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.

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Samantabhadra: Syzygy in the form of divine union

Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.
Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.

As a basic principle, archetypes are not realized in static form but present in dynamic form, expressing transformations in consciousness. Archetypal images transform as awareness transforms. Or said another way, archetypes appear in various forms as consciousness shifts.

In terms of enlightenment, sacred images represent transformations in consciousness, expressing a movement from duality to integration and wholeness. Archetypes are therefore expressed in symbols of transformation: representing transformations in consciousness; transforming as consciousness transforms. [1].

The syzygy is a potent symbol of transformation, representing core transformations in the phenomenology of the Self [2]. The transformations in the syzygy archetype emerge along with transformations of the self, movements from duality to integration.

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The Hero as Soul Image: aims and instincts

In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung says that the hero myth “symbolizes the ideas, forms, and forces which grip and mold the soul.” (para. 259) The hero is an image or form of the living soul, expressing trials and tribulations as encountered upon the path of soul. While we often think of the hero in terms of idealized images of triumph and even of immortality, getting at the soul of the hero takes a more subtle insight. Such insight includes an understanding of the subtle realms of psychic life: perceptions that extend beyond idealized images, perceptions of the movements in the life of the soul.

At the time that Jung wrote Symbols of Transformation, Freud and Jung were engaged in a stormy debate regarding the nature of psychic life, each seeing the psyche from a different perspective. Their two perspectives formed two basic viewpoints on psychic life: the egoic and the transpersonal. This schism played out in their perspectives on myth interpretation, and particularly their interpretation of the Oedipus myth. Freud’s understanding was focused on the development of the ego, reflecting ego development taking place within the first half of life. Jung’s psychology was focused on archetypal elements, and his reading of the myths focused on the movement beyond ego, into transpersonal and archetypal motifs. Jung often took the perspective that the transpersonal aspects of psychic life were collective and biological, arising from evolutionary determinants. My aim is to read Jung’s writings from a spiritual perspective, understanding that archetypal images express the telos of the soul– the aims and instincts of the soul.

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Faust’s Dream: the realm of the mothers

Faust's Dream, by Luis Ricardo Falero- 1880. Sotheby's. US Public Domain.
Faust’s Dream, by Luis Ricardo Falero- 1880. Sotheby’s. US Public Domain.
In the Introduction to the Second Section of Symbols of Transformation (SoT), Carl Jung speaks of and quotes a section of Goethe’s Faust. In the story, Faust descends to the realm of the Mothers. Faust’s influence on Jung is particularly important for our reading of SoT.

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The mystics find in their heart the image of the sun

Saint Augustin by Philippe de Champaigne--1645-1650. US public domain via wikicommons.
Saint Augustin by Philippe de Champaigne–1645-1650. US public domain via wikicommons.
In the second section of Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung is taking us into the life of the mystic: a path of soul and of divine heart. Jung speaks of “the teachings of the mystics,” he says:

“when they [the mystics] descend into the depths of their own being they find ‘in their heart’ the image of the sun, they find their own life-force which they call the ‘sun’ for a legitimate and, I would say, a physical reason because our source of energy and life actually is the sun. Our physiological life, regarded as an energy process, is entirely solar” (para. 176).

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