All the love in the world

I’m finishing up my 5th quarter in Pacific Graduate Institute’s program leading to an M.A. in what they’re now calling “engaged humanities.” The most difficult class this quarter has been “The Psychology of Compassion and Tolerance.” My final discussion post reflects how it has expanded my understanding:

This quote from Marie-Louise von Franz (1978/1980) sums up the meaning of this course for me: “In this world created by the Self we meet all those many to whom we belong, whose hearts we touch” (p. 177). Here is the true goal of individuation: The drive toward wholeness is not a selfishly motivated desire to attain whatever heights our fate might have in store, but the longing to join at the deepest possible level with our eternal companions. I understand now so much better what Jerry Wennstrom said at our residential session, “True individuality is a one-on-one relationship with that mystery.... Marilyn [Jerry’s wife] and I were nothing, and in that nothing, we could be together.” In the ego’s surrender to the Self, we find not only our true selves but all the love in the world.

Franz, M.-L. von. (1980). Projection and re-collection in Jungian psychology: Reflections of the soul. Peru, IL: Open Court. (Original work published 1978)

Comfort for a necessary crime

Psalm 139 has taken on new meaning as I have reconsidered the concept of duality in the context of my readings on psychological development. This great hymn to God's omnipresence and omniscience contains such powerful images as in verse 8 (That God May Be Glorified):

If I climb the heavens, you are there.
If I lie in the grave, you are there.

In what grave can a living human being experience the presence of God? Psychologist Edward F. Edinger (1972) called the development of consciousness "a necessary crime" (p. 25), because at each stage, it involves a transgression that generates conflict, leading to a new level of consciousness:

What is a crime at one stage of psychological development is lawful at another and one cannot reach a new stage of psychological development without daring to challenge the code of the old stage. Hence, every new step is experienced as a crime and is accompanied by guilt, because the old standards, the old way of being, have not yet been transcended. So the first step carries the feeling of being a criminal. (p. 21-22)

To put it another way, as we become more conscious, we suffer as we sacrifice a bit of our old selves. If we do not die incrementally in this manner, we remain dependent and unable to undertake effective action in the world. Where Psalm 139 provides so much comfort is in its vision of a God whose thoughts reach out equally to those walking in the light and those hiding in darkness, even the night of their own "necessary crime." Consider verses 10-11 (The Saint Helena Psalter):

If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,"
darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike.

As a longtime optimist, I am anxious about encountering the more negative aspects of my personality. Certainly, I may find untapped strengths there, but doubtless I would also encounter stumbling blocks that could hold me back. But I am assured by Psalm 139 that God will be with me throughout the process.

Edinger, E. F. (1972). Ego and archetype: Individuation and the religious function of the psyche. New York: Penguin Books.
Schauble, M. (Ed.). (1998). That God may be glorified. Erie, PA: Benet Press.

The Saint Helena Psalter. (2004). New York: Church Publishing.