Baby Ganesha: divine child as image of enlightenment

 Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesha as Divine Child by Raja Ravi Varma. UNknown date (about 50 years old). US public Domain via wikimedia.
Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha as Divine Child by Raja Ravi Varma. Unknown date. US public Domain via wikimedia.

In the image above, we see the Divine Child in the form of Ganesha. The Sanskrit word Ganesha is from gana meaning “multitude” and isha  meaning lord “lord” [1]. Ganesha is half elephant and half human. In the image, Ganesha sits on his mother’s lap. She is Parvati the goddess of love, strength, and spiritual power. Ganesha’s father is Shiva, the great destroyer of ignorance and the image of the supreme Self. The Divine Child Ganesha is born of a divine polarity. The cosmic father and mother make up two poles of a sacred Oneness.

In Tantric Shaivism, the initiate meditates on the nature of Shiva and Shakti (Parvati), so as to realize the unity of their nature. Shiva and Shakti represent two aspects of existence. Shiva represents consciouness and Shakti represents life energy. The spiritual aspirant meditates on bringing these two aspects of Being together into unity and Oneness.

Ganesha is an archetypal image of the Divine Child, an image of the potential for unity and wholeness. From a Jungian perspective, the Divine Child symbolizes a spiritual potential.  In dreams and imagination, the Divine Child image appears as the harbinger of the emergence of a new idea and a promise of transformation in psychic life. In the form of Ganesha, the new idea is that of Oneness.

In Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung says that the Child expresses “futurity” (para 278).  Dreams, art and mythic images of the child may represent “an anticipation of future developments” (ibid). On a psychical level: “The child is potential future” (ibid).

When Jung is speaking of ‘future developments,’ he is speaking of psychical development, of the emergence of new ideas within psychic life. These ‘future developments’ can express a synchronicity as well: psychic developments can be meaningfully co-incident with developments in worldly life. Nonetheless, the Divine Child most often represents the emergence of a new idea.

It is quite natural for the child image to represent a ‘third thing’. In biological life, the child is a ‘third thing’ which arises from the sexual union of the parental couple. The Divine Child archetype may appear in a dream as a sign that a synthesis is occurring or that psychic wholeness is emerging. Jung says:

“the solution of the conflict through the union of opposites is of vital importance, and is moreover the very thing that the conscious mind is longing for, some inkling of the creative act, and of the significance of it, nevertheless gets through. From this comes the numinous character of the “child” (ibid).

One of the central themes of Enlightenment is an integration of the dualities which make up psychic life. The mind tends to present the things of the world in binary oppositions: mother and father, female and male, down and up, etc. Our feelings are often tainted with binary oppositions as well: love and hate, awe and envy, greed and gratitude, etc.

These binary oppositions create emotional conflict. We might love someone and hate them. Jung speaks to such conflicts. He notes: “In the psychology of the individual there is always, at such moments, an agonizing situation of conflict from which there seems to be no way out-at least for the conscious mind” (CW 9i, para. 286).

In response to psychical conflict, a living synthesis may emerge: a new idea, offering a resolution to the conflict or a new perspectives. New ideas may appear first in dreams and imagination. In such forms they tend to have what Jung calls ‘an irrational nature’, or we might say the new ideas may appear irrational to ego consciousness. Jung says:

“out of this collision of opposites the unconscious psyche always creates a third thing of an irrational nature, which the conscious mind neither expects nor understands. It presents itself in a form that is neither a straight “yes” nor a straight “no,” and is consequently rejected by both.”

Jung understood that the child archetype signifies the integration of opposites. The child archetype can emerges in dreams and imagination to signify the integration of conflicting emotions or ideas.

The totality of psychic life does not necessarily fit into the predefined conceptual categories through which the ego knows the world. The child archetype is an image of a psychical resolution of psychic polarity; the integration of polarity appears as a ‘third thing.’

When the Divine Child archetype appears, or had meaning for us we, are encountering such the integration not only on a psychical level but a spiritual level as well. The Divine Child signifies integration of cosmic polarities leading to some deep transformations and the potential for the realization of Oneness. For some, the Divine Child may signify the emergence of the psychic wholeness, insofar as it expresses the unification of the deepest levels of consciousness: the eternal and temporal, the infinite and finite, Being and form. This unification in psychic life is a necessary preparation for realization of the sacred Oneness at the ground or root of life.

For Jung, Self-realization is a horizon, a movement in psychic life, guiding integration of the conscious and unconscious aspects of psychic life. The integration of opposites (the transcendent function) appears as the primary means through which this unification is accomplished.

Ganesha takes on cosmic significance in this regard. Ganesha is an image of the unification of the cosmic forces, as represented by the god and goddess. Ganesha, as Divine Child, represents the potential for Self-realization through the unity of cosmic opposites as they reside within the microcosm of our inner world.

Jung understood the God image and the Mother image to be ‘formative factors’ within psychic life. Self-realization is wholeness of the Self, the integration of cosmic polarities occur as a ‘third thing.’ Ganesha as divine child offers an image of Self-realization, as the unification of the divine polarity. The cosmic father and mother give rise to a ‘third thing’: an individual self who has found wholeness, integration, and realization.

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  1. Narain, A. K. “Gaṇeśa: A Protohistory of the Idea and the Icon”. Brown, pp. 21–22.
  2. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)

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