God Speaks

Meeting Christ Within Us

God Speaks
Monday, May 27, 2019

In a time when everything was being swept away, when “the whole world is becoming a giant concentration camp,” [Etty Hillesum] felt one must hold fast to what endures—the encounter with God at the depths of one’s own soul and in other people. —Robert Ellsberg [1]

To follow their own paths to wholeness, both Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875–1961) and Jewish Auschwitz victim Etty Hillesum (1914–1943) trusted in and hearkened to the voice of God in their deepest Selves. Many educated and sophisticated people are not willing to submit to indirect, subversive, and intuitive knowing, which is probably why they rely far too much on external law and behavior to achieve their spiritual purposes. They know nothing else that feels objective and solid. Intuitive truth, that inner whole-making instinct, just feels too much like our own thoughts and feelings, and most of us are not willing to call this “God,” even when that voice prompts us toward compassion instead of hatred, forgiveness instead of resentment, generosity instead of stinginess, bigness instead of pettiness.

But think about it: If the incarnation is true, then of course God speaks to us through our own thoughts! When accusers called Joan of Arc (1412–1431) the victim of her own imagination, she is frequently credited with this brilliant reply: “How else would God speak to me?”

The inner voice so honored by Hillesum and Jung is experienced as the deepest and usually hidden self, where most of us do not go. It truly does speak at a level “beneath” rational consciousness, a place where only the humble—or the trained—know how to go.

Late in his life, Jung wrote, “In my case Pilgrim’s Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.” [2] Jung, a supposed unbeliever, knew that any authentic God experience takes a lot of humble, honest, and patient seeking.

This is where embracing the Christ Mystery becomes utterly practical. Without the mediation of Christ, we will be tempted to overplay the distance and the distinction between God and humanity. But because of the incarnation, the supernatural is forever embedded in the natural, making the very distinction false. How good is that? This is why mystics like Hillesum, Jung, Augustine, Teresa of Ávila, Thomas Merton, and many others seem to equate the discovery of their own souls with the very discovery of God. It takes much of our life, much lived experience, to trust and allow such a process. But when it comes, it will feel like a calm and humble ability to quietly trust yourself and trust God at the same time. Isn’t that what we all want?

References:
[1] Robert Ellsberg, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1998, ©1997), 521.

[2] From a letter to a pupil (April 9, 1959). See C. G. Jung Letters, Vol. 1: 1906-1950, selected and edited by Gerhard Adler (Routledge: 2015, ©1973), 19, n. 8.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 85-87.

Image credit: Knot the One, by Karen Jacobs, 1993. Used with permission of the artist.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Christ’s soul and our soul are like an everlasting knot. The deeper we move in our own being, the closer we come to Christ. And the closer we come to Christ’s soul, the nearer we move to the heart of one another. —John Philip Newell, explaining the teachings of Julian of Norwich
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