Spiritual pioneers on the edge

The next few posts will be about a current interest of mine which is reading about those who became pioneers of spiritual discovery. Perhaps it is rather about spiritual recovery – recovery of the soul and to recover that from which each person is estranged – namely one’s essential truth. Generally, the people I am going to look at came to believe that we can have an experience of oneself as divinely grounded where there is an experience of divine immanence as a universal power underlying all that is.

This aspect of universality means that the pioneers take us out of the constraints of what Jung called confessional religion which is caught in a ‘dead system’ – a matter of the head and not the heart, a matter of doctrine rather than experience. Marginality to formal religion can in itself be utilised as a spiritual resource, after all history shows us that inside ecclesiastical authority the pioneer can become assimilated or controlled or even eliminated as a threat

So, these pioneers are on a personal search for a truth, and to experientially relate to their need for a more than intellectual meaning in life. Paradoxically what begins as a personal search leads to an intensified sense of one’s affinity with all that is. A greater resonance with what has been called ‘the Source of the all’ within can only generate a compassion with all that participates in the same source. Carl Jung called this extended compassion and saw it as endemic to his study of individuation – in other words the more we approach our essential self the more open we are to be alongside others. In recovering our soul, we recover our connections and unity with all of creation – to all that exists beyond the individual.

There are many of these contemporary pioneers. Why? There has been a disconnection from what Jung called ‘the spirit of the depths’ – the deeper we go the less solipsistic we become and so individual soul recovery through the examples and teachings of these pioneers has a much wider consequence in providing access to ‘the ruler of the depths of world affairs’. Their influence is great.

The experience of one’s essential self as divinely grounded is always ambiguous and cannot be held onto or possessed but it is a yearning, a longing for enchantment which is sometimes rewarded. Jung records one experience when he dreamt of a dark night in Liverpool (the pool of life). In this dream Jung and a number of Swiss companions are in Liverpool. It is night, dark, winter, raining and sooty, all very unpleasant. His party moves up to a higher part of the city and there Jung perceives a small island of pure light shining on a single budding magnolia tree that is illuminated both by the light and also by its source. Jung wrote that he had had a vision of unearthly beauty ‘and that was why I was able to live at all. Liverpool is “the pool of life”.  ‘I saw that here the goal had been revealed …everything is directed towards that centre … The dream depicted the climax of the whole process of the development of consciousness.’