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.
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 shadowrefers 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 demonicquality. 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.