Claiming Our Divine Potential

American psychotherapist, Ira Progoff, was fascinated by the relationship between depth psychology and spirituality. As a neo-Jungian, he took seriously the presence and power of the collective unconscious and the need to “individuate” the self—to search for the principle of cosmic potential at the depths of the person and free it to reach its fullest actualization. 

According to Progoff, the psyche is such a principle of wholeness. It is like a seed that contains within itself potentially all that the plant can become as it develops toward maturity across its lifespan.[1] Deep within us, he argues, there is also a seed, a psychic dimension that contains in sheer, unfathomable potentiality all that the self is and can become. The steady emergence of this profound psychic potential reflects the evolutionary emergence of the whole cosmos—the whole process of creation. As human consciousness rises from the potentiality of the cosmos, the psyche is our inner source of cosmic potential, directing both the conscious and unconscious.

The psyche is likewise a unifying principle. The pattern of development in our personal existence, in other words, reflects not only the development of individual life but also, and perhaps even more, our connection to a larger meaningful course of life unfolding transpersonally in the cosmos. Progoff explains:

By its very nature, therefore, the functioning of the psyche tends to have a connective effect. As it brings about an experience of meaning and greater union within the person, it awakens in the finite being a sensitivity to the infinite. It leads to the realization that since this sensitivity is possible it must be that somewhere in the depths of the finite person there lies a capacity to perceive some of the meaning in the infinite.[2]

Progoff’s insights certainly offer some noteworthy theological implications. For instance, we can say that while there may not be an external designer and a micro-managing providence from the outside, neither is the world devoid of divinity. Rather, God is constantly showing Godself as the world’s future—its endless potential. We have only to be sensitive to the experience of the infinite within us. 

Far before the birth of modern depth psychology, many mystics and prophets in fact spoke of God as an energetic power within the depths of oneself. In his brilliant book God in Search of Man, Hebrew Bible scholar Abraham Heschel states that the prophets participated so intensely in the dimension of depth within themselves that the psyche expressed itself for them as a subject-to-subject, person-to-person encounter with the divine. They entered into the experience with a firm awareness that this dimension of reality is one in which they actually belonged.[3] Progoff expounds on this point:

A [prophetic] experience … indicates the deep psychological atmosphere that underlies ancient Israelite experience of the divine. With it in the background, it became possible for certain individuals to know that there was present within them and accessible to them immediately and personally a dimension of reality that is valid in ultimate terms.[4]

Indeed, the ancient prophets were bold and courageous visionaries who became capable of reflecting their in-depth experience of divine presence often over and against the domain and strictures of formal religious teaching and practice. They were vehicles by which the God-world relationship took on new meaning and purpose precisely because they consciously realized and claimed divinity as the deepest part of themselves. They did not tell people revelations of God; rather, they awakened to the revelatory character of their own lives. 

May we, too, learn from the experiences of the prophets and persist in reaching toward a larger and more intimate contact with the mystery of reality. May we open a path by which fresh and continuing experiences of Spirit can break through and ultimately awaken the whole community of creation to its deepest divine potential. May we remember that God’s presence to us is always a presence within

[1] Ira Progoff, The Symbolic and the Real (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973).

[2] Progoff, The Symbolic and the Real, 81.

[3] Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1955).

[4] Progoff, The Symbolic and the Real, 218-219.

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  1. Dennis on July 15, 2024 at 10:38 am

    It seems that we have largely ‘departed’ from the connective tissue that links our conscious life from our psyche – both individual and collective. While I don’t disparage Disney, those produces are examples: the love and respect for animals and other creatures are distanced from the awesomeness of their power, the necessary predation for sustenance. And then a story is wound around that/those premises that further distances us from the core of lessons our psyche can teach us from their symbolism. The levels of distancing nature as sustenance, material, joy and fear from our experience leaves us bereft of the actual learning, taste feel, caring, harvesting, stories, seasonality – all wherein our psyche finds its stimulus to ‘speak’ to us. Quirky country-western artist Orvil Peck’s lyrics “There Ain’t No Glory in the West”, is for me a great revelation of how re-constructed reality has distorted the reality within which we exist and seeks to redefine and thus deny, obstruct, twist the ever-present urge of intrinsic psyche – suppression. The profound loving learning from our religious books, creation stories are lost because our exposure, contact, awe and question are so filtered by self-interested tradition, bias, answers that claim definitiveness that stifles; that their own exploration has, to use the analogy of food, has bee commercialized, fertilized, harvested my unknown – so often in conditions that abuse value. They are separated for cosmetic appeal, the rest are further ‘stripped’ of their identity by steaming, salting, preservatives, canning, crating, delivery to a market. All lead to a total replacement of the earth, all sense of responsibility, connection, taste of the earth source and its connection. Our Psyche sense and stimulus to wonder and learning stops at a ”can’. In so many dimensions of our life we are fenced-off from the internal elan of joy, awe, question that even the collective dimension of psyche, we are so defined by layer upon layer of authoritarian replacement of personal question that psyche is virtually closeted and or pseudo-replaced by construct that is maybe worse. If we absent ourselves from an earth-founded psyche we is virtually impossible to come to a cosmic-consciousness that is imbedded and frustrated by our ‘replacement process’. It seems defined by NASA, rockets and weaponing space.
    In a real sense contemporary science is ‘stimulating’ our inner sense of individuality and collectivity. Space telescopes are revealing the until not limited sense of immensity, profundity, dangers and inevitabilities that scare, that evoke awe, questions the old answers cannot adequately address and therefore we are ‘awakened’ and our ‘psyche’s as well. Climate change, unfortunately, is also capable of doing so, hopefully in time to save us (earth will look after itself in time – if we don’t bomb it out of sustainability).
    Awe and pyyche are the essential ‘help-mates’ of our person and humanity as well as of relationship with creation and creator.

    • Dennis MacDoanld on July 16, 2024 at 6:30 pm

      I apologize for the awkward construction of my comment above. While possessing no expertise, it is a precious concept to me. The concept of “primitive” seems pejorative, but in a real sense is that utter simplicity and profundity of self and that seems to have its own story to form and tell, to inform and connect with the ‘awe-inspiring’. We seem to have screened it out. Science seems to be able to elicit and contribute to its awakening. The depth of Aboriginal mind-set seems so much closer to it. Religion seems to deaden it, to coopt it within a construct called theology, and claim to be both our capacity and its goal. Religions must learn the teaching of John the Baptist: it is to prepare the way, not pretend to be it.

  2. Jerome Simmons on July 15, 2024 at 9:21 am

    Robert! So good to read your entry this morning. A word master at work. Keep up the good work. Peace and prayers – I wondered what and how you were doing. You are keeping out of trouble for sure. Jerry Simmons

  3. Luke on July 15, 2024 at 8:52 am

    Robert, I very much appreciate you and your writings! Thanks!

  4. Kay on July 15, 2024 at 7:02 am

    For me, Creative Unity is another denotes Sacred Union, the Sacred Dance where the female and male unite to create a third force. The Ternary resulting in a Quaternary that keeps creation in motion.

    Our cosmic potential requires us to die to our egoic self, open wide our vulnerabilities, and grow. The energy, our divine and cosmic potential, is not within our surface or linear selves. It is not located on the horizontal plane of knowing. Rather, to reach the seed of our soul requires depth and the vertical knowing of discernment. A knowing situated in the heart and not the head.
    Cosmic potential reminds me of the Cosmotheandric movement of Panikkar. No longer a dance of Perichoresis but the Divinely captivated embodied movement of the dervish who raises arms above while abandoning self to the Infinite. Freely one with the Oneness of the Whole and, yet, still present within the moment.

    We have the same potential. This is the energy so needed today, to be One and Whole yet present within our complicated world. To see with our hearts the potential waiting to be released. Dare I name this? Love.

  5. Robert robert r lackney,permanent deacon on July 14, 2024 at 11:42 am

    Creative Union, that surprising moment to moment experience of God-presence- we grow, expand, evolve into the “more-ness”
    { e,g. metanioia Acts 9]
    Only the Good Things Yet to Come
    robert, permanent deacon

  6. John Gormley on July 13, 2024 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you so much for your continuing contribution to help benefit the whole human race. And thank you to all who add their own personal contributions in response.

  7. Carol Wilson on July 12, 2024 at 1:01 pm

    I have been deeply involved in the evolutionary process of spirituality for some time. To be able to hear others comments, and especially what this website puts forth, feels like torrents of water in a parched desert. I want to describe it in the words of John of the Cross, when he speaks of the effect of the touches of the Holy Spirit that makes the touches He sends causing the sparks to burst into flame and illuminate every think around it. I am so grateful for this website!

  8. Richard Kingsley on July 12, 2024 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks Robert for reminding us of what our potential is calling us to keep growing the God seed within and become all we can be. Your reflection reminded me of two quotes from my Spirit friend Meister Eckhart that you and many fellow Christic’s probably know. He says, “The seed of God is in us; Pear trees grow into pear trees; Hazel trees grow into hazel trees; and God seeds into God.”
    The second one compliments it when he says, “ God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself…and let God be God in you.”
    It’s a lifetime process but there is nothing that can compare to the joy and happiness that comes from experiencing the God within and up ahead calling us to continue to grow to our full potential. Thanks again Robert!

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