An imaginal journey into the origin and history of soul

“Language, in its origin and essence, is simply a system of signs or symbols that denote real occurrences or their echo in the human soul.” (Carl Jung, para. 13)

In its origin and essence language is a mode of the soul. Jung echoes one of the earliest psychological texts, titled the Psychologia Empirica. Writing in 1732, Christian Wolff says:

“Thinking is an act of the soul whereby it becomes conscious of itself and of other things outside itself” (cited in Jung fn 2).

It is with the soul in mind that we begin our discussion of Jung’s Essay on Two Kinds of Thinking, addressing language from the perspective of the soul. Here, language is an act of the soul, whereby the soul becomes conscious of itself.


At origin, at basis, there is no thought, no language.  Something is, but we cannot call it being or non-being, we cannot know it as full or empty. All we can fathom is that it is the ground of life: essential to life, yet unsayable, unspeakable. It, unfathomable, gives birth to soul.

Ground emerges into form, becoming the divine body of life. The divine body is the birth place of soul, the container or vessel for soul. Divinity and soul are first in unity; they are “indistinct” (Para. 23), like a baby in womb.

With time, the soul emerges out of primal unity into differentiation, initiating a process of individuation. The soul aims to become conscious of itself and others outside of itself. The soul seeks to know life, as the divine body of life. Language is a mode of the soul in communion with and about its mother world. Jung says:

“From time immemorial language has been directed outwards and used as a bridge, which has but a single purpose, namely that of communication. So long as we think directedly, we think for and speak to others” (para. 12).

In its emergent form the soul thinks for and speaks to the divine body. Language becomes a bridge between a soul and divine other. The soul realizes itself in dynamic communion: speaking, bridging, linking, and interweaving with the divine body of life.

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The ego and its projections


Diagrammatic representation of the human head. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images, Satcakranirupanactiram Svami Hamsasvarupa Creative Commons

Self-realization is an ever evolving process of coming into greater awareness of the Self.  This is a movement toward wholeness, integration, and Oneness.

The process of becoming whole, of cultivating Self-knowledge, involves coming to terms with shadow elements of one’s personality.  This is not always an easy task. Carl Jung tells us:

“To become conscious of it [the shadow] involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance.” (CW 9ii, para. 14-15).

The shadow refers to the dark aspects of the personality. The ego finds these dark aspects of the personality undesirable, and thus banishes them to the unconscious. However, they return with a vengeance, with a sort of demonic quality.  In psychological terms, they may return with an obsessive or possessive quality. Jung says:

“Closer examination of the dark characteristics– that is, the inferiorities constituting the shadow– reveals that they have an emotional nature, a kind of autonomy, and accordingly an obsessive or, better, possessive quality.”

The banishment of shadowy emotions also isolates us from aspects of our self, diminishing the wholeness of the self. Through awareness may we come to reclaim these shadowy aspects. Reclamation does not mean acting out or living out the shadowy side of the personality. Instead, reclamation brings the ferocity of mindful awareness to confront and tolerate our dark aspects. From the perspective of awareness, we want to be with and be aware of the ‘little demons’ and ‘shadowy figures’. In bringing our mindfulness to them, their potency will dissolve, enlarging the circumference of our self-knowledge.

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Diagram: soul, spirit, ego, shadow


ego-shadowI found this diagram in a book by Schwartz-Salant (1982). He speaks of the spirit in terms of the capacity for reflection and creativity. Schwartz-Salant says that the soul is the feminine capacity for being and doing. When these two aspects are in harmony, then the ego becomes “the carrier of personal identity.” (p.70) He adds that with this, “the capacity to feel and express need for another person emerges.”

Self beyond self

Buddha, resisting the demons of Mara, Description. Welcome Trust Creative Commons.
Buddha, resisting the demons of Mara, Welcome Trust Creative Commons.

In the image above we see Buddha resisting the demons of Mara. The demons are said to represent those forces which prevent him us attaining enlightenment. In the image the angels watch from above.

In the Samyutta Nikaya, there is a story of a Buddhist contemplative named Vajira who has an encounter with Mara. In the story Mara, Evil, is vanquished through Vajira’s insights into the nature of enlightenment. The story is as follows:

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