Ephesians 2:13–22, Uniting Opposites

Verses 14, 16: “For he is himself our peace, Gentiles and Jews, he has made the two one, and in his own body of flesh and blood has broken down the enmity which stood like a dividing wall between them…This was his purpose, to reconcile the two in a single body to God through the cross, on which he killed the enmity.”

When we consider this Scripture from a viewpoint of analytical psychology, each of the characters is an aspect of our psyche/soul. The Gentiles and the Jews are symbols of the instincts and archetypes within us. Instincts are automatic, reflexive impulses to respond to stimuli in certain ways. Archetypes are automatic, unbidden affective states that create desire that propel us to move in certain ways.

Instincts are like the infrared end of the light spectrum; archetypes are like the ultraviolet. Instincts are associated with the body and release somatic tension; archetypes are associated with the spirit and bring new expressions of our self.

We all have suffered from the split between the two, just as the Gentiles and the Jews suffered from their division. Precisely as Christ made the two one, referring to the Gentiles and Jews, the Self/God Within us unites antagonistic aspects of our nature. The antagonistic aspects usually show up as an impulse to respond in a certain way and a desire for something different.

We can experience this opposition within ourselves in innumerable ways that foster ill will or hatred of our self.  For example, we may eat for comfort, purchase something that catches the eye, call an “ex” who is hurtful because we feel lonely, or end a relationship or change jobs when we would rather eat only when physically hungry, let go of impulse shopping, keep healthy boundaries and find new friends, or want the relationship or job.

We have all felt volleyed back and forth between opposites in our nature. We decide on one way, but the other creeps up and interferes. The ego alone does not have the capacity to resolve the conflict in a way that unites the opposites and creates a unifying third (option). The Self/God Within us does have that capacity, just as Christ had that effect with the Gentiles and Jews.

In analytical psychology, Carl Jung wrote about the Transcendent Function. Simply stated, the Transcendent Function is an organic process that kicks in when we consciously relate to opposing positions and hold both within our body-mind simultaneously. When we do so, the uniting third emerges spontaneously.

However, our tendency is to align with one side and dismiss the other. Thus, we continue being tossed to and fro within our selves. To invite the Transcendent Function, we must consciously experience and hold the antagonistic energies together until the third emerges.

The cross is an apt symbol for the expression of God Within through the Transcendent Function. The opposites (literally, vertical and horizontal arms that we could say symbolize archetype and instinct) are united. A sacrifice is made as each must yield to the other to form a union.

Inner Reflection
Take a few minutes to acknowledge the conflicts within you. Flesh out the opposites by feeling into them. What are the ideas, beliefs, body sensations, emotions, and images that accompany them? (Journaling can be helpful.) Hold the opposites together and open for the Self/God Spirit to provide the uniting third.