Jungian Psychology Series: Ego, God and Destiny

“Why do these philosophers pretend that God is an idea, a kind of arbitrary assumption which they engender, when its perfectly plain that he exists, as plain as a brick that falls on your head? Suddenly I understood that God was, for me at least, one of the most certain and immediate experiences.” Carl Jung

When asked by an interviewer if he believed in God, Carl Jung responded, “No, I don’t believe in God, I know God.” His response was not a claim to a special relationship with God. Rather, it reflected his experiences of a force greater than himself directing the path of his life. In his scientific writings, Jung used the term, the “Self,” to describe this autonomous, organizing force within the personality.

Although sometimes viewed as a mystic, Carl Jung was first and foremost an empirical scientist. His assertions regarding the structure of the personality were firmly rooted in the broad data of psychic phenomena revealed through mental illness (and wholeness), dreams, culture, history, religious experiences, and other spontaneous patterns of human behavior and nature. Dr. Jung had little interest in psychological and spiritual speculation except to the extent that such postulates were testable and might productively explain the data at hand. His use of terms such as the Self, archetypes, and the unconscious is not fundamentally different from physicists’ use of terms such as gravity, magnetism, atoms, and quarks. All are concepts used to describe entities/forces that can be known only through their effects. If Jung’s theories regarding the structure and dynamics of the psyche are imagined by some people to be untestable metaphysical conjectures, they are usually unaware–sometimes intentionally so–of the depth and breadth of data from which the theories are derived. For example, it is estimated that Carl Jung analyzed over 67,000 dreams during his lifetime. Naturally, he would be aware of patterns and correlations between people’s psychological processes and the content of their dreams that most of us would miss.

An important insight gleaned from the study of dreams is that the psyche is never indifferent to the attitude(s) of our conscious mind, or ego. It seems that each person has a unique destiny and the Self, or personality core, acts like a coach in the development of that potential. In dreams this is evidenced by the steadfastness with which certain themes appear and issues are addressed. When we have recurring dreams it is because we are not getting the message that the unconscious is trying to communicate. Figure out the message–and make the appropriate changes in your life–and the recurring dreams stop; the psyche moves on to the next step in our growth process. For instance, some people have dreams of being chased. These dreams often indicate that the dreamer’s current approach to life is at odds with the path/attitude he or she should be taking. We could say that the unconscious has sent a messenger to the ego, but the ego does not want to receive it. Typically in such dream series, the more we persist on our current path and resist corrective input from the unconscious, the more aggressive the dream figures become.

Recurring dreams are just one example of the way in which the personality core attempts to guide individuals to the fuller realization of their unique potential. In fact, every dream, properly interpreted, can lead to a broader understanding of oneself and one’s destiny. Jung concluded, and depth psychology continues to confirm, that our dreams compensate the one-sided perspectives of the ego, patiently guiding the personality towards “completion.”

We would like to choose our destiny, but it appears that it is our destiny that chooses us. To illustrate, consider these questions: Can you choose your passions? Did you choose your sexual orientation? You can pursue a particular career, but can you choose your vocation, or “calling?” Perhaps you can choose to behave in a loving way towards people, but can you choose who you deeply love? Can you choose who loves you? Do you consciously choose your illnesses, or the challenges and lessons life will bring you? When you really think about it, a great deal of who we are lies beyond the reach and control of our ego.

The presence of a force greater than oneself within the personality and life is sometimes most palpable in the consequences we encounter when we pursue paths at odds with our deeper nature and destiny. For example, if you don’t like your anger you may repress it. In return you may get splitting headaches or an upset stomach. You may try to deny and hide your sexual orientation, only to suffer from depression or alcoholism as a result. You can pursue a career that will bring you more money than following your true calling, but then find that you can’t get a job, or you’re miserable at the job you do get, or your job destroys your marriage, etc. Or maybe you’re a nice person and all you want is for other people to be nice to you. But life keeps bringing you people that would emotionally abuse you, cheat you, and so forth. You want to be passive and peaceful, but life wants you to learn how to fight back and stand up for yourself.

To acknowledge God in the psyche is to recognize that there are consequences to the conscious attitudes that we take in life. When we become observers of our life experiences–especially life’s responses to our consciously chosen path and attitudes–we see that we are pushed from within and guided from without towards a certain goal, which we may help bring to fruition, or not. This is the essence of the term co-creation. Will we assist the psyche in the natural unfolding of our personality and the fulfillment of our destiny, or will we try to impose our own will upon the world instead? The former is co-creation, and the latter, egocentricity.

The reader may notice the difference between this view of co-creation and God, and that of the popular “law of attraction” and “power of intention” views as put forth in “The Secret” and the metaphysical ramblings of various New Thought writers such as Wayne Dyer. In his book, The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way, Dr. Dyer explains that we attract to ourselves what we intend and envision for ourselves. To illustrate, he states, “Suppose that you want a better job with a higher salary. Imagine yourself as already having it, knowing in your thoughts that you’re entitled to it, with no doubt about the job showing up because you can see it within. The universal mind [that is, God] now has no choice in the matter, since you’re part of that all-creating mind and there’s no vibrational contradiction.” It’s certainly nice to know that once you’ve decided on a particular future for yourself, God will obediently follow along. Perhaps this should be called  “God as puppy-dog spirituality.”

The main problem with the “law of attraction” and “the power of intention” as developed by writers such as Dr. Dyer is not that the “laws” themselves aren’t valid, but that they are grossly over-generalized. Depth psychology validates the fact that our unconscious attracts certain outer events to us through the processes of projection and synchronicity. It is also true that our deeper intentions can and do influence what comes our way in life. But these laws are not omnipotent or decisive. They influence our lives but do not define their course because, frankly, God is not a puppy-dog, and although the ego would like to play the role of God within the psyche, it cannot. The Self and destiny transcend the ego.

Perhaps the best argument against some of the claims made by New Thought writers comes from nature herself. According to Dr. Dyer, the only thing that stands between ourselves and unlimited abundance, health, joy, etc. are the fears, doubts, and other resistances of our ego. Surprisingly, though, creatures which have no ego (i.e., plants and other animals), and which, therefore, should carry no resistance to the to the “all-providing Source of intention,” still experience scarcity, still suffer from diseases, and still die prematurely. Evidently, the law of attraction and the power of intention only apply to humans, or perhaps animals just haven’t read enough New Thought books.


1. Dyer, Wayne W. The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way. Hay House, Inc., New York 2004.

2. Jung Carl G. Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. Random House, Inc., New York 1963.


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