According to the Christian myth, Jesus announced to his disciples that he was to be betrayed and crucified. Following the last supper, he retreated to the garden of Gethsemane and prayed. Agonising over his fate, Jesus asked God if he might be spared, adding that, if necessary, he would accept God’s command. An angel appeared from heaven and gave him the strength required to submit to his forthcoming ordeal.
When Judas led the mob to him, Jesus restrained those who rose in his defence. He explained that his destiny should be fulfilled. In accordance with God’s will, Jesus allowed himself to be taken and crucified.
Jung explains that there are two centres to the psyche, the ego and the greater Self. We are all familiar with the ego, that part of ourselves we identify with, the part we call ‘I’. The Self, however, remains relatively obscured, operating at a level beyond our awareness.
Given a spiritual awakening, or Self-activation, we are lifted by an aspiration that reaches beyond the ego. This spiritual journey has various names. Jung termed it the process of individuation, the path to wholeness. Here the Self shines the way, leading us forward to a greater potential.
The story of Christ describes how demanding the Self can be. God’s will is imposed upon Jesus. As the poet, W. H. Auden explains, “we are lived by powers that we pretend to understand”. In line with its master plan, the Self forces itself upon the ego.
This is as it needs to be. Imbued in nature is the evolutionary drive that seeks an ever-greater consciousness. Like the cells within a larger body, we live in service to a transpersonal whole. The scriptures explain that Jesus died upon the cross, not for any individual wrongdoing, but for the salvation of all.
Our personal redemption is of no real consequence. Of more importance is what the individual realises on behalf of the collective. Christ achieved a metamorphosis of the Self and inaugurated a new epoch. The collective God-image was renewed. Yahweh, the cantankerous god of the Old Testament, was transformed into the loving God of the New Testament.
Christianity teaches that Christ died on the cross so that we need not. What is achieved by one individual becomes available to all. Subsequent generations are born into a new consciousness. We stand on the shoulders of giants. The evolution of consciousness is fostered by our artists, thinkers and prophets, inventors, leaders, musicians and peacemakers, or by anyone who fulfils and lives their potential. The consciousness they create, they create for all. They are the steppingstones in the history of the world, the branches on a greater tree.
There is always further to go, however. The Self calls for an ongoing process of development and renewal. Working at this level can be excruciating. Creative artists are often familiar with these depths. Nietzsche considered himself crucified. Similarly, when asked how he could live with the consciousness he created, Jung replied, “I live in my deepest darkest hell, and from there I cannot fall any further”.
It was once thought that the sun revolved around the earth until Copernicus realised that it was the earth that revolved around the sun. Psychology is due for a similar revolution.
Self-oriented psychology explores the evolution of consciousness from the perspective of the Self. This revised stance serves as a new reference point, offering a clear understanding, not only of our trials and tribulations but also of our true place in the world.