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Mother Earth - A Living Organism

The Unconscious World of Dream
intuitive knowledge

Dreams & Spirituality
by Steve Schlarb

The following passages from one of Jung's later works is pertinent to understanding the role of the unconscious in spiritual realization and psychological wholeness.

The seat of faith...is not consciousness but spontaneous religious experience, which brings the individual's faith into immediate relation with God.

Here we must ask: Have I any religious experience and immediate relation to God, and hence that certainty which will keep me, as an individual, from dissolving in the crowd?

To this question there is a positive answer only when the individual is willing to fulfill the demands of rigorous self-examination and self-knowledge. If he follows through his intention, he will not only discover some important truths about himself, but will also have gained a psychological advantage: he will have succeeded in deeming himself worthy of serious attention and sympathetic interest. He will have set his hand, as it were, to a declaration, of his own human dignity and taken the first step towards the foundations of his consciousness -- that is, towards the unconscious, the only accessible source of religious experience.

This is certainly not to say that what we call the unconscious is identical with God or is set up in his place. It is the medium from which the religious experience seems to flow. As to what the further cause of such an experience may be, the answer to this lies beyond the range of human knowledge. Knowledge of God is a transcendental problem.

The religious person enjoys a great advantage when it comes to answering the crucial question that hangs over our time like a threat: he has a clear idea of the way his subjective existence is grounded in his relation to "God". I put the word "God" in quotes in order to indicate that we are dealing with an anthropomorphic idea whose dynamism and symbolism are filtered through the medium of the unconscious psyche. Anyone who wants to can at least draw near to the source of such experiences, no matter whether he believes in God or not. Without this approach it is only in rare cases that we witness those miraculous conversions of which Paul's Damascus experience is the prototype.

That religious experiences exist no longer needs proof. But it will always remain doubtful whether what metaphysics and theology call God and the gods is the real ground of these experiences. The question is idle, actually, and answers itself by reason of the subjectively overwhelming numinosity of the experience. Anyone who has had it is seized by it and therefore not in a position to indulge in fruitless metaphysical or epistemological speculations. Absolute certainty brings its own evidence and has no need of anthropomorphic proofs.

( Background )

Instincts...are highly conservative and of extreme antiquity as regards both their dynamism and their form. Their forms, when represented to the mind, appears as an image which expresses the nature of the instinctive impulse visually and concretely, like a picture....

Instinct is anything but a blind and indefinte impulse, since it proves to be attuned and adapted to a definite external situation. This latter circumstance gives it its specific and irreducible form. Just as instinct is original and hereditary, so too, its form is age-old, that is to say, archetypal. It is even older and more conservative than the body's form.

These biological considerations naturally apply also to Homo sapiens, who still remains within the framework of general biology despite the possession of consciousness, will, and reason. The fact that our conscious activity is rooted in instinct and derives from it its dynamism, as well as the basic features of its ideational forms, has the same significance for human psychology as for all other members of the animal kingdom.

Human knowledge consists essentially in the constant adaptation of the primordial pattern of ideas that were given us 'a priori'. These need certain modifications, because, in their original form, they are suited to an archaic mode of life, but not to the demands of a specifically differentiated (modern) environment. If the flow of instinctive dynamism into our life is to be maintained, as is absolutely necessary for our existence, then it is imperative that we remold these archetypal forms into ideas which are adequate to the challenge of the present....

Nothing estranges man more from the ground plan of his instincts than his learning capacity, which turns out to be a genuine drive toward progressive transformations of human modes of behavior. It, more than anything else, is responsible for the altered conditions of our existence and the need for new adaptations which civilization brings. It is also the source of numerous psychic disturbances and difficulties occasioned by man's progressive alienation from his instinctual foundation, i.e., by his uprootedness and identification with his conscious knowledge of himself, by his concern with consciousness at the expense of the unconscious. The result is that modern man can know himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself....

This task is so exacting and its fulfillment so advantageous, that he forgets himself in the process, losing sight of his instinctual nature and putting his own conception of himself in place of his real being. In this way he slips imperceptibly into a purely conceptual world where the products of his conscious activity progressively replace reality.

Separation from his instinctual nature inevitably plunges civilized man into the conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith.... In contrast to the subjectivism of the conscious mind, the unconscious is objective, manifesting itself mainly in the form of contrary feelings, fantasies, emotions, impulses and dreams, none of which one makes oneself, but which come upon one objectively.... The religious person, so far as one can judge, stands directly under the influence of the reaction from the unconscious.

Link: The Jung Index. Large site on many Jung related topics, with a pull-down menu with selections for an Email newsletter, articles and news, bookstore, forum for discussion, web directory and search index.

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