Jung defined instincts as part of the “psychic regulatory system… determining human behavior…”(1) and he regarded religious instinct as “the most important of the fundamental instincts…”(2), necessary for wholeness. He understood instincts to be “the chief motivating forces of psychic events…”(1)
So many people in our world today are experiencing an alienation from God and/or any form of spirituality which may lead to an inner emptiness and outer apathy - with people getting stuck in an attitude where nothing really matters, neither themselves, their existence nor what happens in the world around them.
Jung distinguishes between religious instinct and religion. The latter, which he refers to as ‘creed’, often manifests as dogma, codified views and customs. Jung regarded “… every religion (as) a spontaneous expression of a certain predominant psychological condition…” (3) Jung quoted Cicero’s De inventione rhetorica: “Religion is that which gives reverence and worship to some higher nature (which is called divine).”(4) He saw the religious instinct as “… a peculiar attitude of mind which could be formulated in accordance with the original use of the word religio, which means a careful consideration and observation of certain dynamic factors that are conceived as “powers:” spirits, daemons, gods, laws, ideas, Ideals, or whatever name man has given to such factors in his world as he has found powerful, dangerous, or helpful enough to be taken into careful consideration, or grand, beautiful, and meaningful enough to be devoutly worshiped and loved….”(5)
(1) CW 8 ¶233.
(2) CW 10 ¶653
(3) CW 11 ¶160
(4) Ibid. ¶9
(5) Ibid. ¶8
Image credit: Johfra Bosschart, The Vision of Hermes Trismegistus (1972)
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