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I Would Be Obliged

I am almost done—and, NOT.

It is a six-year program to certify as a Jungian analyst. It is training, and a title, that I knew I wanted before I was 30, even before I began the doctorate in psychology. I was, at that time, a microbiologist and a minister-in-training.

Jung made sense to me, and his ideas made sense of many things for me—like religion, for instance. Jung believed there was a human propensity to create a god-image, and that the image develops and changes as civilizations and cultures change. He also thought that there was an inherent human “religious” orientation that expresses in a variety of ways.

The word “religion” comes from a Latin root (—likely, “re + ligare”—meaning “to bind again”, as in “obligation”. Though it may be the root is “re + legere”, meaning “to read again” or “to pick out again”; or, it may go back to the Latin word “religiens”, the opposite of “negligens”, meaning “careful”.

So, religion, in its root sense, has to do with obliging to read or pick at something carefully.

I hadn’t been raised by my parents in a religious tradition, but I was exposed to a great many Christian traditions as well as Judaism during my childhood and adolescence. And, I was raised in science—almost as a religion; certainly in the 50s it was a civil religion of sorts—with the space race and burgeoning medical advances and other technologies promising perfectibility.

So, I heard many religious ideas and met many religious people. And, in their own ways they all (people and ideas) were obligatory careful pickings at something beyond the mundane.

The ideas were often in conflict, so the people were often in conflict—or about to be. There was an undercurrent, or an obvious torrent, of competition between the people who held conflicting, or just different, descriptions of the something(s) being picked at.

Perhaps it was because I myself didn’t have a single ancestral religion that I became able to know and hold multiple, and contradictory, religious ideas as commensurate, as cohering, and as equally possible. However it happened, I became “Christian” plus—an unusual thing, I think. So, I got puzzled about the insistence of so many sects on each one’s uniqueness, supremacy, over against all the “wrong” and “evil” others. This made me curious about the similarities of practices across religions and how they generated their different outcomes.

Jung helped me understand the psychology of religious practice and the plethora of religious symbols from all over the world.

I have always dreamed vividly, and voluminously. My dreams have always seemed meaningful to me, and on occasion have shed light on life choices facing me. Jung takes dreams seriously—treating them as communicative. Dreams too become a text for religious practice.

Now, I am nearly finished with six years of study and practice and application of Jungian ideas to my clinical casework and to me. Yet, I feel far from finished and fear it will never happen.

I have often shared with clients and students, and friends, my metaphor for long, formative experiences—like graduate school, for instance, or a certification program: Imagine you are entering a long u-shaped tunnel; when you first go in it starts to get dark, but you can look behind and see the light and you can make out what is around you in a shadowy way; at the other end of the tunnel it will be light and you will be able to see what is at the end; but at the bottom of the U you can’t see light and you can't see beginning or end and ALL you see is dark.

I know this U-tunnel experience; I’ve been through it multiple times. And, it still flummoxes me. I have been puzzling over how and why the end of the certifying training seems so far away, and so unreachable. The practical explanation I find is that there is just so much material—academic and clinical—to sift and sort, to express and describe, to include and reject. It is easy to feel overwhelmed.

And, at this moment, I wonder if there is a less practical, perhaps a more “religious”, explanation. I am in the midst of a “religious” reorientation. I am “almost” done, “almost” there, and I am not at all there yet. I have been in the midst of deepening a “careful picking at” something that “obliges” me. I am, like the infamous “commitment-phobic” guy, afraid of what I’ve gotten myself into—so, I keep pulling back, dancing away, wavering.

When I was in seminary my New Testament professor had built his career on his understanding that the Kingdom of God is “already AND not yet”. I am living in that in between space of being “already AND not yet” an analyst. It is not that I am “not ready”, not that I am “not worthy”, not that I am “not good enough”. It is merely, and immensely, that I am not there yet—and cannot commit to what is not, and I must commit to what I am not—yet.

This is my least favorite product in this program of writing with regularity. I took up Birds precisely because I had a total block throughout the summer—when I could have been, should have been, pounding out the 60-page final paper that would put me “there”, instead of “almost there”. It has been useful, and tangential, to write something of me every [well, somewhat every] day. It has shown me that the stuff is there in me, waiting to be let loose. And, it has shown me a bit about the unloosing, the clinging to myself rather than showing her—the reluctance to be “religious” in the practice of myself. I am reluctant oblige myself to carefully pick at me.

Jung believed that the fundamental religious instinct is toward seeking, finding and expressing creatively the true self in relationship with the larger Self that is the source. This is the religious function—to oblige oneself, for oneself, to the seeking and finding of one’s Self creatively.

I not there yet. And, I am—ALMOST.

Almost Rich And Famous