[Carl Jung on “Self” “Soul” and “Soul Image”]


The archetype of wholeness and the regulating center of the psyche; a transpersonal power that transcends the ego.
As an empirical concept, the self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in man. It expresses the unity of the personality as a whole. But in so far as the total personality, on account of its unconscious component, can be only in part conscious, the concept of the self is, in part, only potentially empirical and is to that extent a postulate. In other words, it encompasses both the experienceable and the inexperienceable (or the not yet experienced). . . . It is a transcendental concept, for it presupposes the existence of unconscious factors on empirical grounds and thus characterizes an entity that can be described only in part.[“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 789.]

The self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness. [“Introduction,” CW 12, par. 44.]

Like any archetype, the essential nature of the self is unknowable, but its manifestations are the content of myth and legend.

The self appears in dreams, myths, and fairytales in the figure of the “supraordinate personality,” such as a king, hero, prophet, saviour, etc., or in the form of a totality symbol, such as the circle, square, quadratura circuli, cross, etc. When it represents a complexio oppositorum, a union of opposites, it can also appear as a united duality, in the form, for instance, of tao as the interplay of yang and yin, or of the hostile brothers, or of the hero and his adversary (arch-enemy, dragon), Faust and Mephistopheles, etc. Empirically, therefore, the self appears as a play of light and shadow, although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united.[“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 790.]

The realization of the self as an autonomous psychic factor is often stimulated by the irruption of unconscious contents over which the ego has no control. This can result in neurosis and a subsequent renewal of the personality, or in an inflated identification with the greater power.

The ego cannot help discovering that the afflux of unconscious contents has vitalized the personality, enriched it and created a figure that somehow dwarfs the ego in scope and intensity. . . . Naturally, in these circumstances there is the greatest temptation simply to follow the power-instinct and to identify the ego with the self outright, in order to keep up the illusion of the ego’s mastery. . . . [But] the self has a functional meaning only when it can act compensatorily to ego-consciousness. If the ego is dissolved in identification with the self, it gives rise to a sort of nebulous superman with a puffed-up ego.[“On the Nature of the Psyche,” CW 8, par. 430.]

Experiences of the self possess a numinosity characteristic of religious revelations. Hence Jung believed there was no essential difference between the self as an experiential, psychological reality and the traditional concept of a supreme deity.

It might equally be called the “God within us.”[“The Mana-Personality,” CW 7, par. 399.


A functional complex in the psyche. (See also Eros, Logos and soul-image.)
While Jung often used the word soul in its traditional theological sense, he strictly limited its psychological meaning.

I have been compelled, in my investigations into the structure of the unconscious, to make a conceptual distinction between soul and psyche. By psyche I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious. By soul, on the other hand, I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a “personality.” [“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 797]

With this understanding, Jung outlined partial manifestations of the soul in terms of anima/animus and persona. In his later writing on the transference, informed by his study of the alchemical opus-which Jung understood as psychologically analogous to the individuation process–he was more specific.

The “soul” which accrues to ego-consciousness during the opus has a feminine character in the man and a masculine character in a woman. His anima wants to reconcile and unite; her animus tries to discern and discriminate.[“The Psychology of the Transference,” CW 16, par. 522.]


The representation, in dreams or other products of the unconscious, of the inner personality, usually contrasexual. (See also anima and animus.)
Wherever an impassioned, almost magical, relationship exists between the sexes, it is invariably a question of a projected soul-image. Since these relationships are very common, the soul must be unconscious just as frequently.[“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 809.]

The soul-image is a specific archetypal image produced by the unconscious, commonly experienced in projection onto a person of the opposite sex.

For an idealistic woman, a depraved man is often the bearer of the soul-image; hence the “saviour-fantasy” so frequent in such cases. The same thing happens with men, when the prostitute is surrounded with the halo of a soul crying for succour.[Ibid., par. 811.]

Where consciousness itself is identified with the soul, the soul-image is more likely to be an aspect of the persona.

In that event, the persona, being unconscious, will be projected on a person of the same sex, thus providing a foundation for many cases of open or latent homosexuality, and of father-transferences in men or mother-transferences in women. In such cases there is always a defective adaptation to external reality and a lack of relatedness, because identification with the soul produces an attitude predominantly oriented to the perception of inner processes.[Ibid., par. 809.]

Many relationships begin and initially thrive on the basis of projected soul-images. Inherently symbiotic, they often end badly.