Embodying Hermeneutics:

Eugen Drewermann's Depth Psychological Interpretation of Religious Symbols

by Matthias Beier, M.Phil., Drew University

(Excerpts presented at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, New Brunswick, NJ, March 1998)

Abstract: This paper will present Eugen Drewermann's attempt to deepen the study of psychology and religion in two directions: into the direction of the evolutionary roots of religious symbols and, at the same time, into the direction of the intricacies of self-consciousness. For Drewermann, the symbolic texts and actions of religion essentially function as remedies for human anxiety. His "archetypal hermeneutics" of religious texts presupposes Freud, Jung, and existential psychologies, but goes significantly beyond their theories. It focuses around the question of how religious symbols answer to the three dimensions of human anxiety: the biological, the psychological/social, and the existential. In the face of the inevitability of death, existential anxiety raises biological and psychological/social anxieties to absolute levels. Religious symbols are understood as images which are based in evolutionary and ontogenetic history and which can become eternal images by means of which these existential anxieties can be calmed. By grounding the nature of archetypes in evolutionary history, Drewermann quite literally tries to embody hermeneutics and to pull it down to earth from a realm of speculative, intellectual abstraction. Central tools for such a hermeneutics are the experiences of archetypal images in dreams and of the deepest feelings that all humans share in common.

Eugen Drewermann attempts to deepen the study of psychology and religion in two directions: into the direction of the evolutionary roots of religious symbols and at the same time into the direction of the intricacies of self-consciousness. Drewermann's work is best known in German- and French-speaking countries, where his radical critique of authoritarian structures of religious institutions in the Roman-Catholic Church has stirred considerable controversy.

Drewermann was born on June 20, 1940 in Bergkamen, Germany. He studied philosophy, theology, and psychoanalysis and received his doctorate in systematic theology in 1976. In addition to practicing psychotherapy, Drewermann worked as Privatdozent for systematic theology at the University of Paderborn and was active as a diocesan priest in the Roman-Catholic Church. The publication of Tiefenpsychologie und Exegese: Traum, Mythos, Märchen, Sage und Legende [Depth Psychology and Exegesis: Dream, Myth, Fairy Tale, Fable, and Legend], in 1984, marked the beginning of a heated public debate that centered around the value of depth psychology as a tool for the interpretation of religious texts in general, and Biblical texts in particular. The debate soon became the widest public discourse in continental Europe about the meaning of biblical texts since Rudolf Bultmann's demythologization project. The controversy reached its climax after the publication of Drewermann's most well-known book, Kleriker: Psychogramm eines Ideals (1989a), in which the author put forth a psychoanalytic and daseinsanalytic study of current structures in Roman Catholicism which, as he concluded, create immense mental suffering among the clergy and lead to neurotic and hollow forms of Christian faith in the church at large. The book ends with constructive suggestions for a "collective psychotherapy of the whole system of the church" (1989a: 854). Many of Drewermann's works became national best-sellers in Germany and France. Among his more than 50 books are depth psychological interpretations of Grimm's fairy tales, of Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, and of the gospels of Mark and Matthew. In 1991, the Archdiocese of Paderborn revoked Drewermann's license to teach Catholic theology at the University of Paderborn, followed in 1992 by his suspension from priesthood. The disciplinary process received considerable media attention and brought the question of the interpretation of religious texts into the center of public discourse.

Surprisingly, Drewermann's work is relatively unknown in the English-speaking world. Only four smaller titles where he applies his interdisciplinary method of interpretation to religious or mythical texts(1) have been translated into English. Despite the fact that many of his works have been translated into more than five languages, including French, Dutch and Spanish, none of the major texts cited in this paper have been translated into English. Therefore, all quotations from Drewermann's texts are here directly translated from the original German. I have also translated directly from the German, wherever an original German edition of a work of other authors is cited in this essay.

What distinguishes Drewermann from other attempts to integrate depth psychology into an understanding of religion (cf., for example, the works of Tillich, Ricoeur, Vergote, Wink, Meissner, Pruyser) is that he tries to ground the symbolic interpretations of depth psychology on a deeper level through the findings of ethology and paleoanthropology and, most importantly, that he uses these findings to give existential interpretations of religion an unprecedented concreteness. The result is an embodied interpretation of religious texts that makes existential interpretations of religion tangible by bringing into play the importance of images and feelings for an adequate understanding of these texts.

So much said, let us look at Drewermann's "archetypal hermeneutics" (Drewermann, 1984: 66), as he calls his interdisciplinary approach. At the heart of Drewermann's approach lies the conviction that a hermeneutics of religious texts fulfills its task only if it interprets the texts in such a way that they become for both interpreter and listener/reader an occasion for an encounter with the divine. In that sense, Drewermann conceives of the act of interpretation in a manner that is close to the original meaning of the Greek word hermneuein. The word is related to the mythological messenger-god Hermes who was seen as a "go-between" between God and human beings and was "associated with the function of transmuting what is beyond human understanding into a form that human intelligence can grasp" (Palmer, 1969: 15, 13; cf. Heidegger, 1959: 121f.). For Drewermann, an adequate understanding of a religious text only occurs if the text "grasps" its readers in such a way that they experience the divine (Drewermann, 1987: 98). He stresses, however, that such understanding by means of being grasped is not confined to "human intelligence". The categories with which we grasp the divine and through which the divine grasps us, Drewermann holds, are the universal archetypes of the human psyche. These archetypes are rooted in an evolutionary history, which human beings share to a great extent with the animal world, and through which religious symbols receive their dynamic character.

This paper will present first Drewermann's understanding of the nature of religious symbols by focusing on their evolutionary roots, secondly address their psychological and socio-cultural dimensions, and thirdly describe the philosophical-hermeneutical significance which Drewermann attributes to archetypes and archetypal symbols for an understanding of religious texts and symbols.

But beforehand let me briefly note what Drewermann's notion of religion is, since the whole aim of his hermeneutics is to recover the healing power of traditional religious symbols. For Drewermann, religion essentially functions as a remedy for human anxiety. It is in this context that Drewermann sees the exceptional significance of Jesus' life, though this paper will not expound on the special role of any one particular religion. Because the subjective experience of human anxiety in the face of the inevitability of one's personal death has absolute character, religious symbols only fulfill their function if they provide a resolution of these infinite anxieties. Absolute anxiety can only be calmed by absolute trust, Drewermann holds. But without a truly absolute person ("God") who could generate such trust via the potentially healing images within one's psyche, archetypes and their offspring, religious symbols, retain their ambivalent nature.

The experience of anxiety is deeply rooted in the experience of "individuality" (Drewermann, 1993a: 335). Drewermann observes three basic dimensions of human anxiety: biological, psychological, and existential anxiety. They correspond to the terrains of id, ego and spirit [Es, Ich und Geist] (1993a: 309). Archetypes are understood to serve a function in each of these terrains and in response to each dimension of anxiety. The various dimensions of anxiety all affect human consciousness. Though human anxiety is always experienced, consciously or unconsciously, on all three levels, each dimension of anxiety can be investigated through a particular method. Ethology, which can be defined as the study of human and animal behavior in view of its evolutionary roots in and functions for the development of the species (Wuketits, 1995: 161), can help us understand the biological dimension of anxiety which the organism experiences in its struggle to survive and to avoid biological death; its domain is 'nature'. Psychoanalysis, a term which Drewermann, like P. Tillich, uses synonymously with "depth psychology", sheds light on the anxiety which the ego experiences in relation to other human beings, particularly the fear of being meaningless to others; its domain is 'culture'. Finally, existential philosophy and psychology reveal the anxiety which the ego experiences in relation to itself and in view of the fear of being ultimately meaningless; its domain is the 'self' (Drewermann, 1993a, 335f). Biological and psychological anxieties become magnified through the experience of existential anxiety. Religion, Drewermann says, has to be read as an answer to the questions "which make themselves known on the various levels of Dasein in the language of anxiety" (1993a: 309). It does so, Drewermann argues, by trying to integrate the id, i.e. the archetypes of the collective unconscious, with the ego, i.e. the concrete historical existence of the individual. The royal road to such integration is the interpretation of dreams and of the "Great Dreams" of humankind, i.e. of religious texts. For Drewermann, dreams are the hermeneutical key to the understanding of religious texts. Having said this, let us now take a closer look at Drewermann's discussion of the three dimensions of anxiety and the corresponding functions of archetypes as categories for a psychology of religion.

Evolutionary-biological Dimension of Religious Symbols

Drewermann's hermeneutics attempts no less than a radical embodiment of an understanding of religion in general and of theology in particular. He speaks of "body" not in an abstract manner, but in a way that takes serious the evolutionary history of the human body and of the human soul. Both our body and our soul share a long history with all life and with the higher animals in particular (1989b: 234). An interpretation of religious symbols after Darwin, Freud, and Jung can no longer treat the human soul as if it had fallen from heaven 6,000 years ago, but has to reintegrate "humans and the human psyche again into the larger context of life" (1984: 283). In his writings, Drewermann therefore employs the terms Seele (soul) and Psyche (psyche) interchangeably (cf. e.g. 1984: 121ff). A most important hermeneutical consequence of such embodiment is a recognition of archetypal images and of feelings as central sources for an understanding of the meaning of religious texts.

Behind the emphasis on evolutionary roots of the archetypes is the rationale that in order to experience the divine, i.e. the source of life, we have to 'listen' to that part of creation that is closest to us, namely to our psyche. It is in the images of our dreams that the divine speaks to us, since it is in them that we are closest to that which connects us with all of life. Archetypes are not just rooted in the common development of the human species, as Jung stressed, but are rooted even further in "the evolution of life itself" (1984: 270). Religious texts are understood as texts whose symbols are rooted in archetypes of the human psyche.

Since for Drewermann all religions deal with human anxiety, and since one of the fundamental dimensions of human anxiety, which humans share with much of the animal world, is the brute fear of biological death, a hermeneutics that wants to understand the healing power of religious symbols has to understand the patterns and reflexes which the human organism has developed in the process of evolution for the purpose of responding to concrete, external danger situations in such a way that survival can most likely be guaranteed. Since humans share many of these patterns and reflexes with other animals, the results of ethology have to inform a hermeneutics of religion.

For Drewermann archetypes, are first of all precipitates of "certain primal scenes [Urszenen] of experience that are ... anchored in evolution" (1984: 135f.). Attached to these scenes are certain typical affects. Whenever we as human beings find ourselves in situations that resemble these 'primal scenes' - such as birth and death, for instance - images and affects related to them become reactivated and shape our feelings and our behavior in the situation. This process is usually unconscious, but we can become more conscious of it after the experience. In ethology, such instinctive patterns of behavior in response to certain stimuli, are termed "innate release mechanisms" and are considered to be functions of the nervous system.

Drewermann equates the evolutionary dimension of archetypes with the "innate release mechanisms" of ethology (1984: 235). It is noteworthy that C. G. Jung had already assumed this connection (Jung, 1968: 44). However, Jung never explored it systematically. In view of an understanding of archetypes, Drewermann defines an innate release mechanism as "an innate, unconscious disposition of imagining [des Vorstellens] and of acting, which at independent instances again and again brings forth the same forms of thought and behavior" (1984: 235). Among the examples given by Drewermann for such a mechanism is what is called the "hunter-hunted reflex". A pedestrian may experience the working of that mechanism when she or he steps onto a road near an intersection and is caught off guard by a speeding car that suddenly turns unto the road at the intersection. In such a perplexed, life-threatening situation, the pedestrian may respond by screaming, or by jumping back or forth, or even by an inability to make any move. Such 'typical' reactions in danger situations are not the result of conscious reflection, but responses which are based on certain reflexes that are stored in the midbrain. Drewermann explains that the rapidly approaching car is 'classified' into the "scheme of the hunter and the hunted," and that the pedestrian responds with one of the responses which the organism has acquired over millions of years. Only a little later does she or he begin to realize consciously what happened (1993a: 309f.).

Drewermann argues that religious symbols, too, have their roots in the deepest layers of the psyche and that they receive their affective value and their compelling force out of that rootedness. 'Water', 'light', 'darkness', 'food', etc. are elements in religious symbolism that receive their importance and their experiential power to some degree from the fact that they are primal elements that influence all life.

Psychological and Cultural Dimensions of Religious Symbols

Human consciousness enables us to delay or modify certain instinctive reactions. Related to this ability is the emergence of a form of anxiety that is not a response to immediate external dangers, but an anxiety which stems from human relationships. Such 'psychological' or 'social' anxiety is not primarily a response to external dangers, but rather to an "inner reality," a view of reality as one has come to see it in relation to the way in which one's parents or caregivers in childhood 'looked at' reality. This anxiety can take many forms: fear of abandonment from the caregiver, social anxiety in form of a 'super-ego', fear of aggression from significant others, etc. Because the development of human civilization has reduced the dangers of nature to a minimum, 'dangers' experienced in human relationships, in culture, take on more significance. Neurotic forms of psychological anxiety are especially characterized by a certain "estrangement from reality" and the trigger of such anxiety often is connected to certain experiences in early childhood (Drewermann, 1993a.: 322). Just as archetypes function an a biological level to ensure the organism's survival and to reduce the fear of imminent death, so they function on a psychological level to respond to anxieties caused in human relationships. Archetypes can on that level bring forth symbols that can help one deal adequately with the fear of being meaningless to others, i.e. 'dead' for others.

Drewermann regards Freudian theory indispensable for an analysis of the ontogenetic sources of psychological anxiety. He makes broad use of Freudian and neo-Freudian psychology as tools to elucidate the effects of this dimension of anxiety. In terms of an understanding of the effects of religious symbols, Freudian psychoanalysis is "indispensable" wherever these symbols are put to service in a neurotic fashion and where the neurotic character of spiritual or religious expressions needs correction (Drewermann, 1984: 159). However, underneath the ontogenetic sources of anxiety lie phylogenetic structures. Here Drewermann highlights that even Freud was aware of the need for phylogenetic explanations. Freud's anthropological speculations about the historical origins of civilization and the phylogenetic transmission of mental structures and symbols attest to that (cf. Drewermann, 1977-78, Vol. I: XXXVf.; 1987: 63n.). However, because Freud's causally-oriented, reductive and objective method of dream interpretation fails to pay adequate attention to the question "of meaning, purpose and significance [Sinn, Ziel, und Bedeutung] of the mental arrangement", it is not useful for a prospective religious interpretation of dream symbols (Drewermann, 1977-78, Vol. II: 8). Freud's dream analysis assumed that each dream symbol was a sign which designated a content that was basically already known (Drewermann, 1984: 157).

For a hermeneutics of religious symbols, Drewermann therefore turns to Jung's prospective, meaning-oriented, and subjective interpretation of dream symbols. In Jung's dream interpretation, Drewermann sees a crucial "nodal point [Weichenstellung]" through which dream psychology becomes of central importance for anthropology and even ontology and theology. With Jung, Drewermann holds that a symbol expresses something which was unknown and could not be understood until then, and which can most appropriately be expressed through the symbol (ibd.: 219n.). A symbol is always required where something cannot be expressed conceptually "but can only be divined [geahnt werden]". The symbol is an expression of transcendent contents which cannot be adequately grasped with consciousness (ibd.:157). Drewermann points out that the divine can per definitionem not be grasped by finite reason, but can only be experienced in the immediacy of archetypal images.

Drewermann also adopts Jung's distinction between archetypes and archetypal symbols. What we see in dreams and remember in waking state are not archetypes themselves, but only "archetypal symbols". Jung called archetypes "patterns of function" and "primordial images." They are devoid of content. "A primordial image is determined as to its content only when it has become conscious and is therefore filled out with the material of conscious experience" (Jung, 1968: 79). An archetype that has appeared to consciousness is referred to as an "archetypal symbol." An archetype can therefore become manifest in dream symbols which draw for their content from concrete occurrences in everyday life. The archetypes are characterized as "images" in two respects: they are the typical "form of the activity taking place" and "the typical situation in which the activity is released" (ibd.: 78). In agreement with Jung, Drewermann writes: the "concept of archetype does not refer to an innate concrete representation [Vorstellung], but rather to a specific instinctive form of behavior, which appears as a representation when it becomes conscious," but which in the unconscious is only "a powerful disposition for the production of certain images" (Drewermann, 1977-78, Vol. I: XL).

The distinction between archetype and archetypal symbol brings up the question of the cultural relativity of archetypal symbols. If archetypal symbols are shaped by ontogenetic experiences as well as by the cultural contexts within which they appear, does this not foreclose the possibility to speak of universal archetypes? Drewermann answers with a determined "No!," since without the assumption of universal human archetypes no adequate understanding of religious texts from a different time and culture would be possible at all. It is worth, at this point, to quote at length a crucial passage from Tiefenpsychologie und Exegese I: "... only in the archetypes and in the emotions lies that which unifies and connects all cultures and religions from all times and zones, while language, ratio, the categories of moral values appear to be very much bound to certain times and therefore divisive. Even religion, pressed into thoughts, differs with each nation and culture, but its truth, laid down and enacted in its as much veiling as unveiling rites and symbols, is everywhere the same. In all humans there lives an unconscious knowledge of something absolute, which is present in all humans and out of which everything conscious comes into existence; and only on this level of the archetypal can a hermeneutical connection be conceived and possible across the temporal distance of thousands of years. Only on the level of archetypes does there appear in a lingua franca of all humans the commonality of all strong feelings such as joy and sadness, the experience of birth and death, youth and old age, illness and healing, the sensations of shame and disgust, love and tenderness, the tendency towards a demonstration of status and the defense of one's territory, the plurality of preformed reactions in emergency situations etc. One has to connect with that ensemble in order to understand the eternal validity of religious rites and symbols as well" (1984: 70f.). Drewermann, then, holds that in all the personal and cultural uniqueness of archetypal symbols which appear in dreams, myths, visions, etc. something typical appears. He argues, that for hermeneutics the typical elements should neither be distinguished according to historical eras or cultural spaces, as Dilthey attempted, nor along the lines of certain sociological 'ideal types,' as Weber attempted. What is typical in a religious text should not be sought on a conscious, external level (observable historical or social regularities), since that would ultimately make it impossible for an interpreter from a different era or social location to comprehend the meaning of the text, because she or he is per definitionem in a different time and social space. Instead it has to be sought on an unconscious level of universal 'primordial images,' which speak through culturally determined symbols across times and cultures. "If something abiding and valid should exist in a concrete religion, then we must choose a hermeneutical approach in which the causal and the essential, the sociological and the anthropological perspective do not stand opposed to each other in isolation, but one in which a religion receives and maintains in its unexchangeable historical conditioning and singularity a foundational meaning and time-transcending significance for human beings at all times and in all zones" (Drewermann, 1984: 53f.). In other words, Drewermann's archetypal hermeneutics of religion tries to do justice to both its irreducible subjective dimension as well as the corresponding typical, 'objective' elements in all religion.

Despite Drewermann's general agreement with Jung's notion of archetypes and archetypal symbols, Drewermann's understanding of the relationship between archetype and symbol differs from Jung's in two essential respects: for one, he emphasizes the need for an understanding of the biological foundation of archetypes in order to avoid as much as possible a speculative use of archetypes. Secondly, he stresses that the ambivalent nature of archetypes cannot be solved in the manner as Jung sought to solve it: by assuming that a whole self evolves 'naturally'. Drewermann argues that Jung's theory of archetypes needs ethological but also philosophical deepening. As we will see in the next section, this will lead Drewermann to the conclusion that the ambivalence of archetypes cannot be resolved within a philosophical framework that tries to remain merely in the realm of 'scientific' immanence.

I will conclude this section by illustrating how Drewermann's grounding of religious symbols in evolutionary history deepens Jung's understanding of archetypes in a way that is significant for the hermeneutics of symbols. Drewermann points out that it is usually the likeness of archetypal symbols to certain zones or parts of the human body that "makes them symbolic substitutes for these body zones and to which the same drive strivings [Triebstrebungen], anxieties and reaction patterns are attached which originally were directed toward the ... experience of the body" (1984: 263). In some sense, then, Drewermann combines a Freudian and evolutionary stress on the importance of body zones (without, however, reducing the feelings attached to these body zones to libidinous feelings in the Freudian sense of the term) with a Jungian understanding of the archetypes. The result is a more embodied understanding of archetypal, and hence, of religious symbols. Drewermann terms this correlation between archetypal symbols and the anatomy of the human body "pregiven [vorgegebene] symbolic bridges". These pregiven symbolic bridges are the condition for the possibility of an embodied understanding of religious texts, an understanding in which the whole person with her or his feelings and imaginative potentials can read the text.

Drewermann uses the symbol of the "well" to illustrate this point. The "well" occurs in dreams and mythical or religious writings in various cultures. It is understood by both Freud and Jung as a symbol for the desire to return to an earlier state, while Jung sees it also as a prospective symbol that points to the desire of rebirth. For Freud, who interpreted dream symbols on an objective level, i.e., in terms of the meaning they have in view of a persons family relationships, the "well" represents the vagina and points, at least in the male - and Freud's psychology is basically one of the male - to the Oedipal desire to be united with the mother. Jung, on the other hand, would understand the "well" on a subjective level, and see it as a symbol for the border between consciousness and the unconscious which a person has to cross in the process of psychological 're-birth'. While their interpretations of symbols are in many respects radically different from each other, both Freud and Jung assume certain preexisting "symbolic bridges" (Drewermann, 1984: 263n) which are grounded in the biological anatomy of the body. In the given example, both assume the connection between "well" and the anatomy of the female body, though the one stresses the sexual-psychological meaning of this body zone while the other focuses on its religious-psychological meaning. In addition, the symbolism of (re)birth points to archetypal roots which go beyond the human species and connect it with the development of all life: it has its 'earliest' evolutionary roots in the fact that all life is born out of water. It therefore is based on a 'primal scene' that goes far beyond consciousness. Such 'primal scenes' as birth are not only common to the human species but characterize all life.

Philosophical and Theological Dimension of Religious Symbols

The philosophical and theological level in Drewermann's anthropology deals not only with the "timeless character" of archetypes, but also with "ego-consciousness" [Ich-Bewußtsein] (Drewermann, 1985: 256), i.e. with the historical awareness which the ego has of itself. I can here only allude to the fact that Drewermann sees the development of "ego-consciousness" and the emergence of the idea of monotheism intimately related to each other. While ego-consciousness is what distinguishes human beings from animals, it only gradually gained a primary role in human society in contrast to the collective reign of the 'mass psyche'. The ego's relation to itself is equated by Drewermann with the notion of 'spirit' or 'self'. With the awareness of the ego of itself emerges awareness of the inevitability of one's personal death. Existential anxiety is the human spirit's fear of ultimate meaninglessness and insignificance, the fear that one's existence has no justification. Such existential anxiety does not happen in an abstract realm of ideas but finds expression in a spiritual 'infinitization' of biological and psychological anxieties, notwithstanding that these anxieties are often not based on 'real' dangers or 'real' loss of love. Existential anxiety has absolute character, and it requires no less than an absolute answer. Under the spell of existential anxiety all archetypal images will haunt people instead of making them whole. Only if the absolute existential anxiety can be calmed, can archetypes become sources of symbols that allow humans to develop towards wholeness. This is the second major difference from Jung's archetypal psychology: Jungian psychology assumes that the process of individuation would come about through an urge of the mental image of the 'self', of the 'God' in the psyche. Drewermann points out that that image itself would remain under the spell of ambivalence were it not for a corresponding divine reality that absolutely wants our wholeness and in the presence of which all negative transferences with which the God-image is burdened can be worked through. Only the experience of divine love can dissipate mistrust and despair and enable us to individuate. Drewermann uses the following analogy to make his point: "Only in the medium of light and of warmth do roses blossom into their Gestalt, and only in the presence of love do human beings become able to develop their own essential Gestalt" (1985: 458). Drewermann concludes that the functioning of the healing images of religions depends on the existence of an absolute person ("God") who is able to calm the human spirit's absolute anxiety by assuring it of some absolute significance and value in the face of death. Here we come to the crucial importance of archetypes for religion: the archetypes of the collective unconscious that have developed in the process of the evolution of life appear to ego-consciousness as timeless images. As such, they can become media for the human spirit by which the divine can communicate concretely to each human person that her or his life is absolutely wanted and that her or his existence is absolutely justified even in the face of death. The healing images generate trust not only in the goodness and meaningfulness of one's personal life but of all of life. The calming of existential anxiety via archetypal images implies the calming of 'infinitized' biological and psychological anxieties and can throw light on such phenomena as shamanistic healings, for instance. It is the affective value which is attached to the healing archetypal images that makes religion concrete experience and leads to what one may call with a term from Christian theology "effective justification". Religious texts have recorded such effective

images and are understood by Drewermann as reminders of the healing power of the archetypes if they are experienced in relation to the divine.

In terms of a hermeneutics of religious texts, Drewermann defines archetypes with Jung parallel to Kant's categories of reason: archetypes "function to give order to a multitude of perceptions by means of a priori schemata, with the difference that these schemata ... belong to the emotional realm instead of the rational" (Drewermann, 1984: 146f.). He refers to them also as "certain a priori types of the imagination" and as "basic forms of experience and of thinking" (ibd.: 67). Theologically, archetypes of the collective unconscious are interpreted by Drewermann as the condition for the possibility of "seeing" God (1993a: 269). As already noted, to human consciousness, archetypes appear timeless. Drewermann points out that in the context of dream analysis even Freud had noticed the peculiar "timelessness of the unconscious" (Freud, SE XXII, 73f; cited in: Drewermann, 1984: 228). In their timelessness and in their evolutionary origin in life itself lies their capacity to become embodied symbols for the eternal source of all life.


Eugen Drewermann's attempt to integrate psychology, evolutionary research, philosophy, and religion aims to embody talk-of-God (theo-logy) by giving voice to the repressed emotional dimensions of human life. At the center of human emotions lies the polarity between anxiety and trust, which are experienced on various levels. By deepening the study of psychology and religion in the direction of both evolutionary roots and existential anxiety, Drewermann deconstructs traditional methods of interpreting religious symbols and strives to devolop a hermeneutics commensurate with the complexity of the human experience.

Works Cited

Drewermann, E. (1977-78). Strukturen des Bösen: Die jahwistische Urgeschichte in exegetischer, psychoanalytischer und philosophischer Sicht. 3 volumes. Paderborn: Schöningh.

---. (1984). Tiefenpsychologie und Exegese. Vol. I: Die Wahrheit der Formen: Traum, Mythos, Märchen, Sage und Legende. Olten: Walter. (1st special edition, 1991).

---. (1985). Tiefenpsychologie und Exegese. Vol. II: Die Wahrheit der Werke und der Worte: Wunder, Vision, Weissagung, Apokalypse, Geschichte, Gleichnis. Olten: Walter. (1st special printing, 1991).

---. (1987). Das Markusevangelium, vol. 1. Series Bilder von Erlösung. Olten: Walter (6th printing 1990).

---. (1989a). Kleriker: Psychogramm eines Ideals. Freiburg i. Br.: Walter, (8th printing, 1990).

---. (1989b). "Hoffnung für die leidende Kreatur oder: Das Postulat von der Unsterblichkeit der Tiere", in: Ich steige hinab in die Barke der Sonne: Meditationen zu Tod und Auferstehung. Pp. 228-247. Olten: Walter. (5th printing, 1992).

---. (1991). Open Heavens. Maryknoll: Orbis.

---. (1993a). Glauben in Freiheit, Vol. 1: Dogma, Angst und Symbolismus. Düsseldorf: Walter.

---. (1993b). Discovering the Royal Child Within: a Spiritual Psychology of 'The Little Prince.' Transl. by P. Heinegg. New York: Crossroad. (Original German title: Das Eigentliche ist unsichtbar: Der Kleine Prinz tiefenpsychologisch gedeutet. Freiburg: Herder, 1984).

---. (1994a). Discovering the God Child Within: a Spiritual Psychology of Jesus. Transl. by P. Heinegg. New York: Crossroad, (Original German title: Dein Name ist wie der Geschmack des Lebens: Tiefenpsychologische Deutung der Kindheitsgeschichte nach dem Lukasevangelium. Freiburg: Herder, 1986.)

---. (1994b) Dying We Live: Meditations for Lent and Easter. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Heidegger, M. (1959). Unterwegs zur Sprache. Pfullingen: Neske.

Jung. (1968). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Transl. by R. F. C. Hull. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Palmer, R. E. (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, Ill.

Wuketits, F. M. (1995). Die Entdeckung des Verhaltens: Eine Geschichte der Verhaltensforschung. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

1. The translations unfortunately lack the smooth and poetic style in which Drewermann writes. The books are: Open Heavens (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991), Discovering the Royal Child Within: A Spiritual Psychology of 'The Little Prince'(New York: Crossroad, 1993), Discovering the God Child Within: A Spiritual Psychology of Jesus (New York: Crossroad, 1994a), Dying We Live: Meditations for Lent and Easter (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1994b).