Selections from “Psychology and Religion” by Carl Jung

“God’s death, or his disappearance, is by no means only a Christian symbol. The search which follows the death is still repeated today after the death of a Dalai Lama, and in antiquity it was celebrated in the annual search for the Kore. Such a wide distribution argues in favor of the universal occurrence of this typical psychic process: the highest value, which gives life and meaning, has got lost. This is a typical experience that has been repeated many times, and its expression therefore occupies a central place in the Christian mystery. The death or loss must always repeat itself: Christ always dies, and always he is born; for the psychic life of the archetype is timeless in comparison with our individual time-boundness. According to what laws now one and now another aspect of the archetype enters into active manifestation, I do not know. I only know—and here I am expressing what countless other people know—that the present is a time of God’s death and disappearance. The myth says he was not to be found where his body was laid. ‘Body’ means the outward, visible form, the erstwhile but ephemeral setting for the highest value. The myth further says that the value rose again in a miraculous manner, transformed. It looks like a miracle, for, when a value disappears, it always seems to be lost irretrievably. So it is quite unexpected that it should come back. The three days’ descent into hell during death describes the sinking of the vanished value into the unconscious, where, by conquering the power of darkness, it establishes a new order, and then rises up to heaven again, that is, attains supreme clarity of consciousness. The fact that only a few people see the Risen One means that no small difficulties stand in the way of finding and recognizing the transformed value.”

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Selections from “Psychology and Religion” by Carl Jung

“The world is as it ever has been, but our consciousness undergoes peculiar changes. First, in remote times (which can still be observed among primitives living today), the main body of psychic life was apparently in human and in nonhuman Objects: it was projected, as we should say now. Consciousness can hardly exist in a state of complete projection. At most it would be a heap of emotions. Through the withdrawal of projections, conscious knowledge slowly developed. Science, curiously enough, began with the discovery of astronomical laws, and hence with the withdrawal, so to speak, of the most distant projections. This was the first stage in the despiritualization of the world. One step followed another: already in antiquity the gods were withdrawn from mountains and rivers, from trees and animals. Modern science has subtilized its projections to an almost unrecognizable degree, but our ordinary life still swarms with them. You can find them spread out in the newspapers, in books, rumors, and ordinary social gossip. All gaps in our actual knowledge are still filled out with projections. We are still so sure we know what other people think or what their true character is. We are convinced that certain people have all the bad qualities we do not know in ourselves or that they practice all those vices which could, of course, never be our own. We must still be exceedingly careful not to project our own shadows too shamelessly; we are still swamped with projected illusions. If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all these projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that ‘they’ do this or that, ‘they’ are wrong, and ‘they’ must be fought against. He lives in the ‘House of the Gathering.’ Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day. These problems are mostly so difficult because they are poisoned by mutual projections. How can anyone see straight when he does not even see himself and the darkness he unconsciously carries with him into all of his dealings?”

Note to Self: Ask Questions

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to ask questions.  At your best, you lean into life with a spirit of openness and inquiry.  You allow your discoveries to renew and revitalize you.  You ask questions and seek answers.  But sometimes you become afraid.  Questioning seems too risky.  Expectations, taboos, and possibilities of unfavourable reactions may deter you from asking questions that reach beneath the surface of things.  Somedays you simply cannot muster the confidence or curiosity to move beyond yourself.  Practice remaining curious by asking questions.  This will help keep you on your best path.

You don’t have to have all the answers either.  It’s all right to admit when you haven’t figured something out.  Any static set of ideas will never completely capture the extraordinary dynamics of life.  Don’t give into the temptation of accepting false certainties or safe conformities.  There is some measure of comfort and security to be found here.  But the price you pay for it is your freedom and intellectual integrity.  Instead of being satisfied with quick and easy answers, learn to live the most profound questions of life.  Hold them in your heart and mind.  Allow the questions to guide you, to challenge you, and to inspire you in your searchings.  See these questions as close companions on your journey.

Life’s greatest and most enriching mysteries cannot be solved in a lifetime.  Rather, such mysteries invite your consent and participation.

Note to Self: Face Your Fears

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to face your fears.  You know the signs when they come.  Your heart beats faster.  Your throat tightens.  Your awareness narrows.  You stumble over words.  Your body alerts you to your fears.  These experiences are very natural, very human.  They tell you that you are in the presence—physically or psychologically—of something unknown, unpredictable, something potentially threatening or chaotic.  I understand why you avoid facing your fears.  Confronting what you’re afraid of can be intensely uncomfortable and disruptive.  Encountering the unknown can challenge your sense of self and safety.  It can throw your whole world into disorder.  For you cannot fully know what you will find or how you will handle it until you do.  These risks may incline you to stay with what’s safe and comfortable and familiar.  But if make of habit of backing down from that which you’re afraid of, you will become more and more controlled by your fears.

How you relate to your fears will profoundly shape your life and your character.  Will you shrink away from forces of darkness and chaos?  Or will you rise to contend with whatever crosses your path?  Your greatest challenges lie within you.  Your innerworld is as rich and mysterious as your outerworld.  Microcosm mirrors macrocosm.  Deep in your soul is everything you most fear: your history, your future, your hurts, your shadows, your contradictions, your frailties, your mortality.  Every reality you would prefer to ignore is there, waiting secretly, though not inactively.  Insofar as you banish your fears from your awareness, they will unconsciously control you.  Facing and contending with them is one of your greatest challenges.  So make a habit of facing your fears as you notice them.  Be wise and discerning.  Start small and work you way up towards slaying the dragons.  Intentionally practicing this, day by day, will be one of the most transformative disciplines in your life.  Learning to befriend your fear will allow you to bravely lean into that which is unknown.

Note to Self: Tell the Truth

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to tell the truth.  You will always be able to come up with excuses or rationalizations for not telling the truth.  Sometimes you tell yourself someone else can’t handle knowing what you really think.  Sometimes you anticipate being honest would just be too difficult or disruptive.  Sometimes you assume you must be kind instead of being honest.  Whatever the reason, you decide it would be best to not be totally truthful.  But a truth you are afraid to admit, even to yourself, is sometimes you find excuses and rationalizations for twisting the truth because you are afraid of fully acknowledging your deepest thoughts, feelings, desires, and pains, let alone expressing them.  Or you are scared of how others may react, of the possible consequences and costs, if you genuinely strive to live truthfully.  So you choose to subtly posture and pretend, to go along just to get along instead.

I understand why you do this.  I know you have many reasons.  One reason is being truthful sometimes involves facing your vulnerabilities, hurts, and weaknesses.  This can be painful.  You would prefer to ignore some parts of yourself, instead of facing and embracing them.  But as long as you refuse to accept all of yourself, you will prevent your own healing and growth.  Your shadow will always follow you, whether you choose to pay attention to it or not.  Remember, becoming whole does not require becoming perfect.  Becoming whole requires embracing every part of yourself, including your wounds and imperfections.  If you want to be whole, you will need to make a habit of being truthful with yourself, even when it hurts.

Striving to speak and live truthfully does not means you will always get it right.  You will make mistakes and get things wrong.  So listen to others and encourage them to be truthful with you.  Give yourself permission to change your mind.  Untangling whatever illusions you have created within yourself and your relationships will be challenging.  It will be a lifelong process.  If you’ve made a habit of bending or withholding the truth, from yourself or others, and for whatever reasons or intentions, it will take time and practice to develop new habits.  Telling the truth is a skill, a virtue.  It requires practice.

As you strive to be truthful, strive to be kind, sensitive, and gentle as well, first with yourself and then with others.  Even though it can be difficult, it is possible to do all these things simultaneously—you don’t have to choose.  Keep your priorities balanced and seek the truth to the best of your ability.  For the truth will set you free.

Note to Self: Pay Attention

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to pay attention.  Sometimes you get preoccupied with problems or fears or envious desires that distract and pull you apart.  Sometimes you live in your imagination because the present moment seems too dull or unimportant.  Pay attention to these tendencies without becoming lost in them.  Look and listen.  But also attend to what else life presents.  Try noticing before evaluating. Your prejudices distort how things appear to you.  You will be able to judge more wisely if you try simply noticing first.

Life is rich with beauty and wonder, if you pause to notice.  You tend to assume familiarity, with yourself, with others, with your surroundings.  This attitude can subtly breed boredom and even contempt.  You begin wanting to be somewhere other than wherever you are, here and now.  Instead, open your eyes and heart to mystery.  Attend to your life with presence and awareness.  For “if the doors of your perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is—Infinite.”

Selections from “Images & Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism” by Mircea Eliade

“Symbolic thinking is not the exclusive privilege of the child, of the poet or of the unbalanced mind: it is consubstantial with human existence, it comes before language and discursive reasoning.  The symbol reveals certain aspects of reality—the deepest aspects—which defy any other means of knowledge.  Images, symbols and myths are not irresponsible creations of the psyche; they respond to a need and fulfill a function, that of bringing to light the most hidden modalities of being…

Images by their very structure are multivalent.  If the mind makes use of images to grasp the ultimate reality of things, it is just because reality manifests itself in contradictory ways and therefore cannot be expressed in concepts…  It is therefore the image as such, as a whole bundle of meanings, that is true, and not any one of its meanings, nor one alone of its many frames of reference.  To translate an image into a concrete terminology by restricting it to any one of its frames of reference is to do worse than mutilate it—it is to annihilate, to annul it as an instrument of cognition…

Symbols never disappear from the reality of the psyche.  The aspect of them may change, but their function remains the same; one has to only look behind their latest masks…  Modern man is swarming with half-forgotten myths, decaying hierophanies and secularized symbols.  The progressive de-sacralisation of modern man has altered the content of his spiritual life without breaking the matrices of his imagination: a quality of mythical litter still lingers in the ill-controlled zones of the mind…

These degraded images present to us the only possible point of departure for the spiritual renewal of modern man.  It is of the greatest importance, we believe, to rediscover a whole mythology, if not a theology, still concealed in the most ordinary, everyday life of contemporary man; it will depend upon himself whether he can work his way back to the source and rediscover the profound meanings of all these faded images and damaged myths…  It depends, as we said, upon modern man—to “reawaken” the inestimable treasure of images that he bears within him; and to reawaken the images so as to contemplate them in their pristine purity and assimilate their message…

Symbols and myths comes from such depths: they are part and parcel of the human being, and it is impossible that they should not be found again in any and every existential situation of man in the Cosmos.”