“To reach maturation, in a Jungian context, it is necessary for a man first to work through his shadow—the negative/evil aspects of chthonic and solar phallos. He then must deal with his inner femininity and its requirements for relatedness. Hidden behind these two enormous psychological tasks is the possibility of wisdom, the knowledge and stature that come only with age and long self reflection.”
Grappling with non-Christian content in the development of personality is a challenging reality for the committed Christian. However, I have no doubt that God has called me to integrate other models of truth in order to augment the process of discipleship. A guarded openness has wisdom about it. I wonder if the Bible might never more eloquently described ‘the what’, whereas many other sources of literature and collective wisdom can help with ‘the how’ of achieving the completeness of personality—to become more Christlike. (Of course, the Bible also covers ‘the how’ of spirituality as well.)
Let us first explore this term, the completeness of personality.
A Vision of What Could Be
Self-actualisation is what the secularists call it. Discipleship is what Christians call it. These are the same processes, all be it for different outcomes. On the one hand, secular life calls the person, if they are so interested, to actualise themselves—to become all they can foreseeably be. On the other hand, the Christian is called to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. The Lord, alone, specifies the process of discipleship—through prayer, mentoring, learning, character development, and other spiritual disciplines, etc.
But surely we are talking about the same thing.
It all depends on our goal; it all depends who we do it for; it all depends on what the endgame is. For Christians, the answer to these three is simple: Christ.
The completeness of personality must be realised in wisdom—the prize awaiting all who would venture on Tremulous Road.
Being a process that is never fully realised, but one never more surely blessed, we go on and on into the development of the soul—mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
A Christian Grappling with the Jungian Context
Truth is truth and all of it is God’s. Truth and wisdom are interdependent. There is wisdom in Jungian psychology and philosophy. It can be used to enhance the process of discipleship. Eugene Monick’s quote, above, speaks from this philosophy. It speaks primarily to men, but women, equally, can draw insight as well.
A broad, and perhaps crude, summary:
We have two tasks to complete in approaching wisdom from our wounded selves. The first is to appreciate the evil in two flesh-propensities we have:
1) Solar Phallos: the desire is to magnify our best, most godly, attributes. But this is often over-achieved and we sin in pride; e.g. ambition for success, the elevation of personal power structures, etc.
2) Chthonic Phallos: the desire is to minimise our worst, darkest evils. For example, for men, it is suppressing erotic desire—some of which we are ashamed of.
Completing the first task is about letting go of the solar; giving up our neediness to want to be seen as gods. It is secondarily about coming to understand and accept that our darkest thoughts and visions come from within. Rather than suppress these, our challenge is to incorporate grace, not deal in judgment. We find ourselves having shameful thoughts—these are to be rejected, but not before we acknowledge God’s grace in knowing we are sinners; we are forgiven for such thoughts.
We do not venture with the devil into condemnation. We can agree with the devil in regard to our sinfulness—and, if we cannot be condemned, we render evil power useless. Without God we are hopeless sinners. It is power to know this. This highlights the magnificence of God’s grace never more.
It is overall about coming to a real acceptance of our innate sinfulness—acknowledging and accepting, in Jungian speak, the ongoing presence of ‘shadow’ in our psyches.
None of this first task goes against the process of discipleship. Indeed, it can be seen as picking up one’s cross and following Jesus.
The second task goes against the grain of many men, but strangely it may be easier for homosexual men. We are to embrace our inner femininity. Just as women have masculine (harder) components within their personalities, men too have soft parts within theirs. The key test may be can a man be comfortable within all facets of his sexuality? Can a man be comfortable, also, in simple relatedness—with both himself and others?
Both of these tasks are difficult; they will take us, in some degree, the passage of our lifetimes. Once we accept these tasks the gates of wisdom are opened. And all this is achieved through the processes of age and long self-reflection.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.