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Has an elusive voice sandpapered your dreams with incongruent pieces from the past? Has consolation or anger-induced rapid breathing flooded your waking moments?

Who or what is this inner voice? From whence does it come? How cultivate it, how heed its directives, especially since it seems to know us so intimately? There is one who has researched these questions for us.

The Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung explored this voice, teeming from his unconscious between 1914 and 1930, and he illustrated his findings in The Red Book (2009). Emerging within these pages are his central discoveries: the archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the process of individuation. Prior to this seminal study, no psychologist had ever mapped the terrain of the unconscious, and because of which, psychotherapy has become a means for the higher development of the personality, not just treatment of sickness.

Synchronistically, harrying dreams led me to the door of a Jungian analyst in 1988. Under her tutelage, I embraced the rigors of individuation: a risky engagement with my unconscious’ voice expressed in dreams, hunches, significant conversations, or art works. Slowly, the pull of my false self lessoned, giving way to discoveries of values and behaviors more in sync with my emerging self. At times, though, such stripping was awkward, even painful. But more disorders awaited me with the next dream.

As I reflect upon this thirty-year period I’m quietly amazed. I’ve learned to name this voice, Higher Power or God of my understanding. What had begun as a desperate venture has evolved in the actualization of my birthright—this I bring to eternal life, but not before still more work on my shadow before my last breath.

 

Like savory stew simmering over a low fire, so does Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water – Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (2011) excite my appetite for deeper union with my God.

Decades of ministering to the afflicted, beset by stinking thinking, led this Franciscan priest to study the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous by attending meetings in the church basement across the alley from which he lived in the 1970s. No matter that he did not suffer from alcoholism, so easily did his new friends welcome him into their spiritual fellowship. Inherent within their practice of the 12 Steps were Gospel teachings of healing releasing them from the bondage of addiction and filling them with zest for life. Rohr seized upon this synchronicity and continued listening.

Further refinement of this paradigm led Rohr to equate the disease of addiction with sin: our divisiveness from God, others, and ourselves. He also saw the 12 Steps mirrored in the three paths of classical Western spirituality: Purgation, Illumination, and Union: willingness to name hidden sins in our unconscious, willingness to purge them from our thinking and choices, willingness to make amends to those we’ve harmed, and willingness to carry this message of deliverance to others.

This simple practice entails arduous work, given our slothful natures. Without the support of Higher Power’s influence within sponsorship and fellowship, we flounder.

“This book is for you,” reads the dedication page, and so it is. Our powerlessness before life on life’s terms—even the pandemic—makes this so.

Long has been my passion for the Crucified Cosmic Christ: the mortal wounding, the shuddering silence, the lens through which to view human atrocities, specifically lynchings of Southern Black men, women, and children: Victims of white supremacist mob rule, they were hung from trees or lampposts, beaten, whipped, burned, castrated, flayed alive, mutilated, or shot.

But James H. Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011) tripwired my passion anew. Within the fiery cauldron of his psyche, he theologized the cross with lynching. Other than Black artists with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, no theologian, White or Black, had attempted this configuration.

Cone, former Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, was curiously adept to write these five essays; he fused his segregated childhood in Arkansas with advanced degrees in theology from Northwestern University and the teachings of Dr. King and Malcolm X. What agonized Cone the most, however, was the blind eye cast by Christian churches and state and federal authorities upon lynching—like it was all right. Cone’s family felt its probability at any time.

It was only Black churches, alive with Gospel hymns and spirituals of the Crucified, together with Friday and Saturday juke joints alive with the blues, jazz, and dancing that sustained families from this psychic oppression and moral disintegration. Over time, however, passive suffering with their Lord morphed into nonviolent resistance and the Civil Rights Movement. The rest is history.

In my perception, The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a dense and rich study that warrants reflection and prayer—most appropriate for Lent. Annotations and indexing offer opportunities for further study.

 

 

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