Through a Jungian Lens

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Chaos and a Life of Spiritual Poverty

with 8 comments

Shadows and light at sunrise

This morning, while sitting on the sofa waiting for the sun to rise, I caught the first rays that came through the window and saw how they created a sense of gold even though nothing in this scene has any actual golden colour. Golden light appeared for a moment and painted a scene, then it left leaving in its wake ordinary reality.

After I had taken the photograph, I returned to sit with my cup of morning coffee and noticed that the golden glow had disappeared and everything was back to normal. If I hadn’t taken the picture when I did, I would have soon forgotten the shifted moment in time when another world had appeared. I could look upon this moment in time as simply a moment in time that has no meaning other than natural light shifting. Or, I could look upon this moment as meaningful – meaningful to me.

I know that I see the world through a lens that catches nature as if all of nature is alive, even the reframed nature at the hands of man. I see purpose and meaning in all that is around me. I can’t accept the idea of a meaningless world.

“If one feels that the universe is absurd and devoid of meaning, then the burden of meaning falls directly upon the shoulders of the individual. If meaning is not implicit in the structures of nature and the evolution of history, then it is clearly the task of humans to render their lives meaningful through the quality of their choices.” (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, p. 13)

I know quite a few people who view the world as having very little meaning for them. As Hollis suggests, these people I am thinking about have invested all of their meaning in their work, their families and perhaps their possessions. Outside of these boundaries there is no meaning. It is hard to say one way is right and another way is wrong, but I do feel that the loss of the numinous, the magical and the mythical leads to a life of spiritual poverty. Possessions get old and need to be replaced over and over again in an attempt to recapture that momentary sense of satisfaction of ownership. Career often is more concerned at sucking all of one’s energies for the benefit of unseen others and a fickle economy. Families grow, change, expand, contract and through all of these passages and transformations still leave us feeling alone – one becomes dependent on others for meaning and when alone, meaning evaporates.

I have retired which has forced me to search elsewhere for meaning. My children have grown, built their own small families in different communities.  Things have long lost their magic and have become only functional objects. I have been forced to choose between a meaningless universe and a universe in which animate and inanimate have worth, meaning and purpose on a scale that is beyond my capacity to fully understand. I choose a universe filled with gods, goddesses, magic and meaning; I choose a universe in which everything I do, say, think, and dream has meaning.


8 Responses

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  1. I agree! How can I survive in a world that I believe is devoid of meaning? I would rather end it all here and now…and I’m just not ready to do that. We all have our days where we can’t seem to find meaning…at least I know I do…and then we look again, and if we really want to find it, we do. Thank-you for reminding me that I am not so different for looking outward for meaning and understanding of what’s inside. 🙂

    Goddess Aphrodite

    February 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    • The modern world has reduced us to statistics and consumers at the expense of our humanness, our souls are reduced to a formula of synapses, neurons, amino acids and we are left holding religions in which the divine presence has fled.


      February 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

  2. Another insightful post, Robert. I most certainly agree and that meaningfulness need not come from religious dogma, either. I was watching Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking and was simply mesmerized with the vastness and miracle that is the universe and life itself.

    Leaning more toward Taoism, myself, I believe that life is spontaneous. It just happens and we get what we make out of it, so it is up to us to choose our own mythologies, our own meanings. I understand what you mean about the meaning missing when kids grow up, there is retirement, or perhaps, as in my case, a divorce. Then, you have to really go deep to find meaning. If not, like some of my friends, they are just adrift … finding ‘meaning’ in drugs, alcohol, and parties, never wanting to be alone.


    February 29, 2012 at 6:57 am

    • If I lean towards anything it might be Buddhism. That said, there is stuff in Taoism and Confucianism that also resonates within me. The respect for self, for others, the world and the universe that is not fear driven . . . life of meaning and purpose, not just taking up space and waiting unconsciously for death.


      February 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm

  3. If I find meaning in events involving either animate or inanimate things, e.g. bird lands on my window, does it mean I have created a myth about the event or observation? I suppose as much because I don’t know of any doctrine which explains something that is seemingly insignificant to most others.

    I Need to read “tracking the gods”

    Rob Kohuch

    February 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    • Hey there, Rob. It’s good to have you reading and leaving a comment. James Hollis has written quite a few books. Perhaps one of his latest books, What Matters Most might be a good one to start with. As for creating myths, I think it is more about finding yourself in a myth that is unfolding around you, being aware of something that is beneath or above the surface of what appears to be objective reality. I am leery of any doctrine that has answers which is why I am paying attention to Jungian psychology which suggests that there is more depth than what is on the surface of reality and that each of us determines what is true in terms of the resonance within our hearts, minds and souls – trust the self before trusting dogma or the collective.

      I see I am again talking too much, but of course you know that this is my habit – love, Uncle Bob


      February 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm

  4. Interestingly, a lot of Japanese people feel no conflict in calling themselves Christian, Buddhist and still adhere to the teachings and rituals of Shintoism. So leaning towards one doesn’t mean you have to lean away from the other.

    Rob Kohuch

    March 7, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    • Exactly. To fully reject one’s roots, religious roots is to reject more than the churches. The roots are entwined in all religions, and the particular roots of that world tree of spiritualism in which one first encountered and was fed spiritually are vital. I was born a Catholic and the deep roots of that Catholicism, roots deep under the actual church and priesthood continues to hold meaning that can’t be washed away by embracing another faith, regardless of how hard one tries. You put it so well. Thanks, Rob. 🙂


      March 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm

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