Think Jung

Make Life a Mythic Journey

Re-visioning Judeo-Christianity

Each age needs its own language for understanding enduring truths, and while many people feel uncomfortable talking about religion, our ego-centered, so-called real life is disintegrating at this point in history. … We…have lost the mystical and religious functions that should guide us.

            —-Robert A. Johnson, Balancing Heaven and Earth (p. 99)


We in the West have grown up in a Judeo-Christian culture that, while providing a moral grounding, has simultaneously lost its spiritual vitality to an increasingly harsh dogmatic interpretation of religion.  We see that most easily in our politics that take selected Biblical passages literally to enforce varying forms of discrimination in callous, uncompassionate ways whether it is against same-sex marriage, women in the priesthood, and so-called “just wars.”  The ultimate tragedy, however, is that our fast-paced, high-pressure, outward-focused, achievement-oriented, materialistic culture also conspires to keep us from focusing on our inner spirituality.  10281723That is, until we retire from what the Jungian Robert Johnson calls the “daily activities [of] doing” and are faced with what I’ve called “the third half of life” with its challenge of the “spiritual imperative” or as Johnson refers to it, the “third stage” of life where we must develop “divine or illumined consciousness” (Balancing Heaven and Earth, 1998, p. 130).  How then can we achieve this spiritual place where, according to Johnson, “we regain happiness and simplicity”?

For Johnson, who grew up in the Presbyterian Church, this third stage can be achieved by viewing Christianity from a symbolic, rather than a literal, perspective.  He gives the example of interpreting the “second coming” as “an inner journey” where we all are “immaculately conceived and born” as innocent children of God; then have to throw off the oppression of the “elders” of our society such as parents and other authority figures so that we find our own “teaching;” experience the inevitable betrayal of the Judases we all encounter whether they are co-workers, friends, relatives, or spouses; followed by “being crucified, dying, resurrecting” and finally achieving that spiritual “ascension” or second coming.  We are all often crucified for our actions and beliefs by those who do not share them; by those whose jealousy and insecurity may deny us coveted positions or accomplishments; and by those who force us into exile.  We all suffer and must, if we are to survive, find the “silver linings” in life’s “playbook,” to paraphrase the recent popular movie, in order to get to that better place.  If we see our lives as such inner, mythic journeys, then there is an inherent meaning, a story like the hero’s journey, that resides in discovering the spiritual Holy Grail (see my blog, “Parsifal: A Medieval Message for Modern Man”) that is available to all of us.

In my case, the journey relates to the Judaism of my youth.  In a recent blog, “The Path to Spirituality,” I saw myself as an early religious figure in a white robe crossing through the desert of  “The Valley of the Gods.”  Upon reflection, it seems that Moses is an apt archetype for this vision.  Instead of the literal interpretation of an ancient Biblical figure leading the Jewish people out of bondage to the Pharaoh, symbolically I am fleeing from the my psychological bondage to a harsh, tyrannical father and into the desert of my third half of life hoping to reclaim at last the spiritual destiny or reconnection in the oneness from which we all emerge and eventually return.  Freeing myself from my father- and also mother-complexes is my personal exodus from the darkness to the spiritual light; from the valley of shadows to the mountaintop, my own Mount Sinai, of spiritual revelation; to that Promised Land that lies within all of us if we can make the arduous journey. And, like all such journeys, it is littered with the material traps posed by the innumerable “golden calves” of our modern society such as greed and power.

These are just two brief examples of a revitalized, re-visioned religious path available to all of us interested in a “second coming” of our religious roots.  They are summarized in the following poem:


We Are One


                                                            The compass spins madly

                                                            eternally seeking the

                                                            one true direction.

                                                            Museums overflow

                                                            weary with fragments

                                                            scattered by legions of men

                                                            who hacked their way

                                                            through history

                                                            claiming to follow the

                                                            one true path.

                                                            Verily, when we see clearly

                                                            that all drink from a spring

                                                            of the one pulsing artery,

                                                            then shall it be said,

                                                            we are one.


                                                            We carry with us

                                                            the ancient banners

                                                            of the gods that sheltered us.

                                                            From Artemis to Zoroaster

                                                            they encompass the

                                                            alphabet of soul

                                                            that spells the

                                                            one true word.

                                                            Hallelujah! It is revealed:

                                                            We are the Alpha and Omega.

                                                            Before the last trumpet of time

                                                            will all sin be cast aside

                                                            by compassion?

                                                            Will all revenge be annulled

                                                            by love?

                                                            Will all salvation be sealed

                                                            by peace?

                                                            For surely we will only bathe

                                                            in that pure river when

                                                            we are One.


                                                            From afar dancing

                                                            on golden rays

                                                            twirls the one blue ball

                                                            where we cling to the

                                                            one true dream

                                                            of all men and gods.

                                                            From Thebes to Rome,

                                                            from Lhasa to Kyoto.

                                                            from Jerusalem to Wittenberg,

                                                            from Babylon to Mecca,

                                                            let the word go forth.

                                                            Hear O nations of the world,

                                                            We are the Lords your Gods;

                                                            We are One.


                                                            We gather now

                                                            sons and daughters

                                                            as the world’s

                                                            one true congregation

                                                            to face the fear

                                                            of our differences.

                                                            O my brothers and sisters,

                                                            when we have banished blame,

                                                            conquered craving, and put aside pity,

                                                            then will darkness become light as

                                                            emptiness becomes non-emptiness

                                                            and suffering surrenders to

                                                            the noble truth of nirvana’s path.


                                                            Here, and only here,

                                                            annealed in the

                                                            scars of our ancestors,

                                                            we can live together when

                                                            We are truly One.


Paul Marshall Wortman

June 9, 2013


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