Jung’s archetype of the Self is the central archetype in our psyche, the ‘imago Dei’ and source of life energy. Jung said “It might equally be called ‘the God within us.’ The beginnings of our whole psychic life seem to be inextricably rooted in this point, and all our highest and ultimate purposes seem to be striving toward it.” (2) As a transpersonal power and eternal dimension of the psyche, it transcends the ego. According to Jung “The ego stands to the Self as the moved to the mover.” (3)
The Self is an archetype of wholeness, referring both to the origin and entirety of our being. Jung said “The Self is not only the center, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the center of this totality, just as the ego is the center of consciousness” (4). The Self is the regulating center of the psyche, a structuring or ordering principle which integrates other internal archetypal structures. It holds the tension between opposites such as masculine and feminine rather than their merging into undifferentiated oneness.
The archetype of the Self is depicted by certain typical symbolic images such as mandalas, the philosophers’ stone (also called the transcended or philosophical tree of life), the world tree or cosmic tree, as well as circles paired with a representation of quaternary such as a square or cross. According to Marie-Louise von Franz the Self may be symbolized as an animal, representing our instinctive psyche embedded in nature, especially in dreams (4). Within dreams or experiences of altered consciousness, the archetype of the Self may be experienced in the numinous images of Jesus Christ, Buddha, the Dalai Lama or divinities and gods from various religions and mythology. The archetype of the Self may be what some spiritual teachings refer to as our higher or true self.
Edinger emphasizes “The connection between ego and Self is vitally important to psychic health. It gives foundation, structure and security to the ego and also provides energy, interest, meaning and purpose. When the connection is broken the result is emptiness, despair, meaninglessness and the extreme cases psychosis or suicide” and further “A symptom of damage to this axis is lack of self-acceptance. The individual feels he is not worthy to exist or be himself.” (1)
Denise Grobbelaar, (Instagram @denisedreamshaman), author of this post, will be presenting at Jung Southern Africa’s Mantis lecture series, taking place on-line from the 2-4 October 2020. She will examine Nature as a dynamic extension of Jung’s Archetype of the Self as embodied in the image of the White Lion. This presentation is based on her paper published in the 2020 Spring issue of the Jung Journal “The White Lion as Symbol of the Archetype of the Self and the Cannibalization of the Self in Canned Hunting”. Book your space: https://jungsouthernafrica.co.za/events/
- Edinger, Edward, F. (1972) Ego & Archetype: Individuation and the religious function of the psyche, (p. 104, p. 43, p. 40)
- CW 7, ¶399
- CW 11, ¶391
- CW 12, ¶44
- Jung and Von Franz 1964, p. 220
- Carl Jung, Image from the Red Book
- Philosopher’s Stone, Atalanta Fugiens, Michael Maier, 1617
- White Lion, Global White Lion Protection Trust
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