A depth psychological view of the Christian myth: C. G. Jung, Elizabeth Boyden Howes, and the Guild for Psychological Studies
Table of Contents1 Abstract iii Dedication v Table of Contents vi Table of Figures ix Theoretical Section Chapter 1. Overview of a New Vision for the Christian Myth 1 A Third Understanding of the Christian Myth 8 Review of Literature 11 C. G. Jung's Theory of the Christ Archetype 11 Elizabeth Howes' Search for Meaning in the Life and Teachings of Jesus 15 The Guild's Records Seminar: Theory into Practice 18 Inventing the Truth: Memoir 21 Organization of the Dissertation 23 Theoretical Section 23 Memoir 24 Chapter 2. C. G. Jung's Psychological Understanding of the Christian Myth 26 Speaking About the Unspeakable 29 Myths: Messages from Psyche 31 The Evolution of Jung's Thought 32 The Reality of Psyche 36 The Collective Unconscious and the Archetype of the Self 38 Individual and Psyche 40 The Myth of Meaning: Individuation and the Evolution of Consciousness 44 The Other Side of Christ 48 The Human-Divine Dance 50 Jung's Theory Through Other Eyes 56 Murray Stein 56 Edward Edinger 58 John Dourley 60 Lionel Corbett 65 Chapter 3. Elizabeth Boyden Howes' Contribution to a Depth Psychological Understanding of Jesus' Life and Teachings 67 The Container for Howes' Work 72 The Guild's Records Seminar 73 A Depth Psychological "Hearing" of Jesus' Life and Teachings 74 Howes' View of the Transcendent 76 Christianity's Great Gifts and Its Great Failings 78 Through the Synoptic Gospels to a New Vision of Jesus 83 Beginnings: The Baptism/Wilderness Experience 86 The Kingdom of God Is 90 vi
The Son of man 102 Who do men say I am? 113 Death and resurrection 123 Whither Christianity 129 Howes' Contributions: A Summary 132 A Historical Jesus? Different Views and Implications 136 Myths or History: Who Decides? 148 Chapter 4. At a Guild Seminar: "Seeing Through" Myth to Its Archetypal Depths 152 Amplification by Individuals in a Group 156 The Container for a Residential Records Seminar 159 Four Springs 160 Text of the Seminar: Records of the Life of Jesus 162 The Open Circle 163 Introduction to the Records Book and Gospel Sources 165 Sifting the Gospels for a Pre-Christian Jesus 168 From Critical Work to Content to Personal Reactions 171 Engaging the Unconscious: Techniques for "Holy Intercourse" 172 Expressive Art 175 Dialogues 176 Mime 178 Play Dialogues 179 The Body Speaks 182 Prayer, Meditation, Ritual 184 Prayer 184 Meditation 185 Ritual 187 It's Not About Jesus, It's About You 190 Evoking the Ego-Self Relationship 190 To Love With All 191 Selling All 193 The House 194 Hebrew Roots 196 Ancient Images and Expectations 196 Messianic Hopes and Expectations 199 Synoptic Gospels' Use of Hebrew Scriptures 201 Choice in the Garden of Eden 203 Myth and History: The Birth Narratives 205 Chapter 5. The Journey Onward 209 Jung's Myth of Meaning 210 The Contribution of Elizabeth Howes 212 Jesus: Historical Figure or Not? 214 The Guild Seminar 215 Beyond Christianity 216 The Journey Here—And Onward 220 vii
Personal Reflections 222 Memoir Memoir Introduction 224 Prologue: The Shape of the Days at a Guild Seminar 235 Chapter 1. Beginnings, Overview 240 Day 1. Tuesday, March 13, 1984 241 Not a Christian Any More—Am I? 245 The Who and the What of the Records Seminar 246 Individuals in Community 248 Chapter 2. The Hard Work of Discerning 251 Introduction to the Records of the Life of Jesus 253 A Strand of History: Dr. Henry Burton Sharman and The Records Book 255 The Hard Work of Thinking 257 A Long Day's Ending 261 Chapter 3. Day 1. Evening: Meeting The Three.. 264 Chapter 4. Into the Deeps 270 The Wilderness Experience 279 Chapter 5. Ministry and Miracles 288 Chapter 6. Who Forgives? Who Heals? 303 The Paralytic and His/Her Friends 303 The Story of the Woman Who Anointed Jesus' Feet 309 Chapter 7. Myth or History: Finding Great Truths 315 In the Beginning 315 Another Creation Story 323 Chapter 8. Choosing Life 328 Chapter 9. The Kingdom of Heaven is Like 346 Chapter 10. Who is This Man? Gathering Strands 359 The Messianic Longing 360 The Son of Man and the Holy Spirit 368 Chapter 11. The Journey to the Empty Tomb 380 Chapter 12. The Empty Tomb ....392 Chapter 13. End of a Seminar 409 Afterword 421 Works Cited 422 vin
Table of Figures Table 1. Teachings on Life and the Kingdom of Heaven 92 Table 2. The Kingdom is Like 96 Table 3. Summary of "Son of Man" Passages Which Howes Considered Historical 108 Table 4. "Are You The Christ?" 120 1 The style used throughout this dissertation is in accordance with the Modern Language Association Style Manual (second edition, 1998) and Pacifica Graduate Institute's Dissertation Handbook (2006-2007). IX
Chapter 1 Overview of a New Vision of the Christian Myth [Christ] is the still living myth of our culture. He is our culture hero, who, regardless of his historical existence, embodies the myth of the divine Primordial Man, the mystic Adam [...]. These few, familiar references should be sufficient to make our psychological position of the Christ symbol quite clear: Christ exemplifies the archetype of the self [...]. (Jung, "Christ, A Symbol of the Self," CVK9ii: 69-70). Jesus was pre-Christian and perhaps post-Christian. (Elizabeth Boyden Howes, Jesus' Answer to God i) These two quotations express the focus and the progression of this dissertation. In it I present and discuss the psychological understanding which two visionaries, one well known, the other little known, bring to the Christian myth, and the significance these thinkers believe such a perspective has for individuals today—even for humanity itself. C. G. Jung is of course the well-known psychologist and explorer of the depths of the human psyche. His extensive writings on the Christian myth and Christ as the symbol of the self1—that is, of the totality which the human is—brought him much criticism and much acclaim, yet in my view insufficient understanding of its implications for humanity. The lesser-known scholar is Elizabeth Boyden Howes, analyst in the Jungian tradition, who believes that the historical Jesus can be found through close study of the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. While her search draws on Jung's vision, Howes' focus was on Jesus the human as the hero of the story, a 1 In keeping with the Collected Works, I am spelling "self" with a small "s" except when I quote authors who capitalize it.
2 man related to, but not identified with, the self which she, like Jung, believes "the Christ" symbolizes. Howes, her co-founders of the Guild for Psychological Studies, Luella Sibbald and Sheila Moon, along with many associates, developed a method for studying Jesus' life and teachings, the purpose of which is to assist individuals to seek their own relationship to self, not to Jesus or Jesus Christ. This method is the substance of a sixteen-day residential seminar, an immersion into the study of the Synoptic Gospels which includes a historical critical study of the texts along with exercises designed to engage the mind, imagination, and body. It is a method which can be used with all myths, not only the Christian, and for that reason I believe it is one of the Guild's great contributions to exploring any myth to find its psychological significance today. Let me pause here to clarify what I mean by "myth." I mean the "true stories" which, in the view of Jung's depth psychology, emerge from what he calls the collective unconscious into human consciousness, appearing to us in symbolic images in dreams and imagination. Out of these images we humans have woven stories from the beginning of time and continue to do so today, in fiction, film, art, and creative work of all kinds. I mean by myth what poet and myth-lover Sheila Moon, one of the founders of the Guild for Psychological Studies, means when she says: "[M]yths are interpreters of the depths of the human, carriers of life values, dynamic movements from timelessness and spacelessness into human time and space" (A Magic Dwells 13). These are views of myth which regard them, like dreams and all artistic creations, as messages from the collective unconscious. In this sense, the Christian
3 myth is a story which conveys and reveals archetypal patterns lived out in human life: the hero's journey, the dying and rising god, the virgin birth, the father, the mother, and many others. The Guild's method of studying this myth, as I describe and discuss in Chapter 4, allows us to do what James Hillman calls "seeing through" the surface of the narrative to the archetypal depths which give rise to it—and at the same time want to be known through it. Writing in Re-Visioning Psychology, Hillman discusses the process of critical thinking and intuition he calls "seeing through," a process which leads one to see through myth, art, film, dream, or a client's representation of his reality, to the archetypal patterns which are hidden yet revealed within their symbolic language. It is a process of moving from surface to depth, to draw on the metaphor of depth psychology. And it is a process, Hillman argues, that psyche itself initiates. He contends, "The psyche wants to find itself by seeing through; even more, it loves to be enlightened by seeing through itself [. . .]" (Re-Visioning Psych ology 123). The Guild method provides the tools and processes by which a student can do just this—see through the Christian story to the archetypal depths from which it emerges. This dissertation aims to illustrate that what is found when one sees through the Christian myth is a human living out what Jung, in "The Function of the Unconscious," says this of the journey of individuation: Individuation means becoming a single, homogeneous being, and, insofar as "in-dividuality" embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one's own self. We could therefore translate individuation as "coming to selfhood" or "self-realization." (CW7: 266)
4 This is the myth of meaning which Aniela Jaffe explicates in her book of that title, The Myth of Meaning in the Work of C. G. Jung. She continues with Jung's own words: "All life is bound to individual carriers who realise i t. . . [sic]. But every carrier is charged with an individual destiny and destination (the self), and the realisation of these alone makes sense of life" (qtd. in Jaffe: 79). A psychological understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus finds a man living out just such a meaningful life. The Guild seminar which challenges students to consider such a view is called Records, after the particular parallel presentation of the Synoptic Gospels which is its text, Records of the Life of Jesus. Throughout this dissertation I use the word, Records, to refer to both the seminar and the text. I describe this seminar, its content and form, in the theoretical section of this dissertation, but I believe its transformative power can only be conveyed through personal experience or, second best, in a personal account of such experience. For this reason this dissertation contains two components, theory and memoir. The theoretical section presents the thought of Jung and Howes and discusses the evolution, substance, and flow of the seminar itself. Memoir then gives flesh to the seminar as I recount my personal experience of attending many Records seminars. I was introduced to Jung's vision of the Christian myth at a time when I was struggling to understand my own relationship to Christianity as institution, and to the story out of which it grew. My childhood love of Jesus and his teachings still gripped me, and yet I no longer accepted the creeds and dogma of institutional Christianity. The notion of a supernatural God "out there" who intervenes into this reality, its associated notion of a God who sent his son to die
5 for our sins, these were not tenable or life-giving beliefs. And yet I still yearned for something I could not even name. In Jung and in Howes, I began to find some answers to my questions: What is the power of this ancient story? Why does it still grip me when I no longer consider myself Christian? Why does it grip many others who remain in the church yet question its creeds and dogma, and even many who have left the church but still feel a yearning for ... for what? "Something" has grabbed us and won't let us go. Is it in fact a God "out there?" Is it an archetypal pattern within the human psyche, as Jung proposes? And are these mutually exclusive? These are the questions which set me on my search, in the course of which I have come to see that the Christian myth has engendered many ways of understanding, many stories to express those understandings. Every age has created its own stories about this man and his life and teachings. Bart Ehrman, in Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, makes clear the existence of many contending beliefs, many written in gospels which have been discovered only in the past century. Jaroslav Pelikan's Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture, contends that each age of history depicts Jesus "in accordance with its own character" (2), and quotes Albert Schweitzer, who says in The Quest of the Historical Jesus, "Each successive epoch found its own thoughts in Jesus, which was, indeed, the only way in which it could make him live" (qtd. in Pelikan: 2). Among the images of Jesus through the centuries which Pelikan discusses are, and I cite only a few chapter titles as illustrative, "The Rabbi," "The Light of the Gentiles," "The Son of Man," "The Prince of Peace." Other images of Jesus are brought by contemporary New
6 Testament student Marcus Borg, who discusses various "Portraits of Jesus" proposed by several scholars: the Hellenistic-type cynic sage of Burton Mack; the Wisdom prophet of Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza; the social prophet of Richard Horsley; Borg's own "spirit person; and the Jewish cynic peasant of John Dominic Crossan (cf. Borg 84 ff.). Millions today understand Jesus as portrayed by Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ;" millions today understand the Christian story to be the literal account about the Son of God who has died for our sins, as news accounts of political campaigns reveal every day. To seek a depth psychological understanding of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, brings a very different lens to an old and respected tradition which asks, What does this man have to say to us today? C. G. Jung was born into a family of Christian ministers and, after his death in 1961, was memorialized in a service at the Swiss Reformed Church of Kiisnacht and interred in the family plot. Did he consider himself Christian? Jaffe claims so, citing a 1944 letter in which he concludes, "The Church having suffered a schism, I must be satisfied with being a Christian who is in the same conflict Christianity is in. I cannot disavow my brother who, in good faith and for reasons I cannot invalidate with a good conscience is of a different opinion [. ..]" (qtd. in Jaffe: 130). Yet a decade later, in his lengthy correspondence with Fr. Victor White, he acknowledges that the Christian aeon is passing away, but is not yet gone. I discuss this correspondence further in Chapter 2. Whether Jung considered himself Christian or not as he approached the end of his life, he came to a very different understanding of Christianity than traditional creed and dogma would have it. It is an understanding that comes out
7 of his belief in the reality of the psyche, the immensity of the human conscious and unconscious with all the potentiality for humanity which it implies. In Jung's view, something new came alive in the human psyche 2000 years ago, something Jung came to call the self. I discuss this concept in detail in Chapter 2, and will say here only that he regarded the self as the archetype of wholeness experienced by the human, comprised of both consciousness and unconsciousness. What the Christian myth sees as the intervention of the divine into one human being, the messiah it calls Jesus Christ, Jung sees as an intervention from the collective unconscious of the archetypal self which, he hypothesizes, all humanity shares. The consciousness of the human was awaking to its own unconsciousness. It was a vision too vast for the human to bear, in the view of both Jung and Howes, and it was projected onto just one God-human, Jesus Christ. This is most clearly a psychological understanding of the Christian myth, not a theological one. For Jung, the Christian story's account of Jesus' baptism, when he heard a voice say, "You are my Beloved Son," is a story for all of humanity. The incarnation happens, in this view, for all humans, not just for one; each individual has the potential to live out his and her own incarnation (impossible task though that be) in a process Jung calls individuation, becoming whole. Jung calls his idea of the self a hypothesis, and his entire understanding of psyche, from a scientific perspective, outlines a theory which has spawned decades of depth psychological research, books, essays, and critiques. Yet the theory also creates a great story of humanity's journey, and in this sense I think of it as myth—as does Jung himself. He says it this way in Memories, Dreams,
8 Reflections, referring to the individual's contribution to the evolution or consciousness through living her and his own journey of individuation: That is the goal, or one goal, which fits man meaningfully into the scheme of creation, and at the same time confers meaning upon it. It is an explanatory myth which has slowly taken shape within me in the course of the decades. It is a goal I can acknowledge and esteem, and which therefore satisfies me. (338) Perhaps it is this quality which distinguishes myth from theory: One "lives by" myths as if they are true. To do so gives one's life meaning. One examines and pursues questions spawned by theory. Records study, as it has been conducted for more than fifty years, causes students to question much—for some, all that they have thought they knew about Jesus' life and teachings and even their own selves—and at the same time to find the myth of meaning that exists when one sees through the Christian story to its archetypal roots. A Third Understanding of the Christian Myth I have presented two ways in which the Christian myth has been understood: the theological and the psychological. I have alluded to a third way of understanding: the one that believes an historical Jesus can be found in the Synoptic Gospels. This is Howes' own perspective, and it comes out of a decades- long quest for the historical figure whose life and teachings gave rise to the religion which has carried the story for 2000 years. I discuss this quest for two reasons. First, Elizabeth Howes and her teacher, mentor, and New Testament scholar of the early 20th century, Henry Burton Sharman, were part of a quest for the historical Jesus which had begun during the Enlightenment and continues even today. The quest is often said to begin with Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1766), who dared to call the Gospels fraudulent (but only after his death
were his writings made public), and to halt with the publication of Albert Schweitzer's monumental study, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, first published in 1905, in which he concluded it would be impossible to discover an historical figure. That conclusion did not stop Sharman, and later his student Howes, from their own search for the "authentic" sayings of the "historical Jesus" they believed could be discerned, through critical biblical scholarship, hidden in the Christian stories. It was Howes, not Sharman, who was influenced by Jung's ideas about the archetypal Christ; nevertheless her focus was on Jesus the man, a human being who she believed lived out his life in relation to—but never identified with—the self. The second reason I bring up the historical perspective is because today the work of some scholars, beginning with Schweitzer himself, whom I quote above, leads one to question that it is possible to discover the historical Jesus at all. One scholar who examines this question and asks even if such a historical figure existed is Hal Childs, a long-time Guild leader and a psychotherapist in the Jungian tradition. He argues both these positions in The Myth of the Historical Jesus and the Evolution of Consciousness and other writings. I quote from a short essay to summarize Childs' "current working hypothesis that there never was a historical Jesus" and that he is "a complete fiction or myth" ("The historical Jesus . .. knot" 1). For Childs (as for Howes) the importance of the Records seminar is its potential to transform participants' relationship with self, but, as his statement indicates, his perspective would lead us also to consider the possibility that the historical Jesus is himself a mythic figure. This adds a second question to the one which motivated this dissertation ("Why am I, who no longer call myself Christian,
10 still gripped by Jesus' life and teachings?"). Now I add: "Does the power of the story, for me or for others, diminish if there is no historical Jesus at its center?" In search of answers, I explore the ideas of another scholar, Walter Wink, also long associated with Howes, who comes to a very different conclusion than does Childs, saying, "we do not need 'a final truth of history,' but only approximate truth, backed up by evidence" (Wink, The Human Being 8). I discuss these differing perspectives of Howes, Childs, and Wink, and how I resolve the question for myself further in Chapter 3 and in my memoir. I seek for my own answer by drawing from three scholars whose views parallel Childs', but come from very different fields of study, biblical archaeological scholars Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, and Egyptologist Jan Assmann. History, they argue, derives from such sources as written records, artifacts, legends, poetry, folk tales—and memory. Before I turn to a more specific discussion of the literature I explore in future chapters, I want to underline what seems to be a significant difference in Howes' focus on the historical Jesus, and Jung's focus on the Christ. In Jung's eyes the historical figure was soon lost behind the archetypal Christ. Thus in a letter to Upton Sinclair in 1955 he says: The fact that the original situation has developed into one of the most extraordinary myths about a divine heros, a God-man and his cosmic fate, is not due to its underlying human story [...]. The true agens is the archetypal image of the God-man, appearing in Ezekiel's vision for the first time in Jewish history, but in itself a considerably older figure in Egyptian theology, vis., Osiris and Horus. [...] In other words: the essence of Christian tradition is by no means the simple man Jesus whom we seek in vain in the Gospels, but the lore of the God-man and his cosmic drama (Letters 2: 205- 206).
11 In contrast, for Howes Jesus was a man related to the self, symbolized by Christ, and because of this he shows us the human being living out the fully human life. It was this man and his teachings—and then their significance for each human life --which Howes sought through the Records seminar. I discuss this difference in Jung's and Howes' views of the historical Jesus and its significance further in Chapter 3. Review of Literature C. G. Jung's theory of the Christ archetype. I lay out the trail here which I follow in Chapter 2. It begins with Jung's early and passionate argument that Jesus is far more than the "ordinary man" found by the seekers of a historical Jesus, an argument which presages his words to Upton Sinclair, quoted above. In a lecture of 1895 to his student fraternity, Zofingia, while still a student at the University of Basel, he takes heated issue with questers after the historical Jesus, proclaiming, "The image of Christ must be restored to the idea he had of himself, namely, as a prophet, a man sent by God" ("Thoughts on the Interpretation of Christianity" 58). He says further, "But if our Christianity is to posses any substance whatever, we must once again accept unconditionally the whole of the metaphysical, conceptual universe of the first Christians" (58). My trail leads onward to Jung's belief in the reality of psyche with its archetypes of the collective unconscious, central in which is the archetype of the self, and then elucidates Jung's proposal of Christ as one of the central symbols of the self in the Western psyche. The trail leads me onward to Jung's understanding of the Christian story as humanity's own story, ego's ongoing, ineluctable, and never- ending emergence from the collective unconscious. This is the evolution of
12 consciousness which is achieved through the journey which Jung calls individuation. It's a story that happens, in Jung's vision, within psyche, within the human, not "out there" in a metaphysical reality. Jung's own meeting with what he came to call the psychic depths came in the years after his break with Freud and continued into the beginning of World War I. He speaks of this in Memories, Dreams, Reflections: But then, I hit upon this stream of lava, and the heat of its fires reshaped my life. That was the primal stuff which compelled me to work upon it, and my works are a more or less successful endeavour to incorporate this incandescent matter into the contemporary picture of the world. (199) This stream of molten lava, he says, became "the prima materia for a lifetime's work" (199). Jung's ideas, his hypothesis and theories which evolved throughout the course of his life work, are spread out among many of the books in the Collected Works, but I begin with "Psychology and Religion," his Terry Lectures given at Yale University in 1937. Here he argues for the existence of "an authentic religious function in the unconscious" (CW 11:3)2 and develops his theory of the archetypes, especially the archetype of the self. This leads into a discussion of the power of the Christian myth—residing not in a historical figure, but in the archetypal reality which Christ symbolizes, the totality Jung calls the self. I explore these ideas in greater detail and then move to his extended discussions in Aion and "Answer to Job." In Aion, Jung responds to the many requests he has received "to discuss the relations between the traditional Christ-figure and the natural symbols of 2 References to the Collected Works give volume and paragraph number unless indicated as page (p).