Here’s a spiritual truth I’ve learned through personal experience. Without self-knowledge, all the offerings of organized religion — group worship, teachings, scriptures, retreats, sacraments, guidance from helpful religious professionals — and all the correct beliefs, good intentions and divine interventions we can experience are not enough to transform us into spiritually mature beings. Why? Because there is no such thing as spiritual maturity without psychological awareness! You can no more separate your spiritual self from the rest of your psyche than you can separate your right brain from your left and still be a whole, balanced human being.
In A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield tells the story of how he spent 10 years, many of them as a Buddhist monk, in systematic spiritual practices conducted primarily through his mind. Having had visions, revelations, and many deep awakenings and new understandings, this holy man returned to the United States to work and continue his studies in graduate school. To his surprise, he discovered that his years of meditation had helped him very little with his feelings or human relationships. In his words,
“I was still emotionally immature, acting out the same painful patterns of blame and fear, acceptance and rejection that I had before my Buddhist training; only the horror now was that I was beginning to see these patterns more clearly. I could do loving-kindness meditations for a thousand beings elsewhere but had terrible trouble relating intimately to one person here and now. I had used the strength of my mind in meditation to suppress painful feelings, and all too often I didn’t even recognize that I was angry, sad, grieving, or frustrated until a long time later. The roots of my unhappiness in relationships had not been examined, I had very few skills for dealing with my feelings or for engaging on an emotional level or for living wisely with my friends and loved ones.”
Many of us have known spiritually-oriented people who think very well of themselves yet are arrogant, mean-spirited, impatient, intolerant, critical or unloving. This common phenomenon is partly why Freud was so critical of religion. He must have asked himself many times how people who professed to love God could be so hateful to their families and neighbors; how such lofty ideals could co-exist with such lousy relationships. In the face of this perceived hypocrisy he dismissed humanity’s spiritual nature and focused on understanding the sexual instinct, the repression of which he believed to be the true source of our problems.
It would take Freud’s maverick mentee, Carl Jung, to discover the fundamental reality of our spiritual natures and understand that they cannot be fully activated and empowered unless we take our inner lives seriously and commit ourselves to owning and integrating our disowned qualities — instincts, emotions, hidden motivations, archetypal inheritance, everything. Jung had learned for himself that neither psychological nor spiritual dogma can heal our souls and transform us into spirit persons: only consciousness can do that.
Jung died 50 years ago this month. To celebrate this spiritual and psychological pioneer whose work made all the difference in my life, I’d like to recommend two sites to anyone interested in learning more. For information about how you can start a Centerpoint study group write to: email@example.com. For a list of Jungian books you can use to begin your own program of study, check out Inner City Books. I’m pretty sure you’ll never regret it.
Ego and God-Image: Part VII
Intellectually the Self is no more than a psychological concept, a construct that serves to express an unknowable essence which we cannot grasp as such,
Another thought-provoking post. I particularly relate to “lofty ideals co-existing with lousy relationships.” As a child growing up I would encounter many very “religous” people who were mean and unlikeable, wore their religion on their sleeve and displayed both arrogance and self-righteousness. This was a recurring model in the Catholic Church…believe all our teachings or you will perish in hell. The fire and brimstone Protestant preachers were no different. I believe you can be a good person without belonging to a church or religious organization and you can have a personal relationship with God without being a hypocrite. It took the first twenty years of my life to figure that out and I think I did it faster than most. Each of us has an inner self, inspired by our Creator…but it’s our own responsibility to develop it to achieve happiness through sustained personal relationships throughout our time on earth.
Thanks for sharing , Jean…great way to start the day!
I had the same experience growing up as a Protestant. Although I had some positive models, for the most part it seemed like the people who were more religious were more intolerant. It took me much longer to become conscious of that than you. I think that may be because I had a very strong spiritual inclination and kept hoping I was wrong; I couldn’t imagine what to do with my spirituality outside of organized religion!!
Thanks for writing. Happy summer solstice!
My best, Jeanie
Jean Benedict Raffa, Ed.D. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: http://jeanraffa.wordpress.com/ Web: http://www.jeanraffa.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeanraffa
This is excellent, concise sharing. I find all of your blogs to bring a deeper level of insight, but this one especially resonates w/ my experience.
Many thanks for your ‘being.’
Thank you for your ‘being’ too. I am honored to know that someone as psychologically aware as yourself finds my posts helpful and meaningful! My blessings to you and all my friends at the Jung Society of Sarasota!
Another enlightening post, Jeanie. I was ready to write “Another thought provoking post,” but I see Jack stole my thunder. If I’ve learned anything traveling the continuum of life it is we must be committed to,as you say, “owning and integrating…everything.” I often think about the disconnect between spiritual maturity and psychological awareness, while seeking to heal past wounds. I seek the connectedness of each in order to peacefully co-exist with others as well as understand myself. “Nosce te ipsum.”
Thank you, Charlie. It looks like we’re both traveling on the same path of connecting and integrating: the path of “Know Thyself” …(for which you, my spartypants friend, knew the Latin translation!! I wasn’t positive so had to google it! I only had one year of Latin.) Another thing we have in common is that we both tend to acquire self-knowledge via our writing. I do believe this is an extremely valuable psycho-spiritual mind-training practice. Not only does it help us know ourselves, but it helps others as well insofar as we share a bit of what we learn. I can’t wait for your book to come out. Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks for your honest self-revelations, Jean. I so agree about the importance of psychological awareness. As I come to know, accept, discipline and love ever more of my whole self; light and darkness, all things worthy…but not necessarily easy or culturally validated… seem to arise from this.
I’ve come to experience and name this process as the liberation/transformation my inner Lilith/Black Madonna/ enraged, suppressed and repressed Eros, toward manifestation of ever more wisdom as the Inner Marriage is consummated through my growing consciousness. I’ve been reading The Moonlit Path; Reflections on the Dark Feminine, by Fred Gustafson, who wrote The Black Madonna.
I started my Jungian studies in the early 80’s with several key works by women: Journey Toward Wholeness ; A Jungian Model of Adult Spiritual Growth by Helen Thompson, B.V.M. and Growth Through Meditation and Journal Writing; a Jungian Perspective on Christian Spirituality, by Maria L. Santa Maria. I’ve continued with works, such as yours, into the 90’s along with the writings of Christian mystics and mystics of other traditions such as the Buddha and then works from the Jungian oriented Bible Work Bench and Centerpoint materials and the works of Marion Woodman, Janet Dallett, (The Not Yet Transformed God) who was more of a rebel in the Jungian community, and John P. Dourley’s, A Strategy For A Loss of Faith. Most recently I’ve been appreciating the book, Spiritual Direction; Beyond the Beginning, by Janet K. Ruffing. R.S.M. As well as Divine Madness by John Haule Both emphasize expressing our desires as basis for exploring deeper wholeness.
I’ve also been contemplating again Jesus’ Beatitudes and the importance of the humility/softening of ego in service to soul that the psychological journey coupled with spiritual practice and grace leads me to toward in my desire for consciousness and completion.
And no, I’ll never regret this intensely personal, passionate and crucifying desire for wholeness.
Thank you for the inspiration to write, Jean.
Beautifully expressed, Julie.
Beautifully expressed, indeed, Julie. Thank you for sharing your story. I love it that although we are both on the same journey, we have each found different names for our repressed femininity and different ways of expressing it on our way to the Inner Marriage. This is what the inner spiritual journey is all about: each individual finding his/her own voice, symbols, myths, and meaning as we approach and circumambulate the Sacred Self within.
There are many similarities in our experiences, inspirations and mentors: Centerpoint, Marion Woodman, Janet O. Dallett, the Bible. I especially appreciate your sharing of the books and writers who were so helpful to you. I know many people who read this blog are grateful for your suggestions. I haven’t read Spiritual Direction or Divine Madness and will order both. Thank you for the recommendations. And thank you for writing.
” This is what the inner spiritual journey is all about: each individual finding his/her own voice, symbols, myths, and meaning as we approach and circumambulate the Sacred Self within.”
Yes, and with gratitude for the variety of psycho-spiritual “maps” for human development that are spring boards and guides our journey to Wholeness and Love.