© 2000 - 2003 by Ann K Elliott
What is it that in the end induces a person to go his or her own way, to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass?
It is what is commonly called vocation, and which acts like a law of God from which there is no escape. C G Jung 1
Vocation--vocare--to call, to summons, to follow where the inner voice of the authentic Self will lead. Sometimes the voice comes as an angel, sometimes as a thundering from the heavens, or a blinding light. Often it comes as a vision in the night, or a call out of the deep. Jesus said:
My sheep hear my voice and follow where I lead.2
Jung saw vocation as the impulse towards individuation: going one’s own way; rising out of “unconscious identity”; not bent on becoming like anyone else; allowing one’s creative relationship to life to unfold from within.
In my Presbyterian upbringing I heard about the Pauline doctrine of predestination, that “all things work together for good with those who love God and are the called according to God’s purposes.”3 My grandfather, however, and perhaps contrary to strict Calvinism, preached an inclusive gospel of God’s unfathomable love “without respect of persons.” Yet he knew himself to have been called and so always emphasized the words as they appeared in his King James Bible. Nor did he have a conflict with the two ideas of inclusivity and of being among “the called.” Paradoxically, he knew both to have dovetailed in his own life and in a way that told him who he was and the purpose of his life. Because of this he identified with Paul whose life also had been headed in one direction when he had been knocked off his horse, blinded, and his life turned about face.
In Romans, Paul goes on to say that those who are “called” are “predestined” to be “conformed” to the image of the Son. He adds that those who are “called” are also “justified,” and those who are “justified” are also “glorified.”4 Could Paul have been speaking of a process? One he had undergone personally, and that had begun with his abrupt spiritual awakening on the road to Damascus?
Annunciation and Individuation
Mary’s call, of course, is known as the Annunciation, and her response exemplary. She yielded, accepted, acquiesced in her simple “yes” to God’s will for her life. Paul on the other hand struggled. He tried to work out his guilt. He agonized over the “thorn in his flesh.” He strove to “conform” himself to an image of who he thought he ought to be. He went to extraordinary lengths to “justify” himself according to who he thought God wanted him to be. But in the end his submission to God’s will was as total as Mary’s. Hers was the feminine way; his the masculine. Most often, the response to the inner call falls somewhere between the simple surrender of Mary and strenuous effort of Paul.
Individuation, typically, begins with an experience that is the symbolic equivalent of the Annunciation. It is the individual’s call to the higher ground of a transpersonal perspective and through which a person’s life takes on new meaning, and new purpose, and is accompanied by a new influx of creative energy. The experience comes as a breakthrough from the transpersonal level of awareness into the conscious mind.
While the Annunciation celebrates the conception of the Christ--Mary’s Child--annunciation as an individuation event is the awakening of the inner Christ. It is the second birth Jesus attempts to explain to Nicodemus--the birth of spiritual awareness.
The Conjunction of Two Realities
Suarès holds that events such as the Annunciation owe their "immense importance . . . to the fact that they are a conjunction of two realities," and that such events "modify the course of history in so far as they become religious phenomena." In their passage from historic to mythic reality they become the means by which the human psyche is put in touch with "the great unknown.”5 Edinger speaks similarly of the Annunciation as an individuation event:
[Annunciation} signifies the soul's acceptance of its impregnating encounter with the numinosum. The consequence of this encounter is the subordination of the ego to the Self . . . .6
Some find it difficult to apply psychological understanding to spiritual events such as the Annunciation and Incarnation, believing that to do so is to negate the event historically. Jung, however, sees the two--the inner and the outer--as synchronistically related. He explains the events as happening in human history because they have their origin in the human psyche.
The Message and the Messenger
In the life of Christ, the descent of the Spirit into human form is initiated from the transpersonal realm with the archangel Gabriel's appearance to Mary. El Greco, in his Annunciation (Plate 1), shows the descent of Spirit in the form of a pure white Dove, thus connecting the symbolism of the Annunciation with that of Jesus' baptism when the Spirit as Dove would again descend.
With the Annunciation Mary is called to the transpersonal purpose of her life. Similarly, individuation is initiated from the transpersonal realm and under whatever circumstances provide the opening into the conscious life of the individual. Jung brought to light the fact that many more persons than openly admit it, nevertheless have had spiritual experiences of one kind or another. In Civilization in Transition, he refers to these as “the silent ones of the land,” and numbers them in the millions. They are also the ones to whom Saint Augustine refers: whose hearts, having experienced the numinosity of God, are ever after “restless until they find their rest in God.”
My own spiritual awakening led me to conclude with Jung that whatever function in a person’s life has been undervalued or undeveloped will be the one to provide the opening through which the call to wholeness is most likely to come. Individually and uniquely, a person’s destiny is in the direction that provides the new influx of energy necessary to fulfill the creative purpose of one’s life. Arnold Mindell, (although I don’t recall where,) spoke of life-determining experiences as coming through a person’s “unoccupied channels.” Similarly Jung points to the “inferior” of the four ways persons function as the bringer of that person’s salvation, i.e. wholeness.
From Morton Kelsey’s description of “a hypnogogic vision” I recognized the particular state of consciousness in which my awakening had occurred--one that slipped in through that twilight zone between sleeping and waking. In this state I saw a figure of pure light whom I assumed to be Jesus as he had appeared to the disciples at the Transfiguration. Three audible words accompanied the vision: “God is Truth.” Moreover, they were in answer to a question that had been on my mind; not one I had consciously, intellectually formulated, but one that had simply appeared in my mind and undoubtedly triggered the evening before. I had been attending an “inquirer’s class” at the local Episcopal Church. I was there because there was no Presbyterian Church in the small community where shortly before we had moved. That evening, Father John had drawn a triangle on the blackboard with arrows pointing to illustrate how God was both one and at the same time three separate beings. From what I now know about the power of such diagrammic images, this had been enough to scramble my existing concept of God, and had thus prepared the way for what I would experienced. I was then twenty-eight years old and still carrying around an unexamined concept of God formed in my early childhood. It was the God of Michaelangel’s Sistine Chapel ceiling—an awe-inspiring but remote father figure. Fortunately, this far-away God had been balanced by the image of a loving and kindly Jesus on whose lap children were always welcome.
Only years later did I wonder about the connection between Jesus and the words “God is Truth” that had accompanied the vision. The connection came about one day as “out of the blue” a scripture verse clicked onto the image: “For he is the image of the invisible God”7 And I knew that all along I had known the God of Truth, but who was now calling me to a new level of understanding.
How to Avoid the Psychological Dangers of Transpersonal Energies
A breakthrough of transpersonal energies into consciousness is not without its psychological dangers. The tendency for the newly initiated into spiritual realities is to take a God-visitation personally. This then causes one to feel special, even “chosen.” As a result the ego suffers inflation, and once this happens an opposite and equal deflation is as sure to occur as night follows day. Mary, however, in her manner and in her response, demonstrates how to safely sustain transpersonal energies without falling victim to an inflation/deflation cycle.
informed she was to be the mother of the long-awaited savior, her reply was
a simple: "Let it be according to God's will." Had she said, "What have
I done to deserve such an honor," she immediately would have played into
the hands of the personal ego. But in true humility she simply acquiesced
in what became known as her “Fiat,” (Plate 2), thus allowing her soul
to become the magnifying glass by which "all generations” would be blessed8
in accordance with God’s promise “to Abraham and his seed forever.”9
Shortly after the Annunciation, Mary received word that her
cousin Elizabeth who had been barren had conceived. Mary set off
immediately for the country place of her kinswoman. This “Visitation” was
again precisely the right thing to do, because following a highly charged
transpersonal experience a safe place and the company of a trusted companion
is needed in order to sort out and process what has happened.
Upon hearing about Elizabeth’s miraculous conception, Mary’s response was "with God nothing is impossible."10 Thus she showed herself attuned to spiritual rather than the ordinary physical laws of possibility. Next, when Elizabeth recognized that Mary had been “chosen” as the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, Mary again declined to take personally what she knew to be a transpersonal event: She understood that she was only an instrument for the magnification of God; her womb the prophetic space within which God intended to fulfill his promise to Israel. And because of her response she was spared again from falling victim to inflation. In response and instead of indulging the ego’s voice of self-glorification, she glorified God.
made it possible for Mary to turn deaf ears to the ego was her Judaic
training which had taught her to look upon the workings of God as an
unfathomable mystery. Whereas the ego’s tendency would have been to exalt
itself, Mary saw herself as a “lowly handmaiden,” literally the “slave girl”
of the Lord. In remaining “lowly” she showed by example how the seed of
divinity in human nature can pass safely from invisibility into visibility.
This enabled her soul to serve as the prism through which the invisible
light of spirit could be refracted. Thus through Mary’s womb the many-splendored
reflection of God became visible. Accordingly, sometimes the wings of the
Angel of the Annunciation are shown as rainbow variegated. (Plate 4).
Mary’s way, then, is to affirm God as the source of all glory and all power; and to see herself (the soul) as the mere conduit through which the transpersonal spirit is stepped down to the level of human experience. Moreover, Mary understands that the splendor of God must of necessity remain veiled. Therefore the Christ is left to gestate in the secretness of the stable/cave/womb. Here Suarès also reminds that to remain "lowly" is to accept the human mind as incapable of comprehending the ultimate being and workings of the mind of God.
[I]n the perception of the fact that existence is a total mystery lies the foundation of any true religious awareness.
In another place he adds:
There is no transcendence other than our intimacy with the unknown as the unknown.11
And just as a personal annunciation experience brings "the urge to individuation," so it also calls for the soul’s “yes” to a process by which the many levels and facets of the personality can be integrated into a whole. It is this whole Self which then becomes capable of entering into union with God and what is known as the mysterium coniunctionis.
Chapter Two Credits
Chapter Two Notes