I know people who find what they call “navel gazing” distasteful because of the apparent emphasis on “me, myself and I.” What they don’t realize is that self-discovery is often a response to problematic relationships that pays off big time by creating healthier ones. As J. Krishnamurti has said, “Self-knowledge is obviously a process, not an end in itself; and to know oneself, one must be aware of oneself in action, which is relationship. You discover yourself, not in isolation, not in withdrawal, but in relationship, in relationship to society, to your wife, your husband, your brother, to man…”
We all contain a drive for self-preservation and a drive for species-preservation. Finding satisfaction and pleasure in life is a function of developing both. The drive for self-preservation motivates us to maintain and promote our individuality in ways that make our lives safer and more comfortable. The drive for species-preservation motivates us to care about others and connect with them in ways that maintain and promote the survival, rights, authority, creativity, individuality, well-being, and prospering of others. In essence, it enables us to create and maintain relationships.
Because of women’s ability to give birth and nourish new life, the drive for species-preservation is universally associated with the irresistible and magnetic, yet deeply feared, anima archetype. She is our inner “sacred feminine,” for whom the consummate accomplishment is to become completed through intimate, loving relationships which enable us to experience ecstatic union with otherness.
I believe our failure to bring the sacred value of the anima into collective awareness is the underlying reason for today’s most pressing problems in every institution of society. In families it is the reason for the lack of love, compassion and understanding which typifies difficult relationships. In education it is responsible for our failure to nourish original, creative thinking. In business it explains the prevalence of greed and the lack of integrity and moral conscience in Wall Street, advertising, banking, and many large corporations. In government it is responsible for dominator political systems and divisive polarization. In religion it causes dwindling memberships and global strife.
Self-discovery does not create these problems; it resolves them. As anyone who persists on the spiritual path of self-exploration can tell you, as you learn more about yourself you increasingly experience reconciliation: reconciliation between self and others, between heaven and earth, masculine and feminine, and God the Father and God the Mother. In short, this path ultimately leads to meaningful and lasting relationships with everyone and everything.
The only danger of a spiritual path that emphasizes self-development is the tendency to isolate ourselves and withdraw from relationships. In essence, this is tantamount to aligning ourselves with the masculine drive and keeping our distance from the feminine. We might be making good progress with accepting our shadows, discovering our passions, healing ourselves, and creating spiritual meaning, but if we are not also actively working to reconcile ourselves with others in healthy, love-filled relationships— especially those others with whom we are most intimate—we have a way to go before we can hope to approach psychological wholeness or spiritual maturity.