Jung and Assagioli spent an afternoon at Bollingen arguing about the nature of the Self. It got quite heated because they were in some disagreement, Jung arguing for a totality of the Psyche, Assagioli arguing for Contentless-ness and No-thing-ness.
You could say these very different perspectives were like yin and yang but that doesn’t quite cut it. You could invoke the story of the four blind mullahs all trying to describe an elephant from its trunk, foot, ear and tail respectively. Of course, they say different things, though its all the same creature.
But that isn’t right either. What Jung and Assagioli were doing was wrestling with the cut and shut legacy of Single System systems to our collective spirituality which mangled together spirit and soul such that we tend to use the terms interchangeably despite their great difference.
If the early church was to have the unity required to fend off persecution, it needed to pitch salvation as something that could only be attained through Itself. To this end people could not be having their own experience or finding anything ‘within’. So a great many of the spontaneous metaphors which sprang up to express ‘spirit’, the divine spark which transcends mediation by cultural organs, like those contained in gnostic texts at the time, were denounced as heretical.
‘The Divine Spark is not subject to the Law’, said second century Gnostic Valentinus.
Emperor Constantine was outraged. He not only outlawed Valentinian ideas. He made it a mandatory and summary death sentance to own his writings. And yet Valentinus was very nearly made bishop of Rome within a mere hundred years of Christ’s death so his interpretation of those events must at least have been popular.
And so they were, except the idea that Wisdom /Sophia had slipped a divine seed into Humanity via her gardener, Yahweh, without him noticing, through which Eternity-as-Ground could be glimpsed, and more, this side of death and contrition…. all this was bound to undermine allegiances to The Corporation.
At its inception, the Church conflated these two very different aspects of spiritual life, so that people would stop inquiring once they had arrived at Fearing-the-Lord and dutifully pay their tithes on time. ‘Spirit’ was allocated only to God and ‘soul’ became something you could only save in the fullness of time via the appointed means of culturally defined convention..
In the main we plebs have heartily embraced the sensible option and not just because we don’t like branding irons or having our nails pulled out. The prospect of keeping your nose clean for a future place in Paradise is an easier ride than finding your own way through thorny undergrowth which has a ‘de-integrating’ effect on the personality, a kind of stripping away or stripping apart that may be tougher than whatever the Inquisition has in its bag of tricks.
German born buddhist master, Anagarika Govinder describes his first encounter with Nothing-ness..
”I felt like a meteor drawn onto the orbit of a bigger celestial body _ until it dawned upon me that once I allowed myself to ‘fall’ without reserve, the impact would be my inevitable end. Suddenly a terror siezed me, the terror that this body and this mind would not be mine anymore, the terror of losing my identity for good: the indescribable, inexpressible fear of emptiness…. to fall into the nameless Void!” Lama Govinder
Govinder recalls that he ‘struggled tenaciously’ against this experience by getting up and frantically drawing a self portrait,..
”in order to assure myself of my own reality..” ibid
So we cast a blind eye to the churches embargo on our experience of spirit because of its de-integrating effect and go along with the mish mash of treating spirit and soul as though they were the same thing.
Unfortunately this conflation has had the effect of arresting our collective spiritual development because it discourages the spontaneous joy in spirit which is already redeemed, already One, something here and now, something not subject to God as-we-know-him.
What this means is that the experience of spirit or pneuma as Valentinus called it has to be had outside the auspices of church. With the God above god, Sophia.
which annoyed the church to the point of banishing him forever-and-ever-and- ever.
and killing his mates.
So the Hierosgamos, the Sacred Marriage, had to go underground. The symbolism that represents the relationship between Spirit and Psyche could not be explored without treading on ecclesiastical toes and so it was cast on the dung heap as mere..
” conjugal productions of their fancied aeons” Bishop Iranaeus.
Valentinus described three different types of human experience. The first, and most numerous, were ‘Hylic’, the kind of person that just lets themselves live, that feels the psyche is whatever they know of it, who live in their appetites and fears.
The second he called, Psychic, people who become aware of the Unconscious as an objective fact that has to be reckoned with, that can give meaning and purpose beyond the satisfaction of personal desires.
What nearly got him martyred was his assertion that there was yet another stage after this, the ‘Pneumatic’, variously called Emptiness, Sunyata, the Void, which, with the greatest irony, was then left to the East to elucidate after the church had finally wiped out everyone who could attest to what was in fact the essence of Christ’s message.
And so the Hierosgamos got downgraded to being wedded to the Architect, rather than the coniunctio of Spirit and Soul that it was meant to be, with the ego sitting a couple of rows back from the main show quietly trying to keep from being overwhelmed by events.