Syzygy: from duality to divine union

Adi_Buddha_Samantabhadra
Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist and date, US Public Domain.

As a basic principle, archetypes are not realized in static form but present in dynamic form, expressing transformations in consciousness. Archetypal images transform as awareness transforms. Or said another way, archetypes appear in various forms as consciousness shifts.

In terms of enlightenment, sacred images represent transformations in consciousness, expressing a movement from duality to integration and wholeness. Archetypes are therefore expressed in symbols of transformation: representing transformations in consciousness; transforming as consciousness transforms. [1].

The syzygy is a potent symbol of transformation, representing core transformations in the phenomenology of the Self [2]. The transformations in the syzygy archetype emerge along with transformations of the self, movements from duality to integration.

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Durga: encountering the demon of ignorance

Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 Wikimedia
Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 Wikimedia

In becoming aware of the supreme Self, we are likely to behold the demons and shadows of the individual self. Carl Jung believed that an encounter with the demon or monster represented an archetypal stage in the process of individuation. He says, “the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time.” In mythic terms the shadow may present itself as a monster, a demon, a darkness or a drought. Here is the full quote from Jung’s Man and His Symbols:

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Mother World: splitting, integration & evolution in the mother archetype

Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain
Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain

Recently, I have been writing on the aims and instincts of the human soul. Carl Jung speaks of the human soul’s “longing to attain rebirth through a return to the womb, and to become immortal like the sun” (CW5, para. 312). In biblical terms, rebirth is associated with entrance into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy city, an image of the divine mother.

Jung says, “the Old Testament treats the cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, etc. just as if they were women” (para 303). While Jerusalem is an image of the holy mother, Babylon is the unholy mother. In Jung’s words: “Babylon is the symbol of the Terrible Mother” (Jung, para 315). In Revelation 17 it is written:

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Yogi: hero as soul image

 A yogi seated in a garden, North Indian or Deccani miniature painting, c.1620-40. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
A yogi seated in a garden, North Indian or Deccani miniature painting, c.1620-40. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

There appear to be two basic forms of the hero archetype: the national hero and the spiritual hero. The national hero is expressed in the great epics. The story is most often presented as a hero’s journey, a story of adventure taken and power gained. The national hero sacrifices his or her needs for the collective, engaging in great battles with an adversary. Battles are won through impressive feats, as well as shows of strength, force and bravery.

The other type of hero is a spiritual hero. The spiritual hero has no need for outer journey, for a journey is taken into the realms of symbolic life. The spiritual hero has no need for battle with an adversary, for the adversary is realized as a projection of one’s own making. For the spiritual hero, there is no sacrifice ‘for the collective’, instead there is a relinquishing of attachments to the collective.

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Covering, revealing, inhabiting the Self: Isa Upanishad, mantra 1

Isa upanisad.
Sanskrit of the Isa Upanisad. Creative commons.

The heart of the Upanishads is the Self, expressed as both a path of Self-knowledge and a realization of the fullness and potential of the Self.  In the Isa Upanishad, the Self is Isa, as the “Lord” or “Ruler”, as inner lord and inner ruler.

The first mantra of the Isa Upanishad expresses, within its compressed form, a profound insight into the nature of the Self. The eternal truth is expressed in a few mantric syllables, as is a complete path to enlightenment. One only need meditate on the words, recite the words, come into a full understanding of the meaning of the mantras. The Self reveals itself within these sacred syllables, inviting us to inhabit the mantra: Om Isa vāsyam idam sarvam…

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Shiva Speaks: words of the supreme Self

Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain
Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author and date, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809). US public domain

Both the work of Carl Jung (CW 9ii) and Vedanta (Adi Shankara and the Upanishads) agree: the deity image represents the Self beyond self. In Vedanta, the deity image represents the supreme Self: Shiva is one such deity image.

In my last post, titled Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom, I spoke of ash as a symbol of Shiva, and thus of the supreme Self. In that post, I drew from a passage from the Brahmanda Purana. In this post, I am going to share more from the Brahmanda Purana (Chapter 27). In the story, Shiva makes a strong statement concerning his own nature, and thus the nature of the supreme Self.

I will start from the beginning of the Story. In the Brahmanda Purana, a group of sages go into the forest to seek out Shiva. There they encounter the frightful form of Shiva. The text says:

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Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom

Shiva with Vibhuthi on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister, 1867-1911.
Shiva with Vibhuthi (ash) on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister.

Ash is a product of fire.

When fire burns, things perish. Ash remains.

As a symbol of purification, ash is the essence that remains when all else burns away. Carl Jung speaks of such things. He says:

‘Ash’ is an inclusive term for the scoriae left over from burning, the substance that ‘remains below [1]

Ash, as a symbol, is closely linked to the Self. The Self, like ash, is that which “remains below.”

A basic premise of Vedic philosophy, as illuminated by Adi Shankara, is that there are two forms of the Self. One is the individual self as empirical, finite, temporal; the other is the supreme Self as eternal, infinite and self-luminous. For Adi Shankara, all Gods are forms of the Self. 

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Meditation on Ash: image of mourning

Śiva as Bhairava with two dogs, unknown author, circa 1820. US Public Domain
Śiva as Bhairava with two dogs, unknown author, circa 1820. US Public Domain [1]

It’s a strange day
No colors or shapes
No sound in my head
I forget who I am

When I’m with you
There’s no reason
There’s no sense

I’m not supposed to feel
I forget who I am

(Goldfrapp – Utopia)

There are moments in life when we lose ourselves completely. These moments occur spontaneously in states of love and joy, as well as pain and hardship. When we fall in love we forget ourselves: there’s no reason. And at the loss of love, we again forget ourselves: there’s no sense. These movements of love and loss are at the ends of the spectrum, the outer circumference of being human, marking an aspect of self that the mind simply cannot grasp.

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