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A Different Kind of Mystic

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Jung: Week 1

A Different Kind of Mystic
Sunday, October 4, 2015
(Feast of Saint Francis)

This week and next I will explore how Swiss psychotherapist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) has contributed to my wisdom lineage. Some people do not like the fact that I quote Jung at all. I don’t agree with every word he’s ever written, but he gives us more than enough wisdom to trust him. I must admit that Jung has had much influence on me. I first read his work when I was in college, and again and again he would offer concepts that I knew were true. At the time, I didn’t have the education to intellectually justify it; I just knew intuitively that he was largely right. Jung brought together de facto theology with very good psychology. He surely is no enemy of religion, as some imagine. When asked at the end of his life if he “believed” in God, Jung said, “I could not say I believe. I know! I have had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God.” I’m convinced he was a mystic because he insisted on actual inner experience of outer dogmas and doctrines, and that’s what mystics always emphasize. [1]

Depth psychology, which in some respects is a modern secular version of traditional spirituality and deals with many of the same issues, tells us that our lives are guided by subconscious, ruling images which Jung calls archetypes—such as the father, the mother, the eternal child, the hero, the virgin, the wise old man, the magician, the trickster, the devil, and the God image. Jung claims that some of these archetypes are found all over the world. They just keep recurring in different ways and utterly fascinate the soul. Thus he said they are part of “the collective unconscious,” which is another of his key ideas. These fundamental patterns show up in dreams and behavior in every culture, and they appear in symbols and stories that go as far back in time as we can go. [2] Hence, they actually create the perennial tradition, and are especially communicated in myth, religion, and art—all of which the overly rational mind dismisses as unimportant.

In our Living School, we are teaching the perennial tradition, which in effect was affirmed by many of the broad minded documents of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. [3] The perennial tradition teaches us to recognize and honor the revelation of God in all the world traditions and peoples. It emphasizes the recurring themes in all of the world’s religions and philosophies that each say in their own way [4]:

There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things.
There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality.
The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality. [4]

Carl Jung simply calls this the inner God archetype, the “whole-making instinct” which drives and stirs every soul to become what it is, and become all that it is. Only the words and symbols are different.  Christians would call this whole-making instinct the indwelling Holy Spirit “who teaches you all things and reminds you of all things” (John 14:26). We will develop this more tomorrow.

Gateway to Silence:
God-in-me sees God.

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Lineage” audio recordings, cac.org/living-school/program-details/lineage-and-themes/ (Center for Action and Contemplation).
[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2005), 137.
[3] See especially Nostra Aetate, 1-2, Optatam Totius, 15, Documents of the II Vatican Council (1962-1965).
[4] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, Vol. 1 No. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 5, 11.

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