David Bentley Hart–Jung’s Therapeutic Gnosticism

The book’s religious sensibility is thoroughly Gnostic, in a number of ways. It is, for one thing, simply saturated in imagery and concepts drawn from the Gnostic systems of late antiquity, and its narrative form””its incontinent mythopoeia, its rococo excesses, its figural syzygies and archons and aeons (or whatever one might call them)””has all the occult grotesquerie of authentic Gnostic myth. More to the point, its entire spiritual logic is one of “gnosis”: a saving wisdom vouchsafed through an entirely private revelation; a direct communication from a mysterious source that is also one’s own deepest ground, but from which one has become estranged; a truth attained not through the mediation of nature or culture, and certainly not through the moral “law,” but solely in the apocalyptic secrecy of the illuminated soul.

And yet, it is also almost wholly devoid of the special pathos that is the most enchanting, sympathetic, and human aspect of ancient Gnosticism: the desperate longing for escape, for final liberation, for a return to the God beyond. Jung’s scripture is, in the end, a gospel not of salvation, but of therapy””not of deliverance, but of conciliation””and in this sense it truly is a liber novus, a newer new testament, a “sacred” book of a kind that only our age could have produced.

Read it all.


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