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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Immanence and Transcendence

Immanence can only be discovered in a dialectical relationship to transcendence. The word transcendence means “to surmount, to go beyond or to climb above”. And the concept of transcendence expresses an impulse to surmount the flow of intensities, to move beyond multiplicity, to climb out of the womb of nature. Like an acorn sprouting to become a tree, transcendence is the instinctual impulse of humans to grow and individuate. This impulse towards growth takes the spirit up to lofty heights, but it is only the initial movement of the spirit.

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One becomes Two

Mt. Yu of Taiwan by Nasu Masaki 1929
Mt. Yu of Taiwan by Nasu Masaki 1929. US public domain, wikimedia

“When a summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges, then, as Nietzsche says, “One becomes Two,” and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser per­sonality with the force of a revelation. He who is truly and hopelessly little will always drag the revelation of the greater down to the level of his littleness, and will never understand that the day of judgment for his littleness has dawned. But the man who is inwardly great will know that the long expected friend of his soul, the immortal one, has now really come, “to lead captivity captive”; that is, to seize hold of him by whom this immortal had always been confined and held prisoner, and to make his life flow into that greater life-a moment of deadliest peril!” (Carl Jung, CW 9i: 217)

Carl Jung starts with the sentence: “when a summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds”. The metaphors express the transcendent movement in which we aim toward the summit of life and toward the blossoming of consciousness. Then he goes on to say: “from the lesser the greater emerges”. In this statement he expresses the possibility of an immanent turn. Let us read his words again; this time formatted as poetic verse.

when a summit of life is reached,

when the bud unfolds

from the lesser the greater emerges

One becomes Two

the greater figure, appears with the force of a revelation

When we look at Carl Jung’s words in this manner we can see the movement of transcendence and immanence with clarity. Upward and outward toward the transcendent summit, and then the return to the immanent truth:

Jung says, “from the lesser the greater emerges”. This is a metaphor for the revelatory moment when an individual discovers the depths of their subjectivity (the Self). This deeper subjectivity is at first believed to be “the lesser”, but then revels itself as “the greater”.

Next, he refers to phrase from Nietzsche: “One becomes Two”. It is in this phrase that we are brought to contemplate the Self, as it is both a part of us and greater than us. It is the Subject within: the space and place where the subjectivity of self meets the subjectivity of God, as Self. This deeper subjectivity is both part of self and extends beyond self / other duality.

Immanence as divine play

Immanence is an insight of philosophers, mystics, and sadhus alike: a realization that all of our efforts at transcendence are mere preparations for immanence.

Transcendence prepares us for an immanent turn, when we shift our gaze from fantasies of the ‘beyond’ and realize the truth of a divinity which saturates life. This immanent turn is available as we must move beyond the dualities inherent in thought and open to a world of multiplicity, possibility, and potential. It is an opening which leads us to the insight that the divisions we hold between sacred and profane, between good and evil, between one god and another, are but root illusions.

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The Pulsation of Life

Have you ever been at a peak overlooking the city, and seen the sparking lights pulsate? All the lights of singular lives blending into each other, filling the horizon. The world pulsates. The individual lives merge together into a mass of human beingness. Creating a rhythm: as patterns emerge and dissipate out of the collective hum of possibility. Life appears different from afar than it is from up-close.

Up at the peak we have the perspective to see the pure pulsation of life; life is potential and possibility. This is the allure of transcendence: a brilliant moment when we have perspective, when we experience the pleasure of in-sight. The transcendent state provides a perspective that allows us to experience life in its totality. In these moments, we move beyond our own singularity and become connected with the larger totality of life. We move deeper into life.

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