Preparing the body for grace: Jung and the somatic dimensions of religious experience

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Preparing the body for grace: Jung and the somatic dimensions of religious experience

A presentation by Forrest James

Friday, August 8, 2008 7.30pm - 9.30pm
Venue: St Mary’s Parish House, Cn Merviale and Peel St
Admission: Members & Concession: $10 • Non-members: $15

Jung is singular among the early depth psychologists in recognising the importance of religious or numinous experience as central to psychological growth. However, in his focus on the spontaneous nature of numinous experience, Jung diminishes the significance of an active approach to religious experience as a result of his critique of ritual. It is argued that this is a significant omission, particularly in Western Culture, as religious ritual and practice are important insofar as they include an experience of the body, which provides the ground and container for the symbolic dimensions of religious experience. Jung’s own methods of facilitating psychological growth through dream analysis and active imagination are forms of symbolic and imaginal practice. This is congruent with the key place of symbols in Jung’s work as he understands that “it is in them that the union of the conscious and unconscious is consummated” (CW9 p289). Although Jung proposed a spectrum model of psychic reality that encompasses the somatic through to the imaginal, the somatic dimension is not fully reflected in his approach to the numinous. This paper suggest that intentional somatic practices, that explicitly includes the psyche-soma interaction, are an important adjunct to any symbolic dialogue with emerging unconscious processes, and may facilitate both the experience and containment of the numinosum.

Forrest James M. An. Psych, B. App. Sci., Ad. Dip G.T. is a psychotherapist, supervisor and organisational consultant. He gained his Masters in Analytical Psychology from the University of Western Sydney.