In this post I will ground the Star Woman in Jungian psychology as a guiding archetype for the Aquarian Age.
There are eight critical archetypes in Jung’s individuation process. Four are part of the personal world (microcosm / earth) and four are part of the collective world (macrocosm / heaven).
The four personal archetypes are: persona, ego, shadow and the trickster. The four collective archetypes: are animus (or anima for men), Self, serpent, and Sophia. (If you click on the figure it gets bigger.)
The Personal Archetypes
The persona is the face we show to the world; it can also be understood as the roles we play in society. The ego is our identity/personality, the “I” that we think we are. The shadow, is our alter-personality; it is composed of all that we think we are not. The trickster is the first inner male character a woman meets on her individuation journey. Previously Jungians have simply classified this figure as the animus in compliment to the man’s anima. However, in my research by female authors, e.g. Helen Luke, and my personal experience, a woman meets the trickster first. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women who Run with the Wolves names the trickster the predator in her second chapter. This character appears to initiate women into her inner creative world and higher levels of consciousness. (I will write more about the trickster in another blog post.)
The Collective Archetypes
The Self represents heaven, and the serpent represents earth. They are the first opposites created, light and dark, spirit and matter, etc. The animus is the women’s inner world personality, and Sophia (Star Woman) is the personality of the higher self of the earthly collective.
Most spiritual traditions regard ascension (serpent to Self/God) as the very essence of the soul’s journey. This is why I, tongue in check, call Jung’s individuation process the resurrection of the serpent in alignment with Gnostic beliefs. The spiritual and collective evolutionary task presenting earthlings at this time is to sacrifice the hubristic ego to the guidance of the Star Woman.
I could write a book on these first few paragraphs. (Oh yeah, I did! It’s called my dissertation.) Many volumes have been written about the archetypes of Jung’s individuation process, one of my favorites is Murray Stein’s Jung’s Map of the Soul. This blog post is only about one of these archetypes — Sophia/The Star Woman.
Why the Tarot
Before I launch into explaining the Star Woman, many may be wondering why the Tarot? In fact, Jung was interested in several divination practices like the I Ching and the Tarot. Both of these systems are signposts for one’s individuation journey. The I Ching also known as the Book of Changes documents 64 different changes in the cycle of life. The Tarot documents 22 stations the fool makes on his way to universal consciousness. I have in a previous post been discussing earth’s individuation from the Tower card to the Star card in the Tarot.
I said all this to put the Star Woman in context so that I could say a few words about her importance in the Aquarian age, the entering millennium.
The Star cards in the Tarot
The card on the left is from Aliester Crowley’s Thoth deck; and the card on the right is from the very popular Rider Waite deck. It is not my intention to talk about the differences, however, the guiding card for me is the card on the left, Lady Freida Harris’ surrealist’s depiction of the Star Woman for our times.
A woman, naked and kneeling on her left knee, pours from a vase in her right hand silver waters into a river, by which grow roses, the haunts of coloured butterflies. With her left hand, she pours golden waters over her head, which are lost in her long hair. Her attitude suggests the Swastika. Above flames a great star of seven rays. (Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot: An Authoritative Examination of the World’s Most Fascinating and Magical Tarot Card by Lon Milo DuQuette, p. 143)
The Star Woman as Guide for our Chaotic Times
The Star Woman is the medium connecting the collective with the personal, heaven with earth. “She is concerned with both, and through her ministrations the two interact creatively” (Nichols, p. 295). This is a critical statement because it puts earth and heaven on equal footing. This brings to mind Jung’s essay called “Answer to Job,” where he posits the necessary incarnation of Jesus Christ to learn what man knows that god does not. The ancient Emerald Tablet, the touchstone of alchemical texts and Egyptian/Hermetic philosophy, states “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing.” In this statement we see, again, the mutuality of heaven (Above) and earth (Below) in the creation of the Unus Mundi (One Thing). (Let me note here that Jung’s work on the Anima Mundi, the soul of the world, is the Star Woman.)
Personally, this means your inner soul figure (animus for women) mediates between the Star Woman and your ego.
The Aquarian age is a time when the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is very thin giving anyone and everyone access to their higher psychic faculties. This is the goal of Jungian psychology. “Jung contends that man’s salvation lies within the depths of his psyche, and that each of us must labor in his own individual way to discover and free the golden essence which lies buried within our psycho-physical nature” *Nichols, p. 297).
From where I sit it looks like we are being prepared for another war in the Middle East which has the potential to irrupt into World War 3 with Russia. This may be the final fall of the old structures represented by the Tower card in the Tarot. While the desert religions believe this is the harbinger for their Messiah(s), I believe, as Jung did and many post-religious people do, that the savior is within.
I’ve been asked many times about the differences between what Carl Jung taught and the lessons in Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge. So I thought I would get out a quick blog post explaining the differences as I see it.
Perhaps the most important difference concerns the development of ego in the west as rugged individual versus in the east as one part of a greater whole, be it family, society, or universe.
This difference is why Jung said almost a century ago that westerners cannot slap eastern spirituality on top of a western ego and expect enlightenment.
I make a strong distinction in my teachings about the ego and the soul as two distinct and different entities in the psyche. (See previous blog post about Ego and Soul.)
In the east transcending the ego is part and parcel of their cultural development; in the west we are our egos. Therefore, it makes sense to heal the ego and bring it into relationship with our souls; this is the path of Jungian individuation. As earthlings we need both, ego which is responsible for our physical being and soul which is responsible for our spiritual being.
In Jungian circles we call this dialectic relationship the ego-soul axis. Everything Chopra is talking about refers to the soul part of this equation.
As I’m sure you have experienced in your meditation ego is bouncing around all over the place with plans for the future, or ruminating on past events. Your experience of the eternal soul and its connection to Source occurs in those fleeting spaces between ego’s obsessions.
Meditation is a practice to increase the spaces in your psyche where soul can enter your life.
There is one last distinction between Jungian thought and Chopra’s teachings related to Source. In Jungian Psychology the Self or Source has intentions for our soul on earth which becomes our purpose in life to fulfill. Chopra’s teachings has ego intentions asking Source for fulfillment. I believe the truth lies between these two extremes. We have a distinct purpose to fulfill on earth, and if our intentions align with this purpose then Source will fulfill wishes.
In this chapter (chapter two) Kornfield likens the war in our head between all the ego voices to the wars in the world. He suggests the way to have peace in the world is to stop the war inside. He suggests that adapting to our society leads one into denial and addiction saying
We use addictions to support out denials.
To wake up to these voices can be overwhelming and depressing, but if you persist you will eventually find peace inside. The most important thing to remember when you begin to pay attention to the voices inside is to simply notice without judging. It’s important to NOTstart a war with these voices for that only exacerbates the war.
In Jungian terms the process of paying attention and accepting “what is” is called taking back one’s shadow because what gets denied gets repressed into our unconscious. It distorts reality. So to take back one’s shadow is to see wholly.
Another important point in this process of “stopping the war” is to NOT identify with the voices. You are the observer of the voices; that is your true self. The voices have created the false self or what Jung called the persona.
Here is the audio portion for chapter two.
In the next several blog posts I am adding an audio note. My intention is to take you through a book I consider to be fundamental to spiritual development. Each blog post will cover one chapter in the journey. I encourage you to read or re-read my blog post called Reading with Soul in Mind before getting started with this series of blog lessons.
The first book in this series of In Depth with DR BREN: Lessons from her Soul Journey is Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life. I chose this book because it teaches the fundamentals of getting to know oneself, both ego and soul.
This first audio blog post is on Chapter One: Did I Love Well?
How to recognize a midlife crisis?
- You have the desire to start over.
- Your marriage is stale.
- Your career is less than adequate.
- Your life seems rudderless.
- You feel more impulsive than ever.
- You just bought a brand new red convertible.
The midlife crisis has less to do with the passage of time than it has to do with psychological experience. That is, the ego achievements of the first half of life have been accomplished: you have a wife/husband, children, pets, home, career, car, Ipad, etc. But what you don’t have is happiness. It is at this specific moment in your life that you begin to wonder about your legacy – what impact will you have on the world?
The midlife crisis is a wakeup call sent from your alienated soul. The first half of life is the domain of ego. Childhood patterns developed to protect the ego unconsciously run your life. Up until now you have been living what I would call a societal egoic life. The rules and roles that run your life, unconsciously, are not your own. To say to someone — you are a chip off the old block — is very true. Until you consciously choose the values, roles, and rules you will live by, you are simply a chip off the old societal block. Who you think you are is what Jung called the persona, the mask you show the world. Midlife is the time to emerge as a unique individual soul.
It could be said that acting out the midlife crisis — having the affair, changing careers, buying the red convertible — is a defense against the reality of death. Said differently, the existential task of midlife is to make sense of your life before you die. This means a transfer of power from the unconscious ego, to the conscious soul. Death is a reality that is easy to deny in the first part of life, but cannot be denied in the second part of life, although there are huge industries — plastic surgery for one — built around helping you continue to deny death. That aside, death creeps in with every wrinkle, every gray hair, the flabby belly, the hormonal changes, and aging children.
So what is the cure for the midlife crisis?
The consciousness I am referring to is a state of being. It is not your identity (social persona); it is not your ego-consciousness; it is not your shadow (the part of your self you deny and repress). It is your ever-present self-awareness. Ego is focused on objects, obsessed with the past and the future, and leary of the present moment. Soul, on the other hand, is eternally present, alive and moving towards wholeness — its evolutionary purpose. Ego speaks in language; Soul speaks in symbols. Ego’s purpose is to protect the self from harm, and propagate the species. Soul’s purpose is to create, to love and move towards wholeness.
Jung outlined several steps in the project of one’s soul journey, a process he named individuation. They are:
- Encounter with the Shadow
- Encounter with your Soul-Image
- Encounter with your God-Image
- Emergence of the Self
I will talk more about these stages of individuation in another post. For now here is James Hollis, the author of The Middle Passage, identifying the end of the midlife crisis:
We know we have survived the midlife crisis when we no longer cling to who we were, no longer seek fame or fortune or the appearance of youth. The sense of life as a slow taking away, the inexorable exeperience of irreplaceable loss, is transformed by relinguishing the old ego attachments and affirming one’s deepening descent into the mystery. (Hollis, 1993, p. 113)
Carl Jung lists nine occasions for successful termination of analysis in the (1953/1968) “Introduction to the Religious and Psychological Problems of Alchemy.” However he says, “there is a relatively large number of patients for whom the outward termination of work with the doctor is far from the end of the analytical process” (p. 4). It was in his investigation of these cases that continued the conscious-unconscious dialectical relationship after termination that his “belief that there is in the psyche a process that seeks its own goal independently of external factors” (p. 5) was confirmed. According to Jung the unconscious in these individuals was aiming towards wholeness with a religious fervor. This took the work further than a purely medical consideration into the realm of religion and alchemy.
Jung took up the task of resurrecting the soul of the European Christians seeking wholeness from the superficialities presented in the current expression of Christianity. While he did not blame Christianity he saw the veneration of the object of Christ as that which prevents the Christian from “reaching down into the depths of the psyche and giving … a wholeness. … the divine mediator stands outside as an image, while man remains fragmentary and untouched in the deepest part of him” (p. 7). By separating man from Christ with dead symbols and rituals Christianity has perpetuated the neurosis he sought to cure.
Jung recognized the difference between Western and Eastern religions were their object focus. While the Western man was focused on the external objects leaving his living soul unacknowledged, the Eastern man was focused on the internal objects of his soul often leaving the external world devoid of spiritual meaning. Jung names the differences between the Western and Eastern man.
Western man is held in the thrall by the “ten thousand things”; he sees only particulars, he is ego-bound and thing-bound, and unaware of the deep root of all being. Eastern man, on the other hand, experiences the world of particulars, and even his own ego, like a dream; he is rooted essentially in the “Ground,” which attracts him so powerfully that his relations with the world are relativized to a degree that is often incomprehensible to us. The Western attitude, with its emphasis on the object, tends to fix the ideal – Christ – in its outward aspect and thus to rob it of its mysterious relation to the inner man. (p. 7-8)
In this distinction Jung saw the need for the Westerner to follow an introverted path like the Easterner toward the inner man. Furthermore Jung saw that the extraverted focus contributed to the void and the devaluation of the Westerner’s soul.
Christ the ideal took upon himself the sins of the world. But if the ideal is wholly outside then the sins of the individual are also outside, and consequently he is more of a fragment than ever, since superficial misunderstanding conveniently enables him, quite literally to “cast his sins upon Christ” and thus to evade his deepest responsibilities – which is contrary to the spirit of Christianity. Such formalism and laxity were not only one of the prime causes of the Reformation, they are also present within the body of Protestantism. If the supreme value (Christ) and the supreme negation (sin) are outside, then the soul is void: its highest and lowest are missing. The Eastern attitude (more particularly the Indian) is the other way about: everything, highest and lowest, is in the (transcendental) Subject. Accordingly, the significance of the Atman, the Self, is heightened beyond all bounds. But with Western man the value of the self sinks to zero. Hence the universal depreciation of the soul in the West. (p. 8)
Jung is not suggesting the European should starting meditating and seeking gurus in Indian. In fact, he was quite vociferous about the problems of slapping an Eastern religion on top of Western psychology. I suspect he was using the introverted attitude of the Easterner as a validation that religion is also (to say the least) a psychological problem. Jung knew he was impinging on the territory of the theologians; and he knew he would be discounted by his medically-oriented colleagues. Yet he felt it necessary to traverse these grounds exclaiming “A little more Meister Eckhart would be a very good thing sometimes” (pp. 9-10)!
Jung was fortunate to have the financial means and Freud’s shoulders to stand on allowing him to reach into the forbidden territory of religion. Jung could do nothing less than pursue wholeness albeit quite antithetical to the scientific inquiry which throws out what does not fit. His search for repeatable patterns, the way to give his work validity in the sciences, brought him face-to-face with world myths and religions where the repeatable themes were recognizable Jung warned that “an exclusively religious projection may rob the soul of its values so that through sheer inanition it becomes incapable of further development and gets stuck in an unconscious state” (p. 10). He finds it inconceivable that “soul” could be thought of as “nothing but” and psychology as some wholly-untouchable other separate from religion. Jung said,
Even the believing Christian does not know God’s hidden ways and must leave him to decide whether he will work on man from outside or from within, through the soul. So the believer should not boggle at the fact that there are somnia a Deo missa (dreams sent by God) and illuminations of the soul which cannot be traced back to any external causes. It would be blasphemy to assert that God can manifest himself everywhere save only in the human soul. Indeed the very intimacy of the relationship between God and the soul precludes from the start any devaluation of the latter. (pp. 10-11)
In this short statement Jung elevates the devalued soul to an intimate of God who might on occasion receive dreams and illuminations from God via the psyche. Jung even goes so far as to conjecture that “this correspondence [between God and the soul] is, in psychological terms, the archetype of the God-image” (p. 11). As an archetype this puts the material squarely in Jung’s psychological province. This completes his argument for rescuing the soul robbed of its nourishment by Christianity, trapped in the unconscious and unable to move towards wholeness which opened his inquiry into alchemy.
In the introduction to Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy he suggested that alchemy was
rather like an undercurrent to the Christianity that ruled on the surface. It is to this surface as the dream is to consciousness, and just as the dream compensates the conflicts of the conscious mind, so alchemy endeavours to fill in the gaps left open by the Christian tension of opposites. (1953/1968, p. 23) [CW 12, ¶26]
Jung saw alchemy compensating for the Church’s one-sided obsession with good to the exclusion of evil. He saw the executed (and externalized) symbols of Christianity come alive in the laboratories of alchemists. To Jung these ancient texts were a gold mine of symbols compensating, completing, and bringing the Christian consciousness to wholeness.
This was a time when the mind of the alchemist was still grappling with the problems of matter, when the exploring consciousness was confronted by the dark void of the unknown, in which figures and laws were dimly perceived and attributed to matter although they really belonged to the psyche. Everything unknown and empty is filled with psychological projection; it is as if the investigator’s own psychic background were mirrored in the darkness. What he sees in matter, or thinks he can see, is chiefly the data of his own unconscious which he is projecting into it. In other words, he encounters in matter, as apparently belonging to it, certain qualities and potential meanings of whose psychic nature he is entirely unconscious. (pp. 227-228)
To Jung the unconscious projection of the alchemist’s psychic content onto matter was a “Passion Play” of a different kind.
I’ve been meditating on Ken Wilber’s four quadrants and Jung’s model of psyche for years unable to reconcile the two, that is, until this morning when it occurred to me that I needed to separate Jung’s model of psyche into the inside and outside perspective of the upper left quadrant, the subjective quadrant (See Figure 1). The inside of the subjective accords with Jung’s idea of the soul, timeless and present. The outside of the subjective accords with the ego, embodied in time and space.
The core of the problem in reconciling the two models is that Jung’s model is topographical, a representation of the landscape of psyche at any point in time. Whereas, Wilber’s model is progressive, a representation of psyche in stages of development. The majority of Jung’s work dealt with bringing the ego into relationship with the self, or soul. So it makes good sense to break his model into two parts, one relating to the ego and the other relating to the soul or self.
Typically Jung’s model of the psyche is shown stacked with the lowest level being the collective unconscious and the highest level being consciousness. However, when I break Jung’s model into two parts it not only accords with Wilber’s work it begins to align with the bilobed brain (See Figure 2). The left hemisphere of the brain relates more to ego and the right hemisphere relates more to the soul.
In making this adjustment we see Jung’s concepts of persona and shadow as creations of a developing ego. Both of which are components of Jung’s personal unconscious. On the right side we see Jung’s concepts of Self and Anima/Animus as components of the collective unconscious in relations to the soul.
Why is it important to make these distinctions? Besides integrating Wilber’s great body of work with Jung’s, there is value in understanding the developmental stages of Jung’s concepts. What I mean to say is there are aspects of persona and shadow that relate directly to ego at specific stages of development. The persona we showed in 2nd grade is not the same persona we show as an adult. This applies to the shadow as well. In fact, all three concepts — ego, persona and shadow — relate to material world. Whereas, the three components of the collective unconscious — soul, Anima/Animus, and Self — relate to the spiritual world. The spiritual world is eternal in space where soul ascends states of consciousness to the highest step, the nondual. On the other hand, ego , trapped in the material world, is left to evolve in time through various levels of development.
Making these connections between the two models of psyche helps to reconcile Wilber’s idea of enlightenment and Jung’s idea of individuation. For Wilber enlightenment occurs for those who have mastered the highest level of development at this time and mastered the highest state of consciousness, the nondual. For Jung individuation occurs when one has mastered the personal unconscious and has ascended through the layers of the collective unconscious to the Self. There is an important distinction between the two. For Wilber enlightenment is I AM GOD. For Jung individuation is I AM IN RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. This is where Wilber’s idea of the 1st person and 2nd person perspective of God helps situate the two. Behind both the material world collapses.