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The Jungian Myth and Advaita Vedanta

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Back of the Book The Vedantic myth differs from the Jungian myth in that there is a point of completion, or a winning of the game, which is not true in Jung’s conception. For Jung, the process of individuation is an ongoing process which is never completed. The Vedantin would look at Jung’s process of individuation differently, in reference to the meaning of life. The nature of the Self revealed in the Upanisads is limitless, non-dual, and whole. Liberation is knowledge o...
Back of the Book

The Vedantic myth differs from the Jungian myth in that there is a point of completion, or a winning of the game, which is not true in Jung’s conception. For Jung, the process of individuation is an ongoing process which is never completed.

The Vedantin would look at Jung’s process of individuation differently, in reference to the meaning of life. The nature of the Self revealed in the Upanisads is limitless, non-dual, and whole. Liberation is knowledge of this Self which equates to the attainment of wholeness, the apparent lack of wholeness being due only to Self-Ignorance. Self-Knowledge is the recognition and differentiation of an already existent wholeness which is both transcendent and imminent to all of one’s perceptions.



"Carl Jung brings to psychology an understanding of the religious dimension of the psyche as well as helpful methods for coming into a healthy relationship with the unconscious. These methods can be helpful for students of Vedanta who are seeking to gain a mature and objective relationship with the psyche and all of its vagaries.

Vedanta, brings to lung an understanding of the Vedantic vision of the Self, which extends his psychological understanding of the psyche to include the Self as revealed in the Upanisads. Even though Jung did not understand the Vedantic Self, still, many of his insights verge on that understanding as has been clearly elaborated in this study.

Carol Whitfield, who has studied Advaita Vedanta under my guidance and who is also a student of Jungian psychology, has been able to clearly explain and integrate both of them in a way that is useful to a spiritual seeker. This is an important topic to be understood by every spiritual seeker who needs to resolve the confusion between psychological experience and self-knowledge, to recognise the self as the changeless presence pervasive to every experience, pleasurable and painful alike.

I am very happy that Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust is bringing out this book. It was originally written by Dr. Whitfield as her Ph.D. dissertation in 1992. Though the text has been available to us for many years in an unpublished format, we would like to make it available, now, to a wider audience.”



As the intellectual dialogue between the East and the West increases, there is a growing attempt among Western scholars to synthesize Eastern and Western psychologies, spiritual techniques, and philosophies. 1 This work places itself amidst this scholarship in its attempt to construct a synthesis of the Jungian myth and Advaita Vedanta.

Preliminary assumptions

This study does not attempt to define or discuss basic Jungian categories and concepts, since there are many good works in which this task is accomplished. I would recommend the following four texts for this purpose. First, Jung's own autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, will give the reader a personal relationship with Jung and also a context in which to place the development of his ideas. At the end of Memories, Dreams, Reflections is a glossary of Jungian terminology. If the reader is not familiar with Jungian terms such as anima, animus, collective unconscious, ego, individuation, Self, and shadow, to name a few, this glossary is most useful. The second suggested text is CG. Jung, by Elie Humbert. There are many other good introductory texts, but this text I find myself frequently rereading, which speaks to its unique value and usefulness. The third text is Jung's Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Volume 7 of the Collected Works. It is an excellent introductory text to Jung's work because, in this text, Jung does not assume that the reader is already familiar with his ideas. The fourth text is Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger. I have relied heavily on the work of Edward Edinger for understanding Jung's religious orientation. Ego and Archetype is an excellent introduction to this aspect of Jung's work. These four texts will form an adequate basis for the reader to understand the Jungian myth with which this work is primarily concerned.

Whereas most scholars are familiar with basic Jungian concepts, very few scholars have even the most cursory exposure to Advaita Vedanta as it is traditionally taught in India. Unlike for the work of Jung, very few reliable expositions on Advaita Vedanta are available -in the English language. English translations of Vedantic texts are available, but are very difficult to understand because the Sanskrit language uses a wealth of terms for which we have no comparable concepts. Also, Vedantic texts are extremely terse, for they are meant to be elaborated upon by a teacher who has been instructed in the teaching methodology. For this reason, several chapters will be devoted to explaining the fundamental concepts of Advaita Vedanta, whereas basic knowledge of Jungian concepts will be assumed.

The Jungian Myth

In Answer to Job, written in 1952, Jung gives a psychological interpretation of the Christian myth, tracing the transformation of the Western God-image, beginning with Yahweh at the time of Job, through to the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary, which was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII in November of 1950. In this work, Jung interprets the Christian myth as a collective expression of the individuation process as it unfolds in an individual psyche. Jung was impelled to understand the Christian myth in such a way that he could re-invoke in himself a living relationship with God. Jung believed that the Christian myth accurately portrays one's direct and experiential relationship with the God-image, when it is interpreted in terms of realities and relationships within the psyche. For many people, including Jung, such a revelation has succeeded in bringing the life breath back into the Christian myth by transforming its meaning into an experiential inner reality.

Jung's psychology is an empirically based, descriptive psychology of the human psyche. His discoveries and conclusions result from personal explorations of his own psyche and that of his analysands. These explorations, to the extent that they are empirically verifiable, cannot be negated by science as the uninformed beliefs of a less enlightened era. At the same time, Jung's discoveries tread upon religious ground. He discovered that the ego- is related to a supraordinate organizing principle of the psyche, which he called the Self. This led Jung into an essentially religious psychology because his primary concern became the ego's relationship to the Self and he could not differentiate the Self from the God-image in the psyche. Jung says:

The symbols of divinity coincide with those of the self: what, on the one side, appears as a psychological experience signifying psychic wholeness, expresses on the other side the idea of God. This is not to assert a metaphysical identity of the two, but merely the empirical identity of the images representing them, which all originate in the human psyche ... What the metaphysical conditions are for the similarity of the images is, like everything transcendental, beyond human knowledge.

Jung believed that one's individual destiny is guided by the Self which can corne into consciousness only through the ego. It is the task of the ego to corne to terms with the will of the Self, or, to use religious language, with the will of God. The corning into consciousness of the Self is what Jung calls the process of individuation.

Jung asserts that both God and Self are realities which lie beyond our empirical means of knowledge and can only be known through their manifestations in consciousness. Jung says:

I have suggested calling the total personality which, though present, cannot be fully known, the self. The ego is, by definition, subordinate to the self and is related to it like a part to the whole. Inside the field of consciousness it has, as we say, free will. By this I do not mean anything philosophical, only the well-known psychological fact of "free choice," or rather the subjective feeling of freedom. But, just as our free will clashes with necessity in the outside world, so also it finds its limits outside the field of consciousness in the subjective inner world, where it comes into conflict with the facts of the self. And just as circumstances or outside events "happen" to us and limit our freedom, so the self acts upon the ego like an objective occurrence which free will can do very little to alter. It is, indeed, well known that the ego not only can do nothing against the self, but is sometimes actually assimilated by unconscious components of the personality that are in the process of development and is greatly altered by them."

The ego is born of the Self, exists in the Self, and, Jung suspects, resolves into the Self upon death. This being the case, the entire life of the ego can be seen in terms of its relationship to the Self. Edward Edinger, in his book, Ego and Archetype, says of this relationship that,

since there are two autonomous centers of psychic being, the relation between the two centers becomes vitally important. The ego's relation to the Self is a highly problematic one and corresponds very closely to man's relation to his Creator as depicted in religious myth. Indeed the myth can be seen as a symbolic expression of the ego-Self relationship. Many of the vicissitudes of psychological development can be understood in terms of the changing relation between ego and Self at various stages of psychic growth.5

The ego and the Self are the primary components of the psyche and their relationship to each other, therefore, defines the quality of one's life. If the ego is dissociated from the Self, it will experience isolation and meaninglessness. If it is in relation with the Self in an unhealthy way, then it will suffer the consequences of that ill-health. The ego's relation to the Self makes up the myth of meaning in which a person lives.

The psyche has an archetypal need for a god and cannot brook its absence. If necessary, the psyche will create gods out of secular idols for the ego must be contained in and related to something greater than itself in order for it to be healthy.

Since the scientific revolution, the West has been in a period of great transition, wherein its Christian God-image has been continuously undermined by the advances of science, resulting finally in the absence of a collective containing myth. We are, as Edward Edinger has stated, like fish who have been thrown onto the sand, looking back at what once contained us, uncertain now whether we can survive in this new atmosphere." The majority of us have lost contact with our God-image and are desperately thrashing around on the sand waiting for God to reveal Himself to us again.

Some scholars, such as Edward Edinger, see Jung as an epochal man through whom the new God-image and our relationship to it has been revealed. Edinger notes that,

just as Jung's discovery of his own mythlessness paralleled the mythless condition of modern society, so Jung's discovery of his own individual myth will prove to be the first emergence of our new collective myth. In fact, it is my conviction that as we gain historical perspective it will become evident that Jung is an epochal man. I mean by this a man whose life inaugurates a new age in cultural history.

Only time will tell whether Jung has really been the one chosen to pour the myth of the previous age into a new mold which can adequately contain the collective psyche of the new age. Certainly, we cannot deny the momentous impact of Jung's discoveries if we accept that the religious symbols of the Christian myth are archetypal images generated from the deepest level of the collective unconscious and portray, in the mythological language of the psyche, the ego's relation to the Self which is indistinguishable from God. This insight re-established for Jung and many others a living relationship with the Christian God-image by recasting the "the divine drama" 8 of the Western God-image into a psychological reality. His work mediates and resolves the disparities between Christian dogmas and science, breathing life back into a myth which has been systematically stripped of its reality since the Enlightenment.

As mentioned earlier, the divine drama as chronicled in Answer to Tob, ends with the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in 1950. According to Jung, the Assumption marked the inclusion of the feminine into the Western God-image, transforming the masculine trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, into a quaternity. Jung asserts that the inclusion of the feminine principle completes the God-image, for it now contains within it the polar opposites of which male and female are representative. The transformation of the God-image into a quaternity brings us very close to the God-image of the Hindu Upanisads. This transformation of the God-image into a quatemity together with a psychological approach to the ego's relationship to God forms a bridge to the Upanisadic wisdom of Advaita Vedanta. One important premise of this work is that Advaita Vedanta contains the knowledge which is the task of our new myth to realize.




  Foreword vii
  Acknowledgements ix
  Key to Transliteration xi
  Preliminary Assumptions 1
  The Jungian Myth 3
  The Vision of Advaita Vedanta 11
  The Need for a Synthesis 17
  A Chapter Outline 25
  Chapter 1  
  The Need for a New Myth 27
  The Loss of our Containing Myth and the Death of God 31
  The Archetypal Need for God 41
  Chapter 2  
  The Jungian Myth 49
  The New Myth Must Reconcile Science and Religion 49
  Jung felt that the New Myth would be based on Christianity 60
  The Epistemological Limits of our Knowledge 80
  The Psyche’s Need to Know its Origins 87
  The New Myth According to Jung 91
  The Transformation of the God Image 127
  The Assumption of Mary 136
  The Bridge to the East 139
  Chapter 3  
  The Vedantic Vision and Jung 142
  Jung, Vedanta, and the East 142
  The Vedantic Myth 148
  The Vedantic Vision of the Self 162
  The Jungian Self 176
  The Vedantic Self was not Understood by Jung 184
  The Vedantic Teaching Methodology 187
  Discriminating the Seer from the Seen (drgdrsyaviveka) 193
  The Apparent Nature of the World 200
  The Nature of God 206
  The Identity 207
  The Jiva, Isvara, and the Collective Unconscious 210
  Chapter 4  
  The Western Way to Wisdom 228
  Jung’s Fear of Following the Eastern Way to Wisdom 228
  The Problem of Self-Ignorance 236
  The Attainment of Self-Knowledge 242
  The Qualified Student 245
  Self-Knowledge in Reference to One’s Actions 257
  Limitations of Vedanta Sadhanas for the Western Psyche 259
  Facing the Shadow 267
  The Nature of Good and Evil 283
  Chapter 5  
  Conclusion 292
  Bibliography 300


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Item Code: IHL552 Author: Dr Carol Whitfield Cover: Paperback Edition: 2009 Publisher: Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust ISBN: 9789380049052 Language: English Size: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch Pages: 326 Other Details: weight of book 367 gms
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