The Problem of Knowing

Carl Jung, in his biography Memories, Dreams, Reflections recollects his inner life during his teens. After a profound spiritual experience, he found that he was actually like two persons in one. “One of them,” he wrote, “was the schoolboy who could not grasp algebra and was far from sure of himself; the other was important, a high authority, a man not to be trifled with, as powerful and influential as this manufacturer.” When I read these words, I couldn’t help think of Jesus who, at the age of twelve, spoke of having a father other than the one who had raised him. What was the inner experience of Jesus that prompted  his words to his parents when they found him in the Temple? Had he, during this particular Passover journey, discovered something in himself that he hadn’t known before? In the story, Jesus parents are said not to understand. They just brought him home and life continued as it had been before the journey to Jerusalem, so they thought.

For Mary and Joseph, life was the same, but something had changed for Jesus. Jung tells of conversations he had with his minister father:

“…when I was eighteen years old, I had many discussions with my father, always with the secret hope of being able to let him know about the miracle of grace, and thereby help to mitigate his pangs of conscience. I was convinced that if he fulfilled the will of God everything would turn out for the best. But our discussions invariably came to an unsatisfactory end. They irritated him, and saddened him. ‘Oh nonsense,’ he was in the habit of saying, ‘you always want to think, One ought not to think, but believe.’ I would think, ‘No, one must experience and know,’ but I would say, ‘Give me this belief,’ whereupon he would shrug and turn resignedly away.”

My mind is flooded with the many words of Jesus about the kingdom of God being within and about knowing the truth. I recall that most of those around him failed to comprehend what he was talking about, just like Jung’s father could not comprehend his son’s words. Knowing something that can change a person’s life but that no set of facts or logical argument will transmit it to another is a helpless and lonely place to be. It was for Carl Jung and it was for Jesus.


4 thoughts on “The Problem of Knowing”

  1. I understand….that’s why I love our contemplative body!! We are not alone on our journey and discoveries!!!!

  2. In Jung’s last years , when asked if he believed in god; he hesitated and answered something like:’ No, I don’t believe, I KNOW.”

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