The Quest for Home and Self

The Jungian analyst and Roman Catholic priest John P. Dourley who died in 2019 wrote a pamphlet for the Guild of Pastoral Psychology in 1982 about this psychological and spiritual quest drawing on the writings of Paul Tillich and Carl Jung. I must have bought it fairly soon after that, when, as a young adult, I was at the start of my own searching for deeper meaning. Coming across it nearly four decades later it still makes a lot of sense.

I like the way that Dourley understands that the very searching implies an experience of a certain fullness or well-being from which life is currently somehow removed – in other words the energy for the quest becomes the energy for looking for this absent abundance.  We already have a distant sense of what we are looking for. ‘Homelessness implies a sense of home in however many different places the human spirit may locate it.’ The looking is the basis of both the possibility and the necessity of the spiritual searching. ‘This remains true even though the pilgrim may come to this recognition only toward the end of the journey, and possibly after passage through many homes on the way.’

Dourley sees transformative experiences in the depths of the psyche as being connected to both psychic and spiritual conversion – what he calls ‘the unity of the psychological and religious in one’s own person’ where the searcher is being led to their truest home.

‘Which way does one turn toward home and self? Are they to be found in a transcendent country foreign to the land of our present exile? And do we go home with the gratuitously given energy and light of a power drawing life to itself from a position totally beyond it? Or is the way home to be found in a turning within to meet there a part of ourselves which has never been away from home and drives us from the depths of our existence to unite ourselves more fully with it?’

In the first God is a stranger – in the second God is one from whom each of us has been estranged. As we discover God, we discover ourselves – something similar or even identical from ourselves although God infinitely transcends us – God from whom we have been estranged but never have been nor ever can be separated.

This is then a radical understanding of divine immanence where the search for the essential self and the search for God become the ultimate concern in the quest for home. Tillich thought that ‘to be human is to be concerned with the ultimate because the ultimate is that power in the human driving humanity to itself.’ The search for the infinite is fired by its presence in the depth of each person: ‘God is the presupposition of the question of God.’