The coincidence of opposites in Carl Jung’s The Red Book (3)

So how do we explore these opposites?

Carl Jung writes how if we travel far down one path of a given perspective eventually the opposite emerges. He puts this rather poetically as reaching ‘the rim of the world, where its mirror image begins’. We can only know our self so we need experiences or as Jung calls them adventures, so, if one has no adventures (presumably in the ‘everyday world’) one becomes hemmed in by the limits of one’s own imagination and the expectations of others … he says that we need a balance here between these two opposites of inner and outer and that only a fool lives in one or the other. Another balance is between the uncommon and the ordinary, if things become too challenging or exciting one craves for the everyday and ordinary routine.

In terms of searching for God: Jung writes how if God is the unknowable, ineffable ground of cosmos and consciousness, our approach to God must not involve a dogmatic claim to knowledge, but rather a continuing expansion of psyche and culture into hitherto unknown, uncharted and chaotic realms. God in this view is associated with openness and one becomes open to God when one begins to realise this within oneself so transformation includes expansion; in searching for God the psyche is transformed in order to expand its horizons to include aspects of conscious and unconscious experience that have hitherto been unknown, rejected, suppressed, or ignored.

For Jung this involves a recognition and acceptance of the opposites within oneself such as the masculine and feminine aspects, and the contrast between the ‘heights’ – unique to each individual, and the lowest points; as he writes hitting rock bottom puts one in touch with one’s fellow human beings in a way that success and achievements can never do. Jung thinks that none of this is determined by our own will or decision making – that’s an illusion but rather we are actually being directed by the ‘great wind of the world’. This wind sinks us into ‘black depths’ but also grants us a glimpse of ‘golden light’. It is the very process of being cast into the depths that allows us to grasp our heights and experience what he calls the ‘bath of rebirth’. In the same way the acceptance of death is the condition for the full life: ‘If I accept death my tree greens’ and ‘without death life would be meaningless … limitation enables you to fulfill your being.’

For Jung the way to individuation is clear: One finds one’s soul, and becomes a fully individuated self, through an imaginative and/or life process in which one confronts, embraces, differentiates from, and ultimately alters one’s personal “devil”, i.e. the rejected, “other” aspects of one’s psyche.’

While for Jung the experience of God similarly emerges from ‘the terrible ambiguity’ of what is hateful and beautiful, good and evil etc. and refuses to be followed as a hero … the Self emerges from the same ambiguity … so accepting the darkness alongside the light. In uniting the opposites we discover God within our soul.