Christ, the Symbol of the Self

Christ, the Symbol of the Self


According to C.G. Jung, the post-Christian spirit is a “true antimimon pneuma, a false spirit of arrogance, hysteria, woolly-mindedness, criminal amorality, and doctrinaire fanaticism, a purveyor of shoddy spiritual goods, spurious art, philosophical stutterings, and Utopian humbug, fit only to be fed wholesale to the mass man of today.”1 I can’t think of a better description of our current social climate. Jung wrote these words in the early 1950’s, but it is worse now than it was then. The West has been in the throes of a “dechristianization” for some time, probably even before Nietzsche penned those famous words, “God is dead.” We have totally lost sight of what Christ’s redemption means. In His place, we have erected a secular, atheistic alternative. Jung would call this Antichrist. It is obvious from the following passage:

The dechristianization of our world, the Luciferian development of science and technology, and the frightful material and moral destruction left behind by the second World War have been compared more than once with the eschatological events foretold in the New Testament. These, as we know, are concerned with the coming of the Antichrist. . .2

This article will examine Jung’s psychological theory of Christ as the primary symbol of the Self. He is still, according to Jung, our main cultural hero. He “embodies the myth of the divine Primordial Man, the mystic Adam.”3 If you read my last article, Overcoming the Dark Side of Animatter, you will recall the Anthropos, the archetypal Cosmic Man who shows up in various creation myths around the world. In another place, Jung calls Him “the greater, more comprehensive Man, that indescribable whole consisting of the sum of conscious and unconscious processes. This objective whole, the antithesis of the subjective ego-psyche, is what I have called the self, and this corresponds exactly to the idea of the Anthropos.”4 Primarily, the reality of Christ, regardless of His historical existence, has everything to do with the restoration of human consciousness.

Just like the first Adam prior to the Fall, Christ exemplifies the image of God, the likeness of God. After the Fall (the birth of conscious awareness), human consciousness is corrupt and damaged. Through Christ, however, consciousness can be purified and restored to its original splendor. Jung finds empirical evidence for this in his psychological practice. In fact,

This is in exact agreement with the empirical findings of psychology, that there is an ever-present archetype of wholeness which may easily disappear from the purview of consciousness or may never be perceived at all until a consciousness illuminated by conversion recognizes it in the figure of Christ. As a result of this “anamnesis” the original state of oneness with the God-image is restored. It brings about an integration, a bridging of the split in the personality caused by the instincts striving apart in different and mutually contradictory directions.5

Jung believes the very early Christian conception of the Imago Dei was all-embracing to where it included even the animal side of man, but, eventually a significant shadow figure was split off in the person of Lucifer. The reality of evil was reduced to “a mere diminution of good and thus deprived of substance.”6 Jung claims one must “take evil rather more substantially when one meets it on the plane of empirical psychology.7 Simply, evil is a very substantial opposite to good. It is very real in its own right.

Just as Christ exemplifies the archetype of the Self in Jungian psychology, so the Antichrist corresponds to the shadow of the Self. This is “the dark half of the human totality, which ought not to be judged too optimistically.”8 Jung is critical of the orthodox Christian doctrine, where “the archetype is hopelessly split into two irreconcilable halves, leading ultimately to a metaphysical dualism–the final separation of the kingdom of heaven from the fiery world of the damned.”9 The modern rejection of the Christ image is probably due to the failure of the Church to make room for Christ’s shadow. According to Jung, this resulting dualism is not truly representational of the Christ image.

So far, Jung has established that the archetype of the Self is most definitely a “mysterium coniunctionis,” the self being experienced as a nuptial union of opposite halves and depicted as a composite whole in mandalas that are drawn spontaneously by patients.”10 It can be characterized by the following diagram:


Here, the Self contains light and dark aspects, as well as the spiritual and earthly. This is the same way in which Jung depicts the Self as possessing both male and female aspects (anima and animus).

The Christian Gnostic teacher, Basilides, taught a very strange doctrine of three-fold sonship. According to this, God sired three sons. The first son had a more subtle nature than the other two; He remained with the Father. The second son had a somewhat less subtle nature. He came down and dwelt slightly lower in the heavenly regions, and is comparable with Plato’s idea of the soul in his work, Phaedrus. The third son, having the grossest nature, needed purifying. He fell into what Basilides calls “formlessness,”11 or into the unconsciousness of matter. Through the Incarnation, the divine seed was planted in a material body.

Jung comments on this:

In these three emanations or manifestations of the non-existent God it is not hard to see the trichotomy of spirit, soul, and body. . . Spirit is the finest and highest; soul, as the ligamentum spiritus et corporis, is grosser than spirit, but has “the wings of an eagle” so that it may lift its heaviness up to the higher regions. Both are of a “subtle” nature and dwell, like the ether and the eagle, in or near the region of light, whereas the body, being heavy, dark, and impure, is deprived of the light but nevertheless contains the divine seed of the third sonship, though still unconscious and formless.12

This “divine seed” was brought to fruition by Jesus because “the opposites were separated” in Him through His Passion. Jung claims that, through his suffering, the opposites were separated into four, as in the diagram above.

Jesus is thus the prototype for the awakening of the third sonship slumbering in the darkness of humanity. He is the “spiritual inner man.” He is also a complete trichotomy in himself, for Jesus the son of Mary represents the incarnate man, but his immediate predecessor is the second Christ, the son of the highest archon of the hebdomad, and his first prefiguration is Christ the son of the highest archon of the ogdoad, the demiurge Yahweh. This trichotomy of Anthropos figures corresponds exactly to the three sonships of the non-existing God and to the division of human nature into three parts.13

If one were to think of all this as being literal, it makes no sense at all. In the realm of human psychology, however, it is quite enlightening. Jung discovered that the Gnostic teachings were very much in line with principles he had discovered treating his patients. The “sphere of the dark, heavy body” (unconsciousness) is where the divine seed of the third sonship can be found, viz. “the potentiality of unconscious contents. . .”14 The seed contains all the potential power of “the world soul slumbering in matter.”15 Jung states that “matter is predicated as having considerable numinosity in itself, and I see this as an anticipation of the “mystic” significance which matter subsequently assumed in alchemy and later on in natural science.”16 The Christ archetype, the Self, is the divine seed living in the unconscious minds of all humans. It resides in our animaterial bodies. For most, it lies dormant. If we could realize that one-third of the Godhead resides in us, it would be revolutionary. This is why the Christ story is so powerful! It has, however, lost its numinosity in the modern world through the literalization of its message, and its twisting into a morality dogma. The Church is to blame for this.

Finally, Jung sums it all up for us:

Just as the man Jesus became conscious only through the light that emanated from the higher Christ and separated the natures in him, so the seed in unconscious humanity is awakened by the light emanating from Jesus, and is thereby impelled to a similar discrimination of opposites. This view is entirely in accord with the psychological fact that the archetypal image of the self has been shown to occur in dreams even when no such conceptions exist in the conscious mind of the dreamer.17

If humanity only knew what they carried within them. . .

  1. Jung, Aion, p. 35
  2. Jung, Aion, p. 36
  3. ibid.
  4. Jung, Aion, p. 189
  5. Jung, Aion, p. 40
  6. Jung, Aion, p. 41
  7. ibid.
  8. Jung, Aion, p. 42
  9. ibid.
  10. Jung, Aion, p. 64
  11. ibid.
  12. Jung, Aion, p. 64-65
  13. Jung, Aion, p. 65
  14. Jung, Aion, p. 66
  15. ibid.
  16. ibid.
  17. Jung, Aion, p. 67

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3 thoughts on “Christ, the Symbol of the Self

  1. Father Thomas Keating says the same in his explanations of the “True” self and the “False” self.
    i.e. “God and the True self are not separate. Though we are not God, God and the True self are the same.”

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