MR asks: “Is Jungian psychology New Age?”
Whole books have been written about the infamous Karl Jung which is why I will only offer a brief synopsis of the most important personal aspects of the man and the belief system he invented which will explain why he’s considered to be the father of the New Age.
First of all, according to the book The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement by historian and psychologist Richard Noll, every Christian needs to be aware of the fact that the main motivating force behind Jung’s work was a desire to overthrow the Catholic Church whose religious teachings he believed were the cause of all of the neuroses that afflicted Western man.
For those who never heard of him, Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist who graduated from the University of Zurich in 1902. Early in his professional career he was a disciple of Sigmund Freud but broke away from him because he disagreed with Freud’s emphasis on sexuality. Instead, Jung believed that psychological wholeness lay in understanding the unconscious mind.
“He claimed that a person is a myriad of opposites,” writes Johnnette Williams in The New Age Counterfeit. “The unconscious mind attempts to reconcile these opposite tendencies, thereby bringing mental health and wholeness.”
Jung called this process “individuation” and believed the only way to bring harmony between these tendencies was for the conscious mind to embrace the negative tendencies or the dark side of our person.”
Jung was also a big believer in dreams, which he saw as a method of communication between the conscious and unconscious mind and that the key to understanding our negative tendencies lay in our dreams.
He also attached psychological referents to religious beliefs such as the soul, evil, the sacred, and God – which makes sense, because of his background and the culture in which he was raised.
He was born on July 26, 1875 to a Protestant minister who doubted the divinity of Jesus Christ and to a mother, Emilie, who was the daughter of a medium. Described as a eccentric and depressed woman, she behaved normally during the day but became strange and mysterious at night when she claimed spirits visited her. Jung claimed he once saw a luminous figure emerge from her room one night with its head detached and floating in the air in front of the body.
Not surprisingly, he grew up with an intense interest in the occult and felt that he had two personalities. One of these personalities was that of a wise old man whom Jung always believed was guiding him in life. He also experienced paranormal activities such as precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis and hauntings.
Jung also claimed to have contacted various spirit entities through his process of “active imagination,” or directed visualization. One of these entities was named Philemon, who he described as "a force which is not myself." Noll writes that Philemon became Jung's "spirit guide" who helped shape the whole pattern of his theoretical work.
Noll also reports that in 1913, Jung claimed to have become a god through an extended visualization exercise involving initiation rituals of ancient mystery religions such as Mithraism. Noll comments that it “is clear that Jung believed he had undergone a direct initiation into the ancient Hellenistic mysteries and had even experienced deification in doing so.”
His father's spiritual struggles with the divinity of Christ were not lost on Jung, who was quoted in Noll's book as asking: “What then is so special about Christ, that he should be the motivational force? Why not another model-Paul or Buddha or Confucius or Zoroaster?.... If we view Christ as a human being, then it makes absolutely no sense to regard him, in any way, as a compelling model for our actions."
Instead, Jung saw Jesus Christ as nothing more than a psychological symbol for the self.
In his book, Catholics and the New Age, Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. outlines several other areas of Jung’s theories that are incompatible with Christianity – such as how he regarded faith as a sin that became a block between the believer and true wholeness. He also espoused the dangerous practice of favoring personal experience of God over doctrine – which directly contradicts the warnings of St. John to test every spirit (1 John:4).
Unfortunately, Jung’s teachings have been making their way into Catholic parishes, seminars and retreat houses where they are being widely disseminated among the population.
Perhaps this is why Noll said that “Jung poses the greatest threat to the Catholic Church since Julian the Apostate."
As Johnnette advises in her book, while there is value in coming to know the various areas of our personality that make us think and act in certain ways, we must be careful not to let our Christian view of God be distorted in the process. Nor should we be encouraged to develop an unhealthy fascination with dreams because this can distract us from hearing God's voice in Scripture and the teachings of the Church.
"Finally, because Jung's psychology and belief system are tainted by mythic interpretation and occult experiences, we must be careful that we do not inadvertently become influenced by these same beliefs and practices."
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