Healing is a Journey Into the Unknown

Sharing his observations on where people in tribal societies look to find their healers, Carl Jung writes:

What happens regularly is easily observed because we are prepared for it. Knowledge and skill are only needed in situations where the course of events is arbitrarily disrupted in a way hard to fathom. Generally it is one of the cleverest and shrewdest men of the tribe who is entrusted with the observation of events. His knowledge must suffice to explain all unusual occurrences, and his art to combat them. He is the scholar, the specialist, the expert on the subject of chance occurrences, and at the same time the keeper of the archives of the tribe’s traditional lore. Surrounded by respect and fear, he enjoys great authority, yet not so great but that his tribe is secretly convinced that their neighbors have a sorcerer who is stronger than theirs. The best medicine is never to be found close at hand, but as far away as possible. I stayed for a time with a tribe that held their old medicine-man in the greatest awe. Nevertheless, he was consulted only for the minor ailments of the cattle and men. In all serious cases a foreign authority was called in—a M’ganga (sorcerer) who was brought at a high price from Uganda—just as with us. [Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 136]

If you are struggling with a psychological or spiritual issue, where do you go for help? You may seek out the people that your society has sanctioned as healers: therapists, counselors and psychologists for psychological issues, perhaps a minister or priest for spiritual matters. But what if your specific problem partly stems from the worldview and value system of the society you are a part of? In other words, what if your symptoms are a reflection of the zeitgeist of the times, that you suffer, like so many others, from a worldview and value system that is outworn, outmoded or otherwise faulty. And what if the “evidence-based” (i.e., mainstream, conventional) therapies and religious institutions are also informed and take their life from the same worldview and value system? Then, in a way, you are attempting to use the same illness-making belief system to cure your belief system-induced illness. Can a belief system cure the very illness that belief system created?

The doctor can heal the ills that science has already mastered. But our illnesses transform. They grow more difficult and complex. They change with the times and reflect the times. So also, then, must our methods of healing. If a woman, like the society she grew up in, is ill because she is too rationalistic in her approach to life, can she be healed by the overly-rationalistic methods of her society’s doctors? Will the man who is depressed because of his egocentric orientation to life be healed by a therapy that further discounts the voice and reality of his unconscious? Probably not.

When our illnesses and struggles push the boundaries of what we know—and what society knows—our healing and growth must come from somewhere else, from a perspective that transcends our current worldview. It comes from beyond the edges of our conscious mind and what we think we know. Does this mean that your search for healing should take you to another country or to the latest and “hottest” treatment methods? Not necessarily. Perhaps especially with psychological and spiritual issues, healing it is not so much about foreignness, newness and novelty, as it is about a perspective or viewpoint that transcends the beliefs and attitudes that ail us.

Healing a deeper psychological or spiritual issue typically requires a viewpoint and widening of consciousness beyond the grasp of our current awareness. The wisdom and guidance that can transform our illness and make us whole often reside in a distant and mysterious village in the furthest reaches of our soul.

1) Jung, Carl Gustav. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. NY. 1933.

Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
Excerpts may be used provided full and clear credit is given author with link to original article.

2 thoughts on “Healing is a Journey Into the Unknown

  1. What is concerning me in my spiritual journey is defining myself through the renunciations and the practices. While I find relief at times, I am beginning to feel disconnected from the things that motivate actions in the “normal” world; the desire for things, competition, accomplishment, being respected or perceived by others as whatever one wants. There are advantages to dwindling my desires for reaching out into the world for pleasure but I still find myself seeking affirmations through activities and achievement, I just no longer find the same lasting satisfactions. I don’t want to escape with substance use but in its absence while I still know great, satisfying joys and deeper connection spiritually some parts of me misses that easy coping tool however defective. I have not selected a spiritual path affiliated with a specific community, teetering between Buddhism and Hinduism. I do understand why one should. A piece of me says I am no longer interested in the regular world and monastic orders, teaching and living it full on within a community of other followers is appealing. Though at my age it seems a little late, 53. In short, my journey is starting to feel lonely and a little dangerous, escapist without a clear focus on where this is leading me and how to best be servant for myself and others. I have read enough to know spiritual guides, gurus didn’t exist apart from meeting their own human needs while serving, getting hurt at times, angry or frustrated. In the end I just want to end up so far out there that I don’t feel secure and content with my life.

    • Hi Tom,

      I find your last sentence very interesting. I take it to mean that you want to be discontent with your life because that will give you further motivation to change. Is that correct?

      It sounds to me like you are going through a real mid-life shift, a re-orientation of values, goals and perspective. Perhaps you are called to a monastic community. Or maybe you are called to a path of greater spiritual devotion (individuation) within your current life and relationships.
      You are obviously searching for answers and have a desire for a life of deepened spiritual meaning. I would encourage you to pay attention to your dreams and try to learn from them in whatever ways you can. Your psyche and the world also want and need for you to find your calling.

      Thank you for writing.


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