Divine Child: symbol of the soul’s fulfillment

German nativity scene with depiction of Trinity (God the Father and dove of Holy Spirit accompanying the Christ child and Madonna- C. 15th Century. guenther-rarebooks.com. US public domain via wikimedia.
German nativity scene with depiction of Trinity (God the Father and dove of Holy Spirit accompanying the Christ child and Madonna- C. 15th Century. guenther-rarebooks.com. US public domain via wikimedia.

We are in deep winter: days short, nights long. Father sun seems so far away, mother earth lonely. All the creatures mourn in winter. They burrow in their little holes and mourn the lost days of sun. Mother nature proffers so little in winter. The animals seem to know that. They go within and await her spring, her bosom, her blossom. All the world will rejoice when light and earth rejoin in their holy union. It is then, that life will burst forth in divine celebration. The animals frolic, make love, build their little nests, hatch their eggs– life is born of union.

But we, us human souls, are on another cycle. While our bodies may follow such creaturely cycles, seeking union in bodily form, our souls follow a different cycle entirely. In the depths of winter the divine child is born. On the darkest of days we celebrate the birth of the divine child.

What is the divine? How might we know it? Carl Jung provides a unique perspective. The divine is a divine couple: mother and father of souls.  In Symbols of Transformation, Jung speaks to the soul, leading us on a path of soul. This is not your normal everyday path. God is not some distant icon, some idealized figure in the sky. This is a phenomenological path: the soul comes into form insofar as it lives and knows. This is Gnosis. And what are we to know? Many things, but first we shall start with our divine parents.

The first parent we shall meet is God the father: God is “love.” God is there for us, loving us, guiding us from the beginning. But Jung warns us that we need to be careful of any overdetermined images this idea might provoke:

“The language of religion defines God as “love,” there is always the great danger of confusing the love which works in man with the workings of God” (para. 98)

To know God we must move beyond God as image. We must know God, see God, feel God. It is through this act of knowing that the soul is born. For the “God-concept is not only an image, but an elemental force”… a “primitive power”…(para. 89). God’s love is a “creative force” (para 198). God’s creative force is love, bringing forth the soul through love. Jung says:

“the procreative urge– which is how love must be regarded from the natural standpoint– remains the essential attribute of the God (para.87).

And it is on the darkest nights of winter that God’s creative urges wells up to give birth to his child: the divine child. Christ is God’s child. But God is not alone. God is always with the mother, through she may be hidden or transparent.  Jung says:

“The God-image is a complex of ideas of an archetypal nature, it must necessarily be regarded as representing a certain sum of energy (libido) which appears in projection. In most of the existing religions it seems that the formative factor which creates the attributes of divinity is the father-imago, while in the older religions it was the mother imago… In certain pagan conceptions of divinity the maternal element is strongly emphasized.” (para. 89)

At times culture favors the father, at times the mother. But nevertheless, they together are the two ‘formative factors’ of psychic life. Jung says:

“How am I to be creative? Nature knows only one answer to that: Through a child (the gift of love).” (para 76)

The child is born, ‘the gift of love.’ Nature births us into world. The divine couple births the soul into the eternal. In the Christian myth, the divine child is born from the virgin womb of the mother Mary. In 431 the Council of Ephesus said that Mary is Theotokos: “God-bearer”, “Birth-Giver of God”, “the one who gives birth to God.” God and the mother are the two ‘formative factors’ within psychic life.

The divine couple births us into divine world. These are psychic facts. Jung says: “God dwells in the heart, in the unconscious” (para. 89). In the footnote Jung adds: “The psychic fact “God” is a typical autonomism, a collective archetype.”  The two Greek words, “auto-nomos”, speak to a God which lives by his/her own rule. God is within the unconscious, and yet autonomous, living by his own rule within our hearts.

Here, within our hearts, God procreates with the Mother, the divine vessel, giving birth to a possibility: call it the divine child, the potential of the soul. This divine birth within is no easy task. There is something within us that wants to kill it off, a murderous instinct within psychic life.  The revelation of the divine child is so disastrous, so threatening to the old guard, that it must be killed. According to the Gospel of Matthew 2:16–18, Herod ordered the execution of all babies in Bethlehem, desiring to assure the death of the divine child.

[Herod] “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”

The divine child must outlive the murderous instincts of the superego. Our soul must survive the murderous rage of the envious tyrant who seems to rule the inner world. The murderous superego does not believe in the potential of our own soul. He does not trust in the good, in the enduring.  He cannot see the soul’s potential: the child of the divine mother and father. It is our spiritual labor to protect the child. To be like Joseph, listening to the angels, protecting the child.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13–15)

Joseph sees the angel of the Lord, and the angel says that he must flee Egypt, symbol of tyranny. We must leave behind the tyranny of Herod ruled by fear, finding a place for the soul’s birth, and protecting the soul so that it may grow.


  1. Psychology and Religion (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol. 12)
  2. Symbols of Transformation (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol. 5)




14 thoughts on “Divine Child: symbol of the soul’s fulfillment

  1. Monumental finds here, Jenna! Thank You and Season’s wishes for “divin-g” further and farther into discoveries of yuletide and the soft womb of Winter for re-generation and realisation of self!

    Sharing The text of the motet, which has been set to music by composers such as Palestrina, Byrd, and Victoria, speaks of the beautiful juxtaposition of the Divine Nature and Symbolic meaning of Christ’s Birth

    the virgin birth of God—and natural—the onlooking animals—in the Christmas nativity scene.

    [Latin Text: ]

    O magnum mysterium
    et admirabile sacramentum,
    ut animalia viderent
    Dominum natum jacentem in praesepio.
    O beata Virgo,
    cuius viscera meruerunt
    portare Dominum Jesum Christum.

    [ English Translation: ]

    O great mystery
    and wonderful sacrament,
    that the animals should see
    the new-born Lord lying in a manger.
    Blessed is the Virgin
    whose womb was worthy
    to bear Christ the Lord.

    [ Recording available on the disk ‘Christmas from Wells’ (Regent 2007). ]

    And here is more by William Samuel on the significance of Christmas…

    while I ‘ll add the down-to-earth physical manifestations of “ida and pingala nadis in the sushumna and the compassionate, blissful awakening of the Chakras, one by one until the Crown is the dome of Heaven itself….

    1. Happy Holydays Brinda,
      Thank you for sharing the sacred chant of the Virgin. I looked it up on Wikipedia: “O Magnum Mysterium is a responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas.” I have been listening online this morning, and delighting in the beauty: Magnum Mysterium by Jennifer Higdon & by Morten Lauridsen. The Matins seem to have been a monastic nighttime liturgy. It is fitting that in the depths of the night they would sing the chant the Mother.

      1. Thank You, Jenna!
        The Holiday season is so short…catching up to find more treasures and will check this Magnum Mysterium up soon and yes, chanting for the Mother definitely opens new ground for debate and awareness on ‘The Soul Path’!

  2. Jenna…
    Thank you for this beautiful and seasonally-appropriate piece on the Divine Child!I enjoyed the way you combined Biblical aspects with Jung’s insights to flesh out the need at this time to safeguard the creative fire and to protect our new Soul impulses.There are so many fascinating layers inside this post.
    Years ago the Lenape elders humorously graced me with the nickname ”Coyote”. I only mention that because many Native American tribes associate the Coyote in various ways with the ”Divine Child”.On the traditional Medicine Wheel Coyote/Shawnodese inhabits the South which is the place of purification,innocence and one’s original/authentic state.It could been seen as the matrix/womb of the Self.This cardinal point is impregnated by and with the wisdom and gratitude of the all-providing Mother as the White Buffalo/Waboose.But,there’s a deeper aspect yet because she also receives the original creative impulse of the Great Spirit.This intimately associates with the ”divine couple”as Mother and Father of the Soul in your article.
    I enjoy how all of this also associates with the astronomical events of this season…the 2 primary ones being the Winter Solstice and the sun’s passage over the G.C.(Galactic Center).On 12-18 our sun transited directly over the G.C.and that is about as profound a Mother-Father embrace as we might ever imagine.Symbolically(..and actually,from Earth’s perspective)the Sun(..as Father/Logos) was positioned exactly over the great black hole womb of the center of our Milky Way Galaxy.All far Northern indigenous and shamanic cultures have long considered this as a High Holy Day.In the Celtic and other traditions this is when the Santa/Shaman(..in Celtic green rather than Coca Cola red)symbolically climbed the World Tree of fire and light to return with creative blessings to enable enduring the long Winter.You might also appreciate this association: …3 major Western dieties were said to be born on 12-25…Jesus the Christ,the Persian Mithras and the Egyptian Horus.All three were also ”solar-related” so possibly this is more than coincidence?I just love how all these aspects interrelate with the Divine Child and it’s birth!
    Again,thank you for offering another wonderful window through which to view this miraculous time.The veils between the worlds remain very thin now.I’m hoping everyone here can dream and imagine into this opportunity and hear some of the magic transmitted within the ”silence-between-the-snowflakes”.

    1. Two-Hawks,

      Thank you for all of the delightful divine mother-father images in your comment. I very much enjoy hearing of your Native American perspectives. I am deeply influenced by the native ways of knowing as well. I love to think about how western culture and religion is defined by our father’s father’s father in the biblical tradition. My own spirituality is very much influenced by my mother’s mother’s mother, who was Shoshone. My mother taught me that God is known within the world around us. One of my memories as a child was seeing a spider in her web. I was scared and in awe; my mom said “the spider is God too.” It was through such teachings that I began to know the sacred nature of the world.

      Thank you also for bringing up the union of the Galactic Center with the Sun. I feel the union echoed in my heart.

      1. Jenna…
        Cheers to the Shoshone in you!And what a wonderful influence that was to have your Mother share how God exists within life and your spider.As for Santy-the-shaman and the Galactic Center…I’m on good terms with both,and so,I just know this greater union echoed beautifully within your heart!Meanwhile,isn’t it just amazing how the ancestral roots of our spirituality blend with our ongoing quests and the evolutionary urges of the Soul?Thank you for all you’ve shared and inspired with in 2013.Looking forward to the never-ending adventure…

        1. I like it: Santy-the-shaman. He is somewhat shamanic, isn’t he? It would be interesting to look into the mythological origins of Santa.

          1. Jenna…
            For the mythological origins of ”Santa-the-Shaman” might I recommend ?:

            * …”When Santa was a Shaman” by Tony van Renterghem

            It was published by Llewellyn Publications in ’95 and is likely still available.I’m sure that you or anyone else that would like to grasp the ”real Santa” would absolutely love it.

  3. In nuce, Jenna, you sum the birth of the divine, and of the divinity of the child hero born, all too well: there actually is nothing to add but a few laurel leaves for you. What now remains to be done is my own work: you have cleared the holiday table and left only the opus [my work on myself] for me to finish. To finish my plate will take me a lifetime. Luckily, I am hungry!

    1. Eric,
      How wonderful that you are committed to your opus. I believe it is a profound gift to have an inner hunger for spiritual knowledge. The Buddhists say that one has to live many lifetimes with a dedicated heart to build the merit for spiritual hunger: it is a transmutation of the base hunger into a divine hunger.

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