I recently re-read several books written by Jeffrey Raff, a Jungian analyst with a deep interest in spiritual alchemy. Raff has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Union Graduate School and a diploma from the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. While studying in Zurich, he was most influenced by Marie-Louise von Franz. Raff, von Franz and many others feel that Jung was most importantly a spiritual teacher and that Jungian psychology follows in the path of other western esoteric traditions such as Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Sufism and Alchemy.
The Divinity in these traditions is very far from the patriarchal god of current organized religions and that is attractive to me. It is a “God” with both masculine and feminine energy – who relates to all humans – as partners. Equality and partnership are feminine/feminist qualities. Surely such a “God” would not be in favor of patriarchal religions that view women as second-class and give men all the religious leadership power.
Raff has been an analyst in Colorado for close to 40 years, serves as President of the Jung Institute of Colorado, and has written three books: Jung and the Alchemical Imagination, The Wedding of Sophia, and The Practice of Ally Work. He has also co-authored another book, Healing the Wounded God, with Linda Bonnington Vocatura. I read all four books about three years ago and, while I found them compelling, his ideas seemed so far beyond anything I’d ever considered that I put the books aside for a time. His ideas are post-Jungian in that he describes psychological and spiritual processes that go beyond the idea of individuation. Raff writes that each of us has a “divine twin” which he called our ally. Our ally can help us in our own individuation process and then continue to work with us further – to the point where we and our ally eventually merge with the Divinity. This divine merger does not, however, destroy our unique being or our ally’s unique being.
Jung never wrote about the ally or even about processes beyond individuation. Jung considered an individual’s psyche to be composed of both their consciousness and their personal unconscious. The center of an individual’s consciousness is their ego. The center of their entire psyche is their Self, an inner image of the Divinity, which initially is in a latent form. Through the process of individuation, the individual’s unconscious is integrated with their consciousness and their Self manifests and becomes both the center of the psyche and the whole of the psyche (a paradox). Their ego does not disappear; it is an equal partner with their Self. This individuation process is usually a very lengthy one and likely rarely completed.
Although Jung did not discuss any theoretical spiritual growth that might occur after individuation, Raff proposes that there are further spiritual steps that are evolving and moving into our current collective unconscious. (These further steps are not entirely new. Some people in the past were aware of them, but this spirituality is becoming more “accessible” in our collective unconscious.) Raff feels that he has seen evidence of these steps in the hundreds of client dreams that he analyzes every year, as well as in his own life and the lives of his students.
Writing both from his own personal experiences and from his studies of western esoteric traditions, Raff postulates a cosmos divided between our physical world and the spiritual world, but adds a third dimension of reality termed the psychoid realm. In the spiritual world, the Divinity is undivided. The Divinity divides its own unity and manifests in the psychoid realm in an infinite variety of Names. Each Name is a “face” of the Divinity and as such is part of the undivided Divinity, but paradoxically each Name is also an entity with a life and consciousness of its own. Each person has an ally and their ally is one of the infinite Names of the Divinity, a Name/entity unique to that person. Although the ally exists in the psychoid realm, an individual has access to this realm during dreaming or active imagination. The ally is best met through the process of ctive Imagination since this is a way in which the individual and their ally can have “conversations”. Their relationship can develop over time and is described by Raff as one based on love and trust. Once formed, the relationship is a continuing one between equal partners who need each other in order for both to evolve and grow spiritually.
To drastically simplify Raff’s description of spiritual growth following individuation, the ally and the Self of the human eventually form a unified being, although each maintains its own uniqueness. This union recreates a wholeness that was previously lost. Each human and its unique ally were somehow split and separated during the creation process and their re-union is a restoration of wholeness, but at a new level. Since the ally is a Name of the Divinity, this re-union not only unites the human with their ally, but also both with the Divinity. Again, neither the human nor their ally lose their own unique “personality.” (Raff says that he only writes about spiritual processes that he and his associates have personally experienced.)
For me, I have reservations about using active imagination to develop a relationship with a psychoidal being and perhaps am not ready to for that. But, I have been considering many of Raff’s ideas and they bring up other, on-going questions for me. I wonder why the Divinity ever created anything at all – the universe, animals, plants, rocks and more personally – humans. Many spiritual teachers say that the Divinity wanted or needed to be in relationship with “others” in order to see itself and even in order to evolve. It is difficult for me to understand how the Divinity can or would evolve and why humans would be a necessary and important part of that evolution. Does anyone else care to give their thoughts in the comments?
Susan Gifford earned her B.S. from Millersville University and did extensive graduate work in Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado. She worked as a Mainframe Computer Systems Analyst and Programmer for many years, while living in Colorado. She and her husband are retired and, along with their dog, moved to the southern Oregon coast last year. She reads extensively and thinks about what she’s read as she walks along the incredibly beautiful beaches there.