a Jungian approach

by Wim van den Dungen

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 - 1961), a colleague of Freud, initiated so-called "Analytical Psychology", another view on depth-psychology besides Freudian psychoanalysis. Jung developed a depth-psychological model of man inviting a psychological comprehension of symbols, myths, rituals, dreams and spiritual practices, irrespective of their spatial (place) and temporal settings. 

For Jung, Freud's conception of the unconscious (the libidinal drive, rooted in "Thanatos & Eros", was deemed too personalized and limited to a certain era). Originally, the concept of the "unconscious" was limited to denote the state of repressed or forgotten contents. Freud made the next step, for the unconscious (as a storehouse of repressed psychic material) seemed to operate as an acting subject within the subject. Freud, although aware of the archaic and mythological foundation of thought, affects & volition, had approached the unconscious from his own personal perspective. 

Jung conjectured Freud's "personal unconscious" rested upon a deeper, inborn layer, with contents and modes of behavior
"that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in other words, identical in all men and thus constitutes a common psychic substrate of a suprapersonal nature which is present in every one of us." (Jung, Collected Works, vol.9, 1, § 3). The "collective unconscious" contents are archaic, primordial types, or "archetypes" (a term also used by Philo of Alexandria with reference to the God-image in man). Jung pointed out that in all spiritual traditions, folk lores, myths and fairytales of humanity, esoteric teachings are contents of the collective unconscious which have been perceived and changed into conscious formulae. Archetypal ideas are the manifest, visible form of archetypes. An archetypal idea is "essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes its colour from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear." (§ 6). What an archetype as such is, can thus never be known.

The model of Jung may be partly in accord with the triune brain :

  • the human brain (a neocortex divided in two asymmetrical hemispheres) processing ego-consciousness, subconscious, personal unconscious & Shadow ;

  • the mammalian brain (limbic system) excuting the archetypes of relatedness of the collective unconscious : the Anima or the Animus ;

  • the reptilian brain (brainstem) computing the archetypes of transcendence (cf. the "fourth" state) of the collective unconscious : the Self.

As on the ideas of Jung a large amount of relevant data may be found on the internet, we shall focus on the basics of Jung's archetypal psychology, namely the process of "healing the soul" or "individuation", the complete development of the psyche and the emergence of the "total man". 

Jung conjectured this process of individuation entailed the conscious integration of three fundamental archetypes : the Shadow, Anima (or Animus) and the Self. 

The Shadow personifies everything a person refuses to acknowledge about himself, leading to complexes and compulsive, obsessive activities.

In a male (female), the Anima (Animus) is the unconscious feminine (masculine) side. This polarity (duality) has to be integrated by perceiving the archetypal ideas which emerge because of both. 

Only when the latter has happened, the Self, as the point in the middle of the circle, may emerge. This is the total man, the "supraordinate personality", man as he really is and not as he appears to himself. Because a person's ego is related to the Self as a part is to the whole, the Self is called "supraordinate". To this wholeness, the collective unconscious also belongs. Jung interpreted the collective unconscious as
"impersonal" (§ 314), and so the Self was unable to arise in consciousness directly, but manifested exclusively by way of projection. Jung was not a hylic pluralist.

In a Jungian approach, the Egyptian deities are archetypal ideas. Hence, Egyptian religion as a whole is looked at as the manifestation of various systems of archetypal ideas (cf. the Enneads or "companies of gods"). Myths and theological systems reveal psychic phenomena, i.e. collective & subjective (Ancient Egyptian) perceptions of objective natural events, rather than observation of facts. This is especially so for the ante-rational mind and the Egyptian deities, who, together with the hidden, fugal and precreational Atum, are born, rise, go under and are reborn.

The Jungian process of individuation, can be traced back :

Temple Ritual
(Edfu, Dendera)
(Tree of Life)
Alchemy Jung
courtyard KA Assiah probatio negrido Shadow

hypostyle hall

AB Yetzirah purificatio
offering hall
BA Briah illuminatio albedo Anima/
naos AKH Atziluth deificatio rubedo Self

In Ancient Egypt, the process of individuation was made spatial, as it were eternalizing the stages of spiritual growth in the architecture of the temples. Thanks to the Greeks, a more abstract level was reached (cf. the "Sephiroth" in qabalah), but the basic structure remained in place. But in all temples, Pharaoh was the officiating high priest. Indeed, Pharaoh could be understood as an archetypal idea of the "Perfect Man", a being accomplishing the ultimate spiritualization, i.e. a Self-realized human being. Viewed as such, the Ancient Egyptian cermonial order reveals itself as a gigantic effort to symbolize the process by which Pharaoh (Self-realization) exists and endures. When studied as such, these various rituals are archetypal ideas in action, focalizing their energy to the filial relationship between the Perfect Man and his "great god" in the naos. 

the great temple of Horus of Behdet at Edfu

Egyptian temple architecture points to a procession in four steps,
moving from light, tall & flat to dark, small & raised :

  • peristyle courtyard : is a great open space, inundated by sunlight, with in its middle a square altar : the first stone or the beginning of the divine transformation - as the temples of Abu Simbel and Dendera show, this court may be totally absent, underlining its "outward" and "open" character - in Edfu, its walls relate the story of the donation of the land to the temple and the defeat of Seth by Horus. The four elements of creation (the cardinal points, four sons of Horus, the four fundamental parts of man) are encountered "in the open". The preparatory work done here implies a superficial purification or visible "entrance" into the mystery of transformation. In Edfu, the physical & moral foundations of the Great Work are represented here (the "Malkuth" of qabalah).

  • pronaos & hypostyle hall : the mysterious space of shadows, representing the original marshes of creation and vanished forests, is approached in two ways, first with curtain walls (pronaos) and then with full walls (hypostyle hall) - in Edfu, scenes of offering and temple foundation rituals cover the walls of the pronaos. Entering the forests of the unconscious, a deeper level of purification is intended. The pronaos is a transit-area, a interstitial waiting-room allowing consciousness to prepare for its encounter with darkness. The pronaos heralds a decisive "step" and acts as a protective device. The dimming of the light alerted people an important transition was about to take place. In this Great Hall, consciousness plunged into the primordial marshes of "green plants", representing the balancing activity of an untained, original, "pure" living forest, the petrified image of life and eternity. Here, the true foundation of the process of transformation was laid. Rituals which erect a stable structure upon the vast expanse of the primordial waters, leading to a new spiritual foundation (the "Yesod" of qabalah).

  • offering hall & ambulatory : the house or hall of offering is the first room of the temple house (or sanctuary) - here were placed the offerings of those who had to stay out of the temple house - it represented a holy space between the holy of holies and the hypostyle hall - the Ka-energies of the offerings were intended to wake up the deity in the morning - the ambulatory was an extention of this, covering a number of chapels surrounding the naos. After the purifications were over, and the psyche had realized the causes of its deviation from the "natural" state of affairs, namely the shadows of life, the best of the best was offered to the deity. Here, the naos was very near : at Edfu and Dendera only a vestibule exists between this house of offering and the door of the "holy of holies". The hall or house of offering, veiled by darkness, represented the "soul" or "Anima" of the aspirant. Because his sacrifice, the soul of the deity would be gratified, and the soul of the aspirant would be blessed with life, prosperity and health. Together with the ambulatory, these sacred spaces of the sanctuary represent the eternal paradise in which the "great god in his naos" abides for all of eternity, hidden and unseen. One had entered the kingdom of heaven, but the king was nowhere to be seen or heard. The ambulatory underlines the spirito-communal nature of this sacred ground, walked on by the high priest and a select number of other priests. Only Pharaoh stood a level higher, for he, like the hidden Atum (or later, Amun) faced the cult deity alone.

  • inner sanctum and naos : surrounded by the ambulatory with its chapels, the deity was enthroned in its shrine (or "naos") on most sacred ground, the "holy of holies" or "inner sanctum", to be accessed by Pharaoh or his representatives or High Priests alone. Each morning, an elaborated ritual was performed, intended to "wake up" the deity and invite its Ka-doubles and Ba-souls to dwell in its statue, hidden in its shrine, in this inner sanctum of the temple. In this naos, the high priest faced the deity directly and in total solitude. Meanwhile, in the chapels around the rectangular, most holy space around this "great seat", hymns were intoned & rituals were performed. Doing so would bless the Two Lands with the magical presence of the deities (felt everywhere in the temple precinct), restoring all sympathetic links of the souls of light, broken during the night. Facing this divine presence, Pharoah would then offer truth & justice to his father, the great god alife in his central shrine. The ultimate transformation implied a deification. The "great god" came only face to face with another deity. The human "hid", but Pharaoh "flew". When he opened the doors of the naos, the divine Pharaoh confronted the source of all possible divinity alone. The lesser god (on Earth) worshipped the great god (in the sky) : above and below met. As soon as the aspirant had entered the sanctuary, he had become "a soul", i.e. integrated his Anima. Self-realization, the next step, involved the inner sanctum with its central shrine.

    The "souls" of associated deities form a protective, mandala-like circle around the "spirit" hidden (even for the other deities) within the central shrine, the "great seat". The ambulatory, with its 13 chapels around the inner sanctum, represented, in henotheistic fashion, the insignia and divine family or constellation of the deity, hidden in its shrine.

    In the qabalah, "Atziluth", the world of Divine Presence (cf. the first three supernal "sephiroth" of the "Tree of Life" and the "shekinah") pertained to the same
    mystical "nearness" as Pharaoh's central shrine rituals in the inner sanctum of the Egyptian temple.

initiated : 2003 - last update : 27 X 2010

© Wim van den Dungen