Surya the Sun God: expressing the creative power of the soul

Surya receives worship from the multitudes; Tanjore School miniature painting, 1800’s. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
In the above image, we see a paining of Surya, the sun God, from the 19th Century. Surya is seated on his chariot led by a horse with seven heads.  He is surrounded by attendants and the multitudes praise him. It is said that Surya is the eye of the cosmos. [1]

In images of the cosmic person, Surya is one the eyes, contrasting with the moon in the other eye, representing the solar and lunar aspects of both the cosmos and psychic life.


In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung contemplates the nature of the sun God as a representation of creative power. This force is both cosmic, as represented by the image of the sun God and psychical as represented by the concept of libido. Jung says:

“The sun is perfectly suited to represent the visible God of this world, i.e., the creative power of our own soul, which we call libido, and whose nature it is to bring forth the useful and to bring forth the useful and the harmful, the good and the bad” (CW 5, para. 176).

The sun is an image of ‘the visible God’ and of ‘the creative power of the soul.’ This creative power is both cosmic energy and psychic energy. As an “astromythological” image, Surya tells the story of “the father-god from whom all living things draw life; he is the fructifier and creator, the source of energy for our world.”

The mythology of the sun God is complex. On the one hand the sun God is an image of wholeness. Jung tells us that the sun God transcended the split we see in the “moral division into a Heavenly Father and his counterpart the devil” (ibid).

On the other hand, the sun God reflects powerful psycho-dynamics inherent in the instincts. The instincts are both creative and destructive, libidinal and aggressive. The same psychic force that leads us to fall in love, may also lead us into destructive acts.  

Instincts are by their very nature an innate and natural pattern of behavior in response to stimuli. These psychic forces are both creative and destructive. Freud called these psychic forces the life and death drives. Jung does not see a split in the drive, as Freud did. Instead, he sees these psychic force as emerging from one source, like the sun. Yet, this one instinctual source is capable of producing both creativity and destructive acts. Borrowing from astromythological motifs of the sun, Jung says:

“The sun is not only beneficial, but also destructive; hence the zodiacal sign for August heat is the ravaging lion which Samson slew in order to rid the parched earth of its torment. Yet it is in the nature of the sun to scorch, and its scorching power seems natural to man. It shines equally on the just and the unjust, and allows useful creatures to flourish as well as the harmful” (ibid).

The sun not only offers a life engendering potential, but also that of destruction. The sun is both the source of life and of tormenting, burning heat.  The image of the power of the sun God is perfectly suited to express both the wholeness of libido, as well as the creative and destructive poles of psychic life.




  1. The Secret Book By Bilal Ahmed
  2. Symbols of Transformation, Volume 5 in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung



7 thoughts on “Surya the Sun God: expressing the creative power of the soul

  1. Very interested to continue glimpses into your vision of libidinal, instinctual creation, esp in re to the new birth and a new heavens (with a new Sun?) and a new earth. I grieve over our mother, Gaia. What of the soul of the earth?

    1. What of the soul of the earth? She is the anima mundi, the world soul. In the 4th century BC Plato said:

      “This world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related” (Timaeus, 29/30).

      Gary, I believe that when the mind is in balance with soul, there is a natural relation with the world, a healing relation. Currently we have a civilization cathected at the ego level. According to Carl Jung our instincts have been ‘denatured,’ and with this a loss of connection to the soul path. For healing of the earth we must reclaim our connection to the life of soul.

      1. Jenna,
        Civilization is destroying the biosphere. It’s perhaps too late for anything to be done socially or politically or economically to halt and reverse civilization. If you are agreed, are you saying that our only “hope” is the connection to the life of the soul? This “life of the soul” … isn’t that life the same life of anima mundi?

        1. Gary,
          Yes, I agree that civilization is destroying the biosphere. It is very sad to watch this happen, to feel powerless against such destructive forces. Human civilization needs to make a profound shift in our relationship to the mother world. We are so blessed and yet we have no reverence for our blessings– for this loving, giving mother earth of ours. I believe we as a civilization have to come to terms with our greed. Western civilization was given so much, and it wanted more and more. For Carl Jung such greed is an example of a ‘denatured’ instinct. If we can find our way back to the soul’s instincts then they will guide us in creative, life affirming transformations.

          The soul’s desire is for life, unity, relationality. If we can find our way back to the soul then we may discover the unifying and life affirming instincts of the soul. This unity includes a reconnection to the anima mundi– as the anima of the world, as world soul.

  2. Jenna….So simply &beautifully described,and yet,there’s so much inside the symbolism of the sun and it’s relationships with the creative instincts of Soul & Libido.And,in light of what you’ve shared here it’s so appropriate that the final leg of the shaman’s quest for wholeness concerns the mystical entrance into the sacred ”Sun Door”.Could this amazing image of reconciliation and wholeness also deeply resonate with the light/alchemic gold discovered after the Soul’s dark night?The mystic’s unitive vision appears to suggest so.Thanks for some very welcome sun in the arctic heart of early February!

    1. Two-Hawks,
      I believe it is time to share one of my favorite images with you…

      Sometimes when I am responding to your comments this image comes to mind. I love the eye-eagle form emerging from the sun, emerging from chaos. This, to me, is an image of that ‘something’ to which you are eluding: the alchemist gold, the sun after a dark and cold winter, transformations of the soul.

      1. Jenna…it’s been some time since I’ve seen this wonderful eye-eagle image.Thank you so much.I’ll place it upon the brightest windowsill in my heart!

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