The spiritual journey that is Jung’s endeavor requires more than thought or feeling or intuition or practice, for these habits of mind cannot unaided sustain the necessary effort against the forces of indolence and despair that the journey inevitably provokes. It is the heart that sustains in the darkness.
Jung is well aware of the Buddhist, the Daoist, the native Shaman, but everywhere he is faced with the failure of European (and American) Christianity. He pursues the ongoing revelation the orthodox seek to abandon. How shall we deal with Christianity’s neglected problems — the supposedly irreconcilable opposites in human nature, the soulfulness of matter, the undervalued and maligned feminine in us all?
“In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.”
— C. G. Jung, 1934
The Unreconciled Opposites
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us, according to Jung, to a better understanding of ourselves. We are able to recognize our unhappy, reprobate selves first in others. Happily, being exposed through the bright light of awareness, we have the opportunity of addressing the ‘terrorists that threaten our way of life’ for they live in ourselves as surely as in others. We are not merely separate individuals; we participate in a shared humanity. “We make our own epoch.”
Donning the white coat of religiously sanctioned purity only perpetuates division within and without. Blaming some Satan for ordinary evil behavior shirks responsibility at the expense of our young men and women trapped on the battlefield where personal ignorance and hubris first deployed them.
“In our time, when such threatening forces of cleavage are at work, splitting peoples, individuals, and atoms, it is doubly necessary that those which unite and hold together should become effective; for life is founded on the harmonious interplay of masculine and feminine forces, within the individual human being as well as without. Bringing these opposites into union is one of the most important tasks of present-day psychotherapy.”
— Emma Jung, 1955
The Soulfulness of Matter
Supposedly ‘dead matter’ has an awfully nasty habit of biting us from behind. Super high tech aircraft shake themselves into oblivion after hundreds of hours of over-deployment in murderous occupation. The ordinary paring knife slips to the detriment of the already agitated cook’s finger. A polluted earth chokes and howls in dumb reaction to human misperception. That which grows lives as surely as we who tread upon it. There is a reason for the neglected garden’s failure to produce fruit.
Perhaps there is something to be learned from the so-called primitive’s deference toward nature, the prayer for forgiveness before the slaughter. It is not ‘superstitious’ Native American exploitation of resources that is creating a dustbowl in our West or changing weather patterns all over the earth.
The Rejected Feminine
Here it may be objected that at least within Roman Catholic Christianity the feminine has not been banished to the world of crybabies. But see how emasculated is this virgin mother of us all! The harmonious interplay of masculine and feminine that Emma Jung so urgently extols can surely not exist apart from equal respect and justice.
Carl Justav Jung
Swiss psychologist (1875 - 1961)