The notion of God – beyond knowing

The notion of God is beyond conceptual knowing in the sense that there can be no ideas or any image that can adequately represent God – the ineffable. In fact when we limit God to our own understanding we do both ourselves and God a disservice. What we do know is that our experience of God changes over time and deepens if we let go of preconceived ideas. This is why it’s almost impossible to explain what contemplation is – though you can explain how to meditate and so on and it’s only some of the poets who can sometimes capture glimpses of it.

We will find a deeper idea of God through bringing the unconscious into consciousness – we will at least get a sense of the kind of God we focus on and why. But God cannot be seen as ‘just’ an archetype. Poor Carl Jung got criticism from both camps about his theories of the archetypes. He is often concerned to be seen as a scientist proceeding from as he writes ‘empirical facts which everyone is at liberty to verify’ and then from the other camp he is criticised as a philosopher or as he puts it, as ‘a Gnostic who claims supernatural knowledge.’ I think some of that still lingers on in both contemporary analytic and contemporary religious circles. After all what Jung was above all else was a seeker and a searcher for the deeper things in life and as such remains a giant thinker and psychologist. He was interested above all else in developing awareness and consciousness and this aspect of his thinking is highly relevant for the spiritual life. He saw that there were layers of consciousness including the rational and the psychological but beyond that was a level that one might call mysticism – yet for Jung psychology remained above all else the route towards understanding.

It is true that after a while depth psychology – analytical psychology – can open up realms beyond the limits of what one previously thought were the edges of one’s personal being but to venture into these areas you either need the structure of a spiritual discipline or the framework of being in analysis. The God of the personal unconscious is easy enough to recognise…in my case analysis revealed a punishing, highly critical, demanding god – Freud would have called it the super ego. Somewhere though I felt something else existed – a loving God but I needed a guide to find that God and this was not an analyst but the Advocate – the Helper and so my conversion 16 years ago introduced me to the God represented by Jesus Christ … a God who loves us above all else. However old habits die hard and during a second period of therapy my then analyst (both the therapies that I have undertaken have been with Jungians from the Society of Analytical Psychology – the London Jungians) called the god that I worshipped a devil because of the lack of love and the emphasis on power. So there is a struggle between the conditioning from the past and the present experience and it is only too easy to fall back. Gradually little by little new experiences can replace old ones and faith in love can I believe overcome the darkness; and God is present in the unconscious because He is present in all things but he is not the unconscious…he is more than we can know or imagine we know…