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When we go down and into the depths, we discover a richness that can’t be found when we live on the surface. By going inward, I don’t mean being self-focused or egocentric or narcissistic. Just the opposite. In the depths we discover a clearer, truer sense of who we are. I resonate with the psalmist who spoke to God from the deepest recesses of his psyche. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord hear my voice” (Psalm 130:1). De profundis. It’s from out of the depths that we experience the pain and anguish, the pain and doubt and fears and anxieties, as well as the joy, love, grace, and the deepest desires of our hearts. From that inner place we cry out to God and relate to God. In the depths we encounter the Abundance who dwells in the dark waters of the soul and calls us to life.

 

This is an excerpt from Ken Kovacs' Out of the Depths, published in August 2016, which connects Modern Religion with Depth Psychology.  We urge you to read it!

OOTD1Introduction

One of my favorite stories is the calling of Simon in Luke 5. They had been out on the Sea of Galilee (or Gennesaret) all night, fishing, and hadn’t caught a thing. We often read this text as saying something about discipleship and evangelism and extending the Realm of God. It does have something to say about “catching people” (Luke 5:10). However, before Simon begins this work he has to first do something else.

“Look, Master, we’ve been out here all night and didn’t catch a thing. We’re tired. And there are all those people who keep following you around. We just want to go home.” 

What did Jesus ask him do? “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Put out into the deep water. Let down your nets, into the depths, for a catch. And when they did so they had so many fish that their nets almost began to break. Simon signaled for help. And then both these boats were filled to capacity with fish so that they started to sink under the weight. Overwhelmed by the abundance of the depths!

Jesus’ invitation to let down our nets into the depths has guided my life for decades. When Jesus tells us to put out into the deep, I can’t help but hear this as a summons to go down and in, to enter into the depths of my being, my soul, my heart, my psyche—they’re all synonymous for me. The sea is a metaphor for the heart, a symbol of the unconscious, that which lives below the surface of awareness. It’s an invitation to go down and in, to an abundance, an overabundant yield that cannot be contained. 

When we go down and into the depths, we discover a richness that can’t be found when we live on the surface. By going inward, I don’t mean being self-focused or egocentric or narcissistic. Just the opposite. In the depths we discover a clearer, truer sense of who we are. I resonate with the psalmist who spoke to God from the deepest recesses of his psyche. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord hear my voice” (Psalm 130:1). De profundis. It’s from out of the depths that we experience the pain and anguish, the pain and doubt and fears and anxieties, as well as the joy, love, grace, and the deepest desires of our hearts. From that inner place we cry out to God and relate to God. In the depths we encounter the Abundance who dwells in the dark waters of the soul and calls us to life.

The use of the word depth in Luke 5:4, bathos in Greek, implies immensity, expansiveness, a spatial depth either of water or earth. It speaks of something profound, fundamental, that which undergirds this world and sustains our lives. In Gnosticism, God is referred to as bathos, the depth, the source of all our being. God is not so much “up there,” high and lofty, but deep and unfathomable. We find a similar image in the Corinthian correspondence. Paul says that before the Holy Spirit speaks to the human spirit she first searches the “very depths of God.” The Spirit reaches from the depths of God to the depths of the human spirit, which means that the words of the Holy Spirit that strike our hearts and move our bodies and shape our lives first move through the depths of God and convey the depths of God to us—from depth to depth. Amazing.

What did Simon Peter do when he saw all that fish? He fell down at Jesus’ feet and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Or, in other words, “Go away from me, Lord, for I’m not worthy of this. Or, “Go away from me, Lord, for I’m not ready for this.” Why? “For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken;” (Luke 5:9).

If we’re honest, we each have a little Simon in us, who when confronted by the power and holiness of God, when faced with awe and amazement before the abundance of God, recoiled and said, “Too much. I can’t handle it. I can’t withstand it. I can’t stand it.” And Simon doesn’t, literally, because he falls to his knees. It’s too much. With God it’s always too much. God is The Too Much!

Simon said, “Go away from me, Lord. … ” It’s a defensive response to the Holy. It’s a defense against living in and with and through the amazing claim that God is within us and available to us. When we go into the depths, eventually we will find God. However, I think the knowledge and possibility of the “too much” overwhelms us and scares us, which is why we’re reluctant to go there, and why it’s easier to live on the surface with a superficial faith or why the Church gets sidetracked in soul-crushing debates or why we simply say to God, “Go away.” Perhaps we know that the more we acknowledge what’s within, when we become aware of our capacity, when we listen to the divine summons in the depths, the greater the responsibility. We’re conflicted, aren’t we? We might pray, “Be present in my life, God.” But we also hope, “But not too much.” We pray, “Speak, God, reveal yourself!” But we don’t want to hear anything that’s going to cause our boats to sink or overwhelm or what we can’t handle or what’s going to mess up our world or our value-system, or our career plans, nothing that would elicit that kind of change. And so we keep the Holy at bay, “domesticating transcendence,” as William Placher (1948-2008) said, keeping it tame. And we pay a price – in our hearts and in the church, and the world suffers because of it.1

So, what if there is all this abundance in the depths of our souls? Jungian psychoanalyst James Hollis believes there is. “As children we listened to the sound of the sea still echoing in the shell we picked up by the shore. That ancestral roar still links us to the great sea which surges within us as well.”2  What if there is “a great sea surging within us”? What if there’s all this abundance in our souls: largeness, potential, possibility, love, mercy, generosity, joy? What if it’s all there, not on the surface, not in shallow spiritual superficialities, but in the depths, given by the Source, waiting to be caught and shared? 

I believe that we encounter God most powerfully in the depths, when we risk going out into the deep water and then letting down our nets. We could almost say that Jesus is calling us to go down—even grow down—rather than up. Maybe we need to grow down before we can reach out to others. Paul Tillich (1886-1965) once asked (in a sermon that had an enormous influence upon my life more than thirty years ago), “Why have [people] always asked for truth? Is it because they have been disappointed with the surfaces, and have known that the truth which does not disappoint dwells below the surfaces in the depth?”3  

The writings of depth psychologist/psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) have allowed me to go deeper. Jung has been a companion along my way since my college years, even more so in recent years. Jung was not afraid to encounter the depths of his own unconscious and discovered there an abundance that the psychoanalytic world has yet to fully fathom. Jung has much to say to the contemporary Church and to the discipline of theology. Increasingly, I feel called to help bridge the worlds of depth psychology and theology. Jung’s ideas have informed my theology and my preaching (especially over the last ten years) and you’ll find evidence of this throughout, both explicitly and implicitly. The last two pieces in the collection are essays written for two Jungian-related publications, the Jung Society of Atlanta and The Zurich Laboratory.

The sermons in this collection emerged out of the depths of my experience. They were all preached at Catonsville Presbyterian Church, where I’ve been blessed to serve as pastor since 1999. I pray that both the sermons and essays will speak to a deep place in you. May they help you to go deep(er) into the Abundance in you. And then, may the Holy Spirit reveal the capacity within your life, given to you for the sake of the world and the ongoing reform of the Church.

Together, these sermons and essays are offered here in memory of the Rev. Lawson R. Brown. I was Lawson’s assistant minister at St. Leonard’s and Cameron Parish Churches, St. Andrews, Scotland from 1990 to 1991. For almost twenty-five years, as both mentor and friend, he supported my ministry, cheered me on when I was feeling discouraged, offered wise counsel, and taught me much about being a servant of the Word.

Kenneth Kovacs

Footnotes:

1. William Placher, The Domestication of Transcendence: How Modern Thinking about God Went Wrong  (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996).

  2. James Hollis, The Archetypal Imagination  (College State: Texas A & M University Press, 2000), 119. 

  3. Paul Tillich, “The Depth of Existence” in The Shaking of the Foundations  (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948), 53.

 Painting Credit: "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes," is by Jacobo Bassano, 16the cent. It's in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. 

 

 

 

 

 

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