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Center for Action and Contemplation
Carl Jung
Carl Jung

A Great Story

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Carl Jung

A Great Story
Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Father Richard continues to explore how archetypes connect us to the story of God and the universe.

The small self is intrinsically unhappy because it fundamentally lacks reality. To use a philosophical word, its nonbeing means it does not exist “ontologically.” It will thus always be insecure, afraid, and scrambling for significance. With no storyline, no integrating images that define who we are or direct our lives, we just won’t be happy. Carl Jung developed this idea for our generation of Western rationalists, who had thought that myth meant “not true”—when in fact the older meaning of myth is precisely “always and deeply true”!

Jung goes so far as to say that transformation only happens in the presence of story, myth, and image. A great story pulls us inside of a universal story; it lodges in the unconscious where it is inaccessible to the brutalities of our own mind or will, [1] as Thomas Merton observed. From that hidden place we are healed. For Christians, Jesus’ life is the archetypal map of Everyman and Everywoman: divine conception, ordinary life, betrayal, abandonment, rejection, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. It all comes full circle, as we return to where we started, though now transformed. Jung saw this basic pattern repeated in every human life. He called it the Christ Archetype, “an almost perfect map” of the whole journey of human transformation. Jung’s notion of an Archetype or Ruling Image can help us understand the “Universal Stand-In” that Jesus is and was meant to be.

A Great Story Line connects our little lives to the One Great Life, and even better, it forgives and uses the wounded and seemingly “unworthy” parts (1 Corinthians 12:22), which Jung would call the necessary “integration of the negative.” What a message! Like good art, a Cosmic Myth like the Gospel gives a sense of universal belonging and personal participation in Something/Someone much larger than ourselves.

We are finding it is nearly impossible to heal isolated individuals inside of a culture as unhealthy and unhealed as the USA, and inside any version of Christianity that supports exclusion and superiority. Individuals who remain inside of an incoherent and unsafe universe soon fall back into anger, fear, and narcissism. I sadly say this after 46 years of giving retreats, conferences, and initiation rites all over the world. Only people who went on to develop a contemplative mind could finally grow and benefit from the message that they heard.

In the most recent issue of Oneing, Father Richard honors those who make the full journey of integration. These are people who find their own smaller stories within God’s great story, what Richard calls “The Story”:

Those who truly live in The Story have embraced and integrated their personality, shadow, woundedness, family issues, culture, and contextualizing life experiences under The One. . . . This is a truly integral spirituality, a truly catholic worldview, and the unrecognized goal of all monotheistic religions. These, like Jesus, desire “nowhere to rest their head” except in the One and Universal Love. [2]

[1] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Doubleday and Company: 1966), 142.

[2] Richard Rohr, “Introduction,” “The Cosmic Egg: My Story, Our Story, Other Stories, The Story,” Oneing, vol. 9, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2021), 18.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, unpublished “Rhine” talk (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015).

Story from Our Community:
Carl Jung’s beliefs always resonate with me, even his yogic path. As a Westerner with reverence of Eastern philosophy, thank you for these meditations that lift my spirits, help me learn more (the more I learn the more I realize how little I know), and heal my heart a bit more each day. —Stephanie A.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Holding it Together (detail), 2016, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: How many ways can I express myself? People ask me “who is your work modeled after?” And they’re all self-portraits because the only story I can really tell is my own. And so they’re all about different journeys I’ve had in my life. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021
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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.