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The True Self

Monday, October 5, 2015

Jung: Week 1

The True Self
Monday, October 5, 2015

For Jung, the God archetype is the whole-making function of the soul. It’s that part of you that always wants more. I don’t mean more in the greedy sense; I mean more in the spiritual sense. It is the inner energy within the soul of all things, saying, “Become who you are. Become all that you are. There is still more of you—more to be discovered, forgiven, and loved.” Jungian analytical psychology calls such growth and becoming “individuation,” which I like to think of as moving toward the life wish instead of the death wish (the Biblical word for the death wish was “sin”). The life wish teaches you not to fragment, not to splinter, and not to split, but to integrate and learn from everything; whereas the ego always moves toward constriction and separation or “sin.” In the end, the God archetype is quite simply love at work driving you toward every greater embrace and ever deeper union.

In the journey toward psychic wholeness, Jung stresses the necessary role of religion or the God archetype in integrating the opposites, including the conscious and the unconscious, the One and the many, good (by embracing it) and evil (by forgiving it), masculine and feminine, the small self and the Big Self. By “Self” with a capital “S,” Jung means the deepest center of the psyche/soul that is in union with the Divine. I would call it the True Self, the Christ Self, or if you prefer, the Buddha Self, which has learned to consciously abide in union with the Presence within us (John 14:17b). [1] Teresa of Ávila would describe this fully enlightened Self as the seventh, most interior mansion of your soul where God has chosen to dwell with “great delight.” [2]

Jung’s evidence for this Self is found in constantly recurring symbols of centering, integrating, and whole-making, frequently symbolized by the mandala shape so often found in dreams and art—a visual way of saying “everything belongs,” a boundary meant to bring things in rather than keep things out. The almond shape of a mandala is a combination of a square and a circle, which of itself, probably unconsciously, invites us into “impossibility” and inclusivity. For Catholics who might think this is New Age silliness, I ask you to picture the “Miraculous Medal,” the Sacred Heart badge, the image of Guadalupe, and the halos painted around saints’ heads, which are all mandalas. The artists seemed to intuit that there is a unified field in which we live, and that gives the soul great peace. In Jung’s words:

The decisive question for [every human] is: Is he [or she] related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of . . . life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. Then we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a [person] lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he [/she] has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his [/her] life. He [/she] feels limited because he [/she] has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted. In our relationships to [others], too, the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness [emphasis mine] is expressed in the relationship.

The feeling for the infinite, however, can be attained only if we are bounded to the utmost. The greatest limitation for [humans] is the [small] “self”; it is manifested in the experience: “I am only that!” Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious. In such awareness we experience ourselves concurrently as limited and eternal, as both the one and the other. In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination—that is, ultimately limited—we possess also the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite. But only then! [3]

What an utter paradox! If this sounds like Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous (realizing my own powerlessness), it is. Jung’s wisdom deeply influenced Bill Wilson and the early Recovery Movement, which we’ll explore later this year.

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

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, unpublished “Rhine” talks (2015).
[2] Teresa of Ávila, translated by Mirabai Starr, The Interior Castle (Riverhead Books: 2004), 35.
[3] C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Vintage Books: 1963), 325.

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