In a letter, Carl Jung once wrote, “I consciously and intentionally made my life miserable because I wanted God to be alive and free from the suffering that man has put upon him by loving his own reason more than God’s secret intentions.” *
“God’s secret intentions.” This describes the hidden calling and potentials that underlie your life. They are the goals and intended destinations God has for you, but of which you are often unconscious. They are the yearnings of your deeper self, the destiny that beckons you, the spontaneous unfolding of your psyche. They lie within you and also without you. They are something you discover, something you decipher from the clues held in your dreams and relationships, your symptoms, synchronicities, and other signs. God’s secret intentions are the wisdom of your deepest self, guiding you to the fullest development of your individuality.
But this part of you suffers, imprisoned by the cage of your own reason. This cage is the ego, your conscious mind. Your ego is the part of you that thinks it is all of you; the part of you that thinks it knows best. It sets itself up as the leader of the personality, lives by its own logic and desires, and expects your soul to follow suit. It pursues one path while God’s secret intentions point towards another. It tries to drag the rest of the personality with it, ignoring the troubling dreams, conflicts, and outer life frustrations that would redirect it. And so God suffers, your soul suffers, imprisoned by your reason. This is the egocentricity that afflicts us all.
But Carl Jung wanted God to be alive and free from that suffering. In other words, he wanted God to be alive in him, to be unburdened and unfettered by the cage of the egocentric ego. He wanted to serve God rather than imprison him. He wanted to hear that small voice within rather than drown it out. He wanted creative and healing energies to be expressed, not shackled. And he sought to understand the language of God as it is expressed through the psyche. He wanted to learn from the unconscious and know the truth about himself. Simply put, he felt compelled to know the good, the bad, and the ugly in himself.
Carl Jung’s life was not miserable. In reading his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, it is clear that Jung’s life had its share of joy, wonder and, above all, a profound sense of purpose, meaning, and accomplishment. In saying that he made his life miserable Jung is saying that he openly received and even sought out the puzzles and problems, wonders, contradictions and painful truths that reside in the unconscious. Rather than ignore or avoid the contents of his unconscious, he took active responsibility for them.
Jung felt a responsibility not just to the seen, but to the unseen in himself. Whereas most of us make little effort to know and understand the hidden factors that underlie our behaviors and decisions, Jung experienced a moral obligation to know and address them. His whole life was, in a way, an effort to be aware of his larger being, the conscious and the unconscious, so that he could help himself and help others make more responsible and conscious life decisions.
It is important to realize what an important moral step and commitment Jung was making by seeking to know what lay within his own unconscious, for the same invitation is daily offered to you. You know how easy it is to ignore the unconscious or deny its existence. Then you need not look within. When you do something you didn’t consciously intend to do you say it was just a “mistake,” an “accident,” or fate. If all that you are is your ego, then you hold no hidden, unconscious goals, feelings or intentions. But if you recognize the reality of the unconscious then you open yourself up to new levels of responsibility. Once you are aware of something you can’t become unaware of it (although many people try to do just this). And once you know about something you cannot but take some stance towards it, for “even if you choose not to decide” as the rock band Rush sings, “you still have made a choice.”
Just as it did for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, consciousness saddles you with moral responsibility, whether you sought it or not. You must choose and the choice you make may work towards good or it may work towards evil. But being fully human, and being a servant of both humanity and your soul, involves taking on the gift and burden of consciousness. Only then does God live through you and his secret intentions find life.
* Carl Jung as quoted by Gerhard Adler, “Aspects of Jung’s Personality and Work,” in Psychological Perspectives, vol. 6, no. 1 (Spring 1975), p. 12.