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.

Origin

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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Dialectical struggle & the Elixir of Immortality

Kurmavatara, Made in Himachal Pradesh, India,1760-65 Artist/maker unknown, India, Himachal Pradesh, Basohli or Chamba, US Public Domain
Samudra manthan, churning of the Ocean of Milk, Artist unknown- C. 1760 US Public Domain

To live is to struggle. Whether we are rich or poor, beautiful or plain, famous or more humble, we will struggle. The struggle arises from within. It is a struggle of the mind. Yet it is this very struggle that brings forth the potential for growth and Self-realization. It is our ability to be with the struggle, to work with the tensions of life, that opens a horizon for growth and awareness.

The Vedic tradition speaks to this struggle. We are said to live within the world of Maya, the world of duality: good and bad, dark and light, sun and moon, day and night, up and down, inside and outside.

In Vedanta, this struggle of duality is related to avidyā. Avidyā is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘ignorance’ and ‘delusion.’ This word is opposed to Vidya, meaning ‘correct knowledge.’ Avidyā is represented in images of the demons. Avidyā is said to be the ignorance which prevents an understanding of the true nature of the Self, as cosmic or universal Self.

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Hiranyagarbha: the golden egg

hiranyagarbha_the_golden_embryo
Hiranyagarbha The Golden Embryo by Artist Vidya Devi and Dhirendra Jha, with permission from Exotic Indian Art

In the image above, we see Hiranyagarbha. Hiraṇyagarbha means the ‘golden womb’ or ‘golden egg’. It is also called the universal germ of creation. Carl Jung likens Hiraṇyagarbha to the “phenomenology of the child’s birth” saying:

“The ‘child’s’ birth always points back to an original psychological state of non-recognition, i.e., of darkness or twilight, of non-differentiation between subject and object, of unconscious identity of man and the universe.” (CW 9i, para 290)

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We Divide the Cosmos to Reflect Our Own Inner Polarity

Samudramanthana, the Churning of the Ocean. 19th Century, India. at the British Museum of Art. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Samudra manthana, the Churning of the Ocean. 19th Century, India. at the British Museum of Art. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

The image above is a watercolor of Samudra manthana, the Churning of the Ocean. The British Museum provides a description of the image:

“This event took place during the second incarnation of Visnu as Kurma, the tortoise. The painting shows Visnu seated on the top of Mount Mandara, here represented as a pole. He holds a discus, sword, conch and lotus in his four hands and has a golden nimbus around his head. Around the pole is wrapped the snake Vasuki. On one side the snake is pulled by the gods and on the other it is pulled by the Danava’s. On the shore of the ocean are the objects which have emerged during the churning, which include Laksmi, Varuni, the conch, the elephant mount of Brahma, Airavata, Surabhi the wish fulfilling cow and the vessel holding amrita which bestows immortality on the drinker. A crescent moon is shown in the top left corner of the painting. The painting is surrounded by a black border.”[1]

From an archetypal perspective, Vishnu is an image of the Self.  The central pole may be seen as the axis mundi. The axis mundi is the world pole which offers a connection between the three worlds or three states of consciousness. The snake is wrapped around the pole, an image of the instincts– both lower and higher. The gods and demons churn the great sea of milk by pulling on either ends of the snake. This image may be seen as representing the synthesis of Self, and thus of psychic wholeness and Oneness.

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Snake Dreams: instinct, energy, life force

 

An historical, geographical, commercial, and philosophical view of the United States of America, and of the European settlements in America and the West-Indies
Year: 1796 (1790s)
Winterbotham, William Zoology. US Pulic Domain via Wikimedia

A Dream:

“I am up in the hills and looking for a place to camp. The hills are golden-colored, rolling, as you would find in Northern California. I am walking along the hilltops for a while and then I come to a cave. I peek inside the cave and I see a little old hermit. I say to the hermit, “Hello.” And I ask, “Is there a place to camp up here upon the hilltops?” The hermit says, “No!” I look around and I say, “But there is so much room up here in the golden hills.” Then, as I am looking around, I see that at the entrance of the cave, there is a hill and the hill is the head of a huge snake. I shift my perspective and look into the distance: seeing that this snake spans into the distance, running for many miles over the hilltops.”

In the dream, we find the image of cave. In the Upanishads, a cave is found in the depths of the heart. In there, in the cave of the heart, the cosmic Self is discovered. The Katha Upanishad (1.11-13) says “he [the cosmic Self] dwells in the cave [of the heart] of all beings.”

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