Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Awakening Hidden Wholeness: A Jungian View of Luke 10:38-42

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Awakening Hidden Wholeness: A Jungian View of Luke 10:38-42

Article excerpt

We live in an era in which the experience of a fragmented self affects both our personal and our Christian identity. We long to be able to rely on a trustworthy, coherent sense of self and to live a life of integrity grounded in gospel values. This article invites readers to explore the hidden wholeness of the self by examining the story of Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary in the gospel of Luke from the perspective of Jung's notion of the conjunction of opposites. The author describes a series of transformational movements that have the potential to generate a sense of self-possession and self-transcendence in which personalities gain greater wholeness and action in and for the world is extended.

In 1941 in his Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly describes an experience of the self that continues to haunt those of us living in the Western culture today. We know ourselves as a collection of selves. Kelly paints a vivid picture of this collection. No one of us is a single self. Rather, each of us is "a whole committee of selves." "There is the civic self, the parental self, the financial self, the religious self, the society self, the professional self, the literary self." Furthermore, "each of these selves is a rank individualist, not cooperating" but shouting out his or her vote loudly "when the voting time comes." Generally, he suggests, we follow the all-toocommon American way of coming to a decision among our competing selves: we take a quick vote, and we leave behind "disgruntled minorities" (pp. 91-92).

In multiple settings, we hear people today speak of themselves as fragmented, alienated, and isolated, and we often experience ourselves as lost, ungrounded, and disoriented. Yet we long for integrity. We desire to make decisions and to act congruently with our values and beliefs, and we want to be able to rely upon a trustworthy, coherent, sense of self.

The experience of a fragmented self affects not only our personal identity but our Christian identity as well. We struggle against external cultural imperatives that keep us from living a Christian life. We wrestle, uncertain about when to listen and when to speak, when to act and when to receive, when to move forward and when to hold fast. We attempt to live a life of integrity grounded in gospel values, yet we find it difficult to be engaged fully and wholly as Christian disciples.

In the midst of this dilemma, we receive an invitation framed in the words of Thomas Merton: "There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness" (1974/1989, p. 506). How do we realize this hidden wholeness in our lives today?

In the story of Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary in the gospel of Luke, we meet a struggle for wholeness similar to our own. By engaging this text from a Jungian perspective, we may enter a process of transformation through which we become simultaneously more self-possessed and more self-transcending extending our action in and for the world. In so doing, we awaken a hidden wholeness and enter ever more fully into the life of Christ.

The Story

Many of us know the Lukan story of Martha and Mary. Jesus is on his resolute journey to Jerusalem in the company of his disciples. On their way, Jesus and the disciples enter a certain village and approach the home of a woman named Martha. Martha welcomes Jesus and the disciples into her home. Martha has a sister who lives with her named Mary. As Jesus begins to teach, Mary sits beside him, at his feet, listening to his word. "But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to [Jesus] and asked: 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.'" But he answers her and says: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (10:38-42).1

As the larger narrative of Luke's gospel reveals, people in villages sometimes welcome and sometimes reject Jesus. …

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