When we bring what we are in the present moment into harmony with all the things we could be, then life’s purpose is fulfilled. We become the highest version of ourselves. We become synonymous with the Imago Dei or the God image.
The self is another archetype of the unconscious, like the shadow, the anima, the animus, and many others like those aforementioned archetypes.
The self also can possess the ego and bend it to its will. In this chapter, Jung outlines two potential scenarios where the relationship between ego and self can turn sour.
The first scenario is the Crime and Punishment scenario.
The story is about Raskolnikov, who commits murder and gets away with it. However, he suffers a lot of psychological consequences for having committed the murder. What seems to happen to Raskolnikov is he has offended the part of his psyche that strives toward a higher ideal. There is some unconscious force within him that tortures him constantly, reminding him that what he did was a crime against nature. That force might as well be the Jungian Self.
The self, in this case, can also be referred to as one’s conscience.
The second scenario is the ego-inflation scenario because that is literally what it is in this case. The self doesn’t subsume the ego, but the ego subsumes the self. The ego sees the image of the self from within and assumes that the self is them.
The person will assume that they are the totality of the self and act out arrogant, holier than thou ways. We see this in celebrity culture. For example, when a famous person is lauded as the second coming of Jesus, they might let it go to their head. They might begin to believe that they are this great person already when in many cases, they have just as great a need for personal development as anyone else. To prevent these two scenarios from happening, the ego must not be overcome by the self’s dictates, nor can they assume that they already are the self.
Instead, one must grant the image of the self its autonomy. We already do this in a sense because moral people grant their conscience. Autonomy both mean the same thing by being obedient to the self’s image and how the self works through one’s conscience, unconscious contents can be integrated properly.
At the end of this process, one’s conscious side will align with one’s unconscious side and thus become the union self. Now, what I just laid out is sufficient enough to understand the archetype of the self. However, to understand the archetype’s relation to the rest of the book, Jung lays out a new problem.
Jung understands that this abstraction, known as the self, does not necessarily work in the realm of science. The purely biological or scientific standpoint falls short in psychology because it is in the main intellectual only. He says that while science is useful and, by extension, our intellect, both are not entirely sufficient for psychic phenomena. When we describe psychic phenomena to others or in psychology textbooks, we describe feelings and emotions that the intellect or measurement cannot wholly grasp.
Here’s an excellent way to think about it. What makes a good piece of art? Can one determine the quality of art through measurement and rationality? No, because art is subjective. By extension, what is also subjective are the feelings and emotions that art produces because science doesn’t tend to dabble in the subjective realm but seeks to define objective reality. Concepts like the self are incompatible, yet, as we have elucidated with scenario two, the self’s image has its utility despite its unscientific basis.
If one doesn’t recognize the self and the inner psychic processes, it symbolizes as autonomous. One might mistake those processes as the rational will. In that case, the ego becomes inflated.
Even though Jung acknowledges that his concept of self is incompatible with science, it seems nonetheless to be describing a psychological truth. It is an abstract representation of one’s inner psychic processes that cannot be grasped by science and measure.
Sometimes you can feel the shadow intertwined with the whole movie.
One acknowledges the syzygy presence whenever they see a union of a perfect divine couple.
The self is no different. The self has been symbolized in many ways by images that denote completeness in the form of mandalas eternities.
The concept of the self is what all people strive for, the best version of themselves, godlike version. Billions of people have struggled for millennia to determine what the best representation of the self is. Colossal religious systems have been built around this concept, and the best ones have lasted for thousands of years now.
As for what the best representation of the self is, in Jung’s mind, that would probably be Jesus Christ, a figure that has held sway over billions of people for being supposedly the ideal man.
There is a conflict between science and religion. This conflict has intensified for the last few centuries, with science turning many people away from the faith. As a result, the religious symbols and images that many people once worshipped have begun to lose their meaning. They forgot that what these things were trying to represent was that higher ideal to strive to. But what does one do when that image of the self breaks down and loses its meaning?
What does one do when God is dead?