Jung On The Role Of Religion In Spiritual Development Of Person


The article explores the influence of religion on the development of personality applying methods of comparison and analysis. The authors consider the following urgent questions: Does a modern person need the religion? What are its foundations and how viable are they? The authors tried to answer these questions based on the teachings of Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher, the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, to show how religiosity manifests itself through the basic concepts identified by C. Jung. The authors of the article used the results of sociological surveys conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center and Pew Research Center’s Forumon Religion & Public Life. Besides, the authors display the results of survey conducted among students of Ural State University of Railways. Jung singled out and considered the psychological foundations of human religiosity. He linked the religiosity of a person with the collective unconscious. Jung showed that religion is one of the right ways in the development of human personality. He revealed the inextricable connection between individuation and religiosity. Jung showed that in the course of individuation a person learns about himself and acquires integrity, which brings him or her closer to the image of God. He examined the manifestation of archetypes in the connection with religious experiences. Jung showed that archetypes are the ideal model of personality. The novelty of the research is that Jung’s teachings reveal the deep psychological roots of person’s religiosity and the importance of awareness of this process for the spiritual development of individual.

Keywords: Religion; personality development, collective unconscious, archetype, individuation


In modern society, the question of whether a modern person needs the religion or not is being actively discussed. In this regard, various sociological studies are conducted.

Based on the data of two polls by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) conducted in 2015 and 1990, it can be concluded that the strengthening of the role of religion in society in general is assessed by Russians more negatively today than 25 years ago; however, the majority admit that religion helps them cope with the various life difficulties. Over the past 25 years, the number of Russians who consider the spread of religious beliefs useful for the society has almost halved (from 61 % to 36 %), but at the same time, the quarter of the respondents (26 %) admit that the religion is a great help and support for them (from 5 % in 1990) (VCIOM, 2020). Based on these data, we can conclude that at present a crisis of religious faith is possible, a change in people’s attitudes towards religion is possible, but the importance of the role of religion for the society is beyond doubt.

The Oxford Encyclopedia states that 84 % of the world’s population belongs to the organized religion, which at the end of 2009 amounted to 5.7 billion people and belonged to approximately 10,000 different religions (Vasile, 2013). Vasile (2013) in the article Homo Religiosus – Culture, Cognition, Emotion, based on the results of a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in 2007 (In the sample of more than 35,000 Americans, the following positive responses were received to the question ‘What is your faith?’ – 92 % of the respondents answered that it was God or universal spirit; 79 % responded that it was miracle; 74 % said that it was paradise; 63 % said that it was the Bible as the word of God; 59 % responded that it was hell and 58 % answered that it was a daily prayer) concludes that faith is so strong that there must be divine power that even 21 % of those who considered themselves atheists, and 55 % of those who considered themselves agnostics expressed faith in God or a universal spirit. The results of this study also confirm that modern man needs religion to one degree or another.

An interest in religion and its role in spiritual life is still relevant today. This can be seen from the results of a study that was conducted in November 2019. A survey was conducted among students of our university. The students that were interviewed were 18-21-year-old students, representatives of the digital generation Z. 198 respondents participated in the survey. The following question was asked: What kind of worldview or religion do you follow? Orthodoxy was chosen by 40 % of the respondents, Protestantism – 2 %, Islam – 2 %, Buddhism – 2 %. 4 % relates to those who found it difficult to aswer. 18 % of the respondents consider themselves non-believers, 11 % are believers; however, they do not belong to any particular confession, and 21 % are in between. It is interesting that those who consider themselves believers, but do not belong to any particular denomination were asked about their believes and the majority (59 %) answered that they believe in God and 32 % of the respondents answered that they believe in miracles. The majority (54 %) of those respondents who were somewhere in between believe in miracles and 30 % believe in God. One of the respondents left a comment: ‘I believe in God, but I do not live by the laws of God. It is enough for me that I just believe in God.’ The majority (22 %) of the respondents who identified themselves as ‘non-believers’ chose the belief in miracles. The respondents of this group wrote in their comments the following: I believe in myself (8 %), I believe in fate, I believe in my spiritual strength, I believe in chance and I believe in logic were chosen by 3 % of the group. The results obtained lead to ambiguous conclusions. Based on the results obtained, it can concluded that the crisis of faith is intensifying, but it is also possible to predict an optimistic outcome, since more than 20 % of the respondents vacillate between faith and disbelief. Thus, we see that this topic is relevant for a modern person.

The importance of religion is supported by the study by other authors. Braham and Koenig’s (2019) article provides the following findings: Empirical studies have been conducted over decades of the links between religiosity/spirituality (R/S) and depression. Depression is often chosen as a phenomenon of interest in relationships with R/S because it is a common mental disorder and is often associated with a loss of hope and meaning (Dein, 2006). Koenig et al. (2012), in their extensive review of the literature on religiosity/spirituality and depression, concluded that through their ability to reduce the life stress, religiosity/spirituality can help both prevent depression, and, if depression is already developing, reduce the time it takes to heal depression (Braam & Koenig, 2019). At the end of the article, the authors make the following conclusions: Over the past several decades there has been a research across disciplines ranging from social sciences to psychiatry to clinical epidemiology on the relationship between religiosity/spirituality and the course of depression over time. It has now been shown that some aspects of religiosity/spirituality, such as church attendance and the importance of religion, have a modest but consistent ability to predict lower levels of depression over time (Braham & Koenig, 2019). This study showed the impact of religiosity=spirituality on both social and cultural lives of a person and confirms the importance of the influence on the development of an individual.

Problem Statement

The role of religion regarding spiritual development of a person.

Research Questions

Description of the subjects studied in the article:

1. Modern attitudes towards religion (based on polls).

2. Attitude to the religion of K. Jung.

3. Religion in human life through the prism of the collective unconscious.

Purpose of the Study

Expand the role of religion in the development of personality from the standpoint of C. Jung’s theory.

Research Methods

The methods of analysis and synthesis were used to study the existing points of view as well as the structural analysis of personality used in the analytical psychology of Jung. The study involved a hermeneutic method to authentically understand Jung’s position and other sources.


Does a modern person need religion? What are its foundations and how viable are they? Let us try to answer these questions based on the teachings of the Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher, the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961). Jung was interested in the topic of religion all his life. This was due to the fact that he grew up in the family of a priest, with the emotional experiences of his father, with his own spiritual searches. This topic is vivid in all of his works.

Jung’s disciple Ellenberger (2018) believed that ‘since the religious crisis experienced by Jung in his youth, he has never lost a deep interest in religion’ (p. 7). Jung argued that ‘a man is religious by nature. The ‘religious function’ of a person is as strong as the instinct for sex or aggression’ (as cited in Ellenberger, 2018, p. 8). Analyzing Jung’s work, it can be concluded that the religion not only helps a person to live and survive in difficult situations, but also helps in the development of personality, in the process of individuation, and this is a process that lasts during the whole life. An individual person is influenced by the image of God: ‘I mean a genuine and real primitive image of God, which grew up in the unconscious perception of modern man and carried out a living influence there, i.e. an influence that could be recommended to a psychologist of religion for reflection’ (Jung, 2013, p. 7). Thus, from Jung’s point of view there is a God-image in every person. The God-image helps in re-evaluating values and serves as a guide in the development of an individual.

An interest for this study was how Jung interprets the very concept of God. For example, from the point of view of Jung, Christ is an ideal model of personality. Jung (2014) writes: ‘In Christianity, Christ is represented as a prototype that lives in every Christian and in his own way is an ideal model of personality’ (p. 23). Moreover, Christ is an integral person. A personality that is superior to an ordinary person but contains him in himself.

Let us consider how religiosity in a person manifests itself through the basic concepts stated by Jung. The first concept is individuation. Jung paid special attention to the relationship of the process of individuation with the religiosity of a person. In the Dictionary of Analytical Psychology, the following definition is given: Individuation is the process of achieving oneself, but ‘such an achievement acquires a religious significance, since it gives meaning to the individual’s efforts. All flesh, Jung believed, implies the reunification and resolution of heterogeneous and opposing impulses. He thought the union between the individual and the collective psyche is possible only when there is a living and functioning religious attitude’ (Samuels et al., 2016, p. 89).

Some researchers call the process of individuation the process of combining ‘psychic contents with the ego, as a result of which the psychic substance of consciousness is born, <...> or, in translation from the language of C.G. Jung, the embodiment of God in man’ (Sboychikova, 2011, p. 110). Often, a person, being in the process of individuation, can find his own religious experience. In the process of individuation, coming to the discovery of personality, a person discovers a manifestation of spirituality. Throughout his life, in the process of individuation, a person develops his unique ‘I’, simultaneously he develops consciousness and, to some extent, becomes partially divine.

Jung considers each concept of his theory through the prism of religion. So, the concept of an archetype for Jung is the source of those religious experiences to which religious rites and dogmas go back (Ellenberger, 2018).

Jacobi (1942) writes the following: ‘Accordingly, when Jung, as a psychologist, asserts that God is an archetype, he means ‘that’ type ‘that’ is contained in psychic substance. As you know, the word ‘type’ is derived from the Greek typos meaning ‘stroke’ or ‘imprint’; this means that the archetype presupposes the existence of something that leaves this ‘imprint’ …’ (par. 5).

C. Jung gave a special role to the archetype of the self. In Jung’s theory, the self is an archetype that is closely associated with religion. C. Jung believed that it is difficult to distinguish between the self and the image of God and it is better not to mix them. The self is the psychological bearer of the God-image in an individual person. The self often acts as ‘the guiding principle of personality reflecting the potential integrity of the individual, encouraging life to be more competitive and reaffirmed. Almost everything that connects a person with these attributes, Jung noted, can be used as a symbol of selfhood’ (Samuels et al., 2016, p. 90). In one of his works, Jung (2014) writes: Christ, like Buddha, embodies the self, but in a completely different sense. Both of them triumphed over this world: Buddha, so to speak, with common sense, Christ with the atoning sacrifice. Christianity teaches to suffer, Buddhism teaches to see and do. Both paths lead to the truth, but for Hindu, Buddha is a man, albeit perfect, but a man, especially since he is a historical person, and it is easier for people to understand him. Christ is both a man and God – this is much more difficult to understand. He did not realize everything, knowing only that he was doomed to sacrifice himself and that was his fate. Buddha acted as he saw fit, he lived his life to the end and died at a ripe old age. Christ was what he ought to be – he did not live long. Over time, Buddhism, like Christianity, has undergone many changes (Jung, 2014).

The religious component can be identified by analyzing the Shadow archetype. Jung (1996) writes: ‘The Creator has integrity; therefore, His creation, His son must also have integrity. The concept of divine integrity is beyond question. But in a completely incomprehensible way, this integrity was split in two. As a result, a sphere of light and a sphere of darkness appeared’ (par. 8). Analyzing early Christianity, we can conclude that earlier the Shadow was part of the image of Christ. Later, under the influence of the church, this image changed, became one-sided. Christ is both light and virtue. Christ is opposed by the devil, a dark and evil force. Due to the fact that the Shadow component of personality had left Christ his image has ceased to be integral.

It is very difficult to determine the attitude of C. Jung to God. Throughout his life he answered the question of whether he believes in the existence of God in different ways. Ellenberger G.F. notes that, at the end of his life, Jung ‘took a more definite position on this issue: he saw the presence of the will of God in those strange, unexpected, but with a hidden meaning events that were faced, against his will, by every person during his life’ (Ellenberger, 2018, p. 11). ‘In one of his last interviews he said that God is both the voice of conscience speaking within us and inexplicable fatal events ‘All my life experience has led me, step by step, to the conviction in the existence of God. (…) I do not take His existence as read – I know that He exists (Ellenberger, 2018). In the Dictionary of Analytical Psychology, in the paragraph on Jung’s religious views, there is a quote from his statement,1955: ‘I do not believe, but I know about the power of true personal nature and irresistible influence. I call this power God’ (Samuels et al., 2016, p. 89).

Jung’s position has been and is being criticized (Jung, 2013). So, Klimkov (2017) in the article E. Fromm Religion Psychology and its Relevance for Modern Religious Studies notes the inadequacy of C. Jung’s position in determining the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion.

Klimkov (2017) writes that E. Fromm analyzes the widespread opinion about C. Jung’s affinity to religion and comes to the conclusion that Jung’s approach is nothing more than ‘the preaching of relativism, which, although on the surface, is more friendly to religion than the views of Z. Freud, but in its spirit is fundamentally opposite to such religions as Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism’ (p. 3). Klimkov referring to the statement of Fromm (1990), writes the following: Jung narrows down religion to a psychological phenomenon, while simultaneously raising the unconscious to the level of a religious phenomenon. Klimkov (2017) concludes that ‘given the enthusiasm of E. Fromm precisely the ethical side of human life, it becomes clear that his sympathy is more on the side of the founder of psychoanalysis than on the side of C. Jung’ (p. 4).

It seems that the materials provided in this article refute this criticism of Jung. Thea analysis of the scientist’s heritage shows that he investigated precisely the psychological roots of human religiosity, and also took into account the importance of religion for the ethical side of human life.


Thus, we can see that C. Jung singled out and considered the psychological foundations of human religiosity. He connected them with the collective unconscious. The importance of religion for human spirituality is described in many of Jung’s writings. For Jung human life is a process that brings together the archetypes of the collective unconscious with other aspects of personality.

At the same time, Jung drew attention to the fact that a person needs religion for the development of his or her personality, and most importantly for ‘an active understanding of religion, because a passive understanding of religion is a waste of time. All people must seek themselves in themselves in order to subsequently find God.

It is worth to draw a conclusion about the importance of religion for understanding Jung’s key concepts of individuation and the self, and about the influence of religion on the process of personality development.

Jung showed that religion can be one of the right paths in the spiritual development of a person. At the same time, Jung (2014) draws attention to the fact that historically, “Christianity came to the ‘imitation Christi’, when a person does not try to seek his own spiritual path, but seeks imitation, follows Christ” (p. 6).

Jung considered Christianity an important religion for Westerners but noted that ‘Christianity should be viewed in a new light and in accordance with the changes brought about by the modern spirit. Otherwise, he believed, it would be out of time and would not have proper constructive effect’ (Samuels et al., 2016, p. 89). In other words, he believed that religion should respond to the demands of modern society. The new modern civilization and the information society require a modification of both means and methods of the church’s activity, the search for new ways of introducing man to the image of God. ‘The current time is extremely interesting from the point of view of combination of specific elements of the information society, which is gradually becoming ‘virtual’, and the old roots inherent in the old society, where religion takes the central place, starting from the period of Homo sapiens’ (Vasile, 2013, p. 660) ... Thus, we can conclude that religion has not lost its significance for the spiritual development of an individual.


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Bushueva, T. I., & Korkunova, O. V. (2021). Jung On The Role Of Religion In Spiritual Development Of Person. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization - ISCKMC 2020, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 294-300). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.05.40