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Transformation ofthe Light: Jungian Thought and 20th-century Friends Margery Post Abbott* Jungian thought and the methods of modern psychology pervade the everydaylanguage ofallbranches oftheReligious SocietyofFriends. "He's an INFJ" or "She's an ESTP" are phrases which might be heard at Pendle Hill or in classes on prayer at George Fox University. This cryptic code is part ofthe Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), an instrument for assessingpersonalitytypes initially constructedbasedon C. G. Jung's theory. The MBTI canbeusedby those advocating counselling as away to mental health and wholeness; by pastors seeking to advise church members on ways of prayer; or in attempts to explain the differences among Friends. Are all liberal Friends introverts with strong intuitive capacity who need long periods ofsilence? Are evangelicals extroverts who rely on the experiences ofthe senses such as song, vocal prayer, and the energy offellow worshippers to know God? Such approaches to our faith are at once helpful as tools for understanding and detrimental as stereotypes or substitutes for deeper approaches to God. Jungian thought has also been the focus of theological debate among Friends. Is God totally immanent? Is the "Self or the "Collective Unconscious " another way ofspeaking ofGod? Mustwe consider God as "Other" and transcendent? Is God "Thou" or "It"? These somewhat simplified questions speak to the varied theological approaches encompassed by Quakerism today. There are Friends to argue every position and others who are clear that the process of setting up dichotomies is in itself a false approach which restricts the actions of the Infinite to our own finite understanding. Some Friends welcome the concept of unity with the collective unconscious as unity with all Creation and others are equallyclear that the Creator and the creation are forever distinct. The strong language evident in QuakerReligious Thought articles about Jung illustrates how deeply positions are held. Similarly, the ready use of psychological terms in everyday conversation indicates how thoroughlythe language and thought ofpsychology permeate contemporary culture. Today, I will explore some ofthe ways in which psychological theory, in particularthe thought ofC. G. Jung, has influenced the Religious Society of Friends in the twentieth century. I will consider first some of the cultural changes, then focus on theology, in particular the theology of the Inward *Margery Post Abbott is author of two books, A Certain Kind ofPerfection and Planning TheNew ¡Vest, as well as numerous articles andpamphlets about Quakers. She is a graduate ofSwarthmore College with a Masters degree from Old Dominion University. She is a member ofMultnomah Monthly Meeting in Portland, Oregon. 48Quaker History Light. I use the latter because the Inner (or Inward) Light is at once a distinctive theology of Friends and a place where changing thought is readily visible. The equally interesting topic of how the discipline of psychology has informed Quaker practice will have to be addressed at another time. The Changing Culture Then a few members decided to spend the next season studying Jung and his relation to our Quaker faith. My analyst, Dr. Tina Keller, participated. That spring she arranged for us to go to Zurich and meet with Dr. Jung. He invited us to his home . . . and for three or four hours he discussed with us the relationship of Quakerism and Jungian psychology. Jung agreed that the Quaker idea ofthe Inner Light was real. I remember his saying that ifhe had an early choice of Christian communities, he probably would have picked Quakerism.' This afternoonteatookplace in Switzerland in the 1930s. Itis illustrative of the affinity between Quakers and Carl Jung. The theories related to understanding the human mind and emotions provide a glimpse at the relationship ofQuakerthought and twentieth century secular thought. In the latter half of this century the theories and language of CG. Jung have become part of what one might call the "background assumptions" of Anglo-American culture. They influence what is taught at Western Evangelical Seminary as well as course work at Woodbrooke. However, thegrowingpopularacceptance ofpsychologyhasbeenone of many factors contributing to the dis-ease many liberal Friends feel with doctrinal Christianity. By mid-century, belief in the power of various sciencesto explaintheworldhelpedcreateaperiodwhenbeliefinthepower ofGodbecame "passé" particularly in the more intellectual circles. Behavioral scientists were often intent on preserving the fundamental rule of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 47-59
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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