Vishvarupa: Cosmic Man

Vishnu as the Cosmic Man (Vishvarupa), Jaipur, Rajasthan- c. 1800-50. US Public Domain, Wikimedia
Vishnu as the Cosmic Man (Vishvarupa), Jaipur, Rajasthan- c. 1800-50. US Public Domain, Wikimedia

In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung speaks of the ‘cosmic man’, drawing upon a passage from the Shvetashvatara Upanishad:

“Without feet, without hands, he moves, he grasps; eyeless he sees, earless he hears; he knows all that is to be known, yet there is no knower of him. Men call him the Primordial Person, the cosmic man. Smaller than small, greater than great ….” (cited in CW5, para. 182)

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Immanent Divine

God is a psychic fact of immediate experience.

Carl Jung speaks of the immanent aspects of God when he says “God is a psychic fact”. In Carl Jung’s view, God is first and foremost a subjective experience.

This insight presents a shift in perspective. God is no longer seen solely in terms of an objective and transcendent otherness toward whom I must have faith. A new horizon opens in which I realize God as a subjective, immanent truth. This truth is realized through symbolic life– dreams, imagination, and visions– as well as through mindful awareness. Jung says:

The “God-image [coincides] with the archetype of the Self” (CW 11, par. 757, in Answer to Job).

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Cosmic Self: the psychotheological dimensions of the Self

Vishvarupa1910
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.

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Ganesha Panchayatana: the child as archetype as wholeness

Ganesha Pachayatana. Ganesha with Shiva, Devi (Parvati), Vishnu and Surya- circa 1800. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Ganesha Panchayatana.  circa 1800. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

Ganesha is an image of the supreme Self as deity; and, he is an image of enlightenment as the divine child.

In the painting above, we see the Ganesha Panchayatana. The Pañcāyatana pūja is a form of worship introduced by Adi Shankara, in the 8th century. In the center of the image, we find Ganesha surrounded by four deities: Shiva, Devi (Parvati), Vishnu and Surya. Adi Shankara, philosopher and theologian, understood that all deities are images or forms of the supreme Self (known as Brahman). In this painting, Ganesha is the central image and thus an image of the supreme Self.

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Mahavidyas: working with the ambivalent aspect of the mother archetype

Durga_under_an_arch_displaying_the_Mahavidyas,_with_Shiva_at_the_apex
An image of Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas, with Shiva at the apex; 1930’s. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the image above, we see the Goddess Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas. The mahavidyas express various forms of the Devi. Mahavidya is a Sanskrit word that speaks to the revelatory power of the mother goddess. Maha means ‘great’ and Vidya means ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’.

Sitting on top of the arch, we find Shiva. Shiva is an image of the cosmic Self (Brahman). The mother goddesses express the form and power of the cosmic Self. As such, she emerges as ‘great wisdoms’, offering esoteric knowledge of the Cosmic Self. Arthur Avalon speaks to the relation of Shiva and Shakti:

“Mind and Matter are ultimately one, the two latter being the twin aspects of the Fundamental Substance or Brahman [or Shiva] and Its Power or Shakti. Spirit is the substance of mind-matter, the Reality (in the sense of the lasting changelessness) out of which, by Its Power, all Appearance is fashioned not by the individual mind and senses but by the cosmic mind and senses of which they are but a part. What It creates It perceives.”

Shiva and Shakti form two aspects or poles of the cosmic Self (Brahman). All of reality emerges as such: cosmic mind and cosmic body. For the yogi, this eternal truth is revealed within both the macrocosm (cosmic body) and the microcosm (individual body). By working to realize these poles of being, we come to know the nature of the Self.

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