Enlightenment: Spiritual Insight from Carl Jung

On this Blog, I offer a reading of Carl Jung’s work from a spiritual perspective. More specifically, I read Jung’s work from the perspective of Self-realization. My aims in reading Jung is not psychological, but instead to seek out the spiritual insights in Carl Jung’s work. Most of these spiritual insights are found in Jung’s work on the “transpersonal” dimension of psychic life.

The word “transpersonal” denotes consciousness beyond the boundaries of personal identity. Jung spoke of a “second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature” (CW 9i, para. 90). The transpersonal dimension of consciousness is symbolic in content, consisting of “pre-existent forms, the archetypes” (ibid).

Carl Jung’s perspective on the nature of the transpersonal is ambiguous; sometimes he speaks in terms of genetic model and at other times he speaks in more numinous terms. My work address the numinous nature of the Self.

A core set of symbolic forms are seen in spiritual myth, art, and religious iconography. Jung showed that these archetypal forms are fairly consistent across cultures and throughout the span of time. I have traced these on this blog: the light, the inner Sun, God, Goddess (or divine mother), the divine child, demons, spirit guides, the spiritual hero, wise man, the shadow, and the unity of opposites.

These symbols offer a path toward Self-realization. Jung often limited Self-realization to the idea of ‘individuation’. For Jung, individuation is “the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated” from other human beings (CW 6, para. 757). There is a larger meaning of Self-realization, as the realization of the true nature of the Self. This is the meaning to which my work seeks to elucidate.

My reading of Jung is deeply influenced by Vedanta. In Vedanta, enlightenment is a realization of the eternal, everlasting, unchanging ground of existence, as the supreme Self or Brahman. One might say that there are two movements or moments in Self-realization. In the first moment, we transcend the eternal ground, becoming a distinct self within transitory existence (individuation)In the second moment, we realize an eternal nature of the Self as it exists beyond our transitory individual existence (enlightenment). Both moments entail Self-realization. One is a moment of toward the wholeness of the personality (of the individual self), and the other is a movement beyond the personal altogether (the supreme Self).

My work borrows from the work of Carl Jung, yet starts where Jung left off– at the threshold of enlightenment. The core archetypes are the same, varying in name and form, but not concept, not idea. In the first movement, the archetypes guide the process of individuation and personhood.  In the second movement, they guide us toward realization of the supreme Self beyond personhood. This process takes place in and through the innermost Self ( in Vedanta called Atman).

Read more: Self-realization in the Work of Carl Jung