Both the work of Carl Jung (CW 9ii) and Vedanta (Adi Shankara and the Upanishads) agree: the deity image represents the inner Self. In Vedanta, the deity image represents the innermost Self (Ātman)
In my last post, titled Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom, I spoke of ash as a symbol of Shiva, and thus of the supreme Self. In that post, I drew from a passage from the Brahmanda Purana. In this post, I am going to share more from the Brahmanda Purana (Chapter 27). In the story, Shiva makes a strong statement concerning his own nature, and thus the nature of the supreme Self.
In the above image we see Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon. The painting is by Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 (via Wikimedia, US public domain).
In becoming aware of the supreme Self, we are likely to behold the demons and shadows of the individual self. Carl Jung believed that an encounter with the demon or monster represented an archetypal stage in the process of individuation. He says, “the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time.” In mythic terms the shadow may present itself as a monster, a demon, a darkness or a drought. Here is the full quote from Jung’s Man and His Symbols:
There is a archetypal relation between the God, Self, and trees.
Jung calls the tree of life a “mother symbol” (CW 5, para 321). In the image above, we see Furtmeyer’s Tree of Death and Life. This image represents the paradox inherent in the tree as mother symbol. Anne Baring describes the scene of the image:
“The faces of the two women are identical, and their heads incline away from the central point of the tree in antithetical relationship: Eve, predictably naked, offering to humanity the apple of death, which she is passing on from the serpent; and Mary, predictably clothed, offering the redeeming apple of life. The position of the serpent arising from the not-to-be seen phallus of Adam is presumably less than coincidental. On Eve’s side of the tree lies the grinning skull, while Death waits for her on the right, and on Mary’s side of the tree – the Life side – the cross with the crucified Christ poised as on a branch, himself the fruit of her miraculously intact womb.”
This image is especially significant in that it is not only a “mother symbol”, but shows the profound paradox within the mother image. We here see a duality in the archetypal Mother. Here is Eve as the mother of our fallen state and here is Mary as the mother of redemption. Eve offers the fruit of death; Mary offers the fruit of redemption.
The fruit of redemption is Christ. Carl Jung understands that Christ is an image of the Self. Christ is an image of a re-birth into symbolic life, into life oriented toward Self. Jung says:
“Christ’s redemptive death on the cross was understood as a “baptism,” that is to say, as rebirth through the second mother, symbolized by the tree of death… The dual-mother motif suggests the idea of a dual birth. One of the mothers is the real, human mother, the other is the symbolical mother” (CW 5 para 494-495, emphasis added).
The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image By Anne Baring, Jules Cashford
Symbols of Transformation (CW5) by Carl G. Jung (in US Pubic Domain, first published 1912)
Recently, I have been writing on the aims and instincts of the human soul. Carl Jung speaks of the human soul’s “longing to attain rebirth through a return to the womb, and to become immortal like the sun” (CW5, para. 312). In biblical terms, rebirth is associated with entrance into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy city, an image of the divine mother.
Jung says, “the Old Testament treats the cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, etc. just as if they were women” (para 303). While Jerusalem is an image of the holy mother, Babylon is the unholy mother. In Jung’s words: “Babylon is the symbol of the Terrible Mother” (Jung, para 315). In Revelation 17 it is written: