You know, the reason I became an analyst—I was ordained as a minister—and it wasn’t that I lost my faith, or went sour on the Christian ministry. It was because I felt that Jungian psychology went deeper into the source of people’s needs and problems. And as an analyst, I could go there with them.”

Murray Stein

“The invisible Church”. An interview with Dr. Murray Stein for the podcast ‘Psychology & The Cross’.
Date of interview: 28.01.2021

(0:25) Jakob Lusensky: Welcome to Psychology and the Cross. This podcast explores the link between Jungian psychology and Christian thought, faith, and tradition. In a series of conversations with Jungian analysts and scholars, we will investigate where the two depart and converge. This journey will lead us back to C. G. Jung himself, the son of a Protestant Christian pastor, many of whose later works were dedicated to if not to the reformation, a retranslation of Christian thinking as lived experience and faith, and who, which we will learn in this podcast, walked around with a bible in his pocket. My name is Jakob Lusensky. I’m a Jungian psychoanalyst with a private practice in Berlin.

In this our first episode, I had the great pleasure to speak to Jungian analyst Dr. Murray Stein. For most Jungians, Murray needs no introduction, but for the rest of you, Murray Stein has written numerous books on Jungian psychology: In Midlife, Practicing Wholeness, Map of the Soul, and many more. The first volume of his collected works was recently released on Chiron publications. Murray is probably the analyst who delved deepest into researching the link between Jung’s psychology and Christianity. His 1985 book Jung’s Treatment of Christianity is a classic that still stands today. To me personally, Murray is one of the great storytellers of the Jungian school. During my own training at ISAP in Zürich, Switzerland, I attended many of his lectures. Besides his deep knowledge of analytical psychology, and Jung’s life and psychological theory, he always left us with great stories: stories of Jungian psychology; stories from Jung’s own life; stories that stayed in our student bodies, and which we now often also share with others.

Also in this podcast interview, Murray will continue to share some of his captivating stories. But this time, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask Murray about his own story. How did he get in contact with Jung? What’s his own experience of Christian faith? Where did it all begin?

(2:49) Murray Stein: Well, I was born into a Christian family. My father was a Baptist preacher. And so I grew up in a parsonage, very much in the church. We attended church three times a week: Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening. And I memorized a lot of bible verses. The bible was my geography more than where we lived, because we moved around quite a bit to different places as my father went up the ladder in the ministry. And so I became very familiar with the bible. When I visited Israel some years ago, I felt very at home there because of the names. It’s kind of familiar territory, because I grew up in and with Bethlehem and Jerusalem and Jericho—and all those places—Egypt, the Promised Land—so the bible was very familiar.

And when I went to college, of course, I was exposed to the secular world, more or not for the first time. Also in high school—my very good teachers—and we studied Greek tragedies, and we studied world history and philosophy. But in college, of course, it opens the mind to the big world of the great thinkers. And so one’s perspective changes, and I guess I became oriented more to that world of the Western modern thinking. And I still maintained a connection to the church, attended regularly Sunday services at Yale University, where we had a great preacher, William Sloane Coffin, who was all about social action. 

And this was the ‘60s, with civil rights and the anti-war movement. It was a very exciting time to be involved in all of that. And then I went to Yale Divinity School following my studies at the undergraduate level there, and it was at the Divinity School that I learned about Jung—actually, Jung had not been mentioned at all in my college studies. But at the Divinity School, there was a professor named Becker. And he was in charge of pastoral theology. And there was also a psychology and religion professor there who taught some Jung. And so, for the first time, I became exposed to Jung’s ideas a bit. And then I took a year off—a sabbatical year—and went to Washington, DC, and I worked in the war-on-poverty program and attended a church there.

I can’t remember the exact title of that church, but there was a person there on the staff named Elizabeth O’Connor. And she had written a book called Journey Inward, Journey Outward, and she used Jung’s ideas a lot in connection with her Christian commitments, and so on. And she suggested one day that I read Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Jung’s biography), just out of interest, and there was a group of people—a small group—in that church that were exploring the question, Where am I? Where am I in life? This is a kind of quasi-therapy group, but more exploration—and that combination, and then reading Memories, Dreams, Reflections, really interested me in Jung and dreams and what dreams have to offer us in the way of insight and also spiritual values. And so really, it was in this Christian context that I became exposed to Jung at the Divinity School. 

And when I went back—Russell Becker was his name. He had just spent a year in Zürich at the Jung Institute. And he came back all fired up about Jungian psychology, and I went into therapy with him. And we met twice a week and we worked on my dreams. And I took a job at the local mental health center and worked with psychiatric patients during that year. So I was exposed to mental health. And then I read a book—and reviewed it for the Divinity School journal—called  Insearch, by James Hillman. And it was James Hillman’s contribution to psychology and religion—very wonderful book. It’s my favorite of all his writings. And then I wrote him a letter and asked if it’d be possible for me to come and study at the Jung Institute, and I was accepted.

I went to Zürich to study. So that’s how this all came into being. And it was a kind of synchronistic process, because one thing just led to another and doors opened and I was able to study then at the Jung Institute in Zürich for four years, from 1969 to 1973. I then came back to the United States, began practicing as an analyst, and ended up in Chicago, where I took a doctorate at the University of Chicago—in a department called Religion and Psychological Studies—under Peter Homans’ direction. And Peter Homans wrote a book called Jung in Context. He was interested in Jung. He wasn’t a Jungian, but he was interested in how Jung’s psychology fit into the picture of modernity. And how psychology in a sense replaces religion for some people in modernity. So Jung in Context puts Jung’s work within the context of modernity in the nineteenth and twentieth century, and sees psychology and the connection to the decline of religion. 

As religion declines in the West, psychology and psychoanalysis takes off, and increases, and becomes attractive to people—and their spiritual needs are fulfilled in analysis rather than in religious activities. So that was my experience. I loved Jung and I could identify with Jung. He was also the son of a pastor and grew up in a parsonage and had to struggle with his father and his father’s problems. My father didn’t have problems with religion; he was a passionate pastor, minister. He really taught—believed in—the gospel. So did my mother. So I didn’t have the same problems that Jung had with his father. And I had quite a positive relationship to my father, but I felt I outgrew him in a way, because he was very contained within that evangelical Christian framework. And I stepped into the modern world, the secular world. And he did not discourage me from going there. But I don’t think he really understood what I was doing. 

And so, I had to separate a bit. But I took with me a lot of the things that I had been taught as a child, and particularly an appreciation of the bible. I still like to read the bible. And I’ve written a book about the bible, Bible as Dream, which is an interpretation of the biblical story as an individuation process of the Jewish people. And so I can apply the psychological ideas of Jung to my reading the bible nowadays. 

(11:39) Jakob Lusensky: I would love to delve into your book that you wrote in 1985, Jung’s Treatment of Christianity. And I know in the acknowledgement of this book, you’re thanking your wife for faithfully accompanying you on the long march to securing a very old dream. Could you say something about how that came about? And, a little bit about the book, a lovely book? 

(12:05) Murray Stein: Sure. Yeah. Well, the very old dream, I guess, was to somehow try to bring psychology and Christianity together under two covers. The first book of Jung that I was exposed to was Psychology and Religion. And that was by accident. I was going through the shelves of a public library in Detroit when I was in high school. And I saw a book that interested me, called Psychology and Religion—those were Jung’s Terry Lectures that he gave in 1936 at Yale. And I took it home and tried to read it. I had already read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and I thought, wow, this—this would be interesting, psychology and religion. But I couldn’t understand any of that; it was way over my head. And it took me years to understand and appreciate it. Now I think it’s a marvelous work. And then the book that I wrote, Jung’s Treatment of Christianity, came about as a result of my studies at the University of Chicago. I had to write a dissertation for my doctorate. And Peter Homans was willing to accompany me on that; he really let me do what I wanted to do. And I thought it would look into Jung’s writings of Christianity and ask the question, What was he doing? 

Why was Jung writing so much about Christianity, especially after 1938? There was a turning point when he went to India. He had a dream in which he was searching for the Holy Grail. And he needed to recover the Holy Grail, and he felt that he had a mission to somehow engage modern Europe in that encounter with psychology—and to offer it something of value from the point of view of psychology. So he began writing about Christian themes: in 1940, I think it was, Transformation Symbolism in the Mass; in 1941, his essay on the Trinity. And then onwards: Answer to Job in 1952. In Aion he speaks quite a lot about Christianity and interprets the bible. He really gets much more engaged in Christian themes, discussing Christian themes in the second half of his life—after 1940 onwards to the end of his life. So his late works are very occupied with Christian materials. 

And I wanted to know, what’s he trying to do? Why is he writing about this, and what is his approach? So I came up with the idea that he’s applying his therapeutic method to Christianity. He’s taking Christianity as a patient. He looks at Christianity as a patient who has suffered from a problem with one-sidedness—a split—the anima and the animus, the masculine and feminine, good and evil—and identified with one side and rejected the other. And it would be his task, then, as a therapist of Christianity, to offer this analysis, and perhaps some suggestions for how to achieve a better balance, a better integration of the opposites, because Jung felt, especially toward the end of the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation, there is a radical split between good and evil. And this is not so much in the gospels, although there is the Christ–Anti-Christ problem. But especially in the gospels, in the Book of Revelation, and then in the Christian tradition, as the spiritual denies the body, and then good—love—overcomes hate and destruction. 

And if you look at Dante’s Commedia, for instance, you have the three levels. You have the Inferno, where the souls are condemned for eternity—that’s the realm of Satan: they will never be redeemed or restored; they will never reach paradise. Then you have the section of the Purgatorio, where the souls are going through a cleansing process and gradually moving upward toward paradise. And then, in [Paradiso] you have the saints, the Godhead—and Dante makes his way through all these levels, and finally has his great vision at the end. So that lower level is never connected, or brought into a kind of relationship split off from the higher levels. And that’s the medieval worldview, and that’s what Christianity had developed. So was there a way of offering Christianity a road toward wholeness? The individuation process aims toward wholeness and uniting the opposites: not destroying the opposites or one side of the opposite, but holding the opposites in attention, within the mandala of wholeness. And so too in my last chapter in the book, I speculated on how Christianity might do this concretely in terms of recognizing the feminine in the church, and in the history of Christianity, and also doing something with the problem of evil. That was a big one for Jung: the problem of evil and what to do with how we think about evil and how we relate to evil. It wasn’t that he denied the existence of evil at all. He felt it was a very powerful force, but how to be with it, and how to deal with it, and how to bring it in relation to the good: that’s the problem. So, I tried to suggest a few pathways that this might be done within—within Christian theology and practice. I think there’s been some movement in that direction in the last decades. As I look at it, anyway.

(20:08) Jakob Lusensky: Yeah, I counted. It’s thirty-six years since your book was published. I was wondering about how you look at the treatment and Jung’s treatment. And if you look at it—if your view has changed somewhat, or if it still stands.

(20:26) Murray Stein: My view of what Jung was doing hasn’t changed. I don’t know if my—I think, as I’m looking at—my view is very limited to what’s going on in Christianity. And it—to me today, it looks very divided between right-wing and left-wing forces, especially in the United States, with [the] strong evangelical support of people like Donald Trump, you know, a rightwing racist. This I don’t understand how Christians can support something like that, but they do. And then on the other side, you have the mainstream Protestant churches and most of the Catholic Church, I think, that supports basically what Pope Francis is talking about: helping the poor, trying to decrease the huge gap between the rich and the poor that exists in the world today, as well as integrating the races and bringing the feminine much more into the foreground.

I think the Catholic Church has done a lot with that on a symbolic level. Elevating the feminine into as Jung said, into the Godhead—I don’t think they quite did that. But they did bring the virgin forward into a much more dominant position. And the devotion to the feminine virgin, I think, has increased under these recent popes. In the Protestant church there are a lot of women clergy now; that was never seen before. When I was a student at Yale Divinity School, I think we had three or four female students in my class of—I think there were a hundred students or a hundred fifty students at the time—three or four were women going for the Master’s in Divinity degree. So that was the basic degree that would allow you to serve as a minister in the Protestant churches. Nowadays, it’s divided fifty–fifty: fifty percent of the class is female. Same thing happened in medical school, by the way. Medical schools are now fifty–fifty between men and women. So, women have entered the professions—as a result of feminism, largely, I think—very strongly, and including in the Protestant churches, and to some degree are being elevated also in the Catholic Church into positions of more authority and better, higher position, higher degrees of participation.

(23:17) Jakob Lusensky: In your book Jung’s Treatment of Christianity, you also say something. I will quote it and I thought it was very interesting. You say: “. . . what Jung foresaw as the future evolution of the Christian tradition could perhaps most accurately be thought of as the child of Christianity and the grandchild of Judaism. It would be at this generation of this great Judeo-Christian religious tradition, Jung would have hoped that a new religion would represent, I have suggested, a therapeutic transformation of Christianity: partially Christianity’s child, and partly quite different from its own unique religious tradition.” 

(24:11) Murray Stein: Well, I think I had in mind certain movements within Christianity that were a departure, and yet not—that maybe went in the direction of New Age spirituality—that combined Buddhist practices (for instance, meditation practices) with Christian piety—and that this evolution toward a kind of world religion would come out of Christianity, would combine elements of Christianity with other religious traditions and form something new. And that isn’t a unique idea to me at all. 

There’s a famous letter that Jung wrote to one of his followers, who sent him a dream, and in it, Jung speculated that a new religion would form in about six hundred years. And he said, in the meantime, individuals are creating their own spiritual systems or their own belief systems out of their inner work and their dreams and their active imagination. But eventually, this will come into a world—a new world religion. So I think that was in the back of my mind, that for Christians, this new religion—that combined analytic work, inner work, where you work with your dreams and active imagination, and then also relate that to your own tradition, background—this combination would eventually produce a new form that would be like the grandchild of Judaism and the child of Christianity. I look at Christianity as the child of Judaism. It comes out of the Jewish tradition. All the—Jesus and the apostles were all born as Jews, and assumed this new religious attitude, formed a child (Christianity). And then there would be a grandchild in this next stage.

(26:25) Jakob Lusensky: Some years ago, when I was going deeply into (Martin) Luther, I contacted you with some questions, and you shared with me this beautiful paper that you wrote that I didn’t know of, “Jungian Psychology and the Spirit of Protestantism.” And could you share a little bit about—in what way you see that Jungian psychology is working within this spirit, you say, of Protestantism? And maybe we could also touch a bit on Jung’s rendering of this Christian concept of the imitation of Christ—which I find very, very interesting, how you explore that—and Jung’s interpretation of that.

(27:08)Murray Stein: Well, I start with the fact that Jung grew up in a very Christian context: his father was a Christian pastor; he had six uncles who were Christian ministers; his grandfather was a very well-known leader of Protestantism in Basel, and the head of Basel cathedrals. So, Jung was steeped in a Christian tradition. And he absorbed that background. There’s no way you couldn’t absorb that background. So, when he set about doing his psychological thinking, it’s inevitable that some of those constructs would play a part. Now, one feature of Jung’s psychology is that it’s very individual. And that is the Protestant attitude about the relationship between the individual and God: you have a direct relationship to God; you don’t have to go through a priest. You don’t have to go through a community: you and God have a conversation; you pray to God; God sees you as an individual.

And so, this kind of individualism within the church context is very much a feature of Protestantism. When Jung gets around to doing his analysis and psychoanalysis, he emphasizes over and over again: the individual is responsible. Individual consciousness is a higher form of consciousness than collective consciousness. You go into any collective, be it into a mob scene, or into a church, or into a meditation center. That level of consciousness is reduced. The individual’s consciousness is the highest form of consciousness: this value placed on the individual, and the individual struggle with the unconscious self, with life—questions of life and death—[are] very central to this idea of individuation. 

And then he also brings in the idea of destiny, you know, that we’re sort of born with a destiny. Jung was very interested in astrology, by the way. Liz Green has written a couple of books recently on that subject. And astrology, of course, speaks about [how] the destiny of the individual is shaped by—synchronistically or causally, some people believe—by the stars and the moment of birth, and so on. Jung didn’t believe that, but he did read the astrological chart as a symbolic system that states something important about the way the archetypes are arranged in an individual’s psyche. And he believed that we’re born with a destiny. We have a future program written into our code. Hillman [James] wrote a book about this called The Soul’s Code—andthat you live that destiny in the course of your life, one way or another, either well or poorly—and so that the individuation process is guided by something beyond the ego’s choice of control—that you are destined to be a Jungian analyst—let’s say a psychologist. It could be that particular or it could just be you’re destined to be a thinker or a feeler, you’re destined to be a social person or an introvert. So there’s a sense of destiny.

That’s very much—especially in Calvinism, you know, that you are predestined to be one of the chosen or not. So the idea of predestination, I think, is also in the back of Jung’s mind, when he speaks about the destiny of the individual. And the guidance of the individuation process from another source. A quasi-divine source, you know, the self that is guiding the individuation process. And then he has the idea of synchronicity, which is very close to what I grew up with as “answers to prayer,” or, you know, “divine intervention or grace.” You’re going down a certain path, and suddenly, something happens by accident that’s very meaningful, and your direction changes. And that turns out to be your future. You know, some of you meet your wife. Most of our big turning points in life come about through synchronistic moments, meaningful coincidences: it’s how we meet our partners; that’s how we choose our careers, often. When Jung’s book fell into my hands at the suggestion of Elizabeth O’Connor, it changed my life, and when I read Memories, Dreams, Reflections, I thought, wow, this is a whole new world I want to look into, and it led me to Zürich eventually. So this idea of synchronicity as a divine hand sort of guiding your path is certainly very strong in the Protestant ideology, and it’s also something that Jung developed in his thinking. So, this combination of features: the value of the individual, individual consciousness, individual work, the opus that we all have to do. 

And also the absence of the sense of the importance of community, really. Jung was suspicious of collectives. And I think you ask another question—we can come back to this. This is a feature of the Jungian world that is weak. The sense of community. Jung tried it a bit in founding The Psychological Club. His patients would come together and meet with each other and listen to lectures and interact with each other. I think it was an attempt to form a community of people who are doing this individual work. But I don’t think it was a big success. I think there was such an emphasis on the individual work, rather than the relational aspect among the members, that there were a lot of conflicts in the club, for at one point, Jung actually left it because he was criticized heavily. Then they invited him to come back. And he really was a dominant figure in it. So it was—what the club became—was Jung and his followers.

Whether that was in any sense of community, I have my doubts. I mean, the people knew each other, but I don’t think they sensed much of a connection with each other. And I think you studied at the Jung Institute and at ISAP. I think that’s also true in the student body, there is a way in which the students are connected, but in many senses, they’re not. They’re working on themselves and their analysis and then their studies. And they’re more like individual units coming together occasionally for something, but then going their own separate ways. And in a sense, that is Protestantism. You know, Protestantism fragmented into one hundred pieces. There are so many different groups, there are the Lutherans, there are the Calvinist Presbyterians, and the Southern Baptists, and what-not.

(35:17) Jakob Lusensky: Looking the other way around, in your mind, is there something that Christianity and—or, what could Christianity offer analytical psychology?

(35:28) Murray Stein: You know John Hill [Jungian analyst], don’t you? He grew up a Catholic in Ireland, which is very Catholic. And he attended school in a monastery. And in that monastery, the students were encouraged to become religious and become—to go into the priesthood. And he had to make a choice. And he told me—I don’t think he minds my saying this—he chose that he couldn’t submerse his individuality in the collective so much. So he chose to leave and follow his own career, and he became a Jungian analyst, but he looks back on that community now as something that is really very valuable and that he misses. Okay, so do we have to choose between submerging our individuality in community in order to have community, a really strong community?

Do we have to choose between that and being an individual, or is there some way to combine them, be an individual—an individuate, as we suggest in Jungian work—and having a sense of connection to others, either in the same field or just in a community, participating in a community? I know a lot of Jungians miss community, and they complain about there not being community. I’ve been in the Jungian world now for fifty years. And I’ve heard this complaint over and over again: that what analysts miss is a sense of being in a community. They work in a solitary way, in an office by themselves with individuals; at the end of the day, they’re very tired: they go home, they have a family, and that’s their life. They don’t participate much in community activities. 

I think what the church, the Christian church or faith has to offer is the idea of an invisible community. And Jung liked that idea. “The invisible church,” he called it sometimes. That is, it is a sense of being in community with others, not necessarily in an explicit organizational sense, or you get together regularly for rituals and various things, but that you have a sense of unity or “oneness with” others who are working along the same lines or who are at the same level of consciousness or are working on themselves in the same way. 

And one thing Jungians have, but probably needs to be strengthened is faith. We place our faith in the self, you know, in the psyche, in this sense that when we sit down with a patient, and we conduct analysis, we believe that the answers to the patient’s questions will emerge out of the dialogue—out of their inner world, out of their dreams. That’s an act of faith. And I think that needs to be very solidly stressed in the training programs: that the endless doesn’t have the answers; what you have is faith that the answers will come. Otherwise, you couldn’t conduct analysis. You know that you don’t have the answers, but you have faith that they will emerge out of the process and out of the psyche. So, I think what Christians have and really prize above all else is their faith in an invisible power, an invisible source of inspiration, of grace, of comfort—many things that will always be present to them. And I think Jungians could learn from that or could strengthen their conviction that faith is a worthwhile thing to have. We aren’t committed to a postmodern, deconstructionist skepticism, or nihilism, as Jungians. I think we’re committed to a faith in process and an invisible presence and power that you can name the self, or you can name the divine, [or] you can name it the archetypal.

(40:50) Jakob Lusensky: But I’m also thinking as you speak about coming back to the idea of individuation and the imitatio Christi that you write about in your paper on Protestantism and Jung’s understanding or rendering of the imitatio Christi, because I think the Christ has something to do with this, no? At least the question of community and how me becoming who I am—what that has to do with you and your process. Yeah. But I just wanted to read something, because Jung says—I have a quote here to share with you before I leave it over to you—he says, “the imitatio Christi has this disadvantage. In the long run, we worship as a divine example a man who embodied the deepest meaning of life. And then, out of sheer imitation, we forget to realize our own highest meaning. The imitation of Christ might well be understood in a deeper sense, namely, as the duty to realize one’s best conviction, which is always also a complete expression of the individual temperament, with the same courage and the same self-sacrifice as Jesus did.”

(42:03) Murray Stein:Yeah. That’s the way he took it, that Jesus had his vocational calling. And he was baptized by John, went into the wilderness, he discovered this vocational future. And he made his experiment and he lived it to the end with good faith. And that would be the pattern: live your experiment, live your destiny, live your vocation to the best of your ability, no matter what it costs. And, you know, we talk about myths to live by. Jung said that he, at the beginning of The Red Book, you know, he says, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he says he didn’t know what his myth was. So, he needed to discover his myth. So he went on this journey. And we have The Red Book to show how he pursued that. And he found these interesting figures in his inner world, and Philemon, and so on. And he said that became the prima materia for his personal myth, out of which he then wrote his other books and lived his life and built Bollingen, and all of that. So, I think that he was following that sense of the imitatio Christi: find your vocation, find your calling, find the self, and the path, and live that. And that is imitatio Christi and his sense of doing what Christ did—not follow Christ’s path, but your path, but the way Christ followed, Jesus followed, his destiny to its conclusion.

(43:50) JakobLusensky:And what happens to Christ, then? I’m just wondering what happens to these values symbolized by Christ as a figure, as we’re interpreting it in the way that Jung did?

(44:06) Murray Stein:Well, you know, I think what happens if you go deeply into yourself, you find values and images that aren’t so different from what Jesus found. In other words, the idea would be that Jesus was living an archetypal pattern and living it out. And we will find an archetypal pattern that won’t be so different from his, but we’re not imitating him. You know, if you imitate anybody else, you kind of look at what they’re doing and then you imitate it, so you’re trying to become like them. You don’t try to become like yourself, you try to become like them. And this alienates you from yourself. You get cut off from yourself. You cut off large pieces of yourself as a result of that, because you aren’t them. You do gain something from it. I mean, the people who practice the imitatio Christi would experience, you know, the marks, you know, the signs of Jesus on them. Some of them, you know, lacerate themselves, they carry the cross, they do all these things. Well, what do they gain from that? Probably some sense of identification with Jesus in his suffering. But it really separates them from their own concrete lives, from their own history, from their childhood, from their parents, from their family, because they aren’t that person. So they end up living a kind of fantasy life, a life of imagining that they are somebody like this man who lived two thousand years ago in a very different culture, a very different time.

So that’s the problem with that kind of literalization of the imitatio Christi. I don’t think Jung meant to say that it’s not good to pay attention to the great values that Jesus talked about, you know, his teachings. Those are all very positive values and a very high level of consciousness and what Jung called in Mysterium Coniunctionis the unio mentalis. Unio mentalis is separating the soul from the body and connecting it to the spirit, so that you have control over your instincts and you’re able to think about them and reflect on them and live them in a conscious way. And have a sense of others as well as yourself, a sense of spiritual values. All of that is a very positive development in a person’s life. So Jung isn’t against that; he’s against the idea of alienating yourself from your own concrete life and history and trying to become something else. He had similar objections to people trying to become Buddhists. You know, following kundalini yoga or something, he said, that’s not your tradition—stick with your tradition, live out of your own history and develop that—that’s more authentic, and it won’t separate you from yourself. So it was very much for sticking with your concrete reality of developing that to the best of your ability. 

When you look at what Jesus meant for Jung, or how Jung looked at Jesus, he said, he’s an example of the individuating personality. Follow Jesus in that sense, follow your own path, find your own myth, you know, be true to your myth as Jesus was to his. Jesus does appear in The Red Book right at the end, in the garden, in Philemon’s garden. And I think Jesus was an important figure for Jung, you know. Jung carried a bible around in his pocket, all his life, his grandson told me. Sitting on the train, he’d pull out his bible and start reading something. So, he was very immersed in the biblical texts, in the biblical world. 

Now, for Christians, you know—people with a Christian background—Jesus will continue to be an important figure in their private meditations and religious practices. But I wouldn’t place him as an exceptional figure within the pantheon of figures that the Jungian psychology has to consider as archetypal figures. For me, personally, he transcends them, but that’s my own personal feeling about it. A Hindu wouldn’t feel that, most likely, or a Buddhist. They might put Buddha as a super, you know, superior figure. But I can live with that and they can live with mine, and we can have dialogues on that basis, I think.

(49:48) Jakob Lusensky:Much of Jung’s legacy seems to me to have to do with his universal psychological theory that he left behind, whether these concepts, whether the archetypes, whether collective unconscious. But could one imagine how Jung’s life and psychological project could have looked differently, if he would have stayed working more within the Christian tradition?

Murray Stein: Russell Becker, who was my mentor at Yale Divinity School, said to me, it’s too bad Jung was born in Switzerland. If he’d been born in America, he would have had a better appreciation for the church. The church was so cold and so uninteresting to him. And so without the spirit, you know. Jung said that when he took his first communion, he went home and he said, “But nothing happened to me. The wine was kind of bitter and the bread was stale. And what is this supposed to be? It’s nothing.” So he wasn’t really . . . he couldn’t participate in that church. Somebody once asked him, and he wrote an essay, “Why I’m not a Catholic,” you know, why couldn’t he become a Catholic? Because he appreciated the Catholic rituals so much. He wanted to go to Rome; he fainted at the train station. He couldn’t go there, it was so powerful.

And, but he couldn’t become a Catholic because he was a Swiss Protestant. Swiss Protestants can’t become Catholics. It’s impossible. They’ve been fighting Catholics for centuries. So he was really trapped in a particular form of Christianity that he could not stay in. He outgrew it very early. But he appreciated elements of Christianity. If you read his Zofingia papers, he is very appreciative of the mystical elements in Christianity, of which there is nothing in Swiss Protestantism. Swiss Protestantism took the statues, the stained-glass windows. They stripped the churches bare; everything became ideas and the word—intellectual sermons that were presented and doing the right thing, and moralistic—lost the spirit and lost symbolism. And Jung was so sensitive to that. So he couldn’t really stay in his Protestant tradition.

Other people have, like I mentioned—Morgan Kelsey and John Sanford—John Sanford was an Episcopal priest in San Diego, California to the end of his life. He had a mother who was a healer, with the laying on of hands, the light, a very mystical person. Agnes Sanford, famous American figure, was his mother; he became an Episcopal priest, he became a Jungian analyst, and he combined Jungian analysis as a part of his pastoral work in the church. And the books he wrote, are—he uses Jungian psychology to interpret and really make more interesting certain Christian ideas and biblical passages and so on. So he’s working from inside, I wouldn’t say to reform, necessarily, but to add a psychological-depth symbolic element to the tradition which—in the Protestant, at least—parts of the tradition of Christianity has largely lost (not so much in Lutheranism).

You know, the debate between Luther and Zwingli was, Is Christ really present, and in the mass or in the communion? And Zwingli said, No, this is just a memorial service: we are remembering what happened fifteen hundred years ago. And Luther said, No, it’s a real presence. So Luther remained—kept this mystical element. And so the communion in the Lutheran Church has a much more, you could say, numinous quality to it than the communion service in the reformed churches has. And Jung missed that—Jung was a mystic at heart. Had he grown up in a more mystical tradition—maybe as a Lutheran, even—it would have been possible for him maybe to work within that tradition and contribute his psychological work without departing from it or from the outside, maybe. But Jung had such broad interests in all the world religions and all the cultures . . . [I] think he, in a sense, exceeded all the traditions in history, in his thinking at least. But in his personal practice and in his life, I think he stuck pretty close to his ground, to his origins.

(55:14) Jakob Lusensky: I’m also thinking, just to share with you before we end. I think that the title of the podcast will be Psychology and the Cross.

(55:26) Murray Stein: Psychology and the Cross?

(55:28) Jakob Lusensky: And then something with Jungian underneath, you know. I think it would be something in that vein.

(55:37) Murray Stein: I knew a woman. She was the founder of the Jung Center in Houston, Texas. Her name was Ruth Thacker Fry. She was a really eccentric, kind of weird woman, but very charismatic, a big woman with red hair. And she knew Jung, and she studied at the Jung Institute in the 1950s. And at one of the celebrations for Jung, I think it was his eightieth birthday or something she attended, and she stood in a long line to shake his hand. And she was wearing a cross, a big cross on her necklace. And Jung recognized her and he took the cross and he held it in his hand. And he said, you know where the place to live is? Right in the center of the cross. That’s where the opposites come together, right in the center.