Dabbling in the Occult

Fr. Philip Powell, OP, writes of his path through the occult. I’ve known Philip for a number of years (he did his diaconate internship in my department when I was head of campus ministry for the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston), but much of what he writes here is new to me.

Some other articles on the topic of contemporary Christian spirituality and the occult:

2 thoughts on “Dabbling in the Occult

  1. On your article: Jung and Contemporary Spirituality

    See also Glenn Friesen`s articles on: Jung, Gnosticism, Mysticism, Meister Eckhart and Jakob Boehme:

    “C.G. Jung is the Swiss psychologist who founded analytical psychology. Jung has had a profound influence not only in the field of psychology, but also in studies of comparative religion. But Jung’s psychology is open to differing interpretations. And many popular presentations of Jung’s ideas are not in accordance with what he actually wrote. Ken Wilber has said, “But the Jungian light is one we must use with much caution, I now believe” (Ken Wilber: The Eye of Spirit, Boston, Shambhala, 1998, p. 267). Perhaps the same caution needs to be exercised with respect to Wilber’s own work.

    Here are three areas where I think that we must use Jung’s work with caution:

    (1) I agree with Wilber’s criticism of the way that Jung’s idea of archetypes is used. Wilber points to a confusion between the pre-personal sense of archetypes–as archaic images from our common past–and the transpersonal sense of archetypes, as those forces that pull us towards self-realization and individuation. Wilber calls this “the pre/trans fallacy”–the confusion of the pre-personal with the transpersonal. Not to make this distinciton is to end up with a regressive use of Jung’s psychology.

    Ray Harris explores these and other ambiguities in Jung’s thought in his exellent article “Revisioning Individuation,”[]. Ken Wilber says that the failure to distinguish between the two uses of archetype is the pre/trans fallacy: confuisng the pre-personal with the transpersonal. Wilber also refers to forms that pull us towards the true Self. They are future structures attempting to come down, not past structures attempting to come up. He cites Ken Wilber: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, (Boston: Shambhala, 1995), p. 249. Harris also quotes Wilber’s The Eye of Spirit:

    The entire manifest world arises out of the Formless (or causal Abyss), and the first forms to do so are the forms upon which all others will rest – they are the “arche-forms” or archetypes. Thus, in this use, the archetypes are the highest Forms of our own possibilities, the deepest Forms of our own potentials – but also the last barriers to the Formless and the Nondual.
    From Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (Boston: Shambhala, 1997), p. 266.

    (2) Jung’s explanation of evil as something inherent within God. If Jung is speaking of the God-image, or man’s supratemporal and transpersonal psyche, then this has an important truth, since humanity is fallen. But if Jung is purporting to speak of God as he is in himself (something which he himself says he wants to avoid doing), then I must disagree. This issue of how Jung viewed evil, especially in his book Answer to Job, was the subject of intense discussion between Jung and Fr. Victor White. See the discussion of the dialogue between Jung and Victor White in the article by Jim Arraj, “Jungian and Catholic?”

    (3) Jung has been interpreted as saying that God requires creation in order to himself become conscious. For example, John P. Dourley has interpreted Jung in this way, relying on certain works of Meister Eckhart and Jakob Boehme. See John P. Dourley: “Revisioning Incarnation: Jung on the Relativity of God,” Shim-Song Yon-Gu: Journal of the Korean Jung Institute (2001) Vol 16, no. 1, p. 1-29, available online. I agree with Franz von Baader’s interpretation of Eckhart and Boehme: that the dynamism within God’s trinity is distinct from the dynamism within our own selfhood and creation. To confuse the two dynamic movements, and to say that creation is necessary for God, amounts to pantheism (instead of panentheism).

    Jung himself was influenced by both eastern and western religious traditions. My interest is in exploring these influences on Jung so as to better understand his work.

    In May, 2004, I presented two lectures at the C.G. Jung Institute, Küsnacht, Switzerland. The lectures concerned the influence of the eastern mystical tradition on Jung, and in particular, the influence of the Hindu nondual sage Ramana Maharshi. My lectures were entitled, “Jung, Ramana Maharshi and Eastern Mysticism.” The lectures show how Jung was influenced by Paul Brunton in his evaluation of Ramana Maharshi. Brunton was the one to make Ramana well-known to the Western world.

    I have since included additional articles on Ramana Maharsh and Paul Brunton:

    Ramana Maharshi: Hindu and non-Hindu interpretations of a Jivanmukta

    Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi

    In June, 2005, I presented series of three lectures at the C.G. Jung Institute entitled “Jung and Western Mysticism.”

    Jung and the Philosophy of Totality: Individualism or Individuation?

    Theosophy and Gnosticism: Jung and Franz von Baader

    The Relation of Jung’s Psychology to Meister Eckhart and Jakob Boehme

    Jung influenced several of the philosophers and mystics discussed on my website.

    The Benedictine monk Henri Le Saux (Abshiktananda) was strongly influenced by Jung, as I have shown in the appendix to my 2001 doctoral thesis, “Abhishiktananda’s Non-Monistic Advaitic Experience” (University of South Africa). I have made my entire thesis avaialble online. The part dealing specifically with Jung is Thesis Part 4 (380 kb).

    In his Divergentierapport [Report of Divergences], D.H.Th. Vollenhoven said that Herman Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on the supratemporal might lead people to connect his philosophy to the ideas of Jung. Although Dooyeweerd certainly does emphasize the supratemporal selfhood, and also writes about the unconscious, I believe that there are also significant differences from Jung’s psychology. This can be seen in Jung’s denial of the Archimedean point, an idea that is important for Dooyeweerd’s view of the self. Jung says,

    There is no Archimedean point from which to judge, since the mind is indistinguishable from its manifestations. The mind is the object of psychology, and-fatally enough-also its subject. There is no getting away from this fact. – (Psychology and Religion, CW 11, para. 18).

    So although both Jung and Dooyeweerd emphasize a supratemporal selfhood, they use the term in different ways. Jung’s approach involves a reciprocal approach between the selfhood and a temporal ego, whereas Dooyeweerd follows Franz von Baader in the idea of the supratemporal heart as our true selfhood, for which our body is the temporal instrument. Dooyewerd denies that the selfhood can be an “object” that can be investigated by psychology or any other theoretical discipline; rather, the supratemporal selfhood is the ontical condition for any theoretical thought at all. Here, Dooyeweerd follows Baader’s critique of the autonomy of theoretical thought. Although he is sometimes ambiguous, Jung generaly remains within the Kantian acceptance of such autonomy. In my 2005 series of lectures on Jung, I argue that Baader provides a clearer explanation of several ideas where Jung is ambiguous or incorrect (such as his interpretation of Boehme and Eckhart, particularly with respect to the issues of God and evil, and whether the dynamic movement within God is to be pantheistically identified with development of man’s consciousness). I believe that Dooyeweerd follows and expands upon Baader’s tradition of Christian theosophy, and that these ideas provide the basis for significant insights in psychology.

    Revised Sept 19/08″

  2. Von Balthasar´s Occultism and the present pope

    Glenn Friesen on Balthasar, Baader and Ratzinger:

    “Hans Urs von Balthasar

    The Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar was one of the new Catholic theologians who rejected the scholastic dualism between nature and grace. Medard Kehl says that von Balthasar

    …belongs with Przywara, de Lubac, Fessard, Daniélou, Douillard, Congar, Hugo Rahner and Karl Rahner, among others, to that generation of theologians who, precisely with the help of the church fathers, gave the final deathblow to the “two-storey-thinking” of the neoscholastic doctrine of grace and thereby overcame the unhealthzy—for the encounter of the church with modern consciousness—dualism in Catholic thought between nature and grace, history and revelation, experience and faith (Von Balthasar Reader, 5).

    Von Balthasar’s ideas were much admired by Pope John Paul II [47], as well as by the present Pope Benedict [48].

    In 1929, von Balthasar joined the Society of Jesus. Erich Przywara influenced his studies in philosophy. Von Balthasar translated Henri de Lubac’s work Catholicism (1938) into German, referring to it as the “basic book” of theology. He also studied under Henri de Lubac, who inspired him to research the Church Fathers. Von Balthasar wrote important studies on Origen (Parole et mystère chez Origène, 1957), Gregory of Nyssa (Présence et Pensée, 1942), and Maximus the Confessor (Kosmische Liturgie, 1941 ). Von Balthasar said that the Church Fathers should not be read just in terms of speculative knowledge, for they then become boring. Rather, they must be read in terms of the restlessness of the heart.

    In his introduction to von Balthasar, Stratford Caldecott says,
    The true God is to be found wherever the “parallel lines” of this world meet, at the converging-point of the common or “transcendental” properties of being that we call Truth, Goodness and Beauty. It is only in Beauty that Truth is good, and that Goodness is true. By losing the sense of Beauty, by closing the “spiritual senses” that grasp the colours and the contours, the taste and the fragrance of Truth in its radiant body, the theologians had betrayed even the very Master they claimed to serve. [51]

    Like Przywara, Von Balthasar was aware of and appreciated the ideas of Franz von Baader.

    Von Balthasar refers appreciatively to Baader’s rejection of a human reason that is under the illusion of being absolute. And like Przywara, Von Balthasar refers to Baader’s idea that our knowledge is not autonomous, but is based on our being known by God:

    If God becomes an object of my reason, he is no longer primarily the eye which sees me and in whose light I behold his light […]. No: God is the one who knows me. There is truth in Franz von Baader’s formula: “cogitor (cognoscor), ergo sum” I am, because God knows me. Paul continually found new and luminous formulations for this fundamental relationship: “’Knowledge’ (gnosis) puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him” (1 Cor. 8:1ff).

    […] “Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood” (1 Cor. 13:12). Here below it is not a matter of integrity of gnosis but integrity of love, which is elevated and praised by Paul above everything else; the fragmentary nature of our knowledge is a veritable spur of love, which races ahead to embrace him who already knows me—which means, in the case of God, that he affirms me and chooses me in love. Here Paul does not hesitate to equate man’s ultimate knowledge of God with his being known by God; in the sense of John’s immanence-formulas, the unmediated indwelling of mutual, loving insight.

    Finally, “Now you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” (Gal. 4:9). You have stepped out of the obscurity of purely worldly knowledge into the light of the knowledge of God; this you owe to being known already by God. […]Thus our knowledge of God is an act of creation on God’s part. “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). This is the knowledge manifested to the Apostle on the road to Damascus; it did not manifest itself to him merely as an object but shone interiorly in the personal knowledge of his heart. The unity of knowing and being known cannot be expressed in a profounder or more intimate way. [52]

    Baader had also emphasized the importance of God’s love as the basis for our knowledge. [53]

    We can find other important references by Von Balthasar to Baader. Von Balthasar wrote an Afterword to Valentin Tomberg’s Meditations on the Tarot. Von Balthasar praises the book, although he says that the power of its spiritual vision is primarily in the author’s certainty of the interrelationship between all things by way of analogy. He traces these ideas to Baader:

    There are other historical examples analogous to that of the gathering and accommodation of Hermetic and Cabbalistic wisdom into Biblical and Christian thought: above all, the transposition of Chassidism to a modern horizon of thought by Martin Buber (Chassidism is deeply influenced by the Cabbala). However, just as strong in its creative power of transformation is the incorporation of Jacob Boehme’s Christosophy into the Catholic world-conception by the philosopher Franz von Baader. […] The author’s Meditations on the Tarot are in the tradition of the great accomplishments of Pico della Mirandola and Franz von Baader, but are independent of them. [54]
    Like the other Roman Catholic theologians relied on by Marlet, Von Balthasar rejects a dualistic separation between nature and grace. Rather, “nature is totally encompassed by grace.” God’s acts are Trinitarian acts of love, which include beholding, giving and revealing, and receiving or adoring.

    But whenever the relationship between nature and grace is severed (as happens… where ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’ are constructed as opposites), then the whole of worldly being falls under the dominion of ‘knowledge’, and the springs and forces of love immanent in the world are overpowered and finally suffocated by science, technology and cybernetics. The result is a world without women, without children, without reverence for love in poverty and humiliation — a world in which power and the profit-margin are the sole criteria, where the disinterested, the useless, the purposeless is despised, persecuted and in the end exterminated — a world in which art itself is forced to wear the mask and features of technique.[55]
    Social issues and ethics cannot be separated from spirituality. Von Balthasar demonstrated this in his personal life in the Community of St John, which he co-founded with Adrienne von Speyr. Medard Kehl writes about von Balthasar’s views of how social issues relate to spirituality

    God’s love for the world in the gift of his Son and in the sacrament of his church—should be recognized in its original “infolding” (Ein-falt), so that it can then also be continually recognized again in is detailed “un-foldings” (Aus-faltungen, i.e. in the most varied expressions of faith, dogmatic formulas, sacramental and liturgical forms, social and legal structures of the community of faith, etc.) For Balthasar the original synthesis has its place in theology ahead of all analyses (of a historical-critical, hermeneutical, historical-doctrinal, psychological, and sociological kind). This synthesis integrates in itself all individual moments of faith and brings them forth from itself, but without ever releasing them from this unity (Von Balthasar Reader, 35).
    Note how Von Balthasar speaks of the “unfolding” of a theoretical expression from out of the central root unity or synthesis. Dooyeweerd would not use the word ‘synthesis’ to refer to this root unity, and Dooyeweerd would also object to referring to the central root unity as ‘theological.’ And yet we can see many similarities here in an unfolding from a root unity [56]. And for both Dooyeweerd and von Balthasar, this root unity is situated in the supratemporal, a time-beyond. As von Balthasar says,

    Full integration of temporal life could only be hoped for in a time-beyond in which, with the eternal significance of every moment, there would also be salvaged the sense of direction of the river of time (von Balthasar Reader, 69).
    And von Balthasar stresses the need to overcome our ego in favour of a transcendent selfhood:

    Just as the Buddhist has to dissolve the illusion of his I as a substantial center in order to catch sight of the absolute, so, too does the Christian have to dissolve the geocentricity of his self-awareness, in which everything revolves about his psychological ego in favor of a heliocentric, i.e., theocentric worldview, in which the created and graced is both received purely from the central sun of divine grace and allows itself to be determined by it. So much is this divine center the absolute that the word “objective’ in the worldly sense is not applicable to it. It is, according to Augustine, at once “more inward than I am to myself and more sublimely superior to me,” and for this reason coming to me from within as well as from above-without. But in this coming the finite I is posited, affirmed, loved; and indeed not only my I, but that of all persons who in their essential uniqueness and irreplaceability are a radiation of the one God, and indeed become that more the closer they all come to God. Here the particularity of Christian in contrast to Eastern meditation becomes completely evident. (Von Balthasar Reader, 340).”

Comments are closed.