Capturing the Essence of Jung’s Psychology of Religion

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“He is in us and we in him” (Jung, 2012, p. 75).

Jung (2012) explicated the value of religion in terms of the archetypes that it offers. He presented the Christ figure as the “embodiment of the God-image” (p. 77), which is the potential that lies dormant within each individual. This ultimate possibility or self has been articulated in the Buddhist tradition as Buddha nature and in the Hindu tradition, as the Atman (Jung, 2012).

Like the yin and yang of the Taoist tradition (Jung, 2012) and the true self and false self explained by Merton (1972), accompanying the Christ archetype is its shadow side, the Antichrist. This shadow archetype illustrates a completeness in the complementarity of the Christ and Antichrist, rather than a perfection. The life of the historical Jesus exemplifies the hero or heroine’s journey through acknowledging and integrating both the Christ and Antichrist. The incarnation of the self inaugurates an individuation process whereby the ego hears the call of the unconscious, embarks on a quest, must suffer its own death, and thus be reborn or resurrected as an individuated self, who embodies a higher consciousness.

Jung (2012) incorporated the idea of the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as integral to the archetypal pattern. The Father represents essential unity and is known only in the appearance of the Son, whose presence introduces duality. Inherent in the Son’s manifestation as duality is his latent awareness of himself as divinity. The presence of the Holy Ghost reconciles the duality by being shared by both the Father and the Son, a concept reminiscent of Hegel’s theory of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis or being, non-being, and becoming (Landau et al., 2017).

For Jung (2012), the Christian Trinity symbolizes a dynamic process of transformation whose completion is the quaternity. Within the Trinity, the Father may be understood as Hegel’s thesis; the Son, as Hegel’s antithesis; and the Holy Ghost as Hegel’s synthesis (Edinger, 1964). This law of three has also been explained as being/non-being/becoming, dependence/independence/interdependence, unity/duality/integration, and affirmation/denial/reconciliation, for example. Although the Trinity is important in Jung’s cosmology of the psychological self, he believed that the God-image archetype was most fully realized in the form of a quaternity.

While Edinger (1964) articulated the trinity as a primary process and quaternity as a primary structure, Jung (2012) viewed the quaternity as a completion of the Trinity and a primary symbol of individuation. According to Jung, the inclusion of Mary, as representative of the missing feminine archetype in the masculine Trinity, accomplished the quaternity. Jung hypothesized that the manifestation of the Son creates a conflict with Essential Unity (the Father). The reconciliation of the Father and the Son, through the transcendent action of the Holy Ghost, leads to the incorporation of the fourth, Mary (the mother and bride), thus illustrating the alchemic process of the reemergence of the One in its highest form of integration (Sharp, 1991).

Jung (2012) further explicated the relevance of Mary in terms of Sophia (Wisdom), “who was with God before time began, and at the end of time will be reunited with God through the sacred marriage” (p. 252). Jung postulated that Mary, bodily assumed as the Queen of Heaven, symbolizes the reintegration or marriage of heaven (God/masculine/spiritual/light) and earth (Sophia/feminine/material/dark), fulfilling the quaternity of the psychological self, whose axes, in one of Jung’s articulations, are good/evil intersecting with spiritual/material.


Edinger, E. F. (1964). Trinity and quaternity. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 9(2), 103–115.

Jung, C. G. (2012). Jung on Christianity. Princeton University Press.

Landau, C., Szudek, A., & Tomley, S. (2017). The philosophy book big ideas simply explained. DK Penguin Random House.

Merton, T. (1972). New seeds of contemplation. New Directions Publishing.

Sharp, D. (1991). Jung lexicon. The Jung Page. Reflections on Psychology, Culture and Life.

Interfaith Minister, Spiritual Director, Retreat Facilitator, Psychotherapist

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