Carl Jung was one who saw our collective possibilities. He considered that growth was an innate principle, both of the individual and the universal. He considered the development of individuality as a microcosm of human evolution. He called this immutable process individuation. It’s the big picture. We don’t look forward and imagine it. We don’t look back and long for it. The growth of individuality, with all its stresses and strains, is the process and substance of the lives we live.
There are pockets of radiance that give a clue of things to come. That’s what the oracles, the mystery centers and the esoteric teachings were for — training grounds to incubate emerging capacities. Humanity in its fullness is what the mystics know beyond time and space. It defines the enlightened ones who stand at the head of our great spiritual traditions. It’s our future (if we must think in linear time).
Our path is born in the immense creative beings which some call archetypes, or perhaps archangels, depending on your tradition. Our story is embedded in our Judeo-Christian mythology and encapsulated as the journey towards love and freedom, inaugurated metaphorically by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It takes aeons of time to get “back there.” T S Eliot knew the story when he wrote these lines: We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
And we shall return, and we will know the place, because we will have sung our spiritual consciousness into being through this struggle for freedom.
Individuality leads to union. That’s the basis of spiritual traditions. It’s where psychology and spirituality meet. It matters, as does the accompanying consciousness and morality. But the development of individuality is an arduous path, and it’s often not pretty.
The human capacity for greatness is immense — not great in a worldly sense of fame and fortune, but rather through connectedness. Not simply one-to-one relationships with other people, but also in the ability to connect with the intrinsic power of nature as an organic, spiritual system in which we participate. And even beyond nature to include the cosmos which surrounds us and which makes everything turn over in its great universal rhythms, breathing life into the life we know.
This is what resides in the collective unconscious. This is all part of us. And depending on how attuned we become, how sensitive to that which lies within and without, to this extent we can feel the resonance of these great connections with our own being. We develop a sense for it. It’s what keeps us going, at least for those of us who do keep going. It’s also what we grieve for when we lose that connection, despite that which may present itself as the object of our grief.
We live in turbulent times. The world has grown small and we are witnesses to all the cruelty, fear and exploitation around us. And people often grow small too. Fear makes us contract and shut down our higher instincts. But it’s not for nothing. The situations around us are there precisely to give us the possibility to exercise those great muscles of love and freedom. We can each be a pocket of radiance in the world which surrounds us, big or small. And remember, life is not about perfection. Life is for learning.
I’ll leave my closing encouragement to the wisdom of Christopher Fry. Godspeed.
Thank God our time is now
when wrong comes up to face us everywhere,
never to leave us ’til we take
the longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for?
It takes so many thousand years to wake.
But will you wake for pity’s sake?
Christopher Fry from ‘A Sleep of Prisoners’