Log in

a container for the psyche in an uncertain world

Log in

Living In the Mystery by Kelly McGannon

Thursday, August 01, 2019 9:06 AM | Jung Society of Washington

Life on this planet is humbling. We know so little about anything. Take the night sky. Increasingly, in order to see starlight, we must find an equivalent darkness. We race out into the countryside, turn our eyes upward, and pick out familiar constellations one by one. We gasp with delight when a meteor races past and feel wonder when we catch Jupiter on the elliptical.

The Great Mystery is all around us, and we are in it. It beguiles and keeps the sap of our lives awake. Yet, neither you nor I nor any of our relations have discovered its true name—the name that breathed us all onto the scene like salted lanterns or Roman candles, each with our own part to play. It is only when we turn our gaze to unexpected places, not toward the light, but toward the dark rivers that hold the light, that we are gifted with glinting breadcrumbs to guide us on.  

This Mystery is as real as you or I. It moves through the world wearing a symbol cloak of images, “speaks a secret language” (CW12, para 315), and “keeps an eye on ‘age-old, sacred things…remind[ing] us of them at a suitable opportunity” (CW12, para 85). A year into the Jungian Studies Reading Seminar, I know this is true and have enough sense to know that I am the fool here—the solitary human sitting high in an attic, daring to reach my fingertips out to the Mystery, hoping to coax a note of onto this page.

To engage the Mystery takes courage and a willingness to stride into dark, uncharted places full of archaic matter. Jung engaged the Mystery head on, plummeting into his own depths—uncertain if he would become mad or enlightened…uncertain if he would return at all. He wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “In order to grasp the fantasies which were stirring in me ‘underground,’ I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them...I felt not only violent resistance to this, but a distinct fear…I let myself drop…below the threshold of consciousness everything was seething with life” (pp. 178-79).

Dark-matter physicists are twinned companions on the journey for they also search within the Mystery for the shadowy presence that refuses to interact with light. To do so, they too must venture into the depths, down into the bowels of the underland, far beneath the strata that holds the world’s memory. A half-mile down, they hunt for what they cannot see—for the something that does not emit light, reflect it, or block it. Like the alchemists, they look for thelumen naturae, the light that lives in the black blacker than black (nigrum nigrius nigro,CW12, para 433).

Perhaps it’s really as simple as this. We are a part of everything and everything is within us. As we explore the star-strewn heavens and luminous depths, our eyes and egos adjust to the larger Mystery. We begin to allow that these scintillae, these golden sparks scattered through the Mystery, whether we call it Psyche or Cosmos, are one in the same.

What happens then is perhaps the most beautiful mystery of all. We realize we are matter on the move, adrift on ancient seas, like a pulsating regatta lit with soul fire. The stuff we seek is already drifting through us. There is nothing to do but feel wonder at how our unique granularities and constellated angles reach out into the Mystery and haul on board what we need the most. Rilke wrote in the Duino Elegies, “The eternal current whirls all ages along in it, through both realms forever…” All we have to do is ride what already is.

Kelly McGannon, M.A., M.A.R. is an executive leadership coach in private practice in the Washington Metro Area. She completed her graduate work in medieval art history and pilgrimage at Yale University Divinity School and Princeton University. She is a current student in JSW's Jungian Studies Reading Seminar. 


5200 Cathedral Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20016


Our offices are closed due to COVID-19.

You can reach us with any questions regarding programs at


Our library is currently closed due to COVD-19. Please email to checkout a book. 




The Jung Society of Washington is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, a nonprofit educational institution. Our IRS form 990 is available upon request. Although many of the Jung Society's programs involve analytical psychology and allied subjects, these offerings are intended, and should be viewed, as a source of information and education, and not as therapy. The Jung Society does not offer psychoanalytical or other mental health services.
Images of mandalas throughout this site were created by Carl Jung's patients between the years 1926 and 1945.
Privacy Policy
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software