Carl Gustav Jung was a founder of analytical, or depth, psychology, which represents a huge achievement in our understanding of the physical world and the world of personal experience. The essential identity of human experiences reflected in worldwide myths and folklore led Jung to postulate the existence of the collective unconscious-or objective psyche shared at a deeper level by all members of humankind-that manifests itself through symbolic and latent images, called archetypes. Patients of Jungian therapy visit concepts of the spirit world through myth and archetype. Jung's psychology and particularly his ideas about archetypes contribute important concepts for the student of religious and spiritual development to consider.
In collaboration with Wolfgang Pauli, a physicist, Jung wrote an essay on an acausal connecting principle that he called synchronicity. Synchronicity explains the meaningful coincidence of events. According to Jung's theory, people are linked through the collective unconscious, and the psyche of a particular person interacts with the events of the world outside. A great mystery for Jung remained the realm of human consciousness and its profound relationship with the soul of the world, anima mundi. As in any relationship, subjective human experience is an important parameter. The human factor is a necessary condition of synchronicity, as without the former the events would not acquire meaning. An event has to make sense and be meaningful not because such-and-such cause brings about such-and-such effect, but because there is a correspondence between a person's individual mind and the collective unconscious. The true means of communication between consciousness and the unconscious mind is a language of symbols. Jung extended these ideas to practices in analytic therapy.
Jungian therapy, in its archetypal aspect, postulates that all products and expressions of the unconscious are symbolic, and thus carry certain messages. A symbolic approach creates a dialectical relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. Jung transcended the common meaning of consciousness as a merely intellectual and rational state of mind. To achieve emotional security and mental health means to continuously work on expanding the boundaries of one's consciousness. The life of such a person, for Jung, will have completeness, satisfaction, and emotional balance.
Jungian psychology posits typical situations in life as reflections of archetypal primordial patterns of instinctual behavior, which are practically engraved in the human mind or in our psychic constitution. Jung differentiated among various archetypes, such as an archetype of the Spirit, the Persona, the Trickster, the Shadow, or the Coniunctio. The latter is an archetype of the union. According to Jung, people should live in accordance with their own nature and should concentrate on self-knowledge, which is achieved through a process called individuation. Individuation consists of the integration of conscious and unconscious aspects of one's life for the purpose of achieving a greater personality: The culmination of individuation is represented by the actualized archetype of the self. Individuation, however, is a never-ending process toward wholeness, which remains an ideal goal.
Jung did not distinguish between psyche and matter-they represent two different aspects of the unus mundus, or one world. Respectively, he did not draw a line of great divide between the products of imagination and those of intellect in that both affect thinking, and all thinking aims at the creation of meanings. Archetypal ideas, according to contemporary post-Jungians, are considered to be both the structuring patterns of the psyche and the dynamical units of information. A key element in post-Jungian psychology is the balance between integration and fragmented complexes that constitute the individual's psyche. Individuation involves a conscious awareness about a possible conflict between many complementary opposites in an individual psyche rather than a simple elimination of a conflict.
James Hillman, a contemporary post-Jungian, sees individuation as a multiplicity because each one of us has not a single but many internal different personalities. Jung himself is viewed as a system theorist, and such an approach implies that the realms of both interpersonal and intrapsychic realities are connected by means of a seamless field of symbolic references. Symbolic experiences are numinous, that is, spiritual and mysterious; they are expressed in images and contain imagery. According to Jung, symbols can hold together contents that intellect alone is incapable of, and such is a transcendent, symbolic function. Transcendence and symbols bring forward religion and creativity; for Jung, these elements are contained in a child's play. Jung afforded an important role to fantasy, which in its symbolic manifestation may trace out a line of one's anticipated psychological development. The unconscious therefore fulfills a prospective function. Because of the synthesizing nature of symbols, the meanings expressed in the multitude of unconscious images, such as in dreams, art, or active imagination, can be interpreted, elucidated, and integrated into consciousness. Analysts who practice Jungian therapy introduce their patients to this world of myth, symbol, and meaning and assist them in integrating these concepts into active consciousness. Jungian therapy continues to impact healthy psychological development, and welcomes patients into a more conscious relationship with the collective unconscious of the symbolic world.