In about the seventh grade I went to a church youth group meeting led by a dapper dude named Oliver something. He told us he was forty years old and that his “way of thinking hadn’t changed much since I turned thirty-five”. I was thrilled. I hated junior high and though that birthday was some distance ahead, it was great to know one day the path ahead would be clear!
No such luck. Dude must have been lobotomized. Or fundamentalized maybe. That Christmas I watched William F Buckley interview Malcolm Muggeridge. Even though they were both Catholics (Muggeridge one of great zeal) I found comfort in the overlap of our metaphysical perspectives. Muggeridge:
“It is only possible to succeed at second rate pursuits – like becoming a millionaire or a prime minister, winning a war, seducing beautiful women, flying through the stratosphere or landing on the moon. First-rate pursuits – involving, as they must, trying to understand what life is about and trying to convey that understanding – inevitably result in a sense of failure. A Napoleon, a Churchill, a Roosevelt can feel themselves to be successful, but never a Socrates, a Pascal, a Blake. Understanding is for ever unattainable. Therein lies the inevitability of failure in embarking upon its quest, which is none the less the only one worthy of serious attention.”
Well, Blake framed his take as the apocalyptic “fearful symmetry” of tyger and lamb. As I’ve said before* I prefer Jung’s: “Life is a luminous pause between two great mysteries which yet are one” with its intimation of meaning and perhaps even numinosity. Both would probably agree that courage and will are necessary to emerge from problematic phases of the ‘pause’.
In his book The Middle Passage, Jungian analyst James Hollis quotes Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas**: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you”**.
Hmm. Just what is it that’s eatin’ at me…?
**The Gospel of St Thomas? It’s one of the Gnostic Gospels as described by Elaine Pagels in her book The Gnostic Gospels. They were discovered by farmers in Egypt in 1945. The Gospel of Thomas dates to the second century. Gnostics held that salvation will come from within. Without need for clerical intercession.
***The pictures above are drawings from Jung’s Red Book. They are his representations of self induced hallucinations undergone in a midlife effort to figure out what was inside him trying to get out.