On Theology and Psychology
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On Theology and Psychology

The Correspondence of C. G. Jung and Adolf Keller

C. G. Jung, Adolf Keller, Marianne Jehle-Wildberger, Heather McCartney, John Peck

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eBook - ePub

On Theology and Psychology

The Correspondence of C. G. Jung and Adolf Keller

C. G. Jung, Adolf Keller, Marianne Jehle-Wildberger, Heather McCartney, John Peck

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Über dieses Buch

Jung's correspondence with one of the twentieth century's leading theologians and ecumenicists On Theology and Psychology brings together C. G. Jung's correspondence with Adolf Keller, a celebrated Protestant theologian who was one of the pioneers of the modern ecumenical movement and one of the first religious leaders to become interested in analytical psychology. Their relationship spanned half a century, and for many years Keller was the only major religious leader to align himself with Jung and his ideas. Both men shared a lifelong engagement with questions of faith, and each grappled with God in his own distinctive way.Presented here in English for the first time are letters that provide a rare look at Jung in dialogue with a theologian. Spanning some fifty years, these letters reveal an extended intellectual and spiritual discourse between two very different men as they exchange views on the nature of the divine, the compatibility of Jungian psychology and Christianity, the interpretation of the Bible and figures such as Jesus and Job, and the phenomenon of National Socialism. Although Keller was powerfully attracted to Jung's ideas, his correspondence with the famed psychiatrist demonstrates that he avoided discipleship. Both men struggled with essential questions about human existence, spirituality, and well-being, and both sought common ground where the concerns of psychologists and theologians converge.Featuring an illuminating introduction by Marianne Jehle-Wildberger, On Theology and Psychology offers incomparable insights into the development of Jung's views on theology and religion, and a unique window into a spiritual and intellectual friendship unlike any other.

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Part I

From Beginnings to 1943


Adolf Keller’s and C. G. Jung’s Development up to 1909

a. Adolf Keller (1872–1963)

Adolf Keller’s original interest in the human psyche developed while a theology student during his two semesters in Berlin in 1894–1895. Around the turn of the twentieth century the capital of the Wilhelmine Reich was the mecca of Protestant theology. It was here that the brilliant Adolf von Harnack1 was lecturing on the New Testament and early church history. He was an advocate of liberal theology and thus of a historico-critical approach to the Bible. Keller attended his lectures as a matter of course—but also those of Julius Kaftan,2 whose social engagement impressed him as much as his theological approach: Taking the historic experience of God in Jesus Christ as its starting point, Kaftan’s theology conveyed a mystical overtone. In line with Kant’s “Primacy of Practical Reason,” he considered religion to be a “practical concern of the human spirit.”3 Keller came from a religiously conservative milieu and had already encountered liberal theology in his first semesters in Basel, being deeply unsettled by it. In contrast, Kaftan’s principles, based as they were on human experience, were completely new to him.
Adolf Keller had spent his childhood in RĂŒdlingen in the canton of Schaffhausen. The village is near the Rhine and surrounded by wonderful countryside that imprinted itself deeply on Keller. A dream of his from decades later, which plays an important role in several letters between him and C. G. Jung, is good evidence of this.4 The son of a teacher, Adolf Keller’s religious socialization in his parental home was influential throughout his life. He experienced this as a positive thing. He would later write that his parents had stayed together “thanks to their religious faith” and their five children, despite the couple’s different temperaments.5 They were orthodox, conservatively minded, his father in rather a sober way, his emotional mother more piously. In fact Keller had to endure his father as his strict primary school teacher for six years. His father recognized the son’s outstanding intelligence and set the bar high for him. In his father’s religious-education classes, son Adolf had to learn by heart hundreds of Bible verses. However, this stood him in good stead later. As an older man, Adolf Keller acknowledged that his mother’s trusting and joyful faith had influenced him in an enduring way.6 It was taken for granted that he would study theology.
Keller attended the classics section of the Schaffhausen gymnasium. He enjoyed every subject—except for mathematics.7 He began and completed the greater part of his theology studies in Basel. As already mentioned, his encounter with liberal theology during his student days at Basel University and in Berlin was unsettling:8 in his head he was a “pagan,” in his heart a “Christian.”9 Although skeptical, he felt he resonated with the lectures of the moderately liberal Old Testament scholar Bernhard Duhm,10 but favored more conservatively minded theologians. He struggled to reconcile his traditional view of faith with modern theology, ultimately accepting modern biblical criticism. Until the publication of Karl Barth’s The Epistle to the Romans at the end of 1918 he belonged to the so-called theological mediators,11 deplored the ongoing theological infighting, and longed for a “prophet” who would create a new theology and bring the unholy bickering to an end.12
Keller’s psychiatrist wife Tina Keller-Jenny wrote after the death of her husband: “Adolphe had a wide Christianity. It was very real, but it had nothing of narrow sectarianism. It was a feeling-relation to a worldwide God, he would express this in saying that he felt himself ‘safe in the everlasting arms.’ This was not just something that he said, but one felt that it was deeply experienced.”13 The Keller’s oldest daughter writes that her parents were genuine in their religion, not sanctimonious, “simply—real.”14
As a student in Basel, Keller joined the SchwizerhĂŒsli, the student fraternity of the local pietistic, politically conservative milieu. They gave reciprocal talks on various themes. To the amazement of his fellow students, Keller spoke on the equality of women (in Basel, women were not yet admitted to the University), and, in 1894, on suicide, a taboo subject. Also unusually, he immersed himself in philosophy, learned classical Arabic, passionately played the piano and organ, and attended art exhibitions. One of Keller’s student colleagues in Basel was Oskar Pfister, who also stood out due to his expansive mind. Originating in the liberal Protestant milieu of Zurich, he was also dissatisfied with the theological status quo and especially with “traditional pastoral care.”15 The two friends reconnected later in the circle around C. G. Jung.
Keller completed his theology degree with distinction. Even after finishing his degree he kept up with developments in the humanities and read the most important new theological publications. However, he considered the focus of his work to be in practical church ministry. Accordingly he turned his interest to the nature and the work of the human being, as he had particularly learned to do from Kaftan.
A brief outline of the first stages of his professional life:16 In 1896 Keller took up his first appointment at the German Protestant church in Cairo whose members included both German and French-speaking Swiss. This was a courageous decision. He came in contact with representatives of the English occupying forces and with members of the resident Muslim, Coptic, Greek-Orthodox, and Jewish populations. A sojourn of several weeks in the Sinai Desert and, in particular, a lonely night on Mount Sinai made profound religious impressions on him.17 Keller left Egypt in 1899 as a multilingual, cosmopolitan man.
His next posting was at the Church “auf Burg” beside Stein am Rhein, where he had a more leisurely time after the hectic environment of Cairo. He became a friend of Albert Schweitzer18 in Strasburg, sharing with him the love of the piano and organ, and of Johann Sebastian Bach. Particularly relevant to our context, he also socialized regularly with the psychiatrist Robert Binswanger, who was leading the Bellevue Sanatorium in nearby Kreuzlingen into the second generation. The Bellevue was one of the best-known private psychiatric clinics on German-sp...


  1. Cover Page
  2. Frontispiece
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Contents
  6. Foreword
  7. Register of Persons
  8. Abbreviations
  9. Part I. From Beginnings to 1943
  10. Part II. The Correspondence Between Jung and Keller
  11. Appendix. Adolf Keller: Analytical Psychology and Religious Research
  12. Literature
  13. Acknowledgments
  14. Index
  15. Series List