Jung’s psychology on religion and spirituality

The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung lived from 1875 to 1961. This psychologist, who was trained by the famous psychologist Freud, has written a lot about psychology. In 1907 Jung broke with his teacher and continued alone. Jung developed his own theory of psychology with his own terminology. As the son of a pastor, he was particularly interested in religion and spirituality. Jung stated that religion and spirituality are possible ways to connect with the subconscious.

The psychology of Jung and Freud

Carl Gustav Jung first worked closely with the psychologist Sigmund Freud. Freud was Jung’s teacher initially. Carl Gustav was about twenty years younger than Freud. Over time, Jung developed more and more of his own ideas about psychology. In 1907 Jung broke with his teacher Freud. Jung felt that Freud’s theories placed too much emphasis on the unhealthy repression of sexuality. Jung developed his own insight into psychology, especially where psychology touches the field of religion and spirituality.

Jung on religion and spirituality

The psychologist Jung has a positive attitude towards religion and spirituality. For him, religion is part of being human. In his view it is an important psychological function. According to Jung, denying religion and spirituality is at the expense of the individual and of society.

Jung on the personal and collective unconscious

Jung developed a psychological theory in which he distinguishes between the conscious and the unconscious. According to him, every person has a conscious part and an unconscious part. According to him, the unconscious could be divided into two parts, namely a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious. The personal unconscious contains all forgotten and repressed events from an individual’s life. These are things that a person would rather not think about because they hurt or worry. The collective unconscious is that part of the subconscious that all people have in common. It is impersonal unconscious. It has a universal character and, according to Jung, contains the experiences of past generations.

Archetypes and the collective unconscious

In Jung’s theory, archetypes are present in the collective unconscious. Archetypes are a kind of memory images of certain people with a specific function. We all know these archetypes, also called archetypes. We encounter archetypes in fairy tales, myths and also in modern films. Examples of archetypes are: ‘The Child’, who faces the world young and open-minded (Harry Potter and Tintin); ‘The Hero’, who overcomes all opposition and ultimately wins (Achilles and Superman); ‘The Mother’, who cares for what is vulnerable (Mary in the Roman Catholic Church); ‘The Wise Old Man’, who, like a kind of philosopher, guides others on the right path (Parkamentus from the Harry Potter films and books, Sinterklaas).

The unconscious and religion collection

According to Jung, religion and worship are ways of dealing with the collective unconscious. In that unconscious, primordial images, the archetypes, occur that we all recognize. These archetypes and experiences have become fixed in our collective unconscious. According to Jung, people can come into contact with these images through religion. The archetypes can have an overwhelming character. Through religion and spirituality, a person can learn to deal with those images better. Many people look for motherly love from Mary and in the Protestant tradition the image of the pastor as a wise old man may be present. Religion is often something that you experience together, collectively. Through religion, people can collectively come to terms with the threatening images of the collective unconscious.

Jung and God as inner experience

According to Jung, it is not important whether God really exists or not. As a psychologist, Jung sees that God as a psychological reality is very important to people. For Jung, God is primarily an inner experience. According to Jung, psychologists should not make a statement whether God really exists outside the thoughts and feelings of people.

Jung sells religion and religion short

The American religious psychologist Andrew Fuller accuses Jung of psychologism. A psychologism is that psychology makes statements about things that actually have nothing to do with psychology. In psychologism, a psychologist makes statements about non-psychological matters or ideas. Fuller believes that Jung does not do justice to religion and spirituality. According to Fuller, religion and belief is more than a psychological experience. According to Fuller, Jung reduces religion and spirituality to psychological processes. As a psychological process, Jung values religion positively.

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