[Carl Jung on “The Ego as being the visibility of the Self.”]
We have a very difficult question by Dr. Harding-we are getting deeply into speculative metaphysics, “Last time you spoke of the ego as being the visibility of the self.”
Well-before going further-you remember that this is a psychological statement.
The psychological definition of “the self” is “the totality of the psychical processes,” whatever that means; at all events the sum total of the unconscious and the conscious contents and processes would be the psychological definition of “the self.”
Now of course, anybody is allowed to treat the idea of the self from the stand point of what one calls, in modern German philosophy, existential philosophy; that is, you can deal with it as being actually in existence instead of as a mere concept.
But in psychology the self is a scientific concept with no assumption as to its metaphysical existence.
We don’t deal with it as an existence and we don’t postulate an existence, but merely form a scientific psychological concept which expresses that totality, the nature of which we are ignorant of.
We know far too little about it because we have only a certain amount of knowledge of our conscious processes and contents and an exceedingly restricted knowledge of the unconscious processes-otherwise one would not call them unconscious.
So the unconscious is essentially unknown, and if a thing consists of a more or less known part and a more or less unknown part, its existence is surely a most obscure one.
Scientifically, then, one must be exceedingly careful in making assumptions about the nature of that mostly unknown quantity.
Of course you can speculate about it: you can assume, for instance, that the manifestations of that total psyche issue from a definite metaphysical existence.
That is a perfectly sound conclusion, but you must admit in that case that you are moving in the speculative sphere of metaphysics, that you are then thinking more or of that kind of thinking, it is psychological material which can be submitted to historical or philosophical or theological comparison.
But it is admittedly not a scientific statement.
We must be quite clear about this point before we discuss this very interesting question.
Now I will read the rest of the question.
“We think of the self as being a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is one and indivisible. Are we to think of the self as likewise one-the same in everyone? When, for instance, we dimly see the likeness of the self in certain people do we see the same thing in each, modified only by the ego development; or is it more likely that the self is different in different people? That, as it were, the Holy Spirit has been split up by coming into manifestation in time and space? You spoke of the self as being the nearest to us of the heavenly hierarchy which leads up to God, the Infinite and Infinitely Remote. Should we then think of each ‘self’ on the ascending planes as being more and more inclusive, more and more general, until, to use the Buddhist phrase, it reaches the selfhood of God, which must include all the ‘selves’ as manifested in different people?”
This is an entirely speculative question. In reference to the statement that we think of the self as being a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, I must say that I don’t dare to think like that; in thinking about the phenomenology of the self, I cannot recognize any trace or any quality in that manifestation which would justify me in assuming that there is anything behind it which I could designate as the Holy Spirit nothing that is a definite image of our Christian mythology, I mean.
Spirit is also a definite psychological phenomenon, or we would not have such a word to designate it.
So to arrive at an understanding of what the Holy Spirit psychologically consists of, we have to examine the phenomenology of what our language calls spirit, quite apart from
the concept of its holiness.
The spirit is a peculiar condition, or a quality, of psychological contents.
We have certain contents which derive from the data of our senses, from the material physical world, and over against those we have contents which we qualify as spiritual or belonging to the spirit.
Now, they are apparently of an immaterial origin, of an ideational or ideal origin that may derive from archetypes.
But the very nature of that spiritual origin is just as obscure to us as the so-called material origin.
We do not know what matter is: matter is the term for an idea used in physics which formulates the presumable nature of things; and so spirit is a peculiar quality or idea of something suspect, where the situation has a fascinating, numinous or tremendous character.
You know, Otto makes those three differentiations, numinosum, tremendum and fascinosum, as the three peculiar qualities of what one would call “holy,” “sacred,” “taboo,” or “mana.”‘
The mana concept is very useful because it contains all those aspects.
So when the immaterial nature of a psychological content has a mana quality, we would call it “holy,” and we would call that kind of form or quality a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
For instance, if an alchemist succeeded in having a wonderful vision in his retort, if a great enlightenment took place and he had the feeling that he was making progress in
his work, he would say it was the donum spiritus sancti, the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Because he was overwhelmed by the impression of an agency, a significance, a meaningfulness in what he was doing, he was forced to assume or recognize in it the work of the Holy Spirit.
So the Holy Spirit is a formulation of certain phenomena which have nothing to do with the self directly, though you may naturally connect the two and say that wherever the self manifests, you have the feeling of the holy presence, of the donum spiritus sancti.
In the Christian legend, for instance, we have evidence of such enlightenment; and that feeling of being redeemed, of conversion-the vision of Christ, for instance-can be explained as parts, or as manifestations, of the process of individuation, Christ being the symbol of the self.
The vision of Christ would be the perception of the self in a projected form naturally, and one could say this was at the same time a manifestation of the Holy Spirit inasmuch as it is an overwhelming spiritual experience.
The vision and understanding of the old Hermetic philosophers led to the idea of the circulus quadratus, the squared circle, and the marvelous Golden Flower of Chinese philosophy, and the philosophical gold, and the cube which is the philosopher’s stone all are similar symbols.”
These can be called symbols of individuation or of the self, and the finding of them, or their coming up, their self-revelation, appeared to the Hermetic philosophers as a donum spiritus sancti, the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Therefore they say that nobody can arrive at a solution of their art unless God assists, Deo adjuvante, or only per gratiamDei, through the grace of God. In that way you can unite the two things, but you could not say that the self is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, because, if I understand Dr. Harding rightly, that would mean that the Holy Ghost is prior to the self.
From the phenomenology of the symbols of the self we have no justification for that assumption; the only thing we can establish safely is that the empirical perception of the self-revelation has the character of a mana experience and therefore this could be called the Holy Spirit: there the two things come together.
Moreover one should not omit mentioning that the Christian dogma makes a very clear distinction between the aspect of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The latter is the divine breath and not a person.
It is the life breath that flows from the Father into the Son.
You see, spirit to me is not an experience which I could substantiate in any way; it is a quality, like matter.
Matter is a quality of an existence which is absolutely psychical.
For our only reality is psyche, there is no other reality; all we say of other realities are attributes of psychological contents.
Now, Dr. Harding says the Holy Spirit is one and indivisible; yet it is part of the Trinity and thus only One inasmuch as it is God.
The self, on the other hand, is per definitionem really one and indivisible; therefore, it is called historically “the Monad” and is therefore like Christ, the Monogenes the Unigenitus, etc.
It is one by definition because we call the totality of the psychological or psychical events “the self” and that must necessarily be one.
Also the concept of energy is one by definition because you cannot say there are many different energies; there are many different powers but only one energy.
So the idea of the self includes the idea of oneness because the sum of many things must be one.
But it consists of many units: the actual empirical phenomenology of the self consists of a heap of innumerable units, some of which we call hereditary, the Mendelian units.
Now, as the self is one in every individual, we are more or less led to the question, whether that self is perhaps also one in several or many individuals, in other words that the same self that manifests in one individual could manifest in quite a number of individuals.
You see, that question is empirically possible because of the existence of the collective unconscious which is not an individual acquisition.
It has an a priori existence; we are born with the collective unconscious, in the collective unconscious. It is prior to any conscious function in man.
Moreover it has peculiar qualities which we have often mentioned, the telepathic collective unconscious the more you are undivided from other individuals.
The oneness of the collective unconscious is the reason of participation mystique; primitives live in a peculiar oneness of psychical functioning.
They are like fishes in one and the same pond-as we also are to a remarkable degree.
We have of course thousands of facts to prove that sameness, but the telepathic phenomena in particular prove an extraordinary relativity of space and-almost more interesting-of time.
You see, you can say about the phenomena of space, “Oh well, these things were coexistent.
The radio now teaches us that we can hear somebody speaking in Shanghai at this moment with no trouble; and if that is physically possible, it might be psychically possible just as well.”
But that you should today hear somebody talking, not in Shanghai but here in Zurich in the year 1980, is unheard of because there is no coexistence.
Of course, such things don’t happen and if anybody says they do we would say that he suffered from hallucinations.
But there is such a thing as prevision in time.
Things can be more or less accurately foreseen; and if that is possible it means a relativity of time, so there would be a relativity of time as well as of space.
These doubts are not exactly my own: modern physicists have their notions in that respect and are just about to discover these peculiar psychological facts, which are so impressive that I always say that our psyche is an existence that is only to a certain extent included in the categories of time and space.
It is partly outside, or it could not have perceptions of non-space and non-time.
Now, if it is true that our time and space are relative, then the psyche, being capable of manifesting beyond time and space-at least its part in the collective unconscious is
beyond individual isolation; and if that is the case, more than one individual could be contained in that same self.
Then it would be like this very simple example which I often use: Suppose our space were two-dimensional, flat like this table.
Now if I rest the five fingers of my hand on this flat surface, it appears as only five finger tips.
They are quite separate, simply spots on the plane of the two-dimensional space, so you can say they are all isolated and have nothing to do with each other.
But erect a vertical upon your two-dimensional space, and up in the third dimension you will discover that those are simply the fingers of a hand which is one, but which manifests as five.
You see, it is quite possible that our collective unconscious is just the evidence for the transcendent oneness of the self; since we know that the collective unconscious exists over an extraordinary area, covering practically the whole of humanity, we could call it the self of humanity.
It is one and the same thing everywhere and we are included in it.
Then we have dreams and the material of the unconscious in general, as well as the results of active imagination, give a certain amount of evidence for the fact that the self can contain several individuals; also that there is not only one self empirically but many selves, to an indefinite extent.
For instance, those old hierarchies like the one of Dionysius the Areopagite, father of scholastic philosophy, or the ideas of the Gnostics, or of Paul, all point to the same idea: namely, that the world has a peculiar hierarchic structure, that different groups of people are presided over, as it were, by one angel, and that those angels are again in groups and presided over by archangels-and so on, up to the throne of God.
You find such representations quite often in the Middle Ages where the heavenly hierarchies were represented even in the form of mandalas.
Now, these are simply self-representations of the unconscious structure, and inasmuch as we attribute existence to these things, we are allowed to speculate about them, say in the form of the Christian or the Gnostic ideas.
One finds the same thing in India, an absolute consensus gentium, only there the thinking goes the other way round: instead of starting from the isolated empirical fact, it always starts from the abstract metaphysical unit.
They start from the idea of the one indivisible being that splits up into the millions of forms of Maya, but it is of course the same whether you consider it from this end or that.
There are very interesting definitions: The Hiranyagarbha, the golden germ or the golden child, is the first germ of the manifesting Brahman, and Hiranyagarbha is defined as the accumulated collective soul that includes all individual souls.
It is the self of selves of selves of selves.
Hiranyagarbha is the absolute equivalent of the philosophic egg, or the philosopher’s stone, or the circulus quadratus, or the Golden Flower.
It is not the result of something but the beginning of everything, the one mind that starts all other minds.
So, as Dr. Harding says, one can use the Buddhistic phrase: Hiranyagarbha is the selfhood of God.
The self then becomes simply a designation or the specification for the appearance or existence, because a thing that has no appearance whatever has no existence.
Existence can only be inasmuch as it is specific.
Therefore, inasmuch as Brahman comes into existence out of his latent potentiality, he becomes Hiranyagarbha, the golden germ, the stone, or the egg, or the first shoot, or the first lightning. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 783-788.