These difficult times 1

In 1953 Carl Jung warned a pastor of the danger of confusing ourselves with God. Seventy years later this seems like a prophecy that is being horribly fulfilled – although of course realistically humans have been confusing themselves with God for centuries. This links to the biblical idea that we are made in the image of God. We read in Genesis 1:27, ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’

It depends what the image of God means, but it is a short step to see it as to do with power and control. Jung saw the danger as seeing ourselves as the demiurge, in other words being responsible for the creation of the universe. Perhaps here in the sense that we arrogantly make the universe or recreate the universe to meet our own needs; as if everything in it has been created merely to serve us. Inevitably this means that we are also responsible for the earth’s destruction. In the almost seventy years since Jung wrote that warning, our powers of destruction have continued apace, and in our lack of humility we have inevitably usurped the cosmic powers of destruction. Indeed Jung warned of ‘a second Deluge,’ adding, ‘He [man] should become conscious of the tremendous danger of God becoming man, which threatens him with becoming God, and learn to understand the mysteria Dei better.

This has been especially so around the destruction of other creatures’ habitats and lives. We have not seen that they too were created by God and carry the imprint of their creator. Here the Franciscan Bonaventure is especially prescient. Dan Horan in his book on The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton explains Bonaventure’s theology of creation,

‘that highlighted the ways in which everything that was created by God was, in a sense, a vestige of the Creator. Each tree, blade of grass, bird, and so forth bears the imprint (vestigium) of the God who lovingly willed that aspect of the created order into existence.’

Thomas Merton connected to this Franciscan tradition. He wrote,

‘My idea of the world: first of all the world as God’s good creation. I have the good fortune to live in close contact with nature, how should I not love this world and love it with passion? I understand the joy of St Francis amid the creatures! God manifests himself in his creation, and everything that he has made speaks of him.’