in soul pursuit

in soul pursuit

Friday, 25 April 2014

Mental Health and Ministry - Day Conference at St Marys 26th April 2014

For those in the London area tomorrow we shall be running a day conference on 'Contemporary Challenges in Mental Health Ministry'. I attach timetable below.
Happy Easter!



 APRIL 26TH 2014





BISHOP MOTH..........................................10.30-10.45



DR PETER TYLER.....................................10.45-11.30




SHORT BREAK...........................................11.45-12



JULIA HEAD...............................................12-1





DR PIA. MATTHEWS...............1.45-2.30



DR ANTHONY TOWEY.........2.30-2.45


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Happy Easter!... and the divinity of bees!

Earlier in the week I quoted the beautiful Easter hymn of the Exsultet sung by the Deacon in the darkened church tonight. Here are a few more lines. I have taken the liberty of restoring some of the lost verses removed in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s. R. C. Zaehner, the great (and somewhat eccentric!) Oxford philosopher of religion, loved these passages that compare Christ to the ‘great mother bee’ and in his wonderful ‘Our Savage God’ quotes it as a part of his chapter on the ‘divinity of bees’ (which I don't think should be taken too seriously!). With our recent ecological concern for the loss of bees I find it touching that the hymn writers went to such lengths to give the humble bee such a starring role in the central liturgy of the Church’s calendar. So here they are again... the great mother bee greeting the morning star – Happy Easter!



The power of this holy night dispels all evil, 

Washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; 

It casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled with God!

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise - a gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar, whose glowing fire ignites for God’s honour.

 A fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by the sharing of its light. Fed by the melting wax which Mother Bee drew out to build so precious a torch.


Huius ígitur sanctificátio noctis fugat scélera, culpas lavat:

et reddit innocéntiam lapsis

et mæstis lætítiam.

Fugat ódia, concórdiam parat

et curvat impéria.

O vere beáta nox,

in qua terrénis cæléstia, humánis divína iungúntur!

In huius ígitur noctis grátia, súscipe, sancte Pater, laudis huius sacrifícium vespertínum, quod tibi in hac cérei oblatióne solémni,

per ministrórum manus de opéribus apum, sacrosáncta reddit Ecclésia.

Sed iam colúmnæ huius præcónia nóvimus, quam in honórem Dei rútilans ignis accéndit. 

Qui, lícet sit divísus in partes, mutuáti tamen lúminis detrimenta non novit.

Alitur enim liquántibus ceris, quas in substántiam pretiósæ huius lámpadis

apis mater edúxit.


May the Morning Star which never sets

find this flame still burning: 

Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,

and shed his peaceful light on all humanity,

your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.



Flammas eius lúcifer matutínus invéniat:

ille, inquam, Lúcifer, qui nescit occásum.

Christus Fílius tuus,

qui, regréssus ab ínferis,

humáno géneri serénus illúxit,

et vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculórum.



May the graces of the Risen Christ reach you today and through the rest of the year.



Friday, 18 April 2014

What is Happening? Ancient Christian Homily for Holy Saturday

 This ancient Christian homily, the origins of which we know hardly anything, traditionally is read on Holy Saturday. It incorporates many of the themes I have been exploring this week and really needs no further explanation from me...

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out Adam, our first parent, like a lost sheep. The Lord goes in holding his victorious weapon, the cross. When Adam, the first created human, sees him, he strikes his breast and in terror calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand, he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.'

‘I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in prison to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell.

‘Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Arise, work of my hands; arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me, and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For your sake I, your God, became your child; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of all humanity, I became like you without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

‘See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

‘I slept on a cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

‘Rise, then, let us go hence! The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God.

The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness, the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages...’

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Crossing the Red Sea... Easter Triduum

'You must come out of Egypt and, when the land of Egypt lies behind you, you must cross the Red Seas if you are to sing the first song...'
Origen, Commentary on the Song of Songs

Exodus 12
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
"This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household...
They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.
In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover.
For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

John 13
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,
rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.
Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?"
Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand."
Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me."

This is the night when first you saved our ancestors:
You freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!
This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement
Are restored to grace and grow together in holiness...
Oh Miracle of your wonderful care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
You gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam destroyed completely by the death of Christ!
O happy fault -
Which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
The Exsultet (Easter Hymn)
Hæc nox est, in qua primum patres nostros, fílios Israel edúctos de Ægypto, 
Mare Rubrum sicco vestígio transíre fecísti.
Hæc ígitur nox est,
quæ peccatórum ténebras colúmnæ illuminatióne purgávit.
Hæc nox est, quæ hódie per univérsum mundum in Christo credéntes, a vítiis sæculi et calígine peccatórum segregátos,
reddit grátiæ, sóciat sanctitáti.
O mira circa nos tuæ pietátis dignátio!
O inæstimábilis diléctio caritátis:
ut servum redímeres, Fílium tradidísti!
O certe necessárium Adæ peccátum,
quod Christi morte delétum est!
O felix culpa,
quæ talem ac tantum méruit habére Redemptórem!

Unforgivably, I have just finished reading Patrick Leigh Fermor's 'Time of Gifts' - it has taken me 50 years to do this. As I finished this beautiful story of a young man who set out in 1933 to walk across Europe from London to Constantinople (as he calls it) I was filled with many mixed emotions. Sadness that I hadn't read it 30 years ago, joy that I hadn't and could now enjoy it at the age at which PLF wrote it - the memoirs were written 30 years after the events depicted and the author deftly combines the wisdom of maturity with the passions of his youth.
So why do my thoughts turn to this book during Holy Week? Well, for me Holy Week, the Paschal mystery, the Vernal cycle and Passover are all part of a deeper turn in the state of affairs that only occurs once or twice a year. We can call it 'the miracle of spring' but it is really an insight into the deeper forces of our destinies and lives. The church, ancient and new, has of course always recognised this. As I said in my post earlier this week, the only way to really explain it is to participate in the full liturgies of Holy Week...
Tonight we shall begin the first of these three great nights of mystery that essentially go back to humanity's first religious longings (some scholars suggest the movement of the blessed sacrament from the main shrine to the altar of repose reflects ancient Egyptian liturgies that pre-date Christianity). I have included above two passages from the readings for Maundy Thursday ('the mass of the Lord's supper') as well as an extract from Saturday's great 'Easter Hymn' - the Exsultet. A bit premature you might say, but the three great days we now celebrate all recognise the one essential mystery.These liturgies have grown slowly over two millennia and contain within them such a complexity and richness of meaning it would take a three year theology course to unpack them fully (if at all). Yet, as PLF recognised, standing on the bridge between Slovakia and Hungary at the end of his book, watching the Paschal full moon rise slowly over the Danube as the town folk prepared for the joy of Easter after the austerities of Lent, this is a unique moment. We stand on the edge of two worlds - in psychological terms we stand at the edge of ego as we gaze into that which is beyond our control - which is both beautiful and terrible...

This is my first Easter in London for many years and it is turning out to be one of those once in a decade Easters (last year I told friends we had our once in ten years summer... this year looks like being our once in ten years Easter!). The days are so bright the sun hurts and yet the cool breeze is making the spring blossom and green last in perfect glory. Each night the full Easter moon hangs heavy in the sky and on Tuesday I remembered our Jewish ancestors eating their lamb and girding their loins as the mysterious Destroying Angel of the Lord was about to smite the Egyptian first born. For at the heart of these two great lunar festivals - Easter and Passover - lies a great mystery. The mystery of our God who holds life and death in the balance and by forces essentially unknown to us can gift us the great joy of Easter morning after the terrors of Calvary. PLF wanted to find a deeper Europe lying beneath the crass commercialism of twentieth century culture. Easter, Holy Week and Passover remind us of that deeper culture... and our ultimate destiny.

Once again I am sure our eyes will be on Rome this Thursday and the actions of Pope Francis. This extraordinary man who surprised us all last year with the washing of the feet ceremony somehow perfectly embodied Christ's message in the second reading from John above - that at the heart of the Christian message lies humility. No matter how grand, learned, powerful or rich we are, we must all ultimately fall beneath the power of one greater... the mysterious God who makes our world. And as the pride of the enemies of Israel is smote in the passage from Exodus so we are asked in the next three days to place our egos at the feet of the Destroying Angel so that like Pharoah's army it too will be drowned in the sea of God's compassion.

One of the delights of writing this blog has been responses from all over the world. I am aware that as I post this my friends in India and the Far East are about to celebrate their Maundy Thursday liturgies and my friends in the States and all points West are just waking up. I wish all who read this, wherever you are, a very Happy Holy Week and Easter and will be praying for you all over the next three days. I also ask you to pray for me... and especially at this time for the people of Ukraine, its leaders and world leaders meeting to negotiate peace in that special country.

God bless



Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Harrowing of Hell - Holy Week and Easter with George Mackay Brown

The Harrowing of Hell

by George Mackay Brown

He went down the first step.
His lantern shone like the morning star.
Down and round he went
Clothed in his five wounds.

Solomon whose coat was like daffodils
Came out of the shadows.
He kissed Wisdom there, on the second step.

The boy whose mouth had been filled with harp-songs,
The shepherd king
Gave, on the third step, his purest cry.

At the root of the Tree of Man, an urn
With dust of apple-blossom.

Joseph, harvest-dreamer, counsellor of pharaohs
Stood on the fourth step.
He blessed the lingering Bread of Life.

He who had wrestled with an angel,
The third of the chosen,
Hailed the King of Angels on the fifth step.

Abel with his flutes and fleeces
Who bore the first wound
Came to the sixth step with his pastorals.

On the seventh step down
The tall primal dust
Turned with a cry from digging and delving.

Tomorrow the Son of Man will walk in a garden
Through drifts of apple-blossom.

 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.
Matthew 27
As we enter this strange liminal space of Passiontide/Holy Week/Easter I always feel only poetry and music can do justice to what we are about to witness. I already drew on George Mackay Brown, a favourite of mine, earlier in the year, and it is a joy to re-read the beautiful ‘Harrowing of Hell’ that could serve as a meditation for the whole of Holy Week. As I noted a few weeks ago, this year we are fortunate that Western and Orthodox Easters both coincide so we can have the joy of celebrating the mysteries together... joined in our common heritage. The ikon above is from St Saviour in Chora, one of the finest remaining Byzantine series of frescoes in Constantinople/Istanbul and depicts that extraordinary moment where Christ, like some celestial fireman, descends into the underworld to pull out our ancestors from the wreakage of darkness. Surrounded by the instruments of torture that have kept us in darkness he kicks down the doors of the underworld to lead us into the light. We stand then at that moment poised between dark and light, summer and winter, death and life, the Old Law and the New Law. Of course, in mythological tradition these liminal spaces are the most dangerous, here we can be severely hurt. So as we enter this space prayerfully and in contemplation I pray that we may all experience the grace of God to heal our deepest and darkest wounds, knowing that tomorrow the Son of Man will walk in a garden through drifts of apple-blossom...



Death with Life Contended
Combat strangely ended!
Life's own Champion
Slain, yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary, say what you did see upon your way?
The Tomb the Living did enclose
I saw Christ's Glory as he rose!
The angels there attesting
Shroud, with grave clothes, resting...

Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.

Dic nobis Maria,
quid vidisti in via?

Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:

Angelicos testes,
sudarium, et vestes.

Victimae Paschali Laudes

Friday, 11 April 2014

Carl Jung and Christianity

This week I had the pleasure of giving a research paper to my colleagues at St Mary's: 'Carl Jung - Friend or Foe of Christianity'. I first gave this paper to a group of psychologists in Bangalore earlier in the year and after thinking about their comments changed it for St Mary's. As in India, it provoked an interesting discussion - not least scepticism about Jung's project of rediscovering the transcendent... as one colleague suggested - Jung replaced one sort of idolatry (secular materialism) with another (the ego bound psychology). I found myself in the uncommon position of defending Jung and the Jungians! Anyway, I include below the first and last sections of the paper. If you would like to read the whole paper it will be published in Vinayasadhana later this year and some of the material is also found towards the end of my Teresa of Avila - Doctor of the Soul. One thing is for sure, Jung still excites strong passions in academic circles!

Best wishes


Carl Jung: Friend or Foe of Christianity?


Dr Peter Tyler



In his famous 1959 television interview with John Freeman (the only one he gave), Carl Jung was asked if he believed in God. His response, ‘I don’t believe, I know’ has gone down in the annals of psychotherapy as one of the defining moments of analytical psychology’s relationship to religion in general and Christianity in particular. In this short paper I aim to pitch into the tumultuous sea surrounding the relationship between Jung’s analytical psychology and Christianity to see how far we can regard Jung as a ‘believer’ and if so, what sort. In deference to the ongoing nature of this dialogue I have drawn readily upon The Red Book, written by Jung at the height of his psychotic disturbances during the Great War and only recently published (Jung RB 2009)


Jung and the Christian Way

Jung once wrote:


Among all my patients in the second half of life – that is to say, over thirty-five – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost what the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook. (Jung CW: 11.509  published originally as Die Beziehungen der Psychotherapie zur Seelsorge, Zurich 1932)


In the same work he went so far as to suggest that  anyone he encountered at this stage of development who was experiencing mental crisis and who had had some previous religious formation should be encouraged to return to their religious roots if they were to stand a chance of being mentally healed. Thus, from its beginnings Jungian analytical psychology has preferenced the transcendent and the need for each individual psyche to make friends with the transcendent, for not doing so, warns Jung, will lead to severe psychological problems.

          There is no doubt that there is much in Jung’s writing that is inimical and downright erroneous for a straightforward Christian seeker trying to reconcile her faith with Jungian transpersonal analysis. Yet, despite some of the excesses that are to be found in his work, his map of the soul provides a corrective to the rising tide of materialism that has swamped early twenty-first century culture. As Dueck puts it in his perceptive short book on the relationship between Jung and Christianity,The Living God and Our Living Psyche: What Christians Can Learn from Carl Jung (2008):


Rising through the last several centuries, modernity had reached an apex of its power in the first half of the twentieth century, and its capitulation to science had drained away much of the healing power of Christian practices. Jung sought to recover this vitality. (Ulanov and Dueck 2008:5)


Thus, suggests Dueck, Jung attempted ‘a pastoral attempt to counter the personally debilitating effects of modernity’. His primary concern was healing. Not only the healing of the individual psyche but the healing of the collective psyche. Accordingly, his ‘epistemology is not positivist, but diverse enough to include narrative, dreams, fantasy, propositional truth and ethical pronouncements’ (Dueck 2008:9).


The Creation of the Symbol

As we have seen above many contemporary commentators have found much that is useful in Jung’s approach and he still finds many enthusiastic followers from within Christianity. As I have already stated, in my opinion, one of Jung’s primary concerns, certainly after the expression and style of the Red Book, was to recapture key elements of the style and process of medieval thinking for the (post-) modern reader/seeker. In this respect I feel the most important aspect of Jung presented from this perspective is his revival of the importance of the symbol as an entré into postmodern discourse.

          In the recovery of the symbolic Jung was not alone. Whilst his own researches into the nature of the symbol were to prove so important, other mid 20th Century ressourcement writers such as Marie-Dominique Chenu (1895 – 1990) had also begun to appreciate the significance of the symbolic for interpreting the medieval mindset. In his perceptive essay on Victorine spirituality Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century (Chenu 1997), Chenu alludes to the role of the symbolic for the medievals as being largely anagogical, i.e. the symbol is the means whereby the heavenly order is reflected in the earthly order:


          Creation was a theophany, a manifestation of God, and symbolism was         the means appropriate to that manifestation; even granting a           dialectical tension between the power of creation to manifest God and     its complete inferiority to God, symbolism revealed nothing less than    God’s transcendence (Chenu 1997:128)


As well as this anagogical element, the symbolic for the medievals was another mode of thought, in contradistinction to, for example, the dialectics of the schools. In this respect, the symbolic for the medievals was not considered another form of logic but a different way of ‘showing’ truth. As Chenu states:


          To bring symbolism into play was not to extend or supplement a         previous act of the reason; it was to give primary expression to a         reality which reason could not attain and which reason, even           afterwards, could not conceptualize. (Chenu 1997:103)[1]


It is therefore apparent how this ‘alternative to logic’ would appeal to the medievalist (or at least contra-modern) Jung. For him the symbol will become the means whereby the ‘meta-rational’ components of the greater ‘Self’/Selbst, will become accessible to the more circumscribed ‘I’/Ich. The symbol, in Jung’s hands will become the linking point between the known ‘I’ and the unknown ‘Self’, thus performing a crucial function in his psychology:


          In practice, opposites can be united only in the form of a compromise,          or irrationally, some new thing arising between them which, although         different from both, yet has the power to take up their energies in     equal measure as an expression of both and of neither. Such an          expression cannot be contrived by reason, it can only be created          through living. (Jung CW: 6.169)


The mediating axis for this process is the symbol:


          The mediating position, between the opposites can be reached only by          the symbol (Jung CW: 6.162)


This symbol will therefore represent ‘something that is not wholly understandable, and that it hints only intuitively at its possible meaning’ (Jung CW6: 171). This function will also be a ‘playful’ function:


Schiller calls the symbol-creating function a third instinct, the play instinct; it bears no resemblance to the two opposing functions, but stands between them and does justice to both natures. (Jung CW: 6.171)


So, the symbolic function is, for Jung:


  • Neither rational or irrational.
  • Playful and creative.
  • Allowing the conscious to grasp the unconscious.
  • A gateway to the Gnostic/Dionysian Jungian god.


Therefore religion, for Jung, becomes the acceptance of the reality of the symbol (Jung CW: 6.202). For him, the symbolic and the religious (whether that is represented by Christianity, Hinduism or Taoism is irrelevant) are coterminous:


The solution of the problem in Faust, in Wagner’s Parsifal, in Schopenhauer, and even in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, is religious (Jung CW: 6.324)


Conclusion: Carl Jung – Friend or Foe of Christianity?

To conclude this paper I know return to my original question: ‘Is Carl Jung a friend or foe of Christianity?’ Well, if we understand Christianity in terms of the doctrines or creeds of Orthodoxy then he is no foe, but rather someone who fails to understand the implications of Orthodox Christianity for an interpretation of the nature of Christ and ultimately of Christian life. If we follow the version of Christianity presented by Jung we are no longer following Orthodoxy but rather a late Gnostic version of Christianity.

Is that such a bad thing?

          In a world almost swallowed up in reductive materialism Jung saw his fundamental task as preserving the spiritual from the ravages of reductive empirical materialism. This he termed the ‘religious outlook to life’ which he felt was fundamental in preserving good mental health (See Jung CW: 11.509). His spiritual life was as much for ‘unbelievers’ as ‘believers’ to the former of which he explicitly claimed to be addressing his writing:


          I am not… addressing myself to the happy possessors of faith, but to those many people for whom the light has gone out, the mystery has     faded, and God is dead. For most of them there is no going back, and     one does not know either whether going back is always the better way.         To gain an understanding of religious matters, probably all that is left         us today is the psychological approach. (Jung CW: 11.148)


In this respect, for Jung all religions are equal. None has the monopoly on the ‘cure of souls’:


          Yes, I agree, the Buddha may be just as right as Jesus. Sin is only       relative and it is difficult to see how we can feel ourselves in any way       redeemed by the death of Christ. (Jung CW: 11.518)


As with his views on god/God, Jung betrays his theological naivety. He does not seem to understand that, for example, Christianity and Buddhism have fundamentally mutually exclusive views on the metaphysics of human salvation. Be that as it may, if we see reductive materialism as the enemy of Christianity then on the theory that an enemy’s enemy is a friend, Jung therefore belongs on the side of the angels and a guardian of Christianity in a world that has rapidly become a stranger to the spiritual – or at least the ability to express that spiritual life in a comprehensible language. In Seelsorge, for example, he is quite bullish about the rights of the clergy to trespass on to the realm of the materialist psychologist:


          I therefore hold that psychological interest on the part of the     Protestant clergy is entirely legitimate and even necessary. Their   possible encroachment upon medical territory is more than balanced by           medical incursions into religion and philosophy, to which doctors          naively believe themselves entitled (witness the explanation of religious         processes in terms of sexual symptoms or infantile wish-fantasies).     (Jung CW: 11.548)[2]


There is no doubt that Jung’s transpersonal psychological language has given a means for a whole generation to communicate its unease with the astringent materialism of our time. For this, perhaps, Christianity owes him a debt. Although we might want to baulk at awarding him the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ he certainly deserves the title ‘Defender of Faith’. White recognised this when he saw that Jung was a prophet warning against a collapse of the Western psyche brought about by one-sided materialism. In the opening of his ‘God and the Unconscious’ he quotes with approval Jung’s words from ‘Psychological Types’:


          Our age has a blindness without parallel. We think we have only to      declare an acknowledged form of faith to be incorrect or invalid, to          become psychologically free of all the traditional effects of the Christian        or Judaic religion. We believe in enlightenment, as if an intellectual        change of opinion had somehow a deeper influence on emotional          processes or indeed upon the unconscious! We entirely forget that the         religion of the last two thousand years is a psychological attitude,        definite form of adaptation to inner and outer experience, which   moulds a definite form of civilization; it has therefore created an      atmosphere that remains wholly uninfluenced by any intellectual           disavowal. (Jung CW: 6.313)


Jung’s critique was as much a critique of Christian culture and mindset as it was of Christianity itself. For him, the ‘Christian mindset’ still continued to mould and shape our everyday realities, even in the 21st century, perhaps more than we would care to admit:


Everything we think is the fruit of the Middle Ages and indeed of the Christian Middle Ages. Our whole science, everything that passes through our head, has inevitably gone through this history. The latter lives in us and has left its stamp upon us for all time and will always form a vital layer of our psyche, just like any phylogenetic traces in our body… The Christian Weltanschauung is therefore a psychological fact which does not allow of any further rationalization; it is something which has happened, which is present. (White 1960:67 quoting an address by Jung given in 1934)


Jung’s analysis of the individual, of religions such as Christianity and ultimately of Western Cultural Patterns emphasises the need for a correction. Or as he calls it an ‘enantiodromia’ – a new openness to the transcendental and a balance to the hard ossification that has clearly happened on both sides of the religion/materialist divide over the past century. His psychology, with all its ambiguity and slipperiness, does offer an alternative for the psyche to breathe and rearrange itself in a time of change and realignment of priorities. Jung seems to say that religion may choose to stay on the sidelines of that realignment, but no-one, least of all the psychologists, will in the long term thank it for its self-immolation.[3]




[1] See, for example, Hugh of St Victor: ‘Symbolum, collatio videlicet, id est coaptatio visibilium formarum ad demonstrationem rei invisiblis propositarum’ /‘A symbol is a juxtaposition, that is a gathering together of visible forms in order to demonstrate invisible things’
Hugh of St Victor ‘On the Celestial Hierarchy’iii. PL CLXXV 960D.
[2] We can also perhaps hear here a gentle criticism of Freud’s ‘explanation’ of religion.
[3] As he says in Jung CW: 12.17: ‘Psychology thus does just the opposite of what it is accused of: it provides possible approaches to a better understanding of these things, it opens people’s eyes to the real meaning of dogmas, and , far from destroying , it throws open an empty house to new inhabitants.’


Saturday, 5 April 2014

Fifth Sunday of Lent: St Paul Outside the Walls - Arbor poma gerit...

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

John 11

One of the great pleasures of working in Rome at this time of year is to be able to nip over the road when I have a break to take part in the daily life and liturgy of one of the four great Constantinian basilicas of the city: St Paul Outside the Walls. Unlike its three famous sisters: St Peter's, Maria Maggiore and St John Lateran, St Paul's is somewhat neglected by the tourists. A little way out and partially destroyed by a great fire in the 19th Century many guidebooks demote it to the B-list sights of Rome. What a mistake! For here are some wonderful treasures which can be enjoyed without the hassle (and often expense) of the inner city churches. I just photographed it from the Tiber at sunset, the first migrating river birds have arrived - all the trees are full of blackcaps and cetti warblers (no nightingales yet though). Set amid the marshes and riverbirds this feels like the right place for the execution and burial of St Paul - far away from the  city with the outcasts and the poor (today the river marshes are still a magnet for those rejected from central Rome).
 One of my favourite artworks in the Basilica is the 12th Century Paschal Candlestick by Nicola d'Angelo and Pietro Vassalletto which I picture here. It must stand over 12 foot high and with the massive candle in place that it was made for (the basilica sadly doesn't seem to furnish it with one nowadays) it would have been an impressive sight in the Middle Ages. The decoration, conceived in the quasi-Byzantine Southern Italian style is a thing of joy and beauty- and in its strange contradictory decoration seems to me to encapsulate this 'turning point' in Lent when we prepare ourselves for the path to Calvary.
 Quite startlingly, the first thing we encounter at the base of the candlestick

are griffins, rams, lions and sirens who support a swirling, almost Celtic, maze of dragons and beasts. What are we to make of it? Every time I look at it I see here a representation of the unconscious desires that I have talked about over the last few weeks. These are John of the Cross's 'undirected appetites' - the forces of anger, sexuality, desire and envy that we all have - left to themselves they are also the forces of destruction. And just above them we see their consequences - the trial and destruction of Christ by Pilate, Herod and the other representatives of 'the world'. Yet, half way up the candle stands Christ himself - in the mandorla of resurrection/birth transfiguring and transforming the chaotic forces of the unconscious into the beautiful gentle light that is the paschal candle/resurrected humanity. As with Lazarus being drawn out of his tomb of death, the candle draws us upwards, through the redeeming love of Christ to the thin pale light of Easter morning.
It is a difficult object to photograph and draw, and every time I visit I make the effort. It is even more difficult to write about. But around the base is a Latin inscription which I think sums up not only the Vigil of Lent/Holy Week but this whole process of transformation of desire that I have written about in the past few weeks:

Arbor poma gerit, arbor ego lumina gesto;
Porto libamina, nunto gaudia,
Sed die festo surrexit Cristus,
Nam talia munera praesto...

As the tree brings forth fruit, so do I bring forth light
Bringing gifts, announcing joy
And as on this day Christ rose again
So do I announce this benediction

 From now onwards, after the resurrection of Lazarus, there is a sea-change in the feel to the church's liturgies... we now have our faces resolutely turned to Jerusalem, Calvary, Christ's ultimate humiliation and his subsequent triumph. I look forward to journeying with you on this road in the next couple of weeks.

Happy Lent!


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Teresa 500

Great to have another planning meeting for the Teresa 500 group at Kensington today. What is amazing is the wide range of activities that are cropping up all over the place. Go to for more information on the range of events that are happening. Now off to Rome to moderate at the Beda College, will post again once I am there.