Via Dolorosa: the soul’s spiritual riddle

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) Christ Carrying the Cross, US public domain via wikimedia

In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung speaks of psychical symbols as “psychological riddles” (para. 83). Jung says that if a “problem [is] not worked out consciously”; then, it “goes on working in the unconscious and throws up symbolical fantasies”(ibid). The psyche brings forth spiritual riddles, appearing in myth, dreams, art and other forms of imagination.

Spiritual riddles point to “natural currents of libido.” Symbols transform, creating currents within psychic life (fn. 18). One such current is formed from the transformation of desire. As desire transforms, so do the symbols that appear in dreams and fantasy.  Jung says: “The yearning clothes itself in ecclesiastical garb… where it at last finds its way to freedom.” (ibid)

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Inwardness: the inner path in the work of Carl Jung

It has been 101 years since Carl Jung wrote Symbols of Transformation. This work is now in the US Public Domain, and available on-line for all to read freely. It makes sense that our reading of Carl Jung should also occur in the public domain, so that an understanding can deepen and develop through conversation and community.

Life has shifted quite a bit in 101 years. In this time some things have changed and some have stayed constant. One thing that has changed is there is now a greater availability of ideas and perspectives. Western civilization has become more multicultural, and such a change brings with it a multiplicity of viewpoints and religions. Christianity is no longer dominant; instead, we see a variety of beliefs, mixing and melting together.

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Yin Yang: symbols unite duality

Yin yang in A cycle of Cathay, China, 1897. US public domain via wikimedia
Yin yang in A cycle of Cathay, China, 1897. US public domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung speaks of the Yin Yang:

“There is no position without its negation. In or just because of their extreme opposition, neither can exist without the other. It is exactly as formulated in classical Chinese philosophy: yang (the light, warm, dry, masculine principle) contains within it the seed of yin (the dark, cold, moist, feminine principle), and vice versa. Matter therefore would contain the seed of spirit and spirit the seed of matter…. Nevertheless, the symbol has the great advantage of being able to unite heterogeneous or even incommensurable factors in a single image.” (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para. 197)


  1. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)

Quaternity and Divinity: Symbol of God within

Mandala from 18th century with Christ, US Public Domain via wikimedia
Mandala from 18th century with Christ, US Public Domain via wikimedia

In the above image we see Christ taking up the central position in the mandala. Notice the mandala is also a quaternity. Carl Jung speaks to the quaternity:

“the quaternity is the sine qua non of divine birth and consequently of the inner life of the trinity.” (Carl Jung, CW 12, para 125)

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Psychotheology: archetypes and the God image

The work of Carl Jung is an endeavor to elucidate the sacred dimensions of psychic life.

Jung’s investigations began with the theories of Freudian psychoanalysis. The aim of analysis was to act as an archaeologist of psychic life, digging up the old repressed and forgotten memories of early childhood.

Like Freud, Jung endeavored into analysis, aiming to dig up old forgotten memories. As he did so, he found not only repressed memories but a wealth of images– spiritual in content. Jung realized that the psyche spontaneously produces an occurrence of religious and mythic symbols.

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