“Whoever knows God has an effect on him.”
So says Carl Jung in Answer to Job, paragraph 217. (References to Jung are in paragraph numbers.)
The first thing to note about Jung’s statement is his understanding of God. Pardon his use of male God language. He is attempting to relate his understanding in what was, at that time, familiar terms. However, what he has in mind is far removed from our traditional male image of God-up-there; the all powerful, all knowing big-daddy in the sky. When Jung uses traditional religious language he is referring to the Psyche; the psychic/spiritual dimension of reality that was the focus of his life and work. For him, the Psyche was the arena of the creative energy of an evolving universe, as much female as male. Within it swirls the energy of the archetypes, the spiritual/life forces that energize an ever expanding and ever more complex universe.
As part of this evolving universe we have our personal psyches, our individual mix of influences that shape and mold our lives and nourish our unique creativity. Amongst the multitude of forces that work within us is a central energy pushing us toward integration and wholeness. This integrating and creative force Jung called the Self.
Each personal self is an expression of the Self of the universe. “It is, in my mind,” says Jung, “a fatal mistake to regard the human psyche as a purely personal affair” (Psychology and Religion CW 11, par. 24). In traditional religious language, we are created in the image of God. Jung affirmed that in our experience we cannot distinguish between the Psyche and God. “Strictly speaking, the God-image does not coincide with the unconscious [psyche] as such, but with a special content of it, namely the archetype of the self. It is this archetype from which we can no longer distinguish the God-image empirically” (757).
Jung also used the word “God” to remind us that in, through, and behind everything is the great unfathomable Mystery. ”We must only remember that what we have sketched is no more than an anthropomorphic picture which is not particularly easy to visualize (574). We know this Mystery only through reflections and images, never directly or completely. Joseph Campbell called these images The Masks of God. Yahweh was the mask of God of the Hebrew people.
What might Jung mean by, “Whoever knows God” ? It would seem to mean anyone who is in touch with their own innerness. This inner voice of the psyche or soul is the voice of the universe calling us to be what is in us to be.
Jung spoke of having two personalities. There was his every-day, out-there, ego personality. Then he sensed an inner personality, an inner self that was often at odds with his outer self but carried a deep wisdom of who he was and what he needed to do. This inner self was the voice of the universal Self that kept him aware of what the universe, God, required of him. For Jung, this inner voice (God) could be very strong and often annoying. In an interview published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, in Dec., 1961 he said that “God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path, violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse.”
This conversation between our ego self and our inner self , which communes with the big Self, is a two-way street. Even as we are influenced by the archetypes so we, in turn, influence the archetypes. An archetype is like the write program in my computer. It is there as a container and guide but I have to give it content.
So “Whoever knows God has an effect on him.” This means that our communion with the “still small voice” within, or the annoying persistence of the inner tug toward living our deepest desires and possibilities, is our constant prayer.
As we mature, our arena of concern broadens beyond ourselves to include all humanity, the earth, and even the Universe. When we, in communion with the divine, focus our attention on a particular person or concern we will have an especially strong influence.
To pour our concern into the Universe as a community multiplies our energies and builds a strong uniting bond that can send us out to do our part, individually and communally, in bringing about that for which we pray. And don’t underestimate the power of prayer to itself bring about what we desire. Many a person has felt the healing and strengthening energies of the prayers being offered for their well-being.
“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”
(Tennyson, Morte D’Arthur).