Carl Jung and his work were deeply influenced by Eastern Philosophy. He bridged the spirituality of the East with the science and psychology of the West. In this episode, we explore the relationship between Yoga and Jung and discuss:
- How yoga philosophy and dream work influenced Jungian psychology
- The ultimate aim of yoga
- Why Jungian psychology is so powerful
Resources for this episode:
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I’m Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re excited to continue our series on Carl Jung and his contribution to psychology and to the world. Today we’re talking about his integration of Eastern philosophy into the Western world. But before we begin, I do want to remind you to subscribe to our channel. If you are listening to us on Spotify, iTunes, or any of those wonderful podcast hosting services, please subscribe, we’d love to see you every week on Soul Sessions. I’d like to dedicate this episode to our Jungian coaches that go through our Jungian coach training. It’s a year long training that is so profound to help you go deeper into these concepts, especially the concepts we’re going to share today. Just to let you know, if you are interested in finding out more about our coach training, we do have another cohort always coming up. Please sign up on our website. Check it out in the show notes to find out more.
Robert Maldonado 01:33
Special shout out to our students in London and in Europe in general, who we got to meet up with recently. That was incredible. Thank you, guys.
Debra Maldonado 01:46
Let’s get into today’s Jungian Eastern philosophy. I think this is why I feel so drawn to Jung as well. Not just because of the deep work he did with shadow and dreams. I always followed Eastern philosophy as well. It just felt like it fit really well.
Robert Maldonado 02:04
He was the first to really integrate Eastern wisdom into a Western psychological model. A lot of people forget his contribution. If he only did that, that would be enough to cement him as one of the great founders of psychology. But of course, now what’s happening is a lot of the new discoveries in neuroscience and physics is waking people up to the fact that he was on the right track. Essentially, he was ahead of his time, thinking of consciousness as it truly is: a fundamental principle of the universe, not just an emergent property.
Debra Maldonado 02:52
How did he come about exploring yoga philosophy or Eastern philosophy?
Robert Maldonado 02:57
He was in touch with a lot of the great thinkers of his time, mathematicians, anthropologists, archaeologists, who were making new discoveries. One of them was Heimlich Zimmer. If you read Zimmer’s books, he was really into Eastern philosophy, studying yoga, studying the Upanishads, thinking how to interpret all this material and content. He was a good friend of Jung’s. That communication, those conversations they were having, he got interested in the topic.
Debra Maldonado 03:41
He wrote a book called “The Secret of The Golden Flower,” which is about the East-West connection. Let’s get into it.
Robert Maldonado 03:48
I think he did the commentary on it.
Debra Maldonado 03:51
One of his students wrote it. Then he wrote his version. There was a little conflict between the two, there was a little of “I don’t exactly agree with this or that.” That’s the great thing about psychology. It’s a science. It’s not the absolute truth. It’s a theory, let’s test it out, let’s play it out. We should always think about psychology as a science, as an exploration. But when it comes to Eastern philosophy, there are some universal truths. If there’s no truth, where do you start? I think the Eastern philosophy gives us a foundation. Then the psychology is more of an interpretation of that foundation. If you’re going from that paradigm of the Eastern model versus the Western model.
Robert Maldonado 04:37
Definitely, yoga was a big influence in Jung’s development of his own psychology, but also the integration piece he wanted to understand, the bigger picture, because if you look at East-West, there seems to be a tension of different aspects of seeing the world. One, the West is looking at systems and breaking things down into pieces, like a deduction. A reductionist perspective, the scientific perspective. The East was very much and is still very much into the holistic perspective of seeing the oneness. This was one of his approaches to the psyche, the tension between opposites.
Debra Maldonado 05:34
We all experienced that tension with our individual life and our spiritual life as well. The universal self versus the individual self.
Robert Maldonado 05:45
Yoga, by definition, is the yoking of the individuals consciousness with a universal consciousness. Right off the bat, he saw that these people are talking about something very fundamental here.
Debra Maldonado 06:03
The personal unconscious and the collective unconscious.
Robert Maldonado 06:07
In yoga, you also see this idea of purification from the samskaras. You inherit these unconscious patterns of behavior, thought, and emotions just from your biology. All the craving, the attitudes towards yourself and life, the impetus to seek out another example, the Anima and the Animus, the attraction to the opposite, all these patterns. There’s nothing wrong with them, Jung said. But when you’re governed by them, just like in yoga, they didn’t see anything broken about this, it was simply that you want to liberate yourself so that you can make real choices outside of those patterns.
Debra Maldonado 07:00
The first part of life, we’re building up those patterns, we can’t escape that. In a way, that’s what’s supposed to happen. No matter what, a terrible event or even a regular event, a normal, everyday human event, they all create patterns in our life. But at mid-life, he said, we need to step away from it. He never said the pattern was wrong. He never said the pattern was like a wound or something.
Robert Maldonado 07:30
These are natural processes. There’s pretty good scientific data now that shows that we’re born with a lot of instinctual patterns that are governed through genetics and epigenetics. That corresponds to what the East called samskaras. We’re already born with a pre-determined set of behaviors and attitudes, they’re going to express themselves. We could call it karma or epigenetics. It’s the inherited patterns that are already there. Again, these are natural. It doesn’t mean we’re broken or doing anything wrong. It means that it begs the question: is there something beyond that? If we’re able to transcend those patterns, can we act in a more enlightened and free way?
Debra Maldonado 08:29
Both East and West, Jung’s philosophy, ask the question of what the nature of the mind is. There’s samskaras, the mind has a conditioning element to it. Part of the mind is the nature of the mind, there’s nothing broken about the mind, it doesn’t mean you have a wound. It means your mind came up with a survival strategy to conform to that situation. That’s part of a healthy mind. I remember when you told me that once. It just blew me away, like “That’s a healthy mind.” It’s such a paradigm shift. Because now you’re getting out of the Western medical model and into the empowerment model.
Robert Maldonado 09:12
When Jung read about this and started to understand these concepts, you can see he was integrating both Eastern and Western philosophical models in developing his own idea of what the unconscious is, where those patterns are stored in the psyche. They’re stored in the unconscious mind, we don’t necessarily see them in our conscious awareness. But they exert a strong influence on our behavior and our thought patterns.
Debra Maldonado 09:47
I wouldn’t say even stored as much as occurs unconsciously, it’s in us. I guess “stored” would be the word, but it’s not like we’re consciously repressing them. It’s things we’re not aware of that influence our life. It’s not that they’re unconscious. We’re just not conscious of the unconscious. A lot of people think it’s dormant things, but it’s not dormant, it’s alive. We’re just not conscious of these drivers in our life, these samskaras.
Robert Maldonado 10:18
That’s a good way to put it because they’re there. But we don’t see them because we just assume them to be destiny, they’re part of what we experience in our everyday life. We can think of these mental imprints, the samskaras, in Jung’s psychology as these condition patterns from past experiences. At the individual level, of course, we’re talking about early childhood experiences, just as in the Freudian sense that your childhood and your relationship with your parents and the adults around you is going to have a strong influences as to the way you see yourself, the way you see the world as you grow up. Unless, of course, you do something about it.
Debra Maldonado 11:14
You’ll be stuck in a pattern. We become the expectations of others versus having a free choice of who we really are.
Robert Maldonado 11:22
In yoga, of course, it’s a mind body system designed to liberate you from those past condition patterns, to where you’re able to really see things as they truly are instead of through that lens of conditioned mind that gives you a preset way of seeing things.
Debra Maldonado 11:45
When I first started doing personal growth, even as a hypnotherapist, there’s a lot of talk about reprogramming. That’s not what this is. We have the conditioning, you don’t want to recondition your ego to be a little better. In Jung’s work, he wanted you to transcend the ego altogether. We’re not fixing the conditioning. We’re transcending it. It’s a different model than most of cognitive behavior which is a more about “Let’s think more positive, let’s change our behavior and build up that ego.” There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very effective. But when you think about a spiritual path, it’s not going to get you to transcend your human experience and actually have access to the wholeness of all of who you are.
Robert Maldonado 13:23
The other aspect of the unconscious, of course, is dreams. There’s a strong and powerful tradition of dream work in Eastern philosophy, including yoga, and all the different schools that emerged out of the Upanishads. Dream yoga, very little is known still about what they were up to in practicing dream yoga. We know more from the Tibetan schools where it was kept as written tradition, which they learned from India, but definitely the ancient seers were very well aware of the dream state and its potential for seeing and liberating ourselves from the unconscious patterns of samskaras. Dream work is something we’re still rediscovering in the West, but an important aspect of the study of the mind.
Debra Maldonado 14:23
Dreams are so fascinating. We often think that it’s just a worry I have, I had that dream because I’m anxious about something but it has such profound messages if you know how to read them. Do they talk about the dream life in the East?
Robert Maldonado 14:41
It’s an integral part of most of the philosophies that emerged from the Upanishads where you see the three states. Waking state is considered a place where we’re going to work, do our asanas and breath work, pranayama, take action, karma yoga, all of these important spiritual works that are going to lead to liberation. Then you have the dream state, which is what’s considered part of the subtle mind, where you’re moving around in a subtle body, a virtual reality, interacting with elements of your own psyche.
Debra Maldonado 15:26
It’s like a video game, at night we go and interact with ourselves. Then deep sleep is that restorative state where we go back and sip the nectar of immortality, as you say.
Robert Maldonado 15:43
It’s the third state of mind where there are no thoughts, or images, or dreams. We experience this emptiness or void. But it’s restorative because it’s the closest state where our individual minds come to touching pure awareness. That’s the base of our being.
Debra Maldonado 16:09
What I find so interesting with the unconscious, with Jung’s work and Eastern philosophy is that it gives you a bigger understanding of the mind. In Western psychology, the mind is your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, what you’re thinking and feeling is contained in the body and not really delving into the spiritual aspects and consciousness. I’m sure there’s many therapists would bring in the East West, but I’m talking about just the traditional Western psychology. If you explore the unconscious the way Jung wanted you to explore it, you have to understand Eastern philosophy because you have to understand what you’re really working with.
Robert Maldonado 16:50
Beyond the waking, dreaming, and deep sleep state, there was a fourth state, or it’s called the fourth, but it was really not a separate state of mind but the one that created the three states of mind or that supported the three states of minds. That’s pure awareness, pure consciousness that is the foundation of what we call the human mind. This was a very deep revelation to Jung that these people had a more accurate understanding of consciousness beyond the Western scientific perspective. Now, in the West, what happened was the founding fathers of the scientific method were really interested in developing the scientific method in order to observe matter, not the mind. People like Newton and Galileo developed the scientific method more to observe the physics of cause and effect in physical matter. Newton himself primarily wrote: as an alchemist, he was more interested in the metaphysical alchemical process. They don’t mention that too much. The reason science is not well geared to look at the mind is because the mind is non-material. We can’t see it, we can’t observe it. All we can observe, like Skinner said, was behavior, the physical actions that people take. It got caught up in psychology wanting to be a valid science, just like physics. But in using the tools of science, it limited itself in understanding of consciousness.
Debra Maldonado 19:02
Which is why Jung was so controversial, he kept bringing in the spiritual aspect of a person. When we went to his house, I don’t know the exact quote, but “God will be present, whether evoked or not.” He was a very spiritual man. But he did it by going inward, by going through his own process of exploring the unconscious. That’s the difference from my first exploration into personal development. I thought the unconscious was like a computer, you just reprogrammed it. Think positive, then you get positive results, you attract the things you want. Learning about Jung and the way he approaches the unconscious, that unconscious is alive and working with us, it’s a way to understand what you’re really working with. The spiritual part, having Eastern philosophy, is a foundation of understanding the basic higher knowledge. When I was first delving into my spiritual stuff, it was all over the place. There was no rhyme or reason, people were superstitious, there was all kinds of theories, but it wasn’t based on anything. This gave me a ground when I first started. I really believe this is a wonderful foundation, what he created.
Robert Maldonado 20:24
One of the big influences Jung derived from yoga and Eastern philosophy, of course, was the idea of the mandala as an archetype of the self. In his writings, of course, a mandala is all over the place. He sees that as gears, proof of this archetypal theory he developed, that human beings are always looking for symbols of the higher self. He thought and wrote about this, he considered the mandala the perfect symbol to represent the higher self, because it’s a symbol of union. It shows the geometry of the universe, the creation in this beautiful way. It has a self harmonizing element in it.
Debra Maldonado 21:20
What I love about the mandala in Jung’s theory is that on the path of personal growth the self is in the center. But he said it’s circumambulation, you’re circling around the self, trying to go deeper within it versus a stair step or a path that you go to one stage, like a linear path. It’s more of a circumambulation of the self. When you look at a mandala, you see that the self is in the center. You are working on all the angles to get closer and closer. But there is no finish line. Because as we live in the world, we’re creating duality all the time. We’re always having to deal with this, discovering ourselves again.
Robert Maldonado 22:07
In a lot of the yogic traditions, the mandala was used as a concentration aid. You or the yogi would look at the mandala and try to internalize it, memorize it in a sense, take a mental picture of it, then recreate it within the psyche, to where if you look at it for a while, then close your eyes, can you see it perfectly the way you saw it. It’s an incredible exercise to do, if you have never done it, do it. It’s a great way to train the mind to focus and concentrate. What was the ultimate aim of yoga? The union, or yoking of the individual psyche to the universal psyche, self realization, realizing the true nature of yourself. In Jungian terms, you’re not the persona, you’re not the ego, you are the infinite consciousness that is the ground of your being. That’s the ultimate aim of yoga. We see it in Jung’s work and Jungian psychology, as the process of individuation. For him, it was about developing a Western yoga that was able to take modern people through the same process a yogi would go through, but through a psychological process of individuation, of understanding, first of all, that you’re not the ego. He did that through shadow work, the shadow, the integration of the shadow. It shows you in a very practical way that what you’re experiencing in your social realm, interaction with others, and being triggered or confronting, setting a boundaries with others, is essentially an internal process. It’s all you are experiencing. But it appears as you are, as if you’re experiencing an external reality independent of your psyche.
Debra Maldonado 24:24
The mirror we see of ourselves in others, but at first, we don’t want to admit that this person is inviting me, especially people that really trigger us or irritate us. When we invite it in, it’s a freedom you can’t even describe because your whole life is to build up this persona. In Eastern philosophy, it’s not about building up the ego, it’s about letting it go, about transcending the ego. They work really well together. I am glad there was someone in psychology that was open to that because I feel if you just study Eastern philosophy, you don’t really have a personal experience, it’s more about the universal experience. And if you just study psychology or work on the psychology level, you’re only working on the personal level. With Jung and Eastern philosophy, you’re really working on the personal and the universal at the same time, which is really brilliant. You need both. It’s almost like the yin and the yang or the conscious-unconscious, you need both to have the transformation.
Robert Maldonado 25:33
That’s a good point. The evolution at the macro level, the world level, you see these two very divergent points of view coming together and creating not only tension, but also a harmony. It’s a yin and yang, the East and the West can complement each other by giving us a sense of the material world and how to live and harmonize with it. The other one, the Eastern philosophy is a way of understanding the inner experience of the mind.
Debra Maldonado 26:13
We don’t want to escape the world, we want to go to our spiritual life, not like “Let’s get done with this life and move on to some better place”, we want to be able to have a spiritual life in our physical bodies. That’s what the integration is about. It’s not about pushing away, it’s also not about judging the ego or making the ego wrong for its conditioning. It’s understanding the nature of the ego. It’s not “I’ll be better when I stop being negative, I’ll be better when I stop being jealous, I’ll be better when I’m more confident, I’ll be better when I stop getting triggered by this thing.” There’s information, you’re more compassionate towards yourself and your humanity. You don’t feel the need to fix it but more to become aware. The more aware you are, the more compassionate you are. At the same time, you get compassionate to other people. Everyone else is going through tough times, they’re all dealing with their own conditioning. If we understand that, we say that’s not really that person, it’s their conditioning responding to me. How can we have a little compassion for that person, even if they come across in terrible ways? We can open up that door of light for them. We’ll get ourselves as well why that person triggers us in the first place. But it’s a more integrated way to work.
Robert Maldonado 27:39
Ultimately, you see that whenever you look at the mind, you’re going to see the same thing. When the yogis looked at the mind, they saw that there were kleshas, natural obstacles to the integration or the yoking of the individual psyche to the collective psyche. Jung saw that there’s going to be resistance from the ego because the ego’s designed to protect us from chaos, from the unconscious, from losing our sense of self.
Debra Maldonado 28:20
Even sense of control. The unconscious is like walking into a cave. You don’t know, in that dark cave that you’ve never been before, if you’re going to find a treasure or a beast. Your mind is your ghost. But what happens is, you do see the beast, but you also see the treasure. It’s the treasure hard to find, as Campbell would say. We have to be willing to go to the places that scare us, we have to explore the unconscious, but have a map and understanding. We’re not just going willy nilly, without any plan or understanding of what we’re really doing here. When you do that with a guide, it’s a transformational journey. Because when you face the beast, transcend it, and get the treasure, you’re not afraid anymore. You have resilience in life, nothing can stop you. It’s just amazing.
Robert Maldonado 29:13
Of course, the king or queen of the kleshas is ignorance. Not that we’re lacking in intelligence, it means we don’t know the information. We don’t have access to this knowledge. That’s what holds people back. The true understanding, the higher knowledge of what the psyche is, what consciousness is. If you do not understand that, then you’re working on the wrong problem. You’re always in the Western tradition. We’re always looking for a consciousness in the neurons and the brain. Of course, it makes sense to us that that’s where it is in the brain. But consciousness from the Eastern perspective is not in the brain. It is the foundational reality that gives rise to all existing forms, all existing patterns. Therefore, we look for it an object, where you’ll never find it because its nature is non-material. Ultimately, we see Jung’s work as a psychological system parallel to what the yogis were aiming for, which is self realization but in a Western psychological model.
Debra Maldonado 30:43
I think it’s no accident that yoga has taken over our Western culture, there’s yoga studios on every corner, but people are doing it for working out mostly or stress relief. But it means they’re around that idea and concepts, it’s a beautiful integration right now. If you’re into yoga and the yoga asanas, now go deeper into the philosophy, read the Gita, read the Upanishads, learn about the deeper concepts and how they affect your life. They seem very universal, I remember when I first read them, they were very universal. But if you understand it in Jung’s work with individuation, it all fits together, it’s like the piece that’s missing from someone to get the bridge to what this really means. Also, you can know something intellectually but going through the process of individuation gives you a direct experience of these concepts. It’s not like thinking about it or understanding it or believing it. It’s really having a knowing. They asked Jung “Do you believe in God?” in one of his last interviews, and he said “I don’t believe, I know.” You want to get to that knowing or understanding. Believing that maybe there’s something out there maybe this makes sense but having direct knowing that is unshakable, is priceless to have.
Robert Maldonado 32:13
If you are new to yoga, look into it. We’ll post some of the research that shows its great benefits, not only physically but mentally and beyond that, of course, spiritually. If you’re practicing yoga in the Western style of Asana yoga, think about going deeper, look at its philosophical foundations and explore the spiritual dimensions of it. Of course, if you’re more advanced, think about higher integration with science so that you can start to think of a more universal way of looking at consciousness and its potential for directing our own human evolution.
Debra Maldonado 33:03
This was a very juicy episode. One of my favorite topics is bringing it all together. We’re glad you joined us today. Before we go, we do want to remind you to subscribe to our channel. Always feel free to post comments. We’re eager to hear what you think about the show, what other topics you’d like to have us host and talk about, we’d love to hear that as well. Have a wonderful day and thank you for tuning in to Soul Sessions.