Self-realization as revealed in art, symbol & sacred text: Analytic psychology meets Eastern philosophy
We are in an era of radical materialism in which only the material aspects of life are acknowledged. Carl Jung says:
“Under the influence of scientific materialism, everything that could not be seen with the eyes or touched with the hands was held in doubt; such things were even laughed at because of their supposed affinity with metaphysics. Nothing was considered “scientific” or admitted to be true unless it could be perceived by the senses or traced back to physical causes.” (CW 8. para. 649)
This way of perceiving the world around us has led to a complete focus on the material aspects of life, and to life based on capital and the accumulation of capital. Unfortunately, the field of psychology is constructed within this dominant materialistic paradigm. This paradigm leaves little room for the life of soul. While the root word of psychology is psyche and thus has its roots in the study and care of the soul, we are so deeply immersed in the materialistic world view that we have even created “psychology without the soul.” Jung says:
“It was universally believed in the Middle Ages as well as in the Greco-Roman world that the soul is a substance. Indeed, mankind as a whole has held this belief from its earliest beginnings, and it was left for the second half of the nineteenth century to develop a “psychology without the soul.” (ibid)
We have diverged so far from recognizing the life of the soul that we hardly know what the soul is anymore. All that appears to be left of the soul are the remnants of her imagination: new age beliefs, occultism, literalistic spiritual ideologies. But the soul is not so complicated. She is the archetypal image of the life of the imagination. The soul is the immortal, imaginal aspect of being. She is known only insofar as we are capable of imagining that which might lie both within and beyond the material realms of being. The soul is the root of being, giving rise to being. Jung speaks of the ancient beliefs regarding the soul:
[The soul] is of divine nature and therefore immortal; that there is a power inherent within it which builds up the body, sustains its life, heals its ills.”(ibid)
The happenings of the body occur first in the soul. Material life, bodily life, arises from the soul. Healing occurs within the soul, and manifests within the body. And according to ancient beliefs the soul is not alone in this process. There are incorporeal spirits who guide this process. Jung continues:
“there are incorporeal spirits with which the soul associates” (ibid)
Psycho-dynamic therapists might call these spirits our internal objects or representations. But to really honor the soul we have to respect them as holding an autonomous nature. The ancients knew this. Jung explains.
[The incorporeal spirits lie] beyond our empirical present. [He continues] There is a spiritual world from which the soul receives knowledge of spiritual things whose origins cannot be discovered in this visible world.” (ibid)
But few will understand the radical nature of the soul and the soul’s associates. They lie beyond, and yet within. They are autonomous and yet psychic. As Jung proclaims: they are “psychic facts”.
Reference: Carl G. Jung, CW 8, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (1947, revised 1954)