Following Our Destiny by Listening to Our Spirit

by Anita Ashland

Book cover The Call of Destiny by J. Gary SparksPeople often find Carl Jung’s books difficult to read. Yet Jung said it wasn’t academic people who read his books, but “ordinary people, often quite poor people. And why do they do it? Because there’s a deep need in the world just now for spiritual guidance.”

In The Call of Destiny: An Introduction to Carl Jung’s Major Works, Jungian analyst J. Gary Sparks gives us a guide to Jung’s work to help us more easily access that spiritual guidance.

This book covers four major works Jung wrote following his near-death experience in 1944. Before you read or reread any of these books (Symbols of Transformation, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Aion, and Answer to Job) I recommend you first read the section about that book in The Call of Destiny. You will extract much more out of the book that way.

Sparks pulls out four models of inner transformation Jung covers in these works and brilliantly distills them for us in The Call of Destiny:

1. Jung’s three most important wordsSymbols of Transformation by Jung sets the agenda for the rest of his psychological writing with the words: “forward-striving function” (p. 39).

Sparks says this function confirms that: “Something of immense intelligence, something that, so to speak, oversees the creation of our life’s meaning…lies just beyond the easy reach of consciousness (p. 40).

He also shows us the role of the ego in releasing the guidance of the unconscious as well as the many other facets of Symbols of Transformation.

2. Carrying the conflict of opposites – Alchemy is a difficult topic to understand and easy to set aside in favor of other Jungian topics such as dream work, individuation, and typology.

Spark’s summary of Jung’s Mysterium Coniunctionis articulated alchemy in a way that made sense to me. Essentially, alchemy is a symbol system that helps us hold the tension of opposites until a synthesis emerges that guides us on our destiny.

I also enjoyed reading about the history of alchemy and of Gnosticism. He describes some of the most important alchemical symbols, such as sun and moon and king and queen, plus much more.

3. Withdrawing projections and uniting spirit and matter – Jung’s Aion “explores the psychological effect of the Christian understanding of God.” The Pisces symbolism of the two fish is central to the book.The first fish symbolizes the first 1000 years after Christ, which was a needed counterbalance to the previous “brutality of late antiquity.” The second fish represents the second 1000 years up until the present, which is a more materialistic and worldly age, balancing out the prior one-sided focus on the spiritual.

As Sparks says, “The container of water can no longer hold the two fish.” So, what’s next? Aion proposes that we find the spiritual fish in the material fish. Rather than the pendulum swinging back and forth between material and spiritual periods and causing upheaval and massive swings at a societal level, we should endeavor to find the spirit in matter and bring it down to practical everyday experience.

In this section Sparks discusses a paradigm to help us find the spiritual in the material and recover a guiding spirit for our lives.

4. Coming to awareness of selfhood – God has a dark and evil side. Few statements are more radical than that one, which is the central thesis of Jung’s Answer to Job.

It is worth getting past the discomfort of this thesis to get to the deeper meaning Sparks explores, which is my favorite insight of his in the whole book:

“When we don’t assume responsibility for the act under which we have innocently suffered, when we don’t take on the guilt, i.e. feel guilty because of what has unjustly happened to us, then the ‘Job archetype’ can evolve. A practical point of our working with the Book of Job is that we learn the clinical attitude necessary to heal suffering caused by the assault of evil. The archetypal approach is such a new point of view, and it flies in the face of our native causal view of life. It can be upsetting to entertain – the point is when not to accept guilt (p. 147, emphasis mine).

Sparks explains how Job’s victimization gets interpreted in mainstream theology as Job having done something to provoke God’s wrath. This interpretation is in part why, as a society, we can tend to “blame the victim,” thereby resulting all too often in the victim becoming the next perpetrator. Instead, Answer to Job helps in the process of “recognizing victimization, suffering consciously, not taking responsibility, and thereby stopping passing evil onto another person or another generation” (p. 178).

Sparks covers many other topics in this section, such as the role of Sophia/Wisdom for victims and what Jung thought religion would be like in 200 years. He also discusses the importance of the place of the Book of Job in the order of the books of the Bible and the psychological insight we can draw from that.

Where is our inner guidance? How do we find it? How can you create your genuine future? These are just a few of the important questions Sparks ponders along with us in The Call of Destiny. Spirit as guidance is a major theme in the works of Jung, as the call to our destiny is, ultimately, to listen to our spirit.


Anita Ashland is a writer and consulting astrologer. She is also a student in the Jungian Studies Program at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago. Her blog is at Subscribe to her monthly Reading in Depth newsletter where she writes about the Jungian books she read that month. Follow her on Instagram for daily Jungian quotes.

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