Wednesday, December 5, 2012


"If you only follow your own desire according to its own indications it will never go too far, it will always lead to its own defeat." Marie Louise von Franz, from Alchemy, An Introduction

In this statement, I hear Marie von Franz saying that our incessant cravings for pleasure and happiness always contain within them an ultimate defeat. The new car, new home, new lover, yummy bowl of ice cream or a great movie I've been looking forward to--I desire it, get it, and then it's gone. Then what? Most of us simply fill the mind, heart and hands with the next anticipated desire, even when we know that it too will come and go. But then a moment arrives in life, or several moments, when we ask, "Is this it? Just one unfulfilled craving following the next?"

The conscious person is left with at least two alternatives when such questions arise: One, become really super spiritual and learn to stop desiring. Two, continue to desire while realizing that every unfulfilled aspiration is leading me toward a goal. Von Franz is recommending alternative number two. You see, her quote comes from a book about alchemy. Alchemy refers to the process of transforming one thing into another thing, an entirely different thing than the first. Her comment about desire leading to defeat is not a negative assessment, but very positive. She is not suggesting that we ought to get rid of our desires, but simply realize that they will always leave us empty and needy, but that each new desire and each subsequent defeat moves us closer to the ultimate goal--which is completion. Please do not ask me what "completion" is. I have no clue--any more than I could have told you when I was five years old what it would be like to be twenty or fifty. But I knew that such ages or "completions" existed. C.S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” I think Lewis is suggesting that every desire is God-given, but that the continual disappointments remind us that eventually the desire can and will be fulfilled by "another world". I once heard a Rabbi put it like this, "Every time we connect to something or someone that we desire, the cord is cut and we fall into disappointment. But God reties the rope, each new knot drawing us one inch closer to completion." I love that image. There is purpose in every desire, every defeat, and every retying. Enjoy your desires. Fulfill your desires. Acknowledge the defeats. Know you are moving to a goal--the goal of making your unique soul.