Through a Jungian Lens

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Can Humans Survive Their Religion-Creating Proclivity?

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This is a scene from the Poas Volcano that is found near San José, Costa Rica.  This volcano is “capped” with a lake now sitting in the bowl.  The only sign of life is a vent of steam that allows the volcano to remain dormant.  There is little doubt in my mind that Poas Volcano is representative of the unconscious under pressure – at least the personal unconscious contents.  How does one keep the volcano, the personal unconscious capped?  Well, the easiest way is to deny those contents.  Rather thank looking inward for the roots, the source of the “steam,” we tend to project these unconscious contents onto others.  And when we do that we often find that “others” aren’t so happy with being demonized, being made the holders of darkness.

“Humanity’s current participation in the ongoing divine/human drama calls up the image of the volcano that now needs to be capped in the wake of Jung’s recall of the Gods to their psychic origin. Jung confronts contemporary humanity with the question of whether it is up to suffering divinely based conflict in the immediate precinct of human interiority, the matrix of all the Gods, without breaking containment and destroying itself in destroying the evil other. Failure to meet Jung’s challenge would only continue the sad current situation of externalizing the conflict and blowing up, in the name of the demonic, whatever contradicts one’s own truncated personal or collective compact or testament with the divine. Thus the recall of the Gods and the internal resolution of their mutual enmity as the precedent of external peace is currently at the heart of the hope of the species that it can survive its God and religion-creating proclivity (Dourley, 2003).” (Dourley, “Jung and the Recall of the Gods”, Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2006, p. 48)

Jung also sees the problem of externalizing the conflict rather than looking withing to see what has been activated within.  As long as a society continues to externalize conflict there remains the chance that things will blow-up in our faces.  As a modern world, our weapons of conflict are too powerful for us to survive such a blow up.  When we look at the externalizing of spiritualism we see Muslim and Christian engaged in wars of terrorism, we see Muslim and Zionists warring, we see factional Christian groups warring.  No one dares look within and wonder about personal responsibility or personal behaviour.

Externalizing our human spiritualism and having one being be the container/holder/prophet/god for that spiritualism reduces the individual to a state of powerlessness, removes the individual from personal accountability for acts that perhaps she or he would otherwise never commit.  Jung and Dourley call for us to recall the gods to their roots within the human psyche rather than continue to have the gods externalized.  Failure to do so will put humanity’s survival in peril.

And, it can only happen one soul, one person at a time.  There can be no church to guide you.  If nothing else, listen to your dreams and study your own heated moments in order to see just who you are.  Listen, reflect, create, dialogue.


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  1. Very well said, Sir Robert. Your next to last paragraph reminds me of what Joseph Campbell said when he spoke of people getting stuck on the symbols of their faith. The symbols all point to the divine inside of each of us, the divine human person, often referred to as our gods…and our tribes and clans get stuck on our own particular god, our version of the symbol that unites us in our core, but tears us to smithereens in our public spheres. Our religious differences. Yes, I agree that we must recall our gods…bring them back inside and let our humanity bring us together.

    Thank you, Sir.


    March 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm

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