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  • Topic: 'The Big and Sacred Work' - James Graham Johnston

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    • September 5, 2014 10:42:01 AM PDT
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      'The Big and Sacred Work' - James Graham Johnston

      The following, 'The Big and Sacred Work', is the final section in the last chapter, 'Becoming Whole', of the book "Jung's Compass of Psychological Types" by James Graham Johnston. The book gives a comprehensive introduction and overview to the functions of consciousness ("psychological types"), quoting from Carl Jung (the originator of the theory), and also has a basic introduction to Analytical Psychology - grounding the types theory from where it came. One of the the central tenets, if not the central tenet, in Analytical Psychology is individuation (i.e. personality growth/development, etc.) and I felt the author's final words were a solid goodbye and happy travels in your own journey in life.


      "The Big and Sacred Work
      'The glory of God is the human person fully aware.' - Irenaeus of Lyons

      We humans are trapped precariously within an existential dilemma. We are delivered unannounced into a world from seeming darkness and perish into darkness in a comparative instant of time. From dust we come and to dust we return. In between we may pretend to have control, to know what we are doing or where we are going, but we are groping our way through sheer mystery.

      We may try to stay 'present' to the moment, yet there is no moment we could define as 'present.' The very instant a future moment becomes the present moment it is lost as a past memory. There is no tangible moment to which we might stay present. We may exist in the infinitesimally thin silver of time that separates past from prologue.

      Everything about us is in the constant flux. None of the cells of our bodies remains with us. Each passes away, replaced by an intelligent and autonomous duplicate. The body we have in this moment is not the same body we have in the next moment. Our transport vehicle perpetually replaces itself with another one.

      We experience life as though caught between two holograms. Outwardly, we perceive only the perceptible facade of what is truly there. Whatever it is, it is not what we think it is. We know only what we have been given to know. All else is concealed from our understanding. We might perceive the effects of gravity, but gravity itself is a mystery to us. We can perceive the dazzling starry galaxies in the night sky, but what we see may have been annihilated long before the dawn of our civilization; we will not know for a few million years.

      We know nothing of the massive and enigmatic dark matter and dark energy that comprise far more of the night sky than we are able to see. Beyond what we can perceive and what we know must be there, we have no capacity for knowing what else might be present.

      Inwardly, we are given dreams, visions, images, thoughts, aspirations, passions and conflicts. They too only represent a small fraction of the life beneath the surface of consciousness, and we only apprehend those images according to predetermined perceptual frameworks.

      Such is our condition. We have one brief shining moment in time in which to understand and relate to the mystery of life. Many of us gloss over that mystery as we go about our busy and egocentric lives seeking to be more pleased than displeased.

      We are the 'top animal exiled on a tiny speck of a planet in the Milky Way.' The evolutionary descent of man from primordial sludge to the human animal may account for the history of biological form, but it does not account for the exponential leap in self-awareness, thought, religious urge, humor, or social conscience. What separates man from the cavalcade of evolutionary life? Personality.

      No other species on our planet seems equipped with our consciousness of consciousness. We have no one here, other than ourselves, to discuss our personal condition. None of the living creatures in our world are intentionally building faith communities, creating constitutional laws, or probing epistemology. We have no one here from whom we might understand the nature and purpose of this life.

      'That is the reason he does not know himself; he is cosmically isolated. He only can state with certainty that he is no monkey, no bird, no fish and no tree. But what he positively is, remains obscure (Serrano, 1968, p. 84).'

      We live in utter mystery. We may avoid our inquiry of that mystery, for the answers to our honest pursuit might appear too dangerous, too fearsome, or too unnerving. It is easier to simply adapt to the way of the herd, to look to answers given by others and accept them. Yet in choosing the way of the herd, we know that something dies within us. We join the 'mass of men,' as Thoreau observed, living in 'quiet desperation.'

      'The more you cling to that which all the world desires, the more you are Everyman, who has not yet discovered himself and stumbles through the world like a blind man leading the blind with somnambulistic certainty into the ditch (CW 14, paragraph 192).'

      The alternative to the way of the herd is the way of individuation - the way that calls to us from unconscious depths. It is the long, slow way - neither easy nor expedient. Yet it is the way to the center where we may gain the certainties of the soul and the satisfaction of a life well lived.

      'But in the end, the hero, the leader, the savior, is one who discovers a new way to greater certainty. Everything could be left undisturbed did not the new way demand to be discovered, and did it not visit humanity with all the plagues of Egypt until it finally is discovered. The undiscovered vein within us is a living part of the psychic; classical Chinese philosophy names this interior way 'Tao,' and likens it to a flow of water that moves irresistibly towards its goals. To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, one's destination reached, one's mission done; the beginning, end, and perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in all things. Personality is Tao (CW 17, paragraph 323).'

      We are endowed with a yearning to be part of something big and sacred. We may travel the world in search of acclaim or notoriety. We may devote our lives to certain causes and ambitions. Yet, this outward contribution to civilization 'will not be great or good, if the inward one is small or of little worth.' Our greatest contribution will issue from pursuing that individuated way that is ours and ours alone to live.

      The individual way is the big and sacred work that is given to each of us. If we wish to create something of enduring significance in the universe during our short sojourn in this world, we may find that eternally enduring significance in the individual that destiny calls us to become.

      'I am neither spurred on by excessive optimism nor in love with high ideals, but am merely concerned with that fate of the individual human being - that infinitesimal unit on whom a world depends, and in whom, if we read the meaning of the Christian message alright, even God seeks his goal (CW 10, paragraph 113).'" - pages 274-277


      I love that third to last paragraph, "We are endowed ...", though one could just as easily call my resonance with it and the belief being promoted by the author as an introverted bias.

    • January 17, 2018 7:27:43 PM PST
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      'The Big and Sacred Work' - James Graham Johnston

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