Cosmic Self: the psychotheological dimensions of the Self

Vishvarupa: Vishnu as the cosmic man. 1910-20. US Public Domain via Wikimedia. Photo credit: M A Joshi and company

In 1916, Carl Jung published the Psychology of the Unconscious. Jung was 41 years old, and still at an early stage in his theoretical development. He had just split with Sigmund Freud and was venturing to create his own theoretical perspective.

In one of the essays titled Aspects of Libido, Jung investigates what he calls the “original psychologic meaning of the religious heroes.” In this essay, Jung free associates regarding the nature of libido, the deity, and the hero. In this process, Jung realizes the deity as immanent to psychic life. Jung makes contact with the fundamental tenet of Self-realization: God dwells within, as the Self.

In this investigation, Jung cites the Upanishads: calling upon Rudra, Brahman, Purusha. I believe that this early reading of the Upanishads fundamentally affected Jung’s theoretical perspective, setting the course for an understanding of the hero myth in relation to the transformations of psychic energy. Jung begins his essay by associating the Father God with the sun:

“The sun is, as Renan remarked, really the only rational representation of God,… the sun is the parent God, mythologically predominantly the Father God, from whom all living things draw life; He is the fructifier and creator of all that lives, the source of energy of our world…. Therefore, the sun is adapted as is nothing else to represent the visible God of this world.” (ibid)

This brings Jung straight into “the realm of the fundamental ideas of religion and astral mythology(ibid). Jung then correlates the sun with libido:

“Therefore, the sun is adapted as is nothing else to represent the visible God of this world. That is to say, that driving strength of our own soul, which we call libido.” (ibid)

Next, we come upon an important steps in Carl Jung’s thinking. His free associations take him to the mystics, who find within their hearts this image of the sun. Jung continues:

“That this comparison is no mere play of words is taught us by the mystics. When by looking inwards (introversion) and going down into the depths of their own being they find in their heart the image of the Sun, they find their own love or libido, which with reason, I might say with physical reason, is called the Sun; for our source of energy and life is the Sun.” (ibid)

Next, Jung turns to “Hindoo mythology” (Jung’s exact words, but I imagine he means Hindu mythology). He cites a passage from the Shvetashvataropanishad, addressing the Hindu deity Rudra,

“Yea, the one Rudra who all these worlds with ruling power doth rule, stands not for any second. Behind those that are born he stands; at ending time ingathers all the worlds he hath evolved, protector (he).

” He hath eyes on all sides, on all sides surely hath faces, arms surely on all sides, on all sides feet. With arms, with wings he tricks them out, creating heaven and earth, the only God.

“Who of the gods is both the source and growth, the Lord of all, the Rudra. Mighty seer; who brought the shining germ of old into existence may he with reason pure conjoin us.”

Jung says that these “attributes allow us clearly to discern the all-creator and in him the Sun.” Jung makes it clear that this is a very important step in his thinking. He says,

“the following passages confirm the text and join to it the idea most important for us, that God is also contained in the individual creature. (p. 129)

He continues with the Shvetashvataropanishad:

“Beyond this (world) the Brahman beyond, the mighty one, in every creature hid according to its form, the one encircling Lord of all, Him having known, immortal they become.

“I know this mighty man, Sun-like, beyond the darkness, Him (and him) only knowing, one crosseth over death; no other path (at all) is there to go. (11) “. . . spread over the universe is He the Lord therefore as all-pervader, He’s benign.”

Jung continues his investigation into the immanence of the Deity, focusing on “what form and manner Rudra lived in men.”

“The mighty monarch, He, the man, the one who doth the essence start towards that peace of perfect stainlessness, lordly, exhaustless light.

The Man, the size of a thumb, the inner self, sits ever in the heart of all that’s born, by mind, mind ruling in the heart, is He revealed. That they who know, immortal they become.

“The Man of the thousands of heads (and) thousands of eyes (and) thousands of feet, covering the earth on all sides, He stands beyond, ten finger-breadths.

“The Man is verily this all, (both) what has been and what will be, Lord (too) of deathlessness which far all else surpasses.”

He then cites an “important parallel quotations are to be found in the Kathopanishad” (p.130):

“The Man of the size of a thumb, resides in the midst within the self, of the past and the future, the Lord.

“The Man of the size of a thumb like flame free from smoke, of past and of future the Lord, the same is to-day, tomorrow the same will He be.”

Later, the essay Aspects of Libido is re-worked and re-published in Symbols of Transformation.  In this piece of writing, Jung adds the following passages:

“A mighty Lord is Purusha, spurring on the highest in us to purest attainment, inexhaustible light.

“That Person, no bigger than a thumb, the inner Self, seated for­ever in the heart of man, is revealed by the heart, the thought, the mind. They who know That, become immortal.

“Thousand-headed, thousand-eyed, thousand-footed is Purusha. He encompasses the earth on every side and rules over the ten-finger space.

That Person is this whole world, whatever has been and what will be. He is Lord of immortality, he is whatever grows by food.

Jung has highlighted several passages from the Upanishads, all pertinent to Self-realization. Here are some of the core themes:

  • The deity ‘is the inner Self, seated for­ever in the heart of man’
  • The deity ‘sits ever in the heart of all that’s born, by mind, mind ruling in the heart, is He revealed.’
  • He is Lord of immortality… Sun-like, beyond the darkness… Exhaustless light

In reading the Upanishads, Jung has found himself at the heart of enlightenment. Jung continues on to associate these passages with tom thumb, the phallus, libido, Dionysus. In the end of the essay, Jung makes a connection between libido and energy. Throughout the remainder of Symbols of Transformation, Jung will assert that libido, as psychic energy, expresses itself through spiritual symbols. This understanding will pervade the remainder of Jung’s writings on symbolic life, offering a psychological theory based in and rooted in the Upanishads.

Jung was on his way to creating a profound psychotheologcal theory; in the end, Jung offered only a psychological theory. He grounds himself in the worldly, forsaking the fundamental truth of Self-realization: God dwells within the heart, as the Self.

For those of us who have faith and seek true spiritual knowledge, this idea could easily  be turned around. With this shift in perspective we would put the Self as the center of the theory— grounding in a psychotheological perspective.

According to the Upanishads, the deity is immanent to psychic life, as the Self. Whoever knows this “is immortal.” This is the nature of enlightenment, of Moksha, of liberation.

The Upanishads tell us that ‘Creative divinity’ is not only transcendent to life, but also immanent to the living soul: “he dwells in the heart of all things.” The deity is both macrocosmic and microcosmic. Within the microcosm of an individual being there is the macrocosm of infinite being. With this realization, libido or psychic energy, is realized as the expression of the divine. The energy or light of the cosmos is the energy or psychic light of the human being.


  1. Carl Jung, Cw 5, Symbols of Transformation (in US Pubic Domain, first published 1912)
  2. Jyotikar Pattni, A Flight of Delight- 2006

I deeply appreciate your comments, questions, and corrections:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s