Jungian Psychotherapy for Spiritual Crisis: Matter
Jungian case studies is aware of a profound and paradoxical truth: to understand spirit, and, often, to move beyond spiritual crisis, we must experience — take in, accept — the reality of matter.
For Jungian case studies, spirit and matter are not fundamentally opposed, but profoundly related. Many a spiritual crisis erupts from a disconnect between the two.
Here in the Material World
Madonna sings the lines, “For we are living in a material world / And I am a material girl.” And the reality is that we are all material people. The body is not an illusion. It’s substantial, and real — it is what we are.
Our entire psyche is shaped by the fact that we are embodied creatures, living in a physical world. It is virtually impossible to conceive what it would be like to live in an unembodied way. Our whole manner of mental functioning stems from being in a body, and even the images generated by archetypal psyche are images of embodied existence — of physical being.
Matter, My Nature
To be human, we have to come to terms with animal life. One of the great spiritual lessons to come out of the work of Charles Darwin and evolution has to do with recognizing that we live in continuity with all that lives in the material world, rather than existing in a separate and god-like apartness. We are a part of the whole great living reality of the earth.
An important part of the journey of the spirit for us is a journey into accepting our own material, animal existence. Accepting the simple, humble, yet wondrous organism that each of us fundamentally is.
To approach this simple, wondrous, poor, yet infinitely rich, fearful yet courageous, humble and yet deeply dignified being, our own animal self, with compassion and self acceptance, is a huge journey.
Dust, Perhaps, but Enchanted Dust
We are matter, surely, yet we move with a strange enchantment. Looking at ourselves, we cannot help but wonder: do we have even the beginning of an understanding of the nature of matter — our own matter? The fact remains that, of all the things that humanity has encountered in the universe so far, we ourselves are the most intricate and wondrous.
The matter which forms us, and by which we are surrounded is infinitely variable, subtle and complex. We swim in it, we are it, and yet we cannot even take in the complete fullness of the mystery of matter in the apparently smallest and most insignificant of things. A magnificently simple and eloquent scene from the film American Beauty (dir. Sam Mendes) captures this:
Living in the Flesh of the World
We live with and in the flesh of the world, subject to its necessities, its weaknesses and its wonder. When we move away from material existence, and from our body existence, we move away from life, and from others. Spiritual crisis? Jungian case studies knows that, without relationship to matter, there is no relationship to spirit.
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PHOTO: Some rights reserved nilsrinaldi ; familymwr | VIDEO: “American Beauty” © 1999 Paramount Pictures