• Michelle L Geldenhuys

The Doorway to the Self

An observation of Jung's concept of the Self...


In Jungian theory the self is the combination of three aspects namely: consciousness, unconsciousness as well as the ego.

The integration of all three aspects leads to the realisation and self-actualization of the true, or divine, self. Meaning that the self can only become whole once one’s consciousness, unconsciousness and ego have been balanced and integrated.


Since the Shadow is the aspect that the ego most easily recognizes and is also the unconscious aspects of the self, it is considered to be the doorway to the self… or to self-realisation.

Once we step through the doorway, once we recognize the parts of ourselves that have previously been suppressed or rejected, we begin the journey towards accepting all aspects of ourselves and move closer to becoming whole and integrated.


A number of archetypes will be presented in order for us to fully realize and integrate our aspects of consciousness as well as unconsciousness which makes up the self. And since the self is in fact an archetype and an element of the collective unconscious, the self-actualization process is in essence an unconscious process since it is not a process that is undertaken by the ego.


The fully integrated, or whole, self is represented in a number of ways, and according to Carl Jung some of these representations included: Christ, a stone, the tree of life, an elephant, a mandala, the God and Goddess (or royal couple) or even a phoenix.


Most symbolic and widely recognized would be the tree of life, or Yggdrasill in Norse mythology, in which the branches reaching up to the heavens represent our conscious aspects of self whereas the roots embedded deep in the soil represent our unconscious aspects of self. This symbol is round symbolising the connectedness of all things with the ego in the middle as the terrestrial plane of existence and also as the balancing point. Our Shadow, or the acknowledgement and realisation of our Shadow is the first step, or doorway, towards this fulfilment of self represented by the tree of life.


Another great example of self-actualisation in Eastern traditions is that of the Mandala. The Mandala is also spherical indicating wholeness and the connectedness of individual aspects. The Mandala represents the journey from the outside to the inner core through a series of layers representing our journey from our outer ego through our unconsciousness, or Shadow, to our inner core which is the true self that is free of egoic notions.


The God and Goddess symbolism represents our inner masculine and feminine aspects which when united represent our integration of consciousness and unconsciousness. In Tantric cosmology Shiva is represented as a masculine deity who embodies the immaterial nature of the universe and subsequently our Shadow. Whilst Shakti is represented as a feminine deity and embodies the birthing of these immaterial aspects into the material world which represents our consciousness. In order for the divine union to take place, or the realisation of self, one would need to step through the doorway of the unconscious… or plainly put: Integrate the Shadow.


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