The goal of individuation is the synthesis of the self

Carl Jung’s work aims toward individuation; the goal of individuation is the synthesis of the Self. Jung says:

“I have called this wholeness that transcends consciousness the ‘self.’ The goal of the individuation process is the synthesis of the self. …the symbols of wholeness frequently occur at the beginning of the individuation process.” Carl Jung (CW 9i, para. 278)

The word synthesis comes from the ancient Greek σύνθεσις, σύν “with” and θέσις “placing” [1]. Synthesis is a resolution of opposing ideas, forces, or representations– so as to bring about a new idea. In archetypal terms, the new idea is the Self.

This is a psychical aim, an aim of symbolic life. Jung calls this aim: ‘Self-realization’, a term used in Eastern philosophy, synonymous with enlightenment. By setting such spiritual aims, Jung makes clear his reverence for the sacred.

Jung spoke of the Self in both psychological and spiritual terms, elucidating the archetypes and symbols in relationship to the Self. The Self, as archetype of wholeness, guides our psycho-spiritual development. For Jung, the Self forms the distance horizon of psychic life, revealing itself in archetypal forms.

As Jung understood it, the Self is rarely experienced in subjective terms. It is more often projected, forming distant images of wholeness.  Jung says:

“The self is felt empirically not as subject but as object, and this by reason of its unconscious component, which can only come to consciousness indirectly, by way of projection.”

In this view, the Self is experienced as transcendent. The Self is projected onto archetypal images, such as the deity image, the hero, the mandala. These images in turn guide the way toward Self-realization and psychic wholeness. The archetypal images of the Self form the highest aims of psychic life.

Projections always include dialectical pairs: good/ bad, light/dark, known/unknown, deities, demons. Dialectical pairs split symbolic life. In spite of this, or because of this, they are guides to our spiritual transformation. Pairs exists as challenges to and as potentials for integration. The call of and the movement toward integration reveals a path toward wholeness– integration is the wholeness of Self.

The synthesis of the Self is a path of Self-realization, of enlightenment. This path requires the genesis of a genuine symbolic life.  The birth of symbolic life requires an encounter with dialectical pairs. A duality of symbolic forces is represented in dreams, imagination, spiritual stories, myths and even in art. Such modes of expression are symbolic spaces or fields where the dialectics present and challenge the psyche. In that challenge, a synthesis may occur.

Of all of the dialectical pairs, the most important– in archetypal terms– is the relation between light and darkness, or deities and demons, as images of consciousness and unconsciousness. Jung arrived at a formula: through making the darkness conscious, we move toward enlightenment.

‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.’ (CW 13, para. 335).


  1. Description from the British Museum.
  2. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)