In the “Vedantic Self and the Jungian Psyche” Carol Whitfield attempts to integrate the Vedantic Self with Jungian Psychology. Even though I’ve only started reading this study, I’m already finding it very exciting. The two models come from very different cultures (modern Europe and ancient India) but it seems as if they are two halves of a whole.
To explain how I’ll start with a brief explanation of Jung’s concept of Self and the process of individuation. Then we’ll look at the Vedantic Self and process of awakening. Once both are laid out, I believe that the connection between the two will be quite clear.
In Jungian psychology, the Self is at once the center and the whole of the psyche (conscious and unconscious). Jung claims that the psyche is largely unconscious and that Ego-consciousness (or simply consciousness) arises out of the unconscious. The relationship of Ego to Self is that of moved to mover. In fact, the Self can be seen as the template for the Ego.
Through the process of individuation the Ego comes into a conscious relationship with the autonomous processes in the psyche, most importantly with the Self. As the Ego is confronted with the Self it must recognize the later’s superiority and accept its own secondary role in the psyche. The process of individuation is, and can only be, driven by the Self. According to Jung the urge for individuation, for greater wholeness, for becoming more conscious is a key feature of the self and a major drive in our lives.
According to Whitfield the Vedantic Self is “the non-dual substrate reality of all that exists.” Relative reality is likened to the waves in the ocean. The waves rise and fall but the water always remain, unchanged and unblemished. Since waves are in essence nothing but water, we cannot separate the two. Wave and water are not two distinct entities, they exist in a non-dual relationship.
Through the process of awakening in Vedanta we realize our own non-dual existence – that we are not separate from the Self just as waves are not separate from water:
“The Vedantic Self is, by nature, full and complete, being the source of the love one seeks throughout life. Self-ignorance causes the Self to be projected onto the world and then sought through various pursuits and accomplishments. Knowledge of the Self puts an end to this projection and allows the source of wholeness and love to become immediately available to the seeker as his or her own Self.”
The Jungian Self embodies the masculine drive to expand, this expansion being the process of individuation. The Vedantic self, on the other hand, represents the feminine aspects of fullness and connection. The process of awakening in Vedanta moves towards a realization of truth that was always there. Taken together, these two views represent two aspects of being human that are shared by all of us as well as a more integral path toward wholeness.