This week commemorates two of the most important figures of wisdom. Today is the feastday of Mary Magdalene and Sunday marks the birthday of the great Depth Psychologist Carl Jung. You might not think that a first century Jewish woman and a 20th century son of a Swiss Protestant pastor would have much in common, but in fact, they are profoundly kindred spirits, united across the centuries in their quest for authenticity, truth, wholeness and healing.
Jung believed that our modern Western search for "perfection" was actually very dangerous. In our quest for perfection, we cut off and disown parts or ourselves, project them on to other people, make them into a scapegoat and then seek their destruction. When we cannot bear to acknowledge the difficult and messy aspects of being human, we try to deny these parts of ourselves, which leads to violence towards self or other. In his job as psychiatrist at the finest mental hospital in Switzerland, Jung saw that the most extreme psychosis was the result of his patients disowning parts of themselves and trying to suppress their memories. His patients were cured not be "fixing" the problems that created their suffering, but often simply by acknowledging the conflict . Through the process of listening deeply to the pain (and often honoring it through ritual and art), healing happened.
Jung was fascinated for the later part of his life by the so-called "Gnostics" of Alexandria, Egypt. These men and women of the first few centuries were on a spiritual quest for inner illumination and they recognized that the hardest battles to win are the ones we face inside as we try to confront and subdue the inner voices of shame, doubt, blame and fear. He called the Gnostics the world's first depth psychologists, and felt that they had prefigured everything he had discovered in his decades of scientific study and psychological analysis.
Jung was thrilled to learn that a cache of 52 books treasured by these wisdom keepers had been discovered in 1945 in the caves Nag Hammadi. One of the folios was actually bought by the Jung Institute, smuggled out of Egypt and given to him on his birthday: it is now known as the Jung Codex.
It took decades for the entire collection of rediscovered books to be archived, translated and published, but what it revealed after Jung's death in 1961 echoes so much of what Jung developed in his theories. "If you bring forth what is in you, what is in you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is in you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you, " reads the Gospel of Thomas.
In this first century collection of the teachings of Jesus , the last saying, or Logion, describes a confrontation between Simon Peter who wishes to banish Mary Magdalene from their circle because, he says, "Women are not worthy of the spiritual life" . Jesus defends her ( as he always does with women in both Canonical and non-Canonical scriptures) and affirms, " I myself shall lead her to become Anthropos".
Anthropos is a Greek word that has been dreadfully mistranslated into English as "male". Andros is the Greek word for male, but anthropos is actually the root word of anthropology and it means more closely, "fully human".
What does it mean to be "fully human"? To balance our head and heart, body and soul? To integrate the masculine and feminine within us and open in our full potential? This is the quest for wholeness to which Jung dedicated his entire career. "The privilege of a long life is to become who you truly are", he said with a twinkle in his eye in his later years.
Today is the feastday of the woman whom the Gnostics described over the centuries as the personification and embodiment of Wisdom, the Apostle to the Apostles, the Teacher of the Teachers and the woman who was led to wholeness and complete healing.
Beginning in the fourth century as Christianity began to systematically cut off and destroy parts of itself (especially the body and sexuality through St Augustine's doctrine of Original Sin), this disciple who had been the most loyal, courageous and faithful member of Jesus's inner circle was cut out of the Christian story, erased and replaced with an image of an adulteress and a prostitute. She became what Jung would call the "Shadow bearer" of Christianity, reduced and defamed and defiled for centuries. And yet, despite her marginalized place, she continued to awaken healing and wholeness in seekers of wisdom from saints like Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich and Catherine of Sienna to so called 'sinners" like Rainier Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin. It was Mary Magdalene's example and teachings that gave astonishing courage to the Medieval Cathars who went to the flames singing hymns of peace during the Albigensian Crusade.
Many people believe we are poised on the knife edge of self-destruction. What might it take to turn the tide? Carl Jung was asked after the dropping of the atom bomb if he believed humanity would survive. His answer was, "If enough people do their inner work".
May it be so. I encourage you to seek out classes and teachers in the Jungian tradition. The Houston Jung Institute, the Salome Institute in Portland, Oregon and the Assisi INstitute of Depth Psychology are some of my favorites. Mythica will be offering a whole year of classes with a Jungian perspecitve- including courses on Dante, TS Eliot and the Gnostic Gospels.
The works of Marion Woodman, Richard Rohr and Marie Louise von Franz are rich and insightful while the books by Robert A. Johnson ( such as "Living Your Unlived Life" and "Inner Gold") are th emost accessible introductions to the depth work we all need to be doing at this time,