In Search of Maturity
The first stage is regression and reintegration. It corresponds to the �purgation� of medieval mysticism. The Ego or the idol, the rigid structure of the former life, collapses, together with all its valuations, prejudices, resentments, desires and fears. The �censorship,� the screen between consciousness and the unconscious, breaks down. Old images, forgotten emotions, repressed functions, come to life again; primitive obsessions and projections, visions and nightmares endanger the equilibrium of the good citizen. Without adequate inner or outer help, religious and psychological, he will be in an evil predicament.
This is the situation which the psalmists have described with amazing exactitude: �The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me� (Psalm 18:4,5) And again: �Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round� (Psalm 22:12). The outer and the inner evil fuse; death or insanity seems to be certain; all the negativity of the universe seems to be arrayed against us. There is only one way out: the religious way: �Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me� (Psalm 23:4).
The power of the images (symbols in dreams and fantasy) terrifying as it may be, is borrowed power. It appears to be genuine and invincible only as long as we do not know the real center. The appeal to the center, (God within), therefore, is the only thing left for the person who is �beset by the bulls� of the collective unconscious�that deep, inborn layer of the unconscious which is not individual but universal in content. Even the atheist, if anything disagreeable takes him by surprise, reacts with a superficial turn to the center. He says �O God!� or �For goodness sake!� If the believer can do the same thing in a more serious way, even though in the moment of fear or pain his concept of God may be vague or childish, it will help him more than anything else.
The turning towards the center is the second stage of the journey. But the center itself, the aspect of God which can be experienced in such a situation, is quite different from what most people expect it to be. Either we project some learned or emotional ideas into the universe; or, knowing we must have no image of God, we use an empty frame, three feet square, and according to our creed we think God will fit the frame. Yet he does not. His appearance, if he appears at all, crushes our beautiful frame. We are frightened and offended and decree that the power which destroyed our convictions must be the devil. The nearer we come to the center, the more we leave the images behind, the more are our fears turned into anxiety. And anxiety, if we face it, is turned into awe. What seemed to be the power of darkness now manifests itself as the power of light. After the great and strong wind comes the earthquake, then the fire, and then the still small voice (I Kings 19:11-13).
The terrible and destructive aspect of the godhead�the �tremendum� in theological language�originates as a subjective human experience, though an unavoidable one if our religious convictions and our rigid theology are smashed by the Grace of God. We live in a jail which we call our castle; a foreign soldier breaks through the doors, come to free us by blasting the walls of our castle�and we fight him with the last might of our broken Ego, calling him scoundrel, knave and devil, until we are exhausted, overwhelmed and disarmed. Then looking at the victor with disinterested objectivity we recognize him: St. Michael smilingly sheathes his sword.
The power which brought about the fight was grace. The �evil� which caused our anxiety was, in the last analysis, grace. And even the real scoundrels, our competitors in egocentricity who betrayed us and wounded us so unjustly, even they, as we discover now, were already working unknowingly and unwillingly in the service of the superhuman strategy of grace. This fact is no excuse for their evil-doing; but it shows the transcendent power and wisdom of the coming Kingdom of Heaven. And above all it shows that the Kingdom is there already and is working in spite of and even through the errors and felonies of its prospective citizens.
Here begins the third state of the journey, identical with the �illumination� of the old mystics. It is not only an intellectual insight but is at the same time an emotional experience of utmost reality and a volitional change which over throws the whole system of our values, goals and means. It gives us a new viewpoint, or rather a double viewpoint, which enables us to see people at the same time as rascals and as children of God. Evil reveals its creative implications, and what we deemed to be good now shows its fiendish danger as the devil�s bait. Deeper insight, more power, increasing responsibility, and above all a higher kind of love, more detached and more comprehensive�these are the characteristics of the new life, as far as we are able to describe them in a language of our empirical, and that means humanly limited, psychology.
The �unconscious of the past,� we may say, was conditioned by our images and their historical forms. The �unconscious of the future� is conditioned by the center itself. It is creative power, using the images, now cleansed and timeless, according to its creative plans, which are our own unconscious goals. The crisis then is the transition from an eccentric less conscious and less powerful life�pivoting around the Ego-image or an idolized image�to a well-centered, more conscious and more powerful life�pivoting around the real Self. This Self proves to be the center both of the individual and of the group, and therefore transforms the individual into a servant of the group�that is love; and proves to be also our relation to God, and therefore transforms individuals and groups into servants of God�that is faith. The crisis, if it is complete, means conversion.
� Fritz Kunkel, M.D., 1889-1956. American psychiatrist.