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The Return of the Repressed:

The Misericord in Gothic Basilicas


Carl Jung’s story of the ‘Turd of God’

One summer afternoon, the 12-year-old Carl Jung was walking home from school. He passed through the square of the grand medieval cathedral in Basel, Switzerland. It was a beautiful day. The sky was blue above the clouds and the roof of the cathedral sparkled with its newly laid green and yellow tiles. The young boy saw the spire of the cathedral pointing up to the sky and he imagined God sitting high above in heaven on a golden throne. Then, suddenly, a 'yawning dark chasm' opened up in front of him and he felt he must not think any further. There was something horrible and sinful in thinking what he was about to think. He felt that if he let his imagination play out, he would sin terribly against God and all that was sacred.

Basel Cathedral with tiled roof

For several days, the boy struggled against thinking this thought. His sleep was disturbed and he became physically exhausted. He felt on the verge of an unforgivable sin, a sin against the Holy Spirit. Finally, in exhaustion, he realized that his resistance would ultimately fail. He could not suppress this thought forever. He reasoned to himself that, after all, it was God who gave him this compulsion. It seemed to follow that God could lift it from him but apparently this “he was not going to do”. It seemed to the boy that God wished him to commit this 'unforgivable sin'. There was no option. He must let it come. He wrote:


“I gathered all my courage as though I were about to leap forth into hell-fire and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky. God sits on His golden throne high above the world and from under the golden throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder.”

                                                 - Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pg 39


Instead of feeling cursed, Jung was overwhelmed with ‘indescribable relief’ and wrote that ‘grace had come upon me’. But, there was also much that was dark, mixed with this joy; He thought he must be ‘a devil or a swine and be infinitely depraved to have had such a thought'. He was utterly amazed that God had befouled his own cathedral and it led him to a ‘dim understanding that God could be something terrible.' Most importantly, he knew he had discovered a great secret of tremendous import.

Carl Jung as a young boy

Later in his life, when Jung came to write his autobiography and told the story of the 'turd of God' breaking the Basel Cathedral asunder, he reflected on his own experience and compared it with that of his Father’s. Over the generations of the Jung family, there was a lineage of pastors and theologians. Jung’s own father was a Classical scholar, an Orientalist and the parson (a sort of priest) in his small area of Switzerland. His father had often struggled with his own faith as well as a lack of belief in certain aspects of the Bible. When Jung, the boy, would express his own doubts about how something did not make sense to him, his father would say, “Oh nonsense, you always want to think. One should not think. One should believe.” Because of his Fathers refusal to allow doubts, Jung came to wonder if what his father believed was false. Jung wrote:


“That was what my father had not understood, I thought; he had failed to experience the will of God, had opposed it for the best reasons and out of the deepest faith. And that was why he had never experienced the miracle of grace, which heals all and makes all comprehensible. He had taken the Bible’s commandments as his guide; he believed in God as the Bible prescribed and as his forefathers had taught him, but he did not know the immediate living God who stands omnipotent and free, above his Bible and His Church, who calls upon man to partake of his freedom. . . Blind acceptance never leads to a solution. It only leads to a standstill and is paid for heavily in the next generation[1]." 

As time passed, Jung wanted to find out if anyone else had such an experience and although he queried others, he ‘never found a trace’ of it in them. He says this knowledge made him a ‘lonely child.'  So powerful was the experience that Jung wrote in his later life:


“My entire youth can be understood in terms of this secret’. It was something that ‘other people do not know and usually do not want to know’[3].


What we ‘Do not know’ and ‘Do not want to know’


The ‘things that ‘people do not know and do not want to know’ make up a special field of consideration all their own. They are very different from things that ‘people just do not know.’ In the latter case, one is simply ignorant about something. But, in the situation Jung is referring to, people are not ‘just ignorant’ or ‘do not know,’ but they ‘do not want to know.’ To 'not want to know' about something presents a unique paradox; for if you do not want to know about something, you must already know or think at least something about it. You already suspect something. Just like, the boy-Jung did not want to think through his thought about God up above the Cathedral. It was something ‘he did not know and did not want to know.’ He did not want to think consciously about it, but, it was there. He felt it. It disturbed him greatly. In other words, he knew about it.


Most cultures, societies and religions systematically exclude the terrible or dark side of God or nature. Many consider even the awareness of such things to be sinful, terrible, heretical, ‘not to be done, ’ something ‘one must not even think of.’ These are the things that you ‘do not know or do not want to know’, however ultimately, if anything is to endure, it must be built upon a foundation of ‘Reality.’ Otherwise, like anything without good foundation, it will last for but a while and then collapse, dry up or die, betraying its lack of roots. Jung argued that if we dismiss the dark side of life or God, we dismiss something that actually exists. As he discovered for himself, he needed allow the thought that God is also ‘evil’ or ‘bad’.


We find this 'evil' aspect of God in subjects that are taboo, such as sexuality, violence, torture or death. We find it where God shows in a terrible, horrible, extreme or unpleasant form. It is that aspect of God that ‘shits’ on his own church, including those that claim to provide a path to God or to know who or what He is.


Throughout history, whenever people transgressed such boundaries by speaking out these types of thoughts, they were dismissed, criticized and persecuted for their violation of what was considered a forbidden topic. As a boy, Jung agonized in a perfect epiphany of this problem as he considered whether his ‘thought,’ that he did not want to think, was sent by God. Jung finally reasoned, that because he was not able to resist it and because it came to him unbidden, God must have meant him to think this thought. Once he had come to this conclusion and let the thought come, he found that the thinking of this terrible thought, did not lead him to utter condemnation,

it led him to grace.


Carl Jung, the adult, later said: “Whatever we repress or deny, happens to us outwardly as fate”. Jung was stating that the Psyche, the totality of all conscious and unconscious forces[4] that influence and control the personality and all of life, cannot be done away with. It can be resisted for a while, it can be ignored, it can be repressed or denied, but ultimately, it will have its way.


There is a critical difference between ‘repression’, ‘denial’ and not indulging or acting out something. For example, you may recognize that you have violent tendencies, but that does not mean that you act them out. You may find that you have sexual attraction for your neighbor’s wife. But that does not mean you need to have an affair. Recognition of wrong or evil does not mean that you must indulge it or express it as an action. But, it does mean that you recognize it and thus acknowledge the images, signs’ and qualities in yourself. It means that you acknowledge the 'sins' of your own life and your own desiring in ways that are often not socially acceptable. However, if you merely repress or deny your desires, pretending that they do not exist, then they become ‘something you do not know and do not want to know’ and then, Jung says, 'they happen to you outwardly as fate'.


The Cathedral of the Madeleine and the Misericords


In 1991, I was the owner of an architectural woodworking company in Sausalito, Ca. We were asked to build the interior architectural elements for the Roman Catholic, Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, Utah. The interior of the church was based on traditional Gothic architecture and filled with the highly carved, intricate and detailed motifs of Western European Medieval church architecture.

Cathedral of the Madeliene/ Bishops screen shown in apse

A cathedral is a cathedral not because of its large size, but, because it has a chair or seat (cathedra) for a bishop. This seat represents the special place for the teacher and holder of authority in the church. The largest single piece of architectural woodworking we were to construct was the Bishops Screen, which held the seat of the Bishop at its center. The 40ft long screen was to be placed in the apse of the cathedral, at the very ‘head’ of the church, under a huge, colorful painting of Christ that rose up into the ceiling behind the altar. On each side of the Bishops seat, were four chairs for the clergy to sit on.

Bishops Screen/ Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City

In Medieval times, the church was the tallest building in town and cathedrals were often larger than castles. Joseph Campbell pointed out, that the tallest building in a town, always represented the dominant theme of that culture and this was certainly the case for the cathedral in Medieval Europe. The everyday lives of the people were oriented around their church or cathedral. For the priests, most of their day was spent in ‘Divine Offices’ (matins, vespers, compline, etc.) and this was in addition to prayers and mass. During much of this time the clergy was standing. The constant standing of the priests was exhausting and eventually, they petitioned the Pope for permission to sit during some of the services.


The Pope denied their request as he considered it to be a form of laziness or sloth; one of the seven deadly sins. But he granted them a mercy (misericord). This misericord was a small ledge, usually held up by a supporting bracket that was built and carved into the bottom of each seat. It was not possible to comfortably sit on the misericord, but it did provide a temporary resting place, however, one that needed vigilance to use. If you fell asleep, you would slide out of it. Thus, any individual member of the clergy would be able to half-stand, half-sit on the small ledge by resting their rear end upon it. The misericord was found on the bottom of the very same seat used for sitting and it was exposed when the seat was folded up.

In the center, the seat is folded up, exposing the Misericord

Blue seats are folded down) on either side of Misericord

Misericord  on seat bottom at right (folded up in this picture)

When it came time for us to design, build and carve the misericords, like everywhere else in the project, we needed to employ the imagery traditionally used in that part of the church. Misericords first appeared in the 11th century and continued to be created for 400 years. At the time we needed to fabricate them, the internet[5] was not very developed and to find examples for the images, we had to turn to illustrative books. After much hunting around the bookstores of San Francisco, I found a few books on the misericords and quickly discovered that most of the images were the exact opposite of what I associated with the tradition of a Gothic or neo-Gothic Catholic church.

"The Gothic cathedral was a liber pauperum, literally a "book for the poor", covered with sculpture illustrating biblical stories, for the vast majority of parishioners who were illiterate. These were largely illustrated stories from the Bible, but also included stories and figures from mythology and more complicated symbols taken from medieval philosophical and scientific teachings such as alchemy."  - Wikipedia


We had already come across and incorporated a little known and yet widely represented image of traditional Gothic architecture; this was the face of the Green Man, a pre-Christian mythological image that appears in cultures throughout the world. Found in nearly every Gothic cathedral, he is often shown peering out through leafy foliage, sometimes with leaves and vines coming out of his mouth. In our project, we used his image on the tops or crown of the columns on either side of the Bishops chair.

Green Man/ Cathedral of the Madeleine

The Green Man is said to represent many things:

the ‘face of nature’, rebirth and the eternal renaissance of the green world.

His was the face of the spirit of the living world on which man depends for his food and life. Found in many cultures throughout the world, many scholars say he represents the pre-Christian ‘god’ of the natural world. In our research we found imagery of the Green man carved into misericords as well as many other architectural elements of Gothic and neo-Gothic cathedrals. The roots of growing green things poured from his mouth and he was always hidden behind foliage.

But now our research focused only on misericords, 

we were amazed at what we discovered.


We saw images of devils and dragons.

Devils head

Devil with horns

There were animals, apes, bears, foxes, elephants, snakes, clergy, priests, sinners and penitents. There were scenes of drinking, gambling, fighting and stealing.


We learned that animals symbolically demonstrated different character types

of people and their roles within the community, showing their own particular actions, moral dilemmas, psychology, transgressions, problems and dynamics.

We found everyday images of hunting, eating, working or praying.


Pig, Rooster and Crow in church

Man carrying lumber to build the church

Much of the imagery was of a ‘wilder’ variety.

There were devils playing chess games with monks.

There were two women sitting on either side of a bat-winged devil who embraces them both.

Pig faced, cloven-hoofed, bat-winged devil embracing two woman

There was a man exposing his genitals while two angels attempt to clothe him. There was Augustine, the church father, famous for his early life sexual escapades, on all fours, being ridden by a woman who is beating him on the back. (It is well-known that Augustine lusted after a young woman for years, before he was converted and he was well known for his famous prayer: "Please God, make me good, but not just yet"). Obviously, these images were reminders and symbols; but to what end? Could it have been of the power of women to distract or oppress men or like nearly every misericord we looked at, they were open to a wide variety of interpretations?

Augustine being ridden by a woman who is beating him

As we looked through the books we found the theme of women beating men

was a common one.

This was a world turned upside down.

There was naked pornography of men and women in various sexual poses

Man and woman in tub (defaced)

Naked man and woman with the Devil in between

There were images of the clergy engaging in sinful activities,

 both men and women spreading their legs and exhibiting their genitals

and even one of a man bending over and licking his own ass.

man bending over and licking his asshole

It was an exuberant and profane mummery of characters and acts. For me, these images and ideas not commonly not associated with the church or cathedrals. It was a vivid display of the profane (literally: pro-in front of, fanus- the temple) in the place of the sacred (the cathedral). It showed many ‘things that ‘we do not know and do not want to know’

and these were only some of what was represented.


A medieval cathedral, like temples all over the world, presents a microcosm of the whole universe (macrocosm). The universe is God, or Gods creation and all the different aspects of creation are represented within the cathedral as if in a grand picture book. There was inherent meaning and story attached to every detail. Nothing was random. For example, the foundation of almost every cathedral is laid out in alignment with the rising and setting of the sun. The apse and the altar are always aligned with the East which is the direction of the rising sun and the ‘coming of the Lord’. On very rare occasions there was a change in this alignment, for example, to allow light to shine on a particular saint on his feast day. This ‘alignment’ of the physical world and the church is a principle and practice extended to every aspect of the Cathedral (as well as temples all over the world). Of course, this same principle also extended to the misericords.


The question then arises, 'What is the meaning of this type of imagery? What place does it hold in Gods creation? What special consideration does it justify?' When I thought about it, it made some kind of sense; after all, what image should be carved where a priest would be putting his ass? Certainly, it would not be the image of a holy saint or the Virgin Mary- the mother of God. Some other part of God’s creation was surely needed.


All ancient cultures recognized, that in every aspect of life, each and every ‘thing’ always has its opposite. There is always a backside. Light can illuminate any object and when it does, that thing will always cast a shadow. This ‘shadow’ represents the ‘opposite’ of what exists. If the bright world of the cathedral is a world of good and ideal forms, then its shadow must be the reverse of this. This is the ‘mundus inversus,’ the world turned upside down. Many of the images of the misericords represented this.

I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world ... And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom.

- Oscar Wilde


Because we want to see the good things of life or present ourselves in a positive light, we sometimes turn a ‘blind eye’ to what is negative and dark. For whatever reason, the 'sight of the blind eye’ (what we do not know and do not want to know) was clearly represented in many of the misericords.


Although we had been given architectural drawings on the Bishops screen, there were no specifications on what to carve on the eight misericords. Confronted with such a wide range of possibilities and apprehensive about what type of images would be appropriate, we sent a letter along with the books and their pictures to the architectural firm in New York City that was running the job, as well as to the priest who represented the Catholic church in this project. About a week later, we received a reply from the church. The letter said they were, ‘surprised’ at the imagery displayed, but it was not suitable for the present work. They requested acanthus leaves to be carved on the misericords.

Acanthus leaf carvings

The Destruction of Images


During the Protestant Reformation that swept across Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries,

thousands of churches were raided and their images pulled down and destroyed.

Tearing down a statue of the Virgin Mary/ Holland

One of the reports of this destruction was recorded by a certain- William Dowsing, nicknamed ‘Smasher Dowsing’ for his zeal in destroying icons and images. He had been appointed by the English government to carry out the ‘purification’ of the Catholic churches.


“We brake down about a hundred superstitious pictures; and seven fryers hugging a nun; and the picture of God, and Christ; and divers others very superstitious. And 200 had been broke down afore I came. We took away 2 popish inscriptions with Ora pro nobis (a supplication to the saints to ‘Pray for us’) and we beat down a great stone cross on the top of the church”.

–William Dowsing, January 6, 1644


The English Protestants destroyed images because they did not believe that anything; art, icon, pope or priest should come between man and God. They felt it was wrong and sinful to approach God through such intermediary forms. Thousands of Catholic religious buildings suffered this iconoclastic fate. Along with the destruction of churches and monasteries, they destroyed statues and paintings of saints and the Virgin Mary (they thought images of Jesus to be the image of God and thus they were excluded). In addition, anything that suggested or displayed sexuality, literally or symbolically was destroyed. Sexual imagery was targeted, as it seemed to offer proof of the degradation of the church they were destroying. As a result, a great many misericords were defaced or destroyed during this period.

De-faced Misericord

This iconoclastic orgy swept Europe with the Reformation. It included the destruction of cathedrals, religious buildings and their images. It was not just the ‘burning of the crops’ often used as a punishment in war, it was an actual attempt to change the very way people thought, by restricting they way they could imagine, the way they pictured the world. It was an attempt to take away (suppress and/or deny) the imaged language that people used to describe their world. It was only because the seats hiding the misericords were kept down or sometimes even ‘fixed’ in closed positions that they survived at all.


Defacement of misericords also happened during the Victorian times, when expressions of sexuality were severely restrained. Whereas the Gothic world included imagery of sexuality in the misericords, the Protestants, Victorians and others of Puritanical views, sought to erase those images from the world of the Church, the world of man and the world of God.


The misericords displayed a cornucopia of imagery. They exhibited a world rich with symbols of animals and people, devils and exotic beasts; full of humor, irony, sarcasm, sexuality, hypocrisy, violence and beauty. All of these qualities were given a place in more ancient cathedrals, even if slightly hidden in the misericords. However, the modern day church that we were now dealing with, for one reason or another, chose not to give a place to such things. 

Of course, they may of had many good reasons for not using images of a traditional type. Perhaps, they did this because the style of the interior of the Cathedral of the Madeleine was Neo-Gothic as opposed to Gothic. Perhaps, they thought the images to be unnecessary and served no good purpose. Perhaps, they disagreed with having this type of image in a ‘modern day’ Cathedral. It doesn’t really matter. Any way we look at it, it is still a fact; There was no place for this type of image in this modern-day recreation of the world of God . . . the cathedral; and likewise no place for such imagery in the mind of man. Like the destruction of the images inflicted by the Protestants, in a modern-day Cathedral the choice of images that were selected to be or not to be there, can also be interpreted as meaningful and revealing signs themselves of a particular world-view.


Denial, Fate and the Return of the Repressed


Carl Jung once wrote:

“Whatever we repress or deny, happens to us outwardly as fate.” Jung said that the Psyche, the totality of all conscious and unconscious forces[6] that influence and control the personality and all of life, cannot be done away with. The Psyche may be resisted for a while, it can be ignored, it can be repressed or denied, but ultimately, it will have its way; it will happen to us outwardly as fate."


In the last few years of the 20th century, it was revealed that there had been a long history of sexual abuse taking place in the Catholic church and that the abuse had been hidden, covered over and denied (this has continued to be revealed into the 21st century). Finally, the truth broke through and was publicly exhibited in the news, paraded in front of the public like they used to do to ancient sinners. The church claimed ignorance of it at first, but then, as revelation after revelation poured out, there came a time when the phenomenon could no longer be denied . . . and so they confessed. It was revealed that there had been a pattern of denial that went far up into the shepherds of the flock and that denial had become institutionalized.


It has been front-page news on all of the major newspapers and national magazines. It happened in the United States as well as countries all over the world and it has been going on for a long time. Blame for hiding these sins has gone all the way up to the current Pope. The news organization- CNN even called it a ‘global crisis’. As stories of this abuse continued to come out, it became apparent, that while the vast majority of those in the church did not participate in the abuse, the reports of the victims had been purposefully and systematically covered up by the church. This cover-up had been so widespread that some have said the denial to have been the ‘unwritten policy of the church’ itself.


When the story broke it was as if a dam that had blocked the waters of life for a long time and now it had suddenly broken. I am not saying that because the profane images of the misericords were not allowed that this happened. I am suggesting that the lack of their representation are but another symptom of the denial of certain aspects of life and the pent-up waters of long-suppressed imagery, and their meaning were now pouring out of the suppressive world of the Church and flowing into the world,  carrying icons of the very images the church had long denied. Unlike what many of the clergy suggested, I do not think it was a matter of needing better screening of priests and more psychological counseling. Rather, I believe it is the ancient principle of the ‘return of the repressed’. 

What had begun as an attempt to suppress a particular imagery of life, the profane and particularly sexual profanity, was now happening ‘outwardly as fate’ to those who had denied and repressed it. When I first read about these acts and allegations, it reminded me of my own experience with building the interior of a  modern day Roman Catholic Church and their refusal to include any 'profane' imagery in their misericords. I now knew how sexual themes and the dark or shadow side of life used to appear in a Gothic cathedral, but were no longer represented in a modern one. I was amazed at seeing this living drama of the Psyche played out. 


According to Jung, if a desire or quality is not recognized as part of your own psyche, even if only in seed form, then it remains split off from the ego and becomes autonomous (self-governing). When any part of the psyche becomes autonomous, then it lives ‘out of touch’ with the moderating influence of the individual ego or person. Cut off from the rest of life, it lives out an archetypal story that has it’s own destiny or fate and which will ultimately bring the very thing once repressed to your consciousness at last, for reality cannot be repressed or denied. If a repressed or unconscious content comes to life autonomously, it will not be in a mature, integrated or moderated form. It will erupt; it will act out and dramatize and in one way or another and it will show itself

to the conscious mind. 


This certainly does not mean that we must act out everything that we imagine. But, it does mean that we can and must allow our imagination to at least picture it. If these pictures of our imagining are censored, repressed or denied, then the nature of life itself, the nature of the psyche will find a way to present or picture itself to us one way or another.


Perhaps, this is why the ancient Greeks considered the performance and witnessing of theatre as healing. Located directly beside the great healing centers of Aesclepion, Pergamom and many others, a stage or theater was always located and attended by those seeking healing. There a drama was presented which gave visual imagery to aspects of life that may have been repressed, denied or that tended to remain generally unconscious. 

The theatre exhibited life 'on a stage' and displayed archetypal themes and how the different actions of man and certain eternal themes interacted in the dramatic life of man. The Greeks knew that if something was acted out ritually, as it was in a religious ceremony or in theater, what would be destructive could be turned to healing. Subjects and topics were made conscious in the belief that although a man could not escape suffering, perhaps he could escape something that was even worse . . .  blind suffering. Man could only deal with what he knew about or recognized and the stage provided an opportunity where all things could be considered and recognized; in the bright lights of theatre lay hope and healing. 


"The good ended happily; the bad ended unhappily. That is what fiction means."

- Oscar Wilde

The theme of Tragedy was a foremost topic of consideration for the Greeks, for it dealt with the fundamental question of whether man was free in his actions or not. Everything of value, the life of every man and woman was contextualized by his answer to the question of who was responsible, the Gods or man.


The word, ‘profane’ comes from the Latin, ‘profanus’. It means, literally, in front of (pro), the temple-(fanus). That which is not sacred or holy is considered profane. That which is not allowed in the temple, is put outside or in front of it. The misericords seem to be a unique architectural gesture as they brought the profane into the temple. They could be said to represent a liminal space, placed within the sacred space of the cathedral, they offered a bridge of connection between the light and the dark. It seems to me that precisely in the misericords, placed within a cathedral, the sacred and the profane were imaged together.


It seems that for a while at least, the iconography of the church was more ‘whole' in its representations[7]. By, 'whole', I mean that the earlier profane images of the misericords were included in the cathedral and demonstrated the profane as well as the sacred. This was born of a conception of God that included good and evil, the sacred and the profane, the dark and the light. It was a world-view of life as we know it. It was not just a vision of angels and saints, but the ancient cathedral showed imagery of the 'profane' as well. Although the cathedral was the house of God, the ancient world of God in Gothic cathedrals included light and dark, good and bad.


Let me go back to the experience of Carl Jung, the boy in front of the Basel Cathedral. He was overwhelmed by a thought that he ‘must not think’. It tortured him day and night until he thought that it must be the 'will of God' that he think it through. He did and late in his life, he spoke about this experience to Barbara Hannah, his personal secretary. She wrote:


“He once told me that the experience of God and the Basel Cathedral had been the guiding line of his whole life. He realized then, once and for all, that God at times demands evil of us and that then, we must obey, whatever it costs us. To do evil-or good, either for that matter-lightly, without making the utmost efforts to ascertain the kairos, (the ‘right’ and decisive moment), is indeed purely destructive; but to do evil consciously and when it is asked by the Self, as Jung thought that blasphemous thought to the end, is purely creative.”





"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, 

but by making the darkness conscious."


       - C.G. Jung

The expression and repression that occurred in regards to the misericords is still going on today. In one sense, there is a dearth of imagery in our modern cathedrals. Like anything that has been repressed and/or denied, that imagery has returned. It now overwhelms the internet. Pornographic websites comprise over 12% of internet sites and are a staggeringly huge business in themselves[8]. Over 25% of search engine requests are for pornographic websites. Obviously, there is a massive desire to see things in the category: What ‘we do not know and do not want to know.’


The images symbolically represented in the early misericords of the Catholic church, once repressed, have returned. That which happened on backsides and in backrooms has surfaced on the front page of the daily news and flooded our society. We must ask ourselves, Should there be a place for such imagery? Where is that place? Is it healthy to allow access to the profane? What form should such access take? Who should be allowed to see or hear it? Should children be allowed? At what age should they? Is it necessary that the dark side of God, Man, Life and Reality 

be integrated into our lives?



In American culture, we find general sexual repression on the surface, while in actuality, most everyone is fascinated with sexuality and that fascination is huge. People were far more interested in whether Clinton lied about sex with Monica Lewinsky than whether George Bush lied and led us into war in Iraq. 


Playboy is criticized as pornographic, but, perhaps, it is one of the misericords of our society, the necessary, true and healing revelation of what is called profane; a real, valid, important part of God’s creation, once included in the imagery in Gothic cathedrals. Perhaps. we need to include this 'turd' in our own lives. Otherwise, what is happening in the Catholic Church, whatever we repress and do not want to know will fall upon us on its own, like the dark 'face' of God and we will find ourselves living it out as if driven by fate.


The story of the misericords is not just an intellectual topic of consideration. It speaks to the relationship between what is sacred and profane. It reflects the way we consider who or what God and creation is. Does God include violence, perversion, sexuality? Is Satan or the devil a distinct evil force, or does Satan represent the 'adversarial aspect of God' as in the Old Testament? Based on what we think and feel about these questions, our consideration of morality, war, marriage, divorce, abortion, violence, drugs, alcohol and business are weighed and evaluated. The story of the Misericords is about our vision of life and what we see when we look.


Next time you see God take a shit on his church, consider it well.

He might be trying to tell you something.


[1] Memories Dreams and Reflections, pg 242


[2] Memories Dreams and Reflections pg 56-57


[3] In 1979, I was offered a scholarship to Harvard in their East Asian graduate school program of Religious Studies. I visited the school to get a sense of what it was like. During  lunch, with some students in the Masters Program, I shared Jung’s story of God’s Turd falling on the church and shattering it asunder. After I told the story, there was little response from the students. Although they had not heard it before, stil, they were not struck with Jung’s experience. It did not resonate with them. It had not been their experience and they did not see its relationship to religious studies. To me, this was a sign of the general ‘air’ of the department and I turned down the scholarship.


[4] -Jung’s Collected Works 6, par.797


[5] For an extremely comprehensive look at pictures of misericords, go to:


[6] Jungs Collected Works 6, par.797


[7] Several Popes ordered all the genitalia of the various art and statues to be covered up. Often it was a fig leaf placed on a marble statue or the painting of fig leafs or foliage on the various art pieces. Originally, to the Greeks and early artists, nudity was a symbol of purity. After all, it was in the image of God that man was made. What was there to be ashamed of in that? But, such an attitude was not to endure:

Several of the Popes gave instructions that the genitalia of various artistic representations should be covered over. Pope Pius IX ordered that penises be cut off. from statues. Biagio da Cesena, the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, spat out  “it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully,” and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather “for the public baths and taverns,” and demanded it be removed.


Pope Paul IV, Pope Innocent X, Pope Clement X11, Pope Pius IX and the whole council of Trent in 1551 and others over a period of 450 years blocked out the genitals from the eyes of the world.


In Victorian museums, Egyptian erotic art, in both stone sculptures and paintings were placed in a locked room in the museum that one needed to register to go into and no women were allowed.


The Egyptian God Min, the God of Fertility in the British Museum had his large projecting penis, literally, removed from his sculpture. The Egyptian museum in Turin, Italy, placed a table in front of an erotic papyrus to block out the parts that were deemed offensive. –Above notes from Wikipedia


Bernini Beauties Stripped of Corsets -Washington Post Article


ROME - Restoration works in a Roman church have revealed two bare-breasted beauties designed by Bernini but hidden behind bronze "corsets" for more than 100 years, officials say.


The figures, representing truth and charity, were designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and sculpted with his assistants in the 1660s for the Baroque church of Sant'Isidoro, but later censored by religious leaders.


"The nudes were a bit too provocative for the Victorians, so they were covered with bronze corsets in 1863," Angela Negro, the director of restoration works at the church, told Reuters. "We decided to bare all," she said.


The striptease revealed two white marble figures squeezing their breasts seductively. "The surprise was that the original marble hadn't been damaged in any way," Negro said. "We have always seen these virtues covered and we were worried about what we would find underneath, but the nudes are in perfect condition."


The same was not true for a little marble cherub. After removing the loin cloth that had been added, restorers discovered his offending parts had been chipped off.


The works are part of a broader 50-million-euro restoration program at Sant'Isidoro that includes deep cleaning of the elaborate marble statues and paintings. 

*I would even suggest that the so-called violent films and games are poorly imaged. I am referring to the real results of violence- the horrendous pain and suffering. Many films and certainly video games for young people, lack an emotional impact on the viewer. The person who sees these things, instead of being disturbed by the viewing of violence, merely becomes desensitized. Violence is reduced to an idea.


[8] The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined, 2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion. –  Internet Pornography Statistics (

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