“Man started from an unconscious state and has ever striven for greater consciousness. The development of consciousness is the burden, the suffering and the blessing of mankind.” ~Men, Women, and God” (1955), C. G Jung Speaking, p. 248.
“Man knows only a small part of his psyche, just as he has only a very limited knowledge of the physiology of his body. The causal factors determining his psychic existence reside largely in unconscious processes outside consciousness…” Aion (1951) CV 9ii, par. 253.
Currently, the bulk of humanity is in a transitional state of self-awareness that I call Epoch II. Those who persist in the struggle to become aware of their unconscious selves discover that this journey of expansion and self-exploration eventually ushers them into Epoch III consciousness, an era of individuation, reunion with the feminine principle, and integrated wisdom. In Epoch III we no longer project our spiritual hope onto a God outside us, but connect with the Sacred within.
Descending into the unknown and honoring its truths causes the ego to suffer the trauma of dying to its comforting illusions and the world’s opinions. Dr. Michael Washburn, author of Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective (p. 183-216) notes that this psychological death can be accompanied by a lack of psychic energy, a sense of alienation from the world, unstable relationships, mood shifts, depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, potentially self-damaging behaviors, intense and inappropriate anger, emptiness, boredom, identity disturbances, and so on.
These common symptoms point to a purging and opening of the ego that must occur before new psycho-spiritual life can be born. This often starts with reassessing society’s conventional moral and religious ideas, rejecting those which no longer serve our growth, and integrating new ones that do. Help can be found in various forms of mental training that explore the non-egoic realm. Some people use traditional spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, and mindfulness to observe their thinking and come to terms with negative or compulsive thoughts and worries. Dreamwork, bodywork, psychotherapy, art, reading, writing, study, and active imagination likewise help us retrieve repressed material so we can identify and control toxic mental events and emotions as they arise.
At a conscious level this work might be motivated purely by a desire to alleviate our discomfort, but it nevertheless has the consequences of activating the Self. As Washburn states, “In dying to the world, the ego also dies to the God-image it had projected upon the world,” (p. 234) and a new and deeper faith is born. Opening to the reality of the indwelling Sacred ushers us into a fresh new realm suffused with sacred meaning. Entering this realm is not a function of any particular religion or set of beliefs, but a natural unfolding of the soul’s true Self.
In the Middle Ages many Jewish, Muslim, and Christian mystics experienced an Epoch III increase into the Divine Unity of God and used the art of alchemy to explore its deeper meaning. For them, transforming base metals into gold was a metaphor for perfecting the spirit by converting fixed, split aspects of the personality (so sure of their rightness that they are essentially dead) into a fresh, childlike openness. Jung noted that in the ultimate phase of the work this leads “to the union of opposites in the archetypal form of the hierosgamos or ‘chemical wedding.’ Here the supreme opposites, male and female. . . are melted into a unity purified of all opposition and therefore incorruptible.” (CW, 12, par. 37). The alchemists called this the sacred marriage of the King and Queen, and saw it as the key to comprehending the Ancient Mysteries, the lost wisdom that brings enlightenment.
Whereas Epoch I is about Mother and Epoch II about Father, Epoch III belongs to the Self, or Divine Couple. Their relationship develops within us as we consciously integrate opposites that were formerly separated. This is the growth into individuation and wholeness that is the goal of psychology, and the way of enlightenment of which spirit persons speak. It is our magnum opus, the most beautiful work of art a human can create and the fulfillment of our potential to become the unique, creative beings we really are. Completion of this work brings many benefits, including affirming self-knowledge, deeply satisfying personal meaning, freedom from the compulsion to please or impress, the joy of clearly seeing the underlying patterns of our lives from a cosmic perspective, a sense of connectedness to nature and all of life, and benevolent thoughts and actions guided by a conscious immersion in the Divine Unity.
With the looming threat of nuclear war, I place my hope for the future in the marriage between Psyche (psychology/soul) and Spirit (God without and within) and the spread of Epoch III consciousness. Experiencing God as unified duality, or unity in multiplicity, moves us all a little bit closer to our dream of a world ruled by love, justice, and peace.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on humanity’s evolving God-images. You can read more about your spiritual journey in Healing the Sacred Divide. This copyrighted material is from pp. 70-77. Think psychologically and live spiritually, my friends.
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