Author Dave Hunt once remarked that if a medicine man dressed in feathers and beads walked into a modern church, they would reject him, but if he were dressed in scientist’s garb, they would warmly receive him. Unfortunately the former is debatable these days, but the latter is all too common.
A perfect illustration of this phenomenon is Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung. Known among his intimate disciples as the “Hexenmeister of Zurich”—i.e., the Master Sorcerer—numerous Christians today welcome and apply his thinking. Some believe that because Jung’s father was a Lutheran pastor that Jung too was a Christian. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Jung himself admitted privately to being a Gnostic and to borrowing elements of his thinking from ancient Gnosticism.
Apparently a man for all seasons, Jung read Latin, Greek, German, English, and French. He was also a medical doctor, a practicing psychiatrist, a university professor, an early disciple of Freud’s, and the founder of his own school of psychology known as Analytical Psychology.
Many people find Jung fascinating because not only was he trained as a scientist, he also explored the strange, hidden areas of humanity—dreams, myths, imagination, and the occult. This gave his work an air of objectivity to a society enamored of science.
Yet Jung only offered the appearance of a scientific approach through his psychological system, for in actuality it carefully camouflaged religious and philosophical ideas disguised as science. This system in fact forms a major taproot of today’s New Age thought: occult mysticism disguised as psychological science.
Because many of Freud’s and Jung’s concepts are foundational to current New Age (or “interspirituality”) thinking, it is essential to understand that their popular schools of psychotherapy (often called dynamic psychiatry) are rooted in anti-Christian thought. Henri Ellenberger, psychiatrist and author of a massive history of dynamic or depth psychology, concludes that:
“It is impossible to overestimate Nietzsche’s influence on dynamic psychiatry… Nietzsche may be considered the common source of Freud, Adler, and Jung.”[i]
Frederick Nietzsche was an anti-Christian German philosopher who exalted paganism and the worship of instinct. Adolf Hitler and Nazism drank heavily from Nietzsche’s work.
Movies like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, as well as many popular psychotherapies and holistic medical concepts, reflect the widespread yet subtle influence of Jungian thought in the United States. Space does not permit a sociological analysis of secular society, however. What concerns us is the wide acclaim and high esteem that much of contemporary Christianity accords him and his thinking.
Three well known figures in particular have popularized Jung’s work in the Church: Joseph Campbell(a world religions scholar featured on the PBS series, Joseph Campbell and Myth); Morton Kelsey, an Episcopal priest and university professor, whose popular book The Other Side of Silence promotes Eastern meditation and occultism for Christians; and psychiatristM. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, which teaches that the unconscious is god.
Almost universally people regard Jung as a wise man—and in many churches a saint. Attack St. Paul and you’ll be called thoughtful, but criticize Jung and you’ll often be dubbed a “fundamentalist” (i.e., an ignorant bigot).
But the Bible states that true wisdom comes from the fear [“awesome regard”] of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Did Jung’s “wisdom” come from that? No—and for a number of reasons.
A heretical theology = An occult psychology
We must evaluate Jung’s psychology in the light of his heretical theology.
After his break from discipleship with Freud, Jung let himself slip into an intense inner conflict—viewed by some as “a creative psychosis”—that shaped the lifelong development of his thinking. He saw it as a way to access what he believed was his “unconscious,” but from the Biblical point of view, we can only describe it as an embrace of his sinful nature and the demonic realm.
Borrowing the method of visualization[ii] or “active imagination” from ancient occultism, Jung dialogued with figures that appeared in his fantasies. He called them “archetypes“[iii] [meaning: first or original type] and assumed that they were parts of what he theorized was a personal or racial unconscious mind that had an independent existence and needed “integration” with his conscious mind. In earlier periods though, people would have called such phenomena demons. In fact, Jung even used the term daemon for them at times. One such “archetype” was an old “wise man” who called himself Philemon and who became Jung’s “wise guide” and teacher.
The Bible calls this spiritism[iv] and demon contact.
The high point of this demon contact was an invasion of screaming, doorbell-ringing poltergeists into his house (observed by his family and servants) that only stopped when Jung compulsively wrote a treatise called The Seven Sermons to the Dead. (This is very similar to what spiritualists call automatic writing.[v]) The resultant document was a Gnostic[vi] heresy that blasphemed the God of the Bible and exalted Abraxas, a Gnostic “god” embodying both good and evil in one.[vii],[viii]
In true Gnostic fashion, Jung shared the book with close friends but hid it from the public. When a famous Jewish theologian, Martin Buber, happened upon it, he accused Jung of being a modern Gnostic. Jung vehemently denied it, claiming the book was only a “youthful frivolity,” but in other places he called it central to all his later work.
This deceitfulness is typical, for he frequently wrote utter blasphemies then retreated into the guise of a humble scientist, “an Empiricist” as he called himself, merely observing the psychic, and not a theologian speaking of ultimates.[ix],[x]
According to Stephan Hoeller in his book,The Gnostic Jung and The Seven Sermons to the Dead, Jung “knew that in his psychology he was putting forward an essentially Gnostic discipline of transformation in contemporary guise.”[xi]
Jung also advocated embracing occult phenomena as part of the exploration of the “unconscious” and coined the scientific-sounding term, synchronicity (meaningful coincidences) to describe it. He thus legitimized divination,[xii] the I Ching,[xiii] astrology, yoga, and all manner of psychic practices. (As for moral leadership, he demanded that his mistress share in his family life along with his wife and children.)[xiv]
Thus Jung is a perfect example of how one can incorporate occult teaching and practice under a scientific facade. What an opportunity to promote doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1,2) as the results of supposedly scientific research.
As secular psychiatrist Henri Ellenberger states in his massive history of dynamic/depth psychology (other names for several schools of Analytical Psychology):
“The advent of spiritism was an event of major importance in the history of dynamic psychiatry, because it indirectly provided psychologists and psycho-pathologists with new approaches to the mind. Automatic writing, one of the procedures introduced by spiritists, was taken over by scientists as a method of exploring the unconscious.”[xv]
Jung’s camouflage of occult mysticism as psychological science created a major taproot of today’s New Age thought, also called “interspirituality.” His redefinition of religious reality as merely one element of the human psyche gives equal status to all religious views.
Numerous contemporary secular and Christianized psychotherapies based on false spiritual philosophies and practices have grown out of Jung’s system. In non-Christian settings these are often called individuation or self-actualization. Christians commonly call therapies embodying some or all of the above points “emotional” or “inner” healing. One especially prominent inner healing teacher was Agnes Sanford. The wife of an Episcopal minister, she combined Jung’s teachings with techniques from the Unity School of Christianity (a cult) and mind science to create a technique that is sweeping through countless churches, ranging from the Roman Catholic and Episcopal to Pentecostal and Evangelical.
Many Christians consider Jung a very wise man, and Biblical churches as well as liberal and liturgical churches use his techniques today.
Popular Jungian Concepts
In many church situations, including Evangelical churches, occult-inspired Jungian concepts have replaced Biblical thought, and his ideas have become foundational to some Christian counseling.
Jungian ideas underlie such popular concepts as
Typology. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the world’s most widely used personality inventory. Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, “developed their model and inventory around the ideas and theories of psychologist Carl Jung, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and a leading exponent of Gestalt personality theory.”[xvi] The Myers-Briggs inventory is widely used in psychological testing, career development, candidate assessment, leadership training, and so forth.
The inner child. A popular phrase these days, “inner child” refers to the idea that within every adult is a child who represents the way he or she was treated as a child. Jungian thinking views it as an archetype.
Archetypes.This is the idea that archaic psychic remnants or primordial mental images are innate in human minds and have a life of their own. This concept has the effect of relativizing religious experience.
The ancient occult technique of active imagination or visualization (sometimes called guided imagery). The normal use of visualization is to form mental images. However, occult practitioners in both the East and the West have long used it to deliberately attempt to create or manipulate physical, psychological, or spiritual dimensions. Although originally the sphere of secret occult societies and private practitioners, the explosion of occult thinking in the past forty years has thrust occult visualization techniques into enormous popularity both in secular society and in the Church. In some instances, Christian teachers who have been confused about the difference between the two approaches have unknowingly promulgated occult methods. These days, occult visualization techniques abound in many vital areas. These include:
As a technique of healing;
As help recovering from various addictions;
As an attempt to increase wealth and influence in the business world;
Respectability in the areas of cancer treatment and pain control;
As a very central technique of transpersonal psychotherapy for personal transformation;
As part of transpersonal educational techniques introduced to school students (elementary level on up) for relaxation and to contact “inner guides” and to receive “inner wisdom”;
And among Christians who think it is compatible with the Bible’s teaching, i.e. Richard Foster.
Certain methods of dream interpretation, particularly looking for archetypes and “dialoguing” with dream figures to obtain “inner wisdom.”
Jung also promoted widespread acceptance of the idea that spiritual experience can be separate from religious truth (often seen, for instance, in Alcoholics Anonymous).
But perhaps one of Jung’s most damaging teachings is that we should “integrate” “light” and “darkness,” i.e., what the Bible calls good and evil.
While there is not room here to examine these concepts or the many therapies embodying them (the fruits) in detail, we have tried to illuminate the much less well-knownroots of Jungian thinking so that as you encounter each thread, you will be aware of the problematical tangle behind it.
The following chart provides further information about basic Jungian concepts and their harmful effects.
Basic Concepts in Jung’s Gnostic-like System of Psychological Health
A. Jungian psychology promotes self knowledge as central to achieving psychological health, and it teaches that this self knowledge is more important than morality. This approach helped open the door for today’s rampant moral and psychological relativism. It also is a basically Gnostic approach.
B. Jung insisted a true picture of God was not a Trinity but a quaternity that includes a satanic element—Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Lucifer. The only way he could interpret the God of the Bible was to say that God has an evil demonic side[xvii]. In the psychological field, he taught that health involves integrating the “dark” side (i.e., what the Bible calls the sinful and demonic side) of human beings with the “light” side. This provides a rationale widely used in some contemporary psychotherapies of “accepting” and “dialoguing” with everything that comes to one’s mind in order to “integrate” it.
C. Jung reduces all religious truth to merely psychological elements in human consciousness. For instance, Christ, Buddha, Shiva, etc. are seen as merely examples of “savior archetypes” that are part of the supposed “collective unconscious” and have equal religious value. This view, which many pass off as “scientific,” undergirds much contemporary religious relativism.
D. Jung taught that humans have a divine core, the “Self”(similar to the Hindu view), which only needs to be “unveiled” through self knowledge. This view is central to New Age thinking and transpersonal psychotherapies* that are everywhere today.
E. Jung’s ultimate blasphemy was to say that Jesus Christ only had power because he was possessed by the “Savior archetype,” and that as a man he was insane because he claimed to be God.[xviii]. This is another version of New Age Gnosticism that separates the so-called “Christ Spirit” from the person.
In the book of Colossians, Paul warned Christians about the deceptive influences they were facing. These influences are very similar to those we face today.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
Paul’s answer was to show them who Christ really is and thus by comparison how weak were the things they feared and were in danger of worshipping.
“For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form…” (Colossians 2:9)
We need not fear either as long as we keep our eyes upon Jesus—the real Jesus with the Bible as our authority. Then we can face the devil and his deceptions and help free the captives. For we know Christ
“in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3)
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:4-5
Bobgan, Martin and Deidre.Psychoheresy. Santa Barbara, CA: Eastgate Publishers, 1987. While we are uncomfortable with some of the tone of this book, the authors do a superb job of documenting problems related to psychology and Christianity.
Brome, Vincent. Jung. New York: Atheneum, 1978.
Ellenberger, Henri. The Discovery of the Unconscious. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1970. A massive exploration of the history and development of the psychology of the unconscious.
Hoeller, Stephan. The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead. A Quest book, The Theosophical Publishing House ,1982. Hoeller himself is a Gnostic.
Noll, Richard. The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement. NY: Free Press Paperbacks, Simon & Schuster, 1994. This is a fascinating and thorough examination of Carl Jung’s central influence upon the making of New Age culture. Noll is a lecturer in the History of Science at Harvard University and has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Segal, Robert A. The Gnostic Jung. Princeton, MS: Princeton University Press, 1992.
[i] Ellenberger, Henri. The Discovery of the Unconscious. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1970, p. 276. Bolding added by authors.
[ii]Visualization/guided imagery: The normal use of visualization is to form mental images. However, occult practitioners in both the East and the West have long used it to deliberately attempt to create or manipulate physical, psychological, or spiritual dimensions. Guided imagery involves using directed fantasy to achieve a goal, such as enhanced creativity, making money, or meeting “spirit guides.”
[iii]Archetypes: The Jungian theory that archaic psychic remnants or primordial mental images seem innate in human minds and have a life of their own. Said to be either creative or destructive.
[iv]Spiritualism or spiritism: The belief that the dead survive as spirits that can communicate with the living. It began in the 1800s as a social movement in the United States.
[v] Automatic writing: When a spirit is said to take control of a person, either entirely or partially, and cause that person to write something. The Bible would call this either oppression or possession by a demon.
[vi]Gnosticism:[Gnosis=Greek word for knowledge] Gnostics teach that the path to god is by secret knowledge from an enlightened teacher, not by faith. They deny basic Christian teaching such as the incarnation, the resurrection, the atonement, and Christ’s deity. Jung’s psychological-theological system is a Gnostic method to seek salvation by turning inward.
[vii] Brome, Vincent. Jung. New York: Atheneum, 1978, p. 167.
[viii] Segal, Robert A. The Gnostic Jung. Princeton, MS: Princeton University Press, 1992, pp.181-193).
[ix] Segal, pp. 156, 163.
[x] Hoeller, Stephan. The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead. A Quest book, The Theosophical Publishing House 1982. Introduction. Hoeller himself is a Gnostic.
[xi] Hoeller, pp.25–26.
[xii]Divination:Trying to foretell the future. (Forbidden according to Deuteronomy 18.)
[xiii] I Ching: An ancient Chinese form of divination popularized by Carl Jung, who revived it in contemporary form.
[xiv] Brome, p. 168.
[xv] Ellenberger, p.85). Boldface our addition.
[xvii] Jung’s Answer to Job, from Vol. 11, Collected Works. NJ: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (May 1, 1973). For a summary of Jung’s Answer seen by a Jungian fifty years after its writing, seehttp://www.junginstitute.org/pdf_files/JungV8N1p1-18.pdf. The author emphasizes how unfaithful and treacherous God is.
[xviii] Jung, Answer, pp. 46–47.
© 2008 by Richard and Linda Nathan
Richard Nathan holds a Master of Arts in Religion in Church History and has been a Bible and church history teacher for over twenty years. He wrote his thesis on the debate over the inerrancy of Scripture in a historical analysis. Linda Nathan has been president and senior editor of Logos Word Designs, Inc., a Christian writing and editing service atwww.logosword.com. The Nathans spent many years studying Jungian psychology and the occult before meeting Jesus Christ. See Richard’s blog atwww.gloriousriches.blogspot.com for ongoing discussion about such trends in Christianity as Romantic Christianity and the Emergent Church movement. Visit their Web site atwww.fictionplumbline.com for articles evaluating Christian fiction from a biblical perspective.
Index to articles by Richard and Linda Nathan