A Path With Heart


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.

The work of this spiritual and psychological pioneer has made all the difference in my life. For a list of Jungian books you can use to begin your own program of study, check out Inner City BooksChiron Publications, Shambhala Publications, and Spring Journal and Books.

I also encourage you to check out my books, listed below. They’re all about what I’ve learned about myself and the human psyche through Jungian psychology. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you read them in chronological order, beginning with The Bridge to Wholeness, then Dream Theatres of the Soul, then Healing the Sacred Divide. The above quote, “…there is no such thing as spiritual maturity without psychological awareness,” comes from the latter book.

For me, writing is both a psychological and a spiritual practice, and I’ve grown a great deal during and in between the writing of each of my books. I’m especially excited about what I’ve learned about archetypes since my last book. The Soul’s Twins: Emancipate Your Feminine and Masculine Archetypes is particularly relevant to the gender issues our world struggles with today. Look for it from Schiffer Publications next year.

Stay conscious.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

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15 Responses

  1. Agreed … “spiritual maturity needs psychological awareness” and I would say the reverse is also true. Holism is key. The protagonist in my latest novel is talking to a young woman about their community and says:
    “Yes. It is belief in the sacred — that all life, the entire universe is divinely infused and inspired — that best guides our human intellect for the good of all,” Maggie said. “A wise man once said that, ‘the weakness of the human intellect, in its present state, is such, that without the aid of faith what to many would seem to be clearly demonstrated would to others be exceedingly dubious …’ I think that’s an accurate quote. And I would agree. To me it means that humans clearly need spirituality as well as reason to create good in the world. Our founding mothers agreed as well, even if their spirituality was manifest in different ways. Without wonder, mysticism, magic, and faith — the sacred in a total package — we are left with the dry dust of capitalism, consumerism, materialism, and reductionism; we are left with an anthropocentric arrogance that is gradually destroying our bountiful mother earth.”
    Maggie’s quote is one I unearthed from a book titled “Spirit of Medieval Philosophy”.

    1. Agreed!
      In my opinion, this is Wisdom, with a capital W. One-sided opinions just don’t give us the whole picture or lead us to healing solutions. You can’t dismiss your spiritual nature in the name of Reason and have the kind of cosmic perspective on life that is at the heart of Love. And without love, you only have all the things you mention above, summarized in your term “anthropocentric arrogance that is gradually destroying our bountiful mother earth.”
      Thank you. Well said.
      I wish you the very best with your latest novel, Darla. It’s always lovely to hear from you. 🙂

      1. Thank you. I so look forward to each of your posts – have missed them tremendously even though I know you’ve been busy completing your book which I’m eager to explore when it is released and am positive it will be marvelous as were your others. Blessings!

    1. Thank you, Diane.
      You and I are two of a kind in this regard. I think we both have had a huge hunger to understand and express our spiritual and psychological natures. Even when they seemed to be in conflict. And neither of us has been able to settle for developing one side of our inborn potential while neglecting the other. Being open to seemingly conflicting opposites is just what we felt compelled to develop. And the woundedness that so many suffer in youth, plus the pressure to conform to family and societal expectations, makes it much harder to find that middle space of acceptance and understanding no matter what you were born with.
      So I guess all we or anyone can do is try our best to see our wounds and share what we have learned about healing ourselves. Maybe if everyone did that, our species would be a lot farther along in our evolutionary growth toward consciousness than we are at this point in time. We all have so much to learn from and teach each other.
      Every life is a long and difficult journey…..may we stay open and conscious,

  2. Thank you Jeannie, Jack Kornfield expresses it so well … knowledge is good yet experience of the knowledge is what matters. I read something today, forget its source, just a brief something, about matter being in mind and then later from somewhere else another something about mind being in matter.
    Yes, my discovery of Jung – all I can say is, thanks heavens! I remember writing an assignment a lonnnnng time ago comparing Jung & Freud. That wasn’t my first exposure to Jung. The South African Ass of Jungian Analysts in Cape Town was already fairly newly set-up and Johannesburg set up its own ‘branch’ whereby we had visiting analysts from Cape Town and abroad. It was not a training ground for analysts as Cape Town was and is. We had our own library and meetings though, dream workshops and other .. Rich indeed and of course, Jung is a life long ‘study’ .. as is one’s own life when integrating the opposites and transcending them, paying attention to dreams …

    1. Thanks, Susan. Yes, this journey has no end. There’s no place where you arrive and then live happily ever after. It’s a process of facing conflicts, integrating, transcending, paying attention to the next conflict, integrating, transcending….just trying to stay as balanced and conscious as we can while moving inexorably into the unknown, making the best choices we can, never knowing for sure if they’re right or not, and trying to love ourselves and others in the process.
      What a Mystery. And I agree with Aladin….a divine path and a divine mystery.

  3. Thanks for laying out this essential point. I’m forever grateful that my first spiritual philosophy teacher quickly grasped that his hippie students needed a psychological language so they could develop psychologically while meditating and studying. He chose Jung and astrology, although others were woven in. Both guide my daily guides and still are. So, after almost 50 years of this inner work, the Shadow still shows up and the Wounded One and the Inner Child to raise a little hell. The psychological work along with the spiritual work never ends for long. I hope you have a gentle autumn back in your winter home.

  4. Yup, those three — Shadow, Wounded One, and Inner Child — are part of me too, and of everyone. Knowing that this is what it means to be human eases the discomfort and helps me accept and forgive myself for my flaws. Trying to maintain a perfect persona takes way too much energy! 🙂
    Thanks for your always affirming words, Elaine. I wish you a gentle autumn too.

  5. dear and divine Jean ,
    Why we do not remember any memory from our Birth till 3 to 4 Years , even what we claim to remember is a constructed memory from pictures and videos and talks we learn and view through our parents .
    When we come on this earth we come with oneness or wholeness of our right and left brains or body and soul floating in Harmony on neutral and natural zero state like water , as we can not draw lines on water so there is no memory but experience of Timeless happiness , that is our real search or spiritual truth.
    As we grow mind comes in between of our logical brain and emotional brain and ego develops and memory of senses get registered . as we grow we search this lost Timeless Happiness through fulfillment of worldly goals one after another in the hope that achievement of these goals will bring happiness which will match this Timeless happiness we know in our DNA.
    Lord Buddha also gone through all different paths , doctrines , teaching , yet no where found glimpse of that spiritual truth or Timeless happiness , finally sat under a tree to realize that timeless happiness was always there and that is our basic nature . that is why in Indian Scriptures God is defined as SAT CHIT ANAND that is Truth Consciousness Bliss.
    so understanding of physiology , Psychology , and self knowledge which happens with oneness of Body mind and soul is equally important for spiritual maturity .
    PS ; your blog is always a value for time understanding , ..

    1. Dear Ram,
      You have supported my blog from almost my very first post I wrote nine years ago. Your understanding and generous-spirited comments have taught me the true meaning of love, unity, and wisdom. It has been a genuine pleasure to be blessed by your knowledge and experience. Thank you.
      Although we come from different religious traditions, we seem to have always been on the same path. I think it’s because we could both hear the universal message beneath the surface, and often divisive, doctrines of our different religions. It has been a true blessing to me that we were able to establish a meaningful connection that transcended these divides on the internet.
      Thank you for writing and affirming my path. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me and my readers.
      With love and blessings always,

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