The Great Mystery of the Psyche

In his writings, Carl Jung dialectically integrates two perspectives on the psyche. One perspective is that psychic life is based upon physical and biological foundations and instincts. For example he says, “The psyche is far from being a homogeneous unit-on the contrary, it is a boiling cauldron of contradictory impulses, inhibitions, and affects.” (CW 9i, para. 190) The other perspective is that the unconscious reflects a great mystery and a spiritual depth. For example he says: “It has yet to be understood that the mysterium magnum [Great Mystery] is not an actuality but first and foremost rooted in the human psyche.”(CW 12, para. 190)

Carl Jung helps us to see that we can re-enter a relation with the great mystery, reclaiming our connection to the larger totality of life. He also shows that this return to the sacred takes more than just the entrance into the light. For Jung, return to the sacred entails entering into the realm of our own shadow. This means a confrontation with the “boiling cauldron of contradictory impulses, inhibitions, and affects” that lies at the heart of human biological existence. The struggle is worth it, for beyond the shadow lies the great mystery, as re-connection with and re-birth from the numinous dimensions of the Self.

Humans are prone to fearing that which is unknown. In response to our fear, mankind has oriented itself toward surmounting the unknown.  We aim at surmounting the contradictory impulses, the flow of intensities, and the confusion of existence, and this aim leads us toward greater consciousness.

This act of increasing our consciousness is an act of transcendence. Through order we transcend the flow of intensities, emotions and sensations that make up the physical/biological experience of existence.

But order, or at least over-determined order, does come with a cost, we risk “dissociation from the unconscious”. Carl Jung says,

“Civilized life today demands concentrated, directed conscious functioning, and this entails the risk of a considerable dissociation from the unconscious. The further we are able to remove ourselves from the unconscious through directed func­tioning, the more readily a powerful counter-position can build up in the unconscious, and when this breaks out it may have disagreeable consequences.” (Carl Jung, CW 8 Page 71)

Mankind has created a world of order out of the totality of the great mystery that is life, and in the process we have broken apart existence into dualities, and we split ourselves off from the sacred nature of this great mystery.

In creating such order, we have built sandcastles at the edge of the vast ocean of mystery. This is a wondrous achievement in many regards, but it comes with a cost: dissociation from the sacred, wondrous, vast mystery that is being.

This is a core dialectic of consciousness, one that is not easily resolved. It is the artists, creative people, the thinkers and dreams that transcend this dialectic, but only in their own lives, in their own creation. The work of art, or of creative through, is a place of creation– bring the great mystery into being, creating order out of chaos. It happens in the flow of life. It is a living act of creation, a sacred union between chaos and order. To be creative within oneself is one of the great gifts of being.



2 thoughts on “The Great Mystery of the Psyche

  1. It is indeed a pleasure to read your posts. Over the last couple of years I’ve had to plow through a lot of Jung and his commentators to finally begin to understand that he is saying what you are presenting with such clarity. I am starting at the beginning of your archive and reading forward and am finding gem after gem of Jungian thought that too few people have been introduced to. Hopefully, as I come to your more current posts I will come to realize that more people are consciously living with these ideas than I now give credit to, and that my becoming conscious is only joinging in to help create a tipping point where we all live with greater conscious awareness of spirit immanating through and around us. 🙂

    1. David,
      I am thankful to have you as a reader. I appreciate your desire to understand Jung’s work. I look forward to hearing more from you and learning from your insights and experience.

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