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Jung and Jesus

For five-plus years I have been training to be a “Jungian analyst.” It is the culmination of a very long journey, that began when I was first introduced, at age 22 in 1972, to Jung’s way of interpreting dreams.

When I was eleven we visited my mother’s brother where he lived in a bay-view home near the Golden Gate Bridge. That was the year “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” was so popular, and I sang it with personal attachment after spending the weekend with Uncle Jim, Aunt Jenny and cousins Jennifer and Julie. I had left my heart in San Francisco and eleven years later I returned to reclaim it.

I had just moved away from home, after graduating from college, into a tiny studio apartment in the Marina. I was terribly excited, and a little intimidated, by all it took to have my own little life in The City. My first night I tossed and turned and just before dawn I dreamed:

It is late, dark night. I am sleeping in my bed when I feel movement at my feet. I wake to find my bed is running over with rats and mice. They are carrying and moving various things all around. At first I am scared— really startled more. As I watch I see they are quite intentional; they are cleaning scraps of food and clutter and moving out things that belonged to the previous occupants. I feel a bit like Cinderella, being taken care. Preparing for the ball?

The following day I was talking to one of the lab assistants and mentioned my fitful sleep and curious dream. Gilbert said, “Well, you know what Carl Jung would say?” But, of course I didn’t, knowing only Jung’s name from Psychology-1A. I shook my head dumbly, and Gilbert plowed ahead, “The rats and mice would represent the instincts—taking care of the natural work of clearing up the detritus, making way for the new life.”

Oh, well, so that’s what Jung would say?! I felt oddly reassured that that interpretation sort of, kind of, fit with Cinderella and the ball. I didn’t tell Gilbert about that. “Where would I look to learn more?”

I had always had such vivid dreams, and such strong recall. I figured I should learn more about someone who believed the dreams had important things to say to me. Well, that was the beginning of a long, informal relationship with the thought of Carl Jung. He made such sense of so many things—not just dreams.

The one really important thing was religion. For a long time he was the only psychology professional who seemed to have any positive take on religion. He said that there is in the human psyche a universal inclination toward seeking and/or ascribing a god-image. And, he spent a lifetime researching all manner of religious, mystical and altered states experiences to demonstrate it.

By the time I came to formally study Jung, beginning about 15 years ago, I had read about many of his explorations but had not reached into his researches of alchemy. Over time I learned that he found alchemy to be the final source [so to speak] that validated his own understanding of what the human psyche is up to—individuation, that is, the individual becoming uniquely and deeply and independently itself and in touch with the transcendent source that energizes that self.

For some reason I believe this deeply, and question it simultaneously. I have always found my own way, even while I have used religions and philosophies to guide me. Christianity has been central to my own quest, even while I have felt great shame at the many ways and times it has been used to damage people, and the earth.

And, now I am nearly “Jungian”, and I worry and fear that I am called to choose one over the other, one guru over the other, one system over the other. And, I cannot, may not, choose between them.

In my heart of hearts I feel it is not necessary that Jung edge out Jesus in the race to salvation. I truly believe that Jung and Jesus do not see it that way. Occasionally I image them sitting together, tipping back dark beer together, saying, “What of our faithful servant Sophie?” And they laugh and shake their heads over my scrupulosity. They scold Satan—for testing me so fiercely over and over.

I keep waiting for the mice and rats to come back in a new dream—to clean up the “detritus” of this confusion of religiosities—Come, Lord Rats and Mice, Come!

What would Jung and Jesus say to that? I guess I better find out, because I’m coming to the end of the training. This tension in me between the two is keeping me from finishing. And I need to be finished. I need the initiation complete. I need both these mentors—made alive in me through their own words and the stories about them –to look down on me and say, “This is our beloved daughter with whom we are well pleased.”

Teach the Dream

Tiger's Milk