As if nothing, in his most controversial book-at least of those published in life-C. G. Jung leaves a footnote:
Prayer, for example, reinforces the potential of the unconscious, thus explaining the sometimes unexpected power of prayer.
The prayer -or prayer or prayer-, Jung tells us, makes us enter into a relationship and dynamic tension with the unconscious. This is very important, but it is necessary to explain it. Jung considers that the unconscious is the source of instincts, images and even not only individual but also collective purposes, it is “the spiritual treasure of humanity”, a great ocean in which the whole history of humanity and possibly the cosmos is recorded. A fund that also seems to have an intention or purpose, which is to unify the psyche, integrate the opposites, make the human being complete, something that is equivalent to what in the Christian tradition is called theosis – the divinization of man – and in the Hinduism is the realization of the Atman. Jung, however, does not affirm that man becomes a god through the manifestation of his unconscious, but that the unconscious in his becoming conscious produces images similar to those that have been generated in the great religions and that this process is accompanied by a numinous effect, or of a sensation of finding meaning in life.
Throughout his work Jung argues that the unconscious is something like a divine monster, wonderful and terrible that responds to our attention and interest. Praying is a way of paying attention to this fund of mysterious energy and intelligence that is part of us – the biggest part of who we are, “the majority partner” -. The same can happen, for example, when we really make an effort to remember our dreams: something is shaken in the deep and begins to symbolize (the unconscious communicates through symbols or images that communicate something ineffable and transcendent). To pray is in a certain way to pray to ourselves, but in ourselves, there is an unknown and autonomous force, which can impose itself on our will and give meaning to our life. A force at once chthonic, celestial, titanic and demonic. The human being only finds true meaning when he feels part of something bigger than his ego.
In a letter to a patient, Jung wrote: “I have thought a lot about the prayer, it – the prayer – is very necessary, since it makes the transcendent in what we think and conjecture become an immediate reality and places us in the duality of the ego and the dark Other “. The unconscious is, at least while it has not become conscious, the transcendent, a transcendent aspect of existence, at once intimate and elusive. This dialogue opens us to the possibility of experiencing that we are not merely an ego; There is something else, an Other. In the dialogue with the unconscious, which is the dialogue with the transcendent, says Jung, the door is opened to “a whole sphere of knowledge and experience through which all the functions, all the ideas, manage to enter to the side of our ordinary conscience. ” How to open the vault of the treasures of the world of archetypes. Thus, praying can be a way of practicing what Jung called the active imagination or the transcendent function, which is a way to open the way to the content that springs from the unconscious and its deep source of archetypes. In a certain way, prayer is to the religious awakening life what dreams are to the psychic life, a space in which the inner life can be revealed, what lies hidden in our psyche and that can produce a numinous experience, a meeting with the radical otherness that Rudolf Otto talks about.
“The unconscious wants to flow towards the consciousness to reach the light,” says Jung in Response to Job; “God wants to become a man, but not at all.” There is a strong tension here, something that hinders the repetition of the eternal myth that, in some way, is always occurring in the background: the incarnation of the Logos, the light that illuminates the darkness, which must finally be understood.