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Making the Unconscious Conscious

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jung: Week 2

Making the Unconscious Conscious
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. [1]

That is the meaning of divine service, of the service which man can render to God, that light may emerge from the darkness, that the Creator may become conscious of His creation, and man conscious of himself. [2] —C. G. Jung

Edward Edinger writes, “Our whole unconscious is in an uproar from the God who wants to know and to be known.” [3] To love is to be conscious, and to be fully conscious would mean you are capable of loving. Sin always proceeds from lack of consciousness. I don’t think most people are sinners; most people are just not aware and not fully living in their own present moment. When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34), he was absolutely right. Most people are on cruise control, and most of their reactions are habituated brain responses—not fully conscious choices.

We may have moments when we are conscious of our real motivations and actual goals, but it takes years of practice, honesty, and humility to be consistently awake. Whenever you do not love, you are at that moment unconscious. If you consistently choose to defend your state of separateness, then spiritually speaking, you are unconscious, or in religious language you are “in sin.” [4] As has often been said, “Unless you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will think of it as fate.”

We avoid reality and the depth of our own souls because big truths initially disturb the comfortable and small self. For example, all countries are special, not just mine; all religions are good, not just mine. By definition, the small self wants to be both separate and superior. But in fact, we suffer because we are not truly whole. Our life is then ruled by the invisible, unknown parts of our psyche.

Spiritual maturity is to become aware that we are not the persona (mask) we have been presenting to others. That is why saints are always humble and scoundrels are always arrogant. We must become intentional about recognizing and embracing our shadows. Religion’s word for this is quite simply forgiveness, which is pivotal and central on the path of transformation.

This can be painful as we realize that even when we thought we were loving, we often really weren’t. And when we thought we were bad and sinful, we often weren’t that either! Facing reality is also liberating because we recognize that our manufactured self-image is nothing substantial or lasting; it is just created out of our own mind, desire, and choice—and everyone else’s opinions of us! The movement to second-half-of-life wisdom requires serious shadow work and the emergence of healthy self-critical thinking—but without condemning or shaming that same self. That is the truly “narrow gate and hard road that few follow upon” (Matthew 7:14). [4]

There is no shortage of opportunities to discover your personal or corporate shadow. As Jung says, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” [6] Jung sees the forgiving (“integrating”) of our shadow self as an essential task of every life; it is a political, social, and spiritual task to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others. In the end, the face you turn toward yourself is the face you will turn toward the outer world.

Gateway to Silence:
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” —C. G. Jung

[1] C. G. Jung, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Vintage Books: 1989), 326.
[2] Ibid., 338.
[3] Edward F. Edinger, The Creation of Consciousness: Jung’s Myths for Modern Man (Inner City Books: 1995), 86.
[4] Adapted from Richard Rohr, unpublished “Rhine” talks (2015).
[5] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 129-130.
[6] Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 247.

Image credit: Charing Cross Bridge (detail), 1903, by Claude Monet (1840-1926), Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri, USA.
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