Jung on the Christian Archetype

Quotes by Carl Jung (from various books) on Christianity, Jesus, ego and individuation:

“What happens in the life of Christ happens always and everywhere. In the Christian archetype all lives of this kind are prefigured.” – Psychology and Religion

“We are living in what the Greeks called the kairos–the right moment–for a ‘metamorphosis of the gods,’ of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time . . . is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing.” – Civilization in Transition

“The drama of the archetypal life of Christ describes in symbolic images the events of the conscious life–as well as in the life that transcends consciousness–of a man who has been transformed by his higher destiny.” – Psychology and Religion

“In so far as the archetypal content of the Christian drama was able to give satisfying expression to the uneasy and clamorous unconscious of the many, the consensus omnium raised this drama to a universally binding truth–not of course by an act of judgment, but by the irrational fact of possession, which is far more effective. Thus Jesus became the tutelary image or amulet against the archetypal powers that threatened to possess everyone. The glad tidings announced: ‘It has happened, but it will not happen to you inasmuch as you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God!’ Yet it could and it can and it will happen to everyone in whom the Christian dominant has decayed. For this reason there have always been people who, not satisfied with the dominants of conscious life, set forth–under cover and by devious paths, to their destruction or salvation–to seek direct experience of the eternal roots, and, following the lure of the restless unconscious psyche, find themselves in the wilderness where, like Jesus, they come up against the son of darkness.” – Psychology and Alchemy

“The fundamental idea of the theologians is always this: the earthly fate of the Church as the body of Christ is modeled on the earthly fate of Christ himself. That is to say, the Church, in the course of her history, moves towards a death . . . until the last day when, after fulfilling her earthly task, she becomes ‘unnecessary’ and ‘dies,’ as indicated in Psalm 71:7: ‘until the moon shall fail.’ These ideas were expressed in the symbolism of Luna as the Church. Just as the kenosis of Christ was fulfilled in death . . . even so it is with the parallel kenosis of Ecclesia-Luna (the Church).” – Mysterium Coniunctionis

“[The Holy Ghost descending at Pentecost brings about for the individual] not an ‘imitation of Christ’ but its exact opposite: an assimilation of the Christ-image to his own self. . . . It is no longer an effort, an intentional straining after imitation, but rather an involuntary experience of the reality represented by the sacred legend.” – Mysterium Coniunctionis

“Analysis should release an experience that grips us or falls upon us as from above, an experience that has substance and body such as those things which occurred to the ancients. If I were going to symbolize it I would choose the Annunciation.” – Seminar 1925

“The individual ego is the stable in which the Christ-child is born.” – Collected Works Vol. 11

“When a summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges, then, as Nietzsche says, ‘One becomes Two,’ and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser personality with the force of a revelation . . . –a moment of deadliest peril!” – The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious

“What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass. . . ? Is it what is commonly called vocation . . . [which] acts like a law of God from which there is no escape. . . . Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man: he is called.” – The Development of the Personality

“The story of the Temptation clearly reveals the nature of the psychic power with which Jesus came into collision: it was the power-intoxicated devil of the prevailing Caesarean psychology that led him into dire temptation in the wilderness. This devil was the objective psyche that held all the peoples of the Roman Empire under its sway, and that is why it promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth, as if it were trying to make a Caesar of him. Obeying the inner call of his vocation, Jesus voluntarily exposed himself to the assaults of the imperialistic madness that filled everyone, conqueror and conquered alike. In this way he recognized the nature of the objective psyche which had plunged the whole world into misery and had begotten a yearning for salvation that found expression even in the pagan poets. Far from suppressing or allowing himself to be suppressed by this psychic onslaught, he let it act on him consciously, and assimilated it. Thus was world-conquering Caesarism transformed into spiritual kingship, and the Roman Empire into the universal kingdom of God that was not of this world.” – The Development of the Personality

“We all must do what Christ did. We must make our experiment. We must make mistakes. We must live out our own version of life. And there will be error. If you avoid error you do not live.” – Jung Speaking

“Jesus voluntarily exposed himself to the assaults [from within] of the imperialistic madness that filled everyone, conqueror and conquered alike.” – The Development of the Personality

“If the projected conflict is to be healed, it must return into the psyche of the individual, where it had its unconscious beginnings. He must celebrate a Last Supper with himself, and eat his own flesh and drink his own blood; which means that he must recognize and accept the other in himself. . . . Is this perhaps the meaning of Christ’s teaching, that each must bear his own cross? For if you have to endure yourself, how will you be able to rend others also?” – Mysterium Coniunctionis

“Although the Mass itself is a unique phenomenon in the history of comparative religion, its symbolic content would be profoundly alien to man were it not rooted in the human psyche. But if it is so rooted, then we may expect to find similar patterns of symbolism both in the earlier history of mankind and in the world of pagan thought contemporary with it. . . . The liturgy of the Mass contains allusions to the ‘prefigurations’ in the Old Testament, and thus indirectly to ancient sacrificial symbolism in general. It is clear, then, that in Christ’s sacrifice and the Communion one of the deepest chords in the human psyche is struck: human sacrifice and ritual anthropophagy [eating of human flesh]. . . . I must content myself with mentioning the ritual slaying of the king to promote the fertility of the land and the prosperity of his people, the renewal and revivification of the gods through human sacrifice, and the totem meal, the purpose of which was to reunite the participants with the life of their ancestors. These hints will suffice to show how the symbols of the Mass penetrate into the deepest layers of the psyche and its history.” – Psychology and Religion

“The mystery of the Eucharist transforms the soul of the empirical man, who is only a part of himself, into his totality, symbolically expressed by Christ. In this sense, therefore, we can speak of the Mass as the rite of the individuation process.– Psychology and Religion

“The problem of crucifixion is the beginning of individuation; there is the secret meaning of the Christian symbolism, a path of blood and suffering.” – quoted in Aspects of Jung’s Personality and Work by Gerhard Adler

“We discern a crimson line on this earth, a red, blood-spattered line which ascends, struggling, from matter to plants, from plants to animals, from animals to man.” – quoted in The Saviors of God by Nikos Kazantzakis

“The highest and most decisive experience of all . . . is to be alone with . . . [one’s] own self, or whatever else one chooses to call the objectivity of the psyche. The patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation.” – Psychology and Alchemy

“He said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ But ‘kingdom’ it was, all the same.” – Jung Speaking

“The bigger the crowd the more negligible the individual becomes. But the carrier of consciousness is the individual. . . . Did Christ, perchance, call his disciples to him at a mass meeting? Did the feeding of the five thousand bring him any followers who did not afterwards cry with the rest ‘Crucify him!’ . . . ?” – The Undiscovered Self

“The divine process of change manifests itself to our human understanding . . . as punishment, torment, death, and transfiguration.” – Alchemical Studies

“The experience of the self is always a defeat for the ego.” – Mysterium Coniunctionis

“The reality of evil and its incompatibility with good cleave the opposites asunder and lead inexorably to the crucifixion and suspension of everything that lives. Since ‘the soul is by nature Christian’ this result is bound to come as infallibly as it did in the life of Jesus: we all have to be ‘crucified with Christ,’ i.e., suspended in a moral suffering equivalent to veritable crucifixion.” – Psychology and Alchemy

“Although the attributes of Christ (consubstantiality with the Father, co-eternity, filiation, parthenogenesis, crucifixion, Lamb sacrificed between opposites, One divided into Many, etc.) undoubtedly mark him out as an embodiment of the self, looked at from the psychological angle he corresponds to only one half of the archetype. The other half appears as the Anti-Christ. The latter is just as much a manifestation of the self, except that he consists of its dark aspect. Both are Christian symbols, and they have the same meaning as the image of the Savior crucified between two thieves. This great symbol tells us that the progressive development and differentiation of consciousness leads to an ever more menacing awareness of the conflict and involves nothing less than a crucifixion of the ego, its agonizing suspension between irreconcilable opposites.

“Through the Christ crucified between the two thieves, man gradually attained knowledge of his shadow and its duality. This duality had already been anticipated by the double meaning of the serpent. Just as the serpent stands for the power that heals as well as corrupts, so one of the thieves is destined upwards, the other downwards, and so likewise the shadow is on one side regrettable and reprehensible weakness, on the other side healthy instinctively and the prerequisite for higher consciousness.” – Aion

“The God-image in man was not destroyed by the Fall but was only damaged and corrupted (‘deformed’), and can be restored through God’s grace. The scope of the integration is suggested by the descent of Christ’s soul to hell, its work of redemption embracing even the dead. The psychological equivalent of this is the integration of the collective unconscious which forms an essential part of the individuation process.” – Aion

“I only know–and here I am expressing what countless other people know–that the present is a time of God’s death and disappearance. The myth says he was not to be found where his body was laid. ‘Body’ means the outward, visible form, the erstwhile but ephemeral setting for the highest value. The myth further says that the value rose again in a miraculous manner, transformed. It looks like a miracle, for, when a value disappears, it always seems to be lost irretrievably. So it is quite unexpected that it should come back. The three days’ descent into hell during death describes the sinking of the vanished value into the unconscious, where, by conquering the power of darkness, it establishes a new order, and then rises up to heaven again, that is, attains supreme clarity of consciousness. The fact that only a few people see the Risen One means that no small difficulties stand in the way of finding and recognizing the transformed value.” – Psychology and Religion

“The utter failure came at the Crucifixion in the tragic words, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ If you want to understand the full tragedy of those words you must realize what they meant: Christ saw that his whole life, devoted to the truth according to his best conviction, had been a terrible illusion. He had lived it to the full absolutely sincerely, he had made his honest experiment, but it was nevertheless a compensation. On the cross his mission deserted him. But because he had lived so fully and devotedly he won through to the Resurrection body.– Jung Speaking

“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. . . . It seems to me to be the Holy Spirit’s task and charge to reconcile and reunite the opposites in the human individual through a special development of the human soul.” – The Symbolic Life

“The continuing, direct operation of the Holy Ghost on those who are called to be God’s children implies, in fact, a broadening process of incarnation. Christ, the son begotten by God, is the first-born who is succeeded by an ever-increasing number of younger brothers and sisters. There are, however, neither begotten by the Holy Ghost nor born of a virgin. . . . Their lowly origin (possibly from the mammals) does not prevent them from entering into a close kinship with God as their father and Christ as their brother.” – Answer to Job

[There is a] . . . continued and progressive divine incarnation. Thus man is received and integrated into the divine drama. He seems destined to play a decisive part in it; that is why he must receive the Holy Spirit. I look upon the receiving of the Holy Spirit as a highly revolutionary fact which cannot take place until the ambivalent nature of the Father is recognized. If God is the summum bonum, the incarnation makes no sense, for a good god could never produce such hate and anger that his only son had to be sacrificed to appease it. A Midrash says that the Shofar is still sounded on the Day of Atonement to remind YHWH (God) of his act of injustice towards Abraham (by compelling him to slay Isaac) and to prevent him from repeating it. A conscientious clarification of the idea of God would have consequences as upsetting as they are necessary. They would be indispensable for an interior development of the trinitarian drama and of the role of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is destined to be incarnate in man or to choose him as a transitory dwelling-place. ‘Non habet nomen proprium,’ says St. Thomas; because he will receive the name of man. That is why he must not be identified with Christ. We cannot receive the Holy Spirit unless we have accepted our own individual life as Christ accepted his. Thus we become the ‘sons of god’ fated to experience the conflict of the divine opposites, represented by the crucifixion.” – The Symbolic Life

5 thoughts on “Jung on the Christian Archetype”

  1. Thanks. This was great. Jung is one of my favorites. I once went to the local university library and found “The Collected Works of C. E. Jung”, a collection of twenty books of his ideas and speeches. As I sat in the library I was both enthralled and depressed because I knew it would take a lifetime to read and probably even longer to understand them. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from him that highlights how our personal motives interact with the world.

    “The Great events of world history are, at bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations first take place, and the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately spring as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals.
    In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and it’s sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.”

    C. G. Jung 1934

    Thanks again.

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  2. Thanks for supplying this material!

    Jung made some important contributions here, but his ideas are confused and almost incomprehensible. One suspects the problem is that Jung’s personal prejudices prevented him from following his insights through to their logical conclusions: (1) Jesus Christ is a universal symbol for self-actualization, or what we might call psychological salvation; (2) Christianity, with its traditions, Scripture, devotional literature, liturgies, and art, is the cumulative effort of countless souls, working both consciously and unconsciously, to forge this principle into a workable body of practice – a religion, and a consummate one. Jung was closer to the mark when he suggested that his patients who returned to the practice of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, were no longer in need of psychotherapy.

    To put it another way: yes, the complex of concepts and associations we designate by the words “Jesus Christ” is (in addition to whatever historical and metaphysical definitions apply to Jesus Christ as a person), an archetype of individuation. But if the collective unconscious of the West was wise enough to construct the Christian mythos – by which we mean all that surrounds this archetype – then who are we (or who is Jung) to, based on rationality alone, suppose that we are now superior to this mythos? It’s hubristic to think that way – that our flimsy rationality of the last century or two carries more weight than the incomprehensibly profound wisdom of the collective unconscious.

    The more deeply one contemplates the full meaning and implications of Jesus Christ as an archetype of individuation, or a symbol of the “philosopher’s stone”, or whatever, the stronger the case for practicing Christianity (albeit in a more intelligent manner than many practice it today) becomes.

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    1. Whenever Christ is constellated there is a lack of individuation. When individuation becomes more common, Christ becomes irrelevant. But ultimately it’s the unconscious that decides if a myth is relevant. When can only expose ourselves to different experiences.

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  3. maybe we are the process God’s own individuation?
    He is so large, so immense that we are the packets of experience to express who or what God is and only that which is expressed in total love, goodness and light will continue.
    Christ showed us the path, we must die to the evil that has infected the very cells of God and only that which has been crucified to itself will live in the rooms that he is creating for us, spaces that we will reoccupy in God himself.
    Maybe…

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