In the 1930’s, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung treated a patient for severe alcoholism. The patient—identified in Jung’s case notes only as Roland H—had a good initial response to psychotherapy but relapsed almost immediately upon ceasing treatment, as so many people struggling with addiction do.

Discouraged, Roland H returned to Jung, desperately hoping for further insights on how to achieve sustained sobriety. Instead he received a rather bleak assessment. No amount of further psychiatric or medical treatments would cure him, Dr. Jung proclaimed. He was suffering from a spiritual malaise and as such only a spiritual cure—by which Jung meant a genuine religious conversion—could save him. Jung encouraged him (reportedly without much optimism) to seek out a religious community and aim for an authentic connection with the divine. It was, the doctor told him bluntly, his only hope. So Roland H, having great respect for Dr. Jung’s opinion, did precisely that, eventually joining a Christian group which emphasized “the principles of self-survey, confession, restitution, and the giving of oneself in service to others” and which “strongly stressed meditation and prayer.”

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