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Incarnating the Mystery with Psychological Awareness

By Jean Benedict Raffa

As a college professor I taught Children’s Literature. Mythology, stories about humanity’s relationship with the gods, always raised a few eyebrows. Students tended to feel uncomfortable when this term was applied to their own faith traditions since it generally connotes “untrue.” So I found it helpful to note up front that myths are not necessarily literally or historically true, but they’re always psychologically and spiritually true.

From his extensive study of myths, psychologist Carl Jung concluded that we are all born with a “religious function,” an inherent sense of awe about, and longing to connect with the Sacred Mystery of life. He saw it as a faculty of our central archetype, the Self: our core and circumference, our god-image. Myths, rituals and religious symbols are our attempts to incarnate the Self so that we can be infused with love, hope and holy wonder. Some myths are helpful in this endeavor. Others are dysfunctional; for example, myths which justify the dominance, exclusion or destruction of others considered less worthy or entitled.

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