In the likeness of God

If I am feeling in complete disagreement with someone else – certain politicians come to mind – how can I reconcile that we are all made in the image or likeness of God … If I disapprove of someone else’s behaviour or opinions – perhaps someone who is also saying that they are a Christian and sincerely believes that they are doing God’s will, how can I understand it if I also believe that in my disapproval of them I am also sincerely believing that I am doing God’s will. Can it be God’s will that I disapprove of what they say is God’s will?

Religion is always beset with disagreements and divisions – so as a matter of fact are most psychoanalytic institutions … and so perhaps analytic thinking can help make sense of this. There are always different levels of consciousness or unconsciousness present. We all have our personal unconscious where the contents are formed personally from the nurture we received and the specific environment into which we were born, and the contents are at the same time also individual ‘acquisitions’ – our nature whether to do with genes, or with our predispositions. This means that everyone has their ‘own’ unconscious. What Carl Jung explains and what is also to some extent covered by Freud in his ideas on the inherited id is the idea that we are also embedded in another layer of the unconscious. This Jung called the collective unconscious.

While he wrote extensively about this, the contents of the collective unconscious can be summed up as only formed personally to a minor degree, and in its essentials it is not personal at all. The contents are not individual acquisitions because they are essentially the same everywhere and do not vary from person to person. In this way the collective unconscious is a bit like the air we breathe, we can all breathe it in and yet it belongs to no body and it is the same everywhere.

Jung called the contents of the collective unconscious the archetypes, and he saw them as prior conditions or patterns of psychic formation in general which then become personalised and modified and assimilated by external influences and conditions. In a letter to a Pastor querying his ideas of God, Jung says that a good example is the crystal lattice which is the symmetrical three-dimensional arrangement of atoms inside a crystal. There is only the one crystal lattice for millions of crystals of the same chemical compositions. No individual crystal can speak of its lattice, since the lattice is the identical precondition for all of them (none of which concretes it perfectly). It is everywhere the same and ‘eternal’. Jung links this with the idea to the likeness to God. ‘There is only one imago Dei, which belongs to the existential ground of everyone and is the principle by which we are shaped and it is unchangeable and eternal.’ It is this that then feeds into the personal psyche and is accordingly adapted and changed according to our personal experiences.

We are all interconnected and children of the same Father but it doesn’t mean that we don’t and can’t and won’t disagree!