C.G. Jung Society of New Orleans

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What Is Jungian Analysis?

Spirituality in Jungian Analysis

Charlotte Mathes, LCSW, Ph.D.
Jungian Psychoanalyst

In these papers, written by several local analysts, we are trying to describe some principles of Jungian analysis and what one may expect if he entered into analysis. Today many people are looking for a spirituality they are unable to find in organized religion. Although Jung didn’t use the word "spirituality," his process of individuation can certainly be considered a spiritual path. He pointed to a new way of understanding the relationship between the divine and the human.

Jung believed that there is a religious function of the psyche which, if not developed, leads to neurosis. He claimed, “The idea of God is an absolutely necessary psychological function.” Jung considered it wiser to acknowledge the idea of God consciously; “for if we do not, something else is made God, usually something quite inappropriate and stupid as only an ‘enlightened’ intellect could hatch forth.”

Jungian analysis offers a contained space to explore the sacred and a means to explore one’s unique personality. In most sessions, the analyst sits face-to-face with the analysand. I believe this arrangement is symbolic of the process.

Jungian analysis is not pathologically based, but rather a co-creation of sacred space between the analyst and the analysand. This between-space often produces great tension, and if one can hold that tension rather than impulsively acting it out, there’s a good chance for resolution. The transcendent function, which mediates conflicting issues, will facilitate a psychological change in attitude.

A trusting and caring relationship develops between the analyst and analysand, and it is through this relationship that both participants are transformed. Mutually, they create a space between the inner and outer world where the imaginative can take place and where messages from the unconscious are received. The analysand learns to live in two worlds. Musings, reverie, and dreams from the inner world bring images from the unconscious that mediate the losses and disappointments in the outer world. By nurturing the inner child the analysand learns to accept all aspects of himself and to honor the childlike qualities of humility, trust and independence on a higher power. Gradually, there is a movement towards wholeness, a knowledge and acceptance of all traits rather than a drive to perfection. Analyst and analysand experience what Ann Ulanov calls the source point of reality, a reality bigger than ourselves.

The spiritual path in analysis is individuation, becoming what one is truly designed to be. Just as the mighty oak tree’s destiny is written in an acorn, so each of us has within the soul a plan for a unique character and calling. It is a spiritual blueprint that brings us to the Self.

Individuation requires us to be mindful of that person we are capable of being and to have awareness of a greater power. If we pay attention to the images from the unconscious, we will find help along the path, guided by a mysterious voice within, a wisdom of the heart, a guardian angel, or as Plato called it, our daimon. Jung uses the term Self to describe this ordering process that is found in all religions. There is a teleological orientation in the Self, leading us on in the process of becoming. We never complete the quest, but we remain connected to the mystery. As we feel the interconnection of all people, we share the burden of the world’s suffering. At the same time we feel aliveness. We become alive to moments of joy and gratitude. We find meaning and purpose to life.

The path of individuation cannot be accomplished except with other people in concrete settings of social, political, and daily interaction. Jung writes, “One cannot individuate on top of Mount Everest or in a cave somewhere where one doesn’t see people for 70 years. One can only individuate with or against something or somebody.” In this regard, a Jungian analysis can effectively facilitate individuation, though it is not the only way.

Jungian psychology is not only for the religious or for those who are disenchanted with their current tradition. The Divine spark is in us all, even the nonbeliever, who may find solace in nature or a beautiful painting, or a haunting image in a dream. Unlike theology, where doctrine primarily requires thinking and following The Holy Word, the universal experience of a greater power always involves feeling. We touch the divine when our experience is numinous; that is, when we feel fascinated with an image or feel in communion with the transcendent. Jung believed that these experiences are the real seat of faith. He saw psyche transformed when the transcendent level of reality broke through in images, nature, relationships, dreams, and even within the human body.

The numinous experience is not under the influence of our will, so that we should not go looking for it. Some seekers find excitement by moving from one peak experience to another, but the numinous is different: The numinous leaves us awestruck and humble in the face of the divine. It can be joyful, but it may also be very frightening. There are also pitfalls with the numinous, for the experience may validate something that is evil or the archetypal energy may be too overpowering. For Jung, God is a greater force or presence that upsets our subjective views, plans, and intentions. This presence stands apart from the Ego, either as one’s own inner voice or as some transcendent power.

In Jungian psychology soul is as important as spirit, and sometimes the terms are interchanged. Traditionally, soul belongs with the body, and when this divine essence has left the body, a person is said to have lost his soul. In his new book Trauma and the Soul, Donald Kalshed defines soul as a "vital animating core of our embodied selves, a certain essential something that links us (through love) to the divine, to each other, and to the exquisite beauties of the natural and cultural world.”

In the opening chapter of The Red Book, Jung cries out, “My soul, where are you? Do you hear me? Do you want to hear about all the noise of the world and this life?”

At age forty, Jung had achieved everything he wished for professionally, but he feared he had lost his soul. The spirit of the depths called to him, and living in the spirit of the times no longer satisfied him. Emphasizing the necessity of living out destiny fully and honestly according to one’s true character and calling, Jung tells his soul “that one must live this life.” Jung’s calling now is to go into the depths of the unconscious.

The Red Book is filled with images Jung meets in the unconscious. The dialogue he has with the spirits and the beautiful paintings of mandalas are examples of the process of Active Imagination, a technique used in Jungian analysis to broaden consciousness. One concentrates on a specific image and allows the developing fantasies to take on a dramatic character. These encounters become a deep exploration of relationship, soul, and shadow that create an opening for an enriched spirituality.

Shadow work is what distinguishes Jung’s way of individuation from other models. Jungian analyst Del McNeely discusses the importance of shadow work as a model for healing not only the individual but the world. Hoping to leave the ideas of Jung to the next generation, she explores how Jungian spirituality is open to people of all faiths as well as to the atheist. In a world overrun with religious wars, it offers a path which could unite all people.

In her new book Becoming: An Introduction to Jung’s Theory of Individuation, McNeely outlines the stages of individuation and gives examples of the challenges each stage presents. The first stage involves opening awareness, and confronting destructive patterns of behavior; in stage two, we live with increased self-awareness and unleash our creative energies; in stage three we experience transcendence and try to connect to a power greater than our Ego. We now see the whole reality, the unus mundus. With this broader consciousness, we feel an interconnection and concern for others and the world.

I highly recommend Del McNeely’s Becoming to anyone considering Jungian analysis.

If you are interested in exploring spirituality, you may want to choose a Jungian analyst who follows what Murray Stein calls THE NEW DISPENSATION. (A dispensation is an exemption from the law, especially the church; a system of ordering things, particularly in nature.) These are analysts who, while applying their own style and knowledge, draw from the work of Edward Edinger, John Dourley, Ann Ulanov, Lionel Corbett, Murray Stein, Del McNeely and others. Here are some of their principles:

  • There is a dialogue emerging between human consciousness and a larger consciousness.
  • It is impossible to know to what extent God and the transpersonal psyche are in fact synonymous.
  • We are dealing with a greater intelligence than our own.

For Jung, the religious person is one who tries to live in constant contact with the unconscious. The Ego is open to and interacts with the messages that come through dreams, images, fantasies, and visions. This is the new Spirituality, inviting people of all faiths to unite.

Charlotte Mathes
Charlotte Mathes

Charlotte Mathes, LCSW, Ph.D., is a certified Jungian analyst and a graduate of the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, who is in private practice in Metairie, Louisiana. She received her doctoral degree in psychoanalysis from the Union Graduate School in Cincinnati and is a clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists who has been in private practice for over twenty years. Dr. Mathes is the author of And a Sword Shall Pierce Your Heart: Moving from Despair to Meaning After the Death of a Child. She lectures and conducts seminars in Jungian psychology, family therapy and bereavement.

See the remaining articles from:

What is Jungian Analysis?

What Is Jungian Analysis? An Overview
David Schoen, LCSW, MSSW

The Archetypes and their Relationship to the Personal
Marilyn Marshall, M.A., LPC

Dreams And Jungian Analysis
Constance Romero, LPC, LMFT

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