Joel Felipe, Unsplash
Jung observed that most of the neurosis, the feeling of fragmentation, the vacuum of meaning, in modern lives, results from this isolation of the ego-mind from the unconscious. As conscious beings we all go about with a vague sense that we have lost a part of ourselves, that something that once belonged to us is missing.
Our isolation from the unconscious is synonymous with our isolation from our souls, from the life of the spirit. It results in the loss of our religious life, for it is in the unconscious that we find our individual conception of God and experience our deities. The religious function — this inborn demand for meaning and inner experience — is cut off from the rest of the inner life. And it can only force its way back into our lives through neurosis, inner conflicts, and psychological symptoms that demand our attention.”
~ Robert Johnson, Inner Work
I’m fortunate to have been able to live long and make the full measure of mistakes I could eventually benefit from. My mistakes were stupid and painful but they didn’t kill me. At this point in my life I can review them at my leisure, astonished at my inveterate cluelessness. Jung points out how introverted intuitives are always focussed on the future, always optimistic, but can’t ever get their feet on the ground. That’s me, flying boy that I have always been.
I have always lived in the future, but that’s changing now.
Certain early traumas put me at some distance from my body, so that my task has been to reconnect my disparate parts. I used art for that, and it worked quite well. In learning how to heal my divisions, I began to notice how common it is to be estranged from your deeper self. It’s not unusual at all in our modern world to not remember your dreams or be alert to signals from your unconscious mind.
That’s like a wild animal who has been tamed and can no longer rely on its instincts to live in the forest. As our society has become more and more estranged from nature, we don’t notice its cries for help as we extinguish it. We are deaf and blind to its sufferings, even when scientists tell us that our way of life is nature’s holocaust.
Jung speaks against the rationalist way of life and in favor of religion, even though he himself was not a believer. He considered religion a therapeutic system if you could believe. Thomas Moore has advocated creating a religion of your own as a solution.
But, the point is, we need a connection to a larger sense of meaning as we live or else we become untethered from the beauty of the world we inhabit. We can no longer see or hear it. We can no longer love and care for God’s creation. And lacking that love, we will destroy it like careless children.
This is in fact the world we are all living in now.
Somehow, we have to find our way back to participatory reverence. We are charged with a huge task, how to become fully human again. It won’t be done, in my opinion, with trying to revive moribund religions.
It seems that each one of us will have to find or create a way of life that serves the mysterious creation we inhabit, with full consciousness of the spiritual umbilical cord that connects us to it.
That’s one reason I write and paint.