Jung: Counselor as Secular Priest

Carl G. Jung. 1955. Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Orig Pub 1933). Translated by W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes. New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Back before I started seminary in 2008, I read whatever interested me. My urge to read was seldom random. For months on end, I might read about a particular topic like Perl programming, military history, or binge on a series like Horatio Hornblower novels.

Today, after so many years of reading and an imperfect memory, I am often unable to pinpoint where I got certain ideas until paging through one of the books in my library. Carl Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soulis one such book and it is source of a surprising number of my better ideas.

Problem Statement

In his book, Jung’s chapters read as if they had been composed as independent essays, but they make sense together and build together towards his theme as he writes in the middle of the Great Depression (1930s) from Switzerland:

“Today this eruption of destructive forces [World War One] has already taken place, and man suffers from it in spirit. That is why patients force the psychotherapist into the role of a priest, and expect and demand of him that he shall free them from their distress. That is why we psychotherapists must occupy ourselves with problems which strictly speaking, belong to the theologian.”(Jung 1955, 241)

This analysis suggests that much of the increase in psychiatric problems that we currently stem from inadequate attention to spiritual matters, not some mysterious, psycho mumbo jumbo as is usually argued. In other words, the pastor is correct in saying that many people are looking for love in all the wrong places when they should be addressing God.


Back before psychiatrists cataloged their diagnoses with diagnostic manuals, they talked about the vague notion of neurosis. Jung provides as reasonable an explanation of neuroses as can be found:

“Most of our lapses of the tongue, of the pen, of memory, and the like are traceable to these disturbances, as are likewise all neurotic symptoms. These are nearly always of psychic origin, the exceptions being shock effects from shell explosions [PTSD] and other causes. The mildest forms of neurosis are the ‘lapses’ already referred to—blunders of speech, the sudden forgetting of names and dates, unexpected clumsiness leading to injuries or accidents, misunderstandings of personal motives or of what we have heard or read, and so-called hallucinations of memory which cause us to suppose erroneously that we have said or done this or that.”(Jung 1955, 32)

The biggest problem cited by his patients? “I am stuck.”(Jung 1955, 61) Can you image the traumatic effect in the 1930s of having a large family and you lose your job? Jung’s primary answer to being stuck? Learning how to play like a child again (Jung 1955, 69)

Approach to Psychoanalysis

Jung (1955 30) breaks psychoanalysis into four steps: confession, explanation, education, and transformation. Here we witness the priest at work.


Jung (1955, 31) writes:

“As soon as man was capable of conceiving the idea of sin, he had recourse to psychic concealment—or, to put it in analytical language, repressions arose. Anything that is concealed is a secret. The maintenance of the secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates their possessor from the community. In small does, this poison may actually be a priceless remedy, even an essential preliminary to the differentiation of the individual.”

That Jung would start with an analysis of the effects of sin is mind-blowing for those who want to scrub the word from our modern and postmodern vocabularies. Ignoring sin as we do is almost to invent new secrets that Jung describes as poison.


After the catharsis of confession, a patient must have an explanation to avoid a relapse (Jung 1955, 37). If the catharsis fails, it is because the patient is unable to deal with their shadow-side (subconscious) that is the part of their own personality that they try to hide, even from themselves.


Those unable to deal with their own shadow-side oftentimes have problems with other people’s weaknesses as well. Jung (1955, 43) see the need to education these people in basic social skills.


Jung (1955, 52) sees transformation of a patient oftentimes being limited by weaknesses in the psychoanalysts themselves. A good psychoanalyst must be able to walk-the-walk, to be a good example their patients.

Personality Classifications

Jung is best known today for his classification of personality types. Jung (1955, 89-91) distinguished introvert from extrovert, sensation from intuition, thinking from feeling, judging from perceiving. Using these distinctions to classify an individual’s preferred reflective tendencies, sixteen different personality types can be identified. 

One can develop hypotheses about how that each of these types would learn and respond to particular challenges. For example, Myers and Myers (1995, 149) write:

“The five types that favored the stable and secure future were all sensing types. The warmest of the sensing types, ESFJ, characteristically favored service to others. Seven of the eight intuitive types favored either the opportunity to use their special abilities or the change to be creative…” 

Personality types are not predictive in a deterministic sense because people change their classification preferences over time, but they indicate tendency or probability.

Background and Organization

Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and student of Sigmund Freud. He wrote in eleven chapters:

  1. “Dream Analysis in Its Practical Application
  2. Problems of Modern Psychotherapy
  3. The Aims of Psychotherapy
  4. A Psychological Theory of Types
  5. The Stages of Life
  6. Freud and Jung—Contrasts
  7. Archaic Man
  8. Psychology and Literature
  9. The Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology
  10. The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man
  11. Psychotherapists or the Clergy.”(Jung 1955, v)

These chapters are preceded by a translator’s preface.


Carl Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul is an amazing book.Jung originated a lot of the techniques of analytical psychology and his patient case studies are a window into the mindset in the 1930s. His picture of the psychologist as a secular priest changed my image of the counseling profession forever. This book is of obvious interest to counselors, pastors, and seminary students, but others would likely find it a fascinating read


Myers, Isabel Briggs and Peter B. Myers. 1995. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type(Orig Pub 1980). Mountain View: Davies-Black Publishing.

Jung: Counselor as Secular Priest

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Welcome_NY_2019

You may also like

Leave a Reply