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..:: Enlightenment VIII / The Self ::..


Alan Schneider


               Even as the presumed core of consciousness in the Jungian classification system, the Self still remains elusive and mysterious as the most psychologically distant entity knowable in human experience.    This essay will investigate this presumed source of all being in greater depth and detail than has perhaps been the case thus far. 

            Arguably the great strength of Freud’s system of classification is that it dealt predominantly with psychological material that, if not directly evident, was at least strongly enough suggested by indirect inferences that it could be subsequently analyzed through symbolic content.   This analysis was, in Freud’s case, founded on his theories of sexual repression as the basis of all mental dysfunction, and his assessment of unconscious mental symbols followed suit.   The obvious physical evidence of sexual activity – the human population – was so incontrovertible that it formed a very solid, if  still controversial, foundation for the rest of his work. 

            In the case of Jung’s expanded theories of the collective unconscious, this foundation based on obvious external evidence is not so present, and, in consequence, it is very easy to adopt the argument of much of psychology and psychiatry today that Jung’s transpersonal psychology is little more than evidence of psychosis on his part.    Thus, in order to work with the logic of Jung’s approach, we must at least be initially willing to set aside its origin in his self-admitted psychosis and consider not what caused his revelation, but the revelation itself.   The fact that the great bulk of the material Jung produced regarding the archetypes and archetypal symbols emerged from his essentially broken mind is no more invalidating than the fact that the evidence of particle physics emerges from broken atoms fractured in particle accelerators – both types of evidence are equally valid and important for understanding their respective areas of scientific investigation.    Because Jung experienced the material described in The Red Book as portions of his unconscious mind means that they are portions of the unconscious minds of everyone, something additionally born out by his extensive work with psychotics and their hallucinations, and augmented by his studies of social and spiritual symbolism in cultures around the world, and throughout history.   The evidence in support of the existence and structure of the collective unconscious, if indirect, is nonetheless very compelling, and this includes the central collective structure of the Self.   But, what is this Self, and what is its role in consciousness?   

            The suggestions have been made in these essays that the Self is the more relatively scientific term equivalent to God, the Creator, and the Soul, to name a few analogous concepts applicable to our discussion here.    These are all macrosymbols,  having meanings and implications that eclipse lesser levels of psychological involvement in the Psyche, or total mind, as it has been called in the Enlightenment Series.   To approach these entities requires the shift of our frame of reference from the first three Chakras to the next four, leaving the comfortable security of physicality for the difficult terrain of spiritual exploration – definitely not an armchair adventure!   From Chakra Four on, we must rely on feeling and intuition to guide us forward as we attempt to sense the presence of what we cannot directly apprehend.    In the case of the lesser archetypes, this is perhaps not so difficult, because the images present are more relatively familiar, if frequently still fantastic, but the going gets progressively more challenging as we move deeper into the nether regions of the collective unconscious – the regions where the Soul and the Self dominate human awareness.    Let us begin with the Soul.  

            The Soul is the initial focus of the higher mind, and its companion processes of compassion and the conscience – our so often disregarded moral compasses.    The Soul is perceptually very distant from sensory experience, deliberative thought, and social information processing – the primary tools of operation on the physical plane of existence.   There appears to be a great chasm between physicality and spirituality, and there is, because they exist for very different, although ultimately related, reasons.    The end goal of physicality is reproduction, while the end goal of spirituality is salvation.    Without reproduction, salvation is irrelevant, and without salvation, reproduction is pointless – so, they support each other to that extent – but beyond this, they emphasize two largely incompatible trends in consciousness, compelling most people to choose one or the other as primary paths to follow through life.   Those who follow physicality (and the associated lower mind) generally remain focused in the first three Chakras, while those who follow spirituality and higher mind tend to focus in the next four.   

            The Soul is sensed through inner calm and serenity – the cacophony of external, physical events frequently disrupts this subtle sensation process – making silence and solitude useful, if not required, adjuncts for successful Soul contact.    This is absolutely the case with meditation practice when used as the technique of choice for Soul work, and particularly for novices, who have not yet developed the one-pointed focus afforded by extended practice.   With time spent, this is not such a stringent requirement – I used to meditate in the midst of the noon rush at the main campus of a major university where I was enrolled with no problem – but initially, quite and calm are needed.   Since the Soul permanently exists in a state of calm and serenity as its native psychological environment, the more often it is contacted there, the more these characteristics are developed in the waking consciousness of the individual, along with the attendant compassion and conscience previously noted.    It is significant to note here that any sufficiently disturbing internal or external manifestation will interfere with the “signal” radiating (or emanating, if you wish) from the Soul, particularly in the first stages of contact, hence a general psychological and physical “house cleaning” is always a good idea for effective Soul work, i.e. therapy.  

            Soul work is generally identified with the Fourth Chakra – the Heart Center – and the beginning of all genuinely spiritual attainment in the total mind.   Here, the foundation of all the subsequent efforts to follow is laid down for the Aspirant to higher mind to follow, through work with the next Chakras in the sequence.  The Buddha observed that, if one diligently performs the work of the Soul and the Heart, filling them with selfless love, compassion, and moral awareness through meditation, austerity, and selfless service to others, then success has been achieved in the spiritual quest, regardless of whatever additional work is done in the higher mind to attain higher consciousness.    This is fundamentally correct in my personal experience – the Heart and Soul taken as a unit are both the starting point and the ultimate destination of spiritual development.  In many ways the Chakras to follow represent areas of technical functionality that augment the primary Soul work of the Heart Center – the chanting and instruction of Chakra Five, and Spiritual Insight of Chakra Six, and even the direct spiritual communion with the Logos of Chakra Seven all serve to support the Soul as the primary psychological entity present in Chakra Four – and the one closest to our physical, sensory perception while incarnate.    Yes, we can, if our spiritual Karma permits, ascend to any or all of the higher Chakras, and remain there (again Karma permitting), but of what use is this to our suffering brother and sisters, still entrapped in the physical toil of Newtonian perception?    Clearly, at least from this perspective, the Soul is the spiritual object of  Creation, and the Heart Chakra is its incarnate home.          

             What, then, is the nature of the Self, apart from that of the Soul just outlined?   While Jung cataloged much information regarding the symbolism of the lesser archetypes, he had relatively little to say about the Self, and this may be related to his personal spiritual issues as much as anything else.   Like many psychiatrists of his day – the first days of psychiatry and psychology – he was uncomfortable with spiritual designators for psychological phenomena, viewing them as unscientific and misleading.   He made exception to a certain extent in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, but this was a qualified exception, in that he himself did not believe in the existence or efficacy of the Sixth and Seventh Chakras, largely because he had never experienced them in his personal psychology.   As a man of science, he could not make the Leap of Faith required to work effectively beyond the chanting and instruction of Chakra Five, and there he stopped, doubting the Intuition of Chakra Six, and, most importantly, the Logoic Presence of Chakra Seven.   

            This brings us to a salient point – is irrationality necessary for enhanced spiritual perception in the higher mind?    Clearly, when Jung felt the “Calling” of Chakras Six and Seven, he concluded that he was “threatened with a psychosis” and withdrew permanently from psychiatric practice in consequence.    It is one thing to experience the calming, centering effect of chanting, and the satisfaction of teaching and lecturing about concrete information, however esoteric, and quite another to experience visual and auditory hallucinations within the higher mind, particularly messianic ones!   In order to understand Jung’s reticent attitude here, we must examine science itself, and the psychological need within the total mind that it fulfills.   

            In Jung’s case, we have a man who was conditioned to the requirement that life be stable, predictable, and sensible by his parents, particularly his minister father.    Yes, there is a “God”, but no, we do not see or interact with Him – apart from prayer, which is a one way solicitation – taking His existence and influence in human affairs on unsubstantiated Faith alone.   And, yes, there is a Soul, but this is also something that is still substantially undetectable in the human mind and awareness, although more immediately “present” than God, whom we must wait until death to meet, if even then.    Yes, there was a Christ, and yes He was the Son of God, but, no, He is no longer physically present among humans, and cannot be literally interacted with any more than God.   This was the literalism of Jung’s upbringing, and it was further enhanced by his German genetic background – a rock is a rock is a rock – and not the quality of “rockness” – the man was Karmically destined to become what he did, in fact, become – an evidence based, scientific, rational empiricist!    The fact that he chose to work in psychiatry was probably determined by the fact that it was a brand new medical field that promised to generate a substantial income over the rest of his life – more practical, rational decisions in evidence.   What this boils down to is this: certain people have a need for security in living that is fulfilled by science and the scientific method, and very little else, and Jung was just such a person.   How ironic that he found his way into the very profession that would confront his essential character so drastically! 

            The need for irrational investigation of phenomena can be responded to far more effectively by people who are fundamentally secure in their upbringing and subsequently less rigidly structured in their consciousness – those raised by loving, compassionate parents in relatively less structured, less disciplinary home environments.   These people tend to become artists, not scientists, and can accept the cognitive dissonance associated with the less-than-rational without so much psychological conflict and discomfort.   For such individuals, the phenomena of psychic experience, including psychological Ascension into Chakras Six and Seven, is much more cognitively acceptable – their tolerance of conditions lacking evidential support is much better than that of the scientist, who has no such tolerance at all.   Alas, we ultimately live in an existence where – modern science and all of its achievements notwithstanding – it is the mysteries that still bound human experience, not the certainties.    And Love, the Soul, the Self, extrasensory perception, and even compassion are all examples of such mysterious, impenetrable processes that exist beyond scientific measurement and quantification.    

            If we follow the Chakra system analogy, then the Self is most probably associated with Chakra Seven at the highest level of spiritual manifestation attainable to human perception.    This is the level of the Logoic Plane in the old Mystery Schools, and, although it is of great teleological interest, I am inclined to accept Jung’s position that, past the personal and acculturated symbols associated with the archetypes – even regarding the very fundamental archetypes such as the Shadow – little can be known with great definition or certainly.   The relatively complete lack of cognitive “focus” needed through meditation and related spiritual practices to contact these rarefied levels of perception does not allow mental clarity beyond the most tenuous limits – we can travel there only by relinquishing all of the personal psychological “baggage” that we have come to know as ourselves, flowing along in a stream of pure perception without conception.    This is where the Self is to be found, and it is no wonder that so few among us find it.   In all probability, it cannot even be clearly distinguished from the Soul, and Hindu literature, by way of an example here, frequently does not distinguish between the Jivatman (personal Soul), the Atman (collective Soul), the Godhead (Divine Trinity), and Brahman (the Unitary Essence of God), lumping them all together under the title of “Atman”.   Buddhist literature is even less specific, simply referring to “Blue Sky” consciousness, or Nirvana, as the experience of the Divine Aspect being, and Satori as the meditative attainment of that aspect.   Yes, there is something present at the absolute core of the total mind, driving it into existence, and, yes, this state of being can be experienced through alternative consciousness techniques, but, no, it is not subject to any form of rational, scientific classification thereafter, remaining a mystery.   

            This is why Jung would continence no more than the term “Self” with reference to this phenomenon, because no more can be said about it in intelligent discourse.   Now, certainly the Freudian libido is, in all probability, an aspect of the Self acting as a psychological force in the total mind, and the Chakras describe the perceptual pathways and way-stations that the libido can take as it progresses through the total mind, and The Balance refers to those predictable, if temporary, stages of equilibrium that can be attained by the libido as it acts within and on consciousness, but little more can be stated with certainty.   We cannot even be certain of the directionality of the libido’s activity.   Does it move up through the Chakras, or down through the unconscious mind?   Does it move out into the further regions of the total mind, or in, to the depths of the subconscious, seeking the Self from which it originated?    Where is that Self?   Is it anywhere in particular, or everywhere in general?    Where do we go when we manage to perceive it – within or beyond the mind and body?    The wonder of these things is that the Sphere of the Psyche diagram was ever even developed at all in the face of these most inscrutable questions, but developed it was, and stands as the single best, most scientific depiction of the total mind available to this day.   

            And is the Relativity “Event Wave” universe of Einstein coexistent with the Newtonian universe we literally experience?    It all boils down to our observational perspective – if we focus intently on a phenomenon, we collapse it into a particle – a Newtonian quantum of perception.    If we simply flow along with the phenomenon in the stream of perception, it retains its original nature as a Relativity wave, and both are valid modes of experience useful in their respective realms of investigation.    However, science tells us that Einstein’s universe is the more fundamental of the two, and I believe this, based on my own personal observations of life – we live in a continuum of Event Waves the we observe (through the influence of the ego) into quanta of experience that we then assemble into an illusion of a three dimensional existence, because this is all that our senses can accomplish at this stage of our evolutionary development.   Those of us who have somehow intuitively sensed the vastness of the cosmos beyond this illusion, and learned how to look beyond the limitations of the lower mind by accessing the observational techniques of the higher mind, have done as much as can be done to live in the fullness of the real universe – the total mind emanating from the Self.    I believe that this total mind is the Relativity Event Matrix, and is an orderly, sentient condition – the Unified Field Theory that Einstein was developing at the time of his death – and an additional confirmation of Jung’s Theory of the Collective Unconscious as well.  

            All that remains to be done is collect more experimental verification of the existence and action of Events in the Unified Field, and we will know the Jungian Self thereby.   As this is being written, these experiments are under way at the CERN LHC complex outside of Geneva, Switzerland, in terms of the search for the existence of the Higgs Boson – the so-called “God Particle” that gives all others their characteristic of mass, i.e. physical existence in the Newtonian universe.   And an enormous leak emerging from the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico is continuing to belch forth hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil a day into that sea, largely unchecked at this time, in the most unprecedented ecological disaster of history – a man-made disaster caused by pure greed and carelessness on an oil drilling rig, nothing more.   It would appear that the final race deciding human destiny is on.  Perhaps we are not meant to know our God in this universe...                                                                                                                                    


                                                                               - With Love, Alan -

                                                             (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)


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