Know Thy Self: The Eastern Traditional way and the way of Jung

When we are talking about individuation, whether the Eastern or Western view, we are talking about something we have experienced or can experience. It is the experience of Individuation which defines itself and not vice versa.

When we are talking about individuation, whether the Eastern or Western view, we are talking about something we have experienced or can experience. It is the experience of Individuation which defines itself and not vice versa.

A man from the East is fascinated by Jung because Jung in his own unique way found that there is a religious function in every man, that there is an inborn urge within each one of us to know who we are, to discover our undivided wholeness, Lastly, his discovery of the Collective Unconscious and the realm of archetypes opened the door for man in the West to enter the realm of the divine through experiencing them.

I do not make a distinction between the way of the guru and that of the Eastern tradition, since it is what I got from my guru, hence I use these terms alternately meaning the same thing.

Consciousness - East

It is important at the outset to understand two views of consciousness, Eastern and Western in order to avoid confusion. There is a vast difference in understanding of this concept, so it is well to clarify it at the out set.

Consciousness according to Eastern tradition is pure, whole and sacred. There is nothing outside of it. It is itself. The best way to understand it is to call it Zero or No-thing. It is void that is full. Zero is present in every number, but there is nothing in the Zero. It is all empty and full. There are moments when one has a glimpse of it. It is felt like a great movement but not motion. It is Self contained like an ocean. The ocean goes through its periodic high and low tide but does not exceed its bounds. Rivers go into a spate and over-flow, the ocean does not. One may hear the humming sound like when we are in space, a hum of a deep, deep kind as when we put a sea-shell near our ear. So, it is not merely a concept but an experience.

This consciousness is pure light. It illumines everything.

There is a stage in this pure consciousness when it desires to become many and make itself manifest. The inner urge, the creative moment within gets concentrated like a point and unfolds itself into what we see as the infinite sky and astronomical universes. This process of "unfolding and enfolding" creates the drama of the universe that we see and enjoy. It is timeless and eternal like exhalation and inhalation. It breathes out then breathes in what it has made manifest from itself. This is the timeless process of unfolding and enfolding, borrowing the term from Dr. David Bohm. However, this process of unfolding and enfolding happens in three different stages which are clearly comparable to our human rhythm of deep sleep, dreaming and waking.

The intense moment of creation is a point, as if, all energies are focused at this point. We may call it the first archetype of source and Self. One can imagine the emerging of symbols of a triangle, circle and square from this point. We may as well say that the divine is laying down footsteps for man to rediscover his true identity. It is from here that the process of the play of opposites starts and helps the process of unfolding. We have to understand that at each step it is whole and full, there is nothing outside of it. However, at each step of unfoldment it is being limited. It is a Self-imposed limitation so that it may make itself manifest The Word, in being made flesh, is limited.

This first stage is called the Causal body of the divine. One may call it the seed stage. It contains the seeds of all that is to be. It is also called a state of deep sleep. Just as, when we go to deep sleep, all that we would like to do today or tomorrow and all our past conditioning find a restful moment, so that when awake we are fresh to undertake our daily work. But the divine sleep is unlike the sleep of a common man. It is a sleep of a divine being. It is not a sleep of forgetfulness. It is like darkness of womb with seeds of universe yet to be born. In Rgveda, it is called the Golden Egg—Hiranyagarbha. In almost all the mythologies of the world one finds this concept of the Egg which breaks into heaven and earth.

This drama of unfolding and enfolding can be seen from each individual's standpoint and from the standpoint of totality. We call a collection of trees a forest from the standpoint of totality and a jungle from the point of view of an individual.

The next stage of unfolding is the dream state or the dream body of the divine. The seed is taking shape and form. That which was planned, wished to be created is taking shape. Like in the dream state of common man what he, in his limited way, has planned unfolds as a fantasy.

The next stage of unfolding is the waking state that is all that we see, universes and galaxies, even those our senses and mind cannot reach. The first state is called the Causal body, the next one is called the dream state or subtle body and the last one is waking state or gross body bound in time and space. Let us not forget that we are talking in terms of Divine body, which goes through all the stages from a seed stage to waking state.

To review what we have so far said, the pure consciousness in its creative moment unfolds itself by three stages into the universes that we see and do not see. All that is created is pervaded by pure consciousness, just as Zero is in every number. At each stage of unfoldment it is full and complete but limited through expression. The three stages are Causal body or seed state, dream state or subtle body and waking state or gross body. Reaching the last stage of unfolding, it exhausts itself of all potency. From here the return, the reversal to go back home, to reach the source starts naturally like breathing in. As the perceptible world is the world of particulars, even though it appears to us to be separate from us, it is, from the point of view of the cosmic body, an interrelated and interdependent whole. It is a unity in difference. It means that all that is, including ourselves, are part of this vast cosmic order. Each individual human being is pure consciousness and so is a particle of dust. However, an individual identified with his body and conditioning finds him self separate from everything. The skin of our bodies, sets a limit between me and the other. The connecting space between is not seen as a link and joiner. This forgetfulness of our unity with all starts the inner urge to rediscover our source and origin. It awakens us to shed the veils of conditioning, which psychotherapy helps to do. From here, the process of enfoldment starts.

Consciousness - West

Consciousness according to the West is the end product of the evolutionary process. Consciousness and evolution of the brain go together. Consciousness is always conscious of something. A consciousness without an object is unconsciousness. Whenever Jung has commented on the Eastern view of consciousness, he has clearly said that it is unconsciousness. For him as well as for a Western man it is so.

Consciousness is an achievement. It gives one a sense of one's self, of one's identity. An important function of it is the survival of the body. There is also another function of consciousness. It helps us to use our talents for the benefit of our environment and also for oneself. There is, however, one aspect of it that is not seen. Talents are given to us. Each one of us has our own and has the ability to use them. They do not belong to us. We forget that since the beginning of our birth, we have been receiving the basic necessities of life free from this universe. They are space, fire, water, earth and air. We cannot imagine our existence without them. We owe our very existence to nature. Talents are given to contribute our services back in gratefulness to nature so that Nature may continue to maintain itself and us. It seems this aspect is totally forgotten by the common man in the West. He begins to use his talents for his personal benefit and creates all the problems we see. Identification with oneself and all the processes of conditioning cloud the reality of who we are. In fact, each one of us is pure consciousness, whole and holy.

We see how identification with what we are not, creates the problems we experience. Jung's analytical psychology hits right at this point. The whole of his therapy is to turn our attention inward to discover the causes of our identification with "ten thousand things of the world" and set us free from them. It helps the process of enfoldment.

I would like to suggest that this is where Jung and we Jungians have regularly fallen short. Perhaps, we have overly identified with our profession and the power complex hidden in the shadow behind that identification.

What we have to see here is where Jung and Jungians have gone wrong in understanding the basic truth of life, that each one of us is whole and holy, that the sacred resides within all of us, and that we are merely the witnesses of the play of polarity. The witness, the observer, is not the polarity. We have to see that we are only the witnesses of the play of polarity, which is going on in the realm of psyche. The witness, the observer, is not the psyche.

It seems that the confusion between the observer and the observed realm of psyche creates a seeming split between us and the world. In all our striving in life we try to bridge this gulf between us and the world by fruitless efforts, to join the divided part which is merely a work of thought and not a reality.

Let us look at ourselves. Are we each one of us enclosed by our skin seeing ourselves as separate from each other and the things around us? Are we that separate or do we really belong somewhere or to someone?

We find ourselves in this world, the environment surrounding us as a part, not only of this globe but the whole of the universe and far distant galaxies also. This is on the material side. On the psychological side, we do not only belong to our family, community, social group and the city and nation, but our relation and contact extend to all and every living being that exists and affects us, whether or not we know it. In short, if we say we are a part of totality and belong to it, which includes psychological totality as well as physical totality - the universe and universes, we are not wrong. It will be quite correct to say so. We belong to this order in the universe and we are a part of it.

Is it not obvious that being a part of this order or totality we are interrelated and interdependent with all and everything? When we think clearly, what we have said above, seems quite true. However, we actually do not so feel and live, our behavior and thinking are far apart from each other.

Let us see how the therapeutic process in Jungian psychology - which is a process of "enfolding," brings us to experience this totality. The natural urge to individuate means for Jung to fulfil one's destiny or fate or live out one's myth. Individuation, therefore, means to allow the seed each one of is to be brought to its total fruition. It is a gradual process of going inward to discover our complexes and identifications and becoming free of them.

The process makes us aware of our identifications. We find ourselves conditioned in many ways. We become aware of identification with our body, our thought as influenced by religion society, and nationality. This includes our bond with our family. All this limits our vision of who we are and also of the world. Our world is all that we know and feel and that which affects us. This is the level of collective consciousness. Intellectually we may understand our interrelated place in the world, its politics and economics, but the understanding is only a skin deep. We use only a small part of the brain which is conditioned. It is that which drives us. The rest of our brain is shut out from our perception and use.

The process of therapy in making us aware of shadow sides, identification with persona and various other roles enlarges our perception and by dissolving the conditioning enlarges the area of the brain we can now use. Deconditioning gives a perspective to our environment and our shadow side. It makes our relation to the world clearer, since the blinkers of conditioning are removed. Of course, we do not cease to be a Hindu or a Christian and so on. But we begin to see our relation to all of that in a correct perspective. We know from our experience that it enlarges our vision. Limits of our body extend beyond our skin. We begin to touch a larger part of the world around us. And a larger part of the brain begins to be available to us for use. It facilitates our entry into the creative aspect of psyche, the dream world and archetypes. Comparing with the Eastern tradition we have already talked about, we have entered the dream and the subtle body and its creative aspect. We know very well that the dream level is in a very different dimension of time and space. It does not think as we think in our waking state, dream is a state of creative thinking. Jung has called it phantasy thinking about which he made us aware in The Psychology of the Unconscious. It is from here we learn about active imagination. When we are using a dream image with active imagination or even exploring the meaning of a dream image, we are entering into a deeper realm of psyche, the source of archetypes. Comparing it with Eastern tradition, we may say that we are coming in contact with the seed state of psyche or mind - the causal body according to Eastern tradition. This is touching the realm of archetypes and their source. Archetypes are present, as if, in seed state to which creative thinking of a dream gives a shape.

The next stage in the therapy is to deal with our anima/animus projections. Anima/animus projections do not have to deal only with the opposite sex. They have also to do with our attachment and greed to achieve and become something, which is the veil of Maya that anima/animus weave around us. In fact, anima/animus mean our involvement with the play of opposites, i.e., we are caught in one of the polarities, This tells us that we prefer one to the other and that so long as we continue to choose we will continue to be the plaything of opposites. That is why Jung has made us aware of the transcendent function and the necessity of arriving at it. Not only that, often, whether in a therapeutic situation or even in our day to day life, we find ourselves in a calm place with peace of mind, which is an open space without any thought. It is a thought-free place. It can safely be called a peep into Self, the source of all thought and archetypes. When such periods begin to happen to us more often, we distinctly and clearly see that the other, that all the play of polarity is out there and that I, Self, the thought-free place is different. One feels like being on the shore of an ocean, who sees torrential waves coming to wash out, but it just touches us only and passes away.

These projections create illusions from which it is hard to free ourselves. Since every withdrawal of projection is pain and torture, we turn away from them. However, every step forward in the dissolving of these projections clarifies our relation to what we are trying to achieve. Withdrawal of anima/animus projections begins to lessen the upsets caused by the play of opposites. We are less and less involved and driven by collective images. We feel more ourselves and in control of ourselves. This process enlarges, expands our vision, the boundaries of our body and brain, we enter into a larger field of an impersonal world. However, this does not end the play of polarities totally. We are in contact with a vaster realm of psyche. Earlier with anima/animus projections we were dealing with a limited area of our environment or the world, with people known to us. It is different when we have entered the realm of the archetype of Self. Our horizon expands. People around us project the archetype of a wise man/woman or healer on us and anyone can come to us for help. We are, so to say, connected to a whole world. We can safely say we are in touch with the universal mind and since mind-body is a unity - with universal body too. It brings about transformation in the brain cells by dissolving old conditioned neural processes. A larger part of the brain becomes available to us. We might even venture to say, the whole of the brain is available to be used when necessary. When one is so grounded in the experience of unity, one begins to live in duality without being affected by it. When one has fulfilled his destiny he feels purpose free. One is no more the same person who started the journey. His purpose in life is fulfilled. However, it seems we Jungians do not see this and remain stuck in the old identity and continuing to follow the path of knowing more about the psyche. The reason seems to be the basic difference in the mode and attitude towards discovery of who we are - Self. For an Easterner Self is at the beginning. He starts from the source and sees how all that is perceptible emerges from it and so is pervaded and permeated by the source, the sacred and Divine like Zero in every number. So he never loses touch with the source - Self. Whereas, in the Western tradition an individual starts trying to discover and know the source - Self. He does not understand that the path of knowledge is limited. The created -the creature - cannot know the Creator; it can, of course, experience it. Jung realized this, late in his life very clearly when he said, "At this point the fact forces itself on my attention that beside the field of reflection, there is another equally broad if not broader area in which rational understanding and rational modes of representation find scarcely anything they are e able to grasp. This is the realm of Eros." (MDR p. 353). According to Eastern tradition, Jung crosses over to the path of Bhakti or devotion seeing the limitation of the path of knowledge.

There is no duality here. Even witnessing is over. Witnessing is gathered within. There is no duality, there is no other to look at. Analytical psychology does not lead us to this stage: it gets involved in the dialogue between the ego and the Self.

It is as though having been born into particularity unfolded, so to speak, into time, place, nationality, gender, social strata - one's forms are now dissolved both by experience and the work of becoming conscious. The work of consciousness, whether done through connection with a guru in the East or an analyst in the West, levels artificial distinctions that divide human beings from one another and from nature.

Such work engages not only the conscious mind, through discourse, but the unconscious mind, through dream analysis and active imagination. Physically, through activating more neural networks, broader areas of the brain now become available to make one wiser even in common affairs; there is simply more to work with. Psychologically, the "enfolding" has begun, the re-connection to all that is and from which one emerged has begun, since the particularities are seen for what they are, accidents of time and space. The suffering necessarily part of this work also connects one in a compassionate way with all that is.

Resistance to "enfolding" comes from ego which has remained identified with its particularity. This could be one of the hazards of some Jungian therapies, all Western therapies, in fact, where there is clinging to the search for archetypes, for insights for progress as measured by tests instead of becoming more human and approachable. Willingness to be dissolved back into the source may be also the defining signal of individuation understood as wholeness.. Those who have entered the realm of archetypes of Self will necessarily be perceived differently from those who have not. Whether therapists or laymen, they will be seen to be broader, more available, more tolerant and patient and certainly less burdened by the "ten thousand things." The word "wise man" or "wise woman" may be applied to them when seekers for the source, those impelled by the religious function, seek to find out "who they are."

It seems it is the right time to ask a question. Where is the link between the way of the guru and that of Jung?

The way of the guru starts with acceptance of the source and how all that is perceptible emerges from that source and then start to discover whether it is possible to experience it.. The way of Jung and the West is to start this inquiry from the point of view of an individual and learn to discover the source by erasing the coverings of identifications. What is the beginning in the way of the guru is the end and a goal to the man in the West. The way of Jung comes right to the door of the Divine through experiencing archetypes, mainly anima/animus and self. What a man from the East finds is that an analyst gets more and more interested in the intricacies and the mysteries of individual histories of a client or himself when he is in training. No doubt each case history is different and fascinating. But that draws the analyst into scientific mode of discovery. He continues to know , and loses sight of the stages where the journey is leading him to, and the insight he is gaining in this process. He gets more interested in the case histories and the stories and does not see the common message in all the stories and ignores the insight gained. He gets interested in publishing papers and what he has discovered, but all that at the cost of realizing the insight.. So let us find if there is a common message running through life the histories of all of us. Is not the message very clear that we are caught into polarities, that is, we prefer one or the other. We are caught in the preferences which continue the unending drama But nature goes on presenting opportunities to free us from preferences by bringing pain and suffering when so caught and also a moment of pause and balance when we are free from one hurdle. We do not see this pause, and we neglect it by being interested in knowing.

The occasion for pause and balance is being in the present, being whole and reaching a sacred place. It tells us that knowing is limited and cannot go further. The stillness and giving up knowing and resting in it is the journey's end. It is arriving home. There is nothing to know further: it is time to be. Becoming has ended. To do nothing, but be, and resting in the moment is the link between the East and the West. The link is here in that deep silence.

© Arwind Vasavada 1997.