I was struck this morning by a similarity between Christian Baptism and Jungian psychology while reading a story in the New Yorker about former Arkansas Governor and 2008 presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. In this story, the Governor and former Baptist minister recounts the following to the reporter in regards to how he knows God exists.
Huckabee told me about experiences he’s had with divine inspiration: “There’ve been times when a thought would come to me . . . and as soon as I wrote it or said it I stepped back and thought, Whoa, pretty darn good.” I asked how he knew he wasn’t just smart. “Well, nobody thinks that,” he said, laughing. “Haven’t you read the blogs? I’m a complete idiot. I’m not smart enough to run for president.”
For Huckabee, this “divine inspiration,” as well as a synchronistic, or divinely inspired experience that he describes, proves the existence of a God. Within the Jungian world, these experience of Huckabee’s are rather well appreciated and understood–although, of course, they’re viewed differently. Huckabee’s experience of something else writing the words he wrote and something other than himself producing the inspiring material might be considered in some ways the basis of all Jungian psychology.
What is that which writes things which in conceptual terms our ego minds could not have possibly produced? Indeed, what is it that dreamed that philosophical idea last night, or put together the elaborate story of crossing a mountain and eating a feast? What is it that places us in impossibly unlikely and favorable circumstances? Is it just chance? Just coincidence? Just the way things are? Is it God?
Certainly, our conscious minds, our human minds, are not always running the show. Where Jungians and this Baptist preacher meet is that both would agree without a doubt that such a statement is true. But does this fact prove the existence of God?
For Jungians, the answer is no. Yet, the question of what is beyond our conscious minds drives the whole research of the field.
In the recently published Red Book, about which I have blogged several times, Jung began developing his technique of active imagination, strengthening his understanding that what he understood to be himself, Jung, did not encompass the whole of what was within his mind, his psyche. Moreover, Jung wrestled with knowing if everything that was in his mind was part of him once he met it there.
About the most prominent figure whom Jung met in the explorations of his inner world was a figure named Philemon. What Jung wrote about Philemon suggests for me similar experiences Huckabee had which proved for him the existence of God.
Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force that was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. . . .Psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight.
So what is the difference? If Jung and Huckabee had the same experiences in which things were produced from them which they themselves know they could not have created alone, does it matter if one is called “God” or something akin to autonomous figures within our psyches?
In this case, for the Jungian world, the answer is absolutely.
What Huckabee concludes from his experiences are in many ways similar to what Jung concluded. There is something greater than our singular minds guiding life, the universe, and our individual life paths. The difference, however, is that the former conclusion delivers control into an externally projected ego-fantasy, a singular, omnipotent being that is in total control of things and has certain expectations and desires for how things turn out. The latter conclusion, that on which Jungian psychology is based, is more of recognition than a conclusion; a recognition of the reality of psyche, that there are observable truths that events happen within our own minds that we do not consciously produce and that synchronistic events in the outer world do occur which suggest an inter-connection of things beyond what we were consciously aware of. As Jung said in his 1932 lectures on Kundalini Yoga, “the psyche is a self-moving thing, something genuinely not yourself” (trans. 1996, ed. Sonu Shamadasani, p. 54).
If we persist in calling this reality of psyche “God,” we persist in making decisions and producing values based on an externally projected notion of omnipotence and personality. For some, the end result may be the same, which is that life is lived in highest accordance with the reality that things are not wholly within our conscious control (I personally witnessed and learned from such devotion in my Grandmother’s life, for instance). In this case, devotion is authentic wisdom and follows in many respects the Jungian notion of Individuation. For others, however, the notion of a God does not result in a submission of the “ego mind” to the larger realities of life, or of God, but simply leaves the ego in control under the guise of a devotion to something larger — a rather dangerous, inflated conclusion.
In many ways, it seems that Huckabee’s relationship with God may mimic the former more than the latter, recognizing — as I try to — that there is something within us or without us, call it the living psyche or God, that renders our conscious minds a tiny island on a vast, unknowable sea. Semantics aside, on one point we will agree, that at any moment a terrible tornado or ship of riches may strike our island, and that such events are totally outside of our control or ability to predict.