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

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Salvation and Eternal Life

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

A lot of people scoff at the idea that salvation and eternal life are real because of skepticism about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, for example, writes about the importance of the resurrection for our faith in these terms:  “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:14) The resurrection of Christ implies that Jesus lives and will return in the future to bring us home to our true residence in heaven.

The Mechanics of Resurrection

Knowing that the future is in Christ, through faith we know that the future is secure and is good, because we serve a God who loves us and is himself holy and good. Jesus is our rock, as he reminds us:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt 7:24-25)

But not everyone is convinced. How do we know the sequence of events in our salvation and the path to our eternal life?

The Apostle Paul, who met the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus, answered this question this way:

“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11)

In other words, I know that I will be raised from the dead because I have shared in Christ’s suffering and death.

Faith and the Soul

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes again this subject:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (1 Cor 12:12-14)

Here Paul is talking specifically about the nature of the church, but a second interpretation is possible.

In Christian thinking, we often talk about the soul, which today we might refer to as our identity. In Hebrew thinking the word soul implies body, mind, spirit, and the people who will are in relationship with. When we come to Christ, we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, which means that we are also from that point forward in relationship with God. Our soul has forever changed. Much like we are one body in Christ (the church), we are also one with God, who is eternal.

Being one with God implies that our identity is now held in common with the people of the church and with God. Because God is eternal, being in union with God implies that our identity is now eternal.

Example from Alzheimer’s Disease

For those of you unaccustomed to this notion of shared identity and the soul,

what happens to your identity when your mind is taken over with a disease, like Alzheimer’s? Do you stop being a person? Do you loose your identity because you no longer remember who you are? Not at all. When you meet a person with Alzheimer’s disease, their identity is retained, at a minimum, by the people around them who order their favorite foods and tell their stories. 

It is no different when we die. When we die, our identity is retained not only by all of the people that knew us, but also for the Christian by the Holy Spirit, who is eternal. God who created us from dust can easily recreate us, complete with our identity, our souls, because we are in relationship.

Salvation and Eternal Life

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Monday Monologue, Availability, May 14, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a Mother’s Day prayer and a review of Robert Wick’s Availability.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologue, Availability, May 14, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2018_Ascension

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Wicks Seeks Availability Deepens Faith

Robert Wicks, AvailabilityRobert Wicks. 2000. Availability: The Spiritual Joy of Helping Others. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the more interesting definitions of the soul is that it encompasses who we are and who we are in relationship with, including God. This definition differs significantly from the Greek division of the person into body and spirit or, body, mind, and spirit. It also differs from the Freudian division into id, ego, and superego. When we talk about the three movements of the spirit, popularized recently by Henri Nouwen (1975), into polarities within, with God, and with others, we converge on this ancient notion of soul. Loneliness can accordingly be accurately described as an affliction of the soul, while frankly psychologists have really no conceptual basis for even describing it because it is relational, not part of the person.


In his book, Availability: The Spiritual Joy of Helping Others, Robert Wicks describes his book’s theme in these words:

“…the more we can remove the blocks to an appreciation of who we are and who we are becoming, the truer we can be in our response to the Gospel call to serve others and God. We must be available then to ourselves so that our relationships can flow out of a healthy attitude and a clear awareness of our motivations.”(3)

While Wicks cites many passages of scripture, the one that comes to mind for me in reflecting on this book, the story of Bartimaeus, he does not cite. It reads:

“And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside … And Jesus stopped and said, Call him … And Jesus said to him, What do you want me to do for you?”(Mark 10:46-52 ESV)

What celebrity stops for a random person in a crowd, one of the invisible people? Yet, time and time again, Jesus made himself radically available to strangers.

Being Available to Ourselves

If loneliness is an affliction of the soul, availability enlarges and heals the soul; it is a gift (1). Wicks writes:

“Availability to ourselves increases along with availability to God and others because there is a unity in being true to oneself, others, and God.”(39)

Wicks clearly believes that being available to ourselves is the key to unlocking this gift. Note that in writing his book in eight chapters, four are devoted to being available to ourselves (half the book) while only two chapters are devoted to being available to others and two to God (v).

Wicks focuses on being available to ourselves in terms of recognizing our uniqueness and limits, being willing to forgive ourselves in failure, cultivating self-awareness, and developing emotional and mental clarity, avoiding defensiveness.

Being Available to Others

Being available to others can be easily described, but it is an area fraught with confusion. Wicks writes:

“Being available to others is not just giving time, money, and effort. It is also not endlessly worrying about others so that our personal tension rises to the point that we are overloaded and have no energy to care about anything or anyone anymore.” (40)

Obviously, burnout is a real possibility. I have seen pastors experiencing anxiety attacks, running around trying to do everything, and being subject to temptations that would not normally afflict them, had they honored their own limits.

Being Available to God

In his discussion of being available to God, Wicks makes an important observation:

“When we play at prayer, rather than open ourselves up to listen, it is we who are truly not available to God.”(95)

When you pray, do you do all the talking? God answers prayer, sometimes quite quickly, but we need to be listening. He goes on:

“…if there is a key to understanding the problems of availability and appreciating it as a gift, this key is contained in our seeking unity within and without by placing ourselves continually in the presence of God: to relax, to sit, to learn, to work, to contemplate, to do everything in the presences of God.”(102)

When I am restless or distracted in prayer, I find it helpful to pray a centering prayer. For me, Psalm 8 centers me and helps me to separate myself from my own busyness. My own restlessness often makes continuous prayer during the day hard.


Robert Wicks’ Availability: The Spiritual Joy of Helping Othersis short and easily read—a seminarian’s delight. Its brevity is disarming and masks the profound influence that this book had on my thinking early in seminary. After reading Wicks, I meditated on the story of Bartimaeus and Psalm 8 for years. Perhaps, you will too.


Nouwen, Henri J. M. 1975. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. New York: DoubleDay. (Review)

Wicks Seeks Availability Deepens Faith

Also see:

Nouwen: Make Space for Self, Others, and God 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2018_Ascension

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Benner Cares Spiritually Through Dialogue—Part 1

Benner_review_08072015David G. Benner. 1998.  Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books. (Goto part 2)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One distinctive of biblical faith is that each human being is created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). One practical implication of this image doctrine is that when you speak with someone, it is like speaking to God himself.  In fact, many times God speaks to us through the people around us. A second practical implication is that each and every human has intrinsic value in the eyes of God[1].  Between the hint of the divine and this intrinsic value, everyone has an interesting story to tell—if one takes the time to listen.


In his book, Care of Souls, David Benner implicitly understands and accepts the doctrine of the image.  He writes:

“Care refers to actions that are designed to support the well-being of something or someone. Cure refers to actions that are designed to restore well-being that has been lost.” (21)

One only cares for something of value.  In this case, we are talking about souls which he defines as:

“soul as referring to the whole person, including the body, but with particular focus on the inner world of thinking, feeling, and willing.” (22)

This is the Hebrew understanding of soul (nefesh or נַפְשִׁ֖י) which is quite distinct from the Greek understanding from Plato which divided a person into body and soul[1], which were truly divided (11).

Conscious and Unconscious Life

This body and soul unity is important in Benner’s thinking especially when he delves into the distinction between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our inner life.  He writes:

“Caring for souls is caring for people in ways that not only acknowledge them as persons but also engage and address them in the deepest and most profoundly human aspects of their lives.  This is the reason for the priority of the spiritual and psychological aspects of the person’s inner world in soul care.” (23)

While the cure of souls focuses on remedy for sin; care of souls focuses on the need for spiritual growth (28).

Care of Souls

Benner sees 4 elements in care of souls:

  1. Healing—“helping others overcome some impairment and move towards wholeness”,
  2. Sustaining—“acts of caring designed to help a hurting person endure and transcend” a challenging situation,
  3. Reconciling—“efforts to reestablish broken relationships”, and
  4. Guiding—“helping people make wise choices and thereby grow in spiritual maturity” (31-32)

I used to use the analogy of two soccer players working with each other to succeed in their game play and taking care of each other.

Benner offers 6 helpful principles (he calls them conclusions) defining soul care. “Christian soul care”…

  1. “is something that we do for each other, not to ourselves.”
  2. “operates within a moral context.”
  3. “is concerned about community not just individuals.”
  4. “is normally provided through the medium of dialogue within the context of a relationship.”
  5. “does not focus on some narrow spiritual aspect of personality but addresses the whole person.”
  6. “is much too important to be restricted to the clergy or any other single group of people.”

Christian Friends

 This last point is important—the idea of Christian friends is fundamental in Christian discipling. In fact, the first book by Benner that I read and reviewed was focused on this point[2].

Another key point is that the focus in care of souls is on dialogue between equals before God.  Benner distinguishes 4 types of interpersonal discourse:

  1. Debate“a civilized form of combat…has a focus and implicit rules that encourage participants to stick to the understood topic”. (134)
  2. Discussion“involves the advocacy of ideas and positions with resulting winners and losers” .(134)
  3. Conversation“involve the exchange not just of facts and arguments but also of feelings, values, and construals” but not to the extent and with the mutual trust required for a dialogue. (135)
  4. Dialogue“shared inquiry that is designed to increase awareness, understanding, and insight” among mutually trusting individuals. (131)

This focus on dialogue distinguishes soul care from psychiatric care where true dialogue is not possible, in part, because the talking is more of doctor-patient conversation between two parties that are inherently not equal. Dialogue is the preferred discourse in soul care because healing, sustaining, reconciling, and guiding are able to take place only when trust is present.

Background of Author

Dr. David Benner works and lives in Canada.  He describes himself as: “an internationally known depth psychologist, wisdom teacher, transformational coach, and author whose life’s work has been directed toward helping people walk the human path in a deeply spiritual way and the spiritual path in a deeply human way.”  He has held numerous faculty positions and written about 30 books [4].


Benner writes in 11 chapters divided into 2 parts.  These chapters are:

Part 1:  Understanding Soul Care

  1. What is Soul Care?
  2. The Rise of Therapeutic Soul Care
  3. The Boundaries of the Soul
  4. Psychology and Spirituality
  5. Christian Spirituality

Part 2:  Giving and Receiving Soul Care

  1. The Psychospiritual Focus and Soul Care
  2. Dialogue in Soul Care
  3. Dreams, the Unconscious, and the Language of the Soul
  4. Forms of Christian Soul Care
  5. Challenges of Christian Soul Care
  6. Receiving Soul Care

These chapters are preceded by acknowledgments and an introduction.  They are followed by notes and a topical index.


David Benner’s Care of Souls is a transformative text.  Although some of these ideas here appear elsewhere, many of the discussions are uniquely Benner. For example, Benner goes a lot further than many authors in offering a theological underpinning to soul care, integrates the therapeutic ideas better than other authors into his care, and spends more time in explaining the usefulness and uniqueness of dialogue.  I highly recommend this book to pastors, other Christian care givers, and Christians who want to be spiritually sensitive in their ministry.

In part 1 of this review, I have given an overview of Benner’s book.  In part 2, I will dig deeper into some of his more interesting ideas.

Question: Do you think that soul care is possible outside of a therapeutic relationship?  Why or why not?


[1] This intrinsic value provides the philosophical foundation for human rights. In the absence of this theological doctrine, the secular interest in human rights is a philosophical orphan easily forgotten.

[2] Or body, mind, and soul.

[3] See (Benner 2003) Also see review:  Benner Points to God (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-u3)

[4] www.DrDavidGBenner.ca


Benner, David G. 2003.  Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction.  Downers Grove:  IVP Books.

Benner Cares Spiritually Through Dialogue—Part 1



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Prayer Day 10: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on Amazon.com
Available on Amazon.com

Loving Father, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit. We praise you for sharing yourself with us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and stepping into history. Your silent suffering on the cross shouts your love into our fallen world. Thank you for modeling a perfect life; bearing our sins on the cross; and granting us resurrection peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Amoroso Padre, Querido Hijo, Espíritu Santo. Te alabamos por compartir ti mismos con nosotros en la persona de Jesús de Nazaret y por entrar de la historia. Tu sufrimiento silencio en la cruz grita tu amor en el mundo caído. Gracias por modelar una vida perfecta; por llevar nuestros pecados en la cruz; y por nos concede la paz de resurrección. En el nombre de Jesús oramos, Amén.

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