Earlier in the week, someone mentioned not knowing what I meant by wholeness. This was a good reminder to post now and again about what, exactly, I mean by writing about it. I begin with the Jungian idea that the typical person is a mass of unconscious, fragmented parts that must be recalled to the whole. Jesus taught several parables about seeking and finding that which is lost–that of the lost coin, the pearl of great price, the Good Shepherd. Just as Christ represents to the West an archetypal example of wholeness, so Buddha represents to the East his counterpart. Each teacher called people to come home to themselves and, ultimately, to God. This is true whether the God to whom one returns is the personal aspect of God, as in Christianity, or the impersonal aspect of God pursued by Buddhism. Ultimately, God is one and He is spirit, just as He said. I believe, as did Carl Jung, that the personal quest for wholeness is a spiritual quest at its deepest root, and that any attempt to separate out the spirit results in dis-ease or illness. Dis-ease, illness, neurosis, and other types of suffering exist as signposts to tell us that we are going the wrong way. They invite us to return home again, to our true selves.
Daryl Sharp, editor at Inner City Books, has written a handy little Jungian primer called Jungian Psychology Unplugged. It is one of my favorite books for explaining Jungian ideas, for it’s short, sweet, and quite easy to read. In the book, Sharp writes:
When you’re self-contained, psychologically separate, you don’t look to another person for completion. You don’t identify with others and you’re not victimized by their projections. You know where you stand and you live by your personal truth–come what may. You can survive cold shoulders and you can take the heat. You have what Jung calls an undivided self. Well, more or less.
When you are self-contained, you have your own sacred space, your own temenos. You might invite someone in, but you’re not driven to, and you don’t feel abandoned if the invitation is declined. You respect the loved one’s boundaries, their freedom and privacy, even their secrets; you give them space and you don’t knowingly push their buttons. You don’t judge and you don’t blame. There is interest in, and empathy for, the other’s concerns, but you don’t take them on as your own. Shoulders may be offered to cry on, but there is no plaintive plea from one to the other to be “understood.”
Make no mistake: understanding what someone is saying is different from being asked to understand who is saying it. The former depends on your thinking function, and may overlap with feelings of empathy and compassion; the latter is an unconscious bid for power. Understanding oneself is difficult enough; understanding others is their responsibility, if they are inclined to do so and have a mind for it. What one can know of another is just the tip of an iceberg; the far greater part of anyone’s personal identity is beyond the ken of an outsider. For that matter, those who have worked on themselves enough to be comfortable with who they are–as opposed to those arrogant souls who are simply narcissistic–do not need, nor do they ask, to be understood by others. I am what I am; take it or leave it.
The appropriate attitude for a long-term working relationship is not understanding, but acceptance (74-75).
Sharp writes later in the book that, once a peson has found his or her individual path, he is bound to feel estranged from those who have not. People who have worked on themselves, especially those who have worked particularly long and hard, don’t care to spend much time with those who haven’t. Sharp says that although this seems elitist, it’s only to be expected; with the sense of vocation, we come to realize that our time on earth is precious. “You become reluctant to squander it,” Sharp writes, “on those who don’t know who they are or why they are here, and are not inclined to ask” (148-149).
Those who hear the call to adventure and respond become, he says, “redeemer personalities–leaders, heroes, beacons of hope for others. Individuals with personality have mana” (149).
I like the idea of having mana, and I’m willing to do the difficult, involved work of enlarging my mana pool. In EverQuest and EverQuest II, fantasy characters have a mana pool, a well of power from which they draw the energy to do magic, to fight monsters, and to heal. This power pool can be enlarged, and it can be depleted.
I think this is similarly true in real life–and I do mean Real Life. It is not true of the marginal, unlived, unconscious lives that most people seem to live. Most people don’t seem to have the power to do magic, to fight monsters, or to heal anyone. But people on the Quest, those who have begun to individuate and those who have become personalities–ah, now they have wells of mana. They know how to replenish their wells; they know when and how to use their mana.
And they are heroic, magical beings.
Sharp, Daryl. Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My Life as an Elephant. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books, 1998.