Duality and the Choosing of Altars

I’ve had a hard time writing on the blog recently, so that is why I have fewer posts lately. The recent conflict on my Facebook page has caused me much distress, not in the least because it revealed to me, again, the inevitable consequences of my writing publicly. It is so much easier to remain silent publicly, to refuse to give voice to that inner pressure except in the safe confines of my private journals. Still, I know it is no longer enough. Now that I am out in the open, I can’t stuff myself back into the shadows. If you’re still reading and haven’t been offended sufficiently, its unlikely anything else I say is going to distress you too much. If it does, I pray that the Lord will turn it to your benefit in the end.

I’m about half way through Jung’s autobiography which I have found incredibly interesting and at times profoundly disturbing. The truth is not a friendly, kind, soft thing. At times it pierces the heart and troubles the soul to no end. Jung found more of it than most people who live on this Earth. He reminds me of a maniacal cave digger, excavating endless tunnels into the impossible labyrinth of the human psyche, sharing his observations along the way in his autobiography like a strange reality T.V. show. He digs up all kinds of things, makes bizarre connections with remote areas of human culture and history, and then leaves them making only vague and unsettling hints about their meaning.

Unlike every other person I have ever met or studied, Jung is almost inhumanly comfortable with paradoxes, contradictions, and messy, vague answers. He stubbornly refused to make his theories and ideas dogmatic, sequential, or concrete. As such, his work creates more questions than answers. He, remained throughout his long life, undeterred by the certainty that he would never be understood by the vast majority of people and that he himself would, like an exponential curve becoming infinitely closer to a point but never quite making contact, never quite reach the knowledge he was seeking for. He could feel it. He could describe it. But he always knew that even he, with his formidable brain, would never make it his.

In studying Jung, I have gravitated toward the ideas he had about the duality of man that sometimes results in neurosis. I have sensed that dichotomy in myself and an important part of my recovery has been to find those schisms, those mental conflicts, those shadowy knots in my brain, and reason them out consciously that my mind can rest in peace. Today I was reading in Matthew chapter six which is the sermon on the mount. I came to the twenty-fourth verse and stopped to ponder on it for a while.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24

The Savior emphasizes in this verse the impossibility of living in the divided state in which we simultaneously strive to please God and the world. We must prioritize the one or the other. We must worship at the altar of mammon, which mankind as a whole inevitably does; or forsake the world and its glitter and transitory taste and seek to please our creator, who seeks our immortality and eternal life. This is said in Jung’s terms, the individuation of the human soul.

I am reminded of a vision, or in Jung’s terms, a fantasy, I had many years ago. I saw a multitude of people separated into two groups. One of the groups surrounded an altar. It was the altar of mammon and it required the sacrifice of all things. In return, people could take certain treasures which were gruesomely covered in blood and human tissue, as though they had been taken from corpses on a battlefield. It occurred to me that those who sacrificed at this altar must be willing to sacrifice family relationships. Marriages neglected, children farmed out to care centers, elderly parents put in homes, and spiritual development stifled. In return, they were given these gruesome spoils which looked desirable from a distance, but on closer inspection, were revolting; covered in grime and crawling with vermin. Among these people, the children were destitute and angry while the elderly were alone and in shadow.

The other group was centered around a different altar. It was equally demanding in its requirement to sacrifice everything. Time, talents, resources, and even freedom. There were no tangible rewards for these offerings, and yet the personal connections between the people at the second altar were radiantly evident. Rather than appearing resentful and deprived, they seemed to want for nothing. There was a pile of sacrificed possessions at the second altar that was glorious like a horn of plenty. Food, drink, and resources were evident, but no one seemed to care much about them. The children especially seemed content and secure with parents nearby and responsive. The elderly were surrounded with light and company; respected and listened to.

It occurred to me that within these two groups, there were many who would try to sacrifice at both altars. They would go to the second one and offer part, but hold back some to sacrifice at the other. It occurred to me that these people would not prosper. There must be a choosing.

I feel like I have already chosen my altar, and yet it seems that I am still divided. I’m tortured with worries about what my neighbors think, what members of my ward think, what my friend thinks. Can I sacrifice my need to please others on the second altar? Can I allow my Savior to take the burden of the hurts I give to others while speaking my truth and walking my path? I trust that he will take the hurts others have given me and turn them to good. Can I believe that he can and will do it for the priceless souls I bruise in my broken?

It is at this point that I must turn blindly to my faith. I have faith that He has the power to save. I have hope that he will make of me his broken instrument. My charity compels me to speak openly of my inner journey. If you find yourself uncomfortable, please know that truth is a painful thing, but that there is healing. Seek after Him who has balm enough for you and for me. Blessed be His name!

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