When I was a teenager, some of my earliest spiritual interests lay in Gnosticism. Jung also felt a strong kinship with the Gnostics. It was through this tangent that I eventually came across this story of one of Jung’s patients:
The fifth conclusion is that the alienation of consciousness, along with its attendant feelings of forlornness, dread and homesickness, must be fully experienced before it can be overcome. The detractors of classical Gnosticism forever accuse it of gloomy and “world-denying” tendencies. Jung’s psychology has also had its share of accusations of gloominess and of an excessive emphasis on darkness, alienation and evil. Once again it must be recalled that there are empirical reasons related to the dynamics of spiritual liberation which make such attitudes imperative. A delightful story regarding a patient of Jung’s points this up. She saw herself in a dream sinking into a dreadful mire. Overhead appeared the figure of Dr. Jung serenely floating in the aether and sternly addressing the distressed patient with the following words: “Not out, but through!”
Those words left a strong mark on me. Although, for about 10 years I could not remember the book I read them in. Regardless, this simple orientation has bubbled back up for me a thousand times, in therapy, journalling and meditation.
The desire to resist, to avoid the pain, the maintain a distance from the darkness is something deeply habitual. Yet the movement away never helps or heals. As the clichéd but correct saying goes, what we accept transforms; what we resist persists.
I like to fight with my experience, to prod and interfere. This pointer is my reminder that the way out is always through. Always and always. It might hurt, it might pull you apart, but the courage to face the darkness is the only way forward. What is most true in you cannot be harmed in the way that you fear.
For me, “not out, but through” isn’t just an emotional compass when I’m resisting something difficult, but an ontological reiteration that there is no “out.”
3 Mar 2022