Jung’s Psychological Interpretation of Religion

Jung perceived religious experiences as the most fundamental human factors. He acknowledges a correlation between religious experiences and psychological and ontological values. Jung’s reflective psychological conceptions introduce novel perceptions regarding religion. According to Jung, the human psyche is oriented toward self-actualization. It is with this self-actualization process that the confrontation with various archetypes of religious nature is supposed. Precisely, the Jungian typology constitutes two approaches that include extroversion and introversion. It also consists of four functions of consciousness: thinking and feeling, intuition, and perception. Psychological profiles proposed by Jung are suitable for certain groups of people practicing religion and spirituality. His model of psychological types is utilized in the development of theories of individual variation in religious practices. His clients manifested an interest in the power of unconsciousness and Western religious symbols and rituals, which they presumed equated significance and power. He affirms that the symbols released from the unconscious mind are certainly the entities capable of convincing the critical mind. Similarly, several of Jung’s speculations provide psychological construes to Eliade’s theory of religion.

Jung defines religion as a peculiar attitude of an individual’s mind that incorporates certain dynamic factors, referred to as “powers” and ideals. He mentions that he does not equate religion with creed. However, each declaration is formerly founded upon the experience of the numinosum, and it is with the confidence and trust toward an experienced numinous effect that the successive alteration of consciousness results. For example, the conversion of Saul shows that religion designates the peculiar attitude of consciousness that is altered by the experience of the numinosum. Creeds, on the other hand, are regarded as modes of original religious experiences. Jung asserts that consciousness and personal unconsciousness coexist with a profoundly unconscious psychic sphere, collectively termed unconscious. These contents are then projected to the external environments recognized as mythological themes existent at the center of each major religion.

Similarly, Eliade’s theory of religion is founded in his assertion on the existence of essential, widespread, coherent, symbolic systems that offer the framework for religious interpretations. Several basic suppositions and principles define his scholarly and literary approaches to religion.  Eliade regarded human beings as religious beings (homo religious) and symbolic beings (homo symbolicus) and affirmed that they utilize language and verbal and non-verbal cues to express themselves. With such a capacity to express themselves through figurative language, they can comprehend in-depth and unify experiences coherently. Signs are required to stop any tension and anxiety caused by disorientation. According to him, the religious rely on such signs to identify sacred places (Eliade, 27). These signs are connected to religious meaning and introduce an absolute element that stops confusion. For instance, a wild animal may be hunted, and a sanctuary established where it is killed, or an altar may be built where a particular domestic animal- that was once lost is found. For Eliade, signs are relevant in religious functions as they aid in identifying that which is sacred. He affirms that the work of the gods reproduces the ritual through which humans construct a sacred space.

Jung’s theory explains Eliade’s view of religion because he confirms that all individuals are primitive in some kind of way. This primitive on the conscious is what causes individuals to realize tact, shame, and greed. Primitives value complex forms of courtesy, demonstrate a “religious” observation of potential psychical perils. They frequently experience psychical threats and are continually attempting multiple procedures to minimize the risks. They create taboos that act as external evidence, and these numerous taboos delimit psychical areas and are strictly observed. According to him, religion requires various creeds and ceremonies performed to defend against unanticipated, precarious tendencies of the unconscious. For instance, he mentions that Protestantism was once guided by the rituals and doctrines of the church, and it later liberalized itself from the church and started to experience the disintegrating and schismatic outcome of individual revelation. It lost its authority, and its followers were confronted with an inner experience without the guidance of rituals, which unparalleled the embodiment of Christian and pagan religious experiences. Eliade also attempts to define what religion is by asserting that certain symbols and signs guide it. According to Eliade, modern consciousness such as physiological acts like eating and sex, constitute only a phenomenon, however much they may be considered taboos.  For instance, by imposing specific regulations for proper eating or forbidden sexual behaviors, the religious man receives guidance and direction on what he can and cannot do.  For the primitive, such actions are not physiological acts; and can become sacred. Eliade further acknowledges that the religious man considers space as homogeneous, with interruptions and with several portions that are qualitatively different from each other. Contrastingly, profane experiences, spaces are homogeneous and neutral, without interruptions differentiating the considerable quantities of its mass. This concept of homogeneous space and the neutral is limited to profane, and it cannot be quantitatively determined. The man, who is against the scared, accepts the profane existence, a divestment from all religious premises.

The contents of the creed that are codified practices of religious experiences become sanctified to form a firm structure. These continuous practices of the original experiences become rituals and unchangeable institutions (Jung, 6). Therefore according to Jung, the aspect of sacred is evident in rituals and ceremonies. Sacred is necessary to ascertain the formulation of rituals and traditions that are firm and can be passed from one generation to another. While the Catholic church is associated with a particular rigidity, it nevertheless acknowledges that such dogma has ensured consistent change and development. Eliade also attempts to expound more on religion by focusing on the concepts of sacred and profane. Nevertheless, he integrates this approach at an individual level whereby he ascertains that religious man is scared while the non-religious is profane. Eliade focuses on the sanctity and profanity of religion (Rennie, 664).  He claims that these principles continually manifest themselves as a reality of a wholly and different order from actualities. He asserts that sanctity and profanity are two forms of existence in the world. The forms are not restricted to sociology or the history of religions but possible dimensions of human existence. The philosopher presents specific dimensions of religious experiences to demonstrate the disparities between religion itself and profane experiences of the world. Sacred signifies endurance and efficacy. Economic, social and cultural differences cause differences in religious backgrounds. He defined the designation of the act of manifestations that are sacred as a hierophany and concluded that there lacks continuity from the elementary hierophany to the supreme hierophany. Humans become aware of the sacred because it manifests itself wholly and different from the profane.




Eliade, Mircea. The sacred and the profane: The nature of religion. Vol.  144. Houghton  Mifflin      Harcourt, 1959.

Jung, Carl. Psychology And Religion. 1966.

Rennie, Bryan S. “The sacred and sacrality: from Eliade to evolutionary ethology.” Religion 47.4              (2017): 663-687.

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