Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Connection Between Opposites


Last time I began a new series about the sacred laws of the psyche. Understanding them can help us think psychologically and live spiritually: the only lasting way to heal ourselves and the world.

Psyche, sometimes translated as soul, refers to your mind, your psychological self with all its capacities and potentials. Psychoid was Jung’s term for the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness that is the source and subject of every religion. Wholeness is the ability to connect with both realities. To attain this enlightened state we have to venture beyond our normal-one-sided thinking to a broader perspective that uses both the logical/literal and the imaginative/creative qualities of our minds.

But this is not the only pair of opposites you and I need to integrate into our thinking and living. In fact, separation and divisiveness in every realm of human behavior is the dysfunctional norm in today’s world. Nobody thinks this is a healthy situation. To find a solution, we first need to understand a second sacred law.

2. The Law of Opposites: For everything we know about ourselves (beliefs, values, attitudes, emotions), there is a corresponding unconscious opposite.

Carl Jung wrote:

There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites. [“Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 178.]

In our psychological immaturity we think we know everything about ourselves. We don’t. No one does. Your unconscious self is a mystery as vast as the unknown universe stretching beyond our world to infinity.

When you were a child, your parents taught you to see things dualistically, in terms of either-or, good-bad. They did this to socialize you into the norms of acceptable behavior and keep you safe. Every time you exhibited qualities or traits they considered inappropriate, they guided you into ones they believed were more desirable.

Perhaps you thought you should drop an activity you loved, something fun, like art, boxing, or dancing, to learn a skill or pursue an occupation your family admired. But leaving it behind didn’t make your passion go away. Every potential you’ve disowned still lives in your unconscious. If you repressed an especially important feature of your unique personality, you will never be happy until you free it from its prison. As long as it’s locked in the unconscious, your shadow will gain power until it creates so much tension and unhappiness that it bursts out and creates havoc in your life.

Carl Jung said:

The repressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. [“The Problem of the Attitude-Type,” CW 7, par. 78.]

In lecture 10 of the Opposites Seminar in 1925, Jung said:

The opposition is a necessary condition of libido flow, and so you may say that by virtue of that fact one is committed to a dualistic conception of the world; but you can also say that the “flow”—that is, the energy—is one.

But when we become aware of the opposites we are driven to seek the way that will resolve them for us, for we cannot live in a world that is and is not, we must go forward to a creation that enables us to attain a third point superior to the pairs of opposites.

Finding a third way to oneness can solve the conflicts between opposites that torment you. But this does not mean you will live happily ever after. As Jung said:

The united personality will never quite lose the painful sense of innate discord. Complete redemption from the sufferings of this world is and must remain an illusion. Christ’s earthly life likewise ended, not in complacent bliss, but on the cross. [“The Psychology of the Transference,” CW 16, par. 400.]

Tough as it may be to live without our illusions, it’s better than being “doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites.”

What passions have you left behind? What pairs of opposites have created conflict in your psyche? Have you found solutions?

Next time I”ll discuss the third law:  oneness.

Image Credits:  Google Images. Artists unknown.

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, IncWatch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

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18 Responses

  1. Thank you for your wonderful work Jean Raffa ?
    On Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 10:02 PM Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom wrote:
    > jeanraffa posted: “Last time I began a new series about the sacred laws of > the psyche. Understanding them can help us think psychologically and live > spiritually: the only lasting way to heal ourselves and the world. Psyche, > sometimes translated as soul, refers to your mind” >

  2. This is brilliant Jeanie! Thank you so much for sharing this authentic law of the sacred psyche. You ask what passions we (unwisely!) left behind and what came to mind for me was both poetry and nature.
    As a child I grew up surrounded by woodlands, fields and open countryside and around ten I wrote my first poem. The poems and nature flowed until I left home at eighteen, where abruptly, both disappeared from my life … surfacing only now and then until thirty, when the poems flowed once more and have done ever since.
    Although it took me until midlife to begin to reconnect with Mother Nature, in glorious and deeply healing ways. A time when I met Jung and mythology for the second time in my life. Perfect timing!
    So when reading your post today it suddenly dawned on me that my twenties were the saddest times of my life. Times when I abandoned my pen and lost myself to depression and deep unhappiness. Why? Because I was estranged from the two greatest passions of my life, poetry and nature. A mistake I will never make again because my life without poetry, nature and the imaginal world is no life for me at all.
    And yet, when the Great Mother scattered her darkness over my life, it went a long way towards helping me grow in both human and soulful ways … so I recognise the deep truth within your wonderful article. Life is only born of the sparks of opposites indeed! Warm winter wishes, Deborah.

    1. How beautiful that you can look back on your life and bring meaning out of the dark times! I have a similar example of developing a passion for horses at the age of five and starting my first book at ten. When I went to college I left both passions both and didn’t return to them for 30 years. Some of the years in between ware dark. But because of those years I learned that we need to experience deep suffering ourselves before we can see it as a necessary ordeal that strengthens and matures the psyche.
      As an example of how essential this process is to nature and a fully lived life, I share this explanation I just found by googling the tempering of steel:
      “Tempering, in metallurgy, is a process of improving the characteristics of a metal, especially steel, by heating it to a high temperature, though below the melting point, then cooling it, usually in air. The process has the effect of toughening by lessening brittleness and reducing internal stresses.”
      As I’m sure you know, this is not just a physical and psychological process; it’s also spiritual. In the early 1970’s when the charismatic movement was sweeping through the US and revitalizing some Christian denominations, the term “baptism by fire” was commonly heard. It was very helpful in preparing me for my own Dark Night, which began a few years later.
      I’m so grateful that our tempering produced the life-changing libido flow that has brought forth your poetry and my writing. I wouldn’t change a second of it.
      Thank you for sharing your insights here. Blessings, Jeanie

      1. Thank you Jeanie for your rich and insightful reply. Wow, spiritual tempering! Hmm, I’m going to be reflecting on this process some for time now! Lots to ponder on. Oh, I do love discovering new words and their divine meanings. Blessings always, Deborah.

  3. … Life is born only of the spark of opposites … yes, and so it continues. My tension is between creativity and security. Every time I leap into creativity, which I’ve done often, I risked my security. Afterwards existential anxiety kicks in and I must tighten my belt. Haven’t found a solution. I once had a powerful insight that the pattern derives from initial birth experience. Because my mother was exhausted, the midwife took me into another room where I cried myself to sleep. Next morning the flood and bliss of breast milk was overwhelming. The pattern softened a little. But no matter how much I tell myself sufficiency is an inner state, I can’t charm it. It comes as it wills.

    1. Thank you for this wonderful example. I know that particular conflict well! My existential anxiety takes the form of almost crippling self-doubt. Despite the proof of my books, it still manages to creep back in, sometimes several times a day.
      Then I have to remind myself of Jung’s assertion, “The united personality will never quite lose the painful sense of innate discord. Complete redemption from the sufferings of this world is and must remain an illusion.” I find that comforting. I no longer see self-doubt as a personality flaw or blame myself for not attaining a constant state of blissful enlightenment! If there are people who have done that, I’m not one of them!! 🙂

    2. Just a thought … Jeanette Winterson has written a lot about the opposites of safety and risk in her novels. I can’t remember her exact words but she writes something like “there’s no safety in this life with risk” and “what you risk (therefore) is what you value” which as a poet really helps because what I value most, I risk most, which is my heart. Hope this helps a little! If you haven’t read her books, I would highly recommend doing so. Enjoy! Blessings always, Deborah.

  4. Thanks Jeanie – Newton also got it right – for each and every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I THINK it’s also Newton’s 2nd law 🙂
    Duality does have its place – maybe one of the stages in learning discrimination and discernment? – and ultimately to free ourselves from one-sidedness?
    Oh those opposites – to think that the lowliest worn, or the grubbiest bug, is so valuable; and that the lotus arises from the mud. And, to get to grips with man’s inhumanity to man, and to know that we have the basest desires.
    Thanks Jeanie, lovely post. Rich indeed. The quotes are clear. I am a Gemini and I have living experience of those opposites (which can drive me crazy) .. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. I forgot to respond to your questions – I’d have to think hard right now to wonder what I could have left behind – I think the difficulties I had, have ‘tempered’ me so I’m not sure if I would change anything. Maybe the ongoing crippling self-doubt but I’m getting better – that’s my optimism showing for a moment.
      I guess illusion and disillusion have been great learning lessons. Doubt and Faith continue to plague me – and as to solutions, no. But thanks for asking 🙂

  5. I left behind my passion for music which put a major dent in my love of dancing and also many social things. I gave up hope that I will have hearing that isn’t a daily struggle, so I opened to a more introverted quiet life with fewer worldly goals. Having two dogs and time with friends and family in quiet settings bring restful feeling connections without the invasion of constant background noise. My solution at the moment is to surrender to the longing for quiet and see where it takes me. So far inner peace mixed with grief about my country–and gratitude that I live in a quiet rural world with trails through the forest of old trees. In the spring the forest will be a chorus of songbirds–sounds I can still enjoy.

    1. I hear a lot of wisdom in your comment. Lowering your resistance to change, accepting what is, surrendering unrealistic expectations, opening to new options, following where they take you, feeling appreciation and gratitude for what you have. It sounds like a recipe for artful living and graceful aging. Thank you for sharing it here. 🙂

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