It becomes increasingly clear that we cannot go back to the way things were before the current pandemic, and if we do then more difficult times will happen. Yet humans are a species that find change difficult – yes we can adapt, but reluctantly, and often only by small incremental steps. Perhaps this is the same for all created beings.
In 1955 Carl Jung wrote about how the wheel of time cannot be turned back. ‘Things, however, can be destroyed and renewed. This is extremely dangerous, but the signs of our times are dangerous too. If there was ever a truly apocalyptic era, it is ours. God has put the means for a universal holocaust into the hands of men.’ Jung was referring here to nuclear warfare. Whilst the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is now 75 years ago the threat remains, with even more missiles with greater capabilities, and perhaps a diminishing awareness of the total destruction and horror of it all.
Jung describes how pessimistic he is about the future and the darkness of knowing about this level of destruction: ‘My thoughts about “this world” … are not enjoyable. The drive of the unconscious towards mass murder on a global scale is not exactly a cheering prospect.’ Taking the long view Jung comments how transitions between the aeons always seem to have been melancholy and despairing times, and now we are moving into Aquarius and here Jung quotes from the Sibylline Oracles: ‘Aquarius inflames the savage forces of Lucifer’. He jokes that this could be a case of senile pessimism if he had not seen the evidence of nuclear weapons, and the unconscious drive towards ‘the great genocide’.
The destruction of nature and the habitats of our fellow creatures is also another form of this unconscious desire for destruction, but there is always the opposite too which is creativity, and this is an energy towards life and living. Jung would say that both have to be in balance and perhaps the current difficult times are forcing us to see differently how we might live.
We are he says also irresistibly attracted to God who invites our creativity. ‘I would feel it the most heinous sin were I to offer any resistance to this compelling force. I feel it is God’s will that I should exercise the gift of thinking which has been vouchsafed to me. Therefore I put my thinking at his service…’
Jung’s thinking was about the integration of the shadow, in other words owning the destructiveness both individually and collectively, bringing the dark destructiveness into the light. The psyche – the unconscious –is not man made, but is part of the divinely created nature which for Jung includes evil and destruction. The aim is not to deny this and so find a false goodness or perfection, but rather for completeness or wholeness, Jung called this individuation.
‘In so far as God is wholeness himself, himself whole and holy, man [and woman] attains … wholeness only in God, that is in self-completeness, which in turn they attain only by submitting to God’s will … For me the state of human wholeness is one of “completeness” and not of “perfection”, an expression like “holiness,” I tend to avoid.’