Can These Bones Live?

What happened with religion such that psychology has attempted to usurp its function in healing? The bottom line appears to me at this time as the crisis and confusion surrounding spirit vs. soul/psyche (“peaks and vales”, as Jungian writer and therapist James Hillman calls them). It feels to me as if soul were exiled along with Moses and his ilk then resurfaced briefly with Jesus. When the Nicean Counsel addressed the split between spirit and soul, spirit appears to have become king of the mountain. Seen in this light, Carl Jung attempted to counterbalance spiritual pretense and one-sided spirituality. Jung brought psyche out of exile and it has been beautifully rendered since- with the side effect of psychoanalysis, which has met its match with neurobiology and pharmacology. Hashing over one’s dysfunctional family and lumps/bumps in psyche due to abuse/neglect provides palliative care but often little else other than a sense of victim entitlement. Distilling Jung’s ideas, metaphor, story and dream appear to be of the most value in healing. Jesus’ analogies and stories are the best medicine for moral development as well as learning unconditional and inclusive love. Psyche is definitely linked to healing.

Attempts to resurrect the psychic part of religion has sent many people scrambling toward Eastern religions, which comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell considers trying to mix hardware (one’s original religion, Christianity for example) and software that is incompatible with that hardware (e.g., Zen Buddhism). Lukewarm secular humanism and new age religion lack the necessary oomph to transform and build bridges across the soul and spirit gap. Somehow the Jesus generator has not gutted out. 

Images and icons from that old time religion have become depotentiated. One dare not create a new spontaneous image and most efforts at identifying new means of relating to the divine are labeled heresy, particularly by fretting fundamentalists. As retired Episcopalian Bishop Jack Spong asserts, sentimentality reigns in modern religion. Organized religion is in danger of losing its sense of humor and spontaneity.

A glance at Jung’s Red Book shows him to have had the soul of a prophet (an interesting admixture of soul and spirit). Line up his metaphors, for example, with those of Ezekiel and one raises an eyebrow. How far down to the depths of madness one can go to fish for images and resurface to bring back boons for the rest of us? Therapists go there with their clients. Any therapist worth his or her salt has been in a session of healing when a client who is pathologizing (necessary to experience soul, according to Hillman) suddenly has a numinous experience. Perhaps that therapist has not read Rudolph Otto or even had a personal brush with the Divine. Nonetheless, there it is, a union of spirit and soul.  

A long-standing syllogism (cliché among Jungian novices) is that if one’s symptoms are cured, he or she loses God. One’s mental and physical symptoms point to meaning. Must psycho-therapizing and medical treatment (especially through the magic of drugs) deprive one of spiritual experience? Or do they allow one to function until one discovers meaning? Remove the symptom and one ceases the journey toward meaning? That God wishes us to suffer until we find meaning does not seem logical if God is benevolent.

If one were to banish the side effects of psychic methods of healing (i.e., punitive and intensive psychoanalysis, an unending and frustrating search for meaning) and to sidestep spiritual wounds (i.e., patriarchy, frozen theology, judgmental exclusion and the list goes on), looking toward positive outcomes, what might one find? What imaginative and transcendent ways of acknowledging both spirit and psyche work? What forms of resuscitation will serve? “Can these bones live?”