Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

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Contradiction: pathway beyond confines of ego


Photo: Saffron Moser

I thank Jeannie Zandi for the following excerpt from Parabola magazine of an interview with Helen M. Luke, a Jungian counselor, writer, and frequent contributor to the magazine.

The interview focused on the power and possibilities of one of the most challenging matters for human nature: embracing contradictions:

Interviewer LORRAINE KISLEY: I wonder if there is a more unnatural act than welcoming contradiction. It seems so difficult.

HELEN M. LUKE: An extremely difficult act. But it is the essential one.

L.K. It’s the last thing one wishes to undergo, the experience of internal contradiction.


Photo: Saffron Moser

H.L. Unless we live all our lives in the torment of the contradictions, as C.G. Jung insists, then we’re not human. We can’t become whole. If you’re stuck, and you don’t know what to do, stuck between two opposites, and you allow them each to live within you, then a small transformation of the ego takes place. It becomes related to the Self instead of identifying with it.

L.K. It seems that this is perhaps one of the paths toward the almost impossible idea that one could relate to the ego objectively. The bearing of contradiction is a kind of tool which pries apart the identification with the ego.

H.L. Yes, indeed, it is so.

L.K. An indirect method, but it seems to have that effect.

H.L. Jung says–as I’ve quoted already–“God becomes manifest in the human act of reflection.” That is to say, our God images are what we see in our mirrors. Narcissus’ God image was his own ego. But the Zen mirror, which they say must be utterly free of dust, reveals the experience of the whole. That’s the whole point of Zen, isn’t it? All the contradictions–you can’t put it into words at all. It’s a sudden breakthrough.

L.K. They use contradictions as a tool, also.China3.2009 022

H.L. Very much so. All their koans are contradictions unsolvable by reason. As I was going on to say, you have a conflict, you reflect, you simply bear it, and suddenly you glimpse the truth which unites the opposites; it breaks through. You are then released to act. And then you must not stop. That’s what we get into all the time, isn’t it? We think we’ve had a breakthrough, and now everything is going to be lovely and we’re going to feel good. But on the contrary, you must then start again on the next conflict, quite soon. So that one has to learn to rejoice in the conflict. Which doesn’t mean be happy!

Excerpted from Helen M. Luke in conversation with Lorraine Kisley from “The Only Freedom,” Parabola magazine, Summer, Volume XI, Number 2, “Mirrors,” 1986. Order this issue here › http://bit.ly/1i8PFdU

Learn more about Jeannie Zandi’s work at http://www.jeanniezandi.com/.