Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Psychoanalysis, Siratal Mustaqim and the religious moment

In reflecting upon the supposed absence of the feminine archetypes invoked when we refer to Siratal Mustaqim as "the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors," the Prophets, the Imams and all the luminaries sent forth by the Divine, in our daily recitations, it is worth considering a psychoanalytical perspective offered by James Hillman. This perspective calls us to re-examine the spiritual and archetypal claim of the feminine in Islam:

"Wherever we shift God's position, whether He be the God within, or the God absolutely outside and above, or the God below as the ground of being, or the God among wherever two or three are gathered, or whether we are all in God and can never despite our frenzied exercises be lost to Him - wherever we would assign Him His place, the religious moment is an experience and that experience takes place in the psyche. Our task is perhaps less to search for and locate God, and more to prepare the ground so that He may descend from the heights as the dove plummets, or arise from the depths, or be revealed through personal love.

The ground is prepared by insearch, by courageously reclaiming the lost areas of the soul, where it has fallen into disuse and disease. It is further prepared by separating the strands of the shadow and containing in consciousness the tensions of moral perplexities, so that our actions are less like actings-out and more like acts. The personality that cannot contain itself, that falls into bits should the ego be abandoned, that has no other light but that held together by the will, is hardly the ground for a religious moment. Even if God be love, that love can shatter us if our wounds from early human loves are fragilely stitched together. Can the personality that has not taken into account in one way or another the unconscious, the shadow and the anima, be a vessel to hold a divine force? Does it not succumb too readily to the demonic inhumanity of the collective outer world or the collective unconscious?

The religious moment as described in traditional accounts is a vivid intense realization, transcending ego and revealing truth. Just this is also at what analysis aims. The truth which can be experienced there goes beyond the causal truth of oneself: the banalities of how I got this way and who is to blame and what must I do now. Analysis moves toward the larger truth of coherence, toward intimations of immortality, how my person fits into the larger scheme of fate. These revelations, by opening one door to my emotional center, illumine one corner of the darkness. This truth is also love since it gives the sense of belonging and attachment to one's own ground.

If the main shadow of counseling is love and if counseling lies in its shadow, then our work will depend on love's "perfection." Love, as agape, means "to receive," "to welcome," "to embrace." Perhaps the perfection of love begins through faith in and work on the feminine within us, man or woman, since the feminine ground is the embracing container, receiving, holding, and carrying. It gives birth and nourishes and it encourages us to believe. This ground welcomes us home to ourselves just as we are. I do not know how better or how else we can prepare for the religious moment than by cultivating, giving inner culture to, our own unconscious femininity. For the religious moment to touch us at least the ground can be worked and opened, within the range of our individual human limits."

~ excerpt from "INSEARCH: Psychology and Religion", by James Hillman, Zurich and Moscia 1965/66

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