The Whole-Making God Within

By Sheri D. Kling

Although we are traumatized people living in a traumatizing world, we can come to know and experience the Whole-Making God Within.

We live in a traumatized and traumatizing world. In a world where loved ones get sick and die, pain is unavoidable. But sometimes suffering comes at the hands of those who are supposed to love and care for us or from strangers bent on destruction.

Trauma in early childhood or adulthood can have devastating effects on our health and well-being. This was clearly shown in a study conducted in the 1990s by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente of San Diego, California, in what is now known as the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study.

In that research, 17,000 adults were questioned about their early lives and given a score from 1-10 based on their exposure to ten categories of adverse experience, including abuse, neglect, violence in the home, and other traumatic events. There was a shocking correlation between those experiences and the later development of chronic, debilitating health conditions and risky behaviors. The ACEs study and works like The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., reveal the depth of scarring to the human psyche left by such trauma.

To anyone paying attention, it’s clear that we in the United States are fragmented at all levels: in our society, in our relationships, and even within ourselves. Our culture doesn’t help, with its worldview that splits mind from body, humans from nature, and tells us that we are machines living in a meaningless universe who only matter when we consume, consume, consume.

No wonder we are suffering. No wonder so many of us are hopeless, feeling like our lives will never change.

And Yet

And yet, there is healing and transformation available to us in every moment. Because there is a whole-making God active in the world and present within each and every one of us.

When we read mathematician-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead and psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, we find an integrating story that can be a balm to our painful fragmentation. In their work, we find that at both the levels of the cosmos and of the human psyche, there is:

1. A Universal Flow of Creative Life

2. A Universal Presence of the Sacred Within, and

3. A Universal Lure toward Healing and Whole-Making

The very good news for us is that these aspects of God can be encountered within us, in our most intimate experience as individuals, and within our collective web of life. These universals are also present in our relationships, whether intimate, social, or therapeutic.

A Universal Flow of Creative Life

Drawing from Whitehead and Jung, we can understand that there is an ever-flowing stream of creative life at the base of experience. We might think of this as the eros or creative fire within everything.

For Whitehead, this fire ignites the spark of every moment of becoming, giving that moment its “living immediacy.” This primordial mystery—that rushing river of being and becoming—is the reason why there is something rather than nothing at all. We may even think of this eros as God’s desire for embodiment, for incarnation, for actuality.

In the human psyche, eros is a pull toward relationship, toward connection with others. Is this same urge present in God as the desire that leads to the formation of a world? If so, then we may think of everything as interconnected in a divine web of relatedness and gravitational Love that both calls everything into being and holds it together.

This rushing river of eros, this universal flow of creative life, never stops. It is the hidden sacred spring of living water moving unseen within our everyday world. Jung thought of it as the collective life or objective psyche that we encounter in our depths as an “Other” that confronts and changes us.

The Universal Flow of Creative Life holds great riches. It’s our source of dynamism, vitality, and novelty and we come alive ourselves when we live in relation to it. Tapping into its riches is essential for a life lived well where we can integrate our varied experiences into a coherent whole.

We access this living mystery when we can quiet our thoughts and widen our attention to weave in the stirrings and images arising from our unconscious depths. Spiritual practices like meditation, centering prayer, dream work, and walking a labyrinth all open us to the riches available from the Universal Flow of Creative Life.

A Universal Presence of the Sacred Within

When we think of a dynamic cosmos where everything is always in the process of becoming, moments arise ignited by the spark of God’s Eros. But that spark doesn’t just externally push that moment off on its own journey. No, that spark is part of the actual makeup of the moment!

In other words, every real thing begins with the incarnation of God’s self. Even more, in its arising, God gives each moment its very reason for becoming. That vision is then either embraced as that moment’s vision for itself—or not—because there are always many possibilities.

In other words, the drops of experience that make up every real thing in the world begin with the grace-filled outpouring of God’s very own life and vision for possibility. This is how Whitehead describes God’s nearness to us. God kick-starts every moment into being by entering it, by incarnating God’s self as the living spark within its arising.

We might say that we internalize God in every moment of our becoming. In this way, God’s sacred presence permeates the universe.

Similarly, when we think of the human psyche, Jung believed there to be an image of God in every person that he called the archetypal Self. Not the conscious ego, the Self is the structuring center of the human psyche that integrates and holds all aspects of the personality together. It is personal and yet also transcends our individual, personal life.

The archetypal Self is the centering and circling fluid presence of God within us. We might think of it as an eddy of living water that forms as the Universal Flow of Creative Life moves through us. This Self is the swirling meeting point of the streams of human and divine life.

A Universal Lure toward Healing and Wholeness

Where those streams of human and divine life meet, there is a lure toward healing and wholeness within the living and dying of a dynamic cosmos. In our world, the ongoing dance between continuous creation and perpetual perishing, between loss and renewal, is the beautiful and yet painful reality within which we live. This is why I say we are traumatized people living in a traumatizing world.

We might then ask, if God is forming every moment through the incarnation of God’s self, then why does the world look the way it does? Why is there even trauma at all?

In a truly relational cosmos, God doesn’t force particular outcomes into being but acts as a persuasive lure toward Beauty. According to Whitehead, the reason we have trauma, suffering, and disarray in the world is because every real thing has real freedom. Individuals ultimately choose for themselves whether they will actualize the vision that God offers. The poignant truth is that real freedom can mean real conflict and pain.

And yet, God works from within our very being to lure us toward wholeness and transformed futures by offering us those possibilities that God envisions as best for us in every moment. This is true regardless of our place of birth, our current or past circumstances, and regardless of the doctrines we believe or discard. It is true no matter our gender, the color of our skin or the content of our bank accounts. It is true for every one of us because this is how the world itself is continuously created. God offers us God’s self in every moment; God’s possibilities for our wholeness are as near to us as our next breath.

Although Carl Jung rarely talked about the reality of God outside the psyche, he did famously say in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that he didn’t “believe” in God, but knew that God exists. Ultimately, Jung believed our religious statements and ideas are always filtered through human consciousness while pointing to something indescribable and inaccessible to us directly.

Instead of speaking of a transcendent God, Jung describes the archetypal Self as the knowing and wise part of the human psyche that sees our wholeness and potential and draws us toward that vision.

The Self mediates the symbols that arise from the collective unconscious that draw us toward individuation—a process of growth to develop our unique gifts and genius in the world along with the ability to relate more authentically to others. This movement integrates the opposing energies within us—moving us toward wholeness—and brings to consciousness what has been unknown to us about ourselves. Often, these unknown aspects hold great energy and psychological riches when we can integrate them into our conscious personality.

Psychological shadow work to bring unconscious aspects of ourselves to the light of consciousness heals our emotional reactivity. It allows us to live in the present moment and respond from the flow of creative life. Spiritual practices like dream work and Ignatian discernment open our perception to the vision that God has for us in every moment and helps us live into transformed futures.

When we open our awareness to these three aspects of God (Universal Flow of Creative Life, Universal Presence of the Sacred Within, and Universal Lure toward Healing and Whole-Making) and adopt practices to encounter them, we can then experience for ourselves the kind of transformation and rebirth that help us actualize the value and Beauty that we can then joyfully offer the world.

Even if we come from traumatized beginnings, we find seeds of hope in the encounter with the healing, wholeness, creativity, and novelty at the heart of Reality. Contemplating new ideas about our Whole-Making God and adopting spiritual practices that make that God real for us can then restore our relationship with the Universal Flow of Creative Life, root us in the Universal Presence of the Sacred Within, and open us to the Universal Lure toward Healing and Wholeness.

Sheri D. Kling, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, singer, and spiritual mentor who draws from wisdom and mystical traditions, relational worldviews, depth psychology, and the intersection of spirituality and science to help people find meaning, belonging, and transformation. She regularly delivers dynamic “Music & Message” presentations to groups, and offers courses, concerts, and spiritual retreats. Dr. Kling is director of Process & Faith and the John Cobb Legacy Fund and a faculty member of the Haden Institute. She sees her mission as midwifing wholeness in individuals, organizations, communities, and culture. Her work can be found online at

To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Love Does Not Control: Therapists, Psychologists, and Counselors Explore Uncontrolling Love