A rerun of an old Blog entry.
Basically, human development is concerned with working out inwardly our experiences of the external world and thereby developing the inner qualities that makes us human.
While the external world provides the initial experiences, it is within our inner nature that the work that carries us forward has to be done.
We have to wrestle with our problems inwardly, as in the dreams and active imaginings that have been described. When these inner activities emerge into consciousness, a person experiences not only his outward path through life, but also ‘an inner journey of the soul’. We never see the world as it is, but rather as we are!
We make this ‘journey’ not only as individuals; it is also the path that humanity as a whole, has to follow. Some of the world’s great literature portrays this inner evolution of humankind.
Dante (Dante Alighieri: 1265-1321), in his ‘Divine Comedy’ describes being in a dark wood (which denotes his spiritual confusion) when he encountered Virgil, the symbol of human wisdom, who brought Dante enlightenment by conducting him on a tour of the soul states of humankind.
Virgil first took Dante to hell, which was reached through a wide funnel penetrating to the centre of the earth. Here Dante saw the dark forces which humanity experiences and the fate of those who succumb to them.
Virgil then took Dante to purgatory, where souls work out their destiny in seven journeys, each of which purges one of the seven deadly sins [(1) vainglory, or pride; (2) covetousness; (3) lust, understood as inordinate or illicit sexual desire; (4) envy; (5) gluttony, which usually included drunkenness; (6) anger; and (7) sloth.]
A feminine figure in Dante’s life, Beatrice, then appeared. Dante had loved Beatrice in an unfulfilled relationship before she died and Beatrice therefore became his symbol for the higher, spiritual, side of Dante’s nature.
Because of his love, Beatrice sought to help Dante find spiritual enlightenment. It was she, who had sent Virgil to conduct Dante through Hell and Purgatory, and now she herself conducts him through the realms of paradise. Here Dante’s vision is awakened to the states of blessedness that those who strive spiritually for the light.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s (1749-1832) ‘Faust’ portrayed a similar ‘journey of the soul’; more specifically, that of modern man searching for spiritual satisfaction.
Faust, symbolising modern man, seeks satisfaction in the material world through knowledge and power, to gain which he has to make a pact with Mephistopheles.
He, however, fails to find spiritual fulfilment along this path and, at the instigation of Mephistopheles, turns to sensual and emotional pleasures, which also fail to satisfy him spiritually.
Faust next seeks spiritual goals through occult practices but these too fail him.
Finally, he turns to carrying out good works on Earth, but even these prove illusory.
Faust is a lost soul, but is saved after his death by the intercession from heaven by Gretchen. He had seduced and morally destroyed Gretchen during the sensual and emotional stage of his quest, but there had been an element of true love between them which Gretchen, the symbol of his spiritual strivings, uses as a basis intervening on his behalf.
We are but forever searching, learning, and falling. Life will test us until we have learned our lessons and are finally equipped to move on!