on Self-realization

Self-realization as revealed in art, symbol & sacred text: Analytic psychology meets Eastern philosophy

The Self: immanent divine

God is a psychic fact of immediate experience.

Carl Jung speaks of the immanent aspects of God when he says “God is a psychic fact”. In Carl Jung’s view, God is first and foremost a subjective experience of the Self. Religious images (archetypes) are products of the Self, spontaneously produced within dreams and imagination.

This insight presents a shift in perspective. God is no longer seen solely in terms of an objective and transcendent otherness toward whom I must have faith. A new horizon opens in which I realize God as a subjective, immanent truth. This truth is realized through dreams, imagination, and visions– as well as through direct awareness. Jung says:

The “God-image [coincides] with the archetype of the Self” (CW 11, par. 757, in Answer to Job).

To know God as Self is to shift from a transcendent and idealized image of ‘God’ toward an immanent self-relating with the divine. As immanent, the God image forms the psychic depth and ground of our awareness. The Upanishads say that God is the ‘supreme Self,’ and that Self-realization is the realization of God as Self. Jung understood this:

“The goal of psychological, as of biological, development is self-realization or individuation. But since [we] know [the self] only as an ego, and the self, as a totality, is indescribable and indistinguishable from a God-image, self-realization . . . amounts to God’s incarnation [in the Self]” (CW 11, par. 233 emphasis added)

For some,Self-realization is a difficult journey. Jung called it a “heroic and often tragic task, the most difficult of all.” He felt “it involves suffering, a passion of the ego.” The reason being that “the ordinary empirical [self] we once were is burdened with the fate of losing one’s self in a greater dimension.” (Jung, CW 11, par. 233).

For others, Self-realization is as simple as realizing the nature of one’s own being and awareness (read Shankara’s commentary on the Upanishads). In the Upanishads, Self-realization is spoken of as Sat-chit-ananda: ‘being-consciousness, bliss.’ This is anything but suffering.

Jung saw this side of the dialectic as well. Jung spoke of “the secret immanence of the divine spirit of life in all things.” Here, he is not only speaking of the divine within the world around us, but also the divine spirit as immanent to the human psyche, discovered within the depths of our being– as the Self.

Discovering the nature of the Self as divine is a journey into sacred imagery and archetypes. Carl Jung’s writings reveal this path toward Self-realization as it appears in archetypal imagery. This path is far from straight and narrow. It is more of an imaginal journey that winds its way through the hills and valleys of our inner worlds, spiraling around the truth so that we may begin to understand and articulate the nature of the Self in symbolic and spiritual terms. For some this will be a ‘tragic’ and ‘difficult task,’ for others ‘bliss’– as an encounter with ‘the divine spirit of life in all things.’

8 comments on “The Self: immanent divine

  1. kaycers
    August 26, 2013

    Thank you for this post. It REALLY resonates with me and my experience with God. I love your blog and appreciate the work you do very much!! May I re-post this and share my insights on it on my blog?

    • Jenna Lilla PhD
      August 26, 2013

      Thank your for your appreciation. And yes, please feel free to re-post and comment on anything I write.

      • kaycers
        August 26, 2013

        Thank you!

  2. kaycers
    August 26, 2013

    I’ll comment back here when it’s posted in case you would like to check it out!

  3. Gary
    August 31, 2013

    Hi Jenna. I wonder what is your perspective on “The Book of Life” from a deep Jungian analytical and evolved consciousness?

    • Jenna Lilla PhD
      August 31, 2013

      Hello Gary,
      To Answer your question fully would take some time, to let my imagination work with the imagery and mythology around the book of life. I would go back to the original biblical texts from Revelations and contemplate the ideas, not as literal but as symbolic. Revelation is an act of revealing divine truth, so I would ask myself, “What divine truth does this reveal?” I am busy with other thoughts now, but eventually hope to work more with the archetypal meaning of revelation.

      Here are some passages from Revelations 20 which address the book of life:
      12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

      13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

      14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

      15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

  4. Gary
    September 1, 2013

    I thank you for the time and thought you put into your reply. I am contemplating the book of life in the symbolic context of the Akashic records. Where this contemplation will take me is troubling, esp. since I have no real experience with psychic noumena or “astrology.” I hope that the “other thoughts” you are working with are fruitful. Blessings

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on August 25, 2013 by in Carl Jung, God as Image of Self, God Image, Vedanta and tagged , .

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