Center for Sacred Psychology

Soul Food Archive: Psychospiritual Theory

A Chart of Layers of the Psyche & an illumination from 600 years ago -- Fall, 2009


       This chart shows a way of looking at the psyche (Greek for 'soul') from the viewpoint of C.G.Jung's analytical psychology.  The unconscious is pictured as a vast ocean, with an island of consciousness emerging from it.  Our task? to gradually increase our amount of consciousness by retrieving some of the contents of the ocean, thus slowly lowering the water-line...drop by drop.  In this way, our measure of dry land continually enlarges over a lifetime.

       And how do the depth's denizens or its sunken treasures rise to the surface and reach shore?  They are sighted, then beached, when we pay attention to showings of the unconscious.  These showings appear both in extraverted clues from the world around us, and--from within--in introverted ways.  Like fish, contents of the unconscious may just pop up or, swimming in deeper waters, they may be more elusive.  Some gifts from the sea may be unwelcome guests (to use Rumi's analogy)...but we sense their value by their emotional charge. 

       Gifts? Yes. In the world of analytical psychology the unconscious isn't seen as adversarial, nor thought of as neutral. Rather, the psyche as a whole is constantly self-balancing, striving toward development and wholeness. Those committed to increased consciousness learn how to let down their nets and bring up the catch of the day (frequently aware of the ones that got away!). This process is often termed "inner work," precisely because it requires discipline and fidelity...but, how good it is to know that we all can become inner anglers and, when necessary, deep sea divers.


Below, an illumination of Psalm 69:2, from the 14th century Milanese Visconti Book of Hours*:

I am sunk in the abysmal swamp, where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me.

Here King David cries out to God as he is swallowed up by his own inner sea...
which can happen when the depths are left untended.
An axiom: The unconscious treats us the way we treat it.




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* Credits for this page:

~ The Visconti Hours (illuminated manuscript in the National Library, Florence), Millard Meiss and Edith W. Kirsch, eds. George Braziller, 1972. Item #BR61, Psalm 69 - Electronic File

~ A Chart of Layers of the Psyche © Center for Sacred Psychology