One of the cornerstones of Jungian Magic is intentional partnership with the unconscious self through specific tools and techniques.
The unconscious is seen as the source of your magic, an interface between your personal creative powers and the vast creative powers of the cosmos.
In other words, not only is it the portal to your individual change-making capacities, it allows you to tap into much larger forces, helping you to create profound transformation with less a drain on your personal energy.
Of course, we can (and do) tap into these energies all the time without understanding how, but this often leads to a deep misunderstanding of the direct connection between our inner world and our external experiences.
Rather than seeing how we are actively creating what we experience, particularly situations that seem to crop up repeatedly (unhappy relationships, feelings of low self-worth, an unsatisfying career or financial hardships, etc.), we feel like victims of annoying circumstances.
We are confronted with a situation Jung describes in one of his most well-known quotes:
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
Said magically, we’re casting spells and performing magical operations all the time, but we perceive them as situations and forces that are happening to us, not through us.
This leads us to feel confused and disempowered, wondering why things aren’t working out the way we’d hoped, and we can spend years (our whole life, even) chasing after symptoms like a game of whack-a-mole, never really getting to the root cause.
In perhaps his most controversial work, Answer to Job, Jung analyzes God’s behavior in a manner that speaks to this whole conundrum in a fascinating way.
The Old Testament Yahweh (God) was a bit contradictory, to put it mildly. Loving and beneficent one minute, rageful and smiting the next.
Isolating one incident of many, Jung examines a particularly volatile interaction Yahweh had with one of his human followers, Job, and to make a long story short, Yahweh’s scathing attack on this poor man demonstrates some of our very human tendencies when we are operating largely from the unconscious.
Among other “energizing” effects, we can be subjected to bouts of strong emotions and inflamed, frequently self-righteous ideas that compel us to speak and act in such a way that, later, might cause us to feel a wee bit regretful, not to mention baffled at our own behavior.
In the aftermath, we might cringingly promise ourselves, “I have no idea what came over me, but it’ll never happen again.”
We might also be convinced, though, that external circumstances more or less forced our hand: “Well, if so-and-so hadn’t put me in this position by cheating on me/making that rude comment on Facebook/showing up late again/etc…”.
Apparently, even Yawheh wasn’t immune to this sort of thing, and in Answer to Job, God essentially blames the outburst on Job.
Jung presents us with the compelling idea that, in this scenario, Yahweh was failing to consult Their omniscience.
What on earth does this mean (and why should we care)?
Well, Yahweh is God, and God knows everything, right?
If that’s the case, then God knows exactly the why, when, where, and how of these unfortunate situations. And if that’s true, then why didn’t They make a different choice, thereby avoiding such a regrettable (and foreseen) outcome?
Well, because God had forgotten Their omniscience.
And in that state of forgetfulness, They blamed external circumstances for Their inner battle: If only Job had acted more faithfully, then God wouldn’t have been so angry.
Said another way (and this has big implications for our magic), God had forgotten how powerful They really are, that They are vastly creative and possessing great wisdom.
That, rather than being a helpless victim of life, They are a creator of life:
Yahweh was so fascinated by his successive acts of creation, so taken up with them, that he forgot about his omniscience altogether.Answer to Job (par. 634)
When we become “so fascinated” by how crappy our job is, or how our partner never listens, by the “state of the world” (an especially compelling fascination during this global pandemic), and on and on–we forget how magically potent we truly are.
This forgetting often takes the form of endlessly tackling external factors or “fascinations” while ignoring their inner source.
Now, this isn’t to say that external events aren’t actually happening.
Jungian Magic, and indeed, life itself, requires us to get up close and personal with paradox. The more we deny that things are this-and and not this-or, the more we’re stuck whacking away at never-ending moles.
So yes, your boss might act like a monster, and yes, you are bringing your own stuff to the table, causing you to perceive them as monstrous. (And if we wanna get really trippy, you are unconsciously helping them behave even more monstrously toward you.)
Yes, your partner might be pretty crappy at listening, and yes, you are bringing your own stuff to the table, causing you to feel unheard. (And helping them display their crappy listening “skills” in conversations with you.)
Bizarre Ripple Effects
This is a contentious idea, to say the least–one that can be construed as blaming the victim.
All I can say in the constraints of a blog post is that it is simultaneously true that other people are fully responsible for their own behavior and we are fully responsible for what we are experiencing.
(If this is something that intrigues you–or perhaps enrages you–I cover it at length in my courses.)
Going back to the magical implications of this, when we perceive what we are experiencing as merely external circumstances happening to us, we forget that we have played a major role in creating them.
We forget to consult our omniscience.
In other words, we fall for the pervasive illusion that we are only who we consciously believe ourselves to be, and we forget that we are also a vast, divine being, wielding powerful energies through our unconscious self.
What do we do, then?
Well, the short answer is: We learn how to partner with our unconscious self, rather than being perpetually surprised by its activities and blaming them on our surroundings.
Granted, this isn’t the easiest of tasks, but because the power of the unconscious is so mind-bogglingly immense compared to our conscious awareness, even a little bit of intentional partnership can yield massively useful results.
A Magical Exercise
This week, start by choosing one situation that feels less than awesome.
One important caveat: I do not recommend choosing something as ginormous as, say, a global pandemic. (With events of this magnitude, collective unconscious factors play a large role that is beyond our scope to discuss here.)
Once you’ve got your situation, without censoring yourself, write out what you wish someone else in this situation were doing differently.
For example, if you’re angry with your partner, describe exactly how you wish they would change without getting distracted by analyzing the likelihood of that actually happening.
You might use these prompts:
What do I wish they would start doing?
What do I wish they would never do again?
What do I wish they would say to me?
Spend no more than 20-30 minutes on this, journaling anything that arises. Then, set your writing aside for a full 24 hours.
Come back to it, and this time, I want you to pretend that all of these wishes directed at your partner are actually inner requests directed at yourself, journaling whatever comes up for you.
This can feel super-duper challenging, and we often have knee-jerk reactions like, “I never do that!” or “I always do that!”
Breathe, accept that the ego is simply trying to be helpful by preserving your current self-perception, and continue returning to a place of gentle curiosity.
Again, I would limit this session to 20 or 30 minutes, max.
Then, set it aside for 24 hours, and repeat. Do this for a total of three times. (Meaning, you’ll do the initial round directed at your partner, then three rounds directed at yourself.)
Know that, in between sessions, your unconscious is still brewing its magic, weaving together threads that would entirely elude the ego were it working on its own, generating potent insights and healing.
By doing this practice, you’ve issued an invitation to that vast, unconscious part of yourself, availing you of its uncanny ability to know things that, to the ego, seem completely mysterious and unknowable, including information that transcends the ego’s limitations of time and space.
In other words, you’re remembering your omniscience.
Jung called this bizarre ability of the unconscious “absolute knowing.”
By the end of the final round, you should have a sense of something your larger self wants you to know and/or do.
Perhaps when you feel that your partner isn’t listening, your larger self wants you to pause, and deeply listen inwardly to yourself. What are you experiencing in that moment?
Can you stay present with any thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and resist, even just for a few breaths, the urge to jump into a storyline about what your partner is or isn’t doing?
Perhaps a part of you feels lonely in these moments.
Can you be with this part of yourself, comforting them with your presence, rather than abandoning them, exacerbating that feeling of loneliness as you leap into the partner-focused storyline?
Or perhaps you get a sense that your larger self wants you to listen with more presence to your partner.
Can you experiment with this, even if part of you is feeling resentful that your partner is the one who “started it” and by all rights should have to change first? Can you be gently present with your feelings of resentment, without judging yourself?
These practices, while they might seem mild, are, in truth, incredibly potent.
In my own life (and witnessing the experiences of hundreds of clients), this self-inquiry paired with experimental changes to my own thoughts and actions, has been extraordinarily effective at creating change, not only in my inner world but in my outer circumstances as well.
On the flip-side, my attempts at avoiding these practices, which typically take the form of trying to change someone else, have, without exception, resulted in crappier outcomes, including more stress and far less positive change. (I have decades’ worth of examples if you’re at all in doubt.)
By bringing your focus back to your inner landscape, you invite your unconscious to bestow gems of wisdom and other powerful energies, such as healing and inspiration, from the storehouse of your divine omniscience.
One moment, one choice at a time, you will remember how powerful and creative you truly are.