on Self-realization

Self-realization as revealed in art, symbol & sacred text: the archetypes of Carl Jung & the lore of enlightenment

Path of Soul

The word ‘psychology’ is rooted in the word psyche. Psyche is from Greek psykhe “the soul, mind, spirit; breath.” It is unfortunate that the field of psychology has moved away from its glorious roots, loosing contact with the soul. Depth psychologist, James Hillman understand this. He calls on us to “speak for the soul” (p. 161). In doing so he is aware of the difficulty of such a task…

According to Hillman, psychopathology rejects the soul and the soul’s language, “calling it pejorative names” (p.161). Psychology developed out of the “rationalism and scientific materialism of the nineteenth century” (Carl Jung,CW5, p. xxiii). Such a perspective offers little respect for ideas as subtle as the soul or Self-realization. Bound to a ‘materialistic’ perspective, such a view misses out on the ‘animistic’ basis of psychic life.

The word animism is derived from the Latin word anima, “life, breath, soul.” If we view the psyche only from a materialistic viewpoint, we may miss out on soul of the psyche, losing a view of the transformative potential of the soul. Here, I quote a passage in full from Symbols of Transformation. I quote this passage in full because it forms a starting point for an understanding of the soul’s potential for transformation:

“Psychological truth by no means excludes metaphysical truth, though psychology, as a science, has to hold aloof from all metaphysical assertions. Its subject is the psyche and its contents. Both are realities, because they work. We do not possess a physics of the soul, and are not even able to observe it and judge it from some Archimedean point “outside” ourselves, and can therefore know nothing objective about it since all knowledge of the psyche is itself psychic, in spite of all this the soul is the only experient of life and existence. It is, in fact, the only immediate experience we can have and the sine qua non the subjective reality of the world. The symbols it creates are always grounded in the unconscious archetype, but their manifest forms are moulded by the ideas acquired by the conscious mind. The archetypes are the numinous, structural elements of the psyche and possess a certain autonomy and specific energy which enables them to attract, out of the conscious mind, those contents which are best suited to themselves. The symbols act as transformers, their function being to convert libido from a “lower” into a “higher” form. This function is so important that feeling accords it the highest values. The symbol works by suggestion; that is to say, it carries conviction and at the same time expresses the content of that conviction. It is able to do this because of the numen, the specific energy stored up in the archetype. Experience of the archetype is not only impressive, it seizes and possesses the whole personality, and is naturally productive of faith” (para. 344).

Psychology approaches psychic life from an objective level– attempting to classify and treat disorders of the psyche, helping individuals to lead more adaptive lives. Beyond adaptation, there is another aim to psychic life– transformation of the soul. While these aims are not mutually elusive, they proffer different (yet interrelated) perspectives. Psychology attempts to create a science of psychic life; the path of soul attempts an understanding of the transformations of the soul.

From Carl Jung’s perspective the transformations of the soul are teleological. The word teleological comes from Latin word télos, meaning the ‘consummated goal.‘ The soul ask us to trust in life. Life offers transformations in the field of being, toward a ‘consummated goal.‘  The soul’s transformations are expressed through acts of creative imagination: through our narrations, through our dreams and personal storytelling.

Over 100 years ago Freud and Jung engaged in a stormy debate regarding the nature of psychic life, each seeing the psyche from a different perspective. Their two perspectives revolved around two basic viewpoints on psychic life: the egoic and the transpersonal. Freud’s understanding was focused on the development of the ego, focusing on ego development taking place within the first half of life. Jung’s psychology was focused on archetypal elements, and his reading of myths went beyond ego, into transpersonal and archetypal motifs. For Jung the transpersonal aspects of psychic life were collective and biological, arising from evolutionary determinants. To speak for the soul requires that we move beyond the limited frame of reductionary science, going beyond ego development– and beyond evolutionary biology as well.

To speak for the soul requires that understand how the various archetypal forms elucidate the transformational potential of the soul. In reading Carl Jung’s writings, my imagination takes me into the narrative fields of the soul. Archetypal forms (objects) form the inter-relational web of soul. The living soul is embedded in a web of (object) relationality. The particular arrangement of the archetypes in psychic life proffer basic principles which guide the soul in development throughout the lifetime.

As Jung says in the passage above, “symbols act as transformers, their function being to convert libido from a “lower” into a “higher” form. He adds, “It is able to do this because of the numen, the specific energy stored up in the archetype.” The soul is always in relation to inner numinous forms which, if respected, guide the soul in psychical development. Dreams, imagination, narrations offer access to our inner (object) relations. A dedication to understanding the archetypal forms and their relationship to the transformations of the soul is an essential part of the path of soul.

From this perspective, Jung becomes an interpreter of the soul: decoding the complex hieroglyphic language of the soul’s transformation. In order to understand the living soul, we need reverence for the soul’s communion: for ‘creative imagination.’ Carl Jung’s writing elucidates the archetypal forms found in dreams, myth, and creative imagination, showing how that they offer guidance to the soul.
Jung is not alone in his task. There have been a few others who understand the distinction between the literal world of materiality and the symbolic world of the soul. Henry Corbin speaks of “the world of the Image, the mundus imaginalis,” focusing on the symbolic perspective of the soul.

It is “a world as ontologically real as the world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a world that requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of sensory perception or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the imaginative power, the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination that modern man identifies with “fantasy” and that, according to him, produces only the ‘imaginary.’”

Corbin delineates an imaginal sphere separate from an egoic fantasy sphere. All fantasy is egoic fantasy, fundamentally in relationship to egoic material desires. The mundus imaginalis transcends such egoic desires. The mundus imaginalis is the realm of the soul: in the imagination, archetypal coordinates are discovered on the path of soul.

In Myth of Analysis James Hillman says that “Freud’s Psychology, and Jung’s, and analysis itself all arise from the ontological ground of pathological imagination” (1972, p. 172). How can psychology speak for the soul if the soul’s language is seen as pathological?

From the perspective of soul, it is the fantasy relationship of the ego toward the soul that may become pathological. The soul is never pathological. Meister Eckhart said that the “soul is an image of God” (cited in Jung, CW 5 para. 424). The soul’s instincts and aims are fundamentally linked to the God image. In archetypal terms the soul holds an “intermediate position” within the inner psychic world (CW5, para. 425). She is the “mediatrix to the eternally unknowable” (Hillman, p.133). The soul guides us beyond what is known into the unknown: toward the ‘mother of all.’ The soul guides us on a journey into the great mystery of life, speaking her imaginal language of transformation through dreams and imagination. She is the imaginal form of God.

The desires of the soul can never be fully understood in objective, adaptive terms. The aims of the soul are eternally unknowable, and yet psychically significant. To speak for the soul requires that we trust in the deepest spiritual instincts of the soul, allowing the soul to be our guide through transformations in unknown.

14 comments on “Path of Soul

  1. Lewis Lafontaine
    January 30, 2014

    Yet another excellent posting.

    I do believe your blog is consistently the best blog on Dr. Jung’s work including my own humble blog which is filled with information but lacks your impeccable organization and aesthetic charm.

    • Jenna Lilla
      January 30, 2014

      Thank you for your kind response. I appreciate all of the time and attention you have given to Jung’s work as well. I first came across your blog a while back when I was searching for a particular quote on Jung… There you were, providing a service and gift to those who admire Jung. I look forward to a continuing conversation.

  2. lindalitebeing
    January 30, 2014

    Hello Jenna,
    I am very happy you have begun posting again so that I can say hello and thank you for following my blog. Also to share that I am in awe of your writing and have begun following you as well! I am very influenced by Jung, especially as an Astrologer and therapist/dream-worker, but must admit that I gain clearer understanding of his works via the skillful interpretation of others.

    I look forward to you future posts,

    in light,

    • Jenna Lilla
      January 30, 2014

      Hello Lovely Linda Light Being,
      Yes indeed, I found your blog recently I was touched by the sweetness of both your comment and your blog: you are clearly spreading joy in the world.

  3. Gary Slabaugh
    January 30, 2014

    Hi Jenna. Always a pleasure to bask in your insights. Also a great pleasure to get the point of view of an authentic Anima. You seem deeply mystical. Being a male of the Bull persuasion, I’m quite grounded. But both you and I love the soul. I love the idea of a healthy soul being in Truth. Here is a copy of my thoughts on soul today. Maybe they dovetail with yours. Perhaps not. The Way of the creative process is not always easy to discern.
    I am under the impression that critical analysis has real merit. One of the driving principles of critical thinking skills is the ability to question one’s assumptions. I think that it’s been undermined by the driving principle to unfavorably judge the assumptions of others. Both in balance works for me. No man is an island, seems to be a fundamental truth. What we believe as a result of abstract conceptualization is open to a wide range of interpretation and those beliefs were not brought into personal and individual existence in isolation. Our thoughts are related to the thoughts of others who have influenced us for good or ill. Hopefully the drive for truth (pure unadulterated truth as my numen – my guiding principle, force, or spirit) is a powerful motivator to keep me feeling and questioning and criticizing analytically and not just take complex abstract concepts for granted. There are some great social critics of whom I think highly. George Carlin. H.L. Mencken. Ambrose Bierce. I like this guy I’m reading now. His is an attack on the unthinking beliefs of thinking people. Pretty current stuff too. Unpalatable for most. Appropriate for our suicidally dysfunctional society – abandoning the principles of liberty by giving political and economic power to plutocrats and the central state. Abandoning biophilia in favor of growth for growth’s sake. (The programming for a cancer cell, no?) Propaganda has done its work all to well. I prefer prescience.

    • Jenna Lilla
      January 30, 2014

      How wonderful Gary… a call for truth, for ‘pure unadulterated truth as my numen – my guiding principle, force, or spirit’. I heed your call for thought, for analysis, for biophilia, for constructive change. Thank you for taking the time to think this through here on this blog. Always a pleasure…

  4. japhy
    January 31, 2014

    Thank You! Everyday I’ve made a point to see if you’ve posted anything, as the days wore on an anxiety grew. Your insights and perspective are always a welcome sight. Thanks again, just wanted to let you know you were missed.

    • Jenna Lilla
      January 31, 2014


      What a sweet comment. Thank you for sharing your Self with me. It is wondrous, as a writer I can intuit the anxiety building in my ‘other half:’ my readers. There is no connection, no (pro)creation, without both of us, both sides. And yet, whatever I might of said would have been somehow false without some time to make contact with the instinctual forces of my own soul. Thank you for giving me the time.

  5. Brian Friend
    February 1, 2014

    This is my 1st time commenting. I really like your blog and I think I am beginning to understand what you saying about a connection to the soul. You say that this path is known by the “archetypal symbolism”. So we can know the soul through this symbolism. Is that correct?

    • Jenna Lilla
      February 1, 2014

      Welcome and thank you for your comment.
      Yes, we can know the soul through archetypal symbolism– as it appears in dreams, imagination, art. I look forward to hearing from you again.

  6. Reza
    February 2, 2014

    I can’t wait reading more on this subject. It might sounds weird but some thing is telling me that in this path you might come across “the green one “, khidr whom in Sufism is an important leading figure toward the world of unknown that is rolled by the low of “nonsense”.
    Thanks for sharing your thought with us,

    • Jenna Lilla
      February 2, 2014

      Welcome Reza,
      I am delighted that you have found your way here, and that you are interested in the wondrous angel Khidr.
      I have indeed come across Khidr. I wrote about this image as the Angel of the Mystics and as a Symbol of the Self.

  7. Rob Two-Hawks
    February 3, 2014

    Jenna…So glad you’re back.It appears we’ve both been exploring similar hidden spaces & themes.During a most welcome quietude inside the dark night I’m pondering the mystery of ”instinct” as it relates to the Self.Meanwhile,you explore the ”capacity to tolerate the ambiguities and think the unassimilable spaces” as a path of Soul.And,we’re both sensing that unless there’s a wider collective connection to this instinct/Soul path the destruction of the species is possible.I’m looking forward to your upcoming look at myths and stories read and perceived with the hidden/unknown in mind.That was the spirit in which they were initiatorily experienced and then written…so this will be a rewarding adventure.

    • Jenna Lilla
      February 3, 2014


      I am so delighted to hear from you, as always. Thanks for your understanding in regards to my ‘quietude.’ And thank you also for your keen insight into my interests. I am happy to hear that you found yourself deep in the mystery– contemplating the instincts of the Self. What a beautiful way to spend this wild winter.

Comments are closed.

This blog is a personal meditation on Self-realization and enlightenment. I work with the writings of Carl Jung and analytic theory in a dynamic manner, reading texts with an eye for Self-realization. I read the sacred texts of Vedanta and Tantra with an analytical eye. I offer interpretations of texts that are my own. My textual interpretations are not orthodoxy. These writings are not peer reviewed. My use of texts is spiritual in nature, and should not be used in a definitive sense. If you are seeking a standard interpretation or advice please look elsewhere.

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