Psychology, Psychiatry, and the Pastor Part III: Psychology, Symbolism and Exegesis -- By: Basil Jackson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 132:527 (Jul 1975)
Article: Psychology, Psychiatry, and the Pastor Part III: Psychology, Symbolism and Exegesis
Author: Basil Jackson


Psychology, Psychiatry, and the Pastor
Part III:
Psychology, Symbolism and Exegesis

Basil Jackson

[Basil Jackson, Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Lutheran Hospital of Milwaukee, Director, Jackson Psychiatric Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles entitled “Psychology, Psychiatry, and the Pastor,” which were the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures given by Dr. Basil Jackson at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 5–8, 1974.]

An area of interest shared by both psychology and religion, and one which is of particular value to the pastor in the exegesis of Scripture, is the use of symbolism. In order to appreciate fully the importance of symbolism in both psychology and religion, it is necessary to examine some of the basic characteristics of the symbol. William James, as early as 1902, recognized the great significance of the discovery of unconscious processes, and much of the advance in psychological treatment which has occurred in this century has been directly related to this phenomenon.

The Importance Of Unconscious Processes

Carl Jung similarly perceived the great importance of unconscious processes and even went so far as to feel that the discovery of the unconscious revolutionized the old psychology much like the discovery of radioactivity revolutionized classical physics. He also compared the significance of the discovery of the unconscious to the significance of the discovery of numbers and their properties.

For the behaviorists, the concepts of both consciousness and unconsciousness are equally obnoxious, but with this exception psychiatrists and psychologists accept the concept of unconscious mentation. Whether the modern psychologist likes the concept or not, he is forced to postulate some type of unconscious psychic life in order to explain the production of certain observable phenomena.

It is interesting to remember that the unconscious, at its best, is but a postulate known (as is God, according to Aquinas) only by its phenomena] effects.

In psychoanalytic theory, it is believed that the split into different levels of awareness—conscious, preconscious, and unconscious—occurs very early in life, primarily in the first year. The mental life of the newborn infant may be described as an undifferentiated state from which different levels of consciousness soon begin to emerge. The level of the unconscious is defined as that vast quantity of mental life which either never was in consciousness or, if previously conscious, has now been repressed. It is a dynamic concept in the sense that impulses from the unconscious levels ar...

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