The Mystery of the God-Image

God goes on working as before, like an unknown quantity in the depths of the psyche. We do not even know the nature of the simplest thought, let alone the ultimate principles of the psyche. Also, we have no control over its inner life. Because this inner life is intrinsically free and not subject to our will and intentions, it may easily happen that the living thing chosen and defined by us will drop out of its setting… even against our will. Then perhaps we could say with Nietzsche, “God is dead.” Yet it is truer to say, “He has put off our image, and where shall we find him again?” The interregnum is full of danger, for the natural facts will raise their claim in the form of various isms which are productive of nothing but anarchy and destruction because inflation and man’s hybris… have elected to make the ego, in all its ridiculous paltriness, lord of the universe.” – Carl Jung

As consciousness evolves, so do our notions of the deity. Science has exposed His heavenly abode as an intensely violent process of destruction and creation which, though beautiful to behold from a distance, is so inimical to life as we know it that it took the mystery of Nature to round out a special sphere for its evolution. So perfectly ordered is it, so unfathomable, that only the idea of a deity can express it. But, never mind that:

Science is a function of intellect; a uniquely subjective form of objectivity which views life in rational terms. So dissociated is modern thought that God has all but disappeared; a de-personalized consciousness has no feeling for the mysteries of a higher inner power. ‘Intelligent design’ is the new impersonal God of Intellect; material reality filtered through secret ego-images, just as the older spiritual truths were. To re-vision a truer image of life is to incorporate both:

The masculinity once ascribed to Him is no longer tenable. Our genetic make-up dictates that at least a partial aspect of the god-image exists in a man as woman and in a woman as man. Our tenuous identification with gender is based on the preponderance of only one chromosome out of the twenty-three in each cell. A more objective assessment asserts a bisexual nature. Without a concept of the sexes as psychic functions, we lack the tools to balance our natures.

Gene-comparisons of humans and primates have proven to be nearly identical — another aspect of the deity which is as animal as it is human. Egocentric notions of consciousness and deep-seated hostilities toward nature are an affront to life. The technological achievements of the last century require a reappraisal of our relations to animals and our mutual environment.

The role ascribed to genes has shifted the old view, but what we don’t know about them is likewise a god-like quality — another aspect of the elusive spirit which is innate in the very sinews of the body. Considered psychologically, their ultimate purpose and meaning in the heart and soul are beyond objective evaluation.

Matter has been shown to be unimaginably active on the subatomic scale; as if it, too, were animated by a living force. Life exists in the very fabric of the universe — waiting for the proper conditions to become manifest. Our notions of organic and inorganic are incomplete.

The recent reference to a “God-particle” as a complete physical picture of the universe describes the mystery of psychic wholeness and scientific hubris in two succinct words. Consciousness can only infer a whole from its parts, and physical descriptions relate only to material reality. Without psychological insight, such focus only further alienates us from the human condition.

We have little sense today of the god-image as a function of relationship. Our psychological history is as dead as a textbook. The living psyche is viewed as an animal in a zoo. Self-knowledge is not just biology, anthropology, or the flight of consciousness. Our animal, religious, and philosophical history is who we are.

Objective science only accentuates the profound conflicts ego has always had with this image. The functions defined by our history are as alive in the psyche today as they ever were; the medieval star-gazer, the primitive beast-killer, are still-living realities. We readily see these qualities in ourselves if we’re honest.

As irrational factors, accident and chance comprise another partial aspect of the deity. Our interactions in the world, how we differ, conform, for what purposes and motives, in what unknown circumstances, and with what unforeseeable consequences, are how the spirit works unconsciously.

History shows conflict to be the way of development. To decipher the projections of inner conflict onto outer circumstances is to re-connect with another image of the deity. The major problems today come less from without than within, our survival as a race threatened largely by ego-concerns: compensations as natural and objective as the laws regulating the universe.

Jung’s comparative approach is the only science which describes the living vitality of the psyche’s historical reality. Its language is as old as life and comes straight from the only source of the deity with which we have direct contact: the creative unconscious. The picture of who we are is hidden there. Jung discovered a way to access it; perhaps at a time when we need it most.

For an example of how Jung’s work may be applied personally, click here.

6 Comments

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6 Responses to The Mystery of the God-Image

  1. Peter Jeanmaire

    Dear Evan,

    I refer to your reply dated October 13. You asked what systems science is good for. Since systems science is an essential part of my thinking, I will try to reply.

    Let me first distinguish between systems theory and systems thinking. Systems theory is a scientific discipline which has its origin in the work of people like L. von Bertalanffy, Heinz von Foerster and Stuart Kauffman during the second half of the last century. Systems thinking is a popular version of systems theory. It derives basic concepts from the scientific work done by systems scientists. Some of these concepts were found intuitively long ago, e.g. the bipolarity of nature (Goethe).

    Jung was an excellent systems thinker and nearly a systems scientist. He sought the contact with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli in order to underpin his model of the human psyche by notions drawn from physics. Systems theory was not yet born or in its infancy and the premature death of Pauli deprived Jung of the possibility to progress in this direction.

    We can leave systems theory here aside, but not systems thinking. On the site of Waters Foundation, they say: a systems thinker is one who has internalized systems thinking. That means, he is thinking as holistically as possible, thinks in relations between factors of influence (networks) and does not stop at the surface of problems, but tries to go to their source. That is the point where Jungian psychology comes into play, because one must break through the barrier of one-eyedness, prejudice and projection. Therefore, systems science claims the full image of man, i.e. the inclusion of the human psyche. Thus, systems science offers the opportunity to reunite the rational and the spiritual part of our mind, or, if you like, science and religiosity. In Aion, Jung did the first step to revise our God-image by recalling that the separation between God and Devil is untenable. Bipolarity, the opposites, are basic principles of nature.

    However, if we look at our organism, we find a complex system of thousands of chemical components which form a homeostatic equilibrium allowing us to reach, if we are lucky, an astonishing age. In our psyche, too, we feel the strong desire to realize a homeostatic equilibrium also mentally, i.e. the intact Ego-Self-axis of Edinger, or in other words, peace. And we also want this to be extended to the social realm. Homeostatic equilibrium is the ultimate goal of the bipolarity or multipolarity of opposite, even if we know that it is limited in time.

    • Peter,
      Thanks for your clarification of systems theory v. thinking. Know that I agree with you in principle. It was, in fact, Jung’s collaboration with Pauli that impressed me most about Jung’s intellectual integrity — and Pauli’s wide grasp of the symbolic nature of rational ‘fact’. Credit also to scientists like yourself who’re able to incorporate the irrationality of inner experience and make the efforts to square them with rational concepts. Though a demanding task for anyone who feels the conflicts in our current transition, to: “… break through the barrier of one-eyedness, prejudice and projection…” is what nature charges us with today.

      Modern technology lures us outside ourselves to such a degree that few consider it in terms of the reflection needed to get a sense of why we do what we do. Only the individuals who experience the uncertainty and ambiguity of their own unconscious natures will question the collective orientation that still operates on the unconscious level of split religious morals, science included. To me, this is a stage of consciousness that neither can resolve. The relativity of opposites and the recognition and acceptance of unconscious compensations, is an individual task which no ideology can attain to in our present ego-stage. My feeling is that the ‘wisdom of the ages’ (or wisdom of any kind) is no longer relevant to a youth-oriented market centered on diversion for profit. But, I defer my own limited experience to any preacher or scientist with the ability to look at both sides of the rational/irrational equation — a gift that few possess.

      Though I have many subjective conflicts with the views of the last generation, my own, and the present one, I echo the sentiments of the raw student who confronted Mephistopheles’ sarcasm (though I mean it with the most sincere respect): “Now, that has a reasonable sound; A grey-beard talking sense at last is found.” And a scientist, too!

      Thank you, Peter, for your views on the “multi-polarity” of the opposites.

  2. Peter Jeanmaire

    Dear Evan,
    I continue our dialogue on the above subject. First a remark regarding Goethe. Goethe was an ambiguous personality. On the one hand he was an “universal genius” combining a writer and a scientist in one person. His character, however, had a strong shadow: controversial relations with women, opportunistic position at the court of Weimar, very selective concerning the choice of his friends and interlocutors, very conservative, for instance compared to Schiller.

    I liked your remark “…the developing ego which lacks to see its inner effects”. The present paradigm and, consequently, science are ego-determined. Science is neutral, neither good nor bad. We forget only to place it under the custody of spirituality. Therefore, it slips out of control. You have consecrated the previous texts on this website to the opposites. Systems theory (see S. Kauffman) has shown that opposites are a fundamental principle of nature which keeps the evolution going. Therefore, any equilibrium (homeostasis) is unstable. Thus, human actions and thoughts are a walk on a ridge. The astonishing homeostasis of our body is a fragile equilibrium of thousands of components of our endocrinian system. So is the homeostasis of our mind.

    I am reading from W.M. Koetke, Final Empire. I recommend the lecture of this book, because it describes pragmatically not only the situation of our biosphere, but also, in chap. 10, the development of the human psyche from birth to adult age. It was a lesson for me to learn how the Jungian psyche comes into place.
    Koetke shows how (seemingly minor) errors of parents and educators can perturb the maturing of a human being with life-long consequences. Sure, one expects that an individual is able to correct these influences and becomes a mature personality, but our mind is intrinsically unstable.

    A mature personality is one with an intact ego-self-axis (Edinger). Systems theory claims wholeness. Thus, systems theory paves the way for the reunification of science and religiosity, in other words, for wisdom. The old religiosity was hanging in the air. It defined ethics as a rational achievement. For 2000 years, that did not work (crusades, inquisition, etc.) and, basically, it cannot work. I agree with you: Jungs work provides us the key for the endeavour “consciousness”.

    • Hi Peter,
      “Systems theory (see S. Kauffman) has shown that opposites are a fundamental principle of nature which keeps the evolution going.” You anticipated my last post.

      As far as Goethe (and many others, too, for that matter), there’s not a human being on this earth who’s not severely conflicted in some form or other. Some are better able to repress it or hide it, but it seems that creative people are blessed/cursed with a more insistent unconscious than most, and I think this lends to a greater awareness of the inner opposites, their uncertainty, and the need to compensate them. As Jung showed, they’re more susceptible to psychic changes and often reflect transitional stages in the collective unconscious that may not be generally felt for some time.

      Jung said, “The world hangs on a thin thread; that thread is the psyche of man. How important is it to know something about it?” I’m not well-versed in systems theory, having only read outlines of the basic ideas. But, one thing always strikes me when I try to catch up to the science of the day: what’s it for; how does it help us understand ourselves and our relations to the world? In other words, what I see missing is its applicability to the human condition, to the real psychological needs which will determine our future.

      Just as our religions haven’t ultimately changed our relations with each other and ourselves, neither have our sciences. We’re obviously an evolutionary work in progress, but it seems to me that our Original Sin has never fully been taken into account — in fact, seems to be the last thing we want to think about. All the historical clues to our problems were outlined millennia ago; but our subjective confusion remains impenetrable, I think in part, because of the hubris of thinking we can be objective about ourselves. My feeling is that Jung came along at a point in history when we need his concepts the most. All the external knowledge in the world can’t outrun our instinctive natures or the purposes inherent in them — whatever they may be. The importance of understanding our animalness only seems to increase exponentially with each scientific advance.

      Thank you Peter — much to think about in your conversation.

  3. Peter Jeanmaire

    Dear Evan, Our schools teach history as succession of wars, empires and so-called great personalities which often were dictators when looked at more closely. The real history is that of the evolution of human consciousness. Is there any? By revealing to us the bipolar character of our unconscious, Jung shows us an itinerary to follow in order to progress to this goal. By deciphering the symbolic content of the Christian religion (and also of others), he has freed our religion of the dogmatic chains which impeach it to react to the challenges of the present complex reality. Religions are the institutionalization of religiosity. Sooner or later, all religions transform themselves into instruments of domination and depersonalisation, just contrary to their objectives. Thus, the decomposition of religions into the individual experiences of god would be welcome. However, the cooperation between individuals requires a common superstructure recognized and internalized by all. A paradox difficult to resolve. I will still come back to other aspects of your text which is very rich. Thank you!

    • Thank you Peter,
      As to the first part of your response, I think Goethe said it very eloquently: “They’re fighters, so they say, for freedom’s rights./More closely scanned, it’s slave with slave who fights.” (By the way, if you don’t know already of Daniel Boorstin’s approach to history, though not psychological in the sense of Jung’s studies, I think you would find his, The Discoverers, a unique perspective.)

      Jung (and Erich Neumann) demonstrated empirically that the paradoxes of religious projection and identification are rooted in the opposition of two compensatory psychic systems — and the outer orientation of a developing ego which lacks the concepts to see their inner effects. The scientific attempt to understand nature is also an unconscious attempt to control it. Not only is it still an expression of the oldest of religious compensations, it impedes us from recognizing the objective psychic reality our activities are urging us to come to terms with today: a new stage of consciousness which can only be understood (so far) through Jung’s work.

      “… the decomposition of religions into the individual experiences of god would be welcome.” Not only welcome, I would say, but an increasingly vital demand if we are to resolve the meaning of the primitive part of our natures and the duality it presents to us.

      Thank you, Peter

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