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Mystical Christianity

| 2.10.04
Mystical Christianity: A Psychological Commentary on the Gospel of John, by John A. Sanford

In this 337 page commentary on the fourth gospel, John A. Sanford paints a fascinating picture of Christianity that is steeped in the mystical, the mysterious, and the psychological. Drawing upon his clinical experience and extensive knowledge of Carl Jung's psychological theories, Sanford explicates a gospel message that connects spiritual and psychological realities, takes them seriously, and relates them to the modern world.

I read this book straight through from cover to cover, which is probably not the best way to read it. It is intended to be used as a commentary and reference guide. Either way, Sanford's work does much to explain both depth psychology and the gospel of John. As I've written elsewhere, I have struggled to understand Jung's writings, and Sanford helped me both comprehend them and see how they relate to Christianity.

"Christianity as a religious movement is in danger of losing its vitality, as it becomes ensnared in the conventional, and as the powerful and numinous impact of the Gospels is emasculated by the rationalistic and materialistic mentality of our times." (p. 310) In many ways the purpose of Sanford's book is to offer a corrective to our overly modern world view, which sees and takes seriously only the material, physical universe. The author of John's gospel calls us to see a hitherto unseen spiritual world, and to recognize that what happens in the spiritual world directs and impacts the material world. Sanford's genius lies in linking the spiritual world with the archetypal world of depth psychology, giving the spiritual new credence for modern people.

One of Sanford's most evocative images is the Son of Man. Often used in John's gospel to describe Jesus, this mysterious term is avoided by the church in favor of the term Son of God as the favorite title for Christ. Sanford sees Jesus the Son of Man as the ideal man, the archetypal man to whom all humanity can look to see its true self. Yet as Christ is believed by the church to be both fully God and fully human, when humanity strives for its true self it accepts both its humanity and its divinity.

Sanford quotes Robert Johnson, stating "the world isn't meant to work; but it does provide an arena for the development of individual consciousness." (p. 301) Christ is the exemplar of both the way to live and the way to die, the way to be fully human and the way to participate fully in the nature of the Divine. Life's purpose is to gain authentic knowledge of oneself, and of God. Christ's Way is the path to consciousness. Christ's cross is a mandala –a sacred image of wholeness and centeredness. As followers of Christ, we are the ground in which the cross is planted –the way of the cross is planted into our lives and consciousness. (p. 317)

PUBLISHER:Crossroad Publishing Company (February 1, 1994); ISBN: 0824514122

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