“IN SEARCH OF MATURITY” – by Fritz Kunkel, M.D.


The author of this book, dealing with religion, psychology and growth, came to this country from Germany about the time of Hitler’s ascension to power. He was a professor at the Berlin University. He is now a professor of psychology at Columbia University.

While he has written several books on psychology, in this book is the first attempt to present the whole problem systematically.

Dr. Kunkel is the founder of the psychological system called We–Psychology and its essence is We–Experience, by which the author mean’s one’s humanity toward one’s fellowmen. Here the author draws a sharp distinction between his beliefs and those of the humanitarians. We–Psychology is an outgrowth of Depth–Psychology, C. G. Jung being one of its founders.

The author condemns all non-religious psychologism as being largely worthless, “because it does not admit man’s futile and dangerous position caused by our negative relationship to God.”

Dr. Kunkel accuses the church of ignoring psychological development, thereby cutting itself off too much from practical everyday life to help people with their problems. According to his opinion, the church, forced to reject most psychologism because of its irreligious base, should have developed its own psychological system. The author might have mentioned the fact that if Christians lived closer to God, they would have no need of psychotherapy.

In this book the author attempts to accomplish the above mentioned system and calls his We–Psychology a “theo-centric” psychology, the New Testament one of its main sources and Jesus its central point of orientation.

The Scriptural quotations are from the Moffat Bible; a new translation. Speaking from the psychological viewpoint, he describes the New Testament as “the only book revealing to us the full description of the human situation and of the way leading through all troubles and frustrations and finally to utmost light.”

In his psychological approach to religion, which he stresses as the fundamental need of man, he uses terms and expressions which true believers can readily translate into ones more familiar to them. To give a few:

“Anxiety is the expression of the distance between God and man.” (Divorced from God).

“Hatred, fear and lack of love in one’s generation produces the same attitudes in the next.” (Original Sin).

“We have to pay the debts of our parents, our century and our whole race. . . . and so back to Adam’s fall.” (Original Guilt).

“Theology has always explained the world by God, the creature by the creator.” (God First).

In a book of this kind, only the salient points can be touched upon; as for instance his description of conversation, which in this particular instance (page 8), he calls the clarification process. “It begins with the decision not to fight against our vices, not to run away from them, nor conceal them, but to bring them to light, and this confession enables us to confess.

Confession: Here is stressed the need of bringing into the open and confessing those sins in our consciousness, which we are more readily inclined to confess than those which he calls our unconscious and repressed desires and tendencies to hide and bury into the Unconscious. In relation to this, Dr. Kunkel quotes Matthew 23:27, Moffaat. “You are like tombs white-washed: they look comely on the outside, but inside they are full of dead man’s bones and all manner of impurity.” The author also states that he regards Jesus as “the greatest psychologist of all times.”

In his discussion on the “Self” he states: “the human Self’s imperative need is to search out the will of God and is not only human love and brotherhood; it is the creativity of the Creator working through individuals. “He who really finds himself, finds God.” And he may say as St. Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me.” (page 76).

In this sense our true Self is the final goal of our religious development. “But we are inclined to deny and repress our real Self and set up an insincere mask which overlays the real Self.” (page 79). He calls this the Ego which makes us egocentric and selfish. Using religious terms, we would say we turn our backs upon the Lord and go everyone his own way.

The purpose of the author is to show how we must educate ourselves back to a true relationship to God, our real Center. This, he says, is accomplished through Grace from above and the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14) also called the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). He seems to be sincere in his belief that man is burdened by sin and guilt and can only through grace from above, as he calls it, accompanied by much suffering and soul searching, with faith, hope, and love in our hearts, come to repentance through a whole hearted and complete confession.

In the last chapter the author, through diagrams, illustrates the “psychological facts” described in the foregoing chapters. They are rather interesting and illuminating. These “psychological facts” are the author’s or as he interprets them. Naturally we do not have to accept them as the last word on psychology. In reading this book one gets the impression that Dr. Kunkel has studied the Bible, theology, and various religious literature rather thoroughly.

The writer does not, in his psychological approach to religion, touch upon election, reprobation, the diety of Christ, or the sovereign grace and will of God; leaving his readers in the dark as to what his stand is on these important doctrines. The writer is convinced that most psychologists and laymen will consider his book sheer folly and will find not the slightest meaning in it. He states this book to be of use only to believers and seekers. He is modern in his conception of creation and believes in evolution, also that there is a second chance after death. These contentions he cannot and of course does not prove.

He describes the way of salvation from man’s point of view, seeing it through the eyes of his psychological convictions, something which is unavoidable in this type of book.

To a reader conversant with our reformed doctrines it is immediately apparent that there is a strong tide of Arminianism running throughout the book.

In conclusion, the writer of this review is of the opinion that there is much of value and interest in this book and is well worth reading. A Christian reader will not forget that “In Search of Maturity” is man’s work and with Holy Writ as the touchstone may find much interesting material within its covers.

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