of the unconscious. It had serious social repercussions. Many people could not tolerate his outrageous behaviour and stayed away from him. He was volatile and could fly into a dangerous rage (cf. Mehrtens, 2011). When he had been disloyal to fellow Jungian analyst Barbara Hannah, and she mentioned it to him, he told her that “the unconscious does it through me” (ibid.).
Chater says that “[d]ealing with negative patterns of thought becomes so much more difficult if we are in the grip of the illusion of mental depth” (Chater, 2018, p. 105). This is a problem that concerns the entire Jungian community, which leads to boundary violations in therapy and in other social settings. The moral ideal to integrate also the instinctual aspects of the Self makes sexual boundary violations less of an outrage.
Utopianism versus original sin
Had not Jung endeavoured to reform Christianity, in his grand project to save Western civilization, but remained within the confines of psychotherapy, then everything would have been fine. There are in fact certain points of agreement between Jung and theology; but instead of a constructive critique he prefers to make something of a ‘straw man’ argument against Christianity. In what sense does Christianity repress the feminine? In the Christian creed, the Son is begotten of the Father. In other words, the Father “gives birth to” the Son. The mutual love of Father and Son is the Holy Spirit, whose love envelopes mankind. It isn’t exactly ‘macho’ language! Does Christianity really encourage hypocrisy and a pretence of goodness among its members? As a matter of fact, it is designed precisely against this! “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7: 1). We are all sinners, and we must watch over our corrupt nature, maybe also confess our sins to a priest.
In fact, vanity and conceitedness stem from original sin. It denotes mankind’s corrupted nature, a deficiency belonging to natural man that cannot be turned to anything good. Christianity cannot be held responsible for this. Nor can it be held responsible for the oppression of women throughout history. To my knowledge, Christianity gave women a considerably higher status, compared to pre-Christian times. Theology says that the world is God’s good creation; so in what sense does Christianity repress ‘matter’? Is it because the scientifically enlightened modern citizen simply cannot regard the material element as divine?
So what is this criticism all about, really? The answer is that Christianity has failed in creating paradise on earth. This is what underlies the dissatisfaction with Christianity, not only in Jungian quarters. But this was never a goal. As Augustine makes clear in De Civitate Dei, utopianism and imperialism are futile and counter-productive, owing to the socially destructive effects of original sin, which has impaired the soul of mankind irreversibly. We have to wait until the Parousia. No genuine meaning can be found in this earthly life. There is no treasure at the rainbow’s end, no Utopia on the horizon, and no Jungian ‘individuation process’ that leads to the Self.
In Christian religion God is transcendental; also the meaning of life is transcendental. Many have complained at this and called it pessimism — but it is realism. Jung and the Jungians belong to the utopian movement of the modern era, which includes all the different ideologies. It is the transcendental concept which they cannot tolerate, and that’s why Jung goes at such lengths to deconstruct Christianity. Jungians want to have a world where the divine is immanent. (This is why they think that Christianity represses the material world: by not viewing it as divine.) The world shall become ‘re-enchanted,’ and we will then be able to give the fullest expression to our nature, including our lustfulness. Jungian authors have a fixation on this theme, which is totally unrealistic, unscientific, anti-Christian, and immoral to boot.
In Luther’s view, being justified by faith alone, but not any works, implies that the Christian person has true freedom. The fact that authentic meaning cannot be found in this life, but our only hope is to put away the self and cling to the cross, actually means an enormous relief. It doesn’t really matter what we accomplish in this life; there is no true path to fulfillment, anyway. Nothing really matters! The whole of Creation rests safely in the lap of God.
This is contrary to Jungian theology, which lays a heavy burden on the individual to pursue that which Jung thinks is the goal of life, namely the fulfillment of the ‘individuation process’ (cf. §§ 757-62). Wholeness, union with the Self, must be sought through the integration of the unconscious. It is an absolute requirement! The fact that it cannot be done, because no such realm of archetypes exists, places the individual under stress.
The Christian person, on the other hand, is truly free and has many possible outlets for creativity. He may seek the summum bonum and build a modest paradise for himself, in accordance with his own nature and talent. This is not a way of salvation; but it makes it possible to enjoy life. Accordingly, Paul says: “Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life” (1 Timothy 6: 17). By finding the creative life in the ‘little garden of God,’ the young person no longer squanders time in a state of dissoluteness, lethargy and indifference.
Many of us struggle with the question of finding a direction or purpose for our lives. We would like to have a vocation, without having to join a monastic order. This is what summum bonum is for. Arguably, it is a gift bestowed upon us as a substitute for the collective path of righteousness, the ladder that nobody can climb. This is the ominous law of God that only aggravates our anxiety and guilt. Luther’s theology ought to be complemented with a good understanding of summum bonum.
In his treatise Summum Bonum, the alchemist Robert Fludd (1574 – 1637) defends his project against critique of blasphemy, and says that it is “the resplendent and invisible castle which is built upon the mountaine of the Lord, out of whose root goeth forth a fountaine of living waters, and a river of love” (Craven, 1902, p. 143). It is in this way we must understand alchemy; as the summum bonum, a personal and passionate formulation of the good Christian life.
Jung, on the other hand, regarded his personal project as universally valid, and went as far as elevating it to divine law. But there is no need for any such manmade paths of salvation that only cause anxiety, confusion and frustration. The Christian person must find his own summum bonum. The alchemists did exactly this, and that’s why we mustn’t disparage their work as an abberation. The alchemist’s laboratory was his own little paradise where he let his imagination fly, and saw in the chemical processes the procreation of the filius philosophorum (Mercurius), symbol of the resurrected Christ. His body was believed to be of the same material as the resurrection body (cf. von Franz, 2000, pp. 369-70). Jung saw it differently. In order to fit the filius into his quaternary diagram, it must be a symbol of the Antichrist. The alchemists, he believed, practiced an early version of Jungian psychology:
In contradistinction to the modern prejudice that self-knowledge is nothing but a knowledge of the ego, the alchemists regarded the self as a substance incommensurable with the ego, hidden in the body, and identical with the image of God. (CW 14, § 711)
He must mean this in a loose sense, considering that the alchemists did not have these concepts of psychology. Anyway, I think it is far-fetched. Arguably, Jung has only projected on alchemy his own psychological concepts. After all, the alchemists were firmly anchored in the Christian faith, and this was their own way of doing Christian worship in the sense of summum bonum. Jung, as was his wont, appropriated the symbols for his own ends, downplaying the many allusions to the Christ.
Considering the sheer incompatibility of his ideas with theology, it is surprising that Jung thought it possible to reform Christian faith. Theologian and psychotherapist Ann Conrad Lammers says:
Doctrinally conscious Christians might say that Jung places himself completely “outside” the therapeutic context in an important sense. The healing which he wants to offer the church includes the “missing fourth,” the “dark side” of Christ, and so on, not all of which teachings assimilate easily to Christian self-understanding. His therapeutic stance toward Christianity may therefore not be as viable as Murray Stein and others have argued; it may be too biased from the start by his rejection of the conceptual coinage of theology. (Lammers, 1994, p. 151)
Lammers expresses herself carefully here. She knows well that, in order to accommodate Jung, Christianity would have to throw out Paul, Augustine, Luther, and all the rest. Jung must have had a huge sense of self-importance to believe that his project could have any chance of success. He was caught up in an illusion which he stubbornly pursued, while disregarding not only theology, but also many scientific truths, and the intelligent arguments of thinkers greater than himself. In Jung’s dreams, we could expect to see strong compensations for his eccentric theological views. It appears to be the case. In one dream he is portrayed as “maliciously stupid,” unable to understand the brilliant biblical exegesis of his father the pastor (cf. Jung, 1989, pp. 217-20, excerpt here). Furthermore, in his autobiography, Jung recounts his vision of Christ:
One night I awoke and saw, bathed in bright light at the foot of my bed, the figure of Christ on the Cross. It was not quite life-size, but extremely distinct; and I saw that his body was made of greenish gold. The vision was marvelously beautiful, and yet I was profoundly shaken by it. (Jung, 1989, p. 210)
He was doing alchemical research at the time and immediately connected the greenish gold with the indwelling life-spirit, the anima mundi or filius macrocosmi:
If I had not been so struck by the greenish-gold, I would have been tempted to assume that something essential was missing from my “Christian” view in other words, that my traditional Christ-image was somehow inadequate and that I still had to catch up with part of the Christian development. The emphasis on the metal, however, showed me the undisguised alchemical conception of Christ as a union of spiritually alive and physically dead matter. (ibid., p. 211)
So he laid it to rest as a plaudits of the unconscious for his work on alchemy. This runs contrary to his own dream theory, according to which the unconscious compensates an unsound attitude of consciousness. It does not give accolades, unless consciousness has the unsound attitude of severe self-depreciation (cf. CW 6, § 694). Thus, he says that “[w]here there is an undervaluation of sexuality the self is symbolized as a phallus” (CW 9: 2, § 357). Accordingly, this vision could point at an undervaluation of Christianity. So he ought to have taken seriously the thought that something was amiss with his Christ-image and his understanding of Christianity. Jung is adamant that Christ and Mercurius (the god of alchemy) are not the same: “The redeemer figure of alchemy is not commensurable with Christ” (CW 14, § 124; see also CW 13, § 271).
So why did Jung’s ‘dream consciousness’ produce a visionary experience that attempted to correct this view, by insisting that the Christ and the spirit captive in matter, spiritus mercurialis, are one and the same? As a matter of fact, the alchemists themselves often made this connection. Christ is the Anthropos, the Primordial Man; Mercurius has the same meaning. Mercurius is the “image of Christ’s incarnation” (CW 13, § 283). He is the “spiritual blood,” corresponding to the blood of Christ. As the goal of the alchemical opus, he is the lapis philosophorum. This Stone of the Philosophers is frequently compared to Christ as the lapis angularis (cornerstone) (cf. CW 14, § 11).
Although the Christ-lapis parallel often occurs in alchemy, it is unthinkable to Jung that Mercurius is not the fourth divine person to be added to the Trinity. To his mind, Mercurius eminently symbolizes the fourth, because he is more than the devil; he represents everything that the Church has repressed: matter, evil, and the feminine aspect of the divine. Accordingly, he brushed aside his nightly vision by making an interpretation that adds nothing new. Where did the correcting impetus come from, then, if not from inner resistance against an aberrant conscious standpoint? To Jung’s mind, the alchemists simply used their cultured language for the holy, equal to the Christian language; but his own vision cannot be explained that way, considering that it was not consciously constructed. From a Christian perspective, it was the doings of the Holy Spirit.
The modern illness
Jung experienced his adolescent confirmation ceremony as “empty.” He retells in his autobiography that “this ceremony contained no trace of God — not for me, at any rate.” He had “hoped for an experience of grace and illumination, and nothing had happened.” He explains that it had been a fatal experience for him, in that he at that moment lost his faith in the church: “It is not life which is there, but death” (cf. Jung, 1989, pp. 54-56). Jung never recanted his boyish evaluation of the church and its rituals.
Augustine and Luther have a concept of homo incurvatus in se; sinful man as curved in upon himself. According to Luther, if God did not test us by tribulation, no man could possibly be saved:
This is so because, due to original sin, our nature is so curved in upon itself at its deepest levels that it not only bends the best gifts of God toward itself in order to enjoy them (as the moralists and hypocrites make evident), nay, rather, “uses” God in order to obtain them, but it does not even know that, in this wicked, twisted, crooked way, it seeks everything, including God, only for itself. […]
[God] inflicts tribulation, trouble, and trial upon man soon after he has justified him and bestowed upon him the gifts of the Spirit: he wants to prevent his ungodly nature from rushing in upon them in order to enjoy them […]. Thus man learns to love and worship God unconditionally, i.e., to worship him not for the sake of grace and its gifts but solely for his own sake. Thus “God scourges every son whom he receives.” (Heb. 12: 6.) If he did not do so, the son, carried away by the pleasantness of the new inheritance, would soon revel in the enjoyment of the gift of grace and offend the father more gravely than before. (Luther, 1961, pp. 159-60; LW 25)
The sinful person always asks, “What’s in it for me?” Whatever it is, it has value only if it is experienced by ‘me’ and appropriated by ‘me.’ But the purpose of Christian faith is to draw us out of ourselves and straighten out our crookedness. If it succeeds we become excurvatus ex se, curved out of ourselves. According to Paul, we then come to live in Christ, who is our life: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3: 3). The only way to God is through faith. W. Norman Pittenger says:
God can be known only by faith, wherever he is known at all, and we only confuse and confound the matter if we think that in what Christians call the incarnate life, God is to be seen present and at work directly and immediately to our knowledge without any such faith on our part. Always, the way in which God is known, met, experienced in a living communion, is through the self-giving, the commitment, the surrender, the whole-lived trust, which is the meaning of faith. Precisely the same principle applies to the awareness of the presence and work of God in Christ. Only when with heart and mind and soul and will, with all our being, we give ourselves in complete response to our Lord’s person and service, do we begin to know who he is. (Pittenger, 1964, pp. 108-109)
We cannot know God with our sensory faculties. In Jung’s confirmation ceremony, it would not have helped if he had felt a “trace of God.” It would not have curved him out of himself, but only made matters worse. Nor did his vision of Christ, at a ripe age, point him out of himself. His ego immediately gobbled it up, and it grew even bigger. The point of the ritual is to stop asking “What’s in it for me?,” and instead to humble oneself before God. One can compare with being called into military service when war breaks out. The soldier isn’t promised anything, other than suffering and death. He partakes for the love of his country, and for his president or king. That’s why they say that “the military makes you a man.” The self-discipline necessary for the service tends to make an excurvated man of an incurvated boy, or at least reduce his crookedness.
Correspondingly, at confirmation, we are called into religious service for God. We partake for the love of God. It means to be wedded to Christ and Christianity, and this is out of a love and passion that just comes to us. Wilfred Cantwell Smith explains that the Latin word credo literally means ‘I set my heart.’ In Thomas Aquinas, for instance, “this verb means to pledge allegiance, to commit oneself, to give one’s loyalty” (Smith, 1977, p. 41). Faith mustn’t be understood as a matter of belief, which is a tragic modern development. Rather, it means to love God by obedience of His Word. Says Smith:
Thus it can be shown that the phrase “belief in God” originally meant in English a loyal pledging of oneself to God, a decision and commitment to live one’s life in His service. (ibid. p. 42)
In the twentieth century we began to use ‘believe’ in the sense of presupposing. Whereas “I believe in God” used to mean “I hereby pledge to Him my heart and soul and opt to live in loyalty to Him” it today means “I judge God to be existent” (cf. Smith, 1977, p. 44). In consequence, it is today more difficult for the church to straighten out the crooked. There is among modern gentiles an expectation that one must have the inward experience of faith, or even proof of God’s existence through personal revelation. This is precisely what it is not about. Rather, it means self-abandonment to God’s will; to bow down to a higher authority.
Jung never could grasp the Christian principle of faith: to give one’s heart to God. Instead God must come into ‘my’ heart and glorify ‘my’ life. In such an event, it only makes matters worse, and the subject becomes even more bent upon himself. All his life, Jung saw the church as a therapeutic institution that had failed in giving its patients what they had come for, namely a healing experience. But the healing takes place not through experience but through faith. It is only in this way that man can be restored to wholeness; by turning from self to Christ. He is the fulfillment of what we really are. Says Pittenger:
[T]he fulfillment of human life, the restoration of our humanity to its divinely intended norm, the recovery of it from estrangement from self, from others, and from God, is not something that we can do in and of ourselves, “under our own steam,” so to say. It comes to us when we lose ourselves and when we are willing to lose ourselves; in fact, it comes to us when we fall in love. (Pittenger, 1964, pp. 114-15)
Jung went in the other direction and created a theology according to which incurvation serves the good purpose of activating the archetypes of the unconscious. I have no hesitation to call it the theology of the Antichrist. It holds a great allure for the secular humanist of the modern era, considering that it strengthens his radically false assumption that the whole universe revolves around his little self. The modern sinner sees himself as a self-explanatory and autonomous being, sufficient unto himself, able to get on quite satisfactorily without any assistance from outside his “deep” mental world (cf. p. 102). He already has divine omniscience within his grasp; so why should he educate himself about God?
Jung’s critique of Christianity is lacking in objectivity. He condemns the doctrines of theology, without really engaging with theology. He has a way of seeing what he wants to see in historical texts. His dogma of the quaternity is neither logical nor empirically founded. The quaternity of psychic functions has been refuted, and the theory of the mental unconscious is defunct. There are no Jungian archetypes (although we can still speak of archetypal symbols). Nor is there an individuation process other than the process of maturation. There is no evidence of an acausal connecting principle (synchronicity). The theory of alchemy as proto-psychology is spurious at best.
Jung is like the foolish man who built his house on sand “…and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7: 24-26). The entire system is a falsehood. Notice that this agrees with what we know about the devil and the Antichrist, the creators of falsehood and deception. These two figures of myth and Scripture, the dark god and the evil god-man, are promoted by Jung. It seems that many have underestimated the heterodoxy of his teaching and how radically blasphemous it is. It epitomizes the fall of man and the fall that continues. Sinful man is possessed by the egoic urge to dominate everything — God included! Roland Mushat Frye says:
The fall of man, by which man has perennially fallen and still falls, is the attempt to establish himself as his own god, and to claim for his own private dominion the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Man’s assertion of his own deity is not made in terms of the naive worship of an idol made in his own image, but expresses itself rather in his continual drive to establish himself as the determinative norm of whatever world he inhabits, and to extend the bounds of his habitation so as to extend the determinative power of his own will, bringing persons and things and truth and even God into subjection to himself. It is thus that man repudiates life in the image of God in order to live as god. […] Man’s assumption of his own deity is the frail substructure which renders his entire existence unstable, the origin of his alienation from God, from his neighbor, and from himself, and it is this triple alienation which is broken by faith in the action of Christ. (Frye, 1961, p. 123)
According to Jung, God has been surpassed by his creature (cf. CW 11, § 640). Given that God remains largely unconscious, He remains suspended between the opposites, including good and evil. His creature, on the other hand, who has been enlightened by Jung and Nietzsche, knows good and evil. Therefore he has passed beyond good and evil. This would be the fulfillment of the promise of the serpent in the Garden, namely that mankind “shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3: 5). The image that comes to mind is the Antichrist astride an immensely powerful yet unconscious animal. This animal is God. It is a delusion — an utterly obscene falsehood! But is also the logical consequence of the continued fall of man. Sinful man is going to the extremes in isolating himself from reality and the truth. The truth is that “[m]an is only a reed, the weakest thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed” (Pascal, Pensées, B231/L200).
Sinful man, twisted back into his own self, thinks he has the determinative power of his own will and can bring truth and even God into subjection to himself. But he only brings about his own downfall. This is illustrated by the myth of Lucifer, who asserted his desire to be more than God:
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. (Isaiah 14: 12-15)
It appears that the wisdom gathered during millennia isn’t taken seriously anymore. As soon as the wisdom of Christianity is forgotten we are afflicted by Luciferian hubris. Isn’t it time to put an end to man’s egoic madness and the adoration of our little flickering light? It is but a feeble and “flat” mental window to the world.
© Mats Winther, 2022.
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