We are beings filled to the brim with conflicting tendencies. St. Paul said it succinctly: “That which I would I do not, that which I would not, that I do.” Confronted with the opposition of his own carnal sexuality and his deep spirituality, St. Paul went the way of many a monastic tradition and chose celibacy. The challenge of truly reconciling this polarity within the self by rejecting that which is outside of the self is daunting and often misses the mark. The failure of this resolution couldn’t be more apparent than in the modern Catholic Church,* tarnished worldwide with deep involvement in sexual abuse. Clearly, merely shunning or splitting off sexuality does not make it go away—it must be reckoned with.
Carl Jung pointed out that for a tree’s branches to reach heaven its roots have to reach hell. True reconciliation of inherent human oppositions must integrate all sides of human nature into a cohesive whole. A one-sided solution to our problems inevitably sets the stage for a backlash or a breakthrough of the forsaken other—the rejected shadow self.
Times of breakthrough are exceptional times, like the breakthrough of a swollen river over its dikes. In hexagram #43, Breakthrough, the I Ching counsels resolute action in such exceptional circumstances. First, resolution must be based on a union of strengths and friendliness. The adult self must hold its own and not be taken over by the opposing tendency. On the other hand, it needs to greet it with friendliness, lend an objective ear to its point of view.
Second, a compromise with evil is not possible. If the dissociated tendency insists on taking over the personality on its own terms, it must be openly discredited. There can be no compromise with a one-sided truth. On the other hand, the passions and one-sided motives of the ego self must equally be brought into the light and openly examined.
Third, the struggle must not be carried out directly by force. If an opposing tendency has taken on a compulsive habit in the personality, labeling it evil or denigrating the self for its presence in the personality only empowers it as it weakens the adult self charged with shifting the habitual state of affairs, such as with some kinds of addictions.
Finally, the best way to advance is to make energetic progress in new behaviors that serve the true needs of the overall personality. A dysfunctional habit may actually be holding the place of a deeper need for fulfillment. Rather than brand the habit as bad, make use of it to turn in a new direction and engage in behaviors that fulfill the deeper needs of the self. For instance, challenge the self to go into the world and interact versus retreating and soothing the self with lulling talk and substance. Or rather than seeking excessive fulfillment in the outer world, retreat into the deep vibrational experience of transcendent oneness in meditation.
Breakthrough encounters are part and parcel of the individuation process. Breakthrough encounters are necessary guideposts in recapitulation as well. Through these encounters we are afforded the opportunity to integrate our opposing tendencies into a holistic being, truly capable of a new mantra: “That which I would, I do;” the ultimate conscious breakthrough, in consummate wholeness.
* It is interesting to note that an ancient papyrus has broken through the sands of time and been validated by modern scientific method to challenge this one-sided position of the Catholic Church. At least some early Christian communities documented that Christ spoke of having a wife. Here is an excerpt from the NYT regarding the words that have fanned some controversy: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’ ” Too convenient for some, it also contained the words “she will be able to be my disciple,” a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.
Read the entire report in The New York Times.