(Connecticut; Aslan Publishing, 1999)
One of the biggest issues I have with Modern Dualistic Thought is the loss of imagination as a category associated with, but distinct from, thinking and feeling (or mind and body in another dualism). Imagination is different to thinking in that it is not entirely rational and has no need to be logical. It is different to feeling in that it is more active than reactive, we have some control over it. Imagination has the capacity to draw in to consciousness that which lies beyond our reach, though we are vaguely aware of its impact upon us. Night dreams are our imagination at work, but it also includes day dreams and all sorts of creative inner work. Imagination produces inspired guesses by scientists, amazing colour combinations by artists and inventive solutions to all manner of problems.
In The Inner Lover, Jungian therapist Valerie Harms is not suggesting much more than the healing capacity of imagination. That is, I think it is possible to glean insights from her approach to dealing with passion and love struggles without buying into the whole Jungian soul theory. There are different levels to which one can take her wisdom. I myself am not unconvinced about her anatomy of the inner life of human persons within my own explicitly Christian understanding of the human person but I don’t think it’s necessary in order to learn something from this concept of the inner lovers.
Harms suggests that strong attractions, whilst having an outward set of circumstances, also reflect an inner set of relationships within our own selves. These inner relationships are able to be developed as ‘inner lovers’. Passion erupts from our deepest selves, uncontrollable, unstoppable, as potentially violent as a volcano. The strength of that energy should signal to us that there is something very significant happening in those feelings, and that they are just as much about ourselves as they are the object of our desire. All passions, strong feelings and insistent thoughts are invitations from our ‘souls’/ true selves/ deepest parts to do some work towards becoming all we can be – integrated, genuine, healed from past hurts, respectful of our weaknesses and limitations. The creative potential of the inner lover will be immediately grasped by anyone whose love has been thwarted. Not all passion is able to be expressed in an actual, outward relationship. The attraction may not be mutual or the person might be unavailable or inappropriate. We can fall in love with people who are in another relationship, in another country or in a relative position to us which makes it inappropriate like a therapist, teacher or priest. Those who experience the tragedy of losing a loved one know that passion continues beyond the grave or beyond the unwanted end of a relationship.
“Love is indeed a life or death matter, for it can add more life or subtract it. One can choose to surrender to being enlarged by love or else, by thwarting it, to being diminished… In the despair of love, it can sometimes seem there are no possibilities. But if one is attuned to one’s subjective truths, one will be able to have a great adventure with love. For then one will experience the dynamics of love energy in one’s soul. The benefits to one’s outer relationships are enormous if one is in good rapport with one’s Inner Lovers.”(p25)
There is a disappointingly short chapter on celibacy (called ‘Spirit Blossoms’) which adds another dimension to my recent sexuality/spirituality musings. Christian Theology and Church Morality desperately needs this kind of expanded view of passion. For Christian celibates, the inner lover takes on an explicitly religious form. The Beloved is the Greatest Lover, the Divine source of all Love. The sometimes erotic nature of the Mystical imagination of Celibates is merely an expression of the integration of their inner being – sex and all! She quotes a Christian nun who says, “Mysticism is not disguised sex; sex is disguised mysticism.”
“The ideals of love, truth, and beauty are found within ourselves. Dialogues and prayers throughout history have oriented our longings in this direction. Jean Houston, in The Search of the Beloved, elaborates on this theme: ‘In all the great spiritual and mystery traditions, the central theme, the guiding passion, is the deep yearning for the Beloved of the soul.’ The yearning is a memory of a spiritual union that goes very deep and fails to go away, ‘a union that is only partially explained and mirrored through human loving or partnership.”
As I was wondering about celibacy I wondered about all those people who are sexually abstinent by circumstance not by choice. To my mind this includes married couples with whom one or both have medical issues which precludes sexual activity; singles who find themselves unable to enter into a sexual relationship (committed or otherwise); widow[er]s; people traumatized by relationship break-up; single parents (and parents of small children in general in my experience!) There seems to be very little research done in this area, but it is recognised enough for a Wiki article! Check out this interesting Wiki on Involuntary Celibacy which might not be what you expect it to be!
It seems to me that there is a place for Inner Lovers in a mature Christian Spirituality. Not just for celibacy, but perhaps even more importantly for also for those in committed relationships, who find themselves in a position of ‘falling in love’ with someone who is not their spouse/partner. Nurturing the Inner Lover rather than pursuing an ‘Outer Lover’ neither denies the beauty and intelligence of erotic passion, nor leads to hurtful unfaithfulness in the committed relationship.