Sacred Modernities: Rethinking Modernity in a Post-Secular Age
18 September 2009
Roderick Main (University of Essex)
Sacred and Secular: Analytical psychological doubleness and the problem of modernity – the work of C. G. Jung
Born of a long line of pastors, yet trained in science and medicine, the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung (1875-1961) struggled throughout his life to resolve the tension he experienced, in himself and in his culture, between the conflicting claims of traditional religion and an increasingly secular modernity. Jung’s analytical psychology was largely forged out of this struggle and as a historical consequence embeds assumptions of both a secular and a religious nature. Like other depth psychologies, analytical psychology is a secular discipline in the sense that it is concerned with natural and human-centred principles and methods of explanation rather than supernatural ones. At the same time, Jung frequently equates his psychological concepts with traditional religious ones in a way which, rather than being straightforwardly reductive, seems genuinely to keep the door open to the possible reality of the transcendent objects of religion. In this paper, I explain this paradoxically dual character of analytical psychology, contextualise it in terms of Jung’s relationship with modernity, and consider whether, rather than being a weakness or liability, it might make analytical psychology a particularly well attuned instrument for investigating and engaging with certain contemporary manifestations of religiosity, including both holistic spirituality and fundamentalism.
Dr Roderick Main, PhD, is Director of the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, UK. He is the author of The Rupture of Time: Synchronicity and Jung’s Critique of Modern Western Culture (Brunner-Routledge, 2004) and Revelations of Chance: Synchronicity as Spiritual Experience (SUNY, 2007), as well as of many articles and book chapters on depth psychology and religion. His recent research has looked from the perspective of Jungian psychology at holistic spirituality, religious fundamentalism, and interactions between religion and science.