Beyond imagination and reason
Carl Jung wrote extensively about the marriage of opposites and the transcendent function. Often imagination and reason are pitted as opposites or as I’ve done in some of this recent writing spoken of as a sort of balance between the two. It certainly seems as if that is one way of learning to function, in other words conscious awareness of both aspects. In contemplation the aim is to move beyond both conscious reasoning and conscious imagination to a point beyond the world of duality where there is reconciliation experienced as an emptiness which may also be the fullness of God.
The transcendent function suggests that as you struggle and you pit one idea against another it is possible to reach a point where something new emerges… a breakthrough and perhaps a bit like a Zen koan. Here there could be integration of what is apparently irreconcilable but also something new. Various mystics suggest that the truth lies beyond reason and contradiction and it is in experience and intuition where God can be discovered. Western thought needs Eastern thought so that there can be an integration of the intuitive, the imaginative, the symbolic with thought and reason. Could this be some new expression of faith to tackle the domination of the disastrous effects of Western industrialism and materialism? Yet neither the East nor the West has the whole truth. The truth cannot be found through any theory but can only be experienced – it is about what we can be in our very being. The ideal is to follow Christ – open to vulnerability and transparently compassionate.
Bede Griffiths was asked in later life ‘What is the meaning of life?’ He replied ‘The meaning of life is love and there are two ways to love. One is through dedication of the whole of your life to the spirit and the working out of that dedication. The other is to love another human being so profoundly that that initiates you into the divine love.’
To love in that way requires knowing our self and learning to love our self which is not in any way an easy thing to do but also involves an opening ourselves up to something that we can barely glimpse…and can barely accept: mercy. We can learn from others that the love of God is for everyone and can overwhelm and embrace us so that we are held. As Thomas Merton puts it at the end of his wonderful book The Sign of Jonas: ‘I have always overshadowed Jonas with My mercy… Have you had sight of me, Jonas, My Child? Mercy within mercy within mercy.’