Jung's Hermeneutics of Scripture

by Steven Kings
Jung's Hermeneutics of Scripture
Steven Kings
The Journal of Religion
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Jung's Hermeneutics of Scripture

Kings / ~?i.~tol,


The purpose of this article is to examine Carl Jung's approach to the

interpretation of the Christian scriptures-to consider what principles he

applied, what methods he employed, and what results he obtained. What

is the point of such an inquiry? What could be the relevance of a Jungian

hermeneutic for those of us who read, study, and interpret the Bible?

The first and most obvious answer is to invoke the challenge of moder- nity-the impact of scientific thinking (since the Renaissance) on our un- derstanding of scripture. The physical, chemical, and biological sciences have all made their mark on the range of possibilities for biblical interpre- tation. Historical science has given birth to the historical-critical method, and a corresponding psycholog-zcal-critical method inevitably follows from the rise of scientific psychology.

A second consideration is that the very notion of "interpretation," the very attempt to make an ancient text meaningful for those of us who read it today, can be seen to imply some idea of the "unconscious," either in the author or in the reader. It implies that the reader remains unaware of certain layers of meaning that nevertheless can be drawn from the text within the reader's own context. Equally, interpretation implies that the author of the text was not aware of all the implications of what they wrote, even though many of these implications were available from the moment the text was written. Thus, for example, Rudolf Bultmann's interpreta- tion of mythological imagery is an attempt to uncover its latent intention, which in his view is to express the existential self-understanding of the New Testament writers. This presupposes that such a self-understanding, though present, was unconscious, finding conscious expression only through the conceptuality of the dominant, mythical worldview.'

Such a theory of unconscious authorial intention certainly becomes problematic in the context of poststructuralism; this may not mean that the concept of the unconscious is totally liquidated, but might perhaps require its redefinition as a background of latent linguistic possibilities.

' Compare M. J. De Nys, "Myth and Interpretation: Bultmann Revisited," International Journalfor the Philosophy ofReligion 12 (1980): 27-41, p. 34, 34n.

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Occasionally Jung himself resembles a prototype poststructuralist, of a sort, and there is certainly scope for postmodern readings of Jung, which would in turn have implications for a Jungian hermeneutic2 It remains true, however, that Jung was basically a modernist in his culture and training, not to mention his epistemology, which was unashamedly Kan- tian. Even if his models of psychic agents and processes are not essentialist, they retain a strong element of psychological realism that seems to iden- tify them as modern rather than postmodern. He claims that we cannot deny the reality of the archetypes and therefore insists that we must find a new interpretation of the archetypal images, one which is appropriate to the level of consciousness that our civilization has attained. This is nec- essary in order to establish a connection between our instinctual origins, which still live in the unconscious, and our present world to which con- sciousness is oriented. Without such a connection "a rootless conscious- ness comes into being" that "succumbs helplessly to all manner of sugges- tions and . . . is susceptible to psychic epidemics" (CW vol. 9, pt. 1, par. 267). Hence, "the importance of hermeneutics should not be underesti- mated." The vitality of Christianity can only be preserved, Jung argues, "if each age translates the myth into its own language and makes it an essential content of its view of the world" (CW vol. 14, par. 474). Jungian hermeneutics thus exhibits the same dialogzcal relation to the past as has often been claimed for biblical interpretation: one listens to the message

Consider his theory of archetypes, which he regards as unconscious dispositions or psy- chic structures that are utterly unknowable in themselves and thus can only be known in the form of their conscious expression, i.e., through the images with which contemporary culture clothes them. This implies that the unconscious is in fact not a psychic substance but rather a heuristic device for explaining conscious phenomena. This leads Jung to warn against "the illusion that an archetype can be finally explained and disposed of," since even the best explanations are "only more or less successful translations into another metaphori- cal language." The ideas of psychology itself, he claims, "are derived from archetypal struc- tures," and thus psychology "translates the archaic speech of myth into a modern mytholo- gem . . . which constitutes one element of the myth 'science'" (Carl Jung, Collected Works [London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953-791, vol. 9, pt. 1, pars. 271, 302). Collected Works cited hereafter asCW Thus, one never arrives at a language of univocal signification in which linguistic units can be matched up with their psychic referents. Both language and psyche occupy the reality which Jung calls image. See also E. Casey, "Jung and the Postmod- ern Condition," Spring (1987): 100-105. Casey insists that Jung's equation of image withpsyche is not an essentialist model of psyche but rather a reversal of the modernist view that images are "bare copies or signs of that which they represent;" thus Jung's is a nonessentia- list phenomenology of image. Drawing parallels between the collectivity ofJung's archetypal images and Ferdinand de Saussure's theory that individual speech is determined by collec- tive speaking, Casey suggests that the Jungian subject can be seen as a prestructured prod- uct of the linguistic network of collective archetypal imagery. For further postmodern read- ings of Jung, see, e.g., D. L. Miller, "The 'Stone' Which Is Not a Stone: C. G. Jung and the Postmodern Meaning of 'Meaning',"Spring 49 (1989): 110-22; and R. Schenk, "Myths of Meaning," Spring 56 (1994): 19-39.

of the past, and at the same time one translates the past into the language of one's present.


As a matter of fact, Jung's primary interest in the Judeo-Christian tradi- tion is focused not on its scriptures but on the psychological significance and benefits of its doctrinesand practices as they emerge from their origins in primitive religion and evolve through the centuries under all kinds of influence. He deals at various times with theodicy, the Trinity, Christol- ogy, the confessional, the Mass and other rituals, and even the Assump- tion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Jung regards as an important development in the collective psychology of Western culture. This preoc- cupation with Christian dogma is reflected in the secondary literature among psychologists as well astheologian^.^ Where Jung does refer to biblical material, his commentators are happy to follow him, but little interest has been shown in the actual methodology of his scriptural inter- pretations or in the uiew of scripture implied by the way in which he uses it.4

The Jewish and Christian scriptures are undoubtedly of great impor- tance in Jung's work, as one might expect given that his father and several uncles were pastors in the Swiss Reformed Church whose other great son, Karl Barth, was just nine years younger than Carl Jung. However, as a psychologist he could not ascribe any unique or exclusive significance to the Bible, because he found that the realities of the human psyche were

'See, e.g., C. Bryant, Jung and the Christian Way (London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1983); E. Edinger, "Trinity and Quaternity," Journal ofAnalytica1 Psychology 9 (1964): 103-14;

J. A. Hall, The Unconscious Christian (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist, 1993); J. Hillman, "Psychology: Monotheistic or Polytheistic?" Spring (1971), pp. 193-208; R. Hostie,Religion and thepsychol- ogy ofJung (London: Sheed & Ward, 1957); A. Moreno,Jung, Gods, and Modern Man (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970); H. L. Philp, Jungand the Problem ofEuil (London: Rockliff, 1958); and V. White, God and the Unconscious (London: Fontana, 1960). Even David Cox's Jungand St. Paul: A Study of the Doctrine ofJustiJication by Faith and Its Relation to the Concept of Individuation (London: Longmans, Green, 1959) does not examine Jung's own treatment of scripture.

One early, brief exception is K. Lambert's "Critical Notice on Jung's Answer to Job," Jour- nal of Analytical Psychology 1 (1955): 100-108. Lambert notes that Jung's approach to the Bible mediates between Catholic exegesis and Protestant hermeneutics. On the Catholic side, Jung acknowledges the importance of interpretation by the Church, i.e., within the developing community and culture of faith. On the Protestant side, Jung accepts the results of biblical criticism with regard to the dating of documents, psychological explanations, etc. (106-107). A number of commentators have drawn upon the insights of depth psychology (both Freudian and Jungian) in conducting their own exegesis, but without explicitly in- vestigating the exegetical procedures ofJung himself. See, e.g., Eugen Drewermann, Tiefenpsychologie und Exegese,2 vols. (Olten: Walter-Verlag, 1984, 1985); Gerd Theissen, Psychologzcal Aspects of Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1987); and Walter Wink, Naming the Powers: the Language of Power in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), pt. 3.

symbolically expressed in all religious literature. Consequently, he had no canon as such, and passages from the Old and New Testaments are often juxtaposed with apocryphal, Gnostic, rabbinical, patristic, mystical, or hermetic parallels and interpretations. He made use of the research into the history of religions by Wilhelm Bousset and Richard Reizenstein so that his writings frequently examine the ancient Near Eastern back- ground to biblical materials, especially in Babylonian, Egyptian, and Mithraic religion5 And from about 1930 onward, he began to discover what was to become the single most important source for his work on religious psychology-the writings of medieval alchemists, to which three volumes of his Collected Works are exclusively devoted, and whose inter- pretations of the Christian scriptures offered him unprecedented insights into the psychological truth of religious ~ymbolism.~

Despite all this, the Bible remained important for Jung precisely because of its relation to other literature rather than its exclusive isolation. Its concepts and its imagery could be understood by comparison with the most diverse sources from all parts of the world and in all periods of history, and to Jung this demonstrated the universal significance of biblical revelation.


The comparative aspect of Jung's approach to scripture can be seen at work in what he calls the method of amplzjication. He compares this with the tactics of the philologist, confronted with an unfamiliar word, who looks for parallel texts and applications of the word in other contexts in order to shed light on its meaning. As we learn to read hieroglyphics and cuneiform inscriptions, so we learn to read dreams and other symbolic experiences that (taken individually) are usually too vague or insubstan- tial to provide their own interpretation. To become intelligible, the sym- bol needs to be amplified through association and analogy, and this can be done both at the personallevel, through the associations produced by the patient in therapy, and at the collective level, through the analogies discovered by the analyst in his or her study of religious symbolism.'

At the personal level, such amplification needs to take account of the patient's individual circumstances (CW vol. 5, par. 681). Dream symbols must be considered in relation to the dreamer's immediate state of con-

See in particular Symbols of Transformation (CW vol. 5), the 1952 revision of his earlier book, The Psychology ofthe Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1912).

Jung's own account of his gradual discovery of alchemy is given in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London: Fontana, 1993), pp. 230 ff. His alchemical writings appear in CW vols. 12, 13, and 14.

'On these ideas, see CW vol. 7, pars. 495,497; vol. 12, par. 403; vol. 18, par. 173.

sciousness, and interpretation must follow the clues provided by devel- oping fantasies and associations (CW vol. 8, par. 400; vol. 16, par. 339). For example, "water" means something particular to each person: to one it is "green," to another "H,O," to another "suicide," and so on (CW vol. 18, par. 174). The significance of a particular image is discovered only through its meaning for a particular ~atient.~

Nevertheless, in the course of his work Jung noticed "certain well-defined themes and formal ele- ments, which repeated themselves in identical or analogous form with the most varied individuals." For example, the oppositions between light and dark, upper and lower, left and right; or the union of opposites in some third thing; or thequaternity (that is, a square, a cross, or a circle in four quadrants) (CW vol. 8, par. 401). For Jung, this showed that our symbolic life is governed not only by personal factors but also by collective uncon- scious patterns, the archetypes, that stimulate symbolic images "by availing themselves of the existing conscious material" (CW vol. 8,par. 403). In a sense, it is the personal level that provides the key to the collective level. Because interpretation at the personal level must respect the particular meaning-possibilities of the individual, interpretation at the collective level (e.g., biblical interpretation) will be qualified by personal meanings. In other words, a biblical passage conveys a formal generality of meaning but only attains concrete significance in relation to the individual who reads and interprets it.

Nevertheless, the mythological products of the collective unconscious are not individual acquisitions but reflect "the inborn language of the psyche and its structure," and they have to be examined in a global sym- bological context (CW vol. 10, par. 646). Jung conducted his own detailed and wide-ranging research into the history of symbolism and found that his method of amplification could be applied to historical as well as con- temporary material (CW vol. 10, par. 771). In dealing with an ancient text, of course, one does not have access to the personal associations and fantasies of the author, but where the imagery of the text is collective one can fortunately rely on comparative religious symbolism to provide the necessary amplification. According to Jung, religions "consist of universal myth motifs whose origin and content are collective and not personal," reflecting a fundamental psychic structure that, like the physical body, is common to all (CW vol. 13, par. 478).

Jung's use of biblical material usually involves its amplification through

9ee M. L. Pauson, Jungthe Philosopher (New York: Peter Lang, 1988). Pauson insists that images should not be "reduced" and limited by the context of "present categories of thought and analogues of feeling" but recalls Jung's admonition to examine every dream as unique (p. 62). Thus "the referents of the image along with the meaning possibilities vary from one context to the next" (p. 193).

the symbolism and mythology of other religions. As an example of the quaternity symbolizing psychic totality or wholeness, he is fond of com- paring Ezekiel's vision of the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1) with an Egyptian legend concerning the four sons of Horus. Ezekiel's creatures each have four faces (one a human, one a lion, one an ox, and one an eagle), while the sons of Horus have the heads of a man, an ape, a jackal, and a hawk, respectively; in each case one-quarter is human and three- quarters animal. Jung takes this as an expression of the four psychic functions (thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation), of which one is dominant and fully conscious, while the other three are more or less un- consci~us.~

The vision and the legend shed light on each other by exhib- iting certain common features that stand out from the background of disparate material.

Another example of amplification is his discussion of the Old Testa- ment references to Yahweh's battle with the sea dragon known as Rahab or Leviathan.I0 Jung follows Hermann Gunkel in relating this to the Bab- ylonian creation epic in which Marduk, the god of spring, defeats Tiamat, the mother of the gods, and thus creates the world. Both narratives are viewed as expressions of the struggle by consciousness to assert its inde- pendence against the maternal sea of the unconscious (CW vol. 5, pars. 375-83). The same struggle is reflected in the motif of the hero, a clear example of which is the story of Jesus; common features of the hero's life include his lowly origins, divine father, miraculous birth, rescue from murderous enemies, precocious development, youthful demise, a symbol- ically significant manner of death, and the eventual conquest of death (CW vol. 9, pt. 1, pars. 281-82; vol. 11, par. 229). "The hero's main feat," writes Jung, "is to overcome the monster of darkness: it is the long hoped- for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious" (CW vol. 9, pt. 1, par. 284).


The principles underlying Jung's method of interpretation generally re- flect the nonreductiue tendencies of his psychology. Here Jung's view of the contrast between himself and Sigmund Freud is illuminating and high- lights his nonreductive approach in three ways." First, for Freud, the

See CW vol. 9, p~. 2, par. 188; vol. 13, pars. 360-62; vol. 14, pars. 269, 272. 'O On Rahab, see Job 26:12, Ps. 89:10, and Isa. 51:9. On Leviathan, see Job 41:l &,Ps. 74:13-14, and Isa. 27: 1.

" See E. Edinger, "Symbols: The Meaning of Life," Spring (1962), pp. 45-66. Edinger outlines three possibilities for the relationship between the ego and the unconscious symbol; they are identification, alienation, and participation (pp. 48-49). Freudian psychology ex- plains symbols reductively in terms of the id and its instincts and thus exhibits the reductive fallacy that characterizes alienation of ego from unconscious (pp. 51-52).

driving force behind ~sychic phenomena, the libido, was fundamentally sexual, and thus Freudian interpretation was ultimately a reduction to psychosexual dynamics. When Jung speaks of libido, on the other hand, he means psychic energy in general, of which sexual desire is only one com- ponent; thus there will be no such reduction, and indeed in Jung's view the sexual symbols, such as the phallus, can themselves represent some- thing other and much broader than sexuality as such."

Second, Jung takes full account of the psychic impulse toward whole- ness and integration, and Jungian interpretation thus has a teleological orientation. Freud analyzes psychic phenomena from the strictly causal standpoint, viewing dreams and neuroses as the results of an infantile regression of libido or its repression by censorious moral factors, but Jung wants to consider the purposive nature of the psyche, the goals toward which it is striving.I3 For example, Paul's vision of Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) should not be reduced to his repressed envy of the role Christ played among his compatriots that prompted Paul to identify himself with Christ (CW vol. 6, par. 717). Rather, the vision should be seen "from the angle of his future mission," from which Jung concludes "that Paul, though consciously a persecutor of Christians, had uncon- sciously adopted the Christian standpoint, and that he was first brought to avow it by an irruption of the unconscious, because his unconscious personality was constantly striving towards this goal" (par. 719). Similarly, Peter's vision of the sheet covered with clean and unclean animals (Acts 10) cannot be explained by reducing it to the fact that, being "very hun- gry," he was incited by his unconscious to eat anything that came to hand, whether or not it was ritually pure or that "the eating of unclean beasts merely signified the fulfillment of a forbidden wish," presumably sexual. Rather, one should take note of the explanation offered in Acts 10:28, where Peter says, "God has shown me that I should not call anyone com- mon or unclean," which in psychological terms means that the uncon- scious expresses the reconciling and integrating impulse of libido in the form of a vision (C W vol. 6, pars. 7 16-1 7, 7 19).

Third, Jung distinguishes the symbol as he understands it from Freud's semiotic use of the term. According to Jung, what Freud incorrectly calls symbols are in fact merelysigns or symptoms of particular instinctual pro- cesses and unconscious contents, having a fixed meaning and a one-to- one relation with their psychic referent that simply requires decoding. By

l2 See, e.g., CW vol. 6, par. 778. See also J. W. Heisig, Imago Dei: A Study of C. G. Jungk Psychology of Religion (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1979), pp. 24-25.

"See, e.g., CWvol. 6, par. 718; vol. 16, par. 9. As Heisig notes, Jung's psychology required both causal and final approaches, "although there was never any doubt that he preferred the latter" (p. 115).

contrast, Jung insists that symbols are not signs or allegories for some- thing already known, but rather they express a content that has not yet been consciously recognized or conceptually determined, or that cannot be formulated in any better way. To the extent that such symbols are collective and archetypal, and thus originate in the unconscious, they are in the last resort never quite determinate, since unconscious contents are not subject to the process of differentiation between opposites, which, for Jung, characterizes consciousness (CW vol. 15, par. 105; vol. 16, pars. 339-40). Such symbols are therefore paradoxical or dialectical in charac- ter-they can carry different meanings and contain apparent contradic- tions; any symbol, taken by itself, is overdetermined, having several aspects of meaning, and can be interpreted in different ways (CW vol. 11, par. 723). Conversely, the same psychic reality can be expressed by any num- ber of different symbols whose meaning is only accessible through ampli- fication. Thus the phallus, as we have seen, denotes not the penis but the libido in general, the creative psychic energy, the power of healing and fertility whose mythological symbols also include the bull, the pomegran- ate, lightning, and the dance (CW vol. 5, par. 329; vol. 16, par. 340). Alchemical symbolism, which expressed psychic integration in terms of the union of opposing material substances, used vast numbers of syno- nyms to represent the opposites, such as man-woman, god-goddess, son- mother, red-white, active-passive, body-spirit, and so on (CW vol. 14, par. 655). These symbols are grounded in unconscious archetypes whose psy- chic energy is released by attracting those conscious images most appro- priate for their expression, but the full reality of the archetypes tran- scends what is conceptually accessible (CW vol. 5, par. 344). Christopher Bryant, in his book Jung and the Christian Way, believes that our study of the Bible would be transformed "if we could understand the biblical im- ages, not as poetical ways of stating what could with greater precision be stated in exact prose, but rather as powerful symbols able to release a flow of spiritual life in us." l4

In fact, Jung finds the figurative imagery of mythical symbolism far more suited to the description of psychic processes than any intellectual formulation or rational conceptuality. Thus his psychological commen- taries on religious and alchemical texts often make little attempt to trans- late the symbolism into scientific terminology. He begins one essay, Psychology and Alchemy, with an apology that his exposition "sounds like a Gnostic myth" (CW vol. 12, par. 28). His book on Job often reads like a strange narrative in which psychological agents are personified as gods

l4 Bryant (n. 3 above),p. 124.

and demons. The reason is clear: symbolic language is the truest reflec- tion of the paradoxical and indeterminate realities to which it points. This is how Jung sums it up in1940: "Contents of an archetypal character are manifestations of processes in the collective unconscious. Hence they do not refer to anything that is or has been conscious, but to something es- sentially unconscious. In the last analysis, therefore, it is impossible to say what they refer to. Every interpretation necessarily remains an 'as-if'. The ultimate core of meaning may be circumscribed, but not described" (CW vol. 9, pt. 1, par. 265).

In order to grasp more systematically the way in which Jung's psychol- ogy structures his interpretation of scripture, it is necessary to character- ize the psychic realities that are being expressed in symbols generally and biblical symbols in particular. Although the symbol points to a total situa- tion which cannot be conceptually formulated, Jung does describe the progress of the soul toward wholeness. A condensed account might out- line this process in three phases-discrimination of opposites, confrontation of opposites, and integration of opposites. The phase of discrimination in- volves the emergence of consciousness and its gradual alienation from the unconscious; the crystallization of the Ego in the form of the socially acceptable Persona, and the consequent devaluation of the non-Ego; the repression and devaluation of unconscious contents generally; and the development of the unconscious, unconventional, and thus undesirable Shadow. The phase of confrontation begins with symptoms of unconscious compensation for the unbalanced one-sidedness of the conscious attitude, symptoms such as dreams and neuroses. Integration is achieved with the appearance of mediating symbols, through which Ego-consciousness and Shadow-Unconscious are reconciled, so that Ego-consciousness is broad- ened and relativized in relation to the Self, which is both the ground and the goal of integration. All three phases are represented among the bibli- cal passages which Jung interprets, and I will now offer some concrete examples of this process. To understand what Jung is doing, we need to remember that for him the figure of God in religious imagination, which he calls the God-image, is a symbol of the Self and cannot empirically be distinguished from it. The Self is by no means what we sometimes think of as self-consciousness but, rather, the psychic totality encompassing both conscious and unconscious life, which can therefore legitimately be called a transcendent reality, inaccessible to empirical conceptuality, and autono- mous in relation to our conscious will.I5 This must constantly be borne in mind for what follows.

l5 On this, see, e.g., CW vol. 5, pars. 95, 129-30; vol. 6, pars. 789-90; vol. 11, par. 757.


"The coming of consciousness," according to Jung, "was probably the most tremendous experience of primeval times, for with it the world came into being whose existence no one had suspected before" (CW vol. 9, pt. 1, par. 284). Certainly such a world was "physically there," but it was "a nameless happening, not a definite actuality," until the moment when consciousness could say, "That is the world, and this is I!" The experience of the separation of consciousness from the unconscious is captured in the Creation story of Genesis chapter 1; we read first that "darkness was on the face of the deep," and then that God said "Let there be light!" and finally that "God separated the light from the darkness." Jung writes: "That was the first morning of the world, the first sunrise after the primal darkness, when that inchoately conscious complex, the ego, the son of darkness, knowingly sundered subject and object, and thus precipitated the world and itself into definite existence" (CW vol. 14, pars. 129, 476).16

Consciousness emerges or increases whenever a change in circum- stances calls for adaption and awareness, but the discrimination of oppo- sites that is essential for consciousness goes against the nature of the un- conscious instinct for balance and unity (CW vol. 12, par. 30; vol. 13, par. 12). This poses a threat to psychic stability, and thus the coming of consciousness is not simply good but ambiguous; the bifurcation of one into two is not only the opportunity for integration on a higher level of consciousness but also the source of tension, alienation, and conflict. This is reflected in a curious feature of the Creation story, which was brought to Jung's attention through the writings of the medieval alchemist Ger- hard Dorn and has also been noted by Jung's pupil Jolande Jacobi.I7 The second day of Creation, on which God separates the waters above the firmament from those below it, is the only day of which we do not read "God saw that it was good" (see Gen. 1:6-8). The Septuagint adds the phrase, but English translations are unanimous in following the Hebrew and omitting it. God's work on the second day is not called "good," be- cause the waters are divided by a firmament, and the significance of this becomes clearer once we remember that water is for Jung a symbol of the unconscious; thus we see that the separation of consciousness from the

l6 See Pauson (pp. 145-84) for an interpretation of the seven days of Creation in terms of creative development or individuation, with days 1-3 as the "first half of life" (corresponding to my discrimination) and days 4-6 as the "second half" (corresponding to my confrontation and integration).

"J. Jacobi, ComplexlArchetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C. G.Jung (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1959), p. 143. Jung often discusses this aspect of the Creation, e.g., in CW vol. 11, pars. 104n., 180, 256.

unconscious has produced an inner antagonism which is itself, at this stage, uncons~ious.~~

The immediate consequence is that Creation and Fall are intercon- nected. An increase in consciousness means a tendency toward autonomy and, thus, a rebellion against the unreflecting subservience to instinct, against God as the primal unity of the self (CW vol. 13, par. 12). The extension of consciousness, through which opposites are differentiated, is represented as eating from the tree which gives knowledge of good and evil, and in Genesis chapter 3 this is felt to be a deadly sin-with some justification according to Jung, because the ego can only establish itself through a self-assertion that is out of proportion to its partiality and in- completeness. The conscious personality is only "an arbitrary segment of the collective psyche," and yet it must set itself up as the norm of decision and action; hence it feels its guilt and its alienation from the source of life (CW vol. 7, par. 243).

The second stage of psychic development, confrontation of the opposites, receives a lengthy and detailed exegetical treatment in Jung's Answer to Job, written in 1952.19 Job suffers unaccountably at the hands of Yahweh, and yet he turns to Yahweh for help; he doubts the justice of Yahweh, and yet he looks to Yahweh for justice; in other words, "Job . . . expected help from God against God" (CW vol. 11, par. 358). He remains con- vinced of the unity of God and thus "clearly sees that God is at odds with Himself"; Job becomes aware that God is "a totality of inner opposites," both good and evil (CW vol. 11, par. 567). Yahweh, meanwhile, remains in a state of unconsciousness. He is unaware that Satan is actually a doubting thought within himselfi thus it does not occur to him to reassure himself about Job's faithfulness by consulting his own omniscience, nor

l8 For a different interpretation, see G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Dallas: Word Bible Com- mentary, 1987). Wenham comments that the Septuagint's insertion of the phrase "And God saw that it was good" into verse 8 is "an inept attempt at standardization . . . because a) the heavens were not complete till day 4, and b) the addition mars the sevenfold use of the formula in the MT (p. 4). The first reason is unconvincing, since the formula is also applied to days 3 and 5, while the earth is still incomplete. Later he suggests that the formula was omitted "because the separation of the waters was not completed till the following day" (p. 19), but the separation of dry land from water (which occurs on day 3) cannot be conflated with the separation of waters from waters (day 2). Regarding the sevenfold formula, Wenham notes that the approval formula appears twice on days 3 and 6 (p. 6), but he offers no com- pelling reason for this emphasis and certainly no satisfactory explanation of why it is made at the expense of day 2 in particular.

Ig Answer toJob appears in CW vol. 11. See J. Ryce-Menuhin, "Jung's Answer to Job in the Light of the Monotheisms," in Jung and the Monotheisms, ed. J. Ryce-Menuhin (London: Routledge, 1994), chap. 9, for a clear exposition of the book, which is then applied to the psychotherapeutic relationship (pp. 114-17), and finally examined in relation to Islamic theodicy (pp. 12 1-24).

does he think to punish Satan for the cruel injustice of Job's fate. On the contrary, once his dirty work is done Satan completely disappears from view, he is relegated to the unconscious, and Yahweh projects his own unfaithfulness onto Job by accusing Job of harboring subversive opinions. It is plain that Job knows more about God than God knows about himself, and Job is thus intellectually and morally superior. Yahweh must learn to differentiate the opposites within himself; he must become this and not that.He must become a concrete and particular individual; that is, he must become human. In terms of Jung's psychological commentary, the incarnation is a result of Yahweh's encounter with Job.

In Luke 10:18 Jesus tells his disciples that he "saw Satan fall like light- ning from heaven"; here Satan's intimacy with Yahweh is forfeited and he is expelled. Through his incarnation, Yahweh has differentiated between the sinless light of Christ and the evil darkness of Satan and has wholly identified with Christ. God thus consciously becomes a good God, a lov- ing father, a just judge. According to Jung, this is the predominant image of God in the New Testament, and it represents a necessary but one-sided development, the epitome of which is found in the letters of John, where we read that "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5), that "no one born of God commits sin" (1 John 3:9), that "God is love," and that "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:16, 18): a God of light, a fearless love, and a sinless life. For Jung it is inevitable that such a one-sided attitude will be compensated in the unconscious, and there is every likelihood that an antithetical picture of God will erupt in one way or another. This, he claims, is what happens in the book of Revelation; here the Lamb is no longer an innocent victim but a wrathful monster, the majority of the human race is annihilated in an unparalleled bloodbath, and the "eternal" Gospel is now summed up in the words "Fear God!" (Rev. 14:6-7). There is, notes Jung, "no more talk of God's love" (C W vol. 1 1, par. 7 19).

For psychological reasons, Jung concurs with the traditional but con- troversial view that the Johannine Epistles and the Book of Revelation were written by the same person. Indeed, he writes that "one could hardly imagine a more suitable personality for the John of the Apocalypse than the author of the Epistles of John" (CW vol. 11, par. 698). The ex- treme polarity between them reflects the confrontation of opposites which Jung sees as an inevitable outcome of the one-sided perfectionism of John's conscious Christian Iife. His repression of all negative feelings and images of God allowed his unconscious free reign in spinning "an elaborate web of resentments and vengeful thoughts," and this negativity eventually breaks out in "a veritable orgy of hatred, wrath, vindictiveness, and blind destructive fury" that "blatantly contradicts all ideas of Chris- tian humility, tolerance, love of one's neighbor and one's enemies, and makes nonsense of a loving Father in heaven and rescuer of mankind" (CW vol. 11, par. 708).20

Answer to Job ends by considering the possibility of some kind of integration between these opposite poles. Jung suggests that John's vision of the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, "has the meaning of a 'uniting sym- bol'" (CW vol. 11, par. 727). The four walls of the city, like the four rivers flowing out of Eden, and the four living creatures of Ezekiel, are a quater- nity symbolizing wholeness. The marriage between the Lamb and the Holy City is a union of opposites in which the wrathful monster of the unconscious and the perfected saint of conscious life are integrated.

This union of opposites is also signified by the birth of the Savior, and in Psychologzcal Types, Jung interprets the messianic prophecies of Isaiah in this manner. With the coming of the Messiah, according to Isa. 11 :6-8, the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the lion will eat straw like the ox, and the child will play by the den of the adder (CW vol.6, par. 441). Such opposites cannot be united by conscious reason, and the symbolic solu- tion is irrational, hence the coming of the Savior is associated with mirac- ulous circumstances, such as a virgin birth (par. 438). Furthermore, in Isaiah, the day of the Lord is described in two contrasting ways, on the one hand as a day of vengeance and destruction, on the other as a time when the desert flows with water and the wilderness blossoms with new life (e.g., Isaiah 34 and 35). Jung interprets this by explaining that "the appearance of the redeeming symbol is closely connected with destruc- tion and devastation. If the old were not ripe for death," he says, "nothing new would appear; and if the old were not injuriously blocking the way for the new, it would not need to be rooted out." He continues: "The birth of the savior is equivalent to a great catastrophe, because a new and powerful life . . . comes streaming out of the unconscious," from the "discredited and rejected region" that "consists of all those psychic con- tents that were repressed because of their incompatibility with conscious values-everything hateful, immoral, wrong, unsuitable, or useless, which means everything that at one time or another appeared so to the individual concerned." All these unconscious contents that "have lain fal- low and unfertile, and were unused, repressed, undervalued, and de- spised, suddenly burst forth and begin to live. It is precisely the least valued function that enables life to continue," and this life erupts 'tjust

20 In K. Lambert's article, "Agape as a Therapeutic Factor in Analysis" (/oumal of Analytical Psychology 18, no. 1 [1973]: 25-46), he asserts that Saint Paul usesagape in 1 Cor. 13:4-8 "in an idealized way involving denial of the shadow rather than integration of it" and suggests that "the word agape could be stretched to include experiencing and overcoming primitive or infantile impulses of hatred, anger, murderousness, etc." (p. 36). He warns that the ana- lyst needs "an attitude that is benign enough because the malignant elements have been made conscious and partly overcome" (p. 37).

where there had seemed to be no life and no power and no possibility of further development" (CW vol. 6, pars. 444-46, 449). When rational thinking proves to be a dead end, the uniting symbol comes from the place where it was least expected. As Nathanael says to Philip in John 1:46,"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (CW vol. 6,par. 438.)

What, then, can be said of the central redeemer figure of the Christian Bible, Jesus Christ? In JungS view, the Jesus of the Gospels is character- ized by the same one-sidedness as the New Testament in general, because he is the incarnation of the good God, the sinless antithesis of Satan, and thus lacks the nocturnal or evil aspects of the psychic totality (C W vol. 11, par. 232). Yet at the same time Jung describes Christ as a "Symbol of the Self" (CW vol. 9, pt. 2, chap. 5),whose dual nature as God and human is a powerful expression of the integration between the conscious and the unconscious. I am not sure whether ~un~

shows how these two aspects of the Christ figure can be related adequately, but I think his own writings provide a starting point, although he does not follow it up." The death of Jesus represents his defeat at the hands of the devil, a confrontation with his opposite in which his one-sided perfection is apparently de- stroyed. But the manner of his death shows that this one-sidedness is in fact being transformed. Christ hangs on a cross, which is a quaternity symbolizing wholeness; he is suspended between two thieves, one of whom rejects him while the other accepts him. In other words, the sinless Christ is reconciled with his shadow, the quaternity is established midway between heaven and hell, and the death of Christ thus represents his ~ompletion.~~

Heisig notes that for Jung Christ "both is and is not a symbol of the Self" (p. 65). He suggests that Christ "represents the suffering that the ego must endure at the expense of the unconscious on its way to individuation" (p. 66).

22 See CW vol. 9, pt. 2, pars. 79, 123-24, 402; vol. 11, pars. 250, 659, 739. Compare Edinger, "Christ as Paradigm of the Individuating Ego," Spring (1966): 5-23. Edinger sug- gests that "in the course of being crucified, Jesus as ego and Christ as self merge." Both ego (man) and self (God) are crucified in Christ; the self suffers "a kind of dismemberment," leaving "its eternal, unmanifest condition" in order to achieve "particularization or incarna- tion in the finite," while the ego suffers "a paralyzing suspension between opposites" that is necessary for "a full awareness of the paradoxical nature of the psyche" (pp. 18-19). Cox ([n. 3 above], pp. 328-29) offers a fascinating interpretation of Gethsemane in terms of the mandala as an enclosed garden, inside which are "four figures round a central representa- tion of the deity." Jesus (the self) is accompanied by three disciples whose "faithfulness" proves ambiguous (cf. the three "differentiated functions"); Judas is the devil whose be- trayal turns out to be part of God's plan (cf. the "inferior function"). Cox suggests that when Jesus passes over to the evil side with Judas, he wishes the other three to follow him, and that the scene represents an attempt to unite the opposites. Perhaps more precisely, I would say that the scene portrays a necessary encounter with the shadow, which the self (as ego) undergoes as a step toward unification of opposites via integration of the shadow. Thus Jesus had to die, and his death was not a failure in the attempt to unite opposites but a necessary stage in the process. Is Judas in heaven?

The Gospels, of course, were written in the light of the resurrection, and this is what Jung does not seem to notice. The resurrection is the event through which the death of Jesus, an equally one-sided triumph of the Shadow, is transcended and relativized by the all-encompassing reality of God. Through the resurrection, Jesus' death is disclosed and confirmed as a transformation, as completion rather than destruction. Thus Peter preaches the resurrection by proclaiming that "God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36), and Paul writes that Jesus Christ was "designated Son of God . . . by his resurrec- tion from the dead" (Rom. 1:4).Jesus, therefore, attains the fullness of divinity through his death and resurrection; the psyche attains wholeness when the one-sidedness of the Ego is abolished through the confronta- tion with its opposite, and when the Ego is completed and transformed through its integration into the totality of the Self. At the same time, how- ever, the Evangelists, writing in the aftermath of the resurrection, are able to read the reality of Christ back into the life of Jesus, to interpret his earthly life in anticipation of its final consummation. They know that it is Christ who dies and is transformed. In psychological terms, the Self (as both the ground and the goal of integration) is actualized through a process that the Self itself initiates, although this full reality of the Self cannot be known in advance but only revealed, as it were, in retrospe~t.~~

Christ incarnate, crucified, and risen symbolizes the Self. Transforma- tion must take place in the life of each individual. Hence each believer must take up their cross and follow Jesus, must die with him and be raised with him (cf. Mark 8:34; Rom. 6:4-8).


Jung's hermeneutics of scripture raises a number of important issues, and I will end by commenting on some of them. First, we have seen that for psychological reasons Jung identifies the author of Revelation with the writer of the Johannine Epistles. To some extent, therefore, he disarms the modern arguments against common authorship based on differences

ZS See, e.g., CW vol. 9, pt. 1, pars. 278 (the entelechy of the self as "the a priori existence of potential wholeness"), 541 (the self "always present, but sleeping"), and 634 (the energy of the self "manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is").On the self as both process and goal of individuation, cf. R. E. C. Hull, "Translator's Preface:' in

H. Schaer, Religion and the Cure of Souls in JungS Psychology (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951), p. 3n. On the unpredictable outcome of individuation, see CW vol. 6, par. 759; CW vol. 9, pt. 1, par. 524; Carl Jung, Letters (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), 1:133, letter of 1933; see also M. Fordham, The Objective Psyche (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958), p. 57.

of style and content, though this is bound to remain contentiou~.'~ Inter


estingly enough, a more recent figure who comes in for similar treatment is Friedrich Nietzsche, whose unconscious erupts, according to Jung, in the person of Zarathustra. Here, too, a difference in style is evident if one compares the aphoristic intellectualism of the early Nietzsche with the Dionysian fervor of his writing after Zarathustra had a~peared.'~

It seems to me that such psychological considerations provide a useful criterion for our judgments about the authorship of biblical literature in general. If, in the case of the Johannine writings, the psychological criteria are outweighed by other factors, we can nevertheless see how the collective psyche of the early church might have operated to compensate for the gentle perfectionism of Johannine piety with the apocalyptic amorality of the seer of Patmos and his school.

Second, the comparative approach entailed by the method of amplifi- cation means, as I indicated, that Jung has no canon-or at least, that his "canon" embraces a global range of religious and secular texts, which are not selected on the basis of their agreement with any particular Christian doctrines. We have here a basis for dialogue between a Jungian psychol-

24 Avis Dry, in The Psychology ofjung: A Critical Interpretation (London: Methuen, 1961), pp. 207-8, notes that Jung's identification of the author of Revelation with the writer of the Johannine epistles is questionable in the light of New Testament scholarship. The modern consensus against common authorship is succinctly argued (on grounds of language, escha- tology, and the author's self-identification) by Werner Kummel in his Introduction to the New Testament (London: SCM, 1966), p. 331. See also R. Alan Culpepper, The Johannine School (Missoula: University of Montana Scholars Press, 1975), pp. 35, 263. Some scholars argue persuasively that the author of the Apocalypse, although he cannot be identified with the Fourth Evangelist, belonged to the Johannine School and shared many concepts and con- cerns with the Gospel of John. See, e.g., Oscar Cullman, The Johannine Circle (London: SCM, 1976). pp. 54, 114 nn. 54-58; Martin Hengel, The Johannine Question (London: SCM, 1989), pp. 80-81, 188, n. 61, 189, n. 68, 198, n. 26. Hengel (pp. 126-27) does not rule out the possibility that John "the elder" wrote the Apocalypse in about 70 c.E., before he wrote the Gospel, and that the intervening twenty or thirty years could account for the improvement in his Greek, the development of his eschatological ideas, and the move from "progressive" to "conservative." This would entail a very different psychological analysis from the one offered by Jung. For a more straightforward argument in favor of common authorship, see, e.g., F! E. Hughes, The Book of the Revelation (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), p. 10. Accounts of the patristic and modern scholarly debates concerning authorship are given by Culpepper (pp. 1-34), Hengel (chap. l), and Kummel (pp. 329-31). See also Werner Kiim- me], The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems (London: SCM, 1973), pp. 15-18,67, 173,349-50,377-80.

25 See, e.g., CW vol. 6, pars. 242, 540; vol. 11, par. 142; vol. 18, par. 61. Thw Spoke Zara- thustra was written between 1883 and 1885. It is noteworthy that the second edition of The Gay Science (Nietzsche 1887) adds to the first (Nietzsche 1882) not only book 5, but also the "Prelude in German Rhymes" and the 'Appendix: Songs of Prince Vogelfrei," whose poetic format and imagery could easily suggest a different author. See Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, 1974). A provocative comparison might be made with the opening and closing chapters of the Book of Job, in view of their stylistic contrast with the main central section, although I am fully aware that there are many other considerations involved in assessing the authorship of such a work.

ogy of religion and the noncanonical approach to scripture developed by such scholars as Heikki Raisanen." Raisanen argues that no sharp distinction should be drawn between those texts which were eventually admitted to the New Testament corpus and those which were excluded. The value and authority of an ancient text should be assessed on its own merits and not on the basis of its inclusion in the canon. We learn from Jung that the psychological value of any given text should become a crite- rion of merit. What is more, in the context of ideas about the collective unconscious, Jung's comparative method for the amplification of symbols and his recognition of their dialectic or paradoxical nature means that his hermeneutics also has pluralistic implications for theological meta- physics. His psychology contributes to the case against the absolutism or exclusivity of the Christian revelation and might well lend weight to the approach of John Hick, for e~ample.~'

At the very least it establishes a complex, elusive, and equivocal relation between religious imagery and the God whose reality it expresses.

Finally, it remains to be considered what kind of authority can be attrib- uted to the biblical writings as Jung interprets them. I suggested earlier that a biblical text gains its concrete meaning and force in relation to the associations of the reader, that is, relative to the reader's own possibilities for understanding. This implies that there is no such thing as the meaning of a text waiting to be discovered by the correct interpretation. A text has no meaning which exists in itself apart from the particular individual, communal, or cultural context in which it is read and understood. How- ever, this negative consequence is not destructive of hermeneutics, be- cause it clears the way for a more positive, pragmatic approach in which interpretation is assessed according to its therapeutic effects and the questions of meaning and authority coincide.

This is illustrated by Jung's own remarks on the interpretation of dreams.28 If interpretation goes astray, he says, "doctor and patient alike will be suffocated either by boredom or by doubt" as the therapeutic pro-

26 See H. Raisanen, Beyond New Testament Theology (London: SCM, 1990), esp. pt. 3, chap. 1.

27 See John Hick, God and the Universe of Faiths (London: Macmillan, 1973), esp. chaps. 7-10. See also his Problems of Religious Pluralism (London: Macmillan, 1985), pp. 42-43, where the different human conceptions of the divine are said to be related to divine reality as such in the same way that (for Kant) the phenomena of experience are related to the un- knowable noumenon or "thing-in-itself." This runs parallel to Jung's Kantian distinction be- tween the manifest archetypal image and the unknowable archetype "in itself [an-sich]."

28 On the extent to which the practical, self-involving, therapeutic aspects of Jung's psy- chology (rather than its controversial theoretical and epistemological claims) were decisive for its validity, see Heisig (n. 12 above), pp. 140-41. See also D. B. Burrell, Exercises in Reli- gious Understanding (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1974), pp. 86-87, 197,216-17.

cess degenerates into inconclusiveness, deadlock, and sterility. By con- trast, a correct interpretation is rewarded with "a sudden uprush of life" (CW vol. 7, par. 189).This positive corollary is summed up in Jung's aph- orism: "Something is real (wirklich) if it works (es ~irkt)."'~It should be clear that Jung has a high regard for the effectiveness of religious symbolism, and he describes religions as "the great psychic systems of healing" (CW vol. 13, par. 478). Thus the authority of the scriptures might be seen in the life-enhancing symbolism of biblical narrative, myth, doctrine, or poetic imagery.

This is certainly how he views the figure of Christ, whose central sym- bolic significance rests on the fact that, as divine and human, Christ expresses and stimulates the universal psychological impulse toward integration between consciousness and the Unconscious. The arche- typal character of Christ is evident to Jung by comparison with numerous "world-wide myth-motifs" and "parallels from the history of religion." Jung accepts that the Gospels tell us little or nothing about the real histor- ical human being Jesus of Nazareth, though he imagines that there must have been something unique and striking about the Rabbi from Galilee, "otherwise the darkness would never have noticed that a light was shin- ing" (CW vol. 11, pars. 146,228).He even acknowledges that it is possible "for an archetype to take complete possession of a person and to deter- mine his fate down to the smallest detail" (CW vol. 11, par. 648).Jung claims that Jesus Christ "is a symbol by his very nature." Christ, he writes, "would never have made the impression he did on his followers if he had not expressed something that was alive and at work in their unconscious. Christianity itself would never have spread through the pagan world with such astonishing rapidity had its ideas not found an analogous psychic readiness to receive them" (CW vol. 11, par. 713).30

According to Jung, it was "the archetype of the self in the soul of every- one that responded to the Christian message," and so "the concrete Rabbi Jesus was rapidly assimilated" by this activated archetype, until he be- came "the collective figure whom the unconscious of his contemporaries," and indeed his own unconscious, "expected to appear." Whoever the real Jesus was, therefore, in the Gospels he is "completely overlaid . . . with metaphysical conceptions and projections" of the archetypal God-man,

29 See, e.g., CW vol. 5, par. 344, and also Jung, Letters, 2:54, letter of 1952. Compare Hick, Problems of Religzous Pluralism, who suggests that theistic and nontheistic perceptions of di- vine reality "can only establish themselves as authentic by their soteriological efficacy" (p. 44).

30 See Walter Wink, The Bible in Human Transformation (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973), for a comparison of text interpretation with the analysis of dreams. Wink writes that "even if, unlike a dream, I did not produce the story in the text, its capacity for evocation depends on its resonance with psychic and sociological realities within or impinging upon me" (p. 55).

the Son of Man, and the Messiah. This archetype reveals what Jung calls "the hidden, unconscious ground-life of every individual" (C W vol. 11, pars. 146, 228, 231).Y'Thus, as Jung (in 1932) wrote concerning the life of Jesus, "This apparently unique life became a sacred symbol because it is the psychological prototype of the only meaningful life, that is, of a life that strives for the individual realisation-absolute and unconditional- of its own particular law. Well may we exclaim with Tertullian: anima natu- raliter christiana!" (CW vol. 17, par. 310).

31 See also Jung, Letters, 2:204-5, letter of 1955, and Jung, Memories, Dreams, Rejlections, p.

238. Edinger ("Christ as Paradigm," p. 8) describes the cross as "Christ's destiny, his unique life pattern;" thus to "take up one's own cross" means "to accept and consciously realise one's own particular pattern of being." By contrast, "the attempt to imitate Christ literally and specifically is a concretistic mistake in the understanding of the symbol," i.e., an under- standing in which the ego zdentzfies with the unconscious symbol (cf. Edinger, "Symbols" [n. 11 above], pp. 48,51). This agrees with Jung's own remarks on the imitatio Christi. See CW vol. 13, pars. 80-81, and Letters, 2:76-77, letter of 1952.

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