"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Justin Tse: Importunate Widow to Unjust Judges of Jung

Just over a year ago I made plain my main reasons for disliking and distrusting Jung, and arguing why I thought Christians who regarded him as a more sympathetic dialogue partner relative to Freud were mistaken. I retract none of what I said there, but I do want to note an important qualification and new insight since then, and it's all due to Justin Tse importuning me for some time--but never more graciously and insightfully so than here--to think again on Jung.

He is right to do so both as a matter of intellectual justice, as it were, as also for "propaedeutic" purposes: I am looking forward to reading the forthcoming (August of this year) Dynamis of Healing: Patristic Theology and the Psyche by Pia Sophia Chaudhari (Fordham UP, 2019). To read that book aright requires, it seems to me, that I be more careful in my assessments about Jung, which I am glad to do. About this book the publisher tells us this:
This book explores how traces of the energies and dynamics of Orthodox Christian theology and anthropology may be observed in the clinical work of depth psychology. Looking to theology to express its own religious truths and to psychology to see whether these truth claims show up in healing modalities, the author creatively engages both disciplines in order to highlight the possibilities for healing contained therein. Dynamis of Healing elucidates how theology and psychology are by no means fundamentally at odds with each other but rather can work together in a beautiful and powerful synergia to address both the deepest needs and deepest desires of the human person for healing and flourishing.
To be more careful about Jung, I picked up again (though with almost no recollection of the last time I read it) Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections.Vast sections of it remain as I said in my CWR piece: prolix, rambling, and very tedious.

There are, however, two insights I take away this time and had not done so before: first, and rather minor, is the longstanding anxiety (fetish? paranoia?) Jung had about Jesuits! This was amusing to read, and clearly if psychoanalysis did not exist it would be necessary to invent it to understand how such a fear gripped not a few of Jung's generation (and before him).

But the major insight I take away is one where I think Jung is absolutely correct: his judgment about Freud's theories of sex, and especially the way he held on to and defended that.

About Freud and his theory Jung writes this by way of introduction before zeroing in on his point: "I had observed in Freud the eruption of unconscious religious factors" (I would note here that Ana-Maria Rizzuto, whom I discussed in three parts, is the best person for in-depth study of this; Paul Vitz is also useful). This claim of Jung comes after he reports a discussion between the two of them, which seems simultaneously plausible and also a bit cringe-making: "I can still recall vividly how Freud said to me: 'My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing of all. You see we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark'."

At his best, as I argued at some length in my new Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and PowerFreud is the anti-dogmatist, the great and welcome iconoclast who helps us pry ourselves away from false images, idols, and ideologies. But, as Jung shows here (if this is a true record of their conversation), he can also be something of a doctrinaire figure--though not nearly on the level he is often portrayed as.

Of his theory of sex, then, Jung says that this was a replacement deity: "One thing was clear: Freud, who had always made much of his irreligiosity, had now constructed a dogma; or rather, in place of a jealous God whom he had lost, he had substituted another compelling image, that of sexuality. It was no less insistent, exacting, domineering, threatening, and morally ambivalent than the original one."

Jung elaborates his point, and here continues to make enormous sense to me, saying of Freud that while he wanted his theories about sex to be seen as strictly biological, there was nonetheless and unavoidably something theological at work in his arguments, and this was seen in "the emotionality with which he spoke of it that revealed the deeper elements reverberating within him. Basically he wanted to teach--or so at least it seemed to me--that, regarded from within, sexuality included spirituality" (my emphasis). Just so.

In the end, then, on this issue I think Jung has the upper hand for noticing these things, and for pressing home his point that "if Freud had given somewhat more consideration to the psychological truth that sexuality is numinous--both a god and a devil--he would not have remained bound within the confines of a biological concept."

To which let all the brethren say: Amen.

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