What triggers our engagement in life?
What makes us want to deepen ourselves
and have a life rooted in the authentic ground of our being?
As we begin to consider these questions, we may realize that we aren’t born highly engaged in life nor are we are schooled to become highly engaged. Other questions also come to mind…Are we facing a need for healing and restoring ourselves…or a personal crisis…or has something happened to spark a more intense interest in who we are and how we are living?
Many of us, perhaps, may have had some type of a conversion experience that initiated our journey. I had one when I was thirty years old. At the time, I didn’t even know what I was having because my ideas about what a conversion experience was, had been so badly distorted by the religious training in my childhood. I had no idea that a crisis could be the first step in such a transformative series of events.
My experience started in the mountainous countryside of Taiwan. After an exhausting five-week buying trip in the Far East for the department store chain I represented, I took a few days off to rest in the simplicity of a mountain village. The contrast of this way of life with my “normal” way of life in the States was so dramatic that I was thrown into questioning everything about my life and how I was living it. These gripping questions and the insights they stimulated activated my conversion experience.
At first, I believed that starting my own business was the creative response to changing my life. But then through my inner work, I learned that I had to walk my story back to its early beginnings and recognize the power in the emotions I had denied, in order to move on with my life. Walking my story back was challenging and scary at times. Facing the truths of my struggles, my hurt and disappointments, stung, and yet accepting the truth of my full reality actually strengthened me. As I found my footing and moved back into my present moment, I discovered I was creating a revolution within myself.
I was becoming a transformed person whose life had a new horizon. The knowledge I was gaining about myself, and the more familiar I became with Jungian psychology and the great mystical traditions, the more I realized I was on a psycho-spiritual path that Dr. Jung was very familiar with and which he referred to as “individuation.” In my book The Search for Self and the Search for God, the section, Part Three, is called “Becoming Whole as a Spiritual Necessity: A Jungian Guide for Renewing the Mythic Vision” and it explores the process I was involved in. I would like to share with you the following words from “The Way to Wholeness” in Part Three of The Search for Self and the Search for God:
Like the mystics, Jung thought that the Divine must be known through personal experience and that secondhand belief systems never adequately fill our spiritual longings. Yet he also said that such systems could be a very good defense against true experiences of the Divine and the resulting need to change our lives-which such an experience always brings.
The mystics see the mystical journey as the way of salvation. The root meaning of salvation is “the way of redemption” or “the way to wholeness.” What the mystics mean here is that their path bridges our everyday reality and Eternal Reality. These two realities become equal parts of the unitive way as Eternal Reality informs everyday reality and one enters into a relationship with the Divine. In Jungian psychology, this is the stage in which the ego, our everyday personality, enters into an ongoing relationship to the Self: the center of our being and carrier of the Divine spark within us.
According to the mystics, the nature of the Divine has three characteristics that have parallels in Jungian psychology. The first characteristic is that the Divine nature and the nature of the Self are always creative and are expressed as “the spirit of becoming”. All true development in human life is based on this creative force. The Jungian analyst and scholar Erich Neumann notes that only Western humanity, in the rigidity of its ego and in its imprisonment in rationality, fails to recognize our dependence on the force that mystically changes us, the force by which we live and that lives within us as our creative center or Self. Our recognition of the Self-the Divine within and our experience of it-becomes the basis for our capacity to transform fate, the hand existence has dealt us, into a fulfilled destiny.
A second characteristic of the Divine requires that the spiritually mature person, leading a creative life, develop a new version of his or her idea of peace and well-being. The creativity of the Divine always grows out of conflicts, betrayal, tension, and destruction. In the archetypal pattern of growth and transformation-that of life, death, and rebirth-our personality experiences the death aspect as tension, conflict, and destruction. The tension is between our deep values and conventional values or obligations; the conflict is within ourselves and with others over these tensions; and the destruction is of our fantasies and ideas of how things should be or what we want.
We cannot avoid the fact that we must be willing to dissolve our old personalities, our conventional selves-the identities we formed unconsciously for the most part-in the search for the Divine. Paradoxically, the journey that leads to this act or experience simultaneously brings us to the realization of our true Selves. Here we are encountering one of the great truths in mysticism: Dissolution is also creation. The path of transformation is life, death, rebirth-and creation comes from the conflict and destruction taking place in a strongly lived life…
Now we come to the third characteristic of the mystic vision, which is to encounter the Divine as a lover. This theme permeates the mystical traditions, whether in the poetry of Rumi, the Song of Songs, or Giovanni Bernini’s great statue expressing the ecstasy of Divine love experienced by Saint Teresa. But this love is not the love we conventionally think of as love. It is not the shallow version of “Love your neighbor” that was taught in my childhood church.
To understand it, one must have walked up the spiral staircase of the development of consciousness beyond childhood wounds and self-alienation and come to the point of understanding that this love is the ground of our very being. In this state, I experience the interconnectedness of all life-not life as an abstraction, but life as it is being lived through me and through you in this moment.
Book Excerpts and Resources
, Carl Jung
, Jungian psychology
, living authentically